A Third-Party Run for Sanders?

By now, Bernie Sanders has all but exhausted his options for winning the Democratic nomination. Even after his win in West Virginia today that had its inordinate share of idiosyncratic voters [1], he trails Hillary Clinton by 285 pledged delegates. He would’ve to get three-fourths of the votes in California to even get tantalizingly close.

However, the super delegates who often vote in favor of the candidate who wins the majority of the pledged delegates, will put Hillary over the top and some more. After dissing the super-delegates as undemocratic and as ‘the establishment’, he cannot count on their support especially if it is to countermand the majority of voters’ wishes [2]. So what’s the next step for Bernie Sanders?

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  1. Registered Democrats who are in fact Republicans and have been for a long time []
  2. Hillary Clinton currently has nearly 3 million votes more than Bernie Sanders []

Modi-fied India

May 16th, 2014 was the day when India gave a clear mandate to Modi’s BJP. I say, Modi’s BJP and not just BJP because it’s abundantly clear that this is his achievement, whether you agree with him or not. BJP is the first non-Congress party to gain an absolute majority[1] in the Indian parliament (282 seats). The enormity of this result can only be felt after two and half decades of coalition governments.

My experience of witnessing Indian politics, as far as I remember, has always been that of coalition governments. Witnessing the frequent fall of governments especially of the Vajpayee government in 1998 by a single vote after Jayalalitha’s AIADMK pulled support, was a particular low point. In that respect, I’m glad some party has won a clear mandate and doesn’t have to indulge in horse trading with minor regional parties just to govern. Better still, it’s not Congress. It also puts the onus and responsibility on the BJP to govern and own responsibility followed by credit or blame depending on the outcome. Coalitions sometimes act like an effective checks and balances within the government although progress on legislation is slower. But this time around, BJP doesn’t even need to rely on its pre-poll partners like Shiv Sena and TDP which received the second-highest and third-highest seats within the NDA. Basically, it has the mandate to do whatever it believes in; Rajya Sabha dissent notwithstanding.

However, more than the joy about BJP winning an absolute majority, I think almost everyone is overjoyed that the Congress has been dealt such a humiliating blow. It won only 44 seats, the lowest it has ever since India won independence. Personally, more than Modi or the BJP winning, I am more glad about Rahul Gandhi and his sycophantic ilk been booted out. Congress has been responsible for untold economic damage for India. Seven times, it won more seats than BJP did this time, including Rajiv Gandhi’s thumping 404-seat majority in 1984 but India’s economic growth was perennially stagnant. Imagine having that mandate seven times and doing almost nothing to grow India’s economy!

So is it all joy and happiness? Unfortunately nope. This was how I felt after hearing the result:

What problem do I have with Modi? Well, of course, there is that whole post-Godra thing but that’s not the only thing. If it was, then I would have a problem with almost every politician/party in India. My fears are generally more about the tolerance for dissent and respect for democratic values. More on that later. But first on the most obvious and talked-about criticism. His lack of respect for India’s largest minority i.e. the Muslims seems to derive from the few extremist and violent representatives/incidents. Most Muslims I know or even the ones you know have been extremely distrustful of any government because of institutional discrimination. So for any politician to openly neglect them, makes them even more fearful.

It’s akin to Republicans in the U.S. exhorting African Americans to work harder when in fact the things that are holding them back are systemic poverty and institutional discrimination that needs to be addressed first. Modi may not have been directly responsible for the post-Godra riots but his stubborn refusal to even address much less apologize for the horrific incidents that occurred on his watch speaks volumes. You may argue that the Gandhis never apologized for the 1984 riots. Well, that’s one of the reason why we and most of all, Sikhs still hate them. Do we really want to excuse Modi’s behavior by comparing him with the Gandhis when in fact, his stature is based on being everything that the Gandhis are not? Moreover, Modi’s control over Gujarat is considered complete. Almost nothing happens without his consent or rather nothing happens if he doesn’t permit it to happen. This has worked great when it comes to ensuring good governance and strict adherence to rules. But on the flip side, to keep the base happy, he may have let them run amok for a few days just so that “Muslims could be taught a lesson”.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke.

It’s a very primal power move. Bal Thackeray used it adroitly in Mumbai so that’s why he is either revered or passionately hated in Mumbai (I’m belong to the latter, if you had any doubts). Anyway, I remain suspicious but I will not brand him guilty because the courts haven’t found him as such. It’s just like, I wouldn’t trust a black teenage male to be around George Zimmerman.

For the long term, all I ask is for a honest and open debate on addressing the numerous inequalities in Indian society and making opportunity equal across all strata of society. But of course, for that to happen, the deep-rooted bigotry and distrust for Muslims among most Hindus must be addressed. Otherwise they’ll continue voting in people who send out religion-based dog whistles. Dissent is something that’s not easily tolerated in India and even more so among right-wing groups like the BJP and the Shiv Sena.

In Maharashtra, we’ve had more experience with the Shiv Sena. If you agree with all their views, you’re their best friend and they’ll pull all stops to ensure you get your way. But express dissent or even disagree a little, they’ll make your life hell. That’s why even Shekhar Suman during the height of his ‘Movers and Shakers’ popularity never dared mock Bal Thackeray. Nikhil Wagle got his offices burnt for publishing dissent in his newspaper. So you can imagine the state of the common citizen. After all can we blame people if they value their life and property over political opinion.

Similarly for people who hold views similar to Modi, he’s the perfect solution for India. But a little criticism and you can see him bristle and his online hordes, most of them who ironically live in the U.S. are more than willing to rip you a new one. For me, more than him, it’s his impassioned supporters who see him do no wrong that scare me[2].

But that may be the worst case scenario and Modi may simply choose to act in his self-interest, like most politicians do, and focus on development and rein in his supporters on the religion aspect. For India’s sake, let’s hope he focuses on fixing the various economic problems that plague India and hopefully work with the U.S. on raising India’s profile on the world stage.

  1. Some say that absolute majority implies 2/3rds majority so this qualifies as a simple majority. I used the general definition of an absolute majority that states “a number of votes totalling over 50 per cent, such as the total number of votes or seats obtained by a party that beats the combined opposition.” So in terms of seats, BJP has an absolute majority but in terms of votes, a simple majority []
  2. The lack of humility and gloating is all over the Internet []

Election Season in India

In a week’s time, election season will finally end in India although that doesn’t always mean we’ll soon have a government. India’s had a history of hung parliaments and more stuff happens behind the scenes post-elections than in the election campaign itself. That may probably shake your belief in the whole ‘world’s largest democracy’ but don’t let it. That’s how it is and probably will be even in many developed countries. That’s a well known bug in Democracy 4.21 and until someone comes up with a patch, it’s not gonna change. You could change to any other system but let’s be honest, there’s nothing out there half as good. Your choices are communism (Cuba, China, etc.), monarchy (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brunei, etc.), dictatorship (North Korea, etc.), or pure chaos and anarchy (Pakistan, Somalia, etc.). Democracy or at least the way it is practiced in India or even the U.S. is the least worst option.

Anyway, after the mother of all segues there (not surprising, right?), whatever happens in India, it is almost assured via opinion polls that the Congress won’t be forming the government. For a change, I have been largely disengaged this time from the election fever. I remember the time in mid- and late-90s, when I used to stay up late night listening to the news and waiting for election results feverishly tracking my eyes on the rapidly-scrolling news ticker. This time, the people contesting the elections have not impressed. The three primary candidates – Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, and Arvind Kejriwal – have been lackluster, threatening, and disappointing respectively. It may eventually turn out that we may have someone else as a Prime Minister in the end. Remember Deve Gowda, Chandrashekhar, and IK Gujral? Did anyone envision them to be Prime Ministers? But now, after their brief stint, they get all the perks of ex-PMs in their retirement. Man, what a con!

Just because I’ve been disinterested doesn’t mean everyone else is. In fact, everyone else is super gung-ho this time or maybe Twitter and Facebook has given them the illusion that people actually give a shit about what they think. Criticize Modi and hordes of his followers will drag your mother-sister through the muck. Support Gandhi and people laugh at you for being a brown-nose (let’s admit it, everyone criticizes Gandhi. He’s so easy to.) Support Kejriwal and…wait, why is anyone still buying his BS?

Anyway, whatever happens in a week, it will be definitely exciting. I just hope Modi doesn’t celebrate by doing what he does best (you know what I mean). Ab ki baar…Gujarat may get a bar?

Constantly Disappointed

For the past 5-6 years, I think we have been constantly living in a sense of disappointment. Perhaps the big financial crash scarred us and made us skeptical of everything around us even when things started to finally look up. The social media tools of quick feedback and need to comment on every issue you hear about often relied more on negativism. The tweets that bash people or make condescending puns tend to get retweeted more and hence subsequently get tweeted more. I’ve been guilty of this but over time, I realized the constant barrage of negativity around me. Part of the reason I stopped blogging as frequently was also because most of the posts we read during the heydays of blogging involved critical analysis, more often not constructive. So I decided to make a conscious effort of not doing that. The IIPM saga also hardened the cynic in me that nothing ever changes.

Among all the things we are constantly disappointed with, I think Obama’s presidency has to rank right at the top. More often than not, the right’s implication that he was considered a messiah by the left rings true. Things he never said or promised are often attributed to him e.g. ending all wars and waging none. What is easily forgotten that he in fact supported right until he got elected, the “good” war in Afghanistan. The drone warfare as illegitimate as it sounds is done with the complicity of the Pakistani and Yemeni governments (hence you don’t see drone strikes in Germany or India) and often result in a far fewer accidental civilian deaths. This is in no way a defense of the drone strikes. It should be subject to Congressional oversight and all legalities of conducting such strikes should be tested by the federal if not the Supreme Court; checks-n-balances and all that jazz.

However, this post tries to focus on the latest disappointment in the Obama presidency. I may often come across as an Obama apologist but this charge often comes from people who are more than willing to overlook the consequences of having the other side in charge [1] The rollout for Obamacare hasn’t been exactly smooth and the primary website where people can enroll has suffered from numerous technical glitches. If you use the relative scale, ten years ago, we couldn’t find WMDs that we were told existed before we invaded a Middle East country that cost thousands of American lives and countless civilian lives. Today, we have a slow website that can and is being fixed.

Obama clearly erred when he promised that no one would lose their existing insurance plans although such plans clearly are not up to the mark. He should’ve apologized and he did [2]. It’s like letting people drive around in cars without seat belts and unusually low emissions standards. The insurance companies have been conning people into a sense of complacency by offering junk plans and denying people benefits when it came time to pay for healthcare. How bad are these plans? Here’s one example:

Under her current junk plan, she would probably receive no more than a few hundred dollars of benefits for doctor visits and drugs. It wouldn’t cover her surgery, her chemotherapy, her many expensive medications, or the repeated diagnostic tests she’d likely require. She would end up with probably $119,000 of unpaid medical bills. With the Humana plan [from Healthcare.gov), those bills top out at $6,300 a year, no matter what.

The law addresses such plans but yup, Obama should’ve qualified his statements which I admit don’t make for good soundbites in a fast-paced media world of today. I’m no health policy wonk but the least the White House can do right now, is to let those people keep their plans (grandfathered-in) for the next three years but prevent insurance companies from offering them to new customers. The Landrieu Bill in the Senate, I believe fixes this while requiring insurance companies to also offer the higher priced alternatives and showing the additional benefits offered under them. But then, in my opinion, this would be the wrong policy choice. The overall negative impact is far worse than having to eat crow and admit you misspoke or lied earlier. But then again, there’s the reality to consider:


The other issue is that of the slow and sometimes non-responsive website. I believe that it won’t be fixed in time before the end of this month and while that is unacceptable, penalties if you don’t get insurance don’t kick in until March 31, 2014. Latest numbers suggested that nearly 500,000 have at least filled out an application but have not bought a plan. I guess they are waiting until they have to since coverage will not begin until Jan 1, 2014 anyway. But it’s a far cry from the single digit enrollments that media reported happened on the first day.

On the other side, I can totally relate with the problems experienced in launching a website that will contain information from multiple sources and be useful to all. Because I’ve been doing exactly that for the past few months. However, my task was a millionth times as small as the Healthcare.gov website but it gave me an in-depth understanding of how state procurement even for technical services worked and I suppose the federal one is even more convoluted. The state agency originally tasked with contracting out the development was restricted in the choice of vendors it could seek out. It could, by law, only select from the vendors in its database and the program manager had nothing to go by in the list apart from names of the vendors and she had to pick ten at random without even knowing if they were capable of developing what we wanted. Clearly this was a sub-optimal solution so the process of contracting a vendor fell to our office and we could reach out to many more people, lay out specific requirements, and eventually select a private development company after an exhaustive search that included an on-site demonstration.

In our example, we had to design the system such that it could accept data from four different data systems from our sites and yet be flexible enough to handle additional fields that we could factor in for research. People often told us one thing about their systems and the data they had and it turned out to be completely different when they eventually delivered the data. Luckily we could go back and redesign the interface to handle such inconsistencies. From what I understand, the Healthcare.gov directly connects to 50 state exchanges that have been developed independent of each other and may be subject to different requirements. To top it, it contained health data so was subject to HIPAA regulations that made it doubly complicated. Further, this development and testing was happening just as the other party was willing to shut down the government in order to defund the law that administered this venture. It would have been a massive surprise if everything worked perfectly from the start.

So as much as disappointed we want to be in our state of affairs, it’s always useful to place things in context and view it relatively. Of course, we should complain but to argue that we would be better off than what we are doing right now just makes me dismiss you entirely. Changes to the status quo may hamper one party’s political future but to use that to convince the otherwise-sensible among us that we are doomed is downright evil. And it’s sad that people are willing to outrightly dismiss the efforts rather than rolling up their sleeves and saying, ok lets fix this thing and get it going.

  1. They say, politics is about choosing between the lesser of the two evils so your choice is always relative. You have to constantly think about, ok, I don’t like this guy but then whom would I rather have in his place? []
  2. Remember when Bush apologized for the Iraq war? Yeah, neither can I []

What prompts a change of heart in public policy issues?

This week, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on Proposition 8 in California that banned gay marriage. Rumors are circulating that if nothing else, the SCOTUS will not uphold Prop.8, which if you’re aware of the composition of the Court is surprising. Over the past couple of years, gay marriage has reached a tipping point in public opinion with a majority supporting it. Only as recent as 2004, opposition to gay marriage was so strong that it was credited to have reelected George W. Bush.Merely having it on the ballot of battleground states brought out hordes of conservative hell bent on preserving ‘traditional’ marriage [1].

It is 2013 now and nearly 67% of Californians and more than a majority across the nation support gay marriage. The tipping point, I think, was when the Vice President Joe Biden came out in favor which led to President Obama also overcoming his reluctant opposition. This admittedly may have been due to overwhelming pressure from big donors in Hollywood and NYC who are dedicated to the cause. Earlier this month, the governor of Senator from Ohio, a perennial battleground state, Rob Portman, also came out in favor of gay marriage. However, his motivations, at least publicly, were different. His son is gay and he considered his personal duty to support gay marriage.

Comparing the motivations of these two groups i.e. Biden-Obama and Portman, the latter’s change of heart seems genuine and as a better catalyst for a change in heart. But in terms of public policy and civil rights, is it really? In terms of advocacy and bringing about change among elected officials, what would you prefer to be a more desirable process? Although we look down upon politicians and their changing ways, it is an integral part of a democratic process. Politicians are motivated by their chances of getting reelected and their legacy, if under a term-limit. Most politicians want to be in the forefront of an inevitable wave of change. The public cannot be fooled by someone who just jumps on a bandwagon. At the same time, the politician has to be careful so as to not bet on change that may happen. It is a carefully calculated risk.

In terms of influencing change either through lobbying efforts or threatening to not donate to their next campaign, people can cause politicians to hasten their decision. Although money gets a bad rap, it is often a powerful tool, if harnessed correctly, in the hands of the people. Either that or using tools of publicity campaigns through social media. Politicians respond to external influences. That’s how the political and democratic process work. At least in such case, we know we have a chance.

Now if you consider Rob Portman’s influences, it was personal. It was his son who came out to him as gay and in turn brought him in touch with the issues that face the gay community. He would’ve no chance of knowing that had his son not been gay. So as a public, how are we supposed to deal with such influencing factors? Should we hope that children of politicians who make policy that affect millions are gay? or unemployed? or poor? or disabled? For them to support those issues. There are no external factors that aid us in changing the minds of such politicians. Dick Cheney famously was in favor of gay marriage way back in 2004 coincidentally also because his daughter was gay. But apart from saying so, he didn’t do anything about it. Given our experience with the Iraq war, we know that his voice wasn’t one of the less influential ones in the White House and the policy makers of that time.

While it is appreciable that both Biden-Obama and Portman chose to support gay marriage, it is also important to understand the motivations and subsequently, the opportunities in the future, for influencing such motivations.

  1. all puns not intended []

Liberal Media

The most brilliant strategy employed by conservatives in recent times can be encapsulated in two words – liberal media. These two words when uttered by themselves are enough to rile up the base and explain away all inconsistencies or even factual errors. The idea is rooted in the mentality that conservatives are victims that are not given their due or their interests not represented by a media that is inherently liberal [1].

So what makes them liberal? Well, it turns out that, most people involved in the media trade are or at least used to be liberal or vote liberal so ergo, the media is liberal. This line of thought assumes that a person’s political behavior or beliefs naturally influences that person’s professional work even if it is proven time and time again that it is not the case. Professionals are called that because they are trained to separate their personal beliefs from the work they do. No doctor is going to refuse treatment to a conservative patient because he is liberal, no liberal fireman will delay putting out the fires in homes where conservatives live, and nor will a liberal hair stylist refuse to cut the hair of a person who wears a McCain/Palin button. So why do conservatives fear that the media people who might vote liberal lean liberal in their profession?

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  1. I’m using the terms liberals and conservatives here to represent the average politician of either beliefs. Things may have been much better in the recent past or may be better in the near future but as things stand, this is closer to the truth, in my opinion. []

Iowa is irrelevant again…for the next three years

The Iowa caucuses for the Republican presidential nominee concluded last night with Mitt ‘flip-flop’ Romney beating Rick ‘anal seepage’ Santorum by a mere 8 votes. And believe it or not, Mitt Romney after spending nearly 2 years in Iowa (technically he has been campaigning since 2007) managed to win 6 votes less than what he did in 2008 when he lost to McCain. He only managed to win 25% of the vote. So only 1 in 4 GOP Iowans think he should be the Republican nominee.

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Fourteen Magic Words

…that can increase voter turnout by over ten percentage points.

The gimmick of the experiment is that it harnesses humans’ natural belief in essentialism (see, for example, reference 14 in the link above), the idea that being “a voter” is more essential than being a person who happened to vote.

As Bryan et al. put it, “people may be more likely to vote when voting is represented as an expression of self—as symbolic of a person’s fundamental character—rather than as simply a behavior.” [emphasis mine]

[Source: The Monkey Cage; Original PDF paper]

Although it is just one study but interesting finding in terms of voter behavior. This is especially significant given the latest brouhaha in India over the futility of voting. Anna Hazare supporters argued for practices beyond voting which is not necessarily wrong but to give up voting rights entirely actually makes things worse. Nitin Pai has argued excellently on how India Against Corruption (IAC) can actually strengthen Indian democracy by endorsing candidates that they perceive as clean. More information and more frequent participation in the political process can only make voting something to look forward to. The Indian voters have repeatedly demonstrated their sharp political awareness by throwing out corrupt and inefficient governments regardless of slick advertising campaigns.

I consider Indian voters at least as smart if not smarter than their American counterparts. Money plays a big part in both democracies but that ought not to dissuade us from exercising our basic right. There is no rule that stops you from further engaging with your government politically after you vote. I may disagree on your methods but I will never consider your actions wrong.

The Non-Power of Words

If even a professional follower of political rhetoric like Westen never realized basic, repeated themes of Obama’s speeches and remarks, how could presidential rhetoric — sorry, “storytelling” — be anywhere near as important as he claims? The clear reality is that Americans pay hardly any attention to what presidents say, and what little they take in, they forget almost immediately. Even Drew Westen.

[Source: Drew Westen’s Nonsense | The New Republic] This essay by Jonathan Chait was in response to Drew Westen’s much-circulated op-ed in the NY Times on the Left’s disappointment with Obama. The falsehoods aside, it underscores the American fascination with the seemingly all-powerful executive when it is anything but. The executive’s power was severely curtailed after the Nixon debacle and although Bush tried to bring it back, it ended up being the reason why people hated him so much. People are often obsessed with the idea of a benevolent dictatorship or at least someone who agrees with their worldview. Republicans have no problem when a Republican President signs executive orders but scream tyranny and bemoan Congressional oversight if a Democratic President does so. On the other side, Democrats hated Bush because he often acted unilaterally without consulting them but now insist that Obama act the same way.

As Chait points out, people pointing fingers at Obama for not getting things done fast enough fail to see the various blocking mechanisms that the American Constitution has put into place. E.g. the filibuster that has been used by Republicans on almost every issue however minor so much so that now it regularly needs a 60+ majority to get anything passed in Congress before it reaches his desk. To put things into perspective, the gay marriage legislation in NY state would’ve never passed had it been for a similar filibuster at the state level. To complicate matters, now it is a Republican House that refuses to compromise let alone in good faith and often holds the threat of bringing about the collapse of the world financial markets on our heads. Remember the executive order shutting down Guantanamo Bay prison? Well, the Senate voted 98-0 to disallow moving any prisoners to the U.S. mainland. Is the U.S. also expected to outsource its terror suspects?

The bully pulpit isn’t that unless a bully wields that position. In fact, Kurt Anderson writing at the NY Times this week pointed out that Obama’s failing is that he does not make a convincing ‘madman’. You know things have reached a dismal level when we have to compete to see who makes a better madman. Liberals in America often suffer from this contradiction that they want a reasonable, logical, and intellectual candidate who in reality acts like the candidate the Republicans would nominate. If liberals really want a hard-ass in the White House, they better not pretend otherwise during election time. Otherwise the Republicans and Democrats ought to give up the pretense of liking a democratic process and instead opt for a monarchy that they fought to get rid off. At least then we’ll have the royal wedding to obsesses over instead of some jaded reality stars.

Coloring Red or Blue

A wonderful time-lapse chloropeth map of changing political affiliations in the United States. Note the dominance of blue during the 30-40s and sudden reddening in the late 60s post-Civil Rights Act. More on the maps and methodology.

Compassionate Conservatism?

I recently asked my friends’ little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President of the United States . Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there. So I asked her, “If you were President, what would be the first thing you would do?” She replied, “I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.” Her parents beamed.

“Wow…what a worthy goal,” I told her. “But you don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my driveway, and I’ll pay you $50. Then I’ll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.”

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?”

I said, “Welcome to the Republican Party.” Her parents still aren’t speaking to me.

[Source: FROM A LISTENER: – Nealz Nuze on boortz.com]

I found this link among Google Reader’s Popular links. The comments on the link easily find holes in this apparently fictional story. But the mere fact that this link proved to be popular shows the current nature of discourse in the United States. When it isn’t about prejudice or discriminating against minorities, the dialogue is focused on such naive interpretation of economic incentives. Both positions – liberal and conservative – are rooted in ideology that doesn’t recognize the true nature of the issue. Giving food and houses to all homeless people compared to asking why homeless people aren’t working to earn a livelihood skirts almost all issues related to homelessness and merely uses them as props to further their narrow ideology. At least the liberal position is espoused by a child albeit supported by her parents (heck, your parents didn’t say a word when you say you wanted to join the circus as a little kid).

One two-term Republican president used the plank of compassionate conservatism adroitly to fool an electorate when in fact, his base still considers empathy as a sign of weakness. The issue of homelessness isn’t really even about empathy but rather a question for misplaced priorities on treating mental illness especially for returning veterans which most of the homeless are. Talking about supporting the troops is easy; doing it is another matter.

For Indian-American pols, the "What are you?" test

"Indian-Americans, the fastest growing Asian group in the United States, make up a little over three million of the country’s population. But only two — Jindal and Dalip Singh Saund, A Democrat who represented a California district from 1957 to 1963 — have ever served in Congress. This year, though, there are an unprecedented six Indian-American candidates, all Democrats, are running for the House. And with Jindal and Haley generating national attention, the prominence of Indian-American politicians has never been greater.

And while one might assume that cultural conformity would be more important to Republicans, given the party’s conservative, tradition-minded base, Indian-American Democratic candidates can be just as quick to prove their American assimilation to voters."

Although American Jews in politics never fail to burnish their Israeli connections, Indian-American pols especially in the Republican Party try to run as far from India as possible.

[Link to For Indian-American pols, the "What are you?" test]

Using Literacy as a Racist Code Word

In his speech Thursday to attendees [Tea Party Convention], former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo invoked the loaded pre-civil rights era buzzword, saying that President Barack Obama was elected because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

[Source: Raw Story] Wait! I thought a lack of “literacy test” was how Bush, a certified C-grade student got re-elected. But then Tancredo tells me “illiterate” people often vote for law professors. By the way, read the full story to understand how racists like Tancredo use code words like ‘literacy’ to mask their hate. And this is the guy who failed to get a single delegate…at the Republican Convention. He couldn’t even fill the room at a Tea Party Convention.

The Scary Republican Base

When I am asked to define my political leanings, I often say, I’m a moderate and when asked to elaborate (because frankly, being a moderate depends on the times you live in) I say fiscal conservative and social liberal. At least in the United States, these two characteristics define the two major political parties with the Republicans claiming to be fiscally conservative and Democrats claiming to be socially liberal. Now at least in the fiscal sense, we have seen neither party can be appropriately called conservative. Democrats have had their pet spending projects and Republicans not only dare not touch Medicare and Social Security but in fact tend to inflate (Medicare Part D) its already-large share in the budget.

The other characteristic somewhat differentiates the two parties and that’s why I tend to often support the Democrats. Why? Because, as any Congress voter in India will tell you, the other side is batshit insane. Some may say, the people that make up the Republican base are not crazy but its leaders are. They are the ones who define the agenda by pandering to a lunatic fringe just to garner some publicity case in point, Michelle Bachmann. But then what if the leaders are indeed preaching to the choir that is xenophobic and ignorant to begin with?

That is why this poll conducted by Daily Kos/Research 2000 surveying Republicans only is scary and exemplifies why I could never identify with such people. This past election showed us that Republicans in fact do not constitute half of the American population irrespective of the fact that there are only two political parties. So these self-identified Republicans may in fact only represent say, 20% of the total population. Nevertheless, the views of the supporters of a major political party in the United States is something to be wary of. You should scroll through all the responses but sample some responses and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Now for Republicans, no longer is it necessary to bug your opponent’s office and lie about it or have an intern blow you and then lie about it to impeach a President. All you have to do is be black and labeled a socialist (63%) to be impeached (39%). In fact, more Republicans want him impeached than not. And Obama has been in office for like what, little over a year. These are going to be four long years for these poor souls. I mention the black part not because I want to stir racial emotions but because 31% believe Obama is a racist who hates white people. Yup, the biracial kid who had a white mom and was raised by his white grandparents hates his people. Heck, 36% of them don’t even believe he was born in the U.S. and 22% more are unsure and 55% are not sure if ACORN helped steal his election. The really scary part – 53% of Republicans believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama. Yup, the same one who couldn’t tell us what she read.

Talking about social and civil liberties, forget gay marriage (77% disapprove), these Republicans don’t even want gays to receive state or federal benefits (68%), not teach in public schools (73%), and not serve in the military (55%). The Republicans don’t even want (59%) the illegal immigrant who are willing to pay a fine and learn English to continue living in the country. I’m not sure what they want to do to them; rounding them up and sending them packing is not only unrealistic but fiscally irrational. The response that takes the cake is when asked if public schools students should be taught that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world, 77% said yes. Nearly 67% believe that only Jesus shows the way to heaven and these same people talk about Islam offering the unhinged solution to salvation.

No wonder you have reason to be afraid if such irrational thought is pervasive among a significant section of the population. I hope better sense prevails and these folks never get to elect anyone to national office.

A Test for Pro-Life Stance

In 2010, the estate tax is finally abolished, but only for one year. Because the original legislation was effective only for 10 years, starting in 2011 the estate tax goes back to exactly where it was in 2001. The exemption will be reduced to $1 million and the maximum tax rate goes back up to 55%.

I wonder if there are any rich people being kept on life support so that their deaths won’t occur until 2010, just so their heirs can save a few dollars in estate taxes. It will be even more interesting a year from now to see if there are any premature deaths among such people, assuming that the law remains unchanged.

[Source: Republican Rigidity – Forbes.com]. Wouldn’t this be an interesting test bed for your pro-life position? Millions in tax savings on one hand and sanctity of life on the other? Can we take bets on which side these people will choose? Although it talks about inheritance tax legislation, the column focuses on Republican rigidity and how it is stifling the legislative process in America. Democrats, by nature, are always open to negotiation and concessions but ratcheting up unrealistic demands are keep even genuinely useful conservative ideas away from American people.

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