The World In Pictures

This is how the american middle class (not the John McCain five million types) looks like. Bitter, bewildered and helpless.

(*picture taken from trip to thousand islands last week)

This is how the US financial market looks like. Hell of a way for Bush to complete his eight years in office. Hell of a way to go.

(*picture taken from trip to thousand islands last week)

well, ain't dreaming world peace or hunger-free world. I guess I am a little more selfish for those things now. I would like an island home like the one above and the bliss that accompanies with its lonely abandon even if it borders on ignorance.

(*picture taken from trip to thousand islands last week)

Indian Polity And Hypocrisy

Who needs foes when the political class is so bent on destroying the very idea of India, the latest outrage being that of Tata being forced out of West Bengal by the Mamta Banerjee and her antics. If she wants to go back to the stone age, then she can but why is she taking everybody along, why should rest of us be prisoner to her whims and fancies. It can very well be that those 400 acres in question are very very fertile, and maybe there is an outside chance that appropriate compensation was not given (though I doubt if Tata would ever do that), but any reason doesn't warrant what happened there. Either you can have a 1000 small farmers tilling that small patch of land and maybe just scraping through or you have a world class car plant that could easily employ thousands in direct and maybe tens of thousands in indirect jobs, besides the taxes it would generate for the government. Is it that hard to fathom or is that hard to sell to the masses. I agree that the whole SEZ policy is a one big hogwash, but then this so called "dance of democracy" is a more bigger hogwash.

Another phony out their is Arundhati Roy (the fairer sex is on my cross hairs today, believe me they had it coming long time..), okay so she want freedom for Kashmir, aha.. I agree that we haven't been doing our best in Kashmir but independence, lets see, we grant everyone what they want we start from top, then Punjab, then maybe Maharastra, then Tamils, the North East and more. Okay, so we have fulfilled everybody wishes, but hold on, have me ? So now people want countries the size of districts, then maybe city-nations and then maybe what if I want my home to be my sovereign fiefdom. They say that man is a social animal but it is anything but social, it appears social and homogeneous as long as it sees a bigger motive and when the motive is no longer there, internal fractures occur. Be it a country or be it a big family. It is not order that gives something a shape (maybe a water in a vase), it is the shape that gives a semblance of order. And if you have internal crooks like our ruling elite & bedfellows like our neighbours, it makes two to tango. If Arundhati is so interested in freedom, maybe she can go to Wazirstan or Dafur, and see if she can speak like this there .See what's happening in Kashmir lately, some acres of land is being given to have better tourist facilities, what's the hidden agenda in it, what are the so called nefarious designs. You know, we have pandered some people so badly that anything being requested from them, seems to be an existential injustice to them. But if some people have a special weakness for someone else agenda, then maybe God help them. One interesting part in all this maze is how come Pakistan has this much brand equity, that still people are willing to join them. Even after what is happening in Waziristan, Swat and Baluchistan. Is the bonds of religion so strong that it refuses to see that black is black & white is white! I also want to be these jholla-wala civil society members intellectual types. Love the shoot and scoot lifestyle and the easy money that comes with it. Such statements gives you lot of footage on the guest speaker circuit. Can I say something about the injustices that were done in say Tibet or maybe Red Indians in US just to begin with.

Afghanistan : Great Game Or Great Conundrum

So we are now taking significant collateral damage in Afghanistan as well, I wonder what choices we have, because there appears to be a method in these regular attacks now. Either 'they' wants to intimidate us into either leaving Afghanistan or maybe reinforcing our presence there (by being part of ISAF and sending combat troops, which I don't think is that bad an idea). I am using they because I doubt if militant forces indeed are being driven from Quetta or Islamabad. The myriad factions that stretch from Quetta up to the Wakhan corridor have no homogeneous identity or chain of command per-se. This is peculiar, because the symptom is same for all these factions but the panacea is all different. Consider this belt of resistance as a part of bigger militant Islam, but the solution can be found by dealing at each tribe level & each federal agency level, something that was done very successfully in Al Anbar in Iraq, instead of fire-bombing it.

Back to India's unease, there is hardly any take-aways from this situation, I guess these are the birth pangs for a rising regional power in the making. The power projection and the influence do have there short comings. The best we can do is to stay put and maybe increase our security posse to safeguard Indian citizens who are in the line of fire. As for Pakistan's direct or indirect involvement in this attack, it doesn't really matter. I think the grave has been dug for Pakistan (so even if its not a grave, believe me it will be a deep pit), and they would be lucky to not have a independent jihadi state encroaching at their periphery.

Some Mumbling.. Some Rambling

The July is here, so soon I mean. it was February that I moved here & already six months are down now. The years seem to pass by so quick that some day not far in time, I may be sitting wondering if I have lived all these long years or did I pass them in sleep, seriously time seems to be flying past these days. Watched Hitchcock 'notorious' today, kept his 'the birds' for tomorrow. In other stuff today, deleted my Facebook account and opened a twitter account, I found twitter more useful then Facebook or say Orkut, but then both are catering to different markets. personal preference though.

The appraisals are going to be out next week I suppose, something to watch out for, lets see how bad the hike is. but it is definitely going to be below the rate of inflation & believe me that government's inflation rate is itself depressed( intentionally or unintentionally ). Indian economy has it going good for last 4-5 years & a couple of rainy days shouldn't be a problem at least for the nouveau riches.. poor be damned, who cares.. the government seems to have solved the nuclear tangle at last, and its good to see at least some amount of spine in the leadership, though I am not optimistic that this government would go much far, but anyway something is better than nothing.

Meanwhile July 4 passed & oil has not touched $150 as Jim Cramer was shouting on mad money, but it doesn't matter, 146 is as good as 150. 150 is just symbolic, the pain at pump started long way back. Somehow I feel Americans don't get it, wonder how can a (supposed !) intelligent country is being fooled not only oil producing countries, but by government and there own emotions. Where do you get a precious commodity for 2 bucks a gallon, a commodity that takes millions of years to create and a commodity that can drive say 4 people in a nice car for 180 miles, why the hell you should get that thing for 2 bucks, when even the water costs more. The supply is not a problem, the demand IS.

Commodity inflation is the big topic these days, and if you listen American media, this often hackneyed word about increased demand from India-China is now becoming a deluge now. take oil, India-China. take wheat, India-China. take anything, India-China. I wonder if India-China really increased there demand so much that the world's factories and farms and oil rigs have failed to keep pace. I just feel that it was okay as long as India-China were producing for the rest of the world, but as soon as we become consuming nations, the rest of the world started feeling the pinch. Take a often quoted sector refinery, which America has not built one for last 30 years. Why?  because they don't want to have pollution in their backyard, so guess what, they have other countries make them & send the finished product to US. This is hypocrisy big time. I guess US in sometime future will claim that it has curtailed its carbon emission. And how, it will send all the polluting industries to cheaper nations and import finished products, so no emissions you see. This is all a fa├žade to not change, to save 'their way of life'. (not sure what it means)

Replacing Crude Oil : Missing Woods For Corn

You know when dealing with subjects as expansive as weather, and the effects of our actions on the global environment, there are so many variables & so many hidden cost involved that it is difficult to fathom if we have done the right thing. Take the instance of biofuels which are the new rage out here, maybe there is a thinking that just by using biofuels instead of gasoline, one just gets over the guilt of there hedonist lifestyle and do nothing about the bigger problem. Its not bio-fuels that would solve the problem, it is this voracious appetite for energy & consumable goods that is the problem. This is what has to say about the real effects biofuels, the devil is in the detail though.

Why is so much money still being poured into such a misguided enterprise? Like the scientists and environmentalists, many politicians genuinely believe biofuels can help decrease global warming. It makes intuitive sense: cars emit carbon no matter what fuel they burn, but the process of growing plants for fuel sucks some of that carbon out of the atmosphere. For years, the big question was whether those reductions from carbon sequestration outweighed the "life cycle" of carbon emissions from farming, converting the crops to fuel and transporting the fuel to market. Researchers eventually concluded that yes, biofuels were greener than gasoline. The improvements were only about 20% for corn ethanol because tractors, petroleum-based fertilizers and distilleries emitted lots of carbon. But the gains approached 90% for more efficient fuels, and advocates were confident that technology would progressively increase benefits.
There was just one flaw in the calculation: the studies all credited fuel crops for sequestering carbon, but no one checked whether the crops would ultimately replace vegetation and soils that sucked up even more carbon. It was as if the science world assumed biofuels would be grown in parking lots. The deforestation of Indonesia has shown that's not the case. It turns out that the carbon lost when wilderness is razed overwhelms the gains from cleaner-burning fuels. A study by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tilman concluded that it will take more than 400 years of biodiesel use to "pay back" the carbon emitted by directly clearing peat lands to grow palm oil; clearing grasslands to grow corn for ethanol has a payback period of 93 years. The result is that biofuels increase demand for crops, which boosts prices, which drives agricultural expansion, which eats forests. Searchinger's study concluded that overall, corn ethanol has a payback period of about 167 years because of the deforestation it triggers.

2008 American Credit Crisis

Thou' speak when the damage is already done. Alan Greenspan & his take on the deepening credit crisis

The news is getting increasingly ominous here, some are already hinting that this crisis in american financial markets could easily be the most gravest since the great depression, I am no expert on such a fancy subject but even the talk of comparing these two events makes you realize that things are maybe unravelling a bit too too fast. Maybe its all hoax, but then how could a company like Bear Stearn's be worth 2 bucks a piece just in matter of a fortnight. Being devalued 99% in fifteen days is something. There is more to it then meets the normal eye, and the way fed intervened [ Remember when satara-based UWB, that was sold lock,stock & barrel in three days by RBI ] to save it from going under suggests that its failure is maybe incomprehensible and could trigger a cascading set of failures. It means that there are other pressure points in the system that are under a lot of strain & are possibly waiting to rupture. I am surprised by the inherent flaws that this 'small' credit crunch has exposed in the glitzy american financial markets and its domino effect around the world. The seemingly hard and tinted glass building hides a lot of skeletons inside.

Its the return of the Karma in the financial markets these days, finally we are seeing that gigantic de-leverage-ing of the entire financial muddle that has been created over the years. Frankly, do we need so many financial instruments just to manage risk? All this risk based default swaps, where the risk can be quantified. It's good that some sanity is getting back into the system, but at a heavy cost. Somehow, how did not anybody saw this coming, how come those blue-blooded analysts were caught unaware. Over the years, Greenspan's low interest rate regime boomed these fancy paper and the housing market. Caution was the first thing that everybody threw to the winds, I guess if you keep good times for too long, then complacency sets in. But then some day the cookie had to crumble, and look the way it crumbled.

2008 Crisis : My Take On Coming Full Circle

Yesterday it was Carlyle capital, today its Bears Sterns & Co and rumors are hot that Lehman Brothers is also in a bit of trouble. The story keeps getting better or morbid whatever way you call it. Are there any lessons to be learned from so much deadwood floating around. Yes, Obviously for one greed is bad, it always has been bad, two convenience (i am not sure if its the right word) is not always such a good thing, making it possible for sub prime credit rating people to own homes was not probably the brightest of ideas. Attempting to build castles that has its foundations of sand is always a risky proposition, but then greed took care of pragmatism. Third, such moderation is maybe good or even necessary every decade to remove the complacency that builds up into the system. Fourth, this recession could lead to cooling of commodity prices worldwide that have been on the roll for quite some time now, last seen Brent was at $111 a barrel, I can still recall when the basket was ruling at sub-10 levels (around 1997). Every central bank worldwide is having a tightrope to walk between recession & inflation and Last this could be a clarion call to the US that its no longer the centre of the economic & industrial activity that it had been till now, the balance of power has started to move towards Asia and US can not continue hoping that it can be the richest borrower for all its life and not keep its own house in order.

Are there any lessons to be learned from this for India, Yes, one there is nothing like decoupling, we will not go into negative growth, but yes we will feel the pain,see ICICI Bank sub prime write-offs. second, avoid excesses in investments of any kind as you could be holding on to an assets for a long amount of time as market moves possibly sideways. Third, the India growth story is intact but the exuberance could wear of a little, so no more of hefty jumps on job hopping, Fourth growth would now have to be created as world economy has slowed, earlier we were on a gravy train that built the our growth rate with its own momentum, no since the train is de-accelerating India must push its engine harder to keep the train going faster. To take growth to the next level we needs reforms, solid reforms & with the election just around the corner, I am not putting my buck on reforms.

Stock Market's Nervous Breakdown

How can I have not guessed it, damn it. this turn of events in the stock market have taken even die hard market watchers literally with their pants down. Even I am, among the millions of so called small investor that have seen there investment go down week after week for last six weeks now. and you know what, I have stopped opening my demat account now , but should we be complaining as such?

Haven't we lost the right to complain about the precipitous fall when the rise of the markets was itself dubious. I have no problem with that, I have no problem in losing money when things crash, provided I had gained profit when the market was scaling high day after day. That's where the problem is, I invested in quality stocks that rose hardly in last couple of months of the bull market but have retraced a lot more when the chips were down. Bad sentiment I guess, has no reason, panic has no mind of its own, all it has is a momentum of its own. And still some people have the guts to come on TV day after day, saying that this support level would hold & we have bottomed out, that too when there were no more fundamental reasons for it to fall as there were for its heady ascent.

The bubble had to burst, the sorry part was that I was part of this circus, where no amount of smart investing works, hope this carnage ends fast, for its hurting now.