Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Anchor Baby Myth

According to the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and the rest of the spineless Republicans running for the nomination who cannot or will not challenge Trump, non-citizens have children to secure a foot hold in the United States. The party of family values thinks that people who are not them have children for diabolical reasons.

Having children to get a leg up in the immigration process makes zero sense, since the said child cannot sponsor his or her parents for permanent residency until they are at least 21 years old and can show that they can support their parents financially. Since that’s not something most 21 year olds are capable of, presumably the wait will be longer for most parents than the 21 years, to successfully use their child as a pawn in their own immigration process.  The so called anchor baby is not particularly useful means for parents to attain the permanent resident status.

Having citizen children is no guarantee against deportation either. In 2013, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement  deported more than 72000 individuals who said that they had one or more citizen children. Washington Post’s Janell Ross has more on  this issue, if you are interested.

Mawm, the man with the funny hair called me names

By two_kittehs

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Interactive lolcat dikshunary  Now with pop-ups

By two_kittehs

I can has?

The Honourable East India Company

Post Citizens-United many worry about the undue influence of corporations on the democratic process. It has happen before, in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. The shareholders of a joint stock company once decided the fate of millions and had many lawmakers in their back pocket.

Before  British Raj* there was Company Raj. The East India Company made its first territorial gains in India in 1757.  Its territorial conquest of most of India was complete by the 1820s. It passed on the torch to the British Crown in 1858, after the bruising First of battle of Independence or the Indian Mutiny (depending on whom you ask) of 1857.

East India Company was a joint-stock company  granted a charter for monopoly trade rights by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600. It made its first Indian foray in 1610. So for almost 150 years the Company was content to operate  various factories  dotting the long Indian coast line. Three of these factory towns grew to become the cities of Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Madras(now Chennai). These factories were   fortified garrisons where factors or merchants met and carried out their business.

Neither were the British the only ones who had established these factories in India, they had competition from the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French and even the Danes. So eat your heart out Tom Friedman, the world was flat and globalized not only before you were born but long before Britain’s thirteen former colonies declared independence from their original motherland.

The first age of globalization turned exploitative and ugly real fast, especially so after the advent of the  industrial revolution. The East India Company was the prime example of these excesses and egregious practices. Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Edmund Burke,  were all prominent critics of the East India Company.

So just how did a joint stock company come to rule all of  India? Its something I want to figure out as a part of my exploration of British rule in India. My initial interest in this topic was sparked by Shashi Tharoor’s impassioned and witty performance at the Oxford Union debate.

*Raj is the Anglicized version of the Sanskrit Rajya, which means rule.

Happy 69th, India

India is celebrating its 69th independence day. On 15th August 1947, at the stroke of midnight, the long nightmare of British rule was finally over. The departing British gave the  newly independent India one last parting gift of a hasty partition which left millions dead and displaced.  My interest in the British rule, both the Company Raj (1757-1858) and then the British Raj (1858-1947) has been heightened ever since I heard the Indian Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor, argue for reparations for the colonial rule at the Oxford Union debate.

The reality of the colonial rule was far from the enlightened ideals the Victorians liked to lecture upon. Nothing highlights this difference between the ideals and the reality than devastating famines that ravaged the country side at regular intervals and the official British response. With more than 45 million dead, it was nothing less than genocide by starvation and disease.

Quite simply, Indian lives meant little to their British administrators throughout the duration of the Raj. A fact brought home by Churchill’s response to the Bengal famine during the height of World War II and Mountbatten’s hurried and inept handover of power which lead to the death and displacement of millions of Indians.

Although, the possibility that India will get back any of the unprecedented loot from India, including but not limited to the Queen’s crown jewels is remote, it is not too late to discuss who gained what from the Empire. Especially since these days we see a hankering for a “benevolent empire” from some quarters. We heard the same tired excuses that justified the overreaches of Europe’s colonial era trotted out during the buildup to the Iraq War. A war which was supposed to bring democracy to the Middle East but has brought  mayhem and anarchy instead.

It is also important from the Indian context to look back at history and figure out how a handful of people from a tiny remote island  far away could impose their will on a once mighty ancient civilization. However those are posts for another day. I leave you with this, an instrumental rendition by the masters of Indian classical music of India’s national anthem penned by Rabindranath Tagore. It showcases the tremendous cultural diversity of the nation.

Instrumental Version of India’s National Anthem

Concerned Capitalist is Concerned

Continuing the tradition of trolling for clicks, NYT has an op-ed piece by a worried heir to Marie Antoinette, Peter Georgescu, Chairman emeritus of Young and Rubicam. He is worried along with some of his other billionaire friends about ending up like the Sun King’s daughter-in-law. The reason:  the yawning gap in income between the 0.1% and everyone else.

Business has the most to gain from a healthy America, and the most to lose by social unrest or punitive taxation.

His analysis of the problem is spot on, mainly that business is not investing in either research or its employees.

The fact that real wages have been flat for about four decades, while productivity has increased by 80 percent, shows that has not been happening. Before the early 1970s, wages and productivity were both rising. Now most gains from productivity go to shareholders, not employees.

And how does Marie’s heir want to address this problem? By asking taxpayers to foot the bill, so that businesses can pay their employees a fair wage.

There is a way to start. Government can provide tax incentives to business to pay more to employees making $80,000 or less. The program would exist for three to five years and then be evaluated for effectiveness.

How does one pay for these tax incentives?  Not by increasing taxes, since that would be punitive according Mr. Concerned Capitalist.

If inequality is not addressed, the income gap will most likely be resolved in one of two ways: by major social unrest or through oppressive taxes, such as the 80 percent tax rate on income over $500,000 suggested by Thomas Piketty,

The top most marginal rate currently is way less than 80%. In fact it is nearly half of that, 39.6%. What does Mr. Concerned Capitalist think is a fair, not punitive tax rates on his fellow one percenters? Gotta love this new capitalism, where you can socialize the risk and privatize the rewards. Win-win, for Georgescu and friends.

By two_kittehs ( Picture by: dorothyfrancesgoldstein)

New York Times Will Troll For Clicks

Lately, the op-ed page of the venerable New York Times has descended into click bait with outrageous trollish op-eds. A sampling from the past few days:

First, Lolrus Bolton arguing against the Iran deal. Like we need advice from one of the cheerleaders of the Iraq fail show.

Then we had a doctoral student from Zimbabwe arguing how Cecil the Lion had it coming and how people mourning the lion’s senseless killing were childish imbeciles.

Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from “The Lion King”?

 

Last but not the least we have an associate professor in political science from the University of Virginia, commenting on the supposed smugness of liberals in general and Jon Stewart in particular. This august personage finds torture enabler Yoo to be reasonable.

Maybe that’s why my strongest memory of Mr. Stewart, like that of many other conservatives, is probably going to be his 2010 interview with the Berkeley law professor John Yoo. Mr. Yoo had served in Mr. Bush’s Justice Department and had drafted memos laying out what techniques could and couldn’t be used to interrogate Al Qaeda detainees. Mr. Stewart seemed to go into the interview expecting a menacing Clint Eastwood type, who was fully prepared to zap the genitals of some terrorist if that’s what it took to protect America’s women and children.

Mr. Stewart was caught unaware by the quiet, reasonable Mr. Yoo, who explained that he had been asked to determine what legally constituted torture so the government could safely stay on this side of the line. The issue, in other words, wasn’t whether torture was justified but what constituted it and what didn’t. Ask yourself how intellectually curious Mr. Stewart really could be, not to know that this is what Bush administration officials had been saying all along?

The strategy has paid off, the last two op-eds garnered more than one thousand comments. So what’s next for the Gray Lady? Someone writing how slavery was a wonderful institution or how colonialism improved the life of the heathens who just needed a benevolent civilizing touch?

By two_kittehs