Tag Archives: congress

Censorship, limited liability etc

The censorship-as-trade-barrier argument is a consequentialist one, a very slippery slope, and an insult to the idea of freedom. Unfortunately, Google plans to paint China into a corner by joining hands with people who have no great respect for freedom—the governments of the USA and those of many European countries—and who think this is a brilliant defense of freedom-

Robert Boorstin, Google’s director of corporate and policy communications, said the company is working with the Office of the US Trade Representative, the State Department, Commerce Department and European officials to build a case to take to the World Trade Organization.

Such a case could help US tech companies seeking greater access to Chinese consumers while furthering the US government’s human rights agenda.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her technology advisers have promoted Internet freedom as a basic human right.

“Google believes very strongly, as do other companies, that censorship is a trade barrier,” Boorstin said…

Clinton can tell those dying on the streets of Tehran that freedom is all about a trade dispute-

The leaders of the so-called Green Movement — the former presidential candidates Mir Hussein Moussavi, a former prime minister, and Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of Parliament — have not dropped their demands for more political freedom. But they have dropped their policy of direct confrontation with the government, saying it is not worth the price in blood and heavy prison terms, and canceled demonstrations planned for Saturday after failing to receive a permit.

The security services made clear in the days leading to the anniversary that anyone taking to the streets would be dealt with harshly. On Friday, people in Tehran reported receiving a threatening text message on their cellphones.

“Dear citizen, you have been tricked by the foreign media and you are working on their behalf,” the message read. “If you do this again, you will be dealt with according to Islamic law.”

Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah must be rotfl-ing.

The oil spill is evoking comparisons to the Bhopal gas leak, as it should. There is a lot in common.

The NYT is debating the US government’s plan to force BP to skip its dividend payout. There are a couple of libertarians in the debate who are against such an action. I don’t support their view. I don’t support the planned action either.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the concept of a limited liability company and the protection such an entity receives under the law. Of course such an entity could tie its clients, suppliers etc down into contracts with a limited liability clause. But it cannot limit its liability to third parties this way. And neither should governments do so. That’s why the cap that the US government has in place for various disasters such as nuclear meltdown, or an oil spill, and the one that the Indian government is considering, is bad law.

In an ideal situation, BP would be allowed to pay out the dividend as and when it wanted. But its shareholders would be responsible for every last penny that the company is unable to shell out when the time comes to pay the compensation. Bankruptcy will not be an option.

And this is why the Indian government’s action in the Bhopal case is unforgivable. Instead of investigating the incident and fixing responsibilities, it became a party to the dispute by taking over the power to settle on behalf of the dead and injured. After making a bad settlement and screwing up on the distribution front, and failing miserably on the investigation front, its hunting for a unicorn. As if hanging Anderson will make its sins go away. Bharat Desai describes an interesting sequence on his TOI blog-

Being in such august company, it was easy for me to know what had happened. Chief minister Arjun Singh had apparently not consulted the caretaker Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi before ordering the arrest of Anderson on December 7. After the arrest, Rajiv Gandhi’s powerful aide and cousin, Arun Nehru, telephoned Arjun Singh and told him that US President Ronald Regan had called up the Indian PM and ‘requested’ him to release Anderson immediately. Now, Rajiv Gandhi was an Indian Airlines pilot, accustomed to taking only orders from air traffic control. The job of prime minister was thrust upon him because of his mother’s assassination just one month before the gas disaster. He couldn’t have resisted the top man in the White House.

Having spent many years in Congress politics trying to cultivate a relationship with Indira Gandhi, Singh gave ground easily because the orders were obviously coming from a new leadership. A wily politician, often called Chanakya in Madhya Pradesh, he was quick to understand that his survival in the uncertain world of politics depended on his serving his new political masters, rather than upholding Indian law in a city strewn with thousands of human corpses. Instead of cross-checking with Rajiv Gandhi on such an important issue, lest he upsets Arun Nehru in the process, he passed on the order to the then chief secretary Brahm Swaroop. The bureaucracy’s head told the Bhopal district magistrate Moti Singh to release Anderson and even escort him to a waiting state government aircraft which flew him to New Delhi. Superintendent of police Swaraj Puri obediently helped Moti Singh carry out the orders. Arjun Singh had failed the Indian Civil Services examination before turning a politician but he knew how to have a firm grip over the bureaucracy.

There are times when I envision “Congress ka haath” as a hand with its middle finger pointed towards the citizenry.

[Sauvik has written quite a few posts on why torts and not criminal cases are the way to go in such cases. Read them.]

Hear, hear!!

Siddharth Varadarajan, writing in The Hindu (via Churumuri)-

If Mr. Bachchan is guilty of overlooking mass violence today, it is because equally illustrious gentlemen, including some industrialists, did the same when they declared Mr. Modi prime ministerial material. For that matter, the actor himself has done this sort of thing before. In his movies, Mr. Bachchan was a crusader for the underdog. In real life, he is attracted to the kind of powerful men he once fought on the big screen. His fans have a right to feel cheated. Political parties, especially the Congress, do not have that right.

The party finds fault with him for representing Gujarat in the wake of 2002. But in 1984, barely weeks after the blood in the streets of Delhi had dried, the actor accepted a Congress ticket for Allahabad and got elected to Parliament. “As a brand ambassador does he endorse or condemn the mass murder in Gujarat?” Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari asked the other day, adding: “It is high time Amitabh Bachchan came out and said what his position on [the] Gujarat riots is.” Despite the party having ‘apologised’ for its role in the massacre of Sikhs following Indira Gandhi’s assassination, I doubt Mr. Tiwari or any other Congress spokesman will ever ask Mr. Bachchan what his position on the Delhi riots was or is.

The color of money

There is no nadir as far as Indian politics is concerned. It redefines the term every time it plays out. As is happening with the sudden enthusiasm for tracking “black money.” It’s people’s money “stashed” abroad which will be used to develop villages, the clown says. The party of thieves isn’t happy as they lost an opportunity to add another issue to their basket full of other rotten issues. The party of bandits has promised more plunder if it come to power. There may be a lot of disagreement between the clowns, thieves and bandits, but they all agree on one thing – more plunder.

A government has as much a moral right to tax as a rapist has to rape. But that doesn’t stop it from conjuring up myriad rules and regulations intended to smother everyone and keep them in check. As Ferris says, how can you rule over men if you don’t make them feel guilty? Both the Congress and CPM are taunting the BJP over FERA. If there was one act that put the fear of God into any honest businessman out there, it was FERA – the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. Draconian it was called, and draconian it was. If you committed a “crime,” or the Enforcement Directorate thought you did, you went to jail till they investigated. All over the Indian government’s Silas Marner-esque attitude towards foreign currency. And these crooks want to bring it back, not that it isn’t already there in a more “benign” form.

These people speak of “money laundering,” hawala and “black money” as if its their personal money that is being moved around without their consent. No doubt some politicians, and bureaucrats, and even criminals might use these “facilities” but more often than not it is someone who has no intention of handing over his hard earned money to “virtuous” thieves. Then there is the bogey of terror financing, as if staging a terrorist act requires a billion dollars which means all movement of currency has to be tracked. Of course it has more to do with “tax” than with “terror.” Is it a coincidence that both words start with T? I have written about this previously – here and here. Also read this old Swami column on hawala, if you haven’t done so already. “The very word hawala is derived from an ancient Persian word for trust,” he writes. And tax?

If the intentions behind the great swindle are not yet clear, this report on an Economist debate should help. Why would someone have such an idea?

Let me give three reasons why I believe the rich should pay higher taxes. For the sake of concreteness, let us say that we are talking about introducing an 80% marginal tax rate on all annual incomes in excess of €1m, leaving the rest of the tax system unchanged. I believe that such a policy reform could and should be implemented immediately in countries such as the United States, the UK, France or Germany. I do not want to be too dogmatic about the exact numbers: it could be that the right policy should rather involve a 70% marginal rate in excess of €2m, or a 90% marginal rate in excess of €500,000. But you get the idea: we are talking about a major increase in top marginal rates (currently around 40%) applied to very, very high incomes (less than 0.5% of the population).

and

The main objective of raising marginal tax rates on the rich is not to raise additional tax revenue, but rather to keep top compensation under control and to curb the grabbing hand. In fact, the proposal that I am making – introducing a 80% marginal tax rate on all annual incomes in excess of €1m, leaving the rest of the tax system unchanged—would probably raise limited additional tax revenue. First because it would apply to only a small fraction of the population—less than 0.5%. [This is fortunate: in the current recession context, it would be pretty silly to raise tax on substantial fractions of the population]. Next because the main effect of this 80% marginal rate would probably be to reduce drastically the incentive to take away more than €1m from one’s company, so that the number of taxpayers in the €1m+ bracket would probably fall substantially. This is what happened during the 1932-1980 period, and available evidence suggests that this would actually a good thing. I.e. this would not correspond to a fall in real productive efforts and economic output, but rather to a redistribution of income flows.

Follow the whole debate here. Beyond “redistribution” and “give me my cut” there is the simple “you are too rich” reason. “Garibi hatao” is an impossibility. “Amiri bhagao” is much easier. That’s what Indira Gandhi and her kooky clan managed to do. And that’s what our new politicians have promised they will do. Taxation must be voluntary in nature, always. But in a “welfare state,” that’s asking for the moon.

The phone rings when nature calls

Found this news report on the controversy surrounding the Election Commission in a comment at Churumuri- “Chawla’s loo breaks led to Congress phone calls: CEC”.

I don’t trust the Congress with the Constitution; they manage to screw it every time they are in power – like this Ajit Ninan cartoon points out.

The real coward

Sans Serif reports that the editor of Mint – Raju Narisetti – has resigned. He has, as is all too common in the upper echelons of the corporate world, termed the decision as one about “moving on”. But the media blog thinks that the resignation is more about the Congress Party and its dirty politics than anything else. And it might well be right-

However, the suddenness of the announcement has set journalistic tongues wagging, and there are quite a few within and outside the organisation who believe the exit may have had to do something with the publication of an opinion page article 19 days ago, by a serving IAS officer writing under the pseudonym Athreya.
[…]
Eight days later, the tone and tenor of the article clearly proved juicy enough for the BJP’s member of Parliament from Bangalore South, Ananth Kumar, to raise it in a Lok Sabha discussion on the economic slowdown to needle the government.

In response, the new Union home minister P. Chidambaram, went for the jugular:

“He (Kumar) cited an article allegedly written by an IAS officer. I have read the article. I do not know whether the name of that author given in that article is a true name or a pseudo name. I do not know whether he is an IAS officer.

“All I know is either he is a disloyal officer or a coward or both. If he had the courage, he should write the letter, sign in his own name and send it to the Prime Minister. But I hope they (BJP) do not encourage such officers; they did not encourage them when they were in power. So what is the point of citing a pseudonymous or anonymous author’s article taking shelter under it and running away when the reply is to be delivered?”

[…]
From here on, though, matters get into seriously speculative territory. The word in HT House is that the article, the clarification and the blog post were brought to the notice of HT’s bosses by members of the ruling coalition. (HT’s editorial director Shobhana Bhartiya is a Congress member of the upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha).

One version has it that Narisetti was asked to reveal the identity of the IAS officer.

Another version has it that he was told to apologise, which he declined, preferring to put in his papers.

There is a lot more to it. So read the Sans Serif post.

Now what did this Athreya write that made the Congress Party so – angry? This

Mr Prime Minister, you were selected, not elected by the people, for just one reason, that you posed no threat to anyone in the Congress party. You were not selected for your excellent PhD or for your integrity; not even for your competence as a civil servant. You were considered the least of all evils.
[…]
You have personally demonstrated integrity, but what use is that alone, when almost every key minister in your cabinet is treating every file as an opportunity for cash flows? Are you telling us you don’t know that your telecom, environment and shipping ministries are the home of organized mafias looting the exchequer? What use is it telling us, “Look, I am personally honest, but I’m presiding over a band of dacoits, murderers and thugs. I am only the prime minister and can’t do anything about it”?
[…]
Can you not pour money into technology and arm our security agencies (the Chinese spent $6 billion on security during the Olympics alone), invest in setting up a highly sophisticated counter-intelligence agency, get the Mossad to train our commandos, step up the diplomatic offensive at every forum to isolate Pakistan and, most importantly, come down heavily on corruption at all levels, starting with your cabinet? Can you not ensure simple reforms in the criminal justice system (which scores of committees such as Malimath have outlined) to ensure certainty of punishment for any offence from pickpocketery to terror? Can you not lead legislation to keep criminals out of politics and try to stem the flow of illegal money into campaign funding?

If not, then what use is it being a prime minister if, even after reaching the very top, you can’t do a damn in an hour of national crisis?

Some people can’t stand the truth – they have this nasty habit of shooting the messenger. And this is widely prevalent in the Congress Party. Even without this allegation, the dictatorial nature of the party is no secret. From Nehru to Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi – the rape of the already half-dead constitution was a continuous process. It is the party that sent India to the dark ages – while the rest of the world looked towards Western democracies, India was made to take lessons from mass murderers sitting in Soviet Russia and Communist China. Under the guise of non-alignment, India practiced anti-Americanism; it supported the Palestine cause and terrorists like Arafat while refusing to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel – forgetting that Kashmir is a similar situation with India in Israel’s place. It is the party that brought in the Emergency and went on a rampage – “family planning” programs and all – while the impotent Supreme Court of India looked on. It is the party that nationalized everything from banks to insurance companies to oil companies to airlines, actively encouraged the “license raj” and destroyed the lives of millions of entrepreneurs and youngsters. It is the party that condoned the murder of 4000 Sikhs over a three day period in Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi and whose prime minister nonchalantly said – “when a mighty tree falls, the ground will shake.” It is the party a senior member of which gets away with making comments like “there is too much democracy in [India]”. In fact, take any problem, and you will find that the Congress Party is at the root of it all; in the 60 years since independence, the Congress Party has done more harm to India than all the terrorists combined, and that’s saying something.

Cho Ramaswamy says about the centralization of leadership and dynasty rule in the Congress Party, the period of Indira Gandhi-

As far as Mrs Gandhi was concerned, she did a lot of damage, definitely to the polity of the country. In fact, it was she who weakened the Congress. She could get votes with sheer charisma. But she was not prepared to tolerate leaders of stature in any state.

That is why she saw to it that Kamaraj in Tamil Nadu, Nijalingappa in Karnataka, Sanjeeva Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, S K Patil in Maharashtra, every one of them was relegated, and the Congress lost many stalwarts because of that. And every state unit became totally subservient to the Centre.

The Congress leader of every state was seen as a peon of the Centre, whereas the leader of the local regional party was seen as a master. He shone brilliantly as against the Congress leader. That is why regional parties started flourishing in this country. That was a disservice done by Mrs Gandhi.

She allowed free rein to the corrupt. But she was able to provide a determined leadership to the country. In Punjab, it is my belief that she encouraged Bhindranwale in the initial stages to embarrass the Janata Party. That is another disservice to the nation. As far as the Sri Lankan problem is concerned, even today we have remnants of the problem created by Mrs Gandhi. She started funding and training the Tigers.

And it continues to this day.

No wonder its ministers are arrogant as hell, and while its government does not bother about the rights of citizens or the rule of law, it expects bureaucrats and everyone else to follow its diktats, and no wonder Chidambaram skipped Athreya’s very valid questions and indulged instead in ad hominem attacks. If Athreya had written what he did under his real name, he would have been sacked – dissent is not tolerated; boot and ass licking is welcome.

He’s not the coward, the Congress Party is.