Power And Dollar

Why Can’t America Happy Talk With Pakistan And Save 2010 Election?

Did anyone foresee that US-India relationship has an impact in 2010 election?  Or that it may cost $20B annually?  US Secretary of State Clinton is visiting Pakistan for three days to have a frank and open discussion and is in no time to have a “happy talk”.  Pakistan is the most important ally to US in the anti-terrorism war.  Therefore, US should be happy to have such an important ally and Pakistan should happy to see it is an important ally to the most powerful country on earth.  What made this strong Pakistan-US relationship to the point where there is no time for happy talk?  What sours the relationship?  Is US able to fix it?  Is US going to find a new friend?

The sore point is about the future of Afghanistan.  US want to remove terrorist heaven in the area and be done with it.  The core interest of Pakistan is its relations with India.  The US’ version of the Afghanistan future is not advancing Pakistan’s interests with India. 

Pakistan, relative to India, has no strategic depth.  Of all its fronts, Afghanistan is the only front where Pakistan can develop, cultivate and incorporate as Pakistan’s back.  That was why Pakistan would have supported US’ interests in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s Afghanistan invasion and created resistance forces where Pashtuns, Pakistanis cousins, had the controlling stakes.  If US’ version of Afghanistan is to dilute the influence of Pashtuns, open Afghanistan to more international players (say India) or US itself develops a stronger ties with India and marginalizes Pakistan as a result, then this ally relationship may not be simply a bargaining chip for Pakistan, but actually may become contrary to the self interest of Pakistan. 

US have developed an undisputable interest with India in the eyes of Pakistan.  Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons (not just capability, unlike Israel).  However, US scold Pakistan and promise to assist India to develop civilian nuclear abilities (Hyde Act).  Of course, US see India as a counter weight to China.  However, in doing so, US are compromising its anti-terrorism objective by alienating Pakistan. 

If India serving as a counter weight to China is more important than losing Pakistan, then can US find a replacement ally in the area to fight terrorism?  Ironically, the only player adjacent to Afghanistan available in the area is China.  All other countries are either unavailable (Is Iran available?  At what price?) or they have their own problems to deal with, say Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan.  Do these countries listen more to Russia or China since they love their Shanghai Organization so much?  Do US want to invite China to extend its influence to Afghanistan?  Or have US ever invited China to play in Afghanistan?  Can US impose this arrangement to Pakistan, i.e. can US tell Pakistan to fight a war and strengthen Pakistan’s nemesis at the same time?  Worse, what if this arrangement actually is eroding the supporting base of the Pakistan governing elite?

More likely than not, Clinton’s trip means this relationship management has gone beyond the authorities of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.  If this frank and open discussion is meant to be a give and take negotiation, then we can wait and see if a resolution will come.  If this frank and open discussion is meant for Pakistan to rant and move on to live with this arrangement, then this military campaign in Afghanistan will drag on as other NATO allies plan to return home.  If Clinton’s trip is meant to facilitate Obama’s final decision on Afghanistan’s troop level, then considering its fiscal policy consequences and electoral consequences in 2010 and possibly 2012, Clinton is actually carrying one heavy responsibility.


October 30, 2009 Posted by | Afghanistan, Current Events, election, Election 2010, Hillary Clinton, India, politics, wordpress-political-blogs | 1 Comment

Obama vs Palin vs Stock Performance

Since Tuesday, S&P has fallen more than 3%.  Certainly, reasons like retail and job data can point to that direction.  On the other hand, oil is easing as well which should have facilitated a spike.  A political news that may have played a bit is the announcement of Sarah Palin, the presidential contest is finally set since all the tickets are finalized.  On top of that, Palin has little experience may also point south: investors are holding cash to understand what is going on.  


People usually compare the presidential candidates.  However, both candidates do not have executive experience this year.  The most executive experience one has among the 4 (which should have been 2) of them has only 2 years.  Investors could be thinking: Can anyone run the show? 


It would be interesting to see how much of that 3% can be contributed to Palin.  With the energy Palin accentuates and the media attention she attracts (at least for now), McCain has created an instant celebrity just as well.  The question moves to: how much of that is her and how much of that is manufactured by professionals?  


Palin already generated more google searches than Obama (please compare to the media attention Biden against Palin).  If this trend can sustain after the Republican National Convention, then we may end up seeing the presidential race contested by Palin and Obama in the TV box.  


In the polling figures, Obama’s lead has been shrinking.  Given an unpopular incumbent, a flash back memory of Katrina, it is a nice surprise that a party convention (namely Republican now) gave McCain a lift in polling.


If Palin is really a pit bull, an effective campaigner and a quick study, then this contest between Obama and Palin probably will turn out more interesting than Obama versus Clinton.

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, mccain, obama, Palin, politics, Republican, Sarah Palin, US politics, wordpress-political-blogs | 2 Comments

Very Unconventional In This Convention

When the DNC convention is going on, one would expect Obama would get a better polling result.  This is not quite the case.  McCain is closing in when Democrats’ convention is going on.  When Republicans’ convention starts, will McCain’s rating go down because it will invoke Bush’s image in all the TV sets?  This is the reverse of conventional wisdom, although pundits can attribute the former to Obama ditching Clinton for the VP and the latter to Bush.  If this trend continues to hold, or Obama ties McCain by the end of the convention, then we may be witnessing something interesting in electioneering.


Gallup gave 2 point in favor of McCain, which poll ended on Monday.  Another polling company Rasmussen gave 1 point lead .  Since only the electoral votes, let’s check the electoral votes.  Obama vs McCain is at 273 vs 265, if no toss-up states, and 228 vs 185, if toss-up states are removed.  


The simplest explanation is Biden replaced Clinton and therefore Clinton voters are moving.  Something deeper can be going on.  The institution of political parties has been crumbling over the last decades.  It has been eroding ever since the first TV broadcast of presidential debate.  However, these recent polls are showing the brand, the party brand being symbolized by party convention, is not lifting the polling results for a candidate.  Have we gone to this point in America already?  Especially when we recall how similar Clinton and Obama were, in terms of platform.


Political parties are institutions.  Institutions have memories, financial resources, brands, people network and ideology/organized political thoughts/platform.  Content distribution technology (newspaper publishing, radio, television and now internet) enables individuals to accumulate political capital easier than before.  Obama is the greatest example of that.  Cost of fundraising is lower, especially the start-up cost.  Institutional memory becomes less and less significant when anyone can download voting results for the past century and generate knowledge and actionable information instantly by any undergraduate student.  People network no longer takes decades or even generations to build (look at Bush 2, Bush 1 and Senator Prescott Bush).  


Is this the turning point where the relationship between candidate and voter is direct without intermediary?  That would be analogous to having no store front in business.  We have always been having a store front for shopping.  Then, Sears gave us direct mail orders.  Home Shopping Network gave us TV direct shopping.  Now Amazon, eBay.  What will happen to us when this business model reaches the business of politics? 

August 27, 2008 Posted by | activism, advocacy, Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, mccain, nonprofits, obama, politics, Republican, wordpress-political-blogs | 2 Comments

A Lesson From Lincoln

We seldom observe opportunities for Obama to learn more about the mechanics of elections.  This is also a lesson applicable to even to small races such as county or municipal elections.  If Obama studied Lincoln better, he could have avoided this trouble from the Clintons where Hilary gave the permission for more drama at the Denver convention.  Here is the quote from Lincoln: “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” 


Lincoln won the nomination with Hamlin as VP, another contender.  After Lincoln won the election, Seward, Chase, Cameron and Bates all got political appointments in his administration.  Why?  Keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer.  The best way to keep your enemies from combining forces to dethrone you is let them fight among themselves.  


This is especially true in an open race.  In an open race, contest tends to be a lot closer among the top contenders.  In order to keep your enemy from distracting you for the rest of the term, give him a job.  Keep him busy at something you have to pay close attention anyway.  Tony Blair made Gordon Brown the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister).  Jean Chretien made Paul Martin Finance Minister.  They all did for the same reason.  


If you enemy were strong enough to lose for 1 percent point, you practical won by flipping a coin.   It is very tempting for your opponent to try his luck again, isn’t it?  Give him a job to do well.  He will see an opportunity to perform and win the next round when you are out the door.  Who knows, maybe you will get a corruption scandal, a sex scandal.  There is only one way to win (get the votes!), but plenty of ways to lose in politics.  


It is the same thing even for a county election.  You won the seat.  Give your opponent a seat on a commission, a committee, or even a board of the local chamber of commerce, rotary club.  Yes, he will accumulate his political capital.  However, the appointment originates from your influence as a sitting official.  He answers to you (vaguely, in the case of a board seat).  If it is an important committee, he may under perform just as well, derail his own career and cause you injuries harm.  But it is still better that you see him on the opposing side in each monthly county / city hall meeting.  Who knows, a few years from now, you may want to retire from politics and if you can pass on seat to him, he will have to look after your surviving interests for a long time.  Don’t you see how Bush 1 is to Reagan?  Or how difficult it is for McCain to distance himself from Bush, no matter how nasty the race was in 2000?  How bad can a deal like that be? 

August 7, 2008 Posted by | activism, Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, mccain, nonprofits, opinion, politics, Republican, wordpress-political-blogs | 3 Comments

Clinton Contributed A Great Lesson: Electioneering 101

For any aspiring politician, say an aspiring city councilor, Clinton has taught us a very good lesson, especially her Iowa race.  Since the lesson is most useful for an aspiring city councilor, I will focus on that particular case.  A primary is more similar to city councilor race (versus challenging an incumbent) than house/governor races since city councilor races usually remove the party affiliation; since all candidates in a primary are from the same party, party affiliation is also meaningless.  


There are almost always more than 2 candidates running for any city councilor seat anywhere in the country.  Not many candidates can run more than 2 full fledge campaigns in his life since campaigns are costly.  Therefore, one has to know if he has before pouring money in.  Alternatively, if $ is not a big issue, as in the case for Clinton, how much resources are you supposed to pour in to secure the Iowa race?


This is equivalent to: what is your self knowledge?  



How many votes were cast in the last city councilor seat election?  How many candidates were there?  How many votes were needed to secure the seat?  If it is a challenger race, then please assume the incumbent will continue to get similar votes, no matter how incompetent he is.  If Clinton wanted to secure the Iowa race, Clinton should have checked properly how many people attended the caucuses, the amount of volunteers needed to mobilize attendance, the field staffs needed to find volunteers.  


Now that you know the votes,


Where are the votes distributed?  Which precinct got the votes?  How many eligible voters in those precincts?  What are the voting rates in each precinct?  


You will only want to spend your resources in the high voting rate areas.  It is not only about money, but also time.  For you to be a credible, competent, and winning candidate, walking the area is essential.  


In fact, this is why there are so many precinct captains.  These are the people who hold this kind local knowledge.  They walk for the parties every time.  They know which household is more receptive to this or that party.  They know which household votes.  They know if they will want to be a volunteer.  True, party affiliation is unimportant for local races.  Party is an institution that accumulates this kind of vital intelligence.  


This is where Clinton also failed.  Running Iowa was almost like an after thought for Clinton.  No enough research was done in Iowa.



If the party office of the local does its homework properly, then it should accumulate the information such votes / walking hours, votes / lawn signs for each precinct.  Now this is a good piece of information for you to see what kind results you should expect.  Can you get hold of last election’s voters list?  Can you get hold of last election’s voters check list?  Do you remember the scruntineers at the precinct?  They check your name off in order to prevent voting fraud.  However, the party collects this information over time.  A voter who voted last time is more likely to vote this time.  If you are short on pamphlets, then you know your priorities.  In fact, the purpose of a political party is to create an institution: knowledge accumulation, branding, and staffing fundraising operatives.



How many people do you need for your campaign machine?  Now that you know how many votes you need and where they are distributed, you get a rough idea about the man hours, pamphlets, lawn signs are needed.  Do you have the people to walk all the votes you need?

Exactly because Iowa was an after thought, Clinton did not have enough pay staff and volunteers.  And since Obama was an under dog and he was a field organizer in Chicago, he out performed everyone else in Iowa in terms of volunteer strength and field organization.



There are more lessons to be learnt from both this Obama vs Clinton in this classic and text book like election and fundraising campaigns.  And they are better discussed when the time comes especially since they are not related to Iowa.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | activism, advocacy, Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, fundraising, Hillary Clinton, nonprofits, obama, opinion, politics, Thoughts, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

When Will Obama Overcome His Indecisiveness, Or His Incompetence Or Divisiveness?

Now that Obama claims the victory.  All eyes will be on how his campaign, especially how he will unite Clinton’s forces.  Her fundraisers will join Obama’s campaign, somehow.  The effectiveness of the joint effort depends on how well the two sides get integrated.  A barometer for both sides to watch will be: Are Obama and Clinton getting along?  This “getting along” will integrate or disintegrate the teams.  Some from the winner side will have the thought of “trophy sharing” syndrome.  Some from Clinton side will have to live with the thought of “stolen trophy” syndrome.  


Clinton’s congratulation is her acceptance of reality.  Her no concession is up for trade.  However, is her concession worth anything?  Her fundraisers are already “moving forward” without her concession.  Her donors are already knocking on doors to find a way to park their donation on Obama.  After all, big donors are interested at investing on the next president.  It may work out that Clinton’s concession without an Obama offer is better work for.  She may get a better standing at the end. 


Clinton is now defenseless.  However, Clinton can work for Obama.  Has Obama not made up his mind what to do with Clinton?  Is Obama indecisive?  Is Obama incompetent to think of his options?  Is Obama trying to put a foreclosure on the Clinton property?  If Obama is pushing too hard on a defenseless woman, Obama will not only risk on an integration determined to fail (there are plenty of stories about mergers gone sour), but also push some voter defection.  If it is the latter, then Obama becomes divisive.  If Bush 2 were divisive to the country, then Obama can be at risk to become divisive to his party.   

He needs to over come his indecisiveness, or his incompetence or divisiveness or all of the above in order to win the White House.  





June 4, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, Hillary Clinton, obama, opinion, politics, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

How Does This Rumored Concession Work?

Both Obama and Clinton are aware of the superdelegate endorsement by now.  Terry McAuliffe already said Clinton will “congratulate and call him the nominee”.  However, Clinton will not concede tonight.  McAuliffe will not issue such a statement without Clinton’s vetting.  Didn’t Clinton vow to stay all the way to the end?  Is this a concession or not?  How does this concession work? 


Warning: Highly Speculative.  Information may not be actionable for any purpose.  

We will get a much better idea about what Clinton is doing when Clinton’s tonight or tomorrow’s statement or the lack of to invalidate McAuliffe’s news.


Obama got the magic number to secure the nomination.  But anything can happen, right? 


Clinton may leave her name on the ballot.  However, she may stop campaigning.  Well, in case “something” happened to Obama; Someone wants to change his/her mind at the last minute without Clinton’s doing; Some superdelegates fail to vote in Denver.  Look, Kennedy is unlikely to vote in August given his health conditions.  Senator Robert Byrd is 90 years old and hospitalized again for the third time recently.  He probably cannot attend the Denver convention either. 


If Obama trips over again, Clinton may just get lucky to pick up a rebound.  Or, is that what she is hoping for?


June 3, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, obama, opinion, politics, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

Where Is The Raodmap To Clinton Concession?

There are 83 days between now (06.02) and Democratic Convention in Denver (08.25).  Yes, superdelegates can change their mind.  However, the earlier Clinton concedes the less political capital Clinton will attrite.  But what is the worst case? 


First of all, everyone is expecting a happy ending.  For one, Tom Daschle (former Senate Majority Leader), who is an Obama supporter, was expecting Clinton’s endorsement when he appeared Meet The Press on 06.01.  That can be taken as a sign Obama is able, willing and ready to buy.


If both Clinton and Obama believe Clinton will be productive for Obama’s quest and his administration, then Clinton will actually acquire more asset in this election and his presidency.  In this scenario, Clinton will concede quickly since both buyer and seller see a brighter career in the future.  If either one of them does not share this opinion, then it will be Microsoft-Yahoo again.  Clinton may dragged on until Convention day, late August. 


The worst case is at best speculative. 


The worst scenario is an Obama campaign with Clinton’s asset working against Obama.  How can Clinton work this out?


What Obama really needs is more than the Clinton name, i.e. the endorsement on a TV box.  Obama does not have a long political history.  He has not buildt up his campaign machine.  He motivated a lot of volunteers, donors and voters.  And he needs more political operatives.  


If Clinton were really into helping out the party (just not the presidential campaign), Clinton needs to make sure her operatives are working for someone else.  There are plenty of governors, first term congressmen and rookie candidates who need more help.  Clinton can simply transform her existing campaign into an election temporary staffing firm.  Her machine needs to pay off the debt anyway.  All these candidates would appreciate the assistance in monetary means.  After all, her public appearances are not cheap. 


What is the going price? Is it VP? Supreme Court? Cabinet position?  Or Clinton simply has already moved forward to 2012?

June 2, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Current Events, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, Hillary Clinton, obama, opinion, politics, Thoughts, wordpress-political-blogs | 6 Comments

Is Obama Showing Some Love Offense?

Obama is willing to compromise on the delegates of Michigan and Florida.  In fact he is willing to “concede an advantage” to Clinton on Michigan and Florida delegate disput.


Obama is showing this because he is confident he can afford to concede and still wins.  This is exactly the kind of “love offense” this post talks about.


Obama wants a 50-state strategy.  That will require a lot of political operatives.  Obama will need a lot of these operatives from Clinton’s camp.  This is to show Obama is big enough to accept their new loyalty, when Clinton’s campaign’s over.  This will destabilize Clinton camp’s morale.  Operatives may even start changing employers.  


However, this move is not a TV friendly move.  It may not get much TV time at all.  Obama will need something flashier to catch people’s attention. 


Moves like these will force Clinton to sell.  The question remains: At what price will Clinton sell?  Is it about the best price for Clinton or running for the sake of running?


May 29, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, obama, opinion, politics, Thoughts, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

How Is The Dream Ticket of Obama Clinton Going?

Obama started looking for a VP.  A VP is supposed to complement the candidate.  One constituency that Obama needs help, as showcased by the media, is white blue collar voters.  If Obama sees this a need, then Edwards could have been a possible running mate.  However, Edwards decreased his chances by his own actions.  Or inactions. 


Had Edwards endorsed and campaigned for Obama earlier, say before the Pennsylvania’s primary, then Edwards may have been able prevent Clinton’s victory there and closed the deal then and there.  And Edwards held his cards.  Did Edwards have doubts about the race issue?  Now that Edwards endorsed so late in the game, his influence in the VP search is probably minimized.  However, Edwards has publicly said he is not interested at being a VP.  And that probably is a wise choice on Edwards’ part.  


Does Obama need help to cover the white women group, a core constituency group of Clinton?  If Pelosi sensed that could have been a weakness of Obama and that Pelosi showed any emotions of disappointment with the reporters, then she might have had hoped of being on the ticket.  


Obama may also want to have a state governor on the ticket simply because Obama is a senator who is known to be a good orator, not a debater and no inxperience in executive.  And if that is the case, then the list has 28 people.  Of those, 5 are women. 


Geographically, Obama will want someone from the South.  Yes, that comes back to Edwards again.  However, Obama knows he needs to cast a wider net and get a bigger pool. Kansas governor is Sebelius, the southern most state with a female governor. 


If Obama is concerned with the “Angry White Men”, then he would be looking for a blue collar swing state male governor.  Now, this is a short list.

Does Obama need help to cover the Hispanics voters?  Bill Richardson will come into mind.  And he is a governor who has served the federal government.  In particular, he served the Energy Department.  So he has experience with nuclear security issues.  That would boast his chances.  Since Richardson is already 60 years old, his senior age can help elevate some of the concerns that Obama is too young.


How does Clinton play in this game?  What can Clinton offer?  A Clinton was a lightning rod prior to 2008, either because of Mrs. Clinton herself or Mr. Clinton.  Clinton does not have a war chest.  Even if she has, Obama is not short of campaign funds.  Clinton does not have southern roots to balance Obama’s weakness other than her Arkansas days.  Clinton has a campaign machine.  However, the Democrat establishment is increasingly going toward Obama.  How much this campaign machine is worth will soon become a question, not too different than the value of Yahoo to Microsoft.  Is this a tactic of Obama, similar to what Microsoft is doing to Yahoo?  Probably not.  Obama may have enough chips now to move on.  Obama probably is more fearful to the damage Clinton may give to him than the values Clinton can offer.  


May 22, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, clinton, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, obama, opinion, politics, wordpress-political-blogs | 1 Comment