Monday, August 25, 2008

Biden his time

Barack Obama has done it. The dream ticket of Hillabarack was always going to be just what it looked like: a dream. John Edwards was a good whitening of the ticket for Obama, but he would not do much to make up for Obama's lack of experience.

Choosing the six-term US senator Joe Biden will not only bolster the experience factor, it is the wisest choice because Joe Biden had the right idea about Iraq from the beginning. He always supported the idea of Iraq eventually becoming three countries belonging to the Kurds, Sunnis and the Shiites. He had this idea of Iraq when a huge part of the intelligentsia was focusing on nation-building. He saw through the "unity" of the Iraqis and understood that it was the dictatorship of Saddam that kept a country filled with people of different ethnicities together.

By selecting Joe Biden, Obama has not only shown courage in not picking a veep from the people closest to him on the Democratic primaries; he has also shown remarkable foresight and understood that Iraq would be the defining problem for the next prez and handling it successfully or even competently would make him a hero. For that, he needed to choose the best foreign policy person he could let's see...could it be Bosnian sniper fire survivor Hillary or ambulance chasing ethanol supporting Iowa pandering John Edwards? There was some talk that Obama might look towards Gen. Wesley Clark to match the military experience of McCain, but this seems to be a wiser decision.

The general election seems to be like an India Bangladesh cricket match. One team clearly has the better players and on paper it should be a slam dunk. Yet, there is this apprehension that every Indian cricket fan knows all too well. Here too, the issues are on Obama's side. He has made excellent contributions to the Energy policy Act of 2005, he co-introduced the Coburn-Obama transparency Act in 2006, and has an actual health plan which, though not covering every person (contrast Hillary and Edwards) seems easier to implement. In this field, he far outstrips McCain. McCain on the other hand was a survivor of the "Keating Five", another card Obama should be playing.

McCain realized pretty quickly that he needed to distance himself from W to even be in the running. He did, however, say that the US needs to be in Iraq for the next hundred years, and he seems like he is going to use his military career to say that he is the best person to defend the country.

Obama needs to be careful here. The public here is like a girlfriend on the verge of tears. One wrong word, one wrong tone of voice, or even a careless expression can push it over the edge. He has counter the military goodwill of his opponent with care. He needs to give him his due for being the pow in Vietnam while highlighting that a military career, distinguished though it may be, does not equip one with the goods necessary to be elected to the highest office in the land.

He needs to point out that McCain is weak on real issues like global warming, the war, the economy and the gas tax holiday that he proposed for the summer was truly for the birds.

Obama has been biding his time taking the high road against all of Hillary's barbs and now McCain's. It is time for him to start some serious mud-slinging and because there are a lot of brain-washed voters too dumb to vote for their own interest and fooled to voting for or against non-issues like prayer in schools.

Paul Krugman wrote an excellent column in the gray lady where he touched upon various items on the Obama agenda which should get him the oval office. From the gas prices to real estate to Biden and such like. He concludes brilliantly by saying, "
All it (the Obama campaign) has to do is tarnish Mr. McCain’s image enough so that voters see this as a race between a Democrat and a Republican. And that’s a race the Democrat will easily win."
Sounds easy enough huh...lets see.

Monday, August 18, 2008


"Speech silvern but silence golden" I had no use for that phrase all through my life. I liked to talk and I loved to listen. I always thought that speaking is an amazing talent that we have and using it helps us interact effectively. Ergo, I loved to talk and liked people who talked a lot.

But something changes when I moved to the US for graduate school. There was a huge change. Suddenly I started wanting to hang around people who spoke less and measured their words. They were more interesting. I started to watch what I said. I mean this not in a weird autocratic way which precludes unpopular opinions. I mean it in the context of superfluous blabbering, and how life is more fulfilling without it.

Less speaking means more time for thinking. At least that's what I think.

As I was pondering this, another thing occurred to me. I started to think about silence in itself, and its properties. The uses of silence are many and cover various emotions. Studies show that the average man takes at least a half hour to understand that his silent significant other is angry with him. Until then, he considers the silent time as a bonus. He actually thinks he is getting some quiet time. After a half hour, it dawns on him that he was being punished while his girlfriend decides that he is sleeping on the couch that night. Silence can mean so many other things.

I have very few friends. The really good friends for me are those with whom I can share long silent periods where each one of us is doing our own work, and we are in peaceful company. The silence there is palpably soothing, and nobody wants to talk at that time. Silence at other times can be used to intimidate. In a stress interview, strict questions are mixed with silent stares to check the mental toughness of the interviewee. There, each moment of that silence can be brutal.

When I did something wrong, I would be afraid of the silent questioning that I got from my father. It was a quiet disappointment which hurt more than a thousand scoldings from my mother. I felt exposed of all my guile and completely surrendered to the silence. Later, of course, as with most things, I got immune to it.

I have learnt to respect silence for its power, tenderness, peace, turmoil and above all, the sheer sound of silence. (A quiet tribute to Simon & Garfunkel)

Saturday, August 16, 2008


To my readers:

I don't know why this is happening. I seem to have been blocked right now, what with my laptop completely bailing out on me. Now that I have got a new one, I am not yet ready to start writing. So this hiatus! When the urge to write seizes me again, which I'm sure it will, I will be back to enthrall, question, annoy and entertain. Till then, take care everyone.

Monday, August 4, 2008

No choice?

To set the record straight, I am all for a woman's right to choose. The right and the power to abort a fetus must reasonably rest with the woman who has to nurture it and later, raise the baby. Having said that, I do understand the rules which do not allow abortion after a certain time period of pregnancy unless, continuing the pregnancy would harm the mother-to-be. The Niketa Mehta case where a 26 week pregnant woman wants to abort her fetus is an example of the abortion laws flying in the face of their own principle.

Let us examine the principle behind the pro-choice stance. It basically values the life and the well-being of the woman more than that of the unborn child. This makes sense to me, and this is why I am pro-choice myself. However, abortion is not allowed after a certain period of pregnancy, for many reasons. The stated one is that the woman's life could be endangered. One suspects however, that a 25 week old fetus incites a lot more sympathy than a week old morula. That could be another reason for this caveat in the rule. Abortion will still be allowed at such a juncture if the pregnancy is proven to cause danger to the mother. Again, this rule is consistent. It is favoring the life and comfort of the mother.

In Niketa Mehta's case, her gynecologist told her, very late, that her baby could have serious complications. The gynecologist is not able to prove this conclusively or even state this to almost certainty. The Mumbai High Court ruled that she may not be allowed to abort the fetus, as there is no conclusive proof that either the mother or the baby will suffer serious complications.

Usually when I post something in my blog, I am very opinionated, and I rarely sit on the fence. On this one, I am confused. This post is more of an opening to a discussion than a periodic rant.

I think of this in two ways. Firstly, I feel that the court is wrong considering that the legislative intent of the law is to favor the well-being of the mother. If this woman is sure that her baby is going to be born deformed, shouldn't she have the right to abort her baby? This law favors women who forgot to take the morning after pill and then realized weeks later, that they are pregnant! So, when someone has an actual medical reason to abort, why deny her the right? After all, she is aware of the risks of aborting; shouldn't she have the right to assume those risks? Is this not a free society?

But my thoughts go another way too. When I think of the big picture, as I explore the legislative intent of the law, I think that allowing this woman to abort by a mere suggestion of a possible physical deformity in the baby would set a precedent of bending the rules. The fact that abortion is disallowed after a certain period of pregnancy means that there is some consideration to the baby's health. Also, if one argues that the court is considering the mother's health and the possible risks of a late abortion, then it encroaches on the mother's free choice. Either way, there is a higher interference of the court in the mother's choice here.

Personally, there are a lot of social evils today. Abortion is not one of them. It is a personal choice, and when done reasonably, seems like a balanced, smart decision. In this case, however, I am confused as to what would have been the right decision. I understand that the judges had to follow the law, which is black-and-white here. There was no evidence of probable damage to the baby, and the decision is in accordance with the law. One wonders though, whether the law itself needs amendment here?

There is another nagging question in my mind. Did the Mehtas do an amniocentesis test to figure out the sex of the baby? It is illegal in India, but people find ways of doing it. Would we be surprised if, the test was actually done, and it was going to be a girl? I do doubt that these educated well-to-do people would favor a male child, but who knows?