Monday, November 15, 2004

An anthem for humanity

Heard this song recently, and I jus like the philosophy behind it. It defines an As**ole as one who isnt satisfied with himself, and wants to have fun at someone else's expense. Though the song has been written about an average White American, I guess this would probably be one song that unites most of humanity. Those interested can check out the lyrics by clicking here.

If you say so...

I've begun to love the above phrase. Its such a perfect and appropriate response to almost anything one might say, though you arent telling him anything he didnt already know :)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

US, India and Capitalism

Its widely believed that US is a champion of capitalism in the world today (esp when compared with India). One of my profs in fact suggested just the opposite - that India was the God of capitalism.. Case in point - the social security system in the two countries; what with medicaid, medicare n all!! Just some food for thought for those who care to read the stuff I write...

Friday, November 12, 2004

225 yrs or so of democracy...

I came across the following quote attributed to Mencken in 1920. It seemed to be in tune with my previous post. So here it is.. (For those who do not have the patience to go through the quote in full, I direct your attention to the last para)

"When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental -- men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack, or count himself lost. His one aim is to disarm suspicion, to arouse confidence in his orthodoxy, to avoid challenge. If he is a man of convictions, of enthusiasm, or self-respect, it is cruelly hard…

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even a mob with him by the force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second or third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically the most devious and mediocre
the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

Fyi, Mencken was an American author, critic, newspaper man and iconoclast (or so I found on Googling)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Democracy, huh?!

Democracy is widely established as the optimal governance mechanism. This is mainly due to the distribution of power among various institutions (rather than individuals) and the checks and balances against abuse of this power.

But the way the system has managed to beat itself in this game amazes me. If there's anything I've learnt in my diploma institute, its that a system can be adjudged to be a good one only if it does so when all players act in a self-interested ( a sophisticated way of saying 'selfish') manner. Hence I refuse to lay blame on the politicians' door for being selfish. When they find no incentive to lead their respective constituency on the path of development, why would they? When there is an easier and surer way to cling to power than carry out developmental work, why would they care to develop their people?

The least one should expect in a good system of governance is for performance to be linked to rewards/punishment. Instead, there is significant proof that one's misdeeds does not necessarily mean defeat in the next election. Well, we have a live example where a person needs less than 1500 days to make a trillion dollar deficit from a surplus state, gets the energy corporations to decide energy policy and of course, run a war to settle scores with the guy who tried to kill his father , and then win an extra four years to continue his service to his nation. A little before Lok Sabha elections in India this year, India Today reported a survey in which people displayed a remarkably high negative correlation between their preferred candidate choice and his performance.

Political parties seem to consciously avoid issues of importance and would rather debate non-issues. If, in India, it is Mandir / Mandal / Foreign origin etc, in US it is abortion, gay rights, Vietnam War and of course the War on Terror. Whatever happened to good ol' poverty, increasing divide between the wealthy and poor, poor infrastructure etc?!

Even if at a later date, a political party does decide to take up issues of development, by then the public is fixated over the non-issues to the extent that any vote for this new political party will probably be based on its perceived stand on the non-issues.

In other words, the current set of political parties benefit by changing the rules of the game so that the ideal winner is destined to lose.

So what is the way out of this mess? My answer is rather simple - I have no clue whatsoever. I just hope there exists some person who can creatively and intelligently play the game of electoral politics to break this impasse.

Well, the only reason I can think of for democracy to be considered a good system is that every other conceivable system is worse.

In any case, I just hope that out of all this churning will emerge a better system of governance. Hope is good - Andy in Shawshank. Indeed it is.

Maslow conquered!!

Well, its 2 minutes shy of 6am and I havent crashed yet. And for once, this isnt because I was watching a series of movies or playing cricket 2004. I just finished working on a case on British Airways and I'm more than contented. Talking of being contented, here's Calvin's take on this issue... (one of my fav among Calvins)

Anyway, returning to what I was saying - the case I just worked on is a part of a course on International Business Practice, and accounts for 50% of 25% of 30% of 3 credits i.e 0.1125 credits - that too in a term which is irrelevant to my placements (not that I cared in any of the previous terms). And am more than happy for having spent close to 5 hours on this case. Amazing insightful analysis of the case along with 2 other groupmates - and to top it all, we also found a couple of errors in the case written by a Dean of Harvard Biz School. This gives me all the more pleasure coz finding faults in question papers has always been my fav pastime in the exam hall! :)

And well, later today my group will be presenting this to the class and I dont give a damn as to how the prof or anyone else in the class perceives it to be. Its an amazing piece of work, as far as I'm concerned. Hence the title of this post. For those lucky guyz out there who havent done the diploma course that I am pursuing currently, there was this guy Maslow who proposed that human needs are hierarchical in nature, and the peak is self-actualization.

As I sign off, I'd like to place on record my extreme happiness on John Ashcroft's resignation. :D One down, too many more to go! aah, maybe I will watch a movie now...

Monday, November 08, 2004


I hadnt truly understood the significance of this Tamil word till I tried to explain it to a friend of mine. Mabbu denotes a state of being - and an exalted one at that. Mere mortals tend to confuse it with alcohol or drug induced intoxication, but it is in fact a state of mind higher beings (for eg yours truly) spend most of their time in (with/without -OHs). I shall quote the example I used to explain the word.
Today when I was waking up (neither asleep nor awake), I thought I was looking down from the terrace of a skyscraper, havin decided to jump down. I wondered which would be the best position to land in. I reasoned if I fell head-on, that would surely be fatal. I couldnt quite imagine the extensive damage that might be caused if I fell on my stomach/back - both seemed life-threatening. So I zeroed in on the legs. That way I would surely lose my legs, but will still have a decent probability of surviving. The state in which I was during this process of analysis is precisely Mabbu.

Hope this was as enlightening to you as it was to me. As one other friend likes to say, the two of us are in the world with an aim to increase the amount of logic in the world - well, thats for another post...

Blogspot bushed !!

Well, I had posted a msg on Nov 3 at max-frustration levels when Bush had won for all purposes. And today I find that for some reason, it was neither posted or saved as a draft. Having read so many conspiracy theories on the US Elections, I am pretty sure that Blogspot has been Bushed! Everyone has a conspiracy theory of their own - Republicans claim opinion polls were biased towards Kerry and Democrats claim the actual polls were tampered with. And independent academicians have a grouse against the electronic voting scheme followed in some states in USA. One Mr. Ken Deiflik has mailed a group mail IP ( on this issue and I quote

"I just found this posting in the Democratic Underground site ...on several swing states, and EVERY STATE that has EVoting but no paper trails has an unexplained advantage for Bush of around +5% when comparing exit polls to actual results.

In EVERY STATE that has paper audit trails on their EVoting, the exit poll results match the actual results reported within the margin of error."

This distrust of electronic voting machines is not limited to 'underground democrats' alone. One of the leading academicians in this front has been Prof Avi Rubin of John Hopkins Univ. Here's a link to a narrative on his experience as an election officer and how easily the system can be broken into.

In short, there seem to be too many doubts on whether the electronic voting system works. This might be of special significance to India - which has been shifting towards a 100% Electronic Voting machines (EVMs) system with no paper trail. Based on the public discourse I've observed in the US media, this would appear blasphemous - especially that there is no paper trail. Well, I remember there was an article by Prof Indiresan of IIT Madras in The Hindu a couple of years ago on how the EVMs cannot be broken into. The author himself had been the head of a committee that certified the EVMs to be unbreakable. On googling, I found this article in frontline, on the same issue - that also seems to arrive at the same conclusion. To be sure, most of the objections in the US are on the implementation and not the concept - Diebold systems, which manufactures the voting machines, is headed by a known supporter of the Republican Party (huh!).

I'm currently working on a related term paper titled "The effect of Internet on democracy, in the context of the US Presidential elections 2004" - as part of my academic coursework!! Will keep you updated on any additional insights I get on this issue.

On a lighter vein, here's how the UK media reported Bush's victory.

I'll sign off by joining former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook (as reported in an article in The Hindu that was reproduced from Guardian) with a prayer that "It is to be hoped that the obsession of President Bush with fitness will guarantee his health for the length of his renewed tenancy of the White House. Otherwise we get President Cheney."