I got myself a Twitter account

June 30, 2009

It is fashionable, and all the folks I knew had it. So I decided I too should have a Twitter account.

I picked up a large number of followers within a day. Most of them folks who are a phone call away, but never bother to call. Very politely, I decided to follow them as well.

And then silence, or a few inane messages. One of the folks I was following twittered that he was sad that Michael Jackson was dead. Another wrote that he was delighted with his new car, another twitted about his new house. Then again silence.

Have people forgotten how to converse, and seek recourse in the crypto-messages they can post on Twitter or social networking sites, from the safety of their computers or mobile phones ?

Does Internet communications provide a comfort zone that normal conversation does not ? Is it that you can release online just that little and self-serving information that you care to have others know about yourself, while all your trials, joys and limitations stay your own and private ?

Has counting the number of followers and followed become a substitute measure of social success ?

Curiously, my usual talkativeness had disappeared on Twitter. I didn’t want to broadcast my real thoughts, information on all my real activities, however banal, to the world at large. Anyways my thoughts can’t be confined to a few words or characters allowed on Twitter.

So I was silent.

The people I followed too were generally silent. There were no wise sayings, intense communications of needs and feeelings of joy, sorrow, and betrayal. Nobody twitted that he had a terrible day at work, got fired by his boss, or his girlfriend ditched him. Only silence.

Some guys twittered quite candidly that they didn’t know what to do once they were on Twitter.

Other folks followed the news channels, and the press releases agencies on Twitter. It turns out it works well as an RSS reader.

Twitter to be sure helped people communicate when in time of crisis, and helped take democracy online when regimes crushed popular movements as in Iran.

Is it that we talk freely online only for a functional purpose as in a crisis ? Is it that for the rest of the time we prefer the telephone, or the corner tea shop for a meeting with friends and a belly-full of conversation and laughter ?

Or is it silence all around, as when people have forgotten how to communicate; when most interactions are an act, a pose, an exhibition, and what we expose is an elaborate persona ?

I am still looking for an answer and to some decent Twits to and fro.


Coming up for air

June 25, 2009

I am back…..and this time I don’t care if millions of people don’t read this blog.

I am blogging again to keep my sanity in a world where we are indundated each day by marketing hype, cant and bluster in a world where truth has become like the plasticine, the clay our children play with.

It is a world where executives of banks that have taken TARP bailouts are using their company jets for private excursions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It is a world where the gods of the financial Mount Olympus believe they should get a bail out, and they do get it courtesy US President Barack Obama, if only to save the economy.

A world where the new regulations for the finance industry proposed by Obama sounds like a lullaby, rather than a warning against future misbehavior. It won’t put speculators to sleep, but maybe all of us until the next bubble bursts.

It is a world where corruption and doublespeak continue not only in Iran or China but in democratic countries like the US, Europe and India.

It is a world where norms of decency and civility are fast dying out, and getting replaced by individualism and anomie.

I need to blog, to come up for air.

“Sorry” is not in George Bush’s lexicon

December 5, 2007

After the joint report of US intelligence agencies reported that Iran had stopped its nuclear program in 2003, the most appropriate approach for US President George Bush would have been to say “ Sorry, but we goofed”.

If he wanted to pass the buck, Bush could have of course blamed the 2005 intelligence report that said that Iran’s leaders were working tirelessly to acquire a nuclear bomb.

Instead, the US President on Tuesday warned that Iran was still a threat – referring to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which the Middle East country claims is for its civilian program. All this is reminiscent of the hysteria the Bush administration successfully whipped up about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) ahead of the US invasion of Iraq.

This time over it may not be so easy, unless the US totally disregards public opinion both within the country and abroad. There are a number of inconsistencies in Bush’s stand.

Why should the community of nations, led by the US and its allies, impose sanctions on Iran if it is now believed that Iran is enriching uranium for its civilian programs ? How does this approach of the US and its allies sit with its bonhomie with Pakistan’s generals, who have lots of nuclear bombs, which may be used against Pakistan’s enemies like India, and are in far greater risk of falling into terrorist hands ?

This “ my buddy can do no wrong” approach with Pakistan flies in the face of common sense, and only goes to show that the US is harassing Iran, and trying to trigger a war there, because Iran will not toe the US line.

As the US uses this one-sided policy to expand its sphere of influence, and threaten nations that don’t toe its line, countries around the world are unabashedly backing its policies on Iran, as they did earlier in Iraq. Iran is the menace – that is the agreed point of view – though there have only been differences on how to tackle a country that has been prejudged a “menace”.

To be sure, Iran’s human rights record is abominable, but so is the record of many countries the US will not go to war with, and still continues to do business with, like China, like Pakistan. So frankly, what is the justification now to harass Iran with sanctions, and even military action ?

After WMDs, Bush is now talking about WW III

Hillary Clinton wasn’t Treasury Secretary

November 20, 2007

“I am happy to compare my experience to hers when it comes to the economy,” US Senator and Presidential aspirant Barack Obama said according to this report. “My understanding was she wasn’t Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. I don’t know exactly what experience she’s claiming.”

Obama was responding to the Hillary Clinton campaign’s repeated line that Obama does not measure up to Hillary Clinton in experience. He is right. Clinton can by rights claim no more experience in running government than her predecessor as first lady, Barbara Bush, and her successor, Laura Bush.

By my understanding of US politics, the wife of the President is required to play the role of a very traditional wife – redecorate the White House, host parties, finalize the guest list and the sitting arrangements, and generally look pretty and presentable.

If Hillary wants to suggest that she got experience running the government while she was First Lady, that appears to confirm what a lot of people say about her – that she was poking her nose in affairs of state while husband Bill chased other affairs.

Unless Hillary Clinton wants to suggest that she enjoyed power and profile beyond normally recommended for a President’s spouse, the only superior experience Hillary Clinton can talk about is knowing better stuff like the layout of the White House, which curtains go well with which carpets, and yes how to keep a check on an irrepressibly errant husband.

Perhaps Clinton is not referring to her years at the White House, but as a Senator from New York. One of Clinton’s best known decisions as Senator was to have signed an authorization of war against Iraq, and again signing the dotted line on Iran. If that is experience, Obama is head and shoulders above Hillary Clinton.

Among the Democratic front-runners Obama is campaigning on an anti-Washington anti-Establishment platform, while Clinton is campaigning as the “insider” the person from within the Establishment, who got her experience as part of the Establishment. Neither however shows great leadership, neither “ has a dream”, neither inspires confidence. One for being too naïve to want to overthrow the establishment at one go, the other because she is establishment, not by experience, but by affectation, by her belief that she is pre-destined to occupy the White House.

Unfortunately, at a time when Democrats seem to be best poised to win the White House, the party seems to only throw up a modern-day Don Quixote and a Lady Macbeth. Woe to the world that looks to the US for leadership !

Why Turkey should not cross the border into Iraq

October 29, 2007

Turkey’s proposed invasion of Iraq to flush out terrorists could provide a dangerous precedent for other countries handling separatist terrorist movements.

Just as the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan to flush out the Taliban, who were protecting Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, it would at first blush appear reasonable that the Turkish army crosses the border into Iraq and flushes out terrorists from the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK) who are using Iraq as a base for terrorist attacks into Turkey.

The Turkish government is under pressure from its citizens to cross the border. The country has a significant Kurdish population, which by some estimates is as high as 20 percent. The PKK aims to establish a separate Kurdish state in a territory (traditionally referred to as Kurdistan) consisting of parts of southeastern Turkey, northeastern Iraq, northeastern Syria and northwestern Iran.

The Turkish people find that the PKK is operating from within the Iraqi border, with neither the self-governing Iraqi Kurds or the government in Baghdad able to, or trying seriously enough, to stop them.

However, once this policy of invasion to settle scores with terrorists is established as acceptable, it could lead to a number of wars around the world, as countries invade other countries to chase terrorists hiding there.

India could, for example, build a case to attack and flush out Kashmir separatist terrorists who take refuge in Pakistan. In fact, India claims that its has evidence that the Pakistani intelligence agencies are involved in training Kashmiri terrorists, and other Islamic fundamentalists, who then cross the border into India to kill and maim.

Kurdish terrorists from Iran have also used Iraq as a base to attack Iranian positions. So Iran may also feel justified to attack Iraq from another frontier.

An attack by Turkey into Iraq, and the consequent political disruption, could also lead to the PKK, and its separatist agenda, winning popular support among Kurds living in various countries. It could disrupt US efforts to bring the Iraqi Kurds into the country’s political mainstream, as a lot of Kurds may now see a separate nationhood as an alternative. The Kurds are already close to it in Iraq, where they already enjoy considerable autonomy.

George Bush to prove he is a leader

October 25, 2007

“You know Condi, folks question my leadership capabilities these days. Wish it was the World War II, and then like Winston Churchill I could flash a “V” sign that would get famous, and yes maybe I could even start smoking a cigar.”

“ Not to worry Mr. President. As you said the other day, if Iran has a nuclear bomb, we will certainly have World War III”.

“Can you remind me how that was to unfold ? The Iranians would nuke Israel, and then we would nuke Iran. But then Iran would stay nuked. Doubt I can have World War III”

“ Or maybe you could nuke the Russians for not being as critical of Iran as we would have liked, and then they will nuke us —- all the ingredients of WWIII Mr. President.”

“Gee, I just can’t wait for that, but how do we get Iran to make a nuclear bomb ? “

“ Maybe we should provoke them with more sanctions, call them names, blame them for everything that is going wrong for us, say they are supporting terrorists, promoting sodomy, punishing homosexuals etc etc.”

“Ok Condi, go ahead, go ahead, call the media, and make the announcement. I’ll just pop along and pick up some Havanas. Wasn’t that what Churchill puffed on ?”

” Don’t buy too many. Don’t forget we have sanctions on Cuba as well Mr. President.”

An hour or so later, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made this statement:

“The Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon; building dangerous ballistic missiles; supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories; and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israel off the map,” according to this report

Related articles:

After WMDs , Bush is now talking about WW III

Mr. Bush, Cuba’s politics is none of your business !

October 24, 2007

US President George Bush’s commitment to promoting democracy worldwide has turned out to be no more than an opportunity for petty scoring of points with traditional foes.

Bush, with an eye to the Hispanic population of the US, is planning to issue a stern warning Wednesday that the United States will not accept a political transition in Cuba in which power changes from one Castro brother to another, rather than to the Cuban people, according to a report in the New York Times.

Bush will say that while much of the rest of Latin America has moved from dictatorship to democracy, Cuba continues to use repression and terror to control its people.

It is cynical that Bush is concerned about democracy and change in government in Cuba but not in Saudi Arabia, that he is concerned about suppression of democracy in Iran but not in Pakistan.

This selective concern about democracy makes a mockery of freedom and democracy, and attempts to manipulate it to serve the US’ pet peeves and geopolitical concerns.

It is embarrassing for us in the free world to find that the most vocal and often quoted advocate of democracy is a cheap trickster, who invokes people’s freedom only when it suits him, and his meddling in other countries’ affairs.

Bush is also violating principles of national sovereignty. What happens in Cuba is none of his business ! Cuba is a sovereign country, and the new government came to power in a revolution against the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista supported by the US.

Nor is the US record in promoting democracy in Latin America even-handed. The US used a variety of economic and political levers to replace the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile by that of the military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Bush should also put his own house in order, before positioning the US as a beacon and advocate of freedom and democracy. The torture of detainees by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the snooping on calls in the US, the growing impotence of Congress, and the emergence of an imperial presidency, do not speak well for US democracy. Probably the Castros and Bush have a lot in common after all.

Related articles:

US Congress a lame duck !
They torture prisoners in Myanmar, Iran, and yes the US