Democrats must pick their battles

Ever since the elections last year the Democrats have been struggling to develop a coherent strategy. Without a majority in either the senate or the house, the President has a strong chance of pushing ahead with his agenda. Faced with this predicament, the Democrats are inclined to oppose anything and everything simply because of the ideological differences. At present it sounds like they raise a hue and cry each time (judicial nominees and other appointments) and then finally go away empty handed. Unfortunately, this will not help their cause, especially in the long run. It might be prudent to develop a comprehensive strategy, which involves picking a few battles and somehow trying to win them. Else they will just come across as being obstructionist and this might worsen their tally in the years to come. The Bolton nomination is yet another test of their strategy.

I get the feeling that politics in the US is fast becoming like West Bengal politics (!!) — the same party is always in power, the opposition is just their to fill some seats and make some speeches with little influence on policy.

Hats off to Bangladesh

What an awesome victory over the Aussies! Hats of to the Bangladesh team for a fantastic victory. Ashraful (a very talented player) finally regained his form and delivered when most needed. Besides, Aftab is a great find for Bangladesh. Credit should go to Dav Whatmore too for guiding the team through a difficult tour.

Bangladesh is clearly a better one-day side than a test side. Hope they can continue their winning streak!

Intel plant in India: fact or fiction?

The Indian Minister for Communication & Information Technology, Dayanidhi Maran might have just jumped the gun and prematurely rushed to the press on Intel’s $400M plans for a plant in India. Notice in today’s Mercury News how Intel has backtracked saying no decision has been made. The other competitors for the plant (Vietnam, China) are bound to intensify their campaign given this recent announcement by the minister.

Aussie cricket defeat

The Aussies lost to Somerset! What an exciting match! Chasing 342 against the Aussie attack and reaching it with overs to spare is quite an achievement. Hats off to Smith and Jayasuriya for such a fantastic start. Wonder if the video recording of this match is available?

Is this the beginning of the Aussie downfall? Maybe, lets see. (Personally, I think the Aussie domination of world cricket has started to end. Just a gut feel!)

Lebanese cab driver

I had an interesting chat on a recent cab ride. I asked the driver, who happened to be Lebanese, what he thought of the happenings in the middle east, particularly the war in Iraq. And boy! This guy was like volcano, he could talk non-stop. It was an interesting perspective nevertheless from a middle east native. So here is the dump as verbatim as I can remember……

“Its great that there is change happening in Lebanon. Happy that Syria is forced to withdraw. Its all thanks to the war in Iraq. I fully support the war in Iraq. You think American’ s want to kill people? You have lived here for so many years. You know this is not true. Saddam was killing innocent Iraqis. Iran and Syria are behind the insurgency. I support an attack on Iran and Syria!!! But for the war, you think Syria would withdraw? You think India Pak would talk peace? ….How many universities did Saddam build? I wanted to study computers but there weren’t good universities in Lebanon. The Arabs think they can drive the Israelis into the sea or wherever and then live peacefully. Its not realistic. Everytime they fought the Israelis they failed. Lebanon has so many Palestinian refugees who never left after the last war with Israel. You are lucky you are from India. You have good schools there because its a democracy…..”

Phew! I had barely managed a few words on the 25 min cab ride. But I was exhausted. I got of the cab and headed for my flight.

Gmail having trouble?

I find Gmail down quite often these days. A couple of weekends back, I was just about to leave my place for lunch to a friend’s place and the directions were on my gmail and it was down! An extra phone call was sufficient to ride over this crisis, but it sure sounds like Gmail is running into some maintenance crisis issues of its own!

India: Rising power in the East?

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns apparently said this last month….as mentioned in an article in the Washington Post (sent to me by a friend). This is great for India. It also explains all the recent diplomatic traffic to India.

The site needs registration so here is a clip.

Speaking to a U.S.-European group in Brussels on May 26, Burns observed:

“The greatest change you will see in the next three or four years is a new American focus on South Asia, particularly in establishing a closer strategic partnership with India . . . If you look at all the trends — population, economic growth, foreign policy trends — there’s no question that India is the rising power in the East. . . . I think you’ll see this as a major focus of our president and our secretary of state, and it will be the area of greatest dynamic positive change in American foreign policy.”

Book Review: Ignited Minds

Title: Ignited Minds, Unleashing the Power within India
Author: APJ Abdul Kalam (President of India)

I had always heard about Abdul Kalam as a nuclear scientist for a long time prior to his role as President of India. It is unusual for India to not have a conventional politician as the President. Historically, the President’s job is “assigned” either to a politician nearing retirement as a reward for loyalty/service, or to a potential PM aspirant (as a way of getting rid of him/her!).

Given the uniqueness of Mr. Kalam’s background in comparison to his predecessors, I was curious to get an insight to the person and his thinking. On reading his book, firstly, I was happy for India on a number of counts. Mr. Kalam is certainly inspirational and comes across as someone who really cares about the country, someone who is constantly thinking about how to make a difference, someone who is down to earth and sincere, and someone who has no political leanings whatsoever. I can’t think of any other country in the world where the Prime Minister and the President have such good credentials. I think it was a master stroke by Vajpayee to back a scientist for the Presidency. Lastly, a Muslim President from a BJP government is a noteworthy milestone.

This book is primarily meant to be a call to Indians (the younger generation in particular) to come together, “dream” and work towards transforming the country into a developed nation by the year 2020. The book certainly does justice to this goal. He clearly outlines five focus areas for the country to achieve this objective: agriculture and food processing, education and healthcare, IT, strategic sectors (nuclear, space, defence). He then delves into details on their inter-relationships and implications.

Its an easy read and filled with anecdotes about his visits to various part of India. A lot of it is about questions posed by the younger generation to him from various parts of the country. The book also captures his exchange with Swamijis, Sufis, CEOs, politicians, etc. Given his background as a scientist he covers historical information about the various research centers in India (VSSC, TIFR, DRDO, etc. ) .

While responding to specific questions posed to him in the book, the text does tend to wander sometimes without a formal closure to the answer. K. B Chandrasekhar of Exodus fame is mentioned in the book. “One fine morning he sold his 10-billion dollar company to start another enterprise” (As someone who lost $ from an Exodus investment I wonder where the President got his facts checked for this one!) Barring this, the book is a simple, enjoyable, inspirational read. I hope more of India’s political leaders took the time to capture their thoughts and vision for the country. Its a must read for India’s younger generation.

Pak-WI Second Test

The second test is interestingly poised. My prediction (which historically has seldom turned out to be correct!) is that Pak will win this test. Here are some of my reasons:

  • The Pak team has a rare killer instinct.
  • A target of around 300 in the last innings is always hard.
  • West Indies has played very consistently this test series. This is a pretty inconsistent phenomenon in itself! In other words, a complete failure from the WI is long over due.
  • Lara, whose batting forms the backbone, has scored consistently and its about time he fails.