Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Kind Of Santa

What kind of gift is better than the gift of life? That is what this Santa gave, when he found a man in a burning truck.

A former fire fighter, Brad Luddeke was in full costume, on the way to deliver toys to some needy children near Dallas, when he came upon a burning truck. He was all decked up in his Santa outfit, but that did not stop him from pulling out the driver from the burning truck just before it exploded, risking his own life in the process. And Brad did not stop at that. He then took over the duty of directing people away from the burning truck.

Only yesterday I wrote House Republicans Demonstrate Once More They are Only To Serve The 1%. While writing that article I was seething with rage—what kind of people would raise tax on 160 million people in order to save a few silvers for a few thousand super rich? It was House Speaker John Boehner and the minority leader Eric Cantor who did this disservice to this nation. The US is my adopted home, but I take pride in its institutions, and the rich culture of its tradition of giving out to the needy and downtrodden without question or consideration on the giver’s own need. I believe this tradition is continuation of the spirit of Jesus, and I feel happy that this is a Christian country.

Time and again, I have found stories, where a white person had given a kidney to a poor unfamiliar black person. Stories of people rising above and beyond their means to help strangers have humbled me to ponder on my own self, and become a better person with the effort. And every time that happens, I get one step closer to my creator, drenching my soul in humility.

Then I see a Boehner, and a Cantor, and a few self-serving politicians, and all my emotions rise up to engulf me with anger, over pouring me, all humbleness going out the window.

Then one Luddeke brings me back to my own inner peace, and my faith in humanity is restored. I feel in my heart of heart, so long there is one Brad Luddeke left in this country, the country has a future.

Merry Christmas!

First published on Technorati .

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shall We Boycott Lowe’s?

America may be the land of the brave and free, but off late the braves had been cowered into submission in the name of terror, and the word free sounds more and more as joke—ask the veteran OWS protestor in Oakland who was taken to ICU after being hit by a police projectile. Therefore, when a US Senator called on the CEO of Lowe's to apologize to American Muslims for ‘bigoted, shameful’ actions, I say wow, where does this guy come from?

The maverick is State Sen. Ted W. Lieu, a Democrat from Torrance, California. He was commenting in the aftermath of the North Carolina based Lowes’ action to stop advertising on TLC's “All-American Muslim” after a conservative group, Florida Family Association (FMA) complained that the program was “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

Muslims as peoples are the punching bag of the USA, ask Representative Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees, who told Sean Hannity in an interview, “no American Muslim leaders are cooperating in the war on terror,” and that "80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists .... This is an enemy living amongst us.”

I was not surprised when the Florida group sent three emails to its members, asking them to petition Lowe’s to pull its advertising. The TLC show chronicles what it's like to be a Muslim in America, and it often portrays the discrimination the Muslims face in this country. FMA’s website was updated to reflect that the “supporters' emails to advertisers make a difference.” Accordingly, FMA just proved the point highlighted in the TV show.

Sen. Ted Lieu wrote, “I am writing regarding Lowe’s action of pulling its advertising from Discovery Channel/TLC’s show “All-American Muslim” because of complaints from the Florida Family Association that “All-American Muslim is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” Lowe’s action is bigoted, shameful, and un-American. I call on Lowe’s to rescind its action and apologize to Americans who are Muslim. If Lowe’s continues its religious bigotry, I will encourage boycotts of Lowe’s and look into legislative remedies.”

Lieu went on to scribe, “Lowe’s action is profoundly ignorant. Islam is a peaceful religion practiced by over 1.5 billion people, including Americans across our great nation and Lowe’s own employees. As President Bush declared, and President Obama reaffirmed, America is not at war with Islam.”

Lieu further clarified, “America is, however, at war with people who pose a clear and present danger, whether they are white separatists like Timothy McVeigh (who happened to be Catholic); mass shooters such as Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech ; or members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army (a Marxist-Leninist group that has targeted US interests with suicide bombings). Lowe’s bigoted action conflates peaceful religions with dangerous people who use peaceful religions (or political ideology) to advance their agenda."

Where does Lieu get this courage to defend a minority community in such force? I say, the strength comes from our constitution, and our culture of tolerance at the grassroots level. The America we are proud of is because of our people, and despite our leaders. American people’s keen sense of justice, desire for religious freedom, and willingness to help the weak is deeply ingrained in their blood. That is exactly the reason, I wrote: Please Do Not Destroy This Country.

First published on Technorati.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When The Dictators Fall

The year is 2011, well past the first decade of the 21st century. We have supposedly come a long way from the days of kings and princes, and transformed into the modern world of presidents and prime ministers, where people are to choose their leaders by an instrument called election. Yet, he was a prince, designated to be the successor of his father, who had deposed a king only to assume the role himself, although called himself the President of his country.

The young prince had his education in the London School of Economics, earning a PhD, and had earned the reputation of a modern day reformer by engaging himself in benevolent acts. But when the time came that would test his mettle, he turned a faithful obliging supporter of his dictator father taking part in crushing his own people.

He was a brave leader, who announced on national television that he would fight for his country till the last drop of blood drains his body. He was full in vim and vigor, resolute in his promise, yet, when his captors zeroed on him he meekly surrendered without firing a single bullet. Like an obedient servant he complied with the order of his captors, and let them take over several Kalashnikov rifles and a hand grenade—he was the prince charming Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the most brazen son of Cornell Gaddafi.

“At the beginning he was very scared. He thought we would kill him,” said Ahmed Ammar, one of the 15 Libyan fighters who captured Saif al-Islam.

Afraid? This rubble rousing patriotic Lion-of-Libya afraid of a few young ragtag army of ordinary Libyans? Did he not say in his own words that he would fight to the last? Did he not promise to squash the freedom fighters like bugs?

Saif al-Islam was caught in the dark of night, fleeing his country in a Toyota Land Cruiser, with a few accomplishes, following in another vehicle. This is how the end came of a mighty man!

Saif al-Islam proved once again that people like him are just plain cowards, whose strength is derived from the support of their henchmen. Once they are isolated, they are paper tigers!

His father, Muammar was found taking shelter in a drainage pipe, when captured. Another Arab hero Saddam Hossain was pulled out of a rat hole—these are supposedly legendary Arab leaders, whose end was more cowardly than legend-like.

It is said, the larger they are, the harder they fall. Most dictators finally meet violent end, at the end though they fall like chickens than lions.

If there are any true heroes in the Arab lands, they are on Arab streets, braving the assault of professional armed goons. They are the people who are demonstrating for their rights, for their freedom, walking on streets in their broken bodies. They carry the one's who are fallen by army bullets, to safety, and keep walking, braving all brutality. These Arab heroes are inspiration to the whole world. More and more people worldwide are following in their foot steps, in far off lands.

All people can be subjugated for sometime, some people can be subjugated for all time, but all people can not be subjugated for all times!

First published on Technorati

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Little Girl Spends Two Days With Her Dead Mother

Life often presents its own strange tales and some of them move us more than others. Imagine a 3-year-old girl living in a house alone for two days, with none except her dead mother. When hungry she ate cheese, some lasagna that was left over from her mother’s last meal, and milk. Beside her dead mother’s body what gave her company was her favorite toy, a teddy bear named "Possum."

It happened in New Zealand, where the toddler lived with her mother Lauren Silbery, who was only 28 at the time of death. Authorities found the little Shylah Silbery only when the girl's uncle, Pete Silbery, alerted them through a friend who lived nearby. Pete had not spoken with Lauren in two days and he was worried. He called a friend who lived near their Wellington home. The friend came to visit the house, but the house was locked. Only the little girl was visible from outside, but there was no sign of her mother. When Pete got that news he called police.

Police came in and talked Shylah into unlocking the main door. They asked her to drag a coffee table to the door and stand on it so that she could reach the lock and unlock it, saving them from breaking the door. "Mummy does not wake up," that's all she could tell them. Shylah was treated in a hospital for several days and she recovered well from the dehydration and diaper rash that she had suffered.

Shylah has no idea of what she has lost. When her mother’s coffin was being lowered into the grave, she pointed at it and said, “Mummy's in there.” Many years later, she would remember this day, and will feel sad about it. Perhaps she would cry over her loss then, for now she is okay though. They will tell her stories about her mother—that she has gone to bring her toys, or, milk, and will be home soon, and she will believe them.

Until that day, when she is big enough to realize that her mother had gone to heaven, she would not cry for her.

First published on Technorati.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mirza Beg And The Two Women

On an idyllic summer evening Firoze was taking a gingerly stroll in the small garden in front of his apartment building. The sun was about to set, but the air was still warm and humid. Watching butterflies hovering over the rich bed of yellow-red marigolds, he was lost in his own thoughts when a female voice interrupted him.

Firoze looked back and saw two women walking towards him, one clad in burqa, covering head to toe; only her eyes were visible. The other attired in a simple green cotton sari.
From their dress they appeared to be from a working class family.
As they came closer, the burqa lady asked, “Can you please tell us where the hujur lives?”
“Hujur?” Firoze was surprised, he shot back, “Hujur who?”
The burqa lady tried to explain, “We are coming from the other side of the town, we heard that hujur lives here, somewhere close to this apartment building.”

People from Indian subcontinent often address religious leaders and scholars as huzur.
Firoze was still amazed, “Yes, but hujur who?” “What is his name?”
“The hujur of the mosque in that next block, the Imam.”
It dawned on Firoze that the two ladies were asking him about the man who leads prayer in that corner mosque.

The Big Apple is the melting pot of diverse cultures. This city still keeps its promise with destiny to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. People who have no acquaintance in America still lands up here thinking that they have a better chance to find someone from his own community, who can help them.

A significant part of Queens has become a mini Bangladesh. Most stores here are operated by people of Bangladeshi origin. Even the local mosques are controlled by Bangladeshi expatriates. Sometime back, the local mosque had hired a man for conducting daily religious services, his name is Mirza Beg.

Mirza Beg came to this country with OP 1 visa. He could not find a job since he did not have any marketable assets. When he first came to the city he did not know anyone. He took shelter in a mosque. The Imam of the mosque was from Pakistan. He felt sorry for the poor man, and took him under his wing.

The Imam groomed Mirza as his assistant. He taught him how to read Arabic, especially as it pertains to Quran. He spent time with him teaching important verses of the holy book. He taught him how to conduct various religious functions, and he let Mirza lead prayers with small congregations.

When the new mosque opened up in this part of Queens, Mirza came to know about it. He approached the local mosque committee. The committee needed someone to perform the obligatory jamat (congregation) prayers as ordained in Islam. Mirza offered to accept the job with a nominal pay, and a place to stay, at one corner of the building. The committee gave him the job, considering that hiring him would save them some money.

Mirza Beg is street smart, adept at village politics. Within a few months he managed to get a large raise by befriending a few members of the mosque committee, and playing them against other members to do his bidding.

Firoze thought the ladies must be asking about him.
He said, “Oh! Perhaps you are asking about Mirza Beg. He is however, neither huzur nor Imam, and he has a name—Mirza Beg. Are you looking for him?”
“Yes, yes,” the burqa-lady spoke with a relieved tone, “yes, we are looking for him.” “Can you tell us where he lives?”
Curiosity took the better of Firoze, and after a few moments of hesitation he asked, “May I know why you want to see him?”
The burqa lady went silent. She was thinking if she should tell a stranger why she wanted to see Mirza Beg.
Surprisingly, she spoke soon, in a slow voice, “I am having a problem pregnancy, I want to see the huzur for his doa (blessing).

Mirza did not finish high school in Bangladesh. Neither did he have any traditional education from a madrassa. His knowledge on religious discourse was limited. What Beg lacked in knowledge, he overcame with his demeanor. His beard is longer than the depth of his religious scholarship.
Some of his beards are turning white, he applies henna on them. This in turn increases his religious stature in the mind of some people. A man who follows the prophet’s sunna must be a pious man, they think. He dresses impeccably for his position—pajama that does not cover his heels, and long shirts, following the tradition of the Imams. His head is always covered in Kashmiri cap. It was not long before he started having a following.

The sweet talking Beg is now a popular man. The working class Bangladeshi men and women of the neighborhood treat him with the respect of a religious scholar. Beg is in high demand in the Bangladeshi community for performing various religious functions.

The new immigrants are mostly poor, and poor people need God more than the well-to-do. Without medical insurances, they mostly depend on pani-para (water over which Quranic verses have been recited), and tabiz (encapsulated written Quranic verses) for curing their diseases. These also come handy, they believe, to help them draw God’s mercy when bad time afflicts them.

Mirza is invited when a child is born, to bless the new child; and he is called when someone dies, to make his journey to the other world smooth. He is called, when one in the family is about to begin a new job, or, something auspicious of that nature. Mirza is a busy man.

People offer Mirza money for these services, and his fortune has changed. He now has rented an apartment, which he shares with two of his assistants, and bought a car. Although he lives only a few blocks away from the mosque he always drives his car from his home to the mosque. The social activities that let him earn extra money, take a toll on his working time too. Now-a-days he often comes late to the mosque for prayers. In a few occasions he even failed to come to the mosque at all to lead the prayers. One of the members from the mosque committee had to perform that job on those times. While Mirza is paid for his jobs, the committee members render the same service freely. Mirza’s friends in the mosque committee see to it that his job is not threatened.

Queens inhabits both working class and upwardly mobile middle-class Bangladeshi expatriates. The old apartment style buildings suit lifestyle of both families and bachelors. Young bachelors mostly share an apartment, two or three sharing a room sometime. This often leads shortage of water in the whole building complex. They also create other social problems. The families try to avoid those buildings where the bachelors stay. Only families live in Firoze’s apartment block. Mirza’s apartment is couple blocks away.

Firoze is an engineer with a bright academic career. His sense of religion is balanced, and as a performing Muslim he often finds himself at odds with other people of the community. Firoze does not have any overbearing respect for Mirza, since he finds him lacking in principle. Mirza’s insincerity in performing his job, his side earnings from community religious services—for which Firoze thinks he shall not charge people money, and his inadequacy in religious knowledge, did not earn much respect with Firoze. In fact he detests the man for his charlatan behavior. There are many stories in circulation claiming that Mirza has taken a lot of money from innocent people promising them to redress their troubles by invoking God’s mercy on them.

What seemed like an eternity, he dwelled in his mind how to respond to these two ladies! He looked at the sari-clad woman; she is probably in early twenties, accompanying the burqa lady, whatever her age may be. Beads of sweat on her face told Firoze they must have walked from a distance. The other woman’s face was hidden, only her eyes were visible. Nothing much to read there at this moment.
At the end the good Samaritan in him won. Firoze did not want a simple trusting person to suffer.
In a clear but concerned voice he said, “If you have any health problem you shall see a doctor. Mirza Beg cannot help you.”

The young girl giggled, making it obvious that she shared Firoze’s view. The burqa lady frowned under her veil. Her eyes expressed scorn. Her displeasure was conspicuous.

A mixed emotion took over Firoze, anger, disappointment, and pity. He did not know these two ladies, and he had no chance to influence them. Moreover, who is he to pass judgment on others?
With a sad voice he said, “Follow me. Let me show you where Mirza Beg lives.”

The two women followed him silently.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Day My Mother Went To Live With The Stars

The sky had opened up and it poured like there is no tomorrow. It was easy on the grave diggers since the ground had swelled, grew soft, and the shovels went in easy! It was typical of my mother to leave the world in a way that was least troublesome for others, who were in her life. In life her need was bare minimum, and so it was in her death.

She was of a time that allowed people to be content easily, albeit, even for that time she was astonishing in simplicity. From a modest beginning, I reached a position in life where I am able to fulfill most of my reasonable demands without much sweat, and my mother knew it very well. Nonetheless, she never asked me for anything—anything at all, because she did not need anything. She lived the life of a hermit, within the bound of society.

My earliest memory of her—it was a noon, on a very hot summer day, when my mother was about to eat her lunch. She used to eat after everyone else in the family did. In those days, we had no refrigerators, and cooked food would get spoiled easily. Therefore, every day, there would be three cooking sessions, so that food would be consumed fresh, and there would be no left over.

Outside our home there was a ground, where I would spend the whole summer vacation playing cricket with my friends. On that day, I had just come in the house to fetch some water for my thirsty friends. As I was collecting water from a tube well I saw a beggar come in and ask, “Is anyone at home? I am hungry; would you give me some food?” It was customary in our small town for the beggars to come in through the main door, which remained open throught out the whole day, and wait inside. It was a disheveled woman with all white hair, very sharp eyes and no teeth, who had just entered in.

My mother was about to begin eating, she saw the woman, and said, “Take a seat mother, let me bring something for you.” That day she shared her food with that old woman. This would happen many more times, and therefore, would leave a very strong impression on my mind that is as vibrant today. I can close my eyes, and watch that old woman sitting on the verandah and eating from a piece of banana leaf.

The most vivid memory I have of my mother was when she beat the hell out of me. I was about 12, therefore, old enough to remember it very well. On top of that it added sort of further embarrassment for a while, because the next day, our school maulavi narrated that story in our Arabic class. He said he was passing through the area, when he saw my mother beating me with a stick in front of our house. My mother was tiny, nevertheless very strong built. And even at that age she could make mincemeat of me.

As he narrated the story, my embarrassment slowly evaporated and a kind of pride took its place. He said that the whole class should be proud of my mother. He said, the son from a house that had a mother like mine, did not need any disciplining in school. He said that he had a new respect for my family, and after that day he never beat me.

Another memory I have of her, was of an evening in the middle of one winter. It was the night of shab-e-barat. She trusted, she was required to spent that night in prayer since on that night God writes fate for the next coming year. She had collected water from the tube well which was at one corner of our house, for taking a bath. That night was very cold, and the blowing wind made it worse. When I was huddled in a room in warm cloth, my mother took her bath open in the cold, with cold water, to make her ready for the prayer.

In my life, I do not face east or west in asking mercy of God, notwithstanding, I have a strong conviction, that I have had such a blessed life—it must only be because of my mother, her account with God is so rich that my lifetime of sins had not depleted it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inside Job

In under 2 hours this movie will turn you from a novice in high finance to a knowledgeable geek on how finance is managed at the state level. You will understand my contention that Bill Clinton was not a progressive, he was merely a corporate crony who promoted the cause of his super rich masters at the cost of ordinary Americans. You will also realize that since Ronald Reagan, the US has followed the same trickle down economic models, dismantled all regulations that hinder unbridled activities of the banksters, manipulated free market for the advantages of a few—and the same policies are being continued by Barack Obama today. The face in the White House changes, the policies remain the same, for the true power remains behind the throne, and is invisible.

Inside job - Subtítulos en español from dai dai spain on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Do These People Become Parents?

Johnathan James died of dehydration in his own Texas home. He was only 10.

No, Texas has not been afflicted with severe drought, nor the boy was trapped home alone in a locked room in a remote location. He was denied water for five days by his own parents.

Michael Ray James and Tina Alberson were upset that their young son could not stop wetting his bed. The punishment they meted to the child was banning water for him. Jonathan's twin brother, Joseph James, told The Dallas Morning News that his parents forced Jonathan in a room without air conditioning and asked him to stand by the window. Last month, summer temperatures in Dallas hit 100 or more every day but one. Johnathan collapsed on the 5th night, hit his head on the floor, and died.

Five days in that sweltering heat without any water? How can any parent be so cruel to his/her own child? How can they sleep themselves in cool rooms, when their own flesh is going through such agony? Do Michael and Tina have any remorse now? Or, do they think Johnathan deserved this, for he was a big boy and he could not control his bladder? My question is—why do these people become parents?

Johnathan is only one among many children that die every year because of parental rage. There is no dearth of stories where young children are so severely tortured that they succumb to their wounds.

I ask the authorities, can we extend the harshest mandatory punishment in child abuse cases, so that there would be not one more child who would meet Jonathan's fate? Only then could we say, Jonathan's life did not go in vain!

First published on Technorati.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Anna Hazare Rekindles Gandhi’s Fire To Purify India

A man, who once contemplated suicide and even scribbled a two-page note on why he wanted to end his life, is the new Gandhi of India. Indian government, led by foreign educated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had jailed the aging Hazare when he threatened with fast-until-death protesting India’s corruption.

Kuldip Nayar, one of India’s most respected political analyst commented on the action of Indian government, “It is bungling, mishandling. They do not know at all how wide and how deep the resentment is.” And of course the mercurial Nayar was right. The jailing of Hazare sparked nationwide protests, and forced Singh's government on defensive. Singh criticized Hazare as out of touch, and dismissed his fast as "totally misconceived" and claimed that Hazare’s action was undermining the parliamentary democracy. At the end it was found Singh himself was out of touch and had no idea what Indians want today.

Students, lawyers, teachers, business executives, IT workers and civil servants, people from all walks of life took to the streets in New Delhi, and other major cities, and also remote villages stretching from north to south and east to west—the breadth of India. Outside the jail that once held Hazare, a 21 year-old Sweta Dua said , “We are India's youth. We are with Anna. I've already seen corruption at this age. In my college people got admitted despite being unable to clear the required cut-off scores, simply by paying money.”

Sujeet, a young software engineer from the IT city of Gurgaon said, “We don't have faith in our government. We are living in a democracy but only in letter, not in spirit.” The editor of the weekly Outlook magazine, Vinod Mehta said, “The movement has meant politicians realize that they cannot fudge these issues or ignore public opinion any longer. It has succeeded in concentrating the minds of politicians across the political spectrum on one issue for the first time”

The crowds on the streets are mix of young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. Some youths had rucksacks on their backs, painted face, olders were decked in outfits as worn by the Hazare himself, complete with white cap and kurta.

Who is this Anna Hazare?

Born Kisan Baburao Hazare, June 15, 1937, however, popularly known as Anna Hazare, he is an Indian social activist who is especially recognized for movement against corruption, and his contribution to the development and structuring of a model village in Parner Taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra. For this action, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan—the third-highest civilian award—by the government of India in 1992.

A diminutive man in his seventies, dressed in white cotton, he once served in the Indian army that had temporarily relaxed the requirement for height and weight, because of dire need of new recruits at the time of Indo-China war. Once out of the army, he was frustrated with life and did not want to live anymore, since he did not see any purpose of his life. The storyline is: One day at the New Delhi Railway Station, in that dejected frame of mind, Anna came upon a book on Swami Vivekananda. He read the book and found the answer to his quest—the motive of his life is service to his fellow humans.

Today, Anna Hazare, in his pure white adornment, is the face of India's fight against corruption. He has given voice to the millions of voiceless Indians and taken the people’s fight to the corridors of power, and shaken the bastion of government at the highest level. Common populace, and well-known personalities alike are joining enmasse supporting Hazare, crowds swelling to the thousands.

Anna Hazare is a few of the remnant Indian politicians who had modeled their lives on Mahatma Gandhi, and embraced his weapon of “fasting” to unite people against falsehood. The word “mahatma” connotes great soul, and there has not been a greater soul to walk on the surface of earth than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the bapu (father)—anyone who disputes this is ignorant of bapu.

Many Indians such as Manmohon Singh believes, Gandhi’s time came and went—in today’s environment he would not be successful! Anna Hazare demonstrates that Gandhi is as relevant today as he had been in his time.

Republished from Technorati.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

S&P—The New Villain Of Obama Administration

Senate is upset with Standard & Poor (S&P) and they want to investigate them for downgrading US’s rating one notch from the coveted AAA grade. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson lashed out, “As the financial markets stumble, investors continue to regard Treasury debt as a safe haven in times of economic uncertainty. This irresponsible move by S&P may, however, have spillover effects that tax the American people by increasing interest rates on home loans, credit cards, and car loans, and by increasing the cost of finance for some state and local governments. I am deeply disappointed in S&P’s decision to enter into the game of political punditry.”

Not to be undermined by this, the Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner shot out, “They've shown a stunning lack of knowledge about basic U.S. fiscal budget math. And I think they drew exactly the wrong conclusion from this budget agreement.”

Those are strong words.

S&P is the new villain in the financial world for downgrading the credit rating of USA. It is the same rating agency that had consistently given the failed Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions top rating when they did not deserve that. Was S&P bad then, or, are they bad now?

What is a triple-A rating by the way and what does it mean?
In the rating business there are two major houses, S&P and Moody’s, who are market mover and both have been caught napping during the past major financial turmoil. This time however, S&P appears to be wising up and inclined to mend their reputation. On April 18, 2011,S&P had warned that a debt ceiling increase without meaningful budget reforms would still merit a downgrade. The long term US fiscal imbalance is nothing new and it had been in the making for at least two decades now. S&P had correctly pointed out that if the politicians do not wake up now and refrain from silly game playing, a future default becomes a significant.

Moody’s is still playing the catch up game. On July 13, they placed the US credit rating on watch for possible downgrade and also declared that if US government did not take significant deficit reduction measures with a debt ceiling increase they would assign a negative outlook. On June 8, 2011, a third rating agency Fitch threatened to place the US on negative watch if the ceiling was not raised by August 2nd.

The triple-A rating signifies that the government is stable and bonds it issues are considered safe, thereby, the nation can borrow funds at the lowest possible cost. By downgrading the US from AAA to AA+, S&P is not saying that the US govt. is likely to default, it is saying that likelihood of a default or a loss of principal/interest has increased. There are 18 different grades and a transition from the highest rating to the second highest rating does not signify a massive risk change. The downgrade for the US implies that the credit risk of the US has gone from minimum to very low.

If S&P had kept the US rating unchanged and the country would default that would totally discredit the agency, and now they know, that with Europe declaring to come up with their own rating agencies it would be a disaster for them if they fail to do their watchdog duty one more time. The CIA World Fact book mentioned that in 2010, the debt to GDP ratio for the US was 59% in comparison with 34% in Canada and 22% in Australia. Obviously, it does not seem we are in the same league as either of them.

First published on Technorati

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Cat Is Out Of The Bag—Tighten Your Belt

As I read in the news, Standard & Poor's has cut the U.S. long-term credit rating from top-tier AAA to AA-plus on Friday; I recalled a conversation with a friend of mine who is a Professor of Finance in a prestigious school. We were discussing America’s future and I expressed my opinion that the dollars dog days are about to begin, as countries will move away parking their money in US Treasury. My friend shot back, “Where else are they going to put their money?”

This morning, just one day after the downgrade of the U.S. long-term credit rating, China's official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary, "The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone."

The last week had seen wiping off $2.5 trillion from the global markets, which happened after the investors' concern grew of an impending recession in the United States, and over the growing euro zone crisis. Finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations are to confer via telephone to discuss the impact of this earth shattering news on the financial market since this singular act has heaped gas over the global fire, aided by the mess of euro zone debt issue.

The Xinhua commentary proclaimed, “China, the largest creditor of the world's sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China's dollar assets.” They stressed that the United States need to cut military and social welfare expenditure world economic recovery.

Hello, wake up sheeple, your Master is speaking!

President Obama appealed to lawmakers this morning to “set aside partisan politics and work to put the United States' fiscal house in order and refocus on stimulating its stagnant economy.” Thank goodness my President, you now understand that our economy is in shamble notwithstanding your endless euphoria over market recovery and the bright days ahead.

If you realize our economy is stagnant, my President, why did you sign the debt deal into law, last week, which is only going to worsen it? You say, you had to compromise, why? Just the other day, Bill Clinton, a two-term President suggested that you invoke 14th amendment and tell the Tea Party terrorists who took the nation’s economy hostage—take a hike, No Deal, there will be no discussion on debt limit?

What were you smoking my President to believe that spending cut will create jobs? Econ 101 says that to create job you need to spend money. The only solution to our problem is to roll back the Reagan Tax, and you did not even give a hint of understanding this when you said this morning, “Congress to back measures to give tax relief to the middle class, extend jobless benefits and pass long-delayed international trade pacts.”

Pass the long-delayed international trade pacts? The trade pacts are the reason why we are here today. Stop drinking cool aide, read Tomm Hartmann’s Rebooting American Dream, understand the basics of economic growth. I Of course, I know the reason why you say what you say—you take your lead from Tim Geithner, the prodigy groomed by the infamous trio, Robert Ruben-Larry Summer-Alan Greenspan. Just watch how the Maestro talks about the fallacy of the philosophy he preached , Alan Greenspan, the supreme economist of the capitalist world speaks like a broken man and admits that his belief in lifelong philosophy that unbridled capitalism is the bane of the market is wrong, his faith in market controlling itself was wrong .

In an interesting twist , the Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann called for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's resignation, and the House Speaker John Boehner said Democrats “who run Washington remain unwilling to make the tough choices required to put America on solid ground.” This is called the ultimate spin, first create the crisis and then blame it on others, and it can only happen in America, since people have turned sheeple—busy in watching “I Love Lucy,” and totally oblivious of finding out what is happening around them.

Bachmann said, “President Obama has destroyed the credit rating of the United States through his failed economic policies and his inability to control government spending by raising the debt ceiling.” How many people can see through this sham logic? Timothy Geithner is practicing what Bachmann preaches. He is implementing conservative policies, just as his gurus the trio Robert Ruben-Larry Summer-Alan Greenspan practiced. The last Democratic President was John Kennedy, after that all Presidents followed the dictate of Corporate America, Jimmy Carter included.

The political quibbling will only get worse from here, blame game has only started, the cat is out of the bag though, the future of this country has been written, and I do not see the word prosperity written anywhere except on the faces of a few handful billionaires.

Forgive me my dear Americans for being the harbinger of the tough time, feel free to shoot the messenger though, if that brings solace to you.

First published on Technorati

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Where Did All The Money Go?

You wonder where did all the money go? How did this richest nation became so poor, overnight?

You point to wars, economic cycles, and whatever one of your impressive peers has sold to you.

Do you really want to know how all this happened?

The answer is in two words: Tax Cut

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Life Is For Living

Jean- Pierre Dutilleux waits anxiously on one side of the stream while the tribal men walk on a log that serves as a bridge from the other side. That bridge is between two civilizations—one the most advanced, the other, where time is frozen at the dawn of our evolution. The primitive people approach slowly, clutching their primitive weapons firmly, arrows drawn, and make-shift axes raised. They take a few steps forward and then sharply backward, and then forward again with extreme caution—their curiosity taking better of them. As they approach nigh, their movements are tentative. They have been taught by their ancestors that white men are ghosts. The first man touches Dutilleux’s hand, and he is startled, steps back quickly. He has an incredible expression on his face. It takes him a few moments to gather himself. Then another one approaches. He too is shocked to touch a ghost, and feel so real. It is several hesitant touches before the first firm hand shake takes place between a man from the twenty-first century and a man from the lost horizon.

In a series of uncut footage, the Belgian photographer Jean- Pierre Dutilleux captures the fascinating moments when the last known ancient tribe, living in New Guinea, north of Australia, meet white men for the very first time. The tribe Toulambi lives in one of the last frontiers of primordial civilization, they have not seen a matchbox, and are shocked to see how fire can be started just by striking a stick smartly on the side of a tiny box. They are afraid to touch a knife when they see how sharp it is in contrast to their own cutting tools. One man takes a mirror in his hand and is baffled seeing his own image in it, and he immediately covers it with a leaf. Then he takes a quick glimpse, uncovering it briefly, and covers it back fast.

In five episodes, Dutilleux uploads uncut video of his recordings on YouTube. He captures how the stone-age people react as they taste rice for the first time. Initially, they do not like the taste of raw boiled rice, however, when salt is added to it, they love it. With childlike simplicity they touch, see and experience modern toys and appliances. They see how voice recorders work, how pictures and voices can be captured and replayed on a video recorder. For the tribal people it is like travelling through wormhole and arriving at a different galaxy to meet a far advanced civilization.

Shall the Toulambis be happy that we found them?

As a first generation American it often makes me pensive to think that we are still carrying Christopher Columbus’s curse. We call ourselves the most civilized, and act as savages. We go around the world blasting homes of hapless people, killing their children and women indiscriminately, and in the process spend money that we do not have—the money that could have been better spent in our inner cities, on our schools, roads, and crumbling bridges.

I am not so sure if it is good fortune for theToulambis that we have discovered them. Granted, they do not have modern medicines, knives, or even match boxes for that matter. The question is, have those amenities made us any better? Have our philosophies, religions, and their end-less treatises made us any wiser? Are we any happier than them?

Watching the video, it appeared to me those stone-age people show more compassion to one another than we show to the less fortunate members of our own society. More and more, our selfish nature is taking over our finer elements; it is just me, me, and me.

We want to destroy all social programs that help the least amongst us—is this what our savior, Jesus taught us?

I had pondered long and hard, contemplating, and searching meaning for life, nonetheless, watching lives of the primitive Toulambi tribe, it dawned on me, life is just for living, and it has no other significance—the richest life nevertheless is, the life spent in the service of others, as taught by the Christ, and the Buddha five hundred years before him!

First published on Technorati

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Most US Politicians Are Dishonest?


97% of you responded with yes to this question, only one person in fact thought otherwise. So what is this person experiencing that rest of us are not?

I, like the overwhelming majority, opine that most US politicians are dishonest, but not all.

We are fortunate to have politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, Alan Grayson, Russ Feingold—who are exceptions to the rule. Nevertheless, they are—exceptions to the rules!

I am sure there are many more that I am not aware of, who are in politics in this country, and are honest. The truth is they are few and far between.

Why are we at this stage?

Are we in our time any different than the past?

We romanticize the bygone days and exaggerate our pleasant memories. This is only human nature. Politicians do not live in islands, they are from us. They reflect and represent our own selves. We elect our politicians. They mirror us.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Gift Of Life, In Vain?

Heaven and hell, if they are God's way of dispensing justice—where would Mumpy Sarkar be now? When one throws crumbs in the rich man's world, the world heaps accolades—when one gives her life in love how are we to react?

Questions such as above and endless others, flashes through my mind as I write this saga with tearful eyes. This story is from Jhorpara village, West Bengal, India where a poor family finds them utterly helpless in the face of nature's adversity. A young son is diagnosed with failing kidneys, and the treatment is beyond the means of the family. And if it were not enough, the family's travail is multiplied when the father is diagnosed to lose eyesight, if not operated upon quickly.

12-year-old Mumpy listens as her parents discuss how the dual strike is going to impact their lives, and how a kidney transplant could make her brother whole again, and how an eye surgery could restore her father's vision. Alas! Only if they had money!

The story makes Mumpy sad, but she comes out with a plan—she would kill herself and donate her own organs to her family. She drinks poison, a common pesticide the farmer's use, and despite her family's desperate effort to save her life she succumbs.

Following Hindu tradition, Mumpy's body is cremated. The next day her father finds a note, that Mumpy had left, and only then he comes to know of her plan, only too late!

Or, is it really too late?

Is Mumpy's sacrifice really in vain?

If her story stops even one person for a moment to reflect on her ultimate gift to her family, if it gives even one person, a moment of glimpse of divine glory—God's unfathomable design, and if even for a tiny moment it opens a window in one's heart through which celestial light can shine—on just one person's life—is that not enough to say Mumpy's life was not in vain?

First published on Technorati

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Escaping Sparring Mullahs!

The sun is about to set. This is the time every Friday evening the small tea stall of Fakira, near the entrance of the Shamsher Nagar Hut (market place) livens up with livid discussion, loud hindi music, and smoke of biri (deshi cigarettes). This Friday is no exception.

For the large number of unemployed youth this is a favorite gathering place, where they mingle with each other and exchange ideas. Most days’ discussion essentially peters down to the curves of the village girls and real or imaginary exploits of the village Casanovas. Today however, it is different. There are couple alems (religious scholars) visiting from another village who have chosen the tea stall for their fact finding venue for the next week’s urush (Muslim religious convention). Hence the discussion this afternoon is essentially metaphysical.

The huzurs’ (preferred address for the Muslim priests) presence has drawn larger crowd to Fakira’s stall, and even the elders are gathering around. There is less sell of biri today, but Fakira is not unhappy, since he is doing a brisk business of tea, biscuits, and other condiments.

The discussion is profound. Even the young studs are trying to throw a few Arabic words in the mix with their vernacular, to boast of, or, gain respect of the others, and especially the huzurs. The alems are having a field day. They are imbued in the matters, literally, of life and death, and what makes the difference between one’s journey to hell or heaven in the afterlife. After all they are the people of knowledge when the affairs of heaven are concerned, and even college educated people defer to them on matters such as that.

At this time the huzurs are delving in subject profound, such as how much water must be used for ablution so that Allah would not consider it a wastage, or, why whoever wears long pajama touching their ankles, is committing kabira gona (carnal sin); and other vital matters likewise!

Soon the discussion turns to salah (prayer), as the ablution naturally progresses to prayer, and the discussion focuses on the importance of reciting the suras (Quranic verses) correctly.

It should not be difficult to comprehend that the native tongues of Indian Subcontinent are not really suitable for pronouncing Arabic words, the way the Arabs do. Regardless; there is no dearth of people who would insist that theirs’ are the most perfect intonation, some even superior to the wayward Arabs themselves.

In the course of the discussion one alem comments that he finds it annoying that most people these days do not know how to recite sura Fatiha which is the obligatory verse for any ordained prayer. They recite the word wallodowalin as wallojoallin, and sure this is a great offence in the eyes of Allah, distorting His Own word.

Although the two alems were in excellent harmony up to that time in condemning every Hindu, Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist people for their kufri (blasphemy), at that particular time, the laldari alem (red-bearded scholar) found himself a little uncomfortable. He addressed the sadadari alem (white-bearded scholar) and said, “astagferullah bhai saheb, what are you saying, the word indeed must be pronounced as wallodowalin. I have heard this myself from a huzur who just returned from hajj last week?”

Both alems nevertheless, had unshakable belief on how the word must be pronounced, and it did not take long for the discussion to get impassioned.

Soon two groups formed; one supporting the laldari alem, the other supporting the sadadari alem. The elders mostly took the side of the sadadari alem; since they deemed, by applying henna (color) to his dari (beard) the laldari alem was showing imperfection in his religious practice.

As the voice of the alems rose, so did the temper of the young men, and even old men followed with enthusiasm. They embarked on breaking things in Fakira’s stall. The poor man fell at the feet of the alems to save his small stall, nonetheless, by that time it was even beyond them to stop the skirmish.

The two opposing groups took stand by the entrance to the market led by their individual alems, and began quizzing everyone leaving the market how they pronounced the revered word in sura Fatiha. If the answer was wallodowalin the laldari group said, “masallah” (praise be to God), and let the person pass unharmed, however, the sadadari group got hold of him and beat him up.

If the answer was wallojoallin the sadadari group said, “mobruq” (congratulation) and let the person pass unharmed; notwithstanding, the laldari group got hold of him and beat him up anyway.

A small rickety man was standing outside the market, watching the on going saga with fear in his eyes, and was debating with himself whether he should bolt from the area to escape the beating. He was nonetheless, not so sure, if he could run away faster than the young boys in the two conflicting groups.

The man was astounded when he saw a smartly dressed person coming out unbeaten—both the sadadari and the laldari group had let him go unharmed.

As the person came close to him, the small man asked, “Brother, how did you escape beating? What was your answer?”

The man smiled and said, “I told both groups that I do not pray.”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gandhi In Heaven Cries Aloud

While my adopted country is going down the tube, my country of birth is resurging as a mighty economic power house. In a few decades India is slated to overcome China and the USA, relegating the great current superpower to a distinct third position. Yet, it does not give me any pleasure to call myself of Indian origin. Why?

India is already suffering the ills that I keep on writing against in the USA. The country is showing the same rank greed, selfishness, lack of sensitivity, and total disdain for its people with disadvantages. Read this excerpt from the celebrated author John Pilgers’ column.

In India, a similar re-branding is under way for next month's Commonwealth Games. In the country that has most of the world's malnourished children, the capital Delhi has been re-branded a "world class city" at a cost of $2.5 billion. A school for 180 slum children has been bulldozed so that a vast estate of luxury apartments can be built for visiting athletes. "They told us we were a security threat so we had to go," said the headteacher. "All my children were crying." It is one of many demolitions; over 100,000 families have been evicted to make way for 'security zones' around the Games and facilities that will mostly benefit India's small but powerful managerial and technocratic class who, besotted with all things corporate, prefer not to be reminded that 77 per cent of their compatriots are dirt poor.

Who cares for 180 crying children? Who cares for a poor headteacher? Who cares for 100,000 families? India is becoming a world class economy, therefore, it must have a world class city!

The great Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “The darkest shadow is right under the lamp.” The most expensive home in the world is now in Mumbai, called Antilla, where the fourth richest man in the world, Mukesh Ambani recently moved in with his wife and three children. The news clip says, “From the top floors of the 173m(eter) high property are spectacular views of Mumbai and of the Arabian Sea.”

If you look from the other side of the top floor of Ambani’s house however, you would see those rickety half-naked slam children who were given world audience by the award winning 2008 blockbuster movie Slumdog Millionaire.

If there is a heaven, Gandhi is there, and he cries out loud to God, this is not the India for which I gave my life! And he would ask God, “If this would have to be the future of India, why did You send me there?"

First published on Technorati.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Progressives’ Double Standard On Anthony Weiner

Why? Why this Double Standard?

Progressives never let go the opportunity to heap on Conservative politicians when they falter on cupid related issues. Nonetheless, when it comes to the Democratic leaders they appear to have different standard.

Shame on the progressives!

Democratic left’s poster boy in the US House, Anthony Weiner is under water for lying to his wife, and also in public, about his queer sexual activities on line.

Regardless, the progressive media personnel such as Bill Press is all over the issue finding ways to defend him. On Tuesday Bill said in his radio program, “Weiner did not commit any crime,” and he compared his action with another Democratic poster boy Bill Clinton, saying, “Bill Clinton on the other hand lied under oath.” Many of his listeners called in defending Bill’s point of view.

Nice try Bill, admitting that Bill Clinton committed perjury—the funny thing is, the admission is several years late and is of no consequence now. How did you forget so quickly Bill, it was only the other day that you were defending Clinton, who should have been convicted for lying under oath?

Bill Press even went to the extent of saying that if lying is a disqualifier in politics then Washington would become a ghost town.

Okay, I get it. Now it is time to defend one of our own. Therefore, we redefine morality and look for justification to save the skin of one of our own! Accordingly, we begin the spin game—that we always blame on the Republicans, calling it their monopoly?

Shame on the progressives!!

I understand the Bible is more than 2000 years old, and in our time we do not stone the adulterers, in fact the word adultery is on borrowed time in dictionary. Does this mean that there are no scruples? No moral compass? Lying in public has to be an acceptable norm?

Shame on the progressives!!!

Article first published as Progressives’ Double Standard On Anthony Weiner on Technorati.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

False Prophet Preys On Vulnerable

Jesus lived the life of God on this very earth, setting examples that would never be surpassed by another human being. What has happened to his disciples—who call in his name?

Retired civil engineer turned preacher, Harold Camping had twice falsely predicted Biblical rapture to bring end of the world—his latest failed prediction passed on May 21. Some would call Camping a nut case, Doris Schmitt nonetheless thought him a prophet. Like many others who believed him, Schmitt donated all her savings to Camping’s broadcasting network Family Radio.

Schmitt ‘s niece Heuwetter, who is executor of her aunt’s will came to know about that legal document recently, and it did not make her very happy. She and her sister received $25,000 from their aunt's estate, the rest, around $300,000, went to Camping’s Family Radio

Schmitt’s life is a stereo-type tale of frustrated Americans who had lost it all to alcohol and drugs. She had struggled with alcoholism lifelong, and lost her two children to drug addictions. She died on May 2, 2010, alone, in her small home in Queens, New York. In her last days she found peace in Family Radio broadcasts. Her death prior to May 21st saved her the agony of the final heart break, from trusting a swindler.

I am not sure what kind of relationship Heuwetter and her sister had with their aunt, and if they are any more desirable to get a greater portion of her aunt’s estate, what I am sure of however, there are many organizations such as Red Cross, Doctor without Frontiers, or even Churches, who are more desirable than the Family Radio why pry on faith of vulnerable people.

If Harold Camping has any decency left in him he would return Schimitt’s money to her immediate family. I doubt that it would ever happen. The strange thing about our society is that Camping had more followers in his life time than the living God Jesus had. How queer we are that we pay reverence to the false prophets, and crucify the one truly.

Article first published as Lifesavings Goes To Family Radio, Crumbs To Heirs on Technorati.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Imagine There’s No Heaven, It’s Easy IF You Try

Why does it take a blind man to see what others with vision fail to see?

Well, Stephen Hawking is not really blind, and what he said cannot really be seen—but you get the hint!

Hawking said in an interview published on Monday in The Guardian: There is nothing out there; heaven is a fairy tale.

Who is Hawking?

At the age of 46, Hawking became world’s most famous scientists, with the publication of his book A Brief History of Time in 1988. This was 23 years after he was diagnosed with ALS disease that affects motor neuron, and was given to live only a few years.

The degenerative disease paralyzed him and took his voice, however, it could not prevent him from becoming the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton.

Hawking said, “I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.” What keeps Hawking going? How did he achieve so much that people with healthy bodies cannot emulate? The burning ‘fire in the belly’ that keeps Hawking going is found in his answer: “We should seek the greatest value of our action.”

Hawking elaborated, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” He explained life emanating out of quantum fluctuations that occurred in the early universe.

This indeed is a phenomenal assertion from a person who has no voice and has to speak with the help of a computer, regardless, he speaks in the voice of the early sages such as Lau Tzu who maintained, “Tao is the way to Tao.” In a further esoteric expression Lau Tzu articulated:

He who knows, speaks not;
He who speaks, knows not.
He closes the mouth,
He shuts the doors of the senses.
He subdues activities,
He is freed from bonds.
He diffuses light,
He gathers men into unity.
This is called wonderful unity.

What an irony, the life-long seeker of truth, Stephen Hawking does not have a voice where as third grade preachers spewing out second hand knowledge have megawatt sound waves!

First Published on Technorati.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Father And I

Several decades after his death, my father is more alive today than he ever was in life. He had a mind unshakable as a mighty oak, and a personality as remote as desert sand. I feared him, but never loved him truly, not until he died.

It was his tough and aloof exterior in part—the rest was my own inability to understand him—which kept me from appreciating the great attributes that God had imbibed in him, the qualities that we call strength of character.

He was a stranger, lived alone even amidst crowd, and was forced to spend most of his adult life away from his own family, to earn livelihood. He visited my mother and other siblings, only for short durations. My mother played the role of both parents in our lives. This did not help my relationship with my father either.

In life I only focused on his shortcomings, amplified the disappointments of my own thwarted expectations, and piled them up to construct a wall so high, what could never be torn down.

Even when he fell sick toward the end of his life, his vulnerabilities evident for the first time, did not set the realization in me that that was the time when he needed all the help I could muster. It nevertheless appears, looking from where I am today, I failed to provide my very best for him.

Now that he is gone, although for many years to date, not a day seems to pass when I do not think of him. And I can see him clearer through my misty eyes, than I ever saw him in life. I can see his over pouring love for me behind his unemotional façade; and no trace is left of the detachment that there was in life.

Something tells me, my father had always been my guiding angel, and will forever be there for me, in the eternity where time stands still and all beings exist in their true spirits. And I know that he too is aware of that.

Or, is that all projection of my own longing, guilt, and susceptibility?

But, who am I? Do I really exist? Where am I, when not in here?

If there is no heaven and no hell, where do people go when they die?

What are people, by the way, except not for the rotating electrons around protons and neutrons that create the illusion of three dimensional objects? Is it not all emptiness—Maya, created out of interplay of quarks—energy masquerading as particle?

What are we but our thoughts, and play out of our thoughts, that we call our actions?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Alone In The Breach--A Nation's Story Told Through One Life

Seldom, autobiography of an individual, who is not a truly public persona with a large following, transcends its narrow horizon of interest, and enters the world arena. Alone In The Breach by Muhammad Shamsul Haque Chishty is one such book that does.

Granted, Chishty is not really an obscure face in Bangladesh. He rose through the ranks of Bangladesh Civil Service, and was widely known for his dedication and utter honesty at high official level. For a country that had acquired the dubious distinction as the most corrupt nation for five years in a row, it is only natural that its civil service department would have a fair share of corruption. Yet, having spent a lifetime in the service of people, Chishty is among a handful of officers whose name is not in the mud.

The original book is written in Bangla. It was translated by his son Muhammad Rezaul Kaiser Chishty, and published in Bangladesh. The book has world-wide distribution—its US distributor is Muktadhara, in Jackson Heights, NYC.

Chishty wrote about his life, the people in his life, the time of his life, and the writ became a valuable document of life in Bangladesh for a period spanning several generations—it captured the living history of a nation in the move.

Bangladesh is crisscrossed by innumerable rivers, and those rivers are mighty. With incessant monsoon rains they swell up and flood their banks with vengeance, snatch lands and everything on it. Millions of people lose their lifetime possessions and become destitute overnight. The people nevertheless, are even more determined than the mighty rivers, more resolute, from the brink of death they snatch the joy of life—that is the story of Bangladeshi villagers who live on the river banks. Losing everything, they literally pull themselves up with their shoestrings, just as Chishty himself did, and rose to the highest possible level at government cadre services.

Chishty's book is as unassuming as his life is, a shiny exception to the class that he belongs to as a member of a prized group of civil servants who see themselves as part of a privileged master class.

His story begins with the tale of his early childhood life in his native village, when he had the comfort of a middle class life. However, before long, he was propelled to a struggle for survival once his father died, and his ancestral home was swallowed by mighty river Padma. From that moment the book transcends individual life, and emulates lives of millions of other Bangladeshis, striving for mere existence. From that point the book is no longer the story of a lone ranger; it is the story of people with similar background and aspirations.

Chishty entwines his personal life with the history of a nation so well that it becomes breathtakingly interesting. When I first picked up the book, I only wanted to glimpse through it for a later reading, but the book had such a spell on me that before I realized, I was hooked to it.

Starting from a nondescript village, Chishty's journey takes the readers to the urban life of Dhaka, then traverses through the ancient civilization of Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan, and finally to the then-world capital, London. He delineates an unforgettable mosaic with rich tapestry and expands it like classical Indian music, reaching its tempo in the world of diplomacy, and high international politics.

Alone In The Breach is a book that every person of Bangladeshi origin must read, to know his/her own history. This is a book that would tell generations to come, the stories of their fathers, and their father's fathers, their lives, their dreams, their struggles, and their success, that defines the country called Bangladesh.

First Published on Technorati.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

US Media Is Destroying Family Values?

Responding to the poll, overwhelming number of respondents—64% of my readers said, US media is destroying family values. However, an important group of 17% did not agree with that assertion, while another 17% had no opinion.

I am curious to know the view point of 17% of the poll takers who think that US media is not destroying family values, since I side with the majority opinion. Perhaps those readers know something that I do not. I have great respect for my readers and I think whoever spent time to take the poll really wanted to make a statement, and I am curious to learn from them.

Let me express my reasonings for agreeing with the majority.

We are all aware what kind of influence Hollywood has in the world—just consider the copy cats Bolywood, Dolywood, Tolywood, Kolywood... and finally Sandalwood.

Hollywood has relentlessly pushed the frontier of pornography to the extent that hardcore movies are becoming mainstream. This is quite a transformation from the Brady Bunch ages!

If anyone has taken a note, it must have been apparent that the latest Hollywood agenda is to push the issue of same sex relationship relentlessly. There are hardly any shows these days where a gay couple is not portrayed, where as this choice is only embraced by a tiny portion of the society, they are depicted disproportionately. Mind you, it is not my intent to make a statement against the gay relationship here, for I do not have any opinion against them, I only raise the issue here to make a point.

Then take the cases of violence. I am not sure how many shows would be left out these days, if we screen violence and sex. If someone thinks these unrelenting observation of violence does not desensitise our minds and make us more susceptible to accept these abnormal behaviours as normal, then there is a serious problem.

So my readers, please tell me, please educate me—what am I missing?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Congratulation GOP; You are the Master of Crafts

Barack Obama and his self-proclaimed liberal amateurish friends would want you to believe that Federal shut down has been avoided by their skilful negotiating technique and they have won a victory over the GOP. However, I say, if you believe in that propaganda you are hopelessly naive.

GOP has shown once again that they are the master of the craft called negotiation. First, they set the goal post so far that they know the Democrats would never agree to meet as for example, cuts in EPA and planned parenthood, the two signature programs of the Democrats were presented as the “must have” goal for the Tea party members. They gave impression that until those two were met, they were not going to agree to any deal, and under that threat they started the negotiation. They gained ground inch by inch, prolonged the misery of their opponents to the very end, and only accepted the deal when they had to.

What did GOP gain from this deal? Roughly $38.5 billion in spending cuts from various social programs, which the Democrats had to fight for so long to achieve for their constituents. What's the impact of this cut? Unhappiness and resentment in the core Democratic base.

The GOP also demonstrated that only having control of 1/3rd of the Government they dictated the terms of the agreements and delivered significant victory for their constituents. And the liberals would have us believe that John Boehner is just a crying sissy, who does not understand politics?

What did the Democrats gain? The last minute budget deal averted an embarrassing federal shut down and would pay for government operations through the end of September. Why were the Democrats playing chickens to this threat of government shut down? Are they so weak in memory that they could not recall how Newt Gingrich's career was destroyed when he brought down the federal shut down against Bill Clinton?

The Republicans do not believe that the $38.5 billion in spending cuts is really going to have any significant effect on our deficit. Only on the first day of attack the US spent $100 million in Libya. The crisis in economy has been caused by tax cuts to the rich and unprecedented increase in war spending. And the solution would come from rolling back the Reagan tax cuts and reducing defense expenditures. Alas, those issues were never even on the discussion table! That was the extent of success of the Republican politicians!

If spending cuts are not going to solve our economic crisis, why then the GOP keep on repeating the mantra of spending cuts?

The answer is—they are smart, they know spending cuts hurt the democratic base, their followers become disenchanted, lose interest in election, stay home, and that helps the Republican candidates win in the poll.

Are ordinary people really impressed by this Obama voodoo magic of saving federal shut down? Let's look at the comment of one of the taxpayer:

“Everyone's screaming for accountability for teachers. Well, more imperatively, we should DEMAND accountability from our legislators. Their hours spent with lobbyists (and the resulting money/voting that stems from this shady activity), their voting records, incomes, every cent of their benefits and pensions, and every corporation and special interest group which contributes to their campaigns - and how much is contributed, again comparing it to their voting - should be published in a VERY public place for all to see. You talk about being accountable for the results of your work? Washington and state politicians should be the first ones to answer for their actions. Make their jobs as transparent as glass, then sit back and watch them squirm like the worms they are.”

Yet another ordinary American taxpayer writes, “They can play with our benefits, but why is it I have not heard a word about Congress cutting theirs? It may be the tip of the iceberg, but it would be a start if they would pay for their own health care, like we do, and set up a retirement plan for themselves that better resembles our choices — instead of simply taking all they can from us at no expense to themselves. A pay cut wouldn't hurt things either.”

Repulicrats and Demopablicans are all in it for themselves. It is time for a revolution at the ballot box. Educate yourselves people, and vote your pocket book in 2012!

First published on Technorati

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Do Ordinary Americans Vote For Republicans?

First they give tax cut to the rich, which reduces revenue and creates deficit. Then, they commence wars to worsen the economy and further line up their rich friends’ pockets. When in power they expand the government beyond any sensible proportion, and once out of power starts complaining about the size of it. And their solution to every problem is cut down expenses.

What expenses?

The largest expense the US has is in its defense sector. One cruise missile costs a million dollar. Only on the first day of action in Libya 100 Tomahawks were fired. And this happened while in our inner cities, social programs are being cut. Teachers, police men, and fire service officers are being forced to accept pay cuts. On top of it, they now want to mess with the Social Security.

Charles Babington of Associated Press wrote:

"If there's any place where tea partiers in Congress might hesitate to call for cuts in Social Security and Medicare to shrink the federal debt, Florida's retirement havens should top the list.

Even here, however, Republican lawmakers are racing toward a spending showdown with Democrats exhibiting little nervousness about deep cuts, including those that eventually would hit benefit programs long left alone by politicians."

I am by no means proffering the idea that all Democrats are looking after the small people’s interest. Blue dog Democrats such as Barack Obama and the likes of him are no better than the Republicans. They only pretend to serve the middle class Americans while they safeguard the interest of the rich.

Babington further illustrated :

"In southeast Florida last week, first-term GOP Rep. Allen West, a tea party favorite, called for changes that some might consider radical: abolish the Internal Revenue Service and federal income tax; retain tax cuts for billionaires so they won't shut down their charities; stop extending unemployment benefits that "reward bad behavior" by discouraging people from seeking new jobs.

As for entitlements, West told a friendly town hall gathering in Coral Springs, if Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid "are left on autopilot, if we don't institute some type of reform, they'll subsume our entire GDP" by 2040 or 2050. GDP, or gross domestic product, measures the value of all goods and services produced in the United States."

These are plain lies, Social Security is solvent and it can make payments for the next two decades even if no changes are made today. The reason social security is facing problem is because both Republican and Democrat administrations have raided this cash cow whenever they needed money. Even then the solution to the problem is simple, raise the current limit of $106,800 to a million, or, even abolish the ceiling all together.

During last week's congressional break, Rep. Trey Gowdy , another Republican freshman with tea party backing, suggested cuts in social programs in Greenville, S.C. Babington cited a Greenville News account that reported Gowdy describing a recent school classroom incident where most children thought that it's the government's job to provide health care, Social Security and education. ‘'We've got to do something about the sense of entitlement,” Gowdy said.

Obama's debt commission recently recommended to raise the full retirement age, from 67 to 69, over the next 65 years. In Washington, 32 Senate Democrats joined 32 Republicans in urging Obama to negotiate a spending plan that includes cuts in Social Security and changes in Medicare.
It is only in America, where poor people don’t vote their own interest; if they did they would vote these 32 Democrats out of office along with the 32 Republicans.

First published on Technorati .

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bangladeshi Rickshaw Puller Shames The Privileged

Here is a story from a 3rd world country that would shame many Americans, just as it did me.

Bangladesh is a country, where upper class people scorn the uneducated lower class, who earn livelihood through menial jobs. Just as in the French language, Bangla has three levels of addresses, one is reserved for the elders and respected, the other for the same status level, and the third for the younger and the people who have no 'respect.' Rickshaw pullers are in this third group, and often it is found that a 20ish well-dressed kid addressing a 6oish rickshaw-puller, in the tone that is reserved for the young and lowly, while the 60ish person is forced to address the kid with honor and respect. Now from Bangladesh comes a story of a rickshaw-puller, who by his share deed has reached the pinnacle of dignity that few can boast of.

At age 30, Joynal Abedin, watched in desperation as his father suffered and died in Taan Hashadia, a small village in Paranganj union under sadar upazila of Mymensingh. The first hand observation of his dying father's pain gave birth to Joynal's inspiration and resolve that he would not be like other bystanders who have lived in the same village, however, were unable to do anything to help others.

Joynal did not have money or education, regardless, when a person truly desires to do something great, nothing can stop him. With sheer determination, but not much more, Joynal and his wife left the village and moved to the capital city Dhaka. Finding no other meaningful work, Joynal became a rickshaw-puller. For days and night, under rain and sun, in cold and heat, he pulled rickshaws for 14 years while his wife Lal Banu worked at a clinic.

It was not easy living with their small earnings in the capital city where things were expensive, yet, come what may, the family managed to save a few pennies even in their darkest days, and deposited them in two separate bank accounts. In 2001, the couple withdrew their whole savings of nearly $4000 and returned to village. With that money, they purchased 23 decimals of land and constructed a house to live with their two young children. With rest of the savings Joynal and Lal Banu opened a four-bed hospital on his land, and named it after their daughter "Momtaz.” They also established a free coaching center for underprivileged children.

People began coming to Momtaz Hospital from far and beyond, since there was no other free facility in the nearby villages. On an average day, the hospital treats around 25 patients and dispenses various medicines to them. With time, recognition followed, and Joynal was awarded a title Sada-Moner-Manush (Man of a golden heart) in 2008.

Despite honor poring in from different quarters Joynal finds it extremely difficult to run the hospital now. A local paramedic treats patients in the hospital, and a degreed doctor pays occasional visits in exchange of $7 for a day's consultation.

In 2006, Joynal received $430 from the local administration and the social welfare directorate. In 2005, a Bangladeshi woman living in the USA gave him $1000, and he received small helps from various quarters, one among them is from an eminent personality of the country, Abdullah Abu Sayeed. “I shared my dream with my wife and she helped me beyond anyone's expectation in the venture,” said Joynal, “For the last five years I have not received much help from anyone. With the price of medicines spiraling several folds during the time, running the hospital is now at stake. The hospital needs at least $5 a day to function.”

In Joynal's charitable school around 50 children receive free education. He pays two teachers—Md Aiyub and Khalilur Rahman, $100 a month, this is nonetheless becoming hard for Joynal as he is coming of age. For a ricksha puller, 55 is a ripe old age, toil of hard work takes its toll on the person, and Joynal cannot work anymore. His will is strong though, as he says, “I want to cling to my goal till I breathe the last and seek nothing more for me and my family.”

The sad part of Joynal's life is that many took advantage of his simplicity and tried to swindle him with the pretext of helping him. “Many people pledged me of many things while some even invited me for help and I came out of there labeled as a greedy fraud,” he said. Once the people who pledged him help wanted to turn him over to police as a criminal.

The people of his and the neighboring villages nevertheless, adore Joynal. Fazar Ali and Ayub Ali of neighboring Foliamari village said to the national newspaper, The Daily Star, “Momtaz Hospital may appear as nothing to the urban society, but the people here are greatly benefited form it as they have to go several miles for medicine from other places.”

Joynal, you made me feel so small—enamored with my own idiosyncrasies, leading a selfish life in a far away country! But you are the one for whom the birds croon, the seasons bring color, and the gods envy humans; and it is an honor to know that we share this earth at the same span of time.

Article first published as Rickshaw Puller Sets An Example In Bangladesh on Technorati.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bridge on the River Kwai—Actually Jiaozhou Bay

Have you noticed how the landmark technological marvels are shifting one by one to the rising Super Power China? After longest rail lines and fastest rails it is now time for the longest bridge. This phenomenon is perhaps synonymous with a nations progress and development!

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana, which had the title until December 27 of the last year, for its longest span, has now been dwarfed by three miles, by the new bridge that has a massive 26.4 miles span–five miles more than the distance between Dover and Calais. Expressing in another way, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge is 174 times longer than the famous London’s Tower Bridge over the river Thames.

The Qingdao Haiwan Bridge, connects the main urban area of Qingdao city, which is in East China’s Shandong province, with Huangdao district, that lies in the Jiaozhou Bay sea areas. The bridge shortened the distance from Qingdao to Huangdao by 30 kilometer, and saved 20 minutes of travel time by car.

To finish the construction in record time, two separate groups of workers began building from two opposite ends, and the bridge was completed in four years, relatively short time for a project of this magnitude, and the cost was nearly $9 billion.

This massive bridge however is going to hold its record only for a few years, and it will be dwarfed by, probably you guessed it, another Chinese bridge. Last December Chinese officials announced that workers had begun constructing a bridge to link southern Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macau and the work is expected to be completed by 2016. This new bridge would be 30 miles long.

A six-lane expressway on the bridge would further boost tourism, trade and professional services between main land China and Hong Kong. The bridge is designed to sustain earthquakes up to a magnitude of 8.0 in the Richter scale, and impact from a 300,000 tonne vessel.

This gargantuan bridge nonetheless will be dwarfed by another bridge which has the word 'grand' embedded in its name—Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge, spanning an astonishing 102 miles, and this too would be in China.

Perhaps you noticed too, how the Republican governors are opposing Obama's fast rail projects, as waste of money? Obama's “new fast rails” of course would be slow moving locomotives when compared with Chinese rails!

America is broke, the only way our nation can survive is de-funding all social programs! If it were not for the welfare queens, America would still be prosperous—would she?

Wake up sheeple!

Article first published as The Bridge on the River Kwai—Actually Jiaozhou Bay on Technorati.