Last chance to vote in the Indibloggies

Today is the last day of voting in the Indibloggies. If you feel India Uncut deserves to win Indiblog of the Year, please do vote. I suspect it’s going to be a close contest this time, and every vote counts.

You do not need to have a blog to vote—that field is optional. A valid email ID is enough. And voting is optional in all categories, so you can vote in as few or as many of them as you wish.

Cows and financial markets

Widgets are often used to illustrate concepts of economics, but I have long believed that cows bring far more value to the table. (To begin with, widgets can’t moo.) This is beautifully illustrated by a piece by Mark Gilbert in which he presents us “the world of money recast in bovine terms.”

Can anyone tell me where I could purchase a Collateralized Lactating Obligation? Even I want to play…

(Link via separate emails from Neelankantan and Anand Krishnamoorthi.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82.)

Words, words, words

It hardly needs to be said that the bomb blasts inside the Samjhauta Express are a terrible tragedy, or that one feels awful for the people who lost family members in it, or that the perpetrators should be punished. Yet it is said, repeatedly, by leaders from all over the place, and duly reported. What’s the point of this? Does it matter to anyone?

And really, what’s the EU doing saying things like this:

The composite dialogue and reconciliation process between India and Pakistan should continue with all efforts.

Do they have any idea of the nuances involved? Who, exactly, is that statement meant for? It can’t be the governments of India or Pakistan, both of whom would snort, if governments can snort, at hearing such suggestions from the EU.

Perhaps Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf should get together and advise the EU on how to rework their anti-trust laws. No?

Take that Goog

I went to the airport today morning to receive a friend who was coming from Delhi to attend the Roger Waters concert, and while waiting at Arrival, I checked out the signs that people were holding up. One guy had a sign that said Bhogle. The guy besides him had a sign that said Google.

And you know just how I pronounced the second one, don’t you?

Religion adds to its headcount

A depressing headline, this: “Polio cases jump in Pakistan as clerics declare vaccination an American plot.”

What bugs me the most is that if some people unconnected with religion spread such rumours, and deaths were caused by that, legal or police action would almost certainly be taken against the mischief mongers. But because these guys are clerics, they’re untouchable, immune from the consequences of their actions. It’s a pity so many of us put religion on such a pedestal—and it’s not only Islam I’m talking about.

Recent related posts: 1, 2, 3.

(Link via email from Gautam John.)

Reading Rushdie in Iran

I would never have imagined that reading a book could harm anyone, but consider this family’s story:

The family’s complicated journey began after the couple fled Iran and arrived in Toronto in January 1995. They lived here for 10 years while seeking asylum, giving birth to a son. But on Dec. 6, 2005, with all legal avenues exhausted, the parents were deported back to Iran.

The boy’s father claimed he had been originally persecuted in Iran after he was discovered with novelist Salman Rushdie’s book. Once they were sent back there from Canada, they were detained and tortured for three months while the boy lived with relatives. Once released from custody, they again fled, reaching Turkey with the help of relatives. They bought fake passports and eventually travelled to Guyana, the parents said.

On Feb. 4 they boarded a direct flight from Guyana to Toronto aboard Zoom Airlines, planning to seek refuge again in Canada. The boy’s father said the plane was diverted to Puerto Rico after a passenger suffered a mid-flight heart attack.

There, they were detained for having the fake passports they’d earlier used to escape persecution, and sent to a detention centre in Texas. There they remain as I type these words, still trying to get away from the consequences of reading a book by Salman Rushdie. I hope they make it to Canada and get asylum, but they’re just one family, and at least they got so far. What about the millions of people still in Iran, unable to find escape even in a book?

(Link via email from Manish Vij.)

Amitabh for president?

I’m amused by all the speculation around whether Amitabh Bachchan will consent to being a candidate in India’s presidential elections. If anything, it shows how meaningless the post is, a vestigial organ of government. In the past, it’s been used to kick politicians upstairs, reward old partymen for a few decades of service, or make a symbolic gestures about inclusiveness. (The calculus of caste and religion plays a part; see here and here.) But at least most previous presidents have had some kind of experience in politics and governance. Why does Bachchan deserve to be president?

On the other hand, do consider who won it last. I can’t imagine Bachchan coming up with anything quite like APJ Abdul Kalam’s poetry. I can live with “Eir Bir Phatte.”

On alarmism

The global warming people are called alarmists. Once, when it was in vogue, just three decades or so ago, the global cooling people were called alarmists. People who speak of apocalypse are called alarmists. People who warn of imminent nuclear warfare or the ozone layer getting screwed or biological warfare ravaging continents or super-resistant bacteria destroying mankind or mosquitoes with battleaxes taking over the White House are called alarmists.

I don’t know whether all the people above are alarmists or not, but I think of the world around me staying as it is, and I feel alarmed. What’s that about?

Anna Nicole Smith and America

Tunku Varadarajan writes in the Wall Street Journal:

[Anna Nicole] Smith was the object of a fierce popular fascination. It could be said—and said not entirely as metaphor—that Anna Nicole Smith embodied America. She embodied its bounty as well as its overabundance; its exploitability, and its propensity to exploit. She embodied, also, its litigiousness, its enterprise, its universal offer of the chance to remake oneself (Gatsby did it one way, Anna Nicole Smith did it another). And to many foreigners—particularly foreign men—she embodied America in a literal way, too: in a brassy blondeness that people in repressed cultures marvel at.

The thing is, the USA stands for a lot of things—you could replace Smith’s name in the above quote with that of vitually any American celebrity, and find that they ‘embody’ their country in as many ways as she does.

And what of India? I’d argue that Mallika Sherawat and Rakhi Sawant embody our country as much as Narendra Modi and Pratibha Naithani do. Do not shudder at the thought—perhaps you embody India too. To use a cliched expression, countries contain multitudes—and so do you.