Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homosexuals in India

When the president of Iran (a loudmouth paralleled only by the current American leadership as a purveyor of religious and bellicose rhetoric) was asked a question about the mistreatment of Homosexuals in Iran while speaking at Columbia university exactly a year ago, his response as "there are no homosexuals in Iran".

I am positive that if Dr. Manmohan Singh were asked the same question he would give an equally ludicrous response if he is in agreement with the stinking pile of manure his home ministry is defending in India. Men having sex with men (gays are called MSMs in India) is illegal in India. There are an estimated 22 million felons in India - a popuplation the size of Australia - if one wants to keep count.

While the relatively progressive Ministry of health wants to legalize homosexuality (aided by the courts in India - which satirically recommend banning sexual intercourse in resonse to the Home ministry's contention that Homosexualily helps spread AIDS), the home ministry (which in my opinion should be spending most of its time trying to fight terror in cities and stopping stampedes in temples) wants to keep it illegal. This is the stupidest thing I have heard in a long while.

With ~ 22 million homosexual men (and at least half as many homosexual women in India), I think it is high time that some pragmatism takes precedence. What to me is disconcerting is that the government at the center is actually a left on center government. If the real conservatives come into power (say a Modi or an Uma Barthi), things will get only get much, much worse.

Of course, I understand that the country is too poor to be socially liberal - and I understand that expecting any socially liberal reform is asking for too much from some of the poorest and least educated people on the planet. But these are injustices which ought to be corrected. I am writing this piece not with the hope of seeing liberalization of Indian society in the immediate future. I understand that it is a long journey - but a journey of a thousand miles (1600km) starts with a single step. Hell, even the richest nations on the planet (such as the US) have leaders who are homophobic.

Death of American Capitalism

Before I start bloviating, I would like to take a moment to talk about Prof. No am Chomsky. Because, thanks to today's bizzare set of circumstances, a lot of Prof. Chomsky's assertions regarding American economic policy have come astronishingly true. If he were a malicious soul, he would be saying "I told you so".

Prof. Chomsky contends that America is a socialist state to a great degree - and cites all "high technology" - which is almost always due to taxpayer money - as evidence. Where it differs from a socialist state is that the profits due to these high technologies are privatized. Today's bail-out is pretty much a text-book case of the taxpayers assuming risk and saving large private institutions that are "too big to fail".

Prof. Chomsky's contention that democracy is America is an illusion often draws a lot of flak. But looking at the house of representatives turn down a bill and then pass it on the second iteration gave one the feeling that they just did not have an option - because if they did not pass it today, it would come back tomorrow.

Prof. Chomsky's media-propaganda model stands vindicated by the shameless advocacy in the media for this plan. Fox, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, NY Times - you name it. Everyone told you you had to get this plan voted for - otherwise....

If I were Prof. Chomsky, I would certainly say "I told you so".


This blog would have lost all credibility had it not sounded off on the current demise of capitalism in America. I had contended earlier that American capitalism was incredibly robust and fail-safe - and this robustness made up for its apparent heartlessness. Turns out, it was not robust. And that's why, it went bust (that's a miserable doggerel - the kind I keep talking about in thet title of this blog)

Let me summarize how the Goliath that is American capitalism was felled.

Companies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (and other mortgage under-writers) decided one fine day to make some money from the toil of poor people who do not have good "credit scores". Since these people were less likely to get loans (and everyone in the world wants to build a dream house), they were prepared to pay a little more for the loan. So they borrowed money at higher "sub-prime" rates.

So far so good. Good for the poor people - they at least got a loan and had an honest stab at living happy lives in their own roomy homes.

At that time, house prices were increasing every day. People borrowed X to buy a house with "adjustable rate" mortgages. The mortgage would charge a lower value in the beginning and would reset to a higher rate a little while later. The house would probably be worth 1.05X next year - and the 0.05 X was profit. They could then "re-negotiate" their mortgage to a lower rate - bascially using the profit to pay off some more of the principal.

All was well when everything went well. But everything can't go on perfectly forever. The housing bubble burst. Home prices did not keep going up every year. People were stuck in mortgages which they just could not afford - especially when the rates reset. Having eaten a sumptuous meal in a pricey restaurant, Americans reached for their wallet and found it empty. And the equivalent to doing their dishes was, well, foreclosure.

It does not end here. The "mortgages" were packaged and traded (before people realized that all was not well). The local banks that made these loans - well, they sold these loans (they actually sold the "risk") to investment banks and other institutions. Lehmann brothers, AIG, Bear Sterns - they all failed to see the downswing coming - and were basically destroyed by these "toxic" mortgages.

To "rescue" the market, the govenment had to do what Indian Mythology contends Lord Shiva did. It (the government) had to swallow the toxic assets (much like Lord Shiva had to swallow poision to save the angels (devas)).

One hopes that these latest developments silence the rhetoric of "small government" once and for all - but one knows that they will not. Political spin is such a powerful tool.

Friday, September 05, 2008

CV9ap - X414a

The year is 2049. The day is September 1st. Labor day.

Incidentally, his wife went into labor today. Everything went well. They had a baby girl.

And they were faced with the unenviable task of picking a name for their daughter. After a lot of brainstorming, they settled on CV9ap-X414a, with a small 'a'.

They chose the name because it was a unique name. A name that meant business. How many people called CV9ap would you not take seriously? They know that she would thank them for the wonderful name that they had blessed her with.

There was a catergory 5 hurricane which was forecast to hit the city that day. He had caught the forecast early in the morning, so he was prepared. He took an umbrella out of his bag and shielded little CV9ap from the 300kmph wind gust. He was quite proud of his paternal instincts.

As the author of this improbable sketch, I can perceive a certain puzzlement; a certain confusion amongst my readers. If I continue on these lines, I run the risk of sounding like a raving lunatic. So perhaps I should clear the air and make the circumstances a little more comprehensible. Shed some light, if you get my drift.

The planet has heated up thanks to human emissions (and bovine flatulence). This increase in enthalpy of the planet has created all sorts of problems. It has created more intense summers. Warmer oceans. And warmer oceans imply more intense hurricanes. And more intense hurricanes mean more death and destruction.

The real problem was not created by the hurricanes. But it was created by America's hurricane warning center. In a land with a finite number of first (and last) names, giving hurricanes people's names (and then "retiring" the deadly ones) created a rather unique problem: a shortage of first names. If you had a baby in 2006, then you would call her anything but Kartina and Rita. 2009 depleted Gustav, Fay, Hanna and Ike from the name pool. By 2015, almost all western names were out. No more Jack. No more Rob. No more Dick. No more Andrew - or Dmitri.

And with more hurricanes, the number of ineligible names started to increase exponentially with time. By 2030, even Indian names such as Vikram and Ravi were taboo.

This crisis was not without resistance. The committee to rescue names (CRN) was formed - and attempted to stop hurricanes on their tracks by dropping nuclear bombs on their path. This turned out to be a particularly ill conceived idea - because these bombs heated up the water all the more, creating the world's first catergory six storm. Saffir and Simpson were really spinning in their graves.

Attempts were made by parents at using more exotic names - any word that sounded phonetically correct was used as a name. But this scheme failed too. Here's a scenario why:

Mother: Oh wow! I am so happy to see that we have had a son. Let's see what we should call him. Let me mix some random phonetic syllables in my mind. Ah. Let us call him "purugu".

Dad: Nice. Purugu sounds nice.

Telugu Guy (appears from nowhere): You might want to reconsider that. In my native tongue, "purugu" means insect. Nothing aganist those little critters - but do you really want to call your son that?

Dad: Aw. Let's try "Kamina" instead,

You get the drift. With the world becoming more of a melting pot, one just could not find any pronounceable word which did not imply something demeaning in some language or was not a killer Hurricane.

As you can see, the only way out was to use alpha numerics. And one fine day, CV9ap-X414a became the leader of the free world. She became the president of the planet. (By 2049, all countries coalesced into one large union).

Oh. And umbrellas are a lot stronger in 2049. They can withstand category sixes with ease. Though catergory 7s (created by CRN by using a hydrogen bomb on a hurricane) are a whole different ball game.