Monday, January 26, 2009

Thank God for Barack's hypocrisies

Arthur Schlesinger Jr, historian, in his book "The Cycles of American History" admonishes leaders of nations who wish to be saintly, instead advises some pragmatism. Well what often passes for pragmatism is in the strictest sense mostly hypocrisy.

Barack Obama often reaches for high sounding idealism and quietly does what is pragmatic, often in the real good interest of the country. By definition hypocritical but could be charitably called "realistic", "pragmatic" etc.

Obama declared, with a haughtiness that is characteristic of self righteous idealistic people, that he has instituted the toughest ethics rules. Yes he did. He expressly prohibited lobbyists from joining his administration especially in the field they lobbied for. Barely two days later he sought an exception to his own rule when he nominated a defense lobbyist as Deputy Defense secretary sending the national media into chortles. Some idealism.

After ranting about wall street greed, CEO malfeasance. Bush's penchant for lax oversight of markets Obama named Timothy Geithner as Secretary of Treasury. Geithner, like the hated Paulson, is a Goldman Sachs alumni and forgot to pay his taxes. Yet another instance that angered his left wing courtiers who were itching for Keynesian left wingers to take over economic policy.

When he was an unknown candidate he signed, in his own hand, a pledge to take public financing if he got the nomination and challenged his republican opponent to do so in the interest of keeping elections away from being dominated by special interest money. By the time he got to his nomination his campaign, had shattered all records of raising money, very laudably done using technology and other usual methods. His opponent John McCain, struggled to raise money and took public financing while reminding Obama of his pledge. Now Obama slithered away giving some very facetious explanations. Not one of his fawning media acolytes cheered. He was roundly condemned.

Barack jeered at Hillary's claims of experience as First lady "what experience, having tea with ambassadors". Then he chose her as his secretary of state precisely because of her experience. A reporter who dared to question it was brusquely ticked of by Obama who beamed a disarming smile attributing those remarks to a heated campaign how quoting it is fun for press. It was no heated remark, it was a much repeated statement by Obama to deflate Hillary's claims. Either he was hypocritical then or he is one now.

While he railed endlessly on the campaign against Bush's handling of Iraq he angered his devotees (thats what they are) greatly by retaining Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. The icing was inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation prayer. Rick Warren is one of the most hated figures amongst Gays and Lesbians, again a core devotee group of Obama.

Obama loftily decried the false choice between safety and values implying that Bush adopted methods to keep US safe while sacrificing the liberal values of US. What he forgot to mention was that he himself voted yes to wiretap (FISA bill), again angering his left wing worshippers.

After decrying the Clintons as being divisive, being partisan and above all for just being what every politician is, he promptly named Rahm (Rahmbo) Emmanuel, a foul mouthed and vindictive person as Chief of Staff who had served under Clinton, again his worshipper were taken aback. They, in their naivete, had voted for change. Then came John Podesta, another Clintonite, to preside over the transition. A whole phalanx of Ex-Clintonites were chosen finally capped of with Hillary herself. Some change that is. The fig leaf reasoning was "we need experienced guys in these dark days and Clinton was the last creditable Dem to be Prez. The Carterites are too old".

Nobody disagrees with the quality of each of the above decisions, many are great decisions, good for the country. Its the pompous holier-than-thou attitude that gets my goat.

Barack Obama is no saint, he is just a politician and lets thank him for that.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Iran burns effigies of........Obama

Recently a huge protest rally was held in Teheran. Usual sloganeering against USA, usual blood curdling cries against Israel, one unsual aspect was the portrait caricatured. Usually it would be the sitting President and Bush would be the one but they were unflattering demonic characterisation of Obama, one pic had his teeth extended devilishly and blood dripping down his chin. Hhmmm this was the country that Obama wanted to have a diaolgue with "unconditionally" and the liberal front rejoiced at the peacemaker while reminding everyone how hated Bush was due to his "arrogance". Its ironic that Obama is treated thus even BEFORE he becomes president.

Ayman-Al-Zawahiri, bin-laden's deputy, rubbed it in by calling Obama a "house slave".A very denigrating characterisation for an Afro-American.

While the Obama worshippers swoon at his ability to change the world, especially contrasted with the much maligned Bush, "Economist" rightly pointed that even Obama by virtue of being President of US would not change key elements of U S policy without which no country like Iran would love ANY US president, Bush or not.

Time magazine when it declared Obama as "Person of the Year" (unsurprisingly) chose a cover photo designed by an artist whose pic became standard campaign photo. That artist gushed on CNN how Obama made people like him believe in the democratic process by rescuing it from money-bags. HHmmm what a jaded view of American democracy, if your guy wins its great democracy else its not. Probably the Iranians understand the limitations of US presidency than blind worshippers like these who do not realise that the more things change they remain the same.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Aging Carnatic Singers - Ignominy by MS

Recently a biography of M.S.Subbulakshmi and her backup singer Radha was released, that triggered a musing in me. Radha comes in the tradition of "pin paattu" a backup singer who accompanies a primary singer, who is usually the more famous of the duo. The purpose of this backup is to pick up notes, especially high ones or notes that follow in rapid succession which the primary singer falters, owing, mostly, due to age. MS had Radha during her famous UN performance in 1966. I was curious as to why she needed Radha, well she was aged 50, well past the prime for any virtuoso singer. I found a clipping of her singing at Thyagaraja festival at Thiruvaiyaru, in the 80's. Yes she is the queen of melody, anybody who has a musical ear, irrespective of literacy in carnatic music can say that. What a voice, then what a grunt, gargling the phlegm while Radha nonchalantly carries on the tune. The interludes, when the instrumentalist performs solo, were steadily punctuated by MS's scratchy throat and gulps to stifle unsuccessfully what was impossible. The age showed up. Now who in their right aesthetic sense would call that a performance.

Subbudu, the master-critic ripped into Semmangudi for singing into his eighties when all that came out was "only phlegm" (andru sangathi varavillai, sali thaan vandthathu).

Imagine Luciano Pavarotti or Andrea Bocelli giving a grunt amidst an opera at the Philharmonic. Pavarotti was once rumored to have lip-synced with a recording of his song (nevertheless his own rendition), it caused a furore.

Tagore visiting performances in London, in the 20's, wonders why Indian musicians do not tune up their instruments prior to performance and show some professionalism like their western counterparts. Some would argue that seeing that tune up is a wholesome experience itself. I beg to differ, the stage is not for prep work, what comes on stage should be sheer "presentation" that qualifies to be called "performance".

I am not quibbling about MS's musical genius, I am least qualified. However it takes no qualification to see that somesobody is performing beyond their physical limitations.

Maybe these singers like our actors do not know how to age and retire gracefully. As much as it was horrible to see a paunchy 60 year old Sivaji nuzzle up like a teenager to a teenage girl singing a senseless song so also it was grating to see this kind of performance by the doyen of music.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A horoscope, an abandoned child and an adoption

One of my colleagues recently adopted a child and we were chatting about adoptions. He narrated a touching and in some aspects tragic story. An acquaintence of his, a doctor couple at an Ivy League university, adopted a child from India. The child had been abandoned with a note saying that horoscope had foretold of ill-fortune due to the child. The child today grows up in the lap of luxury and is very loved by the extended family too.

Adoptions are a tortuous process in US. The mother chooses who can adopt her child. The ubiquitous lawyers then govern the whole process, of course a lions share of the money negotiated goes to the lawyer. What is worse the mother can, after taking the money in stages, at the last minute say no. No refunds. My colleague went through a harrowing week when the birth-mom just disappeared, at that stage she had collected well over $40,000. Finally she re-appeared and the adoption went through.

Corporations are slowly catching up on extending benefits to adopted children. Like maternity leave, now, adopting parents get a leave to bond with the child.

Recently CNN featured a story about "Orphan train". In US, between 1854-1929, orphans in NY used to ride a train and present themselves for prospective adoptions ( . What a deep tragedy. Adoption is one of the noblest act that any parent can do. Even if we cannot adopt let is contribute to children oriented charities and organisations that care for needs of children.