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Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Freedom

Rimi has an amazing post on Nandigram, the protest march, and the associated riots.
It's rather long, but well worth the read.

I had some comments regarding that, which I am pasting below. I am not sure if it's good blog decorum to paste here the comments I have written on another blog. But heck, a newbie like me wasn't going to let a largish comment go unpublished here.

Some of the problems with how the system in India works are:

1. The system's unwillingness to uphold the right to free speech, garbing it under euphemisms such as "considerations", "hurt feelings", etc. But that's not how right to free speech works. Everybody should be free to say whatever they want, as long as it doesn't infringe upon other people's rights. For example, Tasleema Nasrin is free to write whatever she wants to write, as long as she is not writing anything libelous against anybody, in which case the concerned person can sue her. The problem with our system is that we allow legal recourse for "hurt feelings", which is absolutely subjective, unethical, and reeks of moral arrogance and superiority.
Of course, the rioters were also within their rights to demand Ms. Nasrin's expulsion; but it's not their right to riot--which brings us to the second problem.

2. Our tacit approval of mob violence, which is again furthered by an amazing degree of laziness on the part of the judiciary (can't find the reports comparing how underworked our judges are compared to their counterparts in US, while they regularly gripe about how they are understaffed and how they have to deal with a lot more cases). Partly responsible for this is the heavy politicization of our police forces, which is unavoidable considering the amount of power wielded by politicians over the day-to-day functioning of the police. No wonder we have instances where the police stand back and do nothing, others where they are too eager to do something.

3. How avoidable the whole Nandigram fiasco would have been if we had fundamental right to property instead of the mere legal right. And none of the draconian land-control measures, including ban on selling of agricultural land for other purposes. This is very much a libertarian argument well expressed by Amit Varma in IndiaUncut in his Thinking It Through columns. They are much better than whatever I could write here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

On Thanksgiving-2007

The university has a program where willing international students are matched with host families in the locality. Blacksburg being a university town, the Tech forms a huge part in the lives of people in the area.

So, as is my usual wont, I don't have a host family(Why not? Because I didn't sign up for it in time). But my room-mate has. His host came to pick him up, found the other two of us were going to stay at home, and invited us for lunch as well. Of course I went, no enemy of mine can say I turned down an invitation to free food.

Boy am I glad I went. The food was great, the conversation was great, the merriment was great, the people were great. Thanks a lot, for having me over.

In the evening, it was a dinner with an Indian family who have settled here for a long time. I got to meet the host of the head of the family from his student days. She was a sweet old lady, whom everybody addressed as Mom. After a thanksgiving dinner, this one Indian style, everybody sat around, our host told us about the history of Thanksgiving, and also read the proclamation by which President Lincoln had instated Thanksgiving as an official holiday. After that, everyone present took turns to say what one was thankful for. It was a great session, with much merriment thrown in. A wonderful evening.

Seriously, who would have thought I would get to eat tandoori chicken here in Blacksburg?

On Thanksgiving

After much struggle, the pilgrims were finally able to grow enough grains and hunt enough meat to pass the winter comfortably. So they decided to enjoy it and thank God for their good luck. They invited their neighbors, the native Americans, and had a great meal. That's the first instance.

Cut to 1863. America is in the midst of a Civil War. President Lincoln proclaims the fourth Thursday of November to be celebrated as Thanksgiving. And that's what is still going on.

I find the idea of Thanksgiving a very secular one; you needn't be a Christian to soak in the spirit of the day. My religious leanings are quite dubious, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On Nandigram

There is a lot of confusion regarding the issue in the media. Because of conflicting reports, I have been unable to form any concrete opinion one way or the other. I have no reason to believe either of the parties are angels.

As is my disposition, I cannot take an extreme view of the issue. Also, it must be pointed out that all of this tragic stuff could have been avoided if property rights were sacrosanct in India. There was a proposal to do away with the eminent domain concept, but, ironically, it was the Left who had opposed Indira Gandhi at that time. Thus it came to pass that the sharecroppers were left with a limited right to till the land, but now own it outright. So, in a way, it is the bad karma of the Left which has come to haunt it now. Unfortunately, it cannot accept that, because private property rights I guess go against the very basic tenets of communism. If they had their way, all land would be government owned.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, there is a lot of confusion right now. However, Greatbong writes a balanced piece in his blog. It says everything I wanted to say about it, much more lucidly.

The solution to the Nandigram issue is not simple. What is simple is the lesson to take from it--make right to property a fundamental right, and not merely a legal right which is subject to be overturned at the whim and fancy of any government. It will ensure we don't have a festering would like Nandigram in our midst ever again.

To Have or Have Not

"Have you been stung by a dead bee? I have, lots of times. Now you may ask, why don't I bite them back? Coz I got no stinger!"

Hemingway rocks. Howard Hawks rocks. Bogart and Bacall rock.

Swordfish

Hot girl giving you a blow-job, while another guy points a gun to your temple. You have 60 seconds to break into a secure network.
What do you do?
And how does an onlooker react?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Good Will Hunting

Sean: Do you have a soul mate?
Will: Define that.
Sean: Someone you can relate to, someone who opens things up for you.
Will: Sure, I got plenty.
Sean: Well, name them.
Will: Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Frost, O'Conner

That summed up the movie. Robin Williams trying hard to help Matt Damon, Matt trying hard to resist it.
Well, he did give in finally, and that's that.