Out of My Mind: “My Pre-interview with a Census Bureau Agent” By Musafir

     “Musafir?” The voice on the other end of the phone asked.
     “Yeeees, this is he,” I answered.
      “Good to hear from you! I thought you’d be dead by now,” the caller said.
      “No, I am not expired yet. Who the heck are you?” I asked.
      “My name is Mat Data and I work for the U.S Census Bureau. I am going to ask you some census related questions”
      “That’s not a nice way to introduce yourself. Moreover, why did you say that you thought that I’d be dead? That’s a rude way to initiate a conversation. Do you realize this?” I asked in disappointment.
      “We ask this to avoid counting dead people. You won’t believe that we encounter dead people every day which may cause error in reporting the results.
      “OK! But what kind of name is Mat Data anyway?”
      “Well that’s Matri Dutta. Mat Data is the Americanized way of saying my name,” Mat explained.
      “OK Mat, shoot your questions to me,” I desperately wanted to get over with this rude interruption in my daily life.
      “Let’s start. Are you a gay, bi, transgender or queer?”
      “No sir, I am straight.”
      “You should consider one of the above categories. That will give you special status, protection and prestige that you don’t have now. That’s, of course just a suggestion for being a fellow countryman, you know what I mean? Alright, the next question: Do you enjoy or participate in ethnic jokes?”
      “Generally no except for the Ladinis,” I answered.”
      “May I ask why the Ladinis?” Mat asked.
      “Because no one talks about them. They’d be happy to get any kind of recognition,” I replied.
      “Who are the Ladinis?”
      “You tell me. You are the census guy not I.”
      “Time for the next question. Are you a Vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Vegan or fruitarian?” Mat further asked.
      “I consider myself a selectarian,” was my answer.
      “What’s a selectarian? Never heard of that,” Mat sounded perplexed.
      “Two things. First, I choose my selection based on situations. People know me as a vegetarian, but when no one is watching, I eat everything that can fly, swim, crawl and walk.” I was just being honest.
      “And what is the second thing?” Mat was curious.
      “Since I have respect for the female gender, I don’t eat she-animals.”
      “How do you do that?” Mat wanted to know.
       “See brother, I take a sample of the meat for DNA testing before I eat them. When the test comes out as female, I don’t eat unless I am starving.”
      “That could be quite tedious,” Mat said surprisingly.
      “Not as tedious as the 100 plus pages in your 2020 census survey.”
      “Well brother, we’ll mail you the mandatory survey soon. I must say you are an interesting fella.”
      “I wish I could say the same for you.” I quipped.
      The conversation ended.

 

All Said and Done By Anil Shrivastava “Musafir”

April 20 impeachment

President Trump was impeached by the Democrats on December 18, 2019 and was acquitted by the Republicans on February 5, 2020. All said and done, this was a mere power play, egoism and a waste of time. Everyone knew the outcome including the Democrats. Overall, the biggest losers, undoubtedly, were the voters who didn’t ask for the impeachment or the acquittal. Neal Katyal summed it up on Twitter like this:

“There’s no sense of apology for putting our nation through something that will tear at us. Nothing. Just insults to the opposition. I can’t think of something more un-American.”

Although the Congress provided a good reality show for us to watch, I don’t think it was worth it. During all this drama, the only person who worked indefatigably and without pay was President Trump. As a result, Mr. Trump is in an advantageous position now, but there is no denying that he persuaded the Senate to block the witnesses and was indifferent to Democratic requests. The Republications were in denial that Mr. Trump abused the power of the office though it may not have been an impeachable act, after all. The Republicans didn’t care about the fact that holding up duly appropriated aid to Ukraine was illegal. Rep. Val Deming’s tweet said this the best:

“Apparently the White House team decided to pretend that John Bolton doesn’t exist.”

Dave Brook, an opinion columnist at The New York Times describes Mr. Trump’s success as:

“As several people have noticed, this was the most politically successful week of the Trump presidency. First, President Trump’s job approval numbers are rising. When the impeachment inquiry got rolling in October his Gallup approval rating was 39. Now it’s 49. If he can hold this level, he’ll probably be re-elected.”

President Trump’s State of the Union speech was so effective that Nancy Pelosi had to tear that in full view of the camera. Consequently, she got a new name now, Nancy the Ripper. Michael More supported her by twitting:

“Thank you. That felt good. #NancyTheRipper

Many are comparing Trump’s post impeachment attitude with Clinton’s. Bill Clinton conceded in public that what he did was wrong. In contrast to that, Mr. Trump publicly denied that he did anything wrong. Monica Lewinsky summed this the best (pardon the language):

“this is definitely an “are you f*@&#^g kidding me?” kinda day.”

I also wondered what Chief Justice John Robert was doing in the Senate trial. Well, his role can be described by the following tweet from Kimberly Robinson:

“Some details about Chief Justice’s impeachment role: – He’ll wear his normal robe (no stripes) – He’ll attend arguments in the AM, Sentate trial in the PM – If he misses an argument, Justice Thomas will preside – He’ll be driven across the street, escorted by #Scouts security”

Overall, the growing public support for the Republicans and Mr. Trump may not bode well for the Democrats in 2020 elections. Mitt Romney’s position in the Republican Party is that of a pariah. We shouldn’t be surprised if he, eventually, becomes a Democrat or an independent. This is what the President said about him:

“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when they know that that’s not so. So many people have been hurt and we can’t let that go on.”

Ultimately it was an interesting but a futile show. Shakespeare would have said, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.” (Macbeth)

American Scene: “Is America Still A Melting Pot?” By Anil Shrivastava

 

 

When I first came to this country in the 70s, assimilation meant acting like the natives, eating hot dog, becoming baseball fan, watching fireworks on the Fourth of July and celebrating Halloween and Christmas. The magazine racks then were adored by blue-eyed blondes. Who can forget Cheryl Tiegs, Lauren Hutton, Patti Hansen and Brooke Shields? Dressing up on Sundays meant going to the church and people made sure to perform at least one good deed of the day.

Having an American-sounding name was also a badge of assimilation that conferred genuine economic and social benefits. Devendra became Dev and Kanan became Connie. It was that simple. People thought that with less-foreign-sounding names they were more likely to be unemployed than their counterparts whose names sounded more foreign.

That reminds me of an interesting anecdote:

My first boss in the U.S. was a British immigrant named Glen. He spoke in not so savoir faire Brummies’ accent instead of cockney. The truth was that our co-workers didn’t understand either of us. I became so infamous for my unusual accent that whenever I sneezed, Gloria who sat next to my desk would shout, “Anil is sneezing with accent again,” instead of saying “God bless you“

Ultimately, Glen gave me a warning, that if I didn’t improve my accent within a month, he’d have me fired. Fortunately (and unfortunately for him), Glen was fired by the plant manager before the former could fire me. We were both victims of nonconformance or a lack of assimilation. However I lucked out.

Well, that was then. Assimilation today is different from the Age of Mass Migration in the early 20th century till the 70s. In the 70s immigration rules became highly regulated, favoring those with money, education, and skills and drawing migrants primarily from Asia. They were more skilled and educated than their compatriots who stayed in their countries of origin. This, of course, was contrary to the immigrants who came in the first wave (1920s) who were less skilled than those who stayed behind.

Today most of the immigrants come from both Asia and Central America. The Hispanic population has increased from 9 million in 1970 to 54 million now whereas the Caucasian share of the population has decreased from more than 80% in the 70s to below 70% now. The Central American immigrants are fast changing the demography of the Southern and Southern west states, especially those of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Today’s immigrants are more fearful of words like assimilation and melting pot. Many of them reject the very idea of assimilation which, in their views, is denying one culture for the other. The fact remains that this fear was also prevalent in previous batches of immigrants. Despite that, immigrants have always made a distinctive contribution to the economy, innovation and culture.

However, the above tells the story of the first generation immigrants only. The second and the third generation immigrants still ­become wholly American by learning the language, embracing the folkways and traditions and becoming deeply patriotic. I have personally talked to many second generation Hispanic Americans. They prefer to speak in English and they identify themselves as Americans only.

In my view, the American melting pot is still alive and well. One in five newlyweds is marrying someone of another race (Pew Report). As stated above, they identify themselves as Americans. The fear that today’s immigrants cannot assimilate is misplaced. Of course, we won’t see many blue eyed blondes on magazine covers. Many of them won’t go to the Church on Sundays. I hope they’d still do the good deed of the day without giving any name to it. They are the new generation of Americans who come in all colors and traits. They may not look homogeneous as before, but they are distinctly Americans.

Perspective: “MENA Needs Education and Employment” By Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

 

April 20 MENA
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have been in turmoil ever since I learned how to spell “Middle” and “East.” People there turn violent in the name of religion; they oppress women; they use young children as suicide bombers; they breed terrorists and they still seem to live in the medieval era except for some gulf states like UAR or Kuwait.
There is truth to the above statement, but the West’s engagement with the region is also a great factor in their cynicism, anger, frustration and radicalism. We cannot ignore the argument that their anger at the West’s foreign policy, political exploitation (for their own self-interest) are at the heart of MENA’s anger and upheaval.
We cannot also ignore the fact that, in the most cases, people in MENA are uneducated and unemployed. Had the West spent even a fraction of the cost of insatiable and indefatigable bombing on education and opening manufacturing establishments, the story would have been far opposite of what we witness and hear about them incessantly. I am not ignoring the fact that there are other factors for their state of affairs such as internal fighting, tribalism and political struggle for power by their leaders.
1. Here are some statistical facts about the folks in that region according to the World Bank:
54% of the people in MENA region are unemployed.
2. Among the educated with university degrees, 30% are unemployed and unemployable.
3. They have no source of legitimate employment other than joining scarce public sector jobs.
It should be very obvious to the world leaders and critics that MENA needs help which can be provided by investing in schools and skill centers so that people there can think beyond the box and be employable. We need to be working inside those countries to provide expertise and challenge the status-quo in regards to a lack of education and skills.
Technological and industrial transformation of the region is essential to employment. The big companies can start with opening small facilities in those regions jointly with the public sector. MENA-OECD (Middle East and North Africa – Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) has started this initiative. The big business houses need to work with them as responsible social and global citizens.
Let’s think this way, when an alarming number of erudite lack sense and sensibility giving rise to blind partisanship and constant bickering, what can be expected from those who are at the bottom rung of the food chain? It’s time to halt the bombing and start balming.

 

“Task Well Done” – Humor by Musafir

    april 20 humor

For three years, lifetimes ago, I was Stu’s superior at a major auto company. During those years, without exception, I never fired anyone. Probably this was because everyone quit first. I was also opposed to death penalty for similar reasons. Stu was a miserable employee. He was always wrapped in financial troubles; his marriage was on rocks and his short fuse, quite frequently, landed him in odds with the law. My superior, Jack was an aimless man who wanted me to fire Stu. I managed to evade him every time as I was bent on reforming Stu instead of firing him.

Stu was lazy and incompetent, but who was not? Our organization was full of people who were lazy and nincompoop. One time Stu was jailed for three weeks. I had no choice but to hire a temp to get the work done. The temp agency sent a twenty-one-year-old woman, Paula as his replacement. Paula did an outstanding job and was willing to take over Stu’s position. To top it off, she brought Jack his morning coffee and whoppers with fries for lunch every day, something that Jack couldn’t have imagined Stu doing for him.

Now Jack had a stronger case for firing Stu and replacing him with Paula. Since I was vehemently opposed to that idea, I reminded Jack how that could be deemed against company rules. Stu had to go through corporate retraining program first. I also suggested that Stu should go to an anger-management class at company’s expense. I consulted the personnel and they agreed with me to justify their own top heavy staffing. More irrelevance meant more job security for them. Jack had no choice but to abide by my suggestion. Presumably there is a way to fire people, but jack had not mastered that yet.

I always thought about the ways to reform Stu. During the next annual review, I recommended a hefty raise for him which put Jack at his wit’s end.

“Are you crazy? How can you recommend a raise for Stu when he is so incompetent and is often absent due to serving jail time?” Jack seemed really agitated at me.

“Jack, a good manager has to know how to get the best performance out of his subordinates. Do you realize the root cause of Stu’s problems? It’s obviously money, Jack! He gets in fight with his wife due to his weak finances. Money will certainly contain his temper and combined with corporate retraining and anger management program, he will become productive, “I tried to convince Jack..

“ What do you suggest for Paula?” Jack asked anxiously.

I’d make her permanent and will put her under Stu as his direct report. That way Stu will get much needed managerial experience after his reform. And don’t forget Jack that you’ll still have Paula bring you morning coffee and whopper with fries every day.” I suggested.

Jack very much seemed to like my idea. He smiled under his mustache and went to Paula and winked at her.

A year later, Stu’s performance and attitude had really improved. I gave all the credit for that to Jack. The management was so happy with him that he was promoted to a more responsible position in another organization. Jack took Paula with her as he gathered his other trophies from his wall. That was a task well done by everyone.

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Welcome to Millennium 2, Decennium 2 by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

    April 20 Roaring-20s-

I am told that that 1920s was a very good decade. During that period Charles Lindbergh made the historic first nonstop flight from New York to Paris. Besides that, electric iron, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, electric toaster, television, frozen food, bread slicer, Model-T and many more items were invented that shaped not only the American life but the lives of people around the world for forever. However, it’s not always good to project this century based on what happened in the last since we won’t like a repeat of the Great Depression in the following decade of this century.

Coming to the present decade, first of all, it has a catchy name, the decade of 2020. It’s the number of perfect eyesight, thus I hope that we will be able to see things clearly free from prejudices and preconceived notions and our politicians will not lose either their sight or focus from the needs of their constituencies. I also hope that people will think more independently and will change for good.

I can safely predict that the babies born today will emerge into a world light years away from any generation that came before them.

1. In this decade, humans will be on the cusp of going around Mars.

2. Cure for many kinds of cancer will be found through stem cell research and the technology that edits genes.

3. Hyperloop travel will be tested successfully between either Los Angeles and San Francisco or between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The travel between the two cities will be completed in approximately 36 minutes.

4. “Deep learning” will enable machines to learn what to learn making them super intelligent.

I am averse to farfetched predictions, therefore, I have chosen the above based upon what are definitely possible in this decade (2020s).

That sounds good and dandy, but the bigger issues needing our attention in this decade should be of our prime concern. Some of the dangers facing our future are mentioned below. If we don’t take action now, the following decades may bring miseries to our planet.

1. Can we provide adequate health care to ever growing population around the globe?

The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people go their entire lives without seeing a health worker because of distance, unavailability of health providers, poverty and lack of any health education. As the population grows beyond 7 billion in this decade, this problem will intensify even further.

2. Will we face a nuclear holocaust?

Nuclear bombs are no more prod possessions of a few countries alone. Soon many more countries including rogue nations will have these weapons in their arsenals. They won’t hesitate to use them against their enemies like they use bombs and guns now.

3. Will we go back to the Stone Age?

There are a couple of possibilities that this may happen. First of all, the war of the future will be fought in space. If the enemies destroy each other’s communication satellites, we’ll definitely not be able to function due to our dependability on satellites for practically everything we do today.

Secondly, there are possibilities of big meteors colliding with the earth and annihilating a major part of our population.

4. Can we save earth’s atmosphere?

According to NASA, earth’s climate has reached a dangerous level due to human-made greenhouse gases. This is not an imagination of a fickle mind or a part of any political agenda. NASA’s survey also reveals that Antarctica has lost much more ice to sea than it gained from snowfalls. Similarly, Arctic is melting and we all are aware of this fact.

We have two choices in 2020s. Either we enjoy the epicurean and esthete life while it lasts or we care and plan for the future so that we are not forced to rusticate and become ascetics sooner than we want.

“Young Women as Role Models” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

 

jan 20 prime minister ne zealand

I live in a state where our governor is a young woman, Gretchen Whitmer. Our representative in Washington is another young woman, Elissa Slotkin. You may have noticed that this trend is sweeping many countries and is not limited to the state of Michigan only. Finland, considered one of the happiest countries in the world, elected a woman Prime Minister in Sanna Marin. She is only 34, the youngest Prime Minister (PM) in the world. Not only that, her party will be ruling Finland with the support of coalition of four other parties led by women. Three of those women are in their 30s.

New Zealand has a similar story to tell. Ms. Jacina Ardern assumed the office of PM of New Zealand in August 2017. Ms. Arden is 39 years old. This is also important to note that more than 40 per cent of elected members in New Zealand’s House of Representatives are women. That will be a topic for some other day.

It is heartening to see a new generation of women stepping forward to address some of the many challenges that we all face. I, personally, don’t see this as women’s empowerment. I see this as an alternative to self-serving old men who have traditionally been leading the world into chaos and corruption. None of the women mentioned above were elected on the basis of their gender. They were just convincing to the voters.

Women leaders know that they have to be different from their old male predecessors so that the world can realize that they are here to work for the people sincerely. I have seen this trait in young women leaders of today. Becoming PM was not easy for Ms. Marin. Born in 1985, she had a chaotic childhood moving often from place to place as she came from a low-income family. Politics seemed out of reach for her. She moved up from ranks of her political party to the top job helped by her extraordinary and proven organizational skills.  Rather than focusing attention on herself, Ms. Marin only talks about issues at hand. Speaking to reporters shortly after being sworn in earlier this month (December 2019), Ms. Marin avoided questions about herself saying, “She was focused on governing.”

New Zealand’s current PM, Ms. Jacina Ardern also is a breath of fresh air for the Kiwis.  She was elected in 2017. By the way, New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections in 1893. Despite being the Prime Minister Ms. Arden leads a very ordinary life. Ms. Arden had to face nasty terror attacks in two mosques in Christchurch, a city in New Zealand. She showed her strength in calming the nation with a forceful speech and compassion for the victims. When Donald Trump made a condolence call and asked what support the U.S. could offer, she told him, “Sympathy and love for the victims.”

She negotiated with the conservative opposition party to enact immediate and sweeping changes to the country’s gun laws, banning all assault rifles and military-style semiautomatics which is a major achievement in a country with a sizable rural population. The fact that the conservatives supported her in this deal shows her ability to work amicably with the opposition. According to my observation, most leaders in the world lack the skill of deal making.

Coming to the young women leaders of my own state, Michigan, USA, we elected a new governor, Ms. Gretchen Whitmer in 2016. She also leads an ordinary life in person and is very approachable. She started the construction of a new bridge over the Detroit River going into Canada that was pending for at least a decade. One of her first acts after becoming governor of the state was fixing the highways and byways of Michigan which were shamefully the worst in the United States. Her predecessors neglected the roads as they kept on bickering about the funding.

I find these women leaders empathetic, courageous, adaptable, assertive, kind and caring, something that old career politicians usually lack according to my personal experience. It will be naïve to assume that all young women leaders will be as good as women mentioned above, but I do welcome the trend set by them. May be the young women of today will take the clue from them and will treat them as their role models.

Book Review: “Finding Chika”​ by Mitch Albom

 

Jan 20 chika

“Finding Chika” is Mitch Albom’s third book that I have read, first two being “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.” Like the previous two books mentioned above, this book is also a portrayal of someone in his life.

This is a story of a little girl, Chika whom Mitch and his wife Janine brought home in Michigan from the orphanage in Haiti for the treatment of a tumor in Chika’s brain. After two years of care in the custody of Mitch and Janine, Chika couldn’t be saved.

During Chika’s treatment, Mitch and Janine, explored extensively all means possible that could have saved the little girl’s life. The story told by Mitch is poignant and is a lesson in love that only a parent can bestow on his/her child.

The vicarious chats between Mitch and Chika are adorable:

“Does God have powers?’ Chika asks.

“Yes,” we say.

“Is he brave?”

“Yes.”

“Does he protect horses?”

Mitch tells the story of the little girl, Chika through the combination of his imaginary conversation with Chika and narrations. He is both expository and persuasive throughout the book. If you love kindliness and innocence, you’ll love this book.

      -Reviewed by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

“So We Want To Impeach Mr. Trump”​ by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

We all know that the Democrats started working on Mr. Trump’s impeachment right after the latter took the oath of office in January 2017. Many key Democrats couldn’t accept Mrs. Clinton’s defeat in the hands of President Trump. Rep. Maxine Waters was one of the first Democrats to call for Mr. Trumps’ impeachment. She said this in 2017, “Why would we let somebody like Trump, a con man, come in here and turn it all upside down with his lies and his disrespect? And so, I personally feel very strongly about this and I’m going to keep working until he’s impeached.”

Rep. Rashida Talib complemented Ms. Waters soon after she was elected to the Congress with these famous words, “Baby ……. we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherf#@&!r.”

Our congressmen/women and Senators were elected by their constituents to work on critical issues facing the nation such as healthcare, immigration (including DACA), education, environment, budget caps, infrastructure, social welfare reform, new NAFTA just to name a few. I am sorry to report that our Congress has accomplished none of those.

Talking of Mr. Trump, many of his wounds are self-inflicted. He has added fuel to the fire facilitating his own impeachment. Here are some examples:

· 1. He has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public

·2. He encouraged the department of Justice Launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries

·3. As Mike Bloomberg put it recently, Mr. Trump is tweeting more and leading less

· 4. He doesn’t trust his advisors; interferes in their work to make them ineffective. In turn they become his enemies

·5. He lacks the tact to work with opposition. (However, in his case the opposition refused to accept him as a legitimate president to begin with.)

· 6. Many of Mr. Trump’s actions seem autocratic not democratic

·7. He withheld military aid from Ukraine until they (Ukraine) agreed to investigate some business dealings of Burisma involving VP Biden’s son, Hunter Biden (a quid pro quo)

Of all the examples above, the Democrats think that Ukraine issue is an impeachable offence. The House of Representatives’ Leader, Ms. Pelosi took this accusation to the level of bribery. No one knows, for sure, whether allegations against Mr. Trump are impeachable charges or not. Representative Adam Schiff, whose committee is leading the inquiry will prepare formal charges against the president and will put that for an up and down vote on the floor of the House. Since Democrats have a 36-seat majority in the House of Representatives, it’s very likely that President Trump will be impeached, but most likely he will be acquitted of all charges by the Senate.

What Will Happen if President Trump Is Impeached?

That will be very interesting to watch because never in the history of the United States of America an impeached president has run for the White House again. Out of the two presidents ever impeached by the Congress, Andrew Johnson was denied nomination by the Democratic Party for the 1868 presidential election. He later became a Senator from Tennessee in 1875.

President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 during his second term. So, he couldn’t have run for the office of the president, anyway. Interestingly, Andrew Johnson was acquitted in the Senate by just one vote and all the Senators who voted for his acquittal lost in the following elections. Bill Clinton was acquitted in Senate by 10 votes.

In the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s impeachment there are two possibilities on the horizon. First, Because Mr. Trump’s offense was not compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous and because people are tired of inaction of the legislative branch, his base will be energized behind him. Many independents and moderate Democrats will vote for Mr. Trump and other Republicans. Trump will be re-elected and the Republicans may recapture the House.

Secondly, many voters who supported Mr. Trump may not like to cast their votes for an impeached president. They may also express their anger against the Senators who would vote for Mr. Trump’s acquittal repeating the scenario that followed President Andrew Johnson’s acquittal in the Senate.

Whatever, the outcome, the do-nothing Democrats (and Republicans) have clearly engaged in a purely partisan project. In reality those Democrats (especially in red states and swing districts) are worried about the inquiry’s effects not only on their own reelection chances, but also on the balance of power in Washington.

The following dialogue from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice aptly applies to both the Democrats and the Republicans:

      Salarino: “Why, I am sure, if he forfeit thou wilt not take his flesh. What’s that good for?”

            Shylock: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”