I was gathering clothes for donation when I found a dark brown cardigan hanging in the corner of my closet. “Embrace me! Wrap me around yourself,” it seemed to yell at me. I had bought that front-open sweater years ago but had never donned that on purpose.
Cardigans remind me of Mr. Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame. He was handsome and he certainly gave off a feeling of possessing a distinguished personality, but I had no desire to look like him. He reminded me of someone phlegmatic and filled with ennui. It’s not only Mr. Rogers, most men who don cardigans look dull, effete, and enervated. Of course, that’s my personal point of view which may not be true. Regardless, I avoid looking grumpy or ascetic at all costs.
Winters in Michigan are long, dark, and cold which can definitely affect one’s mood unless someone is in winter sports or ice fishing. On top of that, I can’t imagine adding to my miseries by putting on a cardigan.It’s not that I hate winter but I don’t want it to dominate over me either. I love the cold air. That keeps us free of insects, snakes, and mosquitos. I love to dress up in hats, jackets and boots. I love sitting by the fireplace enjoying warm snacks, drinks, and a good read. I do like looking at the golden sunshine falling on snow through my patio windows, but when one day turns into many without sunshine, I get into the winter blues.
I turn the lights on every day for hours. It brightens the room and my mood. I also sit in my bright sunroom with the heater on full blast with a cover over me. That’s a blessing. I also go to the gym for walking. it not only gives me a place to exercise but it provides a social life. Interacting with other people keeps me from becoming isolated.
Well, I decided to put on the green cardigan one last time before saying a final goodbye. As soon as I looked in the mirror, my wife remarked, “It looks good on you. You look distinguished just like Mr. Rogers.”
That was it. I didn’t want to look distinguished like Mr. Rogers. Suddenly, I rushed to the mall for buying a new sweater. That turned my gray mood into a little sunshine.
While the United States of America is considered as the only superpower that exists today, the fact remains that it hasn’t won wars since WW II (in 1945). Only the Gulf War in 1991 under the leadership of George W H Bush can be called a clear success. The Korean War was inconclusive, Vietnam was a loss costing 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese lives. Both Iraq and Afghanistan wars proved to be futile with a price tag of 5 trillion dollars and 7,000 American lives.
In addition, the U.S. has failed to change regimes in Cuba and Venezuela in its own backyard despite trying to do so for decades. We all know about the failed invasion of The Bay of Pigs in 1961. In this century alone, the U.S. has miserably failed to contain, China, North Korea, and Iran while those countries keep on sticking the thumb in the U.S.A.’s eye.
There can be many reasons for the U.S.’s failure in this regard. First and foremost, the recent U.S. presidents with the exception of George W H Bush (41st) have been novices, unready, and without enough experience for the rigor of their office compared to their counterparts in other countries who are seasoned and have been there for decades. The U.S. leadership is no match to them when it comes to strategic judgment. In the United States, a peanut farmer or a builder can suddenly become the Commander-in-chief to face the seasoned veterans of China, Russia, or even North Korea.
Secondly, the U.S. is considered an undependable partner even by its own allies such as Turkey and Germany. Its foreign policy takes a drastic change after a new president is sworn in. Mr. Biden’s rushed reversal of Trump’s policies with his executive orders is a recent example of such a move. Much of the rest of the world seems visibly queasy at the prospect of America’s U-turn. Just the other day, the U.S navy violated India’s sovereignty by carrying out a Freedom of Navigation operation west of Lakshadweep Islands, inside India’s exclusive economic zone, without requesting India’s prior consent. This is just one example of America’s mood swing. By the way, India never wholeheartedly trusted America except for a brief period during the Modi-Trump bromance between 2016 and 2020. In contrast to that, Russia has always been there for India as a reliable partner.
This vitality is uncommon when we examine Russia, China, Germany, North Korea to name a few. Much of the world, however, is not accustomed to such volatility. “The rest of Western Europe has seen numerous changes in those who hold the reins of power, but oscillations in governance have generally stayed within a relatively narrow political spectrum.” Feffer, John (2021 February 8) “America: The Unreliable Superpower” Foreign Policy in Focus.
Central Asia and the Middle East including Iran are opening up to engagement with China. These countries are already making business and strategic partnerships with China which is viewed by them as more stable and trustworthy. Saudi Arabia is now getting closer to Russia. Both Saudi Arabia and India recently bought an advanced Russian missile system to the dismay of the United States.
Last but not the least, many a time the U.S. wages wars on false pretenses. For example, President Johnson received congressional authorization in 1964 to begin the massive escalation in Vietnam in response to an alleged attack by the North Vietnamese on an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. It turned out to be a false assumption. Similarly, in 2001, Iraq was falsely accused of amassing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It turned out that Iraq didn’t possess WMDs and had not collaborated to destroy the World Trade Center in 2001. Oops!
The problem is that the U.S. doesn’t seem to learn from its past mistakes. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military repeated many of the mistakes it made in Vietnam. “The U.S. ignores the historical framework within which insurgencies take place, to appreciate the cultural and political factors of other nations and people, and to understand warfare beyond the limited confines of tactics and operations. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been ill-advised, but both were winnable with the right strategy. As for Libya, the United States and its allies lost by default when they walked off the playing field.” (Source: “Mansoor, Peter R (2016, March 10)” Why Can’t America Win Its Wars?” Hoover Institution)
Whatever be the reason it all boils down to leadership at the top. “The buck stops here.” It is time for America to learn from its past mistakes and make correct decisions in the future. Although times have changed, the David and Goliath story still holds true today.
After more than a year of quarantine, I am tired of my ascetic life. I don’t dress up. I don’t party. All I do is watch the grass grow from my window. A couple of months ago my wife told me, “Honey, there is a white dog walking in our front yard.” Today I corrected her that the dog she saw two months ago was actually brown not white. That’s the status of our relationship. We have been cooped up with each other for the longest time.
Like the spring after a long winter, my dear friend Rowdy called me this morning to invite me to celebrate his divorce from Coo Coo.
“Party now? Aren’t you afraid of COVID? I asked.
“Hey, Buddy! If not now then when? Folks our age don’t last very long. Come on, have some fun, man!” Rowdy replied.
That was quite enticing. It’s been more than a year since I attended a party, shook hands, combed hair, shaved, laughed and put a suit on. As a matter of fact, I have forgotten how to put a knot in my tie. I’ve completely forgotten what to do on such stellar occasions.
That being said, when I think about parties, it seems like they happened to someone else in another century. I remember how deeply in love Rowdy and Coo Coo were. They had invited us for their engagement but decided to marry each other instead. Unluckily, the twenty-four-seven cohabitation due to COVID made them tired of each other. I don’t want that to happen to us, so I accepted Rowdy’s invitation for the greater good of humanity.
I am not happy the pandemic is lasting this long, but it doesn’t seem fair that people get constrained by COVID and miss such momentous occasions as a divorce. After all, divorces don’t happen every day. Most of us go through divorces only once or maybe twice during our lifetime.
I never thought the comment “I wouldn’t touch them with a six-foot pole” would become a national policy, but here we are! I know now why did the chicken cross the road? Because the chicken behind it didn’t know how to socially distance properly. For me “weather today” has become the room temperature inside my house. I really want to go out and experience how the weather used to be outside.
People have been reported to organize parties pretending to be aliens and zombies. There are no laws stopping them from having parties yet. A group of merry-makers was caught carrying fake vaccination cards then thumbing nose at police when they arrived.
I am tired of attending Zoom chats and being called a Zoomer. I need to press some flesh. “I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me like a rhinestone cowboy” (Glen Campbell). I am going to the party tonight.
Democracy can only survive while it has strong opposition. Many of us seem to have forgotten this concept since the last U.S election was held in November 2020.
“No government can be long secure without a formidable opposition” (Benjamin Disraeli).
We know enough about a one-party rule in countries like China, North Korea, and Vietnam to understand the perils of living in such a society. The leaders of the party in those countries abuse the power of office without a check. There is a saying,
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton).
People with opposing voices in those countries are punished or treated as pariahs. In my view, that’s not the way democracies ought to operate. We have seen examples of this in Nazi Germany when Hitler, without effective opposition, displayed signs of fascism.
Countries with healthy democracies such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, India, South Korea, Australia, and Canada have strong opposition parties or a two-party system, at least. Since its inception, democracy in the United States has thrived on this principle. The two-party system has permitted wider and more diverse viewpoints in government and has encouraged dominant parties to make deals with weaker parties to form winning coalitions. The first two-party system consisting of the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party took effect in 1789. Since the 1850s, there have been two major parties in the U.S., the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party.
I have voted for both the Democrats and the Republicans in the past, but now I am afraid to do so lest I should be deemed as a reactionary or undesirable by my own folks and friends. That’s the way things are today. There are dangerous signs to indicate that the United States is moving towards a one-party nation run by the Democrats alone. The Democrats are branding all Republicans as racists, insurgents, and dividers. They have a serious plan to eradicate Republicans from the Red states by opening the border and settling the migrants (who traditionally vote for the Democrats) there. The coastal states with the exception of Florida and the Carolinas are already one-party states. In order to achieve the goal, the Democrats are planning to get rid of the electoral college; legislative filibuster — eliminating the Senate minority’s ability to delay or block legislation and they want to pack the court to make the conservative judges voiceless. They also want to make the District of Columbia a state, creating two more safe Democratic Senate seats. They could also admit Puerto Rico, adding two more seats. This would make it nearly impossible for the Republicans to regain the majority.
There was a time when both the Democrats and the Republicans worked towards the betterment of the country despite differences of principles and opinions. No one tried to eliminate the other. Harry S Truman was faced with an open Supreme Court seat in 1945. While naming a Democrat to the seat likely would have been approved, Truman broke with his party and instead chose Republican Ohio Sen. Harold Burton for the Court .
The vision of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Great Society program was one of the most ambitious agendas in American history. Congress answered the president’s call to action and enacted, with some adjustments, many of Johnson’s recommendations.
When the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1, into space on October 4, 1957, the U.S. found itself with only a fledgling space program. President Dwight D. Eisenhower took immediate action with bipartisanship support. As a result, NASA was conceived.
Republican President George W. Bush, following up on campaign promise, introduced a blueprint of “No Child Left Behind” to Congress. This was supported by Republican Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Judd Gregg and Democrat Rep. George Miller. Sen. Edward Kennedy, one of the most outspoken critics of the president, lent his name to the bill.
President Obama extended the Bush-era tax cuts to promote bipartisanship. While Obama did not agree to all aspects of the deal, he described it as “a package that will protect the middle class, grow our economy, and create jobs for the American people”(Bipartisan Policy Center).
Now things are different. The Democratic party, in unison with business oligarchs and the Hollywood crowd, is marching to a different beat. If you wrote a book stating that homosexuality was more a result of nurture than nature or questioned the working of Planned Parenthood, you’d not be published. On top of that, social media would ban you for life and the employers would blacklist you. If you planned to give a conservative talk in a university or a public library, you would be shouted down and banned for life. Disagree? Try once.
Should Facebook be reading this article, I may be banned for life. If that happened, “hey nice to know ya!”
Kate Andersen Brower chronicles relationships, laden with anecdotes, between the past living presidents in her book, “The Team of Five. – The President’s Club in the Age of Trump” (George H W Bush passed away after her book was published).According to Brower, there are nine unwritten rules that every past president should adhere to. Those rules are 1 Honor a shared history. 2.Respect the office and one another 3. Avoid criticizing the sitting president at all costs. 4.Don’t be too proud to ask for help. 5. Unite in tragedy. 6. Come together for celebrations. 7.Treasure the most perfect house in the United States. 8. Give back.9. Family comes first
The most intriguing part of the book, in my opinion, is the unprecedented friendships between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. The former first lady Barbara Bush even called them “the odd couple.” The next most interesting relationship, as described in this book, is between George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also developed a loving relationship in large part because of George H W. Bush. George W Bush’s transfer of power to Obama is considered the smoothest in the history of the presidential transition. In all, Bush 41 and Bush 43 are the only presidents mentioned in this book who followed the unwritten rules mentioned above.
Brower, a CNN contributor is especially harsh on Trump. She writes, “Trump once desperately wanted to earn the approval of his predecessors. He has since disparaged all the former living presidents and seems unconcerned that he will be an outcast from the President’s Club.”
Brower also tells amusing stories about the First Ladies and their relationship with each other. She describes Laura Bush as the most amicable among the First Ladies. She observes that Michelle Obama and George W Bush have become the best of friends. Hillary Clinton and Pat Nixon had to face the most onerous task of supporting their husbands despite their (husbands’) follies.All the former presidents have difficulties adjusting to civilian life after being the most important person in the world. Jimmy Carter didn’t have enough money to repair his farmhouse in Georgia. He repaired his house with his own hands to save money. Ultimately, he wrote novels to sustain himself and his farm. Other recent presidents have become extremely rich by writing memoirs and by charging huge amounts for their speeches. Bill Clinton charges between $250,000 to a million dollars per appearance, so do George W Bush and Barack Obama.
If you are not in the mood for critical reading, “Team of Five” is my recommendation to you. It’s a perfect book to bring along on vacation as a pastime. -Reviewed by Musafir
There are different ways to terrorize the populace. One way is taking up arms against a section of the citizens another is to use one’s power and influence to shut their voices off. The far-left has been using the latter tactic for decades. However, this has become very apparent and open now.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal on February 22, 2021, two Democratic Members of Congress, Anna G. Eshoo and Jerry McNerney sent a letter to Mr. John T. Stankey, CEO AT&T, Inc asking him, “Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN on U-verse, DirecTV, and AT&T TV both now and beyond any contract renewal date? If so, why?” If that is not intimidating and dangerous to a free society then what could that be? Another incident cited in The Wall Street Journal was Amazon’s purge of Ryan Anderson’s book, “When Harry Became Sally” because the book criticizes recent progressive ideas about gender-change procedures in children.
Folks in such positions of authority are displaying gunslinger attitudes to vent their political or societal expressions, thereby fueling dangerous passions. The left-leaning social media platforms are more powerful and dangerous than our agenda-driven Senators and Members of Congress in Washington. Consider this, Twitter in 2020 averaged around 6,000 tweets per second, 500 million per day, and an estimated 200 billion tweets in the full year! Twitter banned the sitting President of the United States with 88 million followers for his provocative remarks. Other prominent conservatives who were banned are Alex Jones, Dan Bongino (conservative political commentator), Sydney Powell (pro-Trump lawyer), Ben Garrison (conservative cartoonist), Kangana Ranaut (conservative Indian actress), The Daily Citizen (fundamentalist Christian newspaper), Jim Hoft (editor of a conservative news site), Wayne Allyn Root (conservative activist) and many many more. No such actions were ever taken to punish provocateurs of the radical left. What about Twitter’s stated objective of ‘a free and global conversation?’ What about the First Amendment – the freedom of speech?
These actions have since raised further questions about biases, double-standards, and lack of accountability. The following tweet from Antifa was acceptable to Twitter:@ANTIFA_US “Tonight’s the night, Comrades,” with a brown raised fist emoji and “Tonight we say ‘F— The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours …”Here is a statement by Representative Maxine Waters: “Already, you have members of your Cabinet that have been booed out of restaurants, who have protesters taking up at their house who sang, ‘No peace, no sleep. No peace, no sleep.’… so let’s stay the course. Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere …” To clarify, I am neither a rightist nor a leftist, but I feel that any provocation coming from either group is equally dangerous to our democratic system.
That reminds me of a fable I read in my childhood: A frog came out of a well and invited a snake to come inside the well where the snake could eat other frogs. They both became friends. After eating up all the frogs in the well, the snake wanted to eat his friend. The frog reminded him of their friendship. Thereupon the snake remarked, “You are a fool and a fool cannot be my friend.”
Moral of the story: recognize the present and imminent danger now so that we do not repent later.
It has been more than a week since I wrote any featured article. Usually, I write at least one new post every week. I have been following this routine for years. Suddenly, I just didn’t feel like writing anything. Then I realized something before giving up. I needed to use some grit. My mind suggested to me that I’d feel good if I wrote something. That way, I’d accomplish something. I got reminded of my favorite Waldo Emerson’s quote, “The reward of a thing well done is having done it.”
I feel that life needs a reality check. It is easy to fall prey to our wanton desires. It needs firmness of character to get over dormancy resulting from frustration. In fact, life is certainly getting better day by day. We don’t have to hunt for food nor do we have to build our own hut. One of our biggest inconveniences today is, probably, forgetting the phone charger. Sorry, I went back to the Neolithic age. Someone posted a list of interesting inconveniences on WhatsApp that our generation faced while growing up. We took rides in bull carts; studied under kerosine lanterns; chatted through snail mail and grew up without TV, air-conditioner, heater, and personal computers. How could I forget all that? Isn’t life good now?
So, what should we do the next time we feel like giving up? We may slow down for a while but must show up. “Showing up is half the battle.” The best of all, according to the Hindu tenet, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions” (The Bhagwat Gita, Chapter 2, verse:47).
Dusty decided to play a low-stake game with his friends and neighbors about Mr. and Mrs. Disaster’s hopeless marriage. The expectation was that they’d (the Disasters) walk to the divorce court in less than a month. Most of Dusty’s friends betted against their marriage. Only a few betted otherwise. They called this a “Short Squeeze.”It was obvious that things were not that great in the Disaster household. the shouts coming from their apartment could be heard by other dwellers too. Screams like, “You stupid! You again squeezed the toothpaste in the middle. How many times should I remind you that it should be squeezed at the bottom? Stupid! Stupid!! Stupid!!!”The other day, the neighbors heard Mrs. Disaster yelling: “Why are you wearing a sweater in the middle of summer?”Mr. Disaster: “Oh, that’s right, because you’re living in an igloo. Any hotter than 60 degrees and you complain ‘it’s so sweaty’. Shape up or shut up!”Mrs. Disaster: “Stupid! Stupid!! Stupid!!!Over the past year, all the apartment dwellers were confined to their homes due to COVID-19 and were utterly bored. Abetting on the Disasters was a good way for them to spend their time and money. To cut a long story short, they formed this new betting group and called themselves “Short,” just for fun. Some sarcastically called them “Hedge Fund Managers’”Most of the Shots betted for the Disasters’ separation or divorce as it was very obvious that their marriage was about to end. Suddenly, an outsider entered the fray. He wagered that the Disasters would keep their marriage. The Shorts named him “Robin Hood.” Robin Hood planned to borrow the fund from “Shorts” for his bet with a promise that he’d return their money once the bet was settled. The “Shorts” gladly lent money to Robin Hood as it was obvious to them that the latter was going to lose big. They called Robin Hood’s move a “squeeze.” This brought even more players into the game. The pot ultimately grew to more than a million dollars.At the end of the month, the Shorts were shocked to know that the Disasters were going on another honeymoon instead of going to the divorce court. Robin Hood walked away with everybody’s money. People kept on wondering who was Robin Hood? They think that he was an agent of the Disasters. They had formed an alliance to mulct the “Shorts” of their money and ruin the big guys. Was that just a rumor or was that true? Wanna bet?
Traditionally, the U.S. TV news channels do not cover any good news about India, nevertheless, it is very important to be aware of what’s happening in the world’s largest democracy.
The first and foremost story is India launching the world’s largest vaccination campaign. India kicked off its nationwide vaccination drive this month (January 2021) and it plans to immunize 300 million people this winter. India, UK and USA are the first countries to develop COVID vaccines indigenously. India’s Bharat Biotech (a pharmaceutical company) developed and produced Covaxin, a treatment for COVId-19 in January 2021. Other than developing and producing Covaxin, India is also the hub for manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the UK and distributed in India as Covishield. The Serum Institute of India (manufacturer of Covishield) plans to manufacture and distribute at least 1 billion Covishield doses worldwide in the near future.
What makes India a global leader is that besides vaccinating its own people, it is giving away millions of vaccines to its neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. As I am writing this article, India has begun shipping Covid-19 vaccines to Brazil, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. Here are a few excerpts on this topic:
“Since Wednesday, the Indian government has sent free doses to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives — more than 3.2 million in total. Donations to Mauritius, Myanmar, and Seychelles are set to follow. Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are next on the list.” (Washington Post).
“India is a vaccine powerhouse: it makes 60% of the world’s vaccines and is home to half a dozen major manufacturers.” (BBC).
On another topic, India took a major step regarding clean energy. This too was completely ignored by U.S. news channels. Mr. Modi, the prime minister of India inaugurated the world’s largest solar and wind energy park in the Gujarat state of India near the Indo-Pak border with a capacity of 30,000 megawatts (MW). Just to understand the magnitude of energy production, the top 8 power generating plants in the U.S have a combined capacity of producing 32,000 megawatts of electricity. India’s energy park will be spread over 281 square miles which is equivalent to the areas of metro Philadelphia and Atlanta rolled in one.
Another news that was absent from the U.S. sources relates to bullet train initiatives started by India last week. India announced the construction of an ambitious high-speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad connecting with other major industrial towns such as Surat. The train will be similar to the Tokaido-Shinkansen high-speed line in Japan. The proposed railway line will go through sea tunnels and elevated tracks. Five more such corridors are planned to connect other metropolitan areas of India.
Despite all those significant events happening in India, the only news about India was covered by CBS television network last week that reported, “A fire broke out Thursday afternoon in a building still under construction on the 100-acre site in the southwest city of Pune.”
This is nothing new. The TV news channels have always ignored India. There are reasons why the Western media only covers violence, poverty and social discontent, and other half-truths about India. The first and foremost reason is hatred towards Hinduism. India is still a majority Hindu country. Hinduism is a non-Abrahamic religion; thus, the Hindus are considered pagans. The Christian missionaries and Muslim fundamentalists want to transform India into a Christian and Muslim majority country.
They want to project India as the land of elephants, naked fakirs, and snake charmers where people are routinely butchered and women raped. Ironically, most of these negative articles are written by Indian journalists who are hired by Western media to give their reporting an authentic look. These western-educated journalists often write negative columns and reports on behalf of western media. Let me expose some of them here. They are Vindu Goel of The New York Times, Vibhuti Agarwal and Rajesh Roy of The Wall Street Journal, Aatish Taseer of Time (Magazine) and Naga Munchetty of BBC to name a few. They all start with confirmation bias which is starting with false premises and then reaching a conclusion about those premises.
Another reason to portray India in a negative light is jealousy. The West wants to ensure that any ruling government anywhere outside the west looks as weak as possible. Alternatively, they want to prevent the rise of any developing country that can challenge their superiority. During the insurrection on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC, the U.S. media kept on repeating that the U.S.A was the only country that believed in a peaceful transfer of power. They undermined India there also.
The negativity about India has increased since Mr. Modi’s party, BJP assumed power in India. The Modi government and the BJP are staunch nationalists. This is terrifying to the west because they feel that the BJP could easily position itself against western political and economic interests. This is why Reuters, BBC, NYT, WAPO, CNN, etc. routinely attack the ruling government and act as a front for the opposition parties. This is why the once inept nobodies like Arundhati Roy, John Dayal, Kancha Ilaiah, and Farid Zakaria have become celebrities in the western world. This is why Kashmir isn’t on the Indian map on western news channels. This is why Hinduism is portrayed as primitive and violent. This is why women are viewed unsafe in India. This is why the “Make in India” scheme is repeatedly undermined.