Archive for the 'Politics & Policy' Category



America Dreaming Small

american dream

What’s in it for me?

That’s the way Americans debate health care, just as it is the way we debate everything these days. What will it cost me? What will be my options? What will be the effect on my taxes? This is not an entirely absurd or venal approach. Self-interest is an appropriate prism through which to evaluate public policy. But this narrowness and solipsism illustrates the way in which America has personalized, and thereby stunted, what used to be called the American Dream.

The American Dream represented the idea that the United States was a place where any person could accede to whatever life their talent, ambition, and diligence would allow. It was about universal, common opportunity. Today, it is about my opportunities. It is the notion that I can succeed, I can acquire; and it’s every dog for themselves.

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A Sad Day for Puducherry

Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Govind Singh Gurjar

Puducherry’s wonderful Lieutenant Governor, Govind Singh Gurjar, died yesterday of a heart attack. This is a tragic day. To understand just how awful — in its civic dimension, and not just on a personal level — consider how impossibly rare it is for an Indian politician to be plausibly garlanded with the epithet “wonderful”.

In a system where corruption, narcissism, laziness, ignorance, and incompetence are the sine qua non of political life, Govind Singh Gurjar was an astonishment: a politician whose greatest joy seemed to be doing well for the people in whose trust he served. He worked tirelessly to understand the nuance and complexity of the issues before him and, having decided on a course of action, would set the machinery of his administration in motion without temporizing. In the venal cesspool of Pondicherry government, the LG had but one aim: to help the Union Territory fulfill its obvious, abundant promise. Sadly, he leaves us at a time when that objective looks to be effectively, and perhaps irrevocably, snuffed by the greed and thoughtlessness of political-business-as-usual.

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Let Me Run This by My Accountant

The Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, His Excellency Govind SIngh Gurjar

I was among those invited last week to the Raj Nivas by the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, His Excellency Govind Singh Gurjar, to discuss new initiatives for creating environmentally sustainable growth in the Pondicherry region. After the meeting, the LG greeted me warmly and teased, “So, are you an Indian citizen yet?”

“Excellency,” I smiled, “I cannot begin to imagine the bureaucracy involved with attempting to become a citizen. I cannot even manage to get a PAN card issued so that I can pay my income taxes.”

“You don’t need a PAN card!” he lightly chided me. “I will give you my PAN card and you can pay my taxes.”

Accidental Environmentalism

Birds on Ousteri Lake

When the Government of Pondicherry takes decisive action in favor of environmental protection, one thing is for certain: there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Here is the astounding-but-true story of the designation of Ousteri Lake, Pondicherry’s largest water body, as an “Important Bird Sanctuary,” thereby providing a significant legal tool to stop the industrial development which is ravaging its watershed.

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One Fine Day

His Giggliness the Dalai LamaPresident Barack Obama

This blog is, just now, emerging from a lengthy vipassana (“Do not spit on the footpaths! – Be Happy!”), full of all that clear-headedness and deep insight that only silence can confer. Or that’s the hope — and the story.

If ever there was a day to shake me from my writing stupor – I mean, meditation – it was yesterday. I attended an address by His Giggliness the Dalai Lama in the afternoon and watched Barack Obama become President of the United States late at night. That’s a pretty heady one-two punch.

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America to Receive Adult Supervision at Long-Last

President-Elect Barack Obama

First Bank of India

Street Sweepers and Members of the First Bank of India

In India, state and local governments enjoy a time-honored system of balancing their financial books with easily available no-interest loans. Among the other favorable terms are indefinite payback periods, unlimited credit lines, and year-round availability. As you might expect, such easy credit is a godsend to financially strapped governments; and those which favor this bailout vehicle use it with annual regularity.

This arrangement is not, of course, particularly remunerative for the lender, First Bank of India. But then, First Bank of India doesn’t have the same political clout that most other financial institutions enjoy.

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The Story of Pondicherry’s Eroding Coastline in a Single Image

Erosion of the Pondicherry beach and coast caused by construction of the harbour

For two decades, the Government of Pondicherry has watched as the town’s beautiful sand beach disappeared and fishing villages fell into the sea. Not until Beach Road, the town’s famous promenade, began subsiding did the government take action — and, naturally, it took the wrong action.

Rather than breaking the harbour which is causing the erosion, the governement began an expensive and futile program of “fortifying” the shoreline with heavy boulders. This battle cannot be won with rocks. Indeed, hard-structures like seawalls and groynes exacerbate and accelerate the devastation. The erosive force of the sea can only be passified by the restoration of the sandy beach, the crucial buffer between sea and land.

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PondyCAN! Did!

Gingee Bazaar Architectural Rendering

Pondicherry Citizens Action Network (PondyCAN!) has a rather ambitious agenda: to effectuate long-range, integrated regional master planning which will preserve, restore, and enhance this once-beautiful, rapidly despoiled, utterly unique heritage town and its surrounding natural resources, and place them within a small-radius network of symbiotic economic hubs.

Some of our endeavors are far more modest, however. One recent effort involved dissuading the Pondicherry Municipality from constructing a massive concrete market block at the top of the central canal which divides the French and Tamil districts of the historic Boulevard Town.

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Sarah Palin, Energy Expert

Out of Oil

Is anyone else tired of the meme that Sarah Palin is an expert in energy matters? John McCain goes so far as to say, “She knows more about energy than probably anyone in the United States of America.” This is more than simply an absurdity; it is a dangerous idea.

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Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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