22 December 2006

Tying Up Loose Ends

I don't have anything new to write about today. I was just going through my old postings and saw that I have two corrections to make.

First is the one about Red/Blue states. Turns out my long thesis was unnecessary. I searched a little more and found a simpler and more direct explanation. All one has to do is look at the county-level (not state-level) electoral map. The picture is truly astounding - instead of Red or Blue states, what you have is a sea of Red and some Blue dots here and there! Those dots are, of course, the big cities of USA: New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. The 'Blue' states happen to be Blue because their big city population outnumbers that of the rest of the state. The 'Red' states are states in which this does not happen. For more details (and a passionate argument for liberal/urban politics) click here.

The other is the one about the India-US nuclear deal. I said,"The N-deal is as good as dead" when the Dems won the House and the Senate. Well, time for me to eat my words. The N-deal was passed on the Hill (with overwhelming bi-partisan support) and signed by Prez Bush into law, thank you very much. This subject received a lot of coverage in the Indian media, especially the Indian Express. I somehow never took much interest in it; I don't know why. How important is this deal for us really? What it basically means is that we'll now have fuel for our reactors from the US (and other countries in the NSG). Fine. But what percentage of India's energy needs can be met by nuclear power? I don't have any numbers, but I don't think it will be much. Nuclear energy will be just one of the many sources we have to tap if we want to satisfy our growing hunger for power.

19 December 2006

Man Of The Year

Time magazine has named its Person of the year for 2006. It's you. Yes, it's you, me and everybody else who's generating and consuming content on the Internet (I am including myself in the list by virtue of this blog, humble though the effort may be). The magazine argues that Web 2.0 is fundamentally changing our world in many ways, and that the common man is at the centre of this revolution.

Do I agree with this choice? I guess so. It is true that the Internet has grown and changed substantially over the last couple of years, affecting our lives in ways we take for granted. And the net is now truly democratic, putting power in the hands of the people - as against governments or corporates.

At the same time, I would argue that this is a convenient choice for the editors of Time. It suited their purpose to look at a 'trend' and name the person at the centre of this trend (in this case, you) as Person of the year. Why? Because if they had followed the usual, and expected, process of picking the man who had the most impact in the year (for better or worse) and who created the most news, then it would have been Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Don't agree? Tell me - which was the most happening part of the world this year? Which region was/is the most critical to the world (in key areas like energy and security)? West Asia, obviously. And which country dominated this region in 2006? Iran. Consider this:
1. Iraq's Shia-dominated government is supported by Iran. More importantly, Iran is also supporting the Shia insurgents, who (along with others) have brought the world's sole superpower to its knees.
2. Iran is supporting Hezbollah, who humbled the Israeli army (the most powerful one in the region) in the Lebanon war.
3. All efforts to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program have come to naught. Iran thumbed its nose at the US, the EU, the UN, the IAEA and got away with it. It might take them another 10-15 years, but they will get the bomb.
In sum, Iran is gradually emerging as the most powerful player in the region. It is also drawing a 'Shia crescent' (with Syria and Hezbollah) through the region, giving the jitters to not just Israel and US, but also the Arab/Sunni states.

And who was the man leading this 'rogue nation'? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. True, he is not the most powerful man in his country. That title belongs to the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei. Some say Ahmadinejad is just a front for the mullahs who rule Iran. Perhaps. But nobody will deny that, to the world, he is the face of his country. He has been in world headlines all this year with antics like denying the Holocaust and writing a letter to Bush (asking all Americans to convert to Islam, of course).

Not sure how the Americans would have taken it if an enemy of the US had been named as Person of the year. So Time decided to play it safe. This is the not the first time they have done so. The most infamous example was in 2001 when they named Rudolph Giuliani, instead of Osama bin Laden. If ever there was a slam dunk for Man of the year, this was the year, and this was the man. But political correctness triumphed over intellectual honesty.

PS: Ahmadinejad is a civil engineer (with a PhD). I tell you, we engineers rock! ;-)

05 December 2006

The New James Bond

Saw Casino Royale. Enjoyed it a lot. The media earlier focused too much on the new actor playing 007. Turns out that it wasn't only the actor that's new. Everything is different - the whole tone of the movie. It's more serious, more violent, darker and more intense. Suits me.

It was about time actually. The silliness of the older films (especially the Roger Moore ones) was becoming increasingly irrelevant. It was one thing to make fluffy spy movies during the Cold War (when the threat was distant) and quite another to continue with the same thing in this age of terrorism (when you can be blown up by a bomb anytime). This is the light in which the transformation should be seen, and not just in terms of box office appeal. (Most observers have only commented that the franchise had to become more contemporary, like the Jason Bourne movies - which have been more popular with the younger crowd)

The villain is a financier for terrorists across world. Tellingly, none of the terrorists shown are Muslims. So controversies are not created and box office collections are not affected. Africa is shown a couple of times. But I doubt if Africans are glad with this kind of exposure.

As for the man himself? Daniel Craig? How does he measure up? He's good. Fits the new version of Bond (actually it's the original version - the way Ian Fleming had created the character) like a glove. He's 38, though. Not sure how many Bond movies he has in him. But we'll enjoy it while it lasts...