Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Senate Should Ratify The Indo-US Nuclear Treaty

The Indo-US nuclear treaty has many enemies, and now you can include the New York Times in it. In an op-ed piece, today's NY Times declares that the India-US nuclear treaty is a "bad idea" that senate should reject.

On the surface this seems like the logical thing to say. After all, the Indians have not agreed to any of the conditions imposed by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty on nuclear nations. But strategically, this is short sighted and misses a very important detail - India is the last bastion of democracy in a region plagued with violent undemocratic regimes.

Opposition to the Indo-US nuclear treaty comes from many sides, some ideological, some political. But there are very strong strategic arguments for supporting India.
  • The nuclear non-proliferation treaty has more or less outlived its usefulness. The fact that India has gained its nuclear capabilities outside of NPT demonstrates that NPT is no longer a useful instrument. World should acknowledge Indian for what it is, a nuclear nation and should include it as such in the "nuclear club"

  • India is the largest democracy in the world that has demonstrated resilience over the last 60 years in a region full of turmoil. The Indian electorate has time and again shown that it knows how to govern itself. And the Indian Armed Forces have demonstrated maturity and established that it is a very strong institution that knows its roles and responsibilities. This means that unlike other failed states in the region, the State of India can be trusted to fulfill its obligations - including the pledge to use nuclear power for peaceful, energy needs

  • As a rapidly developing nation, India has growing energy needs. If these needs are not met, growth in India would stall resulting in political upheaval. Such political upheaval typically favors nationalistic elements which tends to have jingoistic attitudes (recall that the last nuclear test conducted in India was conducted by a nationalistic Hindu government). The best way to prevent nationalistic fervor in India is to keep the youth busy and provide them growth opportunities. This nuclear treaty will help India maintain and perhaps even accelerate its growth rate creating millions of jobs and increasing prosperity - two main elements of keeping nationalism in check.

  • India is in a very rough neighborhood. Surrounded by two nuclear powers, China in North East and Pakistan in the North West, India needs the nuclear deterrent capabilities to safe guard its strategic interests. On the other hand, the West needs a nuclear India too to keep both China and Pakistan at bay. Taking away India's right to conduct nuclear test essentially would mean de-fanging of the Indian nuclear program and thereby enabling rogue elements within China and Pakistan a free hand in the region. If India is to act as a "check" on hegemonic ambitions of China, or "talibanization" of Pakistan, India needs to have nuclear capability.

  • And last, but not least, is the moral argument. In the past US has paid lip service to promoting and supporting democratic nations. This is the first time that a US administration has put its prestige on line to support what is truly a strategic initiative in favor of a democratic nation. For that alone the Bush administration has to be praised and this Indo-US nuclear treaty ought to be supported.

The consternation and hand wringing by opponents of Indo-US nuclear treaty is understandable. The fact that there is a need to sign this treaty indicates that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the cozy arrangement within the nuclear group has outlived its usefulness. A nuclear non-proliferation treaty that does not acknowledge the nuclear (energy) needs of a growing democratic nation with key strategic needs is worth an overhaul. Signing of the Indo-US nuclear treaty is nothing but a mere acknowledgment of the fact that India has matured as a nuclear nation and deserves to have access to nuclear technology and fission material like the other nations in the nuclear club.

The strategic implications of such an action are huge - mostly on the positive side. Senate should listen to the administration and pass the bill immediately. Should the Senate pass the bill, this event will be recorded by history as a watershed event on the same grand scale as the event of the sixties that led to opening of China.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Focus on Palin will destroy the Democrats chances of winning 2008 elections

David Brooks, the card carrying republican who shows up weekly with Mark Shields to debate the current issues on News Hour with Jim Lehrer, is one of my favorite political pundits. I like Brooks because he makes me think with his shrewd and often cunning arguments, argument which might seem to attract you but like the candle light attracting the moth, could end up hurting you. In this article in New York Times, Brooks quotes why he thinks Sarah Palin is wrong for US. Here is a quote from that article...
What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

He goes on to say...
Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

Democrats, and Libertarians who are afraid of Sarah Palin Vice-Presidency (or some would say Presidency), should read David's op-ed carefully. I agree with Brooks' argument that Palin is indeed less than qualified for the office because she lacks the requisite experience or prudence. The problem is, out of all the outstanding candidates presented to them, the Democrats of United States have selected Obama as their standard bearer, Obama who could just as easily be criticized for lack of prudence born out of experience. If one were to follow Brooks' line of reasoning, one would conclude that Obama is equally unqualified for the office of Presidency. For all its merits, Brooks argument carefully lays a trap for the Democrats that one needs to be wary of.

Despite the emotional urge to castigate Palin, railling against Palin is absolutely the wrong strategy for the democrats, a strategy that will only help Democrats loose the election. This election is not about Palin, but about the sorry state of the US economy, the war that is draining the country of precious resources, our children whose futures are being held to ransom by ideological motivations, the state of US manufacturing which seems to have reached its nadir with the US auto industry on its knees, the state of US competitiveness in service industry where high value added industry is being moved abroad in the name of efficiency. With so many issues, and with an abysmal record of Republican governance of last seven years, to focus on Palin is to take the eye off the ball.

Palin is the Republican choice for VP and she is here to stay. To attack her today is to make her into tomorrow's story. The winning strategy for Democrats is to focus on the economy and the last seven years record of Republicans, and not to focus on Palin and her record as the Mayor of Wasilla.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blurb Discount Code

As I was posting the earlier post on Suchitra's wedding, I remembered that Blurb was offering a discount on printing books in September. Digging through the mail archives, I found this coupon for $15 off...

Use coupon code: encore

Some rules, use the coupon before Sept 30, 2008, and use it at the time of check out.


Words of wisdom

© Sunil Joshi, 2008. From Blogger Pictures

Overheard in a conversation between Jaya and Priya during a play date....
Jaya: You know, we should practice and practice. Because practice makes perfect.
Priya: Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes gradual improvements.

What??? I am still picking up pieces of my jaw from the floor!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Suchitra and Kapil's Wedding

Kapil filling Suchitra's maang as a part of the wedding ceremony. From From: Suchitra's Wedding, © Sunil Joshi

Our dear friend Suchitra got married to Kapil in a Hindu religious ceremony at Durga Mandir on Sunday September 7th. It was a beautiful autumn day with clear skies and golden sunshine. Being held outdoors, I was able to capture the mood of the event even inside the tent without need for any artificial light, although the "real" pro-photographer hired for the day was using flash extensively. In order to get out of the professional photographer's way I used a 80-200mm telephoto lens on Nikon D70. Tell me if you find these pictures fascinating.

Indian weddings are a family affair with every body jumping into the Mandap from time to time!
From Suchitra's Wedding, © Sunil Joshi

Our congratulations to Kapil and Suchitra, with best wishes for a very happy married life.

The Hindu rites are equall opportunity. For instance, in the phere ceremony, wife leads the husband through a few and the husband leads the wife in a few phere. And then there are other rites that are performed jointly, as seen here. From Suchitra's Wedding, © Sunil Joshi

Wedding photography is a lot of fun as I learned this weekend, but it is also a lot of work. Next step, I want to compile these into an album for the couple using either Apple's system or perhaps Blurb. Blurb has worked well for me in the past. I'll post an update on how it works for this project.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Photographing a birthday party - tips for parents

I have a six year old, so most of my weekends are spent going to birthday parties. Although I have never been formally asked to take pictures, being interested in taking pictures I always lug my camera with me and start shooting as soon as I get there. Lately I have been reviewing some of the old birthday photographs, and going through them brought some ideas to mind which might be useful to you in future. These suggestions are good not only for birthday parties, but for any large events involving a lot of people.
This kind of photograph of Dad and his daughter is not possible if Dad is the main camera man at the birthday party! From Jaya's Birthday 5/24/08 4:37 AM

  • If its your son or daughters birthday, then let some one else take the pictures. Otherwise you will be out of most of the pictures!! I know this because the above photograph is actually an exception. I am in very few of my daughters birthday photographs from last six years as I have been the main photographer for most of them!!

  • Have two cameras ready instead of one. Cameras are extremely cheap and you can get a decent camera around $100. Buy a couple for use at such events. Having two cameras instead of one gives you the opportunity to cover all aspects of the event.

  • If you have a friend who has an expensive digital SLR, ask them to photograph the event. Most amateur photographers would love to use the opportunity to polish their skills, as well as show off their talent.

  • Work with the photographer to have some memorable shots. This means, you need to be patient (and ask the vendor who is organizing the party for you to cooperate) to get some great shots of blowing the candles, cake with the child in the background, a family portrait. These shots take time to set up so don't be in a hurry to get through the event, and prepare to the child before hand to pose for these shots.

Shots like this one from a holi function, require focus of a dedicated photographer which as the organizer of the function you may not be able to do. From Jaya

  • Plan for the event. You are organizing the event so you know who is invited, where the event will be held, what kinds of pictures are possible. So discuss what you would like to see in the pictures with the photographers so that those events are captured. For instance, we don't want both the photographers on one side of the table during the cake cutting ceremony. Discuss such details with the photographers

  • Location: If the birthday is being held indoors, ask the photographers to take some photos outside. This will require some prep on your part - you will need to scout for a out door location close by where the birthday party will be held.

A photograph like this requires advance planning about the position of the child and the candle, available light, appropriate shutter speed and aperture etc, and cannot be rushed through quickly. From Blogger Pictures

  • Other than the birthday party itself, the day presents with many great opportunities to take pictures in which the parent can participate. For instance, I often start taking pictures of my daughter while she is still asleep, when she wakes up, while she is getting ready for the party, and of course, opening of the presents. These are great opportunities to take pictures with other family members - mother-daughter shot, grandparent-grand-child shots etc

  • The night before the event be sure to check that the camera batteries are charged, the camera card is empty and the external flash (if any) has the requisite number of batteries. In my house my flash is often raided for rechargeable batteries for use in my daughters multitude of toys, and if I don't think of this before it takes hours to find the right number of charged batteries! Nothing works better as kindling for a family fight than realizing that the camera and flash cannot be used at the event for lack of batteries!
  • Finally, take a LOT of pictures. If your camera card(s) can support it, take at least 500 pictures during the entire day. Chances are most photographs will be mediocre, but with 500 shots to choose from you will surely get about 40-50 really great shots which can be kept for posterity.

We all know that birthday events can be a chore, but for parents who are trying to juggle so many balls during that day the birthday event becomes a hectic, stressful, and unenjoyable event. But a little planning on your part can ensure that not only will you enjoy the event, but you will also have great photographic memories of the event to be remembered in the future.

Monday, September 01, 2008