Small town politics in the USA …

Coppell Parade

I wanted to write something about democracy the day after Independence Day in the US and what came to mind was a posting I made on Facebook a couple of months ago during local election season and the reaction that resulted from it – see the string in its entirety below (except for some expletive-laden comments by, strangely enough, a couple of women, which the moderator deleted).

To give this some context, one of my American friends recently remarked to me that small town elections here tend to be the nastiest since, unlike in State or National elections, the candidates are well-known to the populace and any criticism is taken personally.  Example: people can call Obama and Bush and kinds of names and attribute to them actions that they may or may not have been responsible for and it is highly unlikely anyone will even bat an eyelid, leave alone come after you in person.  But try the same about someone running for City Council or Mayor in a small town, and all hell could break loose!

Finally, I cannot conclude without commenting one aspect of elections – voter turnout.  A small town election, despite all the noise by rabid supporters on either side, could result in a turn out of less than 10% (and less than 5% for run-off elections).  This is not necessarily because the voters are apathetic to the process – in my opinion, it is just a message from the majority of the electorate that “life is pretty good  and we are pretty satisfied with the status-quo and we really don’t care who wins”.  So to get at least their base to turn out, politicians have to portray a situation which implies that if they are not elected, the sky will fall down and the world as we know it will come to an end – so they resort to a host of negative ads and messages that increases the nastiness – and possibly demotivates many who don’t think they have a dog in the fight to come out to the polls.


Given that every politician who gets elected at any level (from local to national) engages in questionable tactics (including the current Mayor in the last election), I find it somewhat hypocritical for people (especially politicians) to pile onto Burrows for his (supposed) fake endorsements. (I think it would have been smarter for him to claim that he was endorsed by George W. Bush, a fact which no one could have verified one way or another!).

Anyway, Burrows’ only prior claim to fame was that he ran against me for the President of Coppell Republican Club and lost last year. However, the exposure he is getting in this forum of over a 1000 people will probably turn him into a minor celebrity and he will get the name recognition that he was missing earlier. Imagine, if you knew neither candidate personally and you were standing in the election booth having to pick between Yingling (whose name sounds vaguely foreign) and Burrows (whose name sounds solidly American) which one would you pick? Just due to this xenophobia among a large section of our community (remember the fate of Akula and Guduru?), the supposed underdog might end up prevailing on election day.

Sometimes ignoring your unknown opponent might be a better tactic than trying to publicly tear him down ….

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  • Michelle LaFountain Be advised that Nancy Yingling is NOT tearing down her opponent. She has not said anything about his tactics, his letters, or his fake endorsements. 
    Those of us who are aware of his tactics, letters and fake endorsements are the ones making the voters aware of his deceit. Not Nancy. So do not say anything like that again unless you have proof of her saying such things (and I am quite certain you don’t). 

    AND enough already with the comments about her last name, the origins of her last name and the solidly American sound of the candidate who is practicing deceit. 

    Any comments that considered demeaning, racist, or untrue are grounds to be banned from this group. 
    This is your only warning.
  • Venky Venkatraman Michelle – I am one of those who has endorsed Nancy – I have not said that she is the one attacking Burrows – but others are. As far as being a “racist” is concerned – that is pretty laughable since I am a “foreigner” with a “weird” name myself – so your statement makes no sense. Either this is a forum where political posts are allowed or they are not. And if it is allowed, you cannot censor one side and promote the other. And when you allow political debate, you should expect that there will be some controversial postings.
  • Michelle LaFountain It appeared to me that your last statement “Sometimes ignoring your unknown opponent might be a better tactic than trying to publicly tear him down ….” sounds like you are saying that she is publicly trying to tear him down.
    May 9 at 2:24pm · Edited · Like · 1
  • Michelle LaFountain and we are not attacking Burrows, we are stating confirmed truths about his untruths. that is not an attack, it is stating truth.
  • Venky Venkatraman Being in touch with Nancy, I believe her approach has been to focus on her merits (which appear to be substantial) and indeed “ignore” the opponent. I know Burrows as well and I have no doubt what you are stating is the truth. My point is that it may be unnecessary or may be even counterproductive to do so.
  • Michelle LaFountain except for the voters who only have his infamous letter as their only information……
  • Venky Venkatraman Nobody takes those type of letters seriously – all such campaign letters go straight from my post box to the recycle bin.
    May 9 at 2:33pm · Edited · Like · 1
  • Michelle LaFountain You may not take his letters seriously, but low information voters who only know what someone sends them MAY believe it. Kind of like the commercial where the charming idiot says “they can’t put it on the Internet if it is not true”. 
    Out here
  • Venky Venkatraman You make a valid point. Sure both strategies (“ignore” or “fight back”) have their pros and cons and are situation dependent. I am just a commentator in this matter – not a strategy advisor for either side. Hopefully you can see the perspective I was coming from when I wrote this posting.
  • Scott Spray Venky, are you suggesting that Akula or Guduru lost because of their ethnicity? Seems that you are painting with a very broad brush and assuming if a minority candidate loses, those that voted for their opponents are xenophobes or racist. 

    That’s like the Obama supporters that claim those that oppose him or his policies are racist.
  • Venky Venkatraman Scott – good to hear from you after quite awhile – hope you are doing well. With respect to your comment, I never said that EVERYONE who did not vote them were racists (some might have just thought they were idiots!) but based on comments I heard from some that “if this Indian guy wins, we will move out of Coppell” suggests that there might be quite a few around. Given that a bunch of white people voted for me to serve as President of CRC last year, I can hardly say (nor would I ever suggest or imply) that everyone in Coppell is a racist. Right?
  • Amy Schuh Venky, if a voter makes charges of out-right lying, its not hypocrisy.
  • Scott Asplund Venky, if a voter makes charges of out-right lying, its not hypocrisy.
    Karen Selbo Hunt Mr. Venkatraman, 
    I normally do not post on Facebook. However, since you personally call me out AND did not agree to communicate in another way – I feel a need. 
    I know we have met, but I do not think you know me. I beg to differ in your assumption “Given that every politician who gets elected at any level (from local to national) engages in questionable tactics (including the current Mayor in the last election)”. 
    I believe there are good solid candidates and elected officials that refuse to engage in “questionable tactics”. They concentrate on their personal credentials and refuse to drop to negative campaigning. I am offended that you would make such a blanket statement and, specifically include me in that category.
  • Venky Venkatraman Karen – you sent an EMail via CRC asking for my EMail id – I responded via CRC that you were already connected to me on FB and could reach me, privately, via DIRECT MESSAGING (which is as good as EMail) – so your statement “did not agree to communicate in another way” is not true. With respect to including you in the “blanket statement” – that was based on the report during the last election that some illegal signs supporting you were put out on the night before the election (which was even reported in the local newspaper). And I know for a fact that your opponent (Marcia, I believe) who I met in person right after the election was pretty upset about it but told me that she did not want to dispute the results since she just wanted to move on. So although it appears you are doing a good job as the Mayor, you, unfortunately, cannot change facts from the past.
  • Karen Selbo Hunt Like I said….I do not “do” facebook
  • Venky Venkatraman OK – Karen – I guess you mean you will “post” on FB but do not “message” on FB – but since I really like you, I will EMail you with my phone number and you can either call or EMail and clarify this issue, if you desire.
  • Karen Selbo Hunt No one, including you, ever asked me about the origin of those signs ….but I had nothing to do with those signs. Do not know who put them out, whether the person or persons were “for me” or “against me trying to make a problem”. 
    I personally would have never endorsed or allowed those signs to be put out because the statement on the signs was not true. 
    Facts are facts….but half truths are still half true.
  • Venky Venkatraman I did not realize neither the Citizen’s Advocate or Marcia questioned you directly about the signs. I believe what you are stating now but by the same token, Burrows can claim that Matt, Bennett, Huffines and Bush all endorsed him but they appear to have “forgot” they did – so it is not his fault! Then may be we should just take his word as well and let him be?
  • Jennifer Jenkins Braafladt I have known Karen Selbo Hunt for 15 years and I believe that she is not only an amazing woman of character, but also a great example of an ethical politician.
  • Bennett Ratliff Venky, for the record, I have endorsed Nancy Yingling for City Council and I have NOT ever endorsed Mr. Burrows.  Do not imply or otherwise infer that I may have done otherwise.  Thank you.
    Venky Venkatraman Et tu, Bennett? Now if George W. Bush also clarifies/withdraws his endorsement, then Burrows will be really cooked!
  • Bennett Ratliff Venky, are you trying to imply that I may have “withdrawn” some prior endorsement that is patently untrue.  I have know and supposed Nancy Yingling since before she filed for office and any implication otherwise is not accurate.
    Venky Venkatraman Alright, Bennett, take it easy, that was in jest. I know for a fact that none of the mentioned individuals (including yourself) EVER endorsed him.
  • Venky Venkatraman The point of my post is that he appears to have little going for him and so he is doing what he needs to do try and win – otherwise why even bother to run. I hope this is the last word on this topic. Thanks!
  • Venky Venkatraman Interesting choice of words, Tara. I might need some guidance from the moderator on the use of expletives in this forum before I can respond to your colorful comment suitably.
  • Cherie Spears Walker This is most certainly NOT the last word on this subject, Venky Venkatraman. Having “little going for you” is no reason to dream up endorsements. I have two emails from Don Huffine’s office specifically stating that Thomas Burrows does not have his endorsement and had been advised/reminded of that fact. Do you not really know any of these people whom you are talking about? You surely don’t know our mayor or you would not be making such absurd statements and accusations.
    May 13 at 8:16pm · Edited · Like · 2
  • Venky Venkatraman Actually, I do know most of the people that I am talking about. I have had a private email exchange with Karen Selbo Hunt about my reference to her and so I am not revisiting that matter. Finally, the election is over and the fat lady has sung and the protagonists have long taken their signs and gone home – so I would think it is time for the rest of us to move on as well.
  • Venky Venkatraman I don’t know you and you don’t know me – so let’s not make this personal – thanks!

Problems with Subscribe2 resolved?

After my last posting ( I realized after several weeks that the notification EMail that usually gets sent whenever I have posted something new apparently went out to just a few of my subscribers.

Ever since then I have been trying to debug this problem with no luck.  Today I sent a Test EMail from my blog and several of you responded back confirming you got it.  So it appears that this problem may now be resolved.

So in case you did not receive a notification when I posted my last blog item (‘What’s in a name?”) and receive this one, I hope will read, and as usual, I welcome any comment.





What’s in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare.

So does it really matter that the names of large number of cities and states of India got changed?  This is a topic that I have felt strongly about ever since I was a kid.   And recently my long dormant feelings were reactivated while watching, of all things, CSPAN, where I heard Justice Antonin Scalia (of the US Supreme Court) flatly refusing to refer to Bombay as Mumbai (see video):

When I was growing up in what was then internationally known as “Bombay”, it already had different names in various regional languages of India.  It was called “Mumbai” by the Marati speaking (local) people, “Bumbuy” by Hindi speakers and “Bumbaai” by those speaking Tamil.

Since my parents had migrated from what was then “Madras” (now “Chennai”), technically, people of my ilk (Tamilians) were referred to as “outsiders” and not “sons of the soil” like the native Marati speakers called themselves.

The push to change the name formally from Bombay to Mumbai was also to signal to the “outsiders” that the city belonged to the “sons of the soil” and not to the “outsiders” – so the impetus for the name change was NOT to break-off from the British legacy (as sometimes wrongly portrayed by some).

Eventually, the “sons of the soil” prevailed in 1995 and the name of the city was formally changed to “Mumbai”.

And soon, like dominoes, “sons of the soil” in other cities swung into action – my parent’s city of origin changed from “Madras” to “Chennai”, my place of birth changed from “Calcutta” to “Kolkatta”, the city where I did my graduate education changed from “Bangalore” to “Bengaluru” and so on.  And numerous other cities and states changed names creating a geographical nightmare.

And the laughable part of all this was that aside from losing names that were known internationally for centuries, the new names could be exactly pronounced only by people familiar with the local language and their respective scripts (example Marati, Tamil and Bengali, in case of Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkatta respectively).

So coming back to William Shakespeare and paraphrasing, “A rose by any other name might become unpronounceable!

And in my opinion, Justice Scalia is justified in his insistence on using the original name for Bombay.  And I believe it comes from his conservative perspective (that I share), which is, why change something without any valid rationale to do so?

And why should this topic of  name changes in India be of any interest to my American readers?  Here’s why:

My current home state of Texas was once part of Mexico.  It is projected by the year 2030, Hispanics will become the majority in Texas.  And they might demand one day that names of cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, etc revert back to the “original” Spanish names.  And the name of the great state of Texas be changed back to Tejas!

And if these demands are acceded to, one fine day, international tourists when making travel plans, will be left scratching their heads as to what in the world happened to Dallas, Texas!  And that would be a real pity!!








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A Tribute to my Mother

Amma and me - baby picture


My mother took her last breath on this earth at 4:45 am on October 9, 2013, with me sitting by her side and holding her hand as she lay unconscious on her hospital bed.  In the background was softly playing the Hindu Mahamrityunjaya Mantra:


“OM. Tryambakam Yajamahe, Sugandhim Pushti-Vardhanam, Urvarukamiva Bandhanaan, Mrityor Mukshi Yamamritaat…” which roughly translates to “We Meditate on the Three-eyed reality Which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance.
May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality, Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.”

The doctor came in and pronounced her dead and although I knew the end was near even when I stepped onto the plane in Dallas, there was a moment of disbelief.  I was told when I reached Bombay that my mother was clinging on to her life just waiting for me to arrive.  When I reached the hospital, she was unconscious and breathing hard.  As I sat next to her and talked to her hoping that she was sensing my presence at some subconscious level, I was also hoping against hope that she would suddenly open her eyes and give me the special smile that she had for me, her oldest child.  But it was not to be and some 30 hours after I arrived, she left this earth without regaining consciousness.  I never left her side once she passed, staying at her bedside, in the hearse which took her home, during the ceremonies which followed, back into the hearse to the crematorium for more ceremonies till I finally lit the funeral pyre, gently pushed her body into the incinerator, collected her hot ashes with my bare hands about an hour later and then immersed them in the sea at 1:45 pm on the same day.

Now it is more than 2 months since her passing and I look back on her life and the special bond that we had from the beginning of my life to the end of hers.

My mother was married when she was only 17.  She used to tell me that she was a very smart student in school and wanted to be a doctor.  But in those days, girls were not expected to be too smart – just get married as soon as they were out of school and have a family.

I was born to my mother when she was just 18.  She used to tell me that I almost died at birth since my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and I choked to the point that I was blue when I was born.  So my survival was like a miracle to her.

And the strange part was that all my life whenever I looked at her, I could see the infinite love she had for the baby who almost never made it.  And from my side, as a child, my mother was this most beautiful person in the world, who could solve any problem that I brought to her, who was my biggest cheer-leader when I was succeeding at something and the person who would console me at times of loss and sorrow.

I realize now that almost everything I did was to try to impress her – and she used to be thrilled with whatever little thing I accomplished.  And she believed that I was smart enough to achieve anything I wanted in life – and she also knew all my weaknesses that held me back from reaching some of my goals.

Now that she is gone, even as a middle aged man, I feel orphaned.  But then I hear my mother’s voice talking to me, repeating what she has told me many times “You have always done your duty as my oldest son and unlike many other parents have about their children,  I have no disappointments at all with you.  So I will never be gone from your life.  Even if my body leaves this earth, my spirit will be always be around protecting and guiding you”.

And, come to think of it, from my side I have no regrets as well.  There was nothing left unsaid or any unfinished business between me and her.  She lived a good life and had a relatively painless passage out of this world (which is ultimately what is sought by reciting the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra).

So I will move forward full steam ahead with my life and ensure that all the efforts that my mother made in bringing me into this world and nurturing me during sickness and health shall not have been in vain.

Finally, when it is my time to kick the bucket, I will have no fear whatsoever, since I have no doubt she will be out there somewhere waiting to welcome me back in her arms once again!






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A Facebook dialog after the Newtown shooting

After the recent shooting at an Elementary school in Newtown, CT, I posted this question on Facebook:

 “Leaving aside the politics of gun control, 2nd Amendment rights, etc, why cannot a country which is in the forefront of all kinds of innovation in every field, swiftly find a way to permanently end, once and for all, the random killing of innocent people (most recently some 20 elementary school children in CT) by crazed individuals?”

This eventually resulted in an extended Facebook dialog between me and Boyd Hawkins (which I am posting in its entirety here).  Just as an introduction, Boyd and I serve on the Board of the Coppell Republican Club.  However, we have radically different backgrounds.  Boyd is white, Christian, gun owner who has been around guns since he was a kid and an ardent defender of the 2nd amendment and gun owner’s rights.  I am brown, Hindu, never handled a real gun in my life and a pragmatist (that is, a problem solver not bothered too much about any ideology).

Hope you find this dialog illuminating – and worth commenting about – your views (especially controversial ones) are welcome!

7 hours ago · 


  • This coincidentally happened also last Friday but in China – same scenario – evil, crazy nut attacks children in school – except nobody appears to have died because the weapon of choice was not an assault rifle. There are and always will be some crazy, lunatics in all countries and cultures – challenge is for the “sane” majority to finds ways to minimize the damage that the loons could potentially do.

    Knife attack at Chinese school wounds 22 children

    Twenty-two primary school children were wounded in a knife attack Friday in central China, authorities said.
    Like ·  ·  · Share
      Boyd Hawkins “The attack marks the latest in a series of violent assaults at elementary schools in China. In 2010, a total of 18 children were killed in four separate attacks. On March 23 of that year, Zheng Minsheng attacked children at an elementary school in Fujian Province, killing eight.

      One month later, just a few hours after Zheng Minsheng was executed for his crime, another man, Chen Kanbing wounded 16 students and a teacher in a knife attack at another primary school in Fujian. The following month, on May 12, a man named Wu Huangming killed seven children and two adults with a meat cleaver at a kindergarten in Shaanxi Province. That attack was followed by an August 4 assault by Fang Jiantang, who killed three children and one teacher with a knife at a kindergarten in Shandong Province.

      In 2011, a young girl and three adults were killed with an axe at an elementary school in Henan Province by a 30-year-old man named Wang Hongbin, and eight children were hurt in Shanghai after an employee at a child care center attacked them with a box cutter.”
      Venky Venkatraman Imagine if the assailants had assault rifles in each of the above scenarios – the damage would have been ten-fold. Conversely, if this pip squeak Adam Lanza had showed up in the school with a knife, he might have been easily over powered by the Principal, possibly aided by a strapping gym teacher, before he could even get close to the children.
      Boyd Hawkins If we eliminated Gun Free Zones and placed armed police in schools, or allow teachers / administrators to be armed as they do in Israel, maybe Lanza’s initial confrontation with the principal would of ended differently….or maybe the coward would of never entered the school.
      Venky Venkatraman Boyd – I had been a couple of times to Israel in 1996-97 and stayed for about a month each time – there were soldiers with guns all over the place (buses, hotels, airports, etc). Although I felt pretty safe there all the time (despite or because of there being visible guns everywhere), I was glad to be back in the US where things were “normal”. And I really don’t think Principals Pam Mitchell, Laura Springer or any of their staff could actually confront and kill a crazy, armed, 20 year old “kid”, whatever training they are provided. So we might end up having a Govt agency like the TSA maintaining security in all schools. Do we really want to have that?!
      Boyd Hawkins When I was a kid, I was around guns all the time … it was “normal”. There were always guns in the gun rack in the back window of the truck or behind / under the seat. There was never a sense of concern because of people had a respect for the power of guns…. Safety, respect and an understanding of proper gun use was always present around guns. When you traveled to Israel, you felt safe because you knew that the soldiers were there for your protection and not to harm you. If you had been traveling through Afghanistan and came across a group of armed soldiers, would you of had the same sense of safety? Its the culture that is the difference. You are probably right about the school administrators you reference, but I would be willing to bet that there are teachers / administrators who would be willing to take on the responsibility and get properly trained / certified. I do not like the idea of needing armed guards at schools either, but we have allowed our culture to deteriorate and are confronted with that reality. Any gun restrictions are only going to effect law abiding citizens….someone who is willing to shoot up a school will not be deterred by gun laws … they are more likely to be emboldened by them.
      Boyd Hawkins Have you seen this clip of Eric Holder from 1995? The same Eric Holder behind Fast and Furious. I think I will heed Thomas Jefferson’s advice here … “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain…See More has uncovered video from 1995 of then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder an

      nouncing a public campaign to “really brainwash people into thinking about gu…
      Venky Venkatraman Looks like only the two of us are shooting it out on this topic at OK Corral, Boyd (while our other Republican buddies appear to be cowering in some corner). Thanks for educating me regarding how common guns were when you were growing up – that fits with the image of the rugged American individualism that we imagined existed in America while growing up in India. What I would be curious about would be to learn what prevented you or your brother or father from grabbing a gun off the truck and killing one another when one of you were upset about something. My brothers and I used to fight a lot and sometimes were “killing” each other with toy guns when growing up and if there was a real gun around, one of us probably would not have made it past childhood. I assume that no one was going around shooting up children in schools when you were growing up. As you have correctly pointed out, the culture clearly has changed since when you were young and things unimaginable then are now happening. All I am saying is that if we make it our highest priority that never again will we allow a deranged, gun toting person from ever massacring innocent children, then we should leave no option off the table – one of them being making it impossible for disturbed individuals to own guns – even if in doing so, we may it somewhat more onerous for law abiding individuals from getting guns suitable for protecting themselves.
      Boyd Hawkins What kept us from killing each other?… that is easy…the underlying value system that was within the fabric of society. Our Christian upbringing taught us to value and respect life. This was supported / reinforced by society and even schools at the time. We certainly fought and misbehaved, but there were clear lines and consequences when those lines were crossed. … Venky, where you are going wrong is even having the notion that it is possible to “never again will we allow a deranged, gun toting person from ever massacring innocent children…” Human nature is not possible to control. How did the Soviet’s “New Man” and the Nazis perfection of the “Aryan Race” work out? All we can do is set up agents of deterrent (responsible armed citizens) and severe consequences for such behaviors. Restricting law abiding individuals will only put those same law abiding citizens at more risk.
      Venky Venkatraman Boyd – this is turning out to be a really illuminating exchange – I hope others of various political persuasions and views read this – with respect to your statement “Venky, where you are going wrong is even having the notion that it is possible to “never again will we allow a deranged, gun toting person from ever massacring innocent children…” Human nature is not possible to control.”…………. What I am saying is that we need to set that as an aspirational goal. For example “We will never allow a commercial airline to crash again” – see how close we have come to perfection that nowadays we we do not even consider the possibility of a plane crashing when we take a flight. Or after 9/11 – “we will never again allow anyone to hijack a plane in the US” – and we have been completely successful in that endeavor that we do not even worry about a hijacking while boarding a flight. So why can we not agree to have an aspirational goal “never again will we allow a deranged, gun toting person from ever massacring innocent children…” and then see what need to do get there?
      Boyd Hawkins That is a goal that we should strive to achieve, but we also have to be realistic. Just as Adam Lanza tried to purchase a gun and was denied (the laws worked in that respect), he was still able to find a way to get his hands on guns.
      Venky Venkatraman OK Boyd – now that we (and hopefully a majority of Americans of all stripes) are in agreement on the goal, it is only a question of putting our collective heads together and figuring out a way that the Adam Lanza’s of the world never again are able to get their hands on any type of weapon of “mass destruction”. BTW – I was not aware that Adam Lanza tried to purchase a gun and was denied. Where did you learn that?
      Boyd Hawkins I have seen it a few places, but here is one of them…

      Video on NBC’s Pete Williams reports that Connecticut school shooter 

      Adam Lanza attempted to purchase a rifle earlier this week at a sporting goods store in Danbury, Conn.
      Venky Venkatraman Thanks for sharing – that’s very interesting to know. So if his mother did not have any guns, then I guess Adam Lanza would not have had the ability to perpetrate this horror. Then the next question would be, how can guns (purchased legitimately it appears in this case) by parents be prevented from falling into the hands of crazy children (of which I am guessing there must be a lot out there, given the number of broken homes and single mothers who may have out of control sons)?
      Boyd Hawkins You just slipped on the slippery slope and are falling into a totalitarian state. The only way to mitigate this threat (and mitigate is all we can hope to do) is to restore the traditional American (Judeo-Christian values) culture which recognizes that there is actually good and bad / right and wrong. Only responsible self-governing people can be free.
      Boyd Hawkins I believe my generation and my parents generation are guilty of standing by and letting it happen, but here is a talk (audio and video download) that Evan Sayet gave back in 2007 where he explains what is a significant contribution in the culture shift that has occurred in this country … There is a transcript of the speech here:

      Regurgitating the Apple: How Modern Liberals “Think”
      Venky Venkatraman Sorry to say but now you are slipping into becoming an ideologue, Boyd. Not that other religions (including Hinduism) don’t distinguish between right and wrong but how do you propose to restore “traditional Judeo-Christian values” when white (Christians) are going to be a minority in the US within a couple of decades (and probably sooner in Texas)? Are you saying that you want be so ideologically pure that you do not mind sacrificing a bunch of school children every few months? What exactly does “responsible self-governing people” mean? Does it mean that it is everyone for himself/herself – buy a gun and take care of yourself and your children and be free??
      Venky Venkatraman The article was a little too long to read in its entirety – but I got the gist. My point is that to solve pressing matters like preventing any further gun violence in schools perpetrated by deranged nuts, we need to toss our liberal/conservative hats and put on our problem-solving caps – otherwise, nothing is ever going to get resolved.
      Boyd Hawkins I am not saying that other religions do not have values. What I am saying is that this countries heritage is Judeo-Christian. Also, the Christian faith is not limited to the white race. This culture is not something that can be impose on people. The only way to restore that culture is for Christians to start living like Christians again and churches to start being churches again. That culture is a byproduct of Christians living out their lives / faith … not an imposition of moral laws on a people. Human nature is independent of ideology as well as religion….you can’t tie them together like you are implying and you can’t conclude that the a certain ideology / belief is going to result in the sacrifice of school children. Man thinking he is going to change human nature has had devastating results throughout history. However, a societies collective culture can have an influence on behavior, but it will not change human nature and it does not guarantee outcomes … there is always the risk of evil acts. … No, it does not mean anarchy. It means a society agreeing to live by certain standards, individuals doing their part in honoring those standards and having a government that applies equal treatment of the law when people act outside of those standards.
      Boyd Hawkins It is about an hour long speech, so it is more than a lengthy article. I am not saying that we should sit idly by and let stuff happen, but the current administration believes in a managed society and is eager to take away individual liberty … I have no interest in handing it over.
      Venky Venkatraman Don’t disagree with anything you have said there with respect to the big picture – I am just putting on my Consultant’s hat and sharing my thoughts as if I had been given the SPECIFIC assignment of solving gun violence perpetrated by nuts, and willing to bulldoze through whatever stands in my way to accomplish that goal (which is what I am hoping political leaders who have the power will do ASAP). I believe individual liberty can be safeguarded while also ensuring collective safety of the citizenry, protecting them against both foreign and domestic terrorists (which I believe you will agree is any Government’s responsibility).
      Boyd Hawkins Yes those responsibilities do fall to the gov, but our constitution also starts out We The People and I do not believe our gov has been acting as a government by and for the people for some time now. … in short, I do not trust them with my liberty currently.
      Venky Venkatraman I get where you are coming from on this matter, Boyd. Thanks for engaging with me on this. I believe this is the kind of frank talk that is needed between reasonable people of all view points if we have to solve any serious problem that is facing this country. Would you mind if I publish this entire thread on my blog for the benefit of my readers?
      3 hours ago · Like · 1
      Boyd Hawkins Sure, that is fine


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Juror #11 wonders about the efficacy of the Jury system

Like most US citizens, I get the occasional Summons to attend Jury Duty and that usually involves going down to Court house and then being sent home with a “Thanks for being willing to serve” and a promise of a $6 check being mailed to you for showing up. 

However, a few weeks ago, it was different.  I sat in the main jury room (along with around 500 people) where the numbers were called out and this time there was a lot of cases and my number was picked.  I was instructed to go to the 191st Civil District Court (presided over by Judge Gena Slaughter, a relatively young lady who told us later that she had 4 and 5 year old children) on the 7th floor of the same building.

                                                                                    Judge Gena Slaughter

About 75 or so of us lined up outside the 191st Court and we were shepherded into the Court room in batches by the bailiff.  I got assigned to the seat at the left most back corner of the court.  “Good” – I thought to myself, since it appeared I would be the least likely to get noticed and picked – and began to plan the rest of my day.  Others in the jury pool, from their expressions, seemed be hoping for the same outcome (given that was a Monday and Judge Slaughter had just told us the trial could go on till the following Monday!).

Turned out there were 3 lawyers and a Pro Se (that is, a self representing individual) in the court room.  Each of them then conducted a voir dire, that is, a process to find out more about the potential jurors.  The lawyers / pro se eventually got to me and I recalled being addressed as Mr. V.  “Another good sign”, I thought.  “They can’t even pronounce my name, I should be out of here shortly”.   However, some other questions seemed to suggest that they might be getting interested in me.  They asked about my Electrical Engineering qualification, my IT experience, international travel and most interestingly my knowledge of water borne diseases such as cholera.

Afterwards we all trooped out into the lobby and waited for what seemed like an eternity.  I did some reading and took a short nap.  We were then called back into the Court room where Judge Gena Slaughter started announcing the names of the 12 jurors who were going to be picked.  I was half listening since I was pretty confident of not being on the list when she called out for Juror #11 and it sounded like my name.  I stood up, Judge Slaughter apologized for mangling my name.  I told her she was close enough – and I was officially Juror #11 and I had to take my place on one of the jury chairs.  The feeling was like the opposite of winning the lottery! 

The judge gave us the jury instructions regarding dos and don’ts and the hearing then commenced immediately. 

The case involved a company called Global Water Group (the plaintiff, a Water Purification company) who was suing another one called Force (the Pro Se, a one man Sewage treatment company) and another company (EMS, a pipeline services company) and its former CEO.

The details are of the case are not what I am looking to focus on in this blog entry – so I will explain it, with apologies to those involved for whom this was serious business, in the manner I did to my daughters Sakshi and Smrithi (13 and 11 respectively) after the trial was over.  Here goes:

“There was this guy who knew how to really purify dirty water (like what might be found next to corpses in Iraq) and convert it into pure water (better than Avian!), who we will from hereon refer to as the Pure Water guy.  Then there was this guy who knew how to take sewage and convert it into liquid that could be disposed off without messing the environment BUT could not be drunk by humans, who we will from hereon refer to as the Shit Water guy.  Pure Water guy then hired Shit Water guy and made him part of his company.  Both of them then went together and tried very hard to get some business in a place called Mejedia in Rumania, to take over and run their Municipal Sewage and Water systems and this (and other similar) business MIGHT have earned them profits of around $54 million.  Pure Water guy spent a lot of money trying to get this business but Rumania being a very corrupt country, it was difficult to get business without bribing people and so after sometime, Pure Water guy gave up.  Then Shit Water guy secretly started to try to get this business on his own without telling Pure Water guy, using Pure Water guy’s PowerPoints, contacts, etc.  Shit Water guy managed to reach an agreement in Rumania but needed $1.5 million Bond money to get the contract.  Shit Water guy’s finance partner went and asked his friend from Verline (from hereon referred to as Old guy) for a loan of $1.5 million.  Old guy did not have the money but managed to find a few Board members at EMS (from hereon referred to as Rich guys) who agreed to give the loan.  For this, Old guy and Shit Water guy signed a Promissory note.  Shit Water guy then sent this Bond money to his partner in Rumania (hereon referred to as the Foreign Crook guy) who put this money in a bank account, where it was meant to stay for 3 months after which time it was supposed to be returned to Rich guys along with an interest of 15%.  The money stayed in the bank account for 2 months after which the Foreign Crook guy made it disappear!  When Old Guy found this out, he panicked – he told Rich Guys that their money was gone – EMS CEO (on behalf of Rich Guys) put pressure on Old Guy to compensate for the loss.  Old Guy went to Shit Water guy to get the money from him. But Shit Water guy was broke and had no money.  So he gave all his patents to Old Guy who in turn gave it to EMS along with his patents.  And then EMS tried to get into the Water business to try and make money and recover the lost $1.5 million.  And then Pure Water guy found out all this was going on behind his back and the shit then really hit the ceiling (so to speak)!  Pure Water guy wrote Shit Water guy a nasty Email scaring the day lights out of him and gave him a lot of conditions to meet – and if he did not, Pure Water guy would “send him to jail”.   Shit Water guy complied with all the conditions for fear of being sued.  He stopped making any further attempts to do business in Rumania and transferred whatever agreement he had reached to Pure Water guy and made written apologies to all and sundry, confessing to everything and asking all his contacts in Rumania to do business with the Pure Water guy instead of him.  However, given the corruption in Rumania, Pure Water guy still could not get any business there.  EMS tried to use the patents that they got from Shit Water guy and tried to start a new Water business (in other countries like Mexico but not in Rumania) but failed to close one single deal and so did not make a single dollar in this new business. 

To cut a long story short, Old Guy died of natural causes and so Pure Water Guy sued Shit Water guy and EMS claiming that he was owed damages of around $50 million due to the actions of the Shit Water guy and EMS (who Pure Water guy alleged were involved in a “conspiracy”) but Judge Slaughter dismissed the suit without any jury deliberation since she determined that Pure Water guy did not establish that he suffered any loss/damage and no one had made any money from the Rumanian adventure (basically agreeing with EMS’s attorney that the whole thing was just a “cow pile” for everyone involved)”. 

Now here comes my impression of the whole process, especially vis-à-vis the jury system.

 First of all, the parties had been going at it in front of this same judge since 2008 while the jurors were those who got “accidentally” (and mostly unwillingly) pulled into this matter for a relatively brief period.  Although I, with my Engineering/IT/International background, could easily understand this whole matter (and in fact made 64 pages of notes during the trial which I later sent to the judge), I could tell that many of the jurors were quite disinterested and not comprehending any of the detailed technical issues that all parties were bringing up (with some of the jurors just doodling in their note pads).  Although we were not allowed to discuss the case till we called upon to do so (which never happened), stray remarks (like “I like that lawyer, he reminds me of Matlock”, “I am waiting for the Pro Se to cross examine himself – that will be fun!”, etc) gave me the impression that if we had actually deliberated on this case, it would have been a sham with just a few of us having really paid attention to any of the testimony (and more importantly, understood what was presented).  I would like to think that I could have swayed most of the jurors (with whom I established a good rapport during lunch time and while walking out to the train) and help arrive at the “right” decision – but then I might have ended becoming a de-facto judge!  

Bottom line – after this experience, I strongly believe that parties in a dispute looking for a jury to decide their fate, are essentially rolling the dice – they might get lucky and win the lottery even they were completely wrong – on the other hand, they might lose big, even though they might be completely on the right side of the law!  

I for one would any day prefer to have my fate determined by a learned, UNBIASED judge – and hope and pray that my fate will never be in the hands of a bunch of random, unqualified strangers!! 

What about you?  Feel free to comment here – I would really like to hear your thoughts – especially if you vehemently disagree with my opinions!

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And again on radio last week ….

Last week I had a chance to comment on the 3rd debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama which was posted by Ross Kecseg (one of the program hosts) as below:

Ross Kecseg Check out this week’s show, we interviewed three great guests including Al Lee, Adrian Murray and Venky Venkatraman. We want your feedback!

NOTE: I am on in the last 20 minutes (start playing from the 99th minute by clicking on the bar) – this time the radio station had some technical difficulties (the volume of my voice is much lower than the others) but I was still able to make some points.

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Second time on political talk show radio …

After receiving generally positive feedback from my first foray into the political talk show world (about which I blogged earlier), I was invited today to participate in a discussion about the second debate that took place between President Obama and Mitt Romney earlier this week. 

In addition, this time I had the opportunity to express my views about the political involvement of Indians inAmerica as well.

As before, if you have the time and the inclination, you could listen (link below) and share your comments (NOTE: My participation begins around the 75th minute – so once the audio starts playing, you can click on the bar at around the half way point and move it forward till it displays 75 to skip the first 75 minutes):

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My first foray into political talk show radio …

I had an opportunity to comment on the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

If you have the time and inclination, you could listen and share your thoughts:


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What’s in a name?

 Dale Carnegie

When I a young kid in India listening to the cricket commentary on radio, we had some commentators who would totally butcher some English names. For example, a famous cricketer from England was referred to by some commentators as “Iron Bottom” (instead of Ian Botham!). I used to consider these commentators plain lazy for not making the minimum effort to learn to pronounce the names of all the cricketers correctly.

Fast forward to several decades later and I am sitting in an audience where my daughter Sakshi (along with a bunch of kids of Indian origin) was receiving an award for being on the Junior Honor Roll and the kid making the announcement managed to mangle almost every single non-English sounding name.

It took some amount of persuasion on my part before the Principal of CMSE, Laura Springer, would take this issue of mispronunciation of names, seriously enough to agree to try and educate the children as to the importance, especially in today’s globalized work place, of taking the trouble to learn the correct pronunciation of “foreign” names.

Given that it was an American, Dale Carnegie, who wrote in his book “How to win friends and influence people” that among the “Six ways to make people like you” one was to “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”, it is indeed surprising as to why 76 years later American kids would not make the minimum effort to at least get the names of their classmates right.

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