Potato Potaato?

No donor to the (Bill) Clinton foundation has raised more persistent questions than Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining executive. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Giustra shared a midnight banquet in September 2005 with Kazakhstan’s authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton praised Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international election-monitoring organization, undercutting American foreign policy and his wife’s sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s human rights record.

Two days after the trip, Mr. Giustra’s company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan. Spokesmen for both men said there was no connection between the trip and the deal. Months later, a foundation controlled by Mr. Giustra gave $31.3 million to the Clinton foundation, its largest known donation.

Source: NYT.

Politicians in the west play by the same set of rules as Indian schools then – a world where bribes go by the name of “donations”.

The great Indian price hike tamaasha

Fresh from writing a score “thank-you” mails, here are some more things that have been on my mind.

First, a tip for the Indian Government. Next time you want to hike the price of petroleum products – or any thing for that matter – do NOT pre-announce 8 days in advance that “a price hike is inevitable” and then go about having a fake debate over the issue. Hold your discussions about who is going to take the “hit” for the decision behind close doors and come out in the public, with the final decision – THIS is how we are going to do it. Don’t come out and say “we HAVE to do this, but don’t know HOW to do this” – it just makes you look like meek, stupid and ignorant. This will save the “aam aadmi” (or kharbuja aadmi, for mango haters) from the hoarding/ rationing chaos that inevitably ensues with such pre-announcements. And what’s the deal with the “new prices will be effective from midnight”? Leads to queues at the pumps with the “look at me, I saved 100 bucks” brigade making those who genuinely need petrol at that hour suffer in waiting. Why can’t you say the prices will be “effective immediately”. Has a more authoritative feel to it as well – try saying that out loud – “effective immediately!”, Aah, thand pai gai.

Nadal’s gonna start the Federer’s ass kicking session in 15 minutes, so I’ll keep this short, but there are two things I absolutely must link to.

The first, is this great satirical piece by Kumar Ketkar. You know you’ve written a masterpiece, when it forces some buggers to attack your house, even though you didn’t directly criticize anybody. In case I haven’t said it already – brilliant article Sir. A must read.

Second is from an interview of Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif, whose book I look forward to reading:

I did try some serious research once: I registered with an open forum run by retired US air force types to get some technical details about aviation procedures. Within minutes I was the target of so much abuse that I felt like the son of Osama. I hadn’t realised that I had registered under my first name. I gave up on research after that.

Not sure why those lines stood out in my memory from an interview about what sounds like a delightful book:

Q) Your book (A Case of Exploding Mangoes) has been compared to Catch-22. But one also feels the presence of Llosa and his The Feast of the Goat.
A) You are spot on. I am almost certain that if Llosa hadn’t written that novel, I would have probably written a different book. I think I learnt from The Feast that it’s okay to write a book about killing a dictator. We had Catch-22 in our library in the Pakistan Air Force Academy and it stayed by my bedside when I was in my early twenties. I could quote passages. But lately, I have also watched a lot of M*A*S*H.

Comparisons to Catch-22? No pressure then.