Progress Report on Virginia’s State Legislative Elections

We are on the brink of a federal government shutdown attributable to the extremist faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives. This is a bizarre characteristic of American democracy, but it is especially detrimental to a state like Virginia, with its second largest contingent of federal employees in the country (huge California being the only one with more). If there is no new annual budget for the federal government starting on 1 October 2023, almost all federal employees are required to stay away from their work duties and forfeit their income. Continue reading “Progress Report on Virginia’s State Legislative Elections”

Democracy in Jeopardy: The Case Study of Elections in Virginia

The anti-democratic turn in politics around the world was startlingly highlighted by the events of January 6, 2021 at the US Capitol. The shock of it operated as a trigger for me (as it was for much of the world!) to pay closer attention to what is happening to democracies more generally, and not just in the US.  It inspired me to start writing this series on “Democracy in Jeopardy”, with the idea that I could at least focus on democratic challenges in the three countries where I have lived – USA, of course, but also France, where I have been living on and off for the past couple of decades, and India, where I spent much of my childhood.  One can hope that first-hand knowledge stimulates action. I have written extensively about my impressions of how democracy operates in France, and a bit about my memories of democracy in India. And although I have been following and have even been actively involved in American politics from afar, I am only now getting around to writing down my thoughts about the state of democracy in the US.  I start with my observations about politics in the state of Virginia – excuse me, the “Commonwealth” of Virginia! Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: The Case Study of Elections in Virginia”

Reflections on Lessons from Covid-19

I was pleased to see my letter to the editor published in The Economist (3 June 2023 edition). I wrote it in response to an essay written by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization. His essay “on the lessons from covid-19” had appeared “by invitation” in the 20 May 2023 edition of The Economist (available here).  Here is what I wrote: Continue reading “Reflections on Lessons from Covid-19”

Reflections on the Evolution of Democracy in India

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, a lot was  written about the deteriorating state of Indian democracy as yet another example of how apparently well-entrenched democracies are threatened by anti-democratic political movements.   I, too,  have been concerned about the threat to democracy from populist-inspired nationalism and its variations in the US, France and India, three countries with which I have personal connections.  I currently live in France, was born and lived in the States, but also lived for many of my formative years in India. Here I am inspired to share my reflections about my passion for India and how my impressions of this great country have evolved through the various occasions of my presence in that country. We all wring our hands in dismay over the sliding away from democratic values that we observe in India these days, and I hope that we’ll get past this somehow. Continue reading “Reflections on the Evolution of Democracy in India”

An Unusual Selection of Campaign Posters for French Elections

In the town where I live (Grasse, France), there is an enclave known as Ste. Anne. Geographically, it appears to be encircled by the municipality of Grasse, but it is a small valley with a distinct atmosphere.  The main road into Grasse dips down and curves around the edge of this valley.  At the main turn-off into Ste Anne there is a large signboard that is visible to vehicular traffic going into Grasse itself. This signboard regularly features large posters – typically but not always political ones. (Sometimes, they are advertising a circus nearby.) It’s the unusual flow of political posters that has caught my eye. Continue reading “An Unusual Selection of Campaign Posters for French Elections”

Comparing the Extremists in the US House with a Similar Situation in the French National Assembly

The penetration and disruption of extremist politicians into governing bodies is a worldwide phenomenon. The 15 ballots that it took for Kevin McCarthy to prevail over a cluster of extremists to be elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives is only the beginning of a disruptive two years for US governance.  Similar concerns are on display in numerous other countries, but here it is interesting to see how the functioning of the French National Assembly compares with what has happened (and is happening) in the US. Continue reading “Comparing the Extremists in the US House with a Similar Situation in the French National Assembly”

Obituaries 2022

I have taken to writing these end-of-year obituaries of famous people who had a personal effect on me in my professional career. Last year, there were several – it was a pretty bad year all around. This year of 2022 was less traumatic – although I did learn about a few less-than-famous ones who did have quite an influence on me – a couple of law professors that were instrumental in my belated study of the law, for example.  And at least one close friend who remained loyal through thick and thin. Culturally speaking, too, there were many sad losses, mostly in the entertainment and news industries but also sports.  And, of course, it has been a horrible year as far as the renegade Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is concerned. But I will stick to my routine here of only reflecting on famous people who actually died in 2022 and with whom I had professional interactions. There are only two that I would mention this year – Madeleine Albright and Orrin Hatch. Continue reading “Obituaries 2022”

Happy New Year 2023

As we transition from one year to the next, please accept my  best wishes for a happy, healthy and fulfilling new year.  I am inspired by the holiday greetings from friends and family that are always welcome this time of year.  And I am inspired by the many reflections on the past and resolutions for the future that are  also a part of this end-of-year ritual.  This year, I find myself to be especially inspired to reflect on the past year for the signs of hope for a better world and thereby to set my personal agenda for 2023 by identifying where my actions in the year ahead can make a difference. Continue reading “Happy New Year 2023”

Multi-stakeholder Concerns in Recent Lancet and Politico Reports: Losing Inspiration Part Two

Two recent publications on the COVID-19 pandemic have attracted my interest in the past couple of weeks – the Lancet Commission report “On lessons for the future from the COVID-19 pandemic” and a Politico Special Report on “How Bill Gates and his partners took over the global COVID response”.  Both are  useful assessments of the failure of a global approach to the pandemic, and I commend them both as the world moves to preparing for the next pandemic.  But they miss the boat  in different ways with regard to the multi-stakeholder nature of  the global effort.  One ignores its usefulness, while the other criticizes how it unfolded in the COVID-19 pandemic.  In this commentary, I explain why I am concerned about both approaches.  I believe that the pandemic opened up new opportunities for multi-stakeholder collaboration at the global level, and I sincerely hope that  this kind of collaboration will continue to evolve in a positive direction in spite of the setbacks. Continue reading “Multi-stakeholder Concerns in Recent Lancet and Politico Reports: Losing Inspiration Part Two”

Moving on from the fantasies of the past

I have turned off my hearing aids. The sounds from the busy street outside Villa Ndio have softened, but so have the sound of the chorus from Windsor Castle being televised by CNN, BBC and other broadcast media. Throughout the day, I have been downloading the CNN broadcast as “background noise” on my computer.  Although the ongoing colorful display and symbolic sounds of pomp and circumstance have appealed to me, it has gotten to be a bit of overload. And the flaws have become more evident. The Brits are, after all, rather fond of the jarring but dramatic sounds of bagpipes.  And the glorious pomp and circumstance of precision marching of mostly male soldiers dressed in brilliant red regalia and stunningly tall bearskin hats has acquired an appearance of celebrating anachronism – especially as it contrasts with the somber black of the royal widows, princesses and other official grievers.

Continue reading “Moving on from the fantasies of the past”