Social Media and Privacy


I was dismayed to read the following article from CNBC today. And I am sure you will be as well, if you use any Google service at all. I am sure all of you use one or the other type of Google service, such as Gmail, YouTube, etc.,

Read the article written by Todd Haselton on 25th April 2019 at https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/25/how-to-stop-google-from-storing-your-location-history.html?&qsearchterm=how%20to%20stop%20google

You will be shocked to see the level of detail that Google keeps about you on its servers. Especially if you have turned on the location services, you will be surprised to find out that every movement of yours is being tracked by Google.

Is this the right thing for the user of Google services? The jury is totally out on this issue as we have seen a series of data scandals affecting these famous social media companies. I do not think that users can totally trust them anymore. While Google says that only you can see your data, it takes just one more data breach by yet another fantastic hacker out there.

Even democratic governments the world over are now going after these companies to control privacy, fake news, spread of hate news, and terrorist preachings. Almost anyone can maintain a Facebook page and propagate his hate agenda against the rest of us. Where does it stop?

Previously, such bad guys were running their own websites which were tracked by law enforcement and taken down if they ever crossed the limits. Now we have to depend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google to enforce mechanisms of law enforcement on a voluntary basis, which have not worked out to the satisfaction of governments, individual users, corporate users, and law enforcement officials. The European Union has taken the hardest stand against social media companies especially when it comes to safeguarding the privacy of individual users located in EU countries. Large fines have been imposed (in various cases).

Notwithstanding all the turmoil surrounding them, these companies are still flourishing in the U.S. and globally as well. Look at their stock prices! As individuals, we may not be able to make our protest heard loudly when it comes to our own privacy, as we are not part of any social movement against social media. So, I took the next best action: I followed the recommendation by Todd Haselton in his above article, and deleted all history in various categories such as “Web & App Activity”, “Location History”, “Device Information”, “Voice & Audio Activity”, “YouTube Search History”, “YouTube Watch History”, etc., Just go to https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup
and do the needful for yourself!

I suppose we cannot ignore the possibility of such data being made available to a third party, or sold to a third party, or hacked by external agencies or hackers. This is simple common sense to control data about ourselves. There should be no excuse for not doing this – in fact, now I have started looking at all IT services that I use as an avid web user, specifically focusing on privacy and the kind of data about myself that I am willing to share with these services.

I was not surprised at all when the Sri Lankan Government decided to turn off social media access to its citizens. It was an unprecedented step, but much warranted in the aftermath of the recent terror attack on churches and hotels which killed 253 people last weekend. We cannot cry hoarse on the matter of freedom and liberty, when terrorism is spawned by leveraging access to social media. Governments have to take actions, and sometimes (not always) such actions might infringe on the fundamental rights of social media companies. I am sure the Sri Lankan citizens will understand why their government enforced such a ban on social media. The argument that social media are crucial for communication during disasters is of course valid, and the world has moved on from mobile SMS text messages to WhatsApp and other such effective tools. However, the decision on what to do in any specific situation has to be left to the best judgement of the law enforcement agencies, and not to libertarians and social media companies.

Increasingly, the battle field on social media is shaping up around the world. People do recognise the positive aspects of social media for various purposes, especially communication one-to-one or to a socially connected private community. I use WhatsApp extensively every day – it takes up most of my mobile screen time. I stopped using Facebook couple of years ago (prescient, it appears!), and do not use any of the other social media except LinkedIn for corporate and business use. I got out of even Google Plus services quite some time ago. However, I cannot be complacent – I am investigating all my “touch” points with the web via any kind of app, to see what kind of personal information is “forcibly” or “unconsciously” being shared. Of course, this is my own website on WordPress platform, and I am not censoring it!

On privacy matters, I tend to side more with the EU than with the U.S., except on matters involving crime or violence. Privacy should remain sacrosanct, except when law enforcement seeks access to your personal data with appropriate legal warrants for a justifiable purpose – it cannot be on a fishing expedition. I am against community or sectarian policing – one bad apple is still one bad apple only, and an entire community cannot be blamed, monitored or tracked because that one bad apple is a violent criminal or murderer or a terrorist. It is pertinent to point out in this context that the specific community or sect will do well to identify bad apples in the midst of them, and try to correct their ill-advised ways, and if that does not work, report them to law enforcement. Even tacit silence will be construed as support for the bad apples in their midst, and these bad elements could then feel encouraged.

The U.S. government believes that it can and should access ANYBODY’s personal devices, irrespective of whether that person is a suspected criminal or not. Even ordinary, regular travellers to the U.S. have been subjected to this particularly overbearing exercise of border protection officers. What the government does with the data that they retrieve from those devices is anybody’s guess. This does not happen in any other country, to the best of my knowledge.

Turning “off” social media in very serious situations like a terror attack, as recently happened in Sri Lanka”, is to be supported due to various reasons, the most critical being the spread of intentionally malicious information which could cause panic amongst the general public, and aggravate an already worse situation for the government and law enforcement. I entirely agree that it is the right thing to do under the special circumstances, and I am sure that the Sri Lankan government will turn “on” the social media that it switched off very soon, once investigations are completed.

The inconvenience caused due to such a ban will be best understood by the affected citizens, and should not be misconstrued as censorship.

I think it is high time for social media companies to increase their own self-censorship and prove that they are responsible corporate citizens in the very near future. Otherwise, they will be fined, regulated and controlled by the government(s), and deserted by users such as myself!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

28th April 2019

The Sri Lankan Massacre


It was totally avoidable.

What happened on Easter Sunday 21st April 2019 at several locations in Sri Lanka is a prime example of how governments and law enforcement authorities ignore actionable intelligence on impending terrorist attacks. 253 people were dead and over 500 injured due to the Sri Lankan government’s apathy towards valuable and credible intelligence provided to them by the U.S. and Indian intelligence agencies.

May be the Sri Lankan government thought that they knew better about their own citizens. May be they thought that military style terrorist attacks were not possible in Sri Lanka after the total elimination of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamile Eelam) movement in 2009. May be they thought that their country has now reclaimed its spot as one of the most tranquil and peace-loving tourist destinations of Asia.

All such assumptions were totally shattered last weekend when several churches and five star hotels were attacked by unconscionable terrorists. Some of them were known to Sri Lankan intelligence and the police and ought to have been closely monitored and tracked. But obviously they were not.

It is not about the clash of religions or civilizations anymore. It is pure terrorism against common innocent citizens who pursue their daily chores in the most routine, mundane, peaceful manner in any society. It is the total responsibility of an elected government to protect its people from such mindless violence. If the government fails in this most critical duty, there is only one thing to do – resign. The Sri Lankan government should have immediately resigned once it was established that they had received actionable intelligence but on which they did nothing – they abdicated their most important responsibility. Incompetence should not be tolerated by the citizens who elect their governments in a democracy (they have no such freedoms in an authoritarian form of government). Citizens pay taxes and fund the government, so they have the right to expect performance from their government.

However, as an external observer, I should commend the Sri Lankan government for certain quick actions it took in the aftermath of this sad attack. It imposed dusk to dawn curfews, suspended certain civic rights, aggressively moved against certain places known to be harbouring terrorist agenda, sent out the right kind of messages to the citizens who were panicky and anguished, arrested scores of suspicious people, refused to announce their names even, and declared a national emergency. It also suspended social media like Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc., which is considered an unprecedented step. These are the actions which a determined and very upset government will and should take.

Suspension of civil rights of suspected terrorists is entirely acceptable given the innocent victim toll that has occurred, which is at least partially attributable to the sympathies and support of sections of society, thereby encouraging the perpetrators to commit such mindless atrocities. However, all these governmental actions do not let the ministers and the bureaucrats off the hook. Their total inaction is what led to this massacre in the first place.

Given that Catholic Churches were targeted on a Easter Sunday, the religious implication cannot be missed. However, I believe that it would be futile to emphasize religious conflicts as the basis for this tragedy. As long as there are many different kinds of religious faiths, tensions are bound to exist. But we as human beings first, should try to celebrate our differences rather than exacerbate the differences and get into a conflict. After all, everyone has got to live. The inalienable right to live is more critical and much more important than a simple allegiance to one’s own faith which could lead to monumental blunders due to blind teachings, which the victims cannot even contest.

No religion is going to condone violence against fellow humans who have an absolute right to live the way they deem fit. No one can be forced to follow a way of living or a way of religious faith. That should be left to individuals. Anger and irrational thinking driven by extreme forms of faith should not be allowed to flourish and should be nipped in the bud. This would mean some sacrifices of personal and religious freedoms, which are a better way to resolve potential conflicts and violence.

And, finally, an elected government can never abdicate its responsibility towards protecting the lives of its citizens. The Sri Lankan massacre tragedy has proved beyond doubt that government should eternally be vigilant, monitor its own citizens, watch religious schools which tend to impart some kind of extremist thinking, take foreign intelligence seriously, strengthen its own intelligence apparatus, invest more on law and order, etc.,

Of course, there will be loss of privacy. There will be some inconvenience. There will be some restrictions in free speech and movement. There will be push back from powerful global social media companies. There will be some loss of freedom. There will be more government controls on what is happening in society.

But then, who is responsible for national security? Social media companies or the government?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

27th April 2019

So Trump is CLEAN


Finally, the Mueller Report is out.

Though the Attorney General’s Office has redacted a number of things in the report that was released to the Congress and the general public last Thursday, the conclusion of the report is crystal clear: Trump and his Presidential Campaign did not collude or coordinate with the Russian Government to try and influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections, which Donald Trump won against Hillary Clinton.

Why are the Democrats then persisting with the Russia collusion theory? Is it not clear to one and all that Donald Trump is now “clean” with no taint of Collusion with Russia?

Apparently not totally clean.

The issues on the table are two-fold: one is the “obstruction of justice” charge on which Mueller did not make any specific conclusion and left it for Congress to take further action, as the evidence against Trump was not rock solid. The other is the unfortunate manner in which William Barr, the Attorney General, portrayed the report in his press conference held ahead of the release of the report to Congress – totally siding with the President’s position all along, which has been “no collusion, no obstruction”.

And, as Trump says often, the Democrats will never be satisfied on any aspect of the investigation which goes against their expectations.

I agree with President Trump. One has to be totally prepared for the outcome of any independent investigation, irrespective of the outcome as such. One cannot keep praising the independent nature of the investigation by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and then when his conclusions are unpalatable, raise new angles and new doubts and cause disruptions to the effective functioning of an already disrupted and damaged U.S. Government. I am saying this notwithstanding similar damages caused by the Republicans to the Obama administration. Mutual recriminations based on ideology and dislike of a specific individual (Obama by Republicans and Trump by Democrats) are not a civil way to resolve governmental or legislative problems and take the country forward.

I think Trump suffered during the past two years of his Presidency, because he did not know for sure what would happen to him under the Mueller investigation. He was unsure, disoriented, combative, and dysfunctional. That would explain the daily rants that he delivered over his Twitter feed. Some of his utterings could easily have been cited in a Court of Law, if he were a private individual, to his detriment. But then he is the President of the U.S., and a sitting President cannot be indicted. May be if he loses the next election, he can still be indicted as a private individual.

So, we should give him a break, and let him conclude his Presidential term without further legal disruptions not based on fact or strong proven evidence. I am not saying that the Democrats should not fight him on the election front – they have to do that by all means aggressively, given that Trump is going to leverage his “total exoneration” at the hands of the Special Counsel for his electoral campaign in a hugely significant manner. Democrats should stop wasting time now that the report is out, and focus on defeating Trump at the hustings.

To clarify matters, I am personally not a Trump supporter – I only feel that some of his policies are appropriate (not all) for the effective functioning of the government. Securing the borders, protecting the interests of the U.S. when it comes to trade and intellectual property, asking allies not to depend entirely on the U.S. for their security but to increase their own defence investments, seeking a rapprochement with sworn enemies like North Korea by proactively adopting unconventional means, and so on cannot be construed as the misguided actions of a deviant President. He has a right to his own contrarian views and policy directions, and he has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to those policies by showing the door to those on his team who do not subscribe to his vision. I cannot find anything wrong in his approach, though his hire and fire cabinet has caused discomfort at the Capitol and depicted a sense of dysfunctional government to the general public.

In a nutshell, the Congress should let President Trump govern and run the administration, while keeping a tight leash on his spending and new legislation which do not correspond with their sense of fairness or appropriateness. There is no point in causing constant hurdles simply because the Republicans did that to Obama, and without solid evidence of any wrong doing.

This is my view, and I am ready to be challenged. I wish to caution that appearance of collusion is not a credible legal charge, and appearance of obstruction of justice is also not a credible accusation. It looks like President Trump was bad and sometimes incorrigible in his tweets, he obviously lied in his tweets, he made bad policy decisions, he fired cabinet officials he did not like and more, but all that put together or analyzed separately do not provide adequate evidence of offences worthy of impeachment.

So everyone should get back to work in the U.S. Government and the U.S. Congress. That will also help the ROW (Rest of The World) take a breather from the daily fun show, perpetuated so well by stand up comedians. Not that we don’t like the same, but more of the same in the absence of more news or fake news will be absolutely boring. Right?

Have a wonderful week ahead, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

21st April 2019

The Corruptibility of the Rich and Famous


There is a certain community of almost “untouchable” rich and famous people/families in almost all countries.

What do I mean by “untouchable”?

These folks are so powerful that the usual rules that apply to all people in a society do not apply to them (mostly). They cannot be easily arrested for any crimes, which otherwise would lead to automatic arrests when any commoner is involved. “Special” treatment will be accorded to this rich and famous people, just by making a phone call to a government official or a minister. We have seen this on so many occasions in countries such as India and also elsewhere. Police dare not arrest these people, and if they do arrest, they will be forced to release them very soon. Rarely ever a rich and famous person spends time overnight sleeping on the cold floor of a police jail.

Societies are constructed on a fundamental, underlying system of a give and take philosophy, with a built-in deference to certain groups of people, such as priests, political masters, and of course people who generate wealth. Wealth signifies achievement and fame determines untouchability. Since corruption is one of the building blocks of the give and take philosophy, favours can easily be reciprocated by money, which, in itself, could be ill-gotten wealth. So, the rich and famous can walk out with their heads held high, while the commoners and poor folks do not get any special treatment in comparison. It is not that any group of people should indeed get special treatment, it is the inherent injustice that is embedded in the system of governance and administration.

Let us also not overlook the fact that many Western societies are afflicted by similar occurrences. The difference is that deployment of powerful lawyers and tweaking of political funding could achieve results similar to what we see in Third World countries. So, we cannot just blame the emerging or developing nations, but also the developed nations which are also affected by such scenarios producing results which are not dissimilar in terms of the escape of the rich and famous from serious punishment as compared to that meted out to commoners.

How can this injustice be addressed?

Only a systemic approach based on equal access to a justice administration system can address this inequality. Power and money politics are the bane of any democratic society, leading to the inevitable corruptibility of the society as a whole. If I know that I can get away from being charge-sheeted by just giving some pre-specified money, why would I follow the rules? Humans are inherently corruptible from day #1 of origin, as we all know!

There is no easy answer.

Only if primary level education can instil the notion of equality and justice in the minds of very young students firmly, can we expect to see a change in the next generation. Plus, governments should educate law and order administration to render appropriate action irrespective of the status of the perpetrator of the specific crime. It is easier said than done, of course. It is rather easy to be taken in by the fame of a big actor, as happens so often in India. Many justice systems are also susceptible to manipulation of evidence against the interests of victims, when a rich and famous person is the perpetrator.

Money is very powerful as we know!!!

As we saw in the recently exposed higher education admissions scandal involving well-known celebrities in the U.S., the rich and powerful do not apologize and atone for their sins quickly even when all the evidence is against them. They have the money and the stamina to wage a court battle against the government with their highly paid lawyers. They do not understand, or want to understand, that their bribery has costed admissions for candidates more deserving than their children. The bad effect on society and setting bad examples for their own children, do not bother them at all. Their emptiness astounds me.

In a nutshell, the rich and famous wish to maintain their superiority over us, the normal citizens, come what may. There are, and there will be, exceptions, of course. There will be some who would truly repent their sins and seek forgiveness, and thereby, reduced sentence!

Well, think about this obnoxious behaviour of the rich and famous, and you will understand why millennials are rising up against greed and capitalism.

Cheers, and have a good weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th April 2019

The Shattering of Peace


It is now 14 years since our family visited New Zealand. We loved that country, its fine people, its air and water purity, its clean roads and rivers and mountains. We drove all the way from Auckland in the North Island to Queenstown in the South Island, a distance of over 3,000 KMs in just about 2 weeks. It was a fabulous family vacation, and even today if we take a vote at home about where we want to go for the next vacation, it is unanimous – New Zealand! Though we do not always follow that vote as we go to other places for different experiences!!

We had a great time travelling around New Zealand, interacting with its great people, drinking some fantastic wines, and enjoying the volcanoes as well as the fast rivers and forests and mountains. Outstanding experience!

So, I was so sad when I learnt about the White terrorist from Australia wreaking unimaginable havoc on a peaceful country (he could have done that anywhere, but choosing New Zealand was an abominable decision) and murdering 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch (we had been to Christchurch during our holidays), on a Friday. As we know, Friday is a holy day for Muslims and they go to mosques for lunch time prayers.

While I do not wish to taint this murderous attack as a religious one (Christian Crusaders attacking Muslims) or a racist one (Whites against immigrant Browns), it is inevitable. There is no point in hiding the fact that White supremacy is on the rise around the Western nations of the world (given a positive push by the Honourable President Donald Trump of the U.S.), and could soon emerge as the chief contender for global terrorism trained against immigrants and Muslims specifically, as opposed to ISIS. Both are very bad for the world; while ISIS can only be defeated militarily, White supremacy is better controlled by nation states and their enlightened leadership.

A fantastic example of leadership was on display over the past one week, and that is Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. She demonstrated total empathy with the survivors and the victims’ families, and came through as a leader who would also make fast and rapid changes to her country’s gun laws in the aftermath of this disaster, without listening to special interest gun lobbies and wasting time. She was seriously wounded at heart that this attack could happen in her peace-loving and immigrant-welcoming country, and the whole country (including the immigrants and all the Muslim community) rallied around her leadership. They could sense and feel that she was in their midst, truly suffering the consequences of this attack on her “own” society.

I admired her mingling around and sympathizing with the plight of the survivors in a headscarf (similar to a hijab, worn by Muslim women), as a mark of respect and empathy towards them. Thousands of ordinary folks came out in support of the Muslim community around the mosque yesterday (Friday) during prayer time with silence observed, and hands entwined. And, the Prime Minister was there in attendance!

All this shows that a predominantly White country could do positive things towards immigrant victims and survivors who are not White, with the sheer willpower and commitment of the country’s leadership. The Prime Minister’s Cabinet, the Parliament and also the gun owners and gun shops came around in support of the new ban against assault rifles which was quickly implemented. Will this ever happen in the U.S., especially under Trump’s watch? Trump or no Trump, it is not going to happen in the U.S. Thousands of Americans are shot and killed using military-style weapons (which should have no place in a society) every year, including children and innocent bystanders, and the government does nothing except uttering vanities and both parties getting into a fist fight on TV shows in a totally partisan manner.

So, the peace is finally shattered in New Zealand. I am not sure that a country of just 3M people can recover from such a murderous attack. I would argue that apart from banning weapons of mass destruction like assault rifles with high capacity magazines, NZ should also carefully examine who comes in from Australia and other countries wherein White supremacy is firmly in place (though the supremacists might never win a public election). Imagine the reaction if a Muslim terrorist had killed 50 Church goers on a Sunday. The beauty of NZ is that it demonstrated that there is no difference between two such murder attacks. NZ will not go with one or the other – both attacks would eliminate peaceful folks who just turned up for worship and prayers. How would Trump react if it was the latter occurrence – all hell would have broken loose.

In a nutshell, there is no escape from close police monitoring, immigration checks, and gun control – all developed countries are learning that these factors play a very big role as we have seen in the Netherlands, France, the U.K., and Germany. Law enforcement needs to take an aggressive and serious view of individual freedom which transgresses into the larger good of the society. Individualism and religious conflicts cannot be excuses for murdering innocent civilians who play no part in such conflicts, and are after all, normal citizens going after their lives like any of us do.

I wish to salute Prime Minister Ardern for her resolute defiance and sombreness in the face of this attack on her country. Her empathy with a small immigrant community in her nation has captivated the hearts of all positive people around the world.

Hope NZ recovers from this disaster with a lot of healing. My best wishes to Kiwis of all colours,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd March 2019

Moral Decadence


It is a well known fact that most of the rich countries have committed huge sins and transgressed the moral boundaries of ethical living on this planet. Numerous examples of trampling on the rights of other countries and people can be cited in evidence.

Most European countries, the chief among these being the U.K. and France apart from Denmark and Germany have colonized distant nations and subjugated the people of those countries in horrible manner through several centuries. I am not leaving Japan off the hook – the Japanese committed innumerable sins across Asia which included killings and raping innocent folks. The list of sins committed by developed countries is very long, and that would include even the U.S. which has been responsible for countless deaths and disappearances caused by their invasions and regime change policy.

The focus of this blog post is not on these countries or their past sins. It is on the continuing sad story of the Blacks in the U.S. who are being tortured both by law enforcement and the common people due to the colour of their skin, which implies only one thing – deeply ingrained racism, and the very strong feeling that the Blacks are no better than slaves. This is abominable, and the racist feeling seems to be widespread across the U.S., going by almost weekly reporting of incidents whose subjects are Blacks going about their lives in the most innocuous manner possible. If a White person does the same simple thing – such as clearing trash in his own backyard, or waiting to swim in his own condominium’s swimming pool, or just taking a walk along a tree-lines boulevard, etc., no one would even bother to look. But if a Black person were to do any of these daily chores of life, it is absolutely reasonable for a police officer to stop the person and ask for his ID or engage in aggressive questioning. The evidence is mounting every day about such seemingly harmless occurrences, which are shot using phone cameras of bystandes and instantly posted on social media.

Were such things happening in the past?

Absolutely.

The difference now is the instantaneous publicity that is available via social media. And that makes such happenings come through as extremely ugly and damaging to the reputation of law enforcement.

What does it show when such things continue to happen? What does it say about the society in which Americans live? What does it say about the government which runs the country? What does it say about the police?

Only one thing – a precipitous decline of moral values, a huge drop in the perspective of Whites about Black people in general, lack of religiosity in the outlook, lack of influence of the Church or the Synagogue as the case may be, and so on. The moral decadence is stunning. I am not talking here about lack of morals such as indulging in mindless violence or prostitution. What I am talking about is the value of any human being on this planet which cannot be measured in dollars and cents, and cannot be considered as higher or lower than any other human being. White cannot have a value higher than that of the Black, and that assertion applies to Brown and Yellow as well. All colours need to be equal at all times.

Americans and the U.S. government cannot dismiss these law enforcement problems as unusual or rare occurrences – these are surely neither unusual nor rare in today’s America.

It is easy for the Whites and the Browns and the Yellows to attribute the cause of inner city violence to the Blacks. Violence in the U.S. exists all across the colour spectrum and across all sections of the society. One cannot affirm Blacks only to be the chief cause of violence.

Given the poor state of ensuring moral equivalence of human beings in the U.S., the country can hardly claim to be the beacon of freedom and justice for the free world. The “free” world does not exist for the Blacks in the U.S. – they are getting shot at by the police for doing their daily chores. Many Black lives have been taken away over the past year due to arbitrary and excessive use of force and total lack of reasoned judgement on the part of the police. You might have seen the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Across the U.S., well-meaning Whites are very concerned about such atrocious human rights violations, when the U.S. government is screaming hoarse on such violations elsewhere in other countries.

But then, other countries do not care anymore.

Why?

They can clearly see for themselves that the U.S. is one of the worst perpetrators of human rights violations against its own citizens.

So, why bother to change bad behaviour?

No need, let us continue violating the rights of our poor vulnerable citizens – even the mightiest nation in the world does it – isn’t it?

Such is the strong influence of the most powerful nation on earth which purports to be the most honourable country with respect for freedom and justice and democracy, with a Constitution which enshrines individual rights of citizens.

Would you want to chase your dreams in a country with moral decadence as the core principle in differentiating its own citizens? Think carefully. The Blacks have to get Dr Martin Luther King’s dream back in their heads and fight for their freedom which they are increasingly in danger of losing.

Participate in the CNN #MyFreedomDay on the 14th March against modern day slavery.

Cheera folks, have a good weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan

9th March 2019

The pro-life argument


On this one thing of life and death, I am proud to be termed as a “conservative”.

I know that I am liberal (in U.S. terminology I am “left of centre” or left-wing liberal – which I do not agree with as I believe I am a centrist on most issues) in my views (both political and social), as opposed to right-wing conservative views. Being a liberal or a conservative comes from personal experiences and an understanding of what is good for the society as a whole, not just for oneself. It takes some analysis of the environment, politics, and society. It is not easy to “assume” a pole position because that is how the world sees your position. Irrespective of what the world thinks of you, you do have an absolute independent right to think what you want and position yourself in philosophical terms as a thinker in your own right. Who can challenge that?

So, let us now analyze one thing on which I side with the so-called conservatives. We do not have this kind of discussion in Singapore or India, but unfortunately the world gets influenced by what happens in the U.S. on most things. Though both India and Singapore are more conservative on social issues than the U.S., I have not seen such matters discussed in public or court of law, thereby prudently avoiding social disputes which could be rather disruptive.

However, in the so-called first-world great power of the U.S. there are many things being discussed which depicts a society in constant conflict with itself, such as racism against blacks, hatred towards immigrants, vindictiveness against people who hold opposing views, and amongst many such issues, abortion.

Abortion is an extremely sensitive topic in the U.S. My readers would be aware of the landmark Roe vs Wade judgement of 1973 by the Supreme Court of the U.S. I am not going to delve into it, except to say that ruling legalized abortion rights of women. If you have been following U.S. politics of late, you would have witnessed the U.S. Congress members questioning judicial appointees if they support the above judgement. In general (though not always), the Democrats support the abortion rights of women, and the Republicans do not support. President Trump has indicated that he is pro-life, which is another way of saying that once conceived, women lose the right to a legal abortion.

As I said earlier, we do not discuss abortion in our part of the world. However, I felt compelled to write about this topic as it applies to the U.S., as I read about “late-term” abortion laws enacted by some states in the U.S. I personally believe that once you hear and record the foetal (fetal) heartbeats, then any abortion amounts to taking the life of the foetus away from this world without its consent. I am not going to be liked by the abortion proponents in the U.S., as this subject matter is close to the heart of the left-wing liberals as opposed to the right-wing conservatives. I do not wish to colour this matter as a religious topic on which the Church, for example, would have a say. That is not the case (though the Catholic Church opposes abortion, to be sure). In my mind, what matters is the decision-making power of the individual woman who has conceived, and is staring at the possibility of abortion.

This is a hot topic in the U.S. as you can imagine, especially in the light of the change in the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court towards the addition of more conservative judges by President Trump over the past couple of years. Both Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavenaugh are ambiguous on the Roe vs Wade judgement which is acting as precedence for the Supreme Court – given a strong case, they could tilt the court towards an anti-abortion judgement. The liberals are mortally scared of that possibility.

Notwithstanding that possibility, my contention is simple: does a human have the right to take away the life of an unborn (or going to be born) human, once it is unambiguously proved that the would be new-born is having heartbeats, and breathing like any other human? do we misconstrue this issue as the “inviolable right of a woman over her body” rather than a life & death matter, which needs to be investigated further? This is not about legal precedence or religious opinion. It is about making the right decision when that decision involves a new life. How can we compartmentalize this issue as women’s constitutional right only? What about the rights of the unborn baby?

There are ongoing multiple challenges to Roe vs Wade in various state courts in the U.S., such as in Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida, etc., While these challenges would be vehemently opposed by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union, various womens’ and medical associations, the point is that this is not about securing or re-securing a constitutional right, this is not about liberals vs conservatives, and this is not about the Democrats vs the Republicans.

This issue is much larger.

I am not going to conclude on this matter here with my own prescription to solve the problem, I am just positioning the same in my own light, as I felt strongly about foetal heartbeats occurring in general six weeks into a pregnancy. So, now we are faced with a huge human challenge, which only humans can address and resolve. Not the politicians, not the courts, not any religion. May be Roe vs Wade will go unchallenged. May be women will continue to enjoy their constitutional right to aborting their foetuses anytime irrespective of the heartbeats. But one thing is for sure, Americans need more education on this topic than what has been offered to them in schools.

I know that abortion is a very sensitive topic – an extremely touchy subject to most women. I am not against their legal rights. I am just wondering if we have missed the pro-life argument posed by a heart-beating foetus, if it had a chance to present its case in a court of law?

Some critical thing to think about, right?

Of course, I welcome brickbats and strong retaliation from my women readers. As a generally neutral centrist, I welcome their feedback – positive or very negative, no problem with that. If I have to change my views, then there has to be an extremely strong rebuttal, for sure.

Cheers, and have a great week ahead, folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

3rd February 2019