Kindergarten Fight with Nuclear Missiles


I like the maturity and pragmatic approach of Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, when it comes to his comments about global affairs. He is a diplomat par excellence, one of the best in the world, with solid experience and an intellect which challenges most others in the diplomatic arena. He is 67, yet going strong and has seen four Secretaries of State of the U.S. during his Foreign Minister tenure for the past 13 years. He is also very polished and known for his tough negotiating skills. No wonder President Putin kept him going on the job in a consistent manner over the years.

In his comments last Friday, he called the exchanges between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea as a “kindergarten fight between school children”. He also called for “hot heads to calm down”. So he called President Trump as a school child wanting a fight, and also as a hot head.

Most appropriate, right?

Only these two school kids are itching to get into a nuclear war with nuclear tipped missiles. That is a big problem for the world.

We also have President Trump on record in front of the august assembly of world leaders at the UN General Assembly that he would destroy North Korea completely if the “rocket man” attempts to attack the U.S. or its allies. That might seem OK, but it surely is not at the U.N. An irresponsible early morning tweet may be fine, but not in a formal address to the U.N.

President Trump has a long way to go before he is taken seriously as a true leader of the free world, like his predecessor was………he is acting unpredictable by the day, and is not in tune with world’s expectations of the U.S. Why go for another war, when the U.S. is still not able to resolve the wars it engendered in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere. President Trump, it appears, also wants to fight Iran, a much better equipped nation than North Korea, though not with a nuclear bomb as of now.

It is no wonder Mr Lavrov is feeling this way about this abominable exchange of words between the U.S. and North Korea. South Korea and Japan must be shaking with fear on this rhetoric, as they know that President Trump is impulsive, and Kim Jong-In is totally unpredictable with a lot up his sleeve. A nuclear holocaust over the Korean Peninsula will also not be allowed by Russia and China, both having land borders with the Koreas.

At the end of the day, the “hot heads” have to cool down. But, unfortunately they won’t. Simply because, Kim Jong-Un is probably preparing for the next missile launch or the next nuclear explosion, irrespective of what President Trump or his neighbours or the U.N. demand. All those demands and sanctions are totally irrelevant to him. He will proceed on his own plan, without any consultations with anyone, not even China. I think China has lost leverage over North Korea. It also appears that North Korea is leaning towards Russia.

If the U.S. – South Korea military exercises are postponed, that would be a first calming step in the process. Obviously, there is no lack of military preparedness on the part of the U.S. or South Korea – they are apparently ready for a war with North Korea any time. However, their collective maturity should make them defer their joint military exercises which annoys the North Korean Leadership every year. Why not do it when you can actually do it without any loss of face?

But President Trump won’t have it as he sees it as a concession to the “rocket man” on a “suicide mission”.

Who will blink first, then?

Surely not Kim Jong-Un. He will continue on his mission to make his country nuclear and missile capable, that is not going to stop.

I am sure that the Pentagon Generals are not advising President Trump to launch a surgical strike to take out the nuclear sites in North Korea. Whether there is a war or not, it is not advisable to provoke a reaction from the North on the hapless citizens of the South, just 30 KMs away from the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone). It is estimated that at least 1M citizens will perish even in a limited war with mutual attacks from both sides (the U.S. will primarily attack from air and sea). And a tactical nuclear weapon from the U.S. to stop the war will not stop it, as the Koreans (like the Vietnamese) have proved to be extremely resilient when it comes to war and hand-to-hand combat even. The war will not stop, and the Koreans will not forget the U.S. for taking an unnecessary military action which would plunge the entire peninsula into an endless war.

I hope Japan does not want war, either. Traditionally, it has sided with the U.S. thought process, so there could be some disparity here between South Korea (which surely does not want war as it stands to lose the most) and Japan.

At the end, I see that Russia is playing a wiser role, articulating a well-calculated strategy on how war is not an option and everyone needs to return to the negotiating table. Given that Russia has some leverage over North Korea (providing employment to the impoverished North Koreans), it might be time that the U.S. listens to Russia, though they both seem to be having interminable issues of all kinds.

But this is about War and Peace.

Everyone should strive very hard to stop war from happening.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th September 2017

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Wisdom – knowledge, experience or age?


What is “wisdom”?

There is a simple definition – without any attribution, I think that wisdom is one’s ability to reach intelligent conclusions on any problem statement, with a combination of judgement, insight, experience and knowledge that one has accumulated over the years. Of course, there should be ample common sense, a keen understanding of the issues on hand, an analytical mind, et al.

However, wisdom is not just knowledge only. Neither is it just experience. And, I don’t believe that wisdom accrues based on age – meaning it is not necessarily true that wisdom is directly proportional to just age. The older one is, the wiser he becomes – this is not true, while it may be true in exceptional individuals who combine other factors to become a sort of sage with head filled with abundant wisdom.

It is also not true that young people are waiting to gain wisdom. There have been thousands of stories of young individuals who are far wiser for their age, and have even built companies at a rather tender age, and running their business with financial and technical acumen, not seen even in much older folks.

So, wisdom has a qualitative edge to it which is sometimes inherent in the individual. Experience does add significant value to people, and helps to generate an insight into problem resolution. Knowledge is important, but much less important than experience and judgement. We find older folks (like me for instance) are more judgemental (not a good thing), more critical (not a bad thing), and less wise when it comes to seeing new things in a new light, or even existing things in a new light. Being judgemental is not a good thing, but having a good judgement is a good thing. Hope you understand the difference. Being negative does not add to one’s wisdom either. We can be critical, but cannot be negative.

Increasingly, we find that young folks between the ages of 10 and 30 are playing in the world with wisdom that did not exist in us when we were their age. So, we need to understand that the context, ecosystem, and social development have progressed in an exponential manner just in the last two decades, which has produced wisdom in many young people.

Why did this not increase wisdom in the older people?

Interesting question. My answer may not satisfy the older folks, however.

As we age, we set our minds on things which we believe are unchangeable. What are these things? Integrity, Honesty, Affection, Commitment, Focus, Dedication, Determination, Achievement-orientation, and a lot of ego. We think and believe that in essence, we are innately good people, and we can do nothing wrong. At least, nothing wrong that could affect other people. Nothing wrong in the moral, spiritual, religious, or intellectual spheres.

In other words, we get fixated on things which are important and critical to us.

We also do not update ourselves to stay in sync with the fast evolving human ecosystem, and we dismiss most of it as not relevant to achieving what we had achieved in our working lives. We continue to live in our own space, not really accepting what our children are doing while they are growing up. This means that mentally and intellectually, we stay disconnected, though we yearn for a complete sync.

It does not take more than 30 seconds to put your right hand on your heart and feel if what I am saying is true or complete hogwash.

I truly believe that though I have kept myself technologically updated, in my mind I am still the same old guy from wherever I came from. Nothing much has changed in my mind, though I do certain things not compatible with my heritage like eating non-vegetarian foods and sending ugly WhatsApp messages, etc., We all have to make an inventory of things that have changed in ourselves from the time we started going to primary school.

When I am still the same old guy, how am I going to change myself? Can I ever change? Can I challenge myself? What should I do to generate “new” wisdom in myself?

I have not finished. I am just at the ground floor of this rather interesting and challenging topic. This blog post came about because I met one of my mentors (who really thinks I am a rebel in most things I do) this evening, and he suggested that I should start analyzing the subject of wisdom vs. age……….that set me thinking.

Wine has been banned at home for some 10 days, so my brain is a bit challenged to think more at the end of my Saturday. However, don’t you guys think this is a good and relevant topic for all of us?

Let us exchange notes and discuss.

Have a great weekend.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd September 2017

Great Truths


1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.

John Adams

2. If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

— Mark Twain 

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.

— Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

— Winston Churchill 

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

— George Bernard Shaw

6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to payoff with your money.

— G. Gordon Liddy 

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

— James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

— Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University 

9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

— P.J. O’Rourke, Civil Libertarian

10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. 

— Frederic Bastiat, French economist (1801-1850)

11. Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

— Ronald Reagan(1986) 

12. I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

— Will Rogers

13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free!

— P.J. O’Rourke 

14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.

— Voltaire(1764)

15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you!

— Pericles (430B.C.) 

16. No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.

— Mark Twain (1866)

17. Talk is cheap…except when Congress does it.

–Anonymous 

18. The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.

— Ronald Reagan

19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

— Winston Churchill 

20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.

— Mark Twain

21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

— Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903) 

22. There is no distinctly Native American criminal class…save Congress.

— Mark Twain

23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.

— Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995) 

24. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.

— Thomas Jefferson

25. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

— Aesop

FIVE BEST SENTENCES

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealth out of prosperity.

2.What one person receives without working for…another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. 

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!

I think there are some good truths in the above sentences. It is funny that many of these truths are in play today in nations big and small. I thought this is a good education for my blog readers. Enjoy but also think about these truths. Aren’t these relevant even today?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th September 2017

 

Global Broadband Progress


The United Nations published its 2017 Global Broadband Progress Report on the 14th September 2017.

It is an important report to monitor for people who are interested in the technological and social advancement of developing and poor countries. Around 52% of the world’s population (some 3.9B people) do not have access to the internet. The “digital gap” between the internet haves and the have-nots is growing as well.

Broadband internet access is not only important for education, it is also crucial in providing access to quality healthcare and enhancing incomes, reducing the gender gap, and better infrastructure. Broadband has become a critical part of sustainable development world-wide, and a majority of countries have established a National Broadband Plan to accelerate the penetration of internet into their respective countries, and connect resources to the national broadband for greater access and better livelihood.

While developed countries are increasing their broadband speeds to cater to increased speed requirements of their populations, the average broadband speeds in developing countries are not keeping pace, thereby widening the gap. Further, rural areas are under-served by broadband internet, as the latest 4G technology is being rolled out in urban cities with an ability to bear the cost.

Developing and Least Developed Countries have to worry about the widening digital chasm with Developed Countries. Even in Developing Countries with over 40% internet penetration rates, there exists a big gap between the internet speeds that one can get in an urban city compared to what a rural area gets. The governments force telco providers to extend their networks to the nooks and corners of the countries, but then the progress has been slow.

Given that Developing Countries are now jumping into the mobile broadband networks (sometimes from 2G straight to 4G, and in some countries from 3G to experimental 5G), we can expect a deeper penetration of mobile broadband in these countries in the near future. For countries such as India, the ability to access broadband internet on the go also provides huge benefits to the users – such as access to current weather conditions, education, healthcare information, government services, law and order situation, news, agriculture-related data, and so on and so forth. This is fundamentally going to change society and its focus on development. It will also lead to broader thinking and benchmarking against global standards. Of course, we cannot forget video content which with unlimited data, could easily displace televisions.

The progress of broadband adoption in Developing Countries is an important indicator for the development of society as a whole. Even a decade ago, we would not have thought in this fashion. This shows the huge advancements that internet has made in changing the lives of people for the better.

In order to reduce the gap with Developed Countries, there must be aggressive and concerted focus on not only extending the broadband networks but also increasing the speeds of access.

In 5 years from now, such a focus would completely change the livelihood of rural populations of large countries. Let us hope for the best in this effort.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th September 2017

 

 

19 Crimes and Baby Doll


You may be curious, am I right?

What kind of title is that?

19 Crimes is a “Proclamation: 19 Crimes – Each declared by His Majesty to be punishable on Conviction by Transportation” – is actually a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon wine named “19 Crimes”! As per the bottle, “over 200 crimes could see you sent to Australia” – by the British Empire. “This Cabernet Sauvignon celebrates 19 of them because, well, one must start somewhere”!!!

Back to my review – this is an excellent wine at a very decent price. In fact, I will be heading out later today to pick up another bottle of this wine because my wife and I decided it is really a good wine which needs to be repeated (we rarely give that honour to inexpensive wines which are the usual fare based on my value-picking methodology – very few such wines have qualified for repeats).

The 19 Crimes Cabernet Sauvignon is a very smooth Cab and goes well on its own. I enjoyed its smooth finish as well. The velvety hit on the palate was a sensation which I relished – it also had a complex sweetness which my wife appreciated. This is a vibrant wine well structured to be enjoyed right away. I would recommend this wine any time, and happy to see that this wine was not atrociously out-priced which would have limited the number of folks who would have chosen such a wine not knowing how good it really is.

Surely worth going for one more!

The second wine I am reviewing in this post is “Baby Doll Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough NZ”. This is a good white waiting to be discovered in Singapore – I had not seen this wine on the shelves all these years. I found this at the Singapore Swimming Club’s multi-cuisine restaurant ( I went through a real experience of forgetting to pick up the wine while leaving the Club, and then found out next morning that the Club has impeccable housekeeping practices which resulted in the discovery and return of the bottle to me unscathed!).

This is a crisp and pleasant wine with a mineral finish. A fruity wine with a balance characteristic of Marlborough wines, this is a wine which can be enjoyed on its own. A bit pricey though at SGD 33, needs to be within SGD 25 to meet my criteria of excellent wine at a good price. There are several world-class Sauvignon Blanc wines from Marlborough and I have enjoyed many of them over the years. It is difficult for me to say no to a Marlborough wine any time!

Enjoy your wines responsibly and do not drink and drive.

I am sure you will agree that these two wines are out of the ordinary, not widely encountered, and still pretty good.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th September 2017

 

 

Ethnic Cleansing


According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, ethnic cleansing is “the expulsion, imprisonment, or killing of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority in order to achieve ethnic homogeneity”.

According to a U.N. Commission of Experts formed in connection with the atrocities committed during the Yugoslavian wars in the Nineties, “…… the coercive practices used to remove the civilian population can include: murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial executions, rape and sexual assaults, severe physical injury to civilians, confinement of civilian population in ghetto areas, forcible removal, displacement and deportation of civilian population, deliberate military attacks or threats of attacks on civilians and civilian areas, use of civilians as human shields, destruction of property, robbery of personal property, attacks on hospitals, medical personnel, and locations with the Red Cross/Red Crescent emblem, among others”. 

Now, unbelievably, there is ethnic cleansing happening in one of the ASEAN countries, and all members of the ASEAN grouping are keeping mum, in keeping with their stated policy of non-interference in each others’ internal affairs. I am referring to the systematic ethnic cleansing being carried out by Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) against its Rohingya Muslim community in the Rakhine State adjoining Bangladesh, which has created a humanitarian crisis with over 300,000 people fleeing from murder and rape being committed by perpetrators.

I had a strongly positive view of Buddhism and Buddhist monks who give up all their material possessions in search of enlightenment. I have mentioned to many of my friends that I am inclined towards seeking truth in Buddhism (as against Hinduism to which I belong by birth). I have always wanted a simpler faith which can show the path to enlightenment in a straightforward manner without the undue complexities involved in Hinduism, though fundamentally Buddhism emerged as an offshoot of Hinduism.

Now, I have to question my faith. When I see that Buddhist monks and Buddhist practitioners from Burmese society join hands and attack the Rohingya Muslims belonging to their own country, then the pacifist nature of Buddhism as a peaceful religion with peace-loving followers evaporates………in a white plume of smoke. And, all the expulsion, burning of homes, mosques, murder, rape, et al, happened with the absolute connivance of the Myanmar Government and the state security forces……..all of them being of Buddhist orientation.

There is heavy coverage of the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in the news media this past week, and so I am not going to repeat the key findings.

In the midst of all these happenings, the silence of Myanmar’s Nobel Prize Winner, Aung San Suu Kyi has been simply appalling. She is a powerful figure in Myanmar, and is globally known for her peaceful fight against the very powerful Myanmar Military rulers. She finally won that fight, but is was only a partial win. The Military still controls 25% of the Myanmar Parliament, and the silence exhibited shamefully by Aung San Suu Kyi is a witness to the domination of the Military when it comes to internal affairs. If she had risen up against the Military and said things to protect the Rohingya Muslims, things would have been vastly different now.

However, notwithstanding the ghastly attacks on Rohingya Muslims, and their forced evictions from their townships and homes, matters continue as though all is normal in Myanmar. ASEAN has not said anything of significance against Myanmar, and the U.N. is struggling with multiple crises around the world. In the meanwhile, Myanmar Government and security forces get away and continue their behaviour as though nothing has happened.

It is a complete pity that the world community is unable to stop the ethnic cleansing so systematically being carried out by the Myanmar Government. When there is no one to question, is it any wonder that things continue as usual under the pretext of “communal violence” or “national security”? Not at all.

I can only hope that the displaced Rohingya Muslims would eventually find their way back to their townships in Rakhine State with the approval and support of the Myanmar Government, which needs to understand that it is not yet recognized as an equal member in the comity of democratic nations of the world. It needs to prove its intent to become one by solving this problem, and changing its Citizenship Law to grant citizenships to Rohingya Muslims, and providing security to them.

Let us all hope this would happen soon.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th September 2017

Finally he did it!


It is Sunday evening here in Singapore.

I sat down at my laptop for doing two things – checking the status of the system backup which was going on for more than two hours with a new software that I had installed, and writing my customary second blog post of the weekend. For the blog post, I had selected the latest Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand to write about.

But alas, it was not to be.

My backup software was running fine, approaching almost the end of the backup process. I was not too concerned about it, except to check the progress occasionally (I like to see the % bar moving towards the 100% mark).

Then, it happened.

I checked CNN.com and there it was – blaring at me with a 100 tonnes hit. It was actually a 120 Kilo Tons nuclear explosion by North Korea’s mercurial leader, the young Kim Jong Un – its sixth nuclear bomb, which it claims to be a Hydrogen Bomb. And, it was some 100 times more powerful than the first one in October 2006 – a two point difference between the Richter Scale readings (6.3 now vs 4.3 in 2006) is equivalent to a 100 times gain in the power of the bomb. Further, to put this in perspective, a 120 KT bomb is 8 times more powerful than the atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

So, finally, the young man is standing up to the twitter attacks from President Donald Trump. To start with, Kim Jong Un never much cared about Trump and his mindless tweets on “Fire and Fury” – he must have laughed it off. Given that some 26M lives are within his destructive reach, he knows that the U.S. cannot do much in terms of military action. And, of course, the U.S. knows it – not sure if President Trump knows about it. But then, given his finicky nature, it is going to be a very dangerous game of one upmanship in days to come. Kim Jong Un will deliberately provoke Trump, and Trump’s fingers are going to twitch – rather impulsively.

And, that could destroy Asia. Millions of lives (does the U.S. or President Trump really care about the loss of non-American lives?) are at stake. Huge infrastructure investments will be completely destroyed. Stock and property markets will crash. The global economy will go into a tailspin. Corporations will be under threat. Everything will go out of control in a nuclear war, and let us not be optimistic – in a nuclear war, Kim Jong Un can be expected to leverage every inch of weaponry he has, including all his nuclear assets.

The U.S. will eventually lose out. Japan will lose and South Korea will lose.

Is this war worth it? Not at all.

Why don’t we look at the advice rendered by another “bad” guy – President Putin of Russia. He said the most sober things couple of days ago (in my opinion, he always speaks sense, and far more sense than President Trump). He said that there is an urgent need for North Korea and the U.S. to enter into a diplomatic dialogue, and sort out matters. He said that North Korea should stop its missile launches and nuclear bomb testing, provided that the U.S. and South Korea stop their rather aggressive military exercises. Why provoke each other? There should be no pre-conditions to talks – world peace is a more critical objective at this point in time (I think it always is).

Given that Kim Jong Un has been grossly underestimated over his six-year reign, it is not inappropriate to expect more fire and fury, between the world’s two worst adversaries. At 33 years of age, Kim Jong Un now commands the attention of the world, far better and stronger than what his father was able to accomplish. I would call him “a young man with a destructive purpose aimed at safeguarding his country”, and with an evil mind which is comparable with the best that the U.S. has in its vast armoury of people and machines. What Trump (at age 70) is finding out however, is that Kim Jong Un is not going to blink easily, and his apparent blinking earlier in August was destined to fool others. He is running the show, and he is running it rather well. He is not about to give it up and surrender to the whims of an American President who he apparently does not respect that much.

Let us watch what happens when the White House opens for business on Sunday 3rd September to this news.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

03 September 2017