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.
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.
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.
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?
16th September 2017
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.
16th September 2017
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.
10th September 2017
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.
03 September 2017
I wanted to drive a longer distance than I usually do every day, and kind of enjoy the monotony of the road travel. I have had these strange urges many a time, and mostly these get ignored given the buzz of everyday routine. I sometimes wonder why we get these tendencies to get free from it all, and I suspect that it has got to do with some unique stress factors which play on one’s body and mind, and forces us to take respite, at least for some time.
While I am not going to explain the specific situations which could have forced me to take to escapism, I was a bit taken aback when my mind started urging me to take a break, and let the body glide into oblivion for some time. I am not sure if others get these urges, and I have not discussed this matter with anyone in my immediate circle. Of course, I was fascinated by the calling to go somewhere with a “free” mind.
I told my wife that I plan to take a “long” drive, and she smiled. How far can you go in a small city like Singapore? I told her that after buying the groceries she had wanted, I was going for a long drive on one of the expressways, and it might take me some time to get back home.
It was a public holiday yesterday, and so I expected the roads to be a bit easy, however, it was not to be. There were thousands of cars heading to the city in one of the expressways that I took, and I could not think or get the escapist feeling on that ride. I exited as fast as I could, and took another expressway going towards the northern end of Singapore.
Well, that was almost empty – I could have counted the cars in front of me and at my back. So, I launched the cruise control at a steady speed of 80 KMPH and let the car manage the ride. I was of course, watchful but got the feeling of freedom impinging on my body and mind. It was exhilarating. That lasted only for some 5 minutes till the first idiot cut across my lane just in front of me, forcing me to take control of the car by braking. Idiots dominate the roads wherever we go, since they are selfish and could not bring themselves to wait and give way to the rightful lane owners ahead of them. But that is the way it is, and we the sober drivers have to be very careful all the time.
When the trees whizzed past, and the car was swallowing the KMs, I let my mind wander a bit – where am I headed in life? What is going well and what is not? How are others viewing me and my behaviour and decisions? Who are the key people that I should focus on in life? Where is the world going? Do I have enough money to live out my life? When should I retire? Can I retire at all? What are the places in the world that I want to see along with my wife? How do I see the positive or negative impact of others? Why do people have mostly selfish motives? Why is collaboration so hard? How to make others believe in the purpose – large or small?
It was a good rumination – I have not captured all my thoughts above. The mind is a fast machine running at 1,000 KMPH and the car is running only at 80 KMPH. To cope with one’s mind, one needs speed tactics which would accelerate one to 1,000 KMPH even while remaining stationary.
I did some 50 KMs on the expressway (including detours), and then turned back towards my home. Apart from my desire to stay on the road for a longish time, my car was also probably thirsting for long rides (once in a while), as otherwise the engine does not reach the prescribed efficiency. It was a good ride, with many thoughts plaguing my mind, with answers for some, and only more questions for others.
I would not really call this “escapism”, but an urge to be on my own for sometime, away from others’ influences, or away from familiarity. The soul needs a different kind of attention, a certain calmness which one may not be able to get on a speeding car. However, the constant regurgitation of thoughts and answers and non-answers keep the mind thinking constantly, and facilitates a healthy coordination with the body. I do this also when taking long walks (which is everyday).
Each one of us find our own ways to deal with our body, mind and soul. It is not unnatural to be thinking differently and reacting differently, as each one of us is different from each other. It is important to sync our own selves with the environment and develop a calm demeanour which would help us greatly in dealing with our own life.
Enjoy the weekend,
2nd September 2017
Wow, what kind of title is this? I myself started wondering as I was writing it as the title. I had, like a couple of options for the title of the subject matter that I wanted to write about this beautiful and cool Sunday morning in Singapore (it rained for some 30 minutes this morning, and I was caught napping – nay, walking briskly at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park.
I wanted to write last evening itself, but got busy with other matters, and thought it would be better to think through more in the head before committing to the blog post, which I promptly did.
Again, I go back to India in terms of the vast availability of topics to write about! A recent WhatsApp message exchange with a close friend induced more thinking, and the result was this post.
India discovered spirituality thousands of years ago. It was not religion, but a state of oneness with the almighty and nature. Advanced thinking, I should say, given the age in which it was discovered or synthesized. Achieving “spiritual nirvana” was to be the mantra for all gurus (or religious teachers) for decades and centuries to come. The ability to give up all material possessions and merge with nature as a “spirit” was much coveted those days. I am sure a few attained nirvana. This philosophy is very similar to Buddhism.
Proliferation of gurus across India is not uncommon. People go to the intermediary or guru to get clarity on their lives and chalk out a future course of action. They need advice and guidance, and it was not an improper ask. As people, we go all the time to our elders, friends, and colleagues to seek some advice or the other. It is a natural thing to do.
However, in India, this process of seeking guidance led to fake gurus dishing out fake advice to the uninitiated or unsuspecting folks, who sometimes want urgent resolution of their problems. One positive outcome or positive result is all that is needed to push up and place the concerned guru on a pedestal, and the misinformed public will follow others in a herd mentality. In the process, the guru makes a huge amount of money, and converts his individuality to a commercial enterprise funded by his followers, spinning out books and products, and minting lots of money.
This is the most common thing happening in the Indian spiritual scene today. The better quality gurus who are reserved and pious, do not deserve the riches of the “crook gurus”. The latest case of the guru being punished by the special court in Haryana State of India which led to arson and disorder is the result of the state nurturing gurus. Secularism has no meaning if the government seeks support of gurus to win elections, and provides facilities to gurus which are only provided to ministers, in the name of security.
Spirituality is departing India. Not just based on incidents as above. The other aspect which plays an equal if not more domineering role is the ascension of materialism which is trumping spirituality. Materialism is the new goal of millions belonging to younger generation in India. People want to be rich. Nothing wrong with that. “To be rich is glorious” according to Deng Xiao Ping from the late Seventies. No politician dare say such things in India, as hundreds of millions of people are still subsisting on less than USD 3 per day, though the per capita income is fast approaching USD 2,000. In comparison, China’s per capita income (for a slightly larger population) works out to little more than USD 9,000. The China economy is almost five times the size of the Indian economy, and this has been achieved in less than 30 years. And, today the Chinese in Mainland China are seized by materialistic desires in every aspect of their lives, if you care to read about the social changes happening in China.
India cannot be much different, though the role of spiritualism is much stronger in India. However, materialism is taking over the lives of the youngsters, notwithstanding stories of one in a million that we read who are donning the saffron robes at a young age. Don’t get me wrong, I support materialism since I strongly believe economic progress stems out of peoples’ desires to upgrade their lives constantly. That means a desire for more things in life, more quality in life, better amenities, better education for children, more opportunity creation, more technology, more devices, better nutrition, more exercise, better health, and what not. I am not sure just following a spiritual journey would produce common advancement to the society in an economic sense.
Well, I am hearing murmurs of dissent. That’s perfectly all right. We need to have all sides of the argument. My conclusion, however, is that spirituality is departing from India in search of its next abode. Materialism is taking a strong root and this is to be expected, not to be fought against. The older generation is now coming to a conclusion, the younger generation sees things differently, defines needs differently, looks at problems as opportunities for upgrading life, etc.,
Let us welcome “materialism”.
27th August 2017
The Supreme Court of India upheld the sanctity of personal individual privacy as enshrined in the Constitution of India last week in a landmark ruling, which was widely considered as a setback to the Government of India, though the Government lawyer denied it saying that he welcomed the ruling.
The intent of the Government was to ensure that it had access to citizens’ data to deliver e-services, eliminating middle men and corruption which are endemic in the Indian system of bureaucracy. Most of us from India have felt that there was a strong need to automate routine government services, avoiding the requirement to visit government offices, which are notorious for their poor services and demands for money to execute simple tasks. We have seen and experienced how other developed countries deliver such services efficiently and without much ado, and with zero corruption.
India has successfully implemented the world’s largest national identification system (called “AADHAAR”) based on biometric data of citizens. Though the card is unwieldy, and possibly prone to misrepresentation, it has emerged as the one single identity for all Indian citizens. The PAN or Permanent Account Number Card which is held by most Indians has served as the identification proof for many years, but it was predominantly meant to be used in connection with Income Tax matters. The government now intends to link the Aadhaar Card with the PAN Card in the Income Tax system, thereby clearly establishing the identity and address of the individual tax payer.
Coming back to the privacy case in the Supreme Court of India, it was funny to note the inconsistencies in the arguments put forward by the government on various occasions. The government said that personal privacy, though a fundamental right of citizens, is not “absolute” – it does not give absolute rights to the individual on privacy and privacy has to operate within reasonable limits. The government lawyer went to the extent of arguing that citizens do not have absolute rights over their “own bodies”. Can you believe that?
If there is one institution in India which does not take nonsense, it must be the Supreme Court. For more than couple of decades, Indian Supreme Court Judges have acted as the balancing force between the executive (the government) and the parliament, and have generally been protective of individual citizens and their rights. I was not surprised to learn that in this crucial case of individual privacy, they acted to support the individual, rather than the government. While arguments flew back and forth, it was apparent that the Court was not going to play around with fundamental rights of citizens, irrespective of the needs of the government.
It is critical for the government to deliver e-services to citizens efficiently; it is also important for the government to deliver subsidies to deserving citizens such as farmers. However, the Supreme Court of India differed with the government on the need to sacrifice the privacy of the individual in order to be able to deliver something of value and importance to that individual.
I do not think the government will contest this ruling, or try to pass a legislation to overturn the ruling. I am sure that the current government is pragmatic, if not anything else. They have heard the ruling, and have reconciled themselves to the fact that nothing much is actually going to change on the ground. “Reasonable restrictions” can still be applied to the data collected.
What this case proves is that while access to and use of citizens’ data are critical to various requirements of the government, there needs to be strong safeguards for data privacy and protection before any individual data can be seen or processed. Consent of the individual concerned is of paramount importance before his data can be “touched”. There are no absolute guarantees, everyone understands that, but there has to be a consciousness on the part of the government as to the criticality of the data and the potential for abuse and misuse.
Kudos to the Supreme Court of India for this ruling, coming so soon after another landmark ruling regarding the triple talaq divorce case.
India is setting new milestones as it grows into the next phase of its social development.
Cheers, and have a great weekend,
26th August 2017