Archive for January, 2017

Crusaders vs Islam …

Posted on January 31, 2017. Filed under: The English, Uncategorized |

Khalid Elhassan in Quora

Generally, the Muslim forces were lightly armed and armored, and thus faster and more mobile, while the Crusaders were more heavily armed and armored, which came at the cost of making them slower.

Tactically, the Muslims preferred wide open spaces, where their mobility and speed gave them an advantage in fighting at a standoff distance that enabled them to attrit and discomfit the Crusaders with projectile weapons at leisure, coupled with hit and run attacks against vulnerable parts of the Crusader armies, before swooping in for the kill once they judged their foes to have been sufficiently weakened – or, alternatively, retreat and live to fight another day if things weren’t going well.

The greatest Muslim victories usually came when they managed to stage a series of quick hit and run attacks against Crusader armies on their line of march over a few days, cutting off stragglers or units poorly deployed beyond the effective mutual protection of the rest of the army, severing them off from supplies and/or water, and otherwise weaken and frazzle them over an extended period of time, then finish them while they were reeling.

The Crusaders on the other hand preferred to come to grips at close quarters with their opponents as soon as possible, as their heavier arms and armor gave them a decided advantage in a melee. Even more so if it was still early in the campaign, while they and their horses were still fresh and full of vigor.

The greatest Crusader victories often came when they managed to pin a Muslim army against a natural terrain feature or obstacle that prevented or at least made it difficult to freely maneuver, and thus fixed them in place for a decisive cavalry charge by heavily armored Crusader knights.

There were exceptions, of course, but in broadest terms, it was contest between a military tradition emphasizing maneuver by light and highly mobile forces softening the enemy with hit and run tactics and attrition over an extended period before finally swooping in for the kill, vs a military tradition emphasizing a more immediate commitment to decisive battle.

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The US Officer Corps …

Posted on January 31, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career |

William S. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook and director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation ………..

The most curious thing about the four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps.

Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation of military reformers, men such as Col. John Boyd USAF, Col. Mike Wyly USMC, and Col. Huba Wass de Czege USA, each of whom led a major effort to reorient his service. Today, the landscape is barren. Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change. Just more money, please.

Such a moral and intellectual collapse of the officer corps is one of the worst disasters that can afflict a military because it means it cannot adapt to new realities. It is on its way to history’s waste basket. 

The situation brings to mind an anecdote an Air Force friend, now a military historian, liked to tell some years ago. Every military, he said, occasionally craps in its own mess kit. The Prussians did it in 1806, after which they designed and put into service a much improved new model mess kit, through the Scharnhorst military reforms. The French did it in 1870, after which they took down from the shelf an old-model mess kit—the mass, draft army of the First Republic—and put it back in service.

The Japanese did it in 1945, after which they threw their mess kit away, swearing they would never eat again. And we did it in Korea, in Vietnam, and now in four new wars. So far, we’ve had the only military that’s just kept on eating.

Why? The reasons fall in two categories, substantive and structural. Substantively, at the moral level — Colonel Boyd’s highest and most powerful level—our officers live in a bubble. Even junior officers inhabit a world where they hear only endless, hyperbolic praise of “the world’s greatest military ever.” They feed this swill to each other and expect it from everyone else. If they don’t get it, they become angry. Senior officers’ bubbles, created by vast, sycophantic staffs, rival Xerxes’s court. Woe betide the ignorant courtier who tells the god-king something he doesn’t want to hear. (I know—I’ve done it, often.)

At Boyd’s next level, the mental, our officers are not professionals. They are merely craftsman. They have learned what they do on a monkey-see, monkey-do basis and know no more. What defines a professional—historically there were only three professions, law, medicine, and theology—is that he has read, studied, and knows the literature of his field.

The vast majority of our officers read no serious military history or theory. A friend who teaches at a Marine Corps school told me the most he can now get majors to read is two pages. Another friend, teaching at an Army school, says, “We are back to drawing on the cave wall.”

As culpable as our officers are for these failings, they are not the whole story. Officers are also victims of three structural failures, each of which is enough to lay an armed service low.

The first, and possibly the worst, is an officer corps vastly too large for its organization—now augmented by an ant-army of contractors, most of whom are retired officers. 

A German Panzer division in World War II had about 21 officers in its headquarters. Our division headquarters are cities. Every briefing—and there are many, the American military loves briefings because they convey the illusion of content without offering any—is attended by rank-upon-rank of horse-holders and flower-strewers, all officers.

The pathologies that flow from this are endless. Command tours are too short to accomplish anything, usually about 18 months, because behind each commander is a long line of fellow officers eagerly awaiting their lick at the ice-cream cone.

Decisions are pulled up the chain because the chain is laden with surplus officers looking for something to do. Decisions are committee-consensus, lowest common denominator, which Boyd warned is usually the worst of all possible alternatives.

Nothing can be changed or reformed because of the vast number of players defending their “rice bowls.” The only measurable product is entropy.

The second and third structural failings are related because both work to undermine moral courage and character, which the Prussian army defined as “eagerness to make decisions and take responsibility.” They are the “up or out” promotion system and “all or nothing” vesting for retirement at 20 years.

“Up or out” means an officer must constantly curry favor for promotion because if he is not steadily promoted he must leave the service. “All or nothing” says that if “up or out” pushes him out before he has served 20 years, he leaves with no pension. (Most American officers are married with children.)

It is not difficult to see how these two structural failings in the officer corps morally emasculate our officers and all too often turn them, as they rise in rank and near the magic 20 years, into ass-kissing conformists. Virtually no other military in the world has these policies, for obvious reasons.

Of these two types of failings, the structural are probably the most damaging. They are also the easiest to repair. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, the president, and Congress could quickly fix all of them.

Why don’t they? Because they only look at the defense budget, and these are not directly budgetary issues. They merely determine, in large measure, whether we win or lose. 

Fixing the substantive problems is harder because those fixes require changes in organizational culture. OSD cannot order our officers to come out from the closed system, fortified with hubris, that they have placed around themselves to protect the poor dears from ever hearing anything upsetting, however true.

Congress cannot withhold pay from those officers who won’t read. Only our officers themselves can fix these deficiencies. Will they? The problem is circular: not until they leave their bubble.

If American military officers want to know, or even care, why we keep losing, they need only look in the mirror. They seem to do that most of the time anyway, admiring their now-tattered plumage.

Behind them in the glass, figures in turbans dance and laugh.

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World of Tomorrow …

Posted on January 29, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers |

Dr. Peter Diamandis was recently named by Fortune Magazine as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. He is the founder and executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation which leads the world in designing and operating large-scale incentive competitions.  He is also the co-founder and executive chairman of Singularity University, a graduate-level Silicon Valley institution that counsels the world’s leaders on exponentially growing technologies. Diamandis is also the co-founder and vice-chairman of Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), a genomics and cell therapy-based company focused on extending the healthy human lifespan.  In the field of commercial space, Diamandis is co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources, a company designing spacecraft to enable the detection and prospecting of asteroids for fuels and precious materials. He is the also co-founder of Space Adventures and Zero Gravity Corporation.  Diamandis is a New York Times bestselling author of two books: Abundance – The Future Is Better Than You Think and BOLD – How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World.  He earned degrees in Molecular Genetics and Aerospace Engineering from MIT, and holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. His motto is, “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.” Over to him ……………..

People are concerned about how AI and robotics are taking jobs, destroying livelihoods, reducing our earning capacity, and subsequently destroying the economy. In anticipation, countries like Canada and Finland are running experiments to pilot the idea of “universal basic income” — the unconditional provision of a regular sum of money from the government to support livelihood independent of employment.

But what people aren’t talking about, and what’s getting attention, is a forthcoming rapid demonetization of the cost of living. Meaning — it’s getting cheaper and cheaper to meet our basic needs. Powered by developments in exponential technologies, the cost of housing, transportation, food, health care, entertainment, clothing, education and so on will fall, eventually approaching, believe it or notzero.

Lets explore how people spend their money now and how “technological socialism” (i.e., having our lives taken care of by technology) can demonetize living. Spending habits around the world tell a pretty consistent story — we tend to spend money on many of the same basic products and services.

Take a look at how consumers spend their money in three large economies: The United States, China, and India. In the U.S., in 2011, 33% of the average American’s income was spent on housing, followed by 16% spent on transportation, 12% spent on food, 6% on healthcare, and 5% on entertainment. In other words, more than 75% of Americans’ expenditures come from housing, transportation, food, personal insurance, and health.

In China, per a recent Goldman Sachs Investment Research report, there is a similar breakdown — food, home, mobility, and well-being make up the majority of the expenditures. Interestingly, in China, consumers care significantly more about looking good and eating better (and less about having more fun) than in the U.S. — nearly half of consumer income goes to clothes and food.

In India, with a population of 1.2 billion people, expenditures on food, transportation, and miscellaneous goods and services are most prominent. Rent/housing and healthcare represent a smaller portion of expenditures.

These differences likely represent cultural differences in each of the three very different countries — but overall, you see that the majority of expenditures are in these top 7 categories: Transportation, Food, Healthcare, Housing, Energy,  Education,  Entertainment.

Now, imagine what would happen if the cost of these items plummeted. Here’s how…Rapid Demonetization — “Demonetization” means the ability of technology to take a product or service that was previously expensive and make it substantially cheaper or potentially free (in the extreme boundary condition). It means removing money from the equation.

Consider Photography: In the Kodak years, photography was expensive. You paid for the camera, for the film, for developing the film, and so on. Today, during the megapixel era, the camera in your phone is free — no film, no developing. Completely demonetized.

Consider Information/Research: In years past, collecting obscure data was hard, expensive in time if you did it yourself, or expensive in money if you hired researchers. Today, during the Google era, it’s free and the quality is 1000x better. Access to information, data, and research is fully demonetized.

Consider live video or phone calls: Demonetized by Skype, Google Hangouts, the list goes on: Craigslist demonetized classifieds; iTunes demonetized the music industry, Uber demonetized transportation, Airbnb demonetized hotels, Amazon demonetized bookstores.

Demonetizing ~$1M Worth of Stuff We Take for Granted In the back of my book Abundance (page 289 of the recent edition), I provide a chart showing how we’ve demonetized $900,000 worth of products and services that you might have purchased between 1969 and 1989.

 

People with a smartphone today can access tools that would have cost thousands a few decades ago.

Twenty years ago, most well-off U.S. citizens owned a camera, a video camera, a CD player, a stereo, a video game console, a cellphone, a watch, an alarm clock, a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas, a Thomas guide, and a whole bunch of other assets that easily add up to more than $900,000.

Today, all of these things are free on your smartphone. Strange that we don’t value these things when they become free. We just expect them. So now, let’s look at the top seven areas mentioned above where people globally are spending their cash today and how these things are likely to demonetize over the next decade or two.

(1) Transportation The automotive market (a trillion dollars) is being demonetized by startups like Uber. But this is just the beginning. When Uber rolls out fully autonomous services, your cost of transportation will plummet. Think about all of the related costs that disappear: auto insurance, auto repairs, parking, fuel, parking tickets. Your overall cost of “getting around” will be 5 to 10 times cheaper when compared to owning a car. This is the future of “car as a service.”

Ultimately, the poorest people on Earth will be chauffeured around.

(2) Food As I noted in Abundance, the cost of food has dropped thirteenfold over the past century. That reduction will continue.

As noted in the chart above, the cost of food at home has dropped by >50%. Additional gains will be made as we learn to efficiently produce foods locally through vertical farming (note that 70% of food’s final retail price comes from transportation, storage and handling). Also, as we make genetic and biological advances, we will learn how to increase yield per square meter.

(3) Healthcare Healthcare can be roughly split into four major categories: (i) diagnostics, (ii) intervention/surgery, (iii) chronic care, and (iv) medicines.(i) Diagnostics: AI has already demonstrated the ability to diagnose cancer patients better than the best doctors, image and diagnose pathology, look at genomics data and draw conclusions, and/or sort through gigabytes of phenotypic data… all for the cost of electricity. (ii) Intervention/Surgery: In the near future, the best surgeons in the world will be robots, and they’ll be able to move with precision and image a surgical field in high magnification. Each robotic surgeon can call upon the data from millions of previous robotic surgeries, outperforming the most experienced human counterpart. Again, with the cost asymptotically approaching zero. (iii) Chronic/Eldercare: Taking care of the aging and the chronically ill will again be done most efficiently through robots. (iv) Medicines: Medicines will be discovered and manufactured more efficiently by AIs and, perhaps in the near future, be compounded at home with the aid of a 3D printing machine that assembles your perfect medicines based on the needs and blood chemistries in that very moment.

It’s also worth noting the price of genomics sequencing is plummeting (as you’ll see below, at five times the rate of Moore’s Law). Accurate sequencing should allow us to predict which diseases you’re likely to develop and which drugs are of highest use to treat you.

(4) Housing Think about what drives high housing costs. Why does a single-family apartment in Manhattan cost $10 million, while the same square footage on the outskirts of St. Louis can be purchased for $100,000?

Location. Location. Location. People flock to high-density, desired areas near the jobs and the entertainment. This market demand drives up the price. Housing will demonetize for two reasons: The first reason is because of two key technologies which make the proximity of your home to your job irrelevant, meaning you can live anywhere (specifically, where the real estate is cheap):

(1) Autonomous Cars: If your commute time can become time to read, relax, sleep, watch a movie, have a meeting — does it matter if your commute is 90 minutes?

(2) Virtual Reality: What happens when your workplace is actually a virtual office where your co-workers are avatars? When you no longer need to commute at all. You wake up, plug into your virtual workspace, and telecommute from the farm or from the island of Lesvos.

The second technology drivers are robotics and 3D printing, which will demonetize the cost of building structures. A number of startups are now exploring how 3D printed structures and buildings can dramatically reduce the cost of construction and the amount of time it takes to build a building. For example, a company out of China, WinSun, is 3D printing entire apartment buildings (see picture below):

(5) Energy

Five thousand times more energy hits the surface of the Earth from the Sun in an hour than all humanity uses in a year. Solar is abundant worldwide. Better yet, the poorest countries on Earth are the sunniest.  Today, the cost of solar has dropped to ~$0.03 kWh. The cost of solar will continue to demonetize through further material science advances (e.g. perovskite) that increase efficiencies.

(6) Education Education has already been demonetized in many respects, as most of the information you’d learn in school is available online for free. Coursera, Khan Academy, and schools like Harvard, MIT and Stanford have thousands of hours of high-quality instruction online, available to anyone on the planet with an Internet connection.

But this is just the beginning. Soon the best professors in the world will be AIs able to know the exact abilities, needs, desires and knowledge of a student and teach them exactly what they need in the best fashion at the perfect rate. Accordingly, the child of a billionaire or the child of a pauper will have access to the same (best) education delivered by such an AI, effectively for free.

(7) Entertainment

Entertainment (video and gaming) historically required significant purchases of equipment and services. Today, with the advent of music streaming services, YouTube, Netflix and the iPhone App Store, we’re seeing an explosion of available selections at the same time that the universe of options rapidly demonetizes. YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.

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Wonderful Witty Ad …

Posted on January 27, 2017. Filed under: Light plus Weighty |

Carnation Milk 65 Years Ago.

A little old lady from Wisconsin had worked in and around her family dairy farms since she was old enough to walk, with hours of hard work and little compensation.
When canned Carnation Milk became available in grocery stores in the 1940s, she read an advertisement offering $5,000 for the best slogan.The producers wanted a rhyme beginning with………… ‘Carnation Milk is best of all.

She thought to herself, I know everything there is to know about milk and dairy farms.
I can do this!

She sent in her entry and several weeks later a black car pulled up in front of her house  ….

A large man got out, knocked on her door and said, “Ma’am,….. I am President of Carnation milk. We absolutely LOVED your entry…..So much, in fact, that we are here to award you $1,000 even though we will not be able to use it our advertisements!”—-He did, however, have one printed up to hang on his office wall.

——–

Carnation Milk is Best of All,
No tits to pull, No  hay to haul,
No buckets to wash, No shit to pitch,
Just Poke a hole in the Son of a Bitch!
True Story!!!
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A Stone with my Name …

Posted on January 18, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Maj Gaurav Aryra’s write-up is straight from the heart.
Will the netas and babus in Lutyen’s Delhi ever understand these sentiments?
 *A STONE WITH MY NAME*

Some soldier with a funny bone at 102 Infantry Brigade (Base Camp) will tell you that Siachen means ‘Rose Garden’. Its true! Maybe its funny, in a self-deprecating sort of way. Most soldiers crack jokes, which only they can understand.

2016 has been a violent year – both emotionally and physically. Never was the Indian Army attacked by those whom they loved. We won the wars fought on the Line of Control and across. We lost those fought inside our country, because those who attacked us were our countrymen.
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When I was in the army my Commanding Officer told me that we must not fear death. He told us that dying for the nation was a unique honor, which was accorded to a lucky few. He told us that when we went home wrapped in the tricolor, the nation would weep. And, he told us that they would remember our names forever. We would become immortal.

My CO was a simple soldier. He had fought wars and shed blood. For him, dishonorable conduct was unthinkable. He would often admonish us and say “This conduct in unbecoming of an officer of the Indian Army”. To him, life was simple. You defended your country and its people, and if you were martyred, there would a stone with your name at the Kumaon Regimental Center at Ranikhet. That was all that we aspired to – a stone with our name at Ranikhet.

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When the situation seemed hopeless, he would simply say “Yeh Major Shaitan Singh aur Major Somnath Sharma ki Regiment hai”. These words were enough. The unit would pick itself up, bleeding and bruised, and launch itself again into battle. It was always about “Izzat”. Honor of the nation, the regiment and our forefathers who had been martyred before us in countless wars and insurgencies.

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.Rezang La. Badgam. Walong. Bhaduria. Names, which ordinary Indians had never heard of, were temples around which our lives ceaselessly revolved. After all, what was life without honor?

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2016 has been a different year. Movie actors say that the soldier signed up to die. Politicians want proof that we hit terror camps across the border. The expert, that Lutyensw how the army ‘allowed’ itself to be attacked at Uri, Nagrota and Pathankot. 
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Opportunists, who never once so much as looked in the direction of a soldier, have shed crocodile tears over an unfortunate suicide. Bureaucrats have an opinion on the appointment of the Army Chief. This year, the Indian Army has been constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons, and none of it of its own doing.

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I want the experts, politicians, bureaucrats, TV anchors and sundry actors to know that what they say in public damages the morale of the soldier. It denudes and degrades the soldier’s will to fight. It shatters his self-esteem. It dishonors him. A soldier without honor is not a soldier. It is a dead body.

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I am an unknown soldier. I have fought for over a hundred years, killing and dying. In unmarked graves across Europe and in the fetid and humid jungles of Burma, you will find my memories. In desolate, wind swept mountain passes and in the bone-bleaching furnace of the Thar, you will discover that I could not be defeated. Across the salty seas and terror-infested landscapes, I was mostly the hunter and sometimes the smell of the dead body on the third day.

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Why do I do what I do? I don’t know how to explain. In this mad world of smartphones and Twitter, undefined relationships and loneliness, I inhabit a world that smells of cordite and warm blood. It’s a different world. It’s a world in which people will die because you ask them to, sometimes for the Flag, sometimes for the Anthem, and often for the fallen heroes of battles fought long ago.

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If you honor me, I will be grateful. If you don’t, I will still fight. If you give me nothing, I will fight with my bare hands – Major Shaitan Singh lives.

That is all that I aspire to; a stone with my name at Ranikhet.
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HAPPY NEW YEAR, INDIA
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Major Gaurav Arya, Veteran 17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment Indian Army
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The Naked Truth re BLACK Money …

Posted on January 18, 2017. Filed under: Business, Indian Thought, Uncategorized |

Captain GR Gopinath …

Almost all of us – politicians and bureaucrats; the low and the elite – have all dealt with black money at one time or another.

When it suits and benefits us we have paid or accepted donations to admit children in good schools, bribed the police if caught driving intoxicated at night to avoid inconvenience and embarrassment, greased the palms of the RTO to get a driving licence, paid the sub registrar under the table through our lawyer to reduce stamp duty while registering our property, paid in cash to avoid VAT while purchasing material for building our house, paid the doctor, lawyer, auditor or architect or bought goods in cash and not insisted on bills, or bribed the income tax assessment officer through the accountant to reduce our tax liability.

Then when the Govt decided to build a dam, the babus, lawyers and sundry facilitators took away most of the farmer’s compensation money. 

Corruption by government officials in cahoots with politicians and middlemen destroyed the lives of millions while it enriched officials, contractors and others. It gradually became common knowledge that if you landed a job as an inspector or an official in the government department it was the easiest and quickest way to wealth.

Black money like cancer devoured the country and ordinary citizens. Like Laxman’s Common Man, Hirannayya’s stories and anecdotes are inspired from stories of the day’s newspapers and journals. An example there is this  Constable who drags a hapless villager to the local police station pushing a bicycle and produces him in front of the sergeant.

The sergeant asks – ” What’s the offence ?” Constable -” Sir, he was riding to the next village without lights. I brought him in to fine him.” Sergeant, surprised – ” But, its only 11 in the morning !” Constable- ” Yes Saar. But when I asked him what time is he returning from the other village, he said 8 at night. So I guessed he will be riding back in darkness without lights. So I hauled him up just to teach him a lesson.”

I took premature retirement and came back to my village and took to farming the remote barren land given as compensation for the land devoured by the waters of the reservoir created by the dam. I was 28 years old after having served 8 years in the Army. I found that fighting the Pakistanis had been easier than battling the bureaucracy and government.

I had to get land records completed, surveys done, approach road to my lands constructed from the irrigation department as it was rehabilitated land and had      obtain electricity. I had to deal with offices of Tehsildar, sub registrar ,state electricity board and other sundry offices. I soon foimd my file would not move an inch unless I gave it a push through ‘speed money’.

Then I bit the big ‘Apple’. I started the helicopter and aviation company with an ex Army pilot. For three years I ran from pillar to post to get an aviation licence. Finally our sheer dogged persistence. It was well known that aviation was and still is, to a great degree operated under a ‘license Raj’. I mean there are a lot of discretionary powers both at the ministry and bureaucratic level which are still happy operating under antiquated cumbersome laws which is the root of corruption.    And if you go with a suit case full of money to the corridors of power in Delhi someone will come and dispossess you of it.

While running the aviation company I was unwittingly at first , wittingly at other times – sucked into dealing with cash of big National political parties, who used our helicopters for election rallies. Most of the money that was paid by all political parties was unaccounted money paid by big business.

It is an open secret. The high and mighty politicians – a few with reputations of being honest and many others known to be corrupt – from all major national and regional political parties – all traveled extensively on choppers and jets, criss crossing the country.

Many politicians reneged on payment after use. Quite a few surprised me by being honorable and kept the commitment and paid in cash. Political parties paid part in cash and part in cheque. We were constantly running to the government for approvals and clearances and the aviation company’s survival hinged on speedy clearances.

I knew, in many instances that I would have won in a court of law against the ministry of aviation and the regulators, but that would have taken years and in the mean time the air craft would have become worthless and the company would have gone belly up. 

I had decided not to bribe in cash. Somehow it felt vulgar and demeaning. But I found a way to cheat myself and offered in kind, by giving my choppers and planes during elections for free or offered free air tickets and guest houses and cars for their vacation.

Politicians flew to meet God Men. God Men jetted and hopped in and out of choppers to meet politicians. Businessmen fell over each other and paid us for the trips of both. I felt diminished for what I did. I washed off my guilt saying to myself I did it to save my company.

Almost the entire educated middle class as well as the small and medium businesses (with rare exceptions) are corrupt in their day to day dealings. The politicians along with the bureaucracy, big corporates and crony capitalists who all have a cozy nexus are in the forefront of the large scale corruption that we see in papers and television.

We all know that they bend the law, are above the law and have been amassing massive fortunes with brazenness and impunity. Educated Indians often talk about our corruption in the country as though it’s part of our inherited genetic disease – a DNA in Indians as a race.

Let me just say all people of all countries are corrupt when there are cumbersome rules, ill conceived policies, high taxes, lack of accountability and NO transparency and when there are institutions without autonomy and there’s laxity in strict enforcement of rule of law.  When society allows rulers to rule with conflict of interest coupled with subversion of democracy.

Historically we have seen similar decline in many countries. Russia, East Germany , China , Argentina are a few examples that come readily to mind. Even in the West many European countries not under communism have seen their rise, fall and rise again.

 Here is what Ralph Waldo Emerson said of America in one of his celebrated essays in the 1850s. – “The young man, on entering life, finds the way to lucrative employments blocked with abuses. The ways of trade are grown selfish to the borders of theft, and supple to the borders (if not beyond the borders) of fraud. The sins of our trade belongs to no class, to no individual. One plucks, one distributes, one eats. Every body partakes, every body confesses, — with cap and knee volunteers his confession, yet none feels himself accountable. He did not create the abuse; he cannot alter it. ..”

We have all partaken the fruits of corruption. In such a state of affairs, where corruption and black money is a way of life, it was naive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have expected demonetization in isolation to act like a magic wand and end the scourge of black money. 

If a farmer receives twenty thousand rupees in cash it is legal. It’s white. There’s no tax on his income. If the farmer then goes to a doctor and pays five thousand without bills it becomes black. If the doctor then goes to a five star hotel and spends it on dinner, it is billed and it becomes white again but the doctor hid his income. So black and white are inextricably entwined. We have all been corrupt. Man is selfish and will take advantage of situations and exploit it to his advantage. Gender, caste, color, creed or race – there are no exceptions to temptation of lucre or power. 

That’s why we all, including the best of us , need institutions to keep us in check. That’s why even the judge of highest rectitude and unimpeachable integrity is expected to recuse himself while trying cases of his kin or where there’s a conflict of interest. In India we have the proverbial case of the fence eating the crop. We have to strike at the flow of black money and creation of it , otherwise it will be akin to removing piled up garbage once in twenty years.

Whatever be his failings and the numerous controversies that surround Prime Minister Modi, whatever be the charges of his critics and detractors, he has suffused energy into the moribund economy and infused optimism into the aspiring millions who were in despair and were looking up to a strong leader with a clean image untainted by corruption during the declining years of UPA Two when the nation was plunged into despondency and gloom.

With indefatigable energy and inextinguishable enthusiasm – despite his saffron affiliates often queering the pitch by striking discordant notes and working at cross purposes – he single handedly galvanized world opinion, crisscrossed the world, met world leaders and investors and business magnates – managed to put India on the world map and turned it into the fastest growing economy in the world and got them interested into looking at investing in India even though many of his colleagues were not able to deliver on his promise and often made a sorry spectacle of themselves.

Now with such a dazzling accomplishment in a short span of two years, riding the wave of the fastest growing economy in the world, even after taking into account sceptics who charged that the growth statistics was fudged (even the fearless erstwhile RBI governor Raghuram Rajan known for his highly respected professional and apolitical views, as well as the IMF and World Bank validated India’s preeminent position as the fastest growing economy in the world).

After such a trail blazing feat, despite overwhelming odds, Mr Modi, in one fell swoop undid everything by extinguishing nearly 90 per cent of the currency without first preparing the ground for implementation and without first introducing far reaching reforms for checking the generation of black money starting with the politicians, bureaucrats and police, for demonetization to achieve its intended objectives and carry credibility.

It may be too late to reverse some of the damages already inflicted but it is never too late to pursue the implementation of bold reforms to transform governance and society. Despite the foreign media (the same media that extolled him till recently are now disapproving his demonetization as poorly planned and lacking in comprehending the complex economics of it and being ill advised) despite large sections of the Indian intelligentsia including many reputed economists tearing him apart and calling it harebrained, Modi is still fortunate as he enjoys a fount of good will.

The teeming millions of the poor and the dispossessed who constitute the mute suffering majority are still rooting for Modi and believe in him and his popularity has in fact risen. They see him in mythic imagery, incarnate as the slayer of demons – the demons of black marketeers and hoarders. And combined with that goodwill of the masses , the opposition is in total disarray and are at sixes and sevens. There are hardly any leaders among them of any commanding national stature and credibility.

So Mr Modi can still afford to act swiftly with courage and carry out with speed far reaching structural institutional reforms for achieving the results of demonetization to percolate down to the common people while they are still with him and before the groundswell of support evaporates. 

For that he must set an example and begin his surgical strikes right at the top. Modi may be individually honest, but good governance, – his election campaign credo – can only be achieved through strong autonomous institutions.

Time is running out. May we wish he does it in the New Year.

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Harry Truman …

Posted on January 17, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Personalities, Uncategorized |

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence, Missouri. His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.  ……………………………..

When he retired from office in 1952 his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an ‘allowance’ and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year. .

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them. When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.   

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, “I don’t consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise.”
..
As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food. Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale.
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Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, “My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or to become a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference!
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Chinese Real Politic in CPEC …

Posted on January 15, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Pakistan | Tags: |

-By Syed Talat Hussain former executive editor of The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV

From Beijing’s point of view, Pakistan’s stability is of the utmost importance – not because the Chinese love us but because we happen to have a geography that fits into their plan for the next century, which they believe will have them on top of the hierarchy of nations. 

Trade routes are lifelines. So are energy corridors. We happen to provide both.

The shortest and best connectivity with the rest of the world which also allows them to develop the whole of their country by harnessing its vast land mass for more production – that’s what we are to the Chinese.

For us, China is a friend in deed because we are always in need of strategic wherewithal like nuclear cooperation; of vital diplomatic support to offset the Goliath in the east, India, and of investment from outside sources most of which, other than the Chinese, have become exceedingly risk-weary and therefore averse to putting their pretty penny in our land.

It is not a free lunch for us – modern day China is too practical minded to offer anything free.

We are bordering on becoming China’s backyard where it would land its goods and elbow out ours. We are also getting recruited in a power game of a global scale that is likely to cut the world into Eastern and Western blocks precariously balanced on an uncertain nuclear threshold.

It is dangerous to be tied to the knee of a behemoth. Every move can shatter the bones. But we have few options except to cling on. China is a friendly giant whose embrace we feel comfortable in.

Logically, the mutuality of these interests should keep things stable between us and the Chinese. And this is how it is as well. Things are stable. Nobody wants to lose Chinese goodwill, their advice and of course their time-tested friendship and trust. From Maulana Fazlur Rehman to Ayaz Lateef Palejo, from Imran Khan to Nawaz Sharif and from retired generals to the serving ones, there is a stated consensus that China is holier than all external cows and must be treated as such too.

But logic also demands that we ought to demonstrate through our actions that we understand the Chinese sensitivities and, more important, realise that their global agenda presupposes a certain rationality on our part in our actions. Of late this presupposed rationality has gone up in smoke, leaving the Chinese on the verge of tearing their hair out over the bewildering speed at which we are journeying down into chaos, singing all the way.

From the Chinese point of view, there has not been a moment’s prudent silence in Pakistan ever since the CPEC has come to the fore. An engineered and provincialised internal controversy on how the western route is missing from the whole scheme was followed by endless political turmoil in the country threatening to unleash disorder that could affect the whole timetable of the CPEC.

The last dharna by Imran Khan caused the CPEC signing to be postponed (the Chinese have long-term memory and events are meticulously filed in durable shelves and never forgotten) and it was not lost on Beijing how Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was taking the lead in protesting the alleged bias in the CPEC and threatening to not let this scheme take off in that part of Pakistan if its complaints weren’t addressed.

It is a coincidence (Chinese do not believe in coincidences) that KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak is still on a self-declared war-path with the centre on this vital corridor and his leader is a few days away from laying a siege on the capital city demanding the prime minister’s resignation and effectively dissolving the government.

One does not have to meet anyone to know this qualification has importance since the Cyril story, (and now all journalists must insist that they get their stories through intuition) how frustrated the Chinese are over these matters that hang in the air like a bad smell refusing to go away.

The Chinese have taken the unusual step of explaining the CPEC to the sceptics via Twitter (just imagine!) where their diplomats take public questions and unravel the so-called mystery of which route is being built first and which is being left out.

They have met all significant leaders in Pakistan, pleading sanity and advising rationality for the larger interest of both the countries. They have complained (in a nice Chinese way that involves sobriety and careful formulations) that Pakistan ought to get its priorities straight and desist from taking a path that leads nowhere except to the derailment of the mutual understanding on the CPEC.

However, to no avail. The Chinese have had far little success in drilling their message home on this count as compared to the earlier problem when a virtual power struggle broke out within the decision-making echelons over who would control the execution of the CPEC schemes. In that case they were able to shoot trouble by meeting all ‘stakeholders’ (post the Dawn-story episode it is now imperative for the sake of national interest that stakeholders must never be named) and cautioning that these squabbles are quite petty.

But now the Chinese aren’t making any headway. Their efforts have been fruitless to point to the gains of the CPEC as a way to suggest that the present bout of political warfare is totally counter-productive. Every day the spiral of political hate goes a circle higher and the possibility of events spinning out of control inches closer to becoming reality.

Knowing the Chinese propensity to analyse all situations in expanded frameworks, it would not be wrong to assume that Beijing sees the events in Pakistan as part of a struggle that involves global interests. (Beijing must have also noticed foreign-funded non-governmental organisations running open campaigns against the CPEC and motivating public sentiment against the CPEC.)

The Chinese can be forgiven for assuming that Pakistan’s power elite are actually divided into three distinct groups: the Washington-London Group; the Middle-Eastern Group; the Chinese Group. And while everyone pays homage to Beijing, the reality of the situation is that external lobbies are working their agendas through their chosen ones.

These groups have their interests aligned in different world capitals. Their children, their families, their businesses, their future jobs – everything is wired to world centres. (A profile of whose family interests lie outside Pakistan would be a fascinating study except that no one will be able to publish it here.)

Which lobby will prevail? Only time will tell. Which group will survive this battle of giant interests? A few months wait will bring us answers. But one thing is for sure: this battle will be bloody and, not because the groups in Pakistan have so much fire in their bellies but because the global stakes of what happens in Pakistan are very high.

We need to remember that in the 18th and 19th centuries  the British fought 30 wars to keep their sea route from Africa to India safe. The First World War was a trade routes and colonies war.

Since then wars are conducted through proxies and agents. In modern times, the US has interfered in almost 80 elections around the world to secure its own interests. Washington has fought two dozen wars (on other soils) and has caused displacement of millions from their homes to ensure that it retains its strategic advantages, which inevitably involve keeping oil supplies and markets safe.

Global interests will keep the times in Pakistan interesting. There will not be a moment of stability in this land because of its geography. With this in mind, see it from the Chinese point of view: they may conclude that the uproar in Pakistan is not about Panama: it is about China.

Email: syedtalathussain@gmail.com
Twitter: @TalatHussain12

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America’s Change of Baton …

Posted on January 14, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Uncategorized |

Simon Jenkins – If a good man like Barack Obama fails to deliver on his promises, is it inevitable that a bad man like Donald Trump will do worse?

Does a good man make a good president – and a bad man a bad one? Barack Obama’s leaving speech in Chicago on Tuesday night was as uplifting as his arrival speech in November 2008. It exuded optimism, moderation and generosity. He was neither triumphalist nor sectarian. Ever adept at masking cliche with rhetoric, he turned “Yes we can” to “Yes we did”.

Yesterday’s bizarre press conference by the President-elect, his tweets and cavalier dismissal of various sexual allegations against him are more suggestive of a banana republic than a democratic inauguration.

That America has exchanged a saint for a sinner is hardly controversial, even among many Trump supporters. But American presidents are not chosen to be saints. They may stand as momentary icons of nationhood, but first and foremost they are chief executives. Obama listed his achievements on Tuesdaynight, and they were not inconsiderable.

In 2009 he pulled the American economy back from the brink of recession with perhaps an emphatic modern-day Keynesianism. He saved the auto industry, prevented a bank collapse and put his Country on the road back towards full employment. He introduced a health plan that may be flawed, but should be too entrenched for its enemies to destroy. Abroad, he pulled off deals with Iran and Cuba, and tried to bring an end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama was a good man. The President’s regime was scandal-free, his family admirable, his colleagues able. He brought dignity, noble intent and a clear intelligence to the job. He knew that American democracy was a fragile flower, and what most threatened it: the fragmentation of identity politics. His most specific warning in Tuesday’s speech was against “the rise of naked partisanship and economic and regional stratification … a retreat into bubbles, of people who look like us and share the same political outlook”.

He never wanted to be seen as a black President. In his 2008 speech he did not once mention race. His remarkable autobiography was the memoir not of a salvationist minority leader but of a youth from a white family searching for the roots of his blackness. The passion of the welcome for his residency was due in large part to the symbolism of a barrier being breached.

What Obama understood was that he had become the President of a Nation in need of healing, and that he faced a world still looking to America as an exemplar of a decent society. Of all recent Presidents, Obama seemed the most committed to bringing people together – to globalization in the best sense of the word. Yet the central task for Obama after that November evening in 2008 was to convert the glory of his election into political capital. In this he failed.

He did not clean the Augean stables of Washington, and suffered dearly for it. An assertive and partisan Congress was able to shackle him. It prevented him from establishing an electoral base sufficient to hold off a Republican resurgence, and thus protect his own legacy. Under Obama there was no easing of racial tension, desperate as he was to achieve it. There was no gun control – and little evidence of police control. Guantánamo was not closed.

America did not withdraw its lumbering military presence from places where it had no right or cause to be. It still has troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama could not prevent the crazy Anglo-French intervention in Libya, of which he clearly disapproved. Nor did he do anything but prolong the horror of Syria’s civil war, by backing the losing side. In thrall to military advisers and lobbyists, Obama scattered his drones and special forces throughout the Muslim world, as counter-productive to peace as they ever were.

He failed to discipline Israel or define a new relationship with Russia. Washington showed no understanding that terrorism was not the same as an attack on the security of a State. The President and his Democrats thus left it open to Trump, of all people, to attack Wall Street and Washington’s beltway bubble. They left it to Trump to appear on the side of the small guy. They left it to him to champion non-intervention abroad and reassess the purposes of Nato in Europe. They left it to him to call for rapprochement, however sinister, with Russia.

Of course Obama claimed to seek many of these things on coming to office, but he did not carry them through. There were moments in Norma Percy’s gripping 2015 documentary, Inside Obama’s White House, when we sensed his honed intelligence turning toughness to indecision.

Trump may not do what he claims to want to do – sane or insane. But if a good man fails to do what he promises, is it inevitable that a bad man will do worse? I think I prefer intelligent indecision to impetuosity. But as yet, who knows? A Trump Presidency remains a wholly unknown quantity, not least, probably, to himself.

Eight years ago the whole world cried out for Obama. He was portrayed, unhelpfully, as an American messiah. No one cries “Messiah” of Trump, except on the wilder shores of political love. On Obama’s coming to power, the cliche was that “America will never be the same again”. For better or worse, it is much the same. But the same apocalyptic prophecies are being made of Trump.

Since they were not true of Obama, there is no reason to think they will be true of Trump. His enemies seem as likely to be within his own party as among his political opponents. When anything can happen, the only divide is between nature’s optimists and pessimists.

The mistake is clearly to exaggerate the significance of any President and of his room for manoeuvre. It was Obama’s undoing that the American Constitution has a facility for throwing up barriers against the exercise of any sort of power. Perhaps America’s friends should take comfort not from its capacity to change, but from its capacity to stay the same.

That capacity has seldom seemed more needed than today.

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Distilled Politics Over the Ages …

Posted on January 13, 2017. Filed under: Searching for Success, Uncategorized |

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

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

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  

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 government.
John Adams

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

If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. Suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of government. But then I repeat myself.
Mark Twain

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

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
Dougla Casey –  Classmate of Bill Clinton 

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

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