Archive for August, 2017

Demonetization Truths …

Posted on August 31, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought |

By MK Venu in the Wire

The RBI’s data, and the government’s new narrative, is indicative of how badly demonetisation failed. Worse still, more important goals such as cracking down on benami property and reforming political funding are being gone about in a half-baked manner.

Much of the behavioural change the government wanted from demonetisation comes from GST. It’s the other goals such as clamping down on benami property that have fallen by the wayside.

Politically, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sold the idea that demonetisation was a pro-poor move, aimed at flushing out black money lying with the relatively wealthy.

The RBI has now finally released data to show that 99% of the notes that were demonetised last November are back with banks. This means that whoever had black money has successfully pushed their money back in the system.

This is clearly a colossal failure of the policy, whatever new spin finance minister Arun Jaitley might want to give. The obvious fallout of this monetary vandalism inflicted on the nation last November is a decline in industrial growth, bank lending and employment generation post-demonetisation.

Remember, we were told that banks would have massive new deposits, which would be lent to businesses. Well, bank credit growth for the nine months since demonetisation is the lowest in 60 years.

Even the finance minister shouldn’t be able to spin happy stories in the face of such negative data. That hasn’t stopped him from trying though. On Wednesday evening, Jaitley made an astounding claim that there was nothing wrong in 99% of the demonetised money coming back as it was never the aim of the government to confiscate black money. “We wanted behavioural change in the economy,” Jaitley has said.

Let us examine both these claims. First, it was the finance minister himself who had claimed in November that going by past experience about 15-20% of the demonetised currency, roughly Rs 3 lakh crore, was likely to get extinguished and would not return to the system.

Thus it would be tantamount to confiscation and become RBI property, to be eventually handed over to government for the welfare of the poor. The then attorney general Mukul Rohatgi stated this before the Supreme Court. So how can Jaitley now say the confiscation of black money was never the objective? The cash that does not return to the system stands automatically confiscated. It is like money taxed at 100%.

Nevertheless, the finance minister has to give a new spin because everything did indeed come back and nothing got extinguished or confiscated. It is doubly embarrassing for the government that the RBI ended up spending over Rs 30,000 crore on the printing of new currency and managing the other logistics of demonetisation.

As things stand, the expenses incurred by the RBI are way more than the actual amount of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes that were extinguished or confiscated – Rs.16,000 crore. It is this deficit that caused the RBI to hand out far lower dividend to the Centre for 2016-17.

Indeed, Modi’s tone from day one after demonetisation was one that threatened to confiscate black money. There were widespread raids all over the country. In the initial weeks, there was great enthusiasm shown by the government and the RBI as it reported on a daily basis the cash that was coming into the system. Then at some point in December, the RBI stopped giving daily reports because the government realised the bulk of the demonetised notes were coming back, thus making the prime minister look bad.

By December-end, nearly Rs 13 lakh crore had come back. The RBI was possibly told to clamp down on giving any further information in the name of national security. In the meantime, the Centre began changing its narrative to achieving greater digitisation, curbing fake money and terror funding.

This overall failure is more palpable when one realises that the whole black money debate only relates to the cash component of the total black wealth stock, which is about 40% of GDP. Thus, the total black wealth stock is roughly $800 billion and the cash component is merely 6% or $50 billion. The remaining $750 billion of black wealth stock is in real estate, gold and the like, which has not been touched yet. We have a long way to go.

Jaitley said the government would target benami properties under the amended law but so far one has only seen the IT department going after the alleged benami wealth of opposition parties. Recently in the Lok Sabha, Orissa MP Jay Panda, urged the government to identify benami beneficiaries of shell companies that may own huge properties.

Jaitley replied to Panda saying “cooks and drivers” posing as directors of companies would be covered by the new benami law. Does anyone remember cooks/drivers as directors in the Purthi group of companies owned by a senior cabinet minister in the NDA. So whatever spin Jaitley might give to demonetisation, people will not be convinced unless there is action on the ground.

On Wednesday, the finance minister claimed higher digitisation and behavioural change was the big objective and not confiscation of black money. Well, RBI data shows that digital transactions fell 27% in April this year compared to the previous month.

Major online retailers like Flipkart and others are experiencing cash transactions similar to pre-demonetisation levels when 60% of all buying was cash based.

A friend of mine, while recently putting up his house for sale in Delhi, pointed out that the buyers that came forward wanted to pay 50% payment in cash. So much for behaviour change.

Jaitley has also claimed that demonetisation should be seen along with GST implementation as a method of examining behavioural change.

It is true that GST, if implemented smoothly, will shake up the way small firms do business. But then, if that was the goal, GST alone would have been a sufficient agent of change. In any case, the GST regime was already in the pipeline and there was no inkling that demonetisation would come so close to GST implementation.

If anything, demonetisation and GST implementation being so close to each other is being seen as hugely disruptive and clearly not good for small businesses.

Finally, Jaitley has argued that political funding reform, which the government is planning, should be seen as part of the demonetisation package.

This is utterly laughable because the latest data collated by the Association for Democratic Reforms shows how 80% of all corporate money has gone to BJP in recent years. Corporates who have successfully pushed their black money into the system will now contribute 80% of it to the BJP. And as per the new law brought by the government, this need not even be made public.

And all this is carried out in the name of transparency!

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China ‘changes tack’ to get its way in Doklam …

Posted on August 29, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success |

The Asian Review –

Locked in a two-month border standoff with India and tiny Bhutan in the Himalayas, China is offering its little neighbor $10 billion in economic assistance to soften its stance.

Sources say that since the offer, Bhutan has toned down its allegations that China is violating its territorial claims.

The development complicates Bhutan’s relations with India, which blocked Chinese troops after Bhutan — a long-time security ally of India’s — notified New Delhi that the troops were attempting to construct a road in a part of the Doklam Plateau claimed by both China and Bhutan.

India and China have accused each other of violating the border, with troops from both countries in a face-off since June. Winning over Bhutan would lend more credence to their claims, and it appears Beijing’s overture is having the desired effect. Speaking to Indian reporters earlier this month, a Chinese diplomat said that Bhutan clearly acknowledged to Beijing that the area where Indian troops entered is not part of Bhutan.

If the claim is correct, it would signal a weakening of ties between India and Bhutan.

Although a Bhutanese government official immediately issued a denial to Indian media, New Delhi remains unconvinced. A government source told the Nikkei early this month that China’s $10 billion package — which includes a grant, low-interest loans and direct investment — is tempting Bhutan.

When External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met with her Bhutanese counterpart, Damcho Dorji, on Aug. 11 on the sidelines of a regional meeting, she told Dorji not to be betrayed by China, asking further that Bhutan retain its alliance with India. Dorji, however, only said that he hoped the standoff would be resolved peacefully and amicably, refraining from any comment that would provoke China.

In June, Bhutan’s foreign ministry blasted China, saying that the construction work violates an agreement between the two countries.

The Chinese government-backed tabloid Global Times later ran an editorial referencing Dorji’s comment and stating that Bhutan clearly wants to maintain neutral in its criticism of India.

China is wooing Bhutan in order to validate its presence in Doklam. India sent troops only after Bhutan claimed that China had started construction work in Bhutanese territory. Beijing hopes Bhutan will relinquish its claim to the disputed area, thereby obviating the need for Indian troops, which would then be violating Chinese territory.

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Maj Navdeep Singh to the Rescue of the Defense Services …

Posted on August 27, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Ajai Shukla –

In an important move towards reforming departmental justice across the board, but especially for the military, the Supreme Court issued the central government a show cause notice on Friday, asking why its recently promulgated rules for the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) should not be struck down.

The apex court was responding to a writ petition, filed by Punjab & Haryana High Court lawyer and founding president of the AFT Bar Association, Navdeep Singh, through Supreme Court lawyer Aishwarya Bhati, seeking reforms of the AFT and a check on “excessive tribunalisation”.

The AFT was set up in 2009 under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007. Soldiers, sailors and airmen are required to petition the AFT for justice, rather than civil courts. The AFT was intended to reduce military related cases in civil courts. Instead, as the Singh-Bhati petition points out, the backlog in defence-related cases has increased from 9,000 to 16,000 after creation of the AFT.

Legal experts have assailed the government’s creation of more and more departmental tribunals and the concentration of powers in their hands, as a ploy to bypass the independent judicial system. “A departmental tribunal takes a large number of cases out of the courts and places them under a quasi-judicial departmental body. Next, the government takes control of the appointment and functioning of the judicial officers who sit on the tribunal, keeping them under the government’s thumb”, explains a prominent legal expert.

The petition says this is evident from the new AFT rules, which were promulgated by the Finance Ministry on June 1, based on an enabling provision in the Finance Act, which Parliament passed as a money bill in April. The new rules decrease the tenure of AFT judges from four years to three; do away with the need for consultation with the Chief Justice of India before appointing AFT judges; and tweak the rules for the selection procedure, effectively permitting two secretary-rank officers on the Selection Committee to choose the judges they want.

There were already grave questions over the AFT’s independence, since it functions administratively under the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which is the first respondent in most cases filed by soldiers, sailors and airmen before the AFT.

Further, as Business Standard reported (April 2, 2013, “RTI reveals MoD largesse to Armed Forces Tribunal”) Right to Information requests have highlighted the MoD’s patronage of AFT judges. The MoD admitted spending over Rs 67 lakhs for “official foreign visits” by AFT chairperson and members, and providing judges with unauthorized canteen cards to shop at subsidised military retail outlets. Apparently hoping to influence judgments, the ministry admitted to inviting AFT judges to army units to “sensitise” them about cases before them.

In November 2012, the Punjab & Haryana High Court ordered that the AFT be placed under the Ministry of Law & Justice. The MoD has appealed this verdict in the Supreme Court, but bypassed the process by promulgating new rules this year.

The petition heard today notes that the government had itself termed departmental tribunals a “stopgap arrangement”, and sought a road map for reforming tribunals and returning certain jurisdictions back to the regular courts. The petition also questions why the regular judiciary is not being strengthened instead of resorting to excessive tribunalisation.

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Merchant of Venice ………

Posted on August 25, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Characters
Antonio – a merchant of Venice in a melancholic mood
Bassanio – Antonio’s friend; suitor to Portia; later the husband of Portia.
Shylock – a miserly Jew; moneylender; father of Jessica
Jessica – daughter of Shylock, later the wife of Lorenzo
Lorenzo – friend of Antonio and Bassanio; in love with Jessica; later husband of Jessica
Portia – a rich heiress; later the wife of Bassanio
Nerissa – Portia’s waiting maid – in love with Gratiano; later the wife of Gratiano; disguises herself as Stephano
Balthazar – Portia’s servant, who Portia later disguises herself
 
Story

Bassanio, a young Venetian of noble rank, wishes to woo the beautiful and wealthy heiress Portia. Having squandered his estate, he needs 3,000 ducats to subsidise his expenditures as a suitor.
Bassanio approaches his friend Antonio, a wealthy merchant of Venice who has previously and repeatedly bailed him out. Antonio agrees, but since he is cash-poor – his ships and merchandise are at sea – he promises to cover a bond if Bassanio can find a lender, so Bassanio turns to the Jewish moneylender Shylock and names Antonio as the loan’s guarantor.

Antonio has already antagonized Shylock through his outspoken antisemitism, and because Antonio’s habit of lending money without interest forces Shylock to charge lower rates.

Shylock is at first reluctant to grant the loan, citing abuse he has suffered at Antonio’s hand. He finally agrees to lend the sum to Bassanio without interest upon one condition ie if Bassanio is unable to repay it at the specified date, Shylock may take a “Pound (mass) of flesh from any part of the body of Antonio.

Bassanio does not want Antonio to accept such a risky condition but Antonio is surprised by what he sees as the moneylender’s generosity as no interest is asked and he signs the contract.

With money at hand, Bassanio leaves for Belmont with his friend Gratiano, who has asked to accompany him. Gratiano is a likeable young man but is often flippant, overly talkative and tactless. Bassanio warns his companion to exercise self-control and the two leave for Belmont.

Meanwhile in Belmont, Portia is awash with suitors. Her father left a will stipulating each of her suitors must choose correctly from one of three caskets – one each of gold, silver and lead. If he picks the right casket, he gets Portia.
The first suitor, the Prince of Morocco, chooses the gold casket, interpreting its slogan, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire”, as referring to Portia.
The second suitor, the conceited Prince of Arragon, chooses the silver casket, which proclaims, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves”, as he believes he is full of merit.
Both suitors leave empty-handed, having rejected the lead casket because of the baseness of its material and the uninviting nature of its slogan, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath”.
The last suitor is Bassanio, whom Portia wishes to succeed, having met him before. As Bassanio ponders his choice, members of Portia’s household sing a song which says that “fancy” (not true love) is “engendered in the eyes, With gazing fed”
Bassanio chooses the lead casket and wins Portia’s hand.

At Venice, Antonio’s ships are reported lost at sea so the merchant cannot repay the bond. Shylock has become more determined to exact revenge from Christians because his daughter Jessica eloped with the Christian Lorenzo and converted. She took a substantial amount of Shylock’s wealth with her as well as a turquoise ring which Shylock had been given by his late wife, Leah. Shylock has Antonio brought before court.

At Belmont, Bassanio receives a letter telling him that Antonio has been unable to repay the loan from Shylock. Portia and Bassanio marry, as do Gratiano and Portia’s handmaid Nerissa. Bassanio and Gratiano leave for Venice With money from Portia, to save Antonio’s life by offering the money to Shylock.

Unknown to Bassanio and Gratiano, Portia sent her servant, Balthazar, to seek the counsel of Portia’s cousin, Bellario, a lawyer, at Padua.

The climax of the play takes place in the court of the Duke of Venice. Shylock refuses Bassanio’s offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demands his pound of flesh from Antonio. The Duke, wishing to save Antonio but unable to nullify a contract, refers the case to a visitor who identifies himself as Balthazar, a young male “doctor of the law”, bearing a letter of recommendation to the Duke from the learned lawyer Bellario.

The doctor is Portia in disguise and the law clerk who accompanies her is Nerissa also disguised as a man. As Balthazar, Portia repeatedly asks Shylock to show mercy in a famous speech, advising him that mercy “is twice blessed – It blesseth him that gives and him that takes” However, Shylock adamantly refuses any compensations and insists on the pound of flesh.

As the court grants Shylock his bond and Antonio prepares for Shylock’s knife, Portia deftly appropriates Shylock’s argument for “specific performance”. She says that the contract allows Shylock only to remove the flesh, not the “blood”, of Antonio.

Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio’s blood, his “lands and goods” would be forfeited under Venetian laws. She tells him that he must cut precisely one pound of flesh, no more, no less. She advises him that “if the scale do turn, But in the estimation of a hair, Thou diest and all thy goods are confiscate.”

Defeated, Shylock concedes to accepting Bassanio’s offer of money for the defaulted bond – first his offer to pay “the bond thrice”, which Portia rebuffs, telling him to take his bond, and then merely the principal, which Portia also prevents him from doing on the ground that he has already refused it “in the open court”.

She cites a law under which Shylock, as a Jew and therefore an “alien”, having attempted to take the life of a citizen, has forfeited his property, half to the government and half to Antonio, leaving his life at the mercy of the Duke. The Duke pardons Shylock’s life. Antonio asks for his share “in use” until Shylock’s death, when the principal will be given to Lorenzo and Jessica.

At Antonio’s request, the Duke grants remission of the state’s half of forfeiture, but on the condition that Shylock convert to Christianity and bequeath his entire estate to Lorenzo and Jessica.

Bassanio does not recognise his disguised wife, but offers to give a present to the supposed lawyer. First she declines, but after he insists, Portia requests his ring and Antonio’s gloves. Antonio parts with his gloves without a second though but Bassanio gives the ring only after much persuasion from Antonio, as earlier in the play he promised his wife never to lose, sell or give it.

Nerissa, as the lawyer’s clerk, succeeds in likewise retrieving her ring from Gratiano, who does not see through her disguise.

At Belmont, Portia and Nerissa taunt and pretend to accuse their husbands before revealing they were really the lawyer and his clerk in disguise.
After all the other characters make amends, Antonio learns from Portia that three of his ships were not stranded and have returned safely after all.

Shylock and the antisemitism debate.

The play is frequently staged today, but is potentially troubling to modern audiences due to its central themes, which can easily appear antisemitic. Critics today still continue to argue over the play’s stance on the Jews and Judaism.

English society in the Elizabethan era has been described as “judeophobic” English Jews had been expelled under Edward I in 1290 and were not permitted to return until 1656 under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. In Venice and in some other places, Jews were required to wear a red hat at all times in public to make sure that they were easily identified, and had to live in a ghetto protected by Christian guards.

Shakespeare’s play may be seen as a continuation of this tradition. The title page indicates that the play was sometimes known as The Jew of Venice in its day, which suggests that it was seen as similar to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.

One interpretation of the play’s structure is that Shakespeare meant to contrast the mercy of the main Christian characters with the vengefulness of a Jew. Similarly, it is possible that Shakespeare meant Shylock’s “Forced conversion” to Christianity to be a “happy ending” for the character, as, to a Christian audience, it saves his soul and allows him to enter Heaven.

Regardless of what Shakespeare’s authorial intent may have been, the play has been made use of by anti semites throughout the play’s history. The Nazis used the usurious Shylock for their propaganda. Shortly after Kristallnacht in 1938, The Merchant of Venice was broadcast for propagandistic ends over the German airwaves.

Depiction of Jews in literature throughout the centuries bears the close imprint of Shylock. With slight variations much of English literature up until the 20th century depicts the Jew as “a monied, cruel, lecherous, avaricious outsider tolerated only because of his golden hoard”.

Shylock and Portia by Thomas Sully
Many modern readers and theatregoers have read the play as a plea for tolerance, noting that Shylock is a sympathetic character. They cite as evidence that Shylock’s “trial” at the end of the play is a mockery of justice, with Portia acting as a judge when she has no right to do so. The characters who berated Shylock for dishonesty resort to trickery in order to win. In addition, Shakespeare gives Shylock one of his most eloquent speeches –

“Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh. What’s that good for? To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies – and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction”.

It is difficult to know whether the sympathetic reading of Shylock is entirely due to changing sensibilities among readers, or whether Shakespeare, a writer who created complex, multi-faceted characters, deliberately intended this reading.

One of the reasons for this interpretation is that Shylock’s painful status in Venetian society is emphasised. To some critics, Shylock’s celebrated “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech redeems him and even makes him into something of a tragic figure; in the speech, Shylock argues that he is no different from the Christian characters.

Detractors note that Shylock ends the speech with a tone of revenge: “if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Those who see the speech as sympathetic point out that Shylock says he learned the desire for revenge from the Christian characters: “If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”

Even if Shakespeare did not intend the play to be read this way, the fact that it retains its power on stage for audiences who may perceive its central conflicts in radically different terms is an illustration of the subtlety of Shakespeare’s characterisations.

In the trial Shylock represents what Elizabethan Christians believed to be the Jewish desire for “justice”, contrasted with their obviously superior Christian value of mercy. The Christians in the courtroom urge Shylock to love his enemies, although they themselves have failed in the past.

Jewish critic Harold Bloom” suggests that, although the play gives merit to both cases, the portraits are not even-handed: “Shylock’s shrewd indictment of Christian hypocrisy delights us, but … Shakespeare’s intimations do not alleviate the savagery of his portrait of the Jew.

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The BBC on TRUMP …

Posted on August 24, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Personalities |

From Katty Kay, BBC –

There’s been some speculation recently that Donald Trump’s luck is finally running out and his support among Republicans is about to collapse. I don’t buy it.
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There is almost no indication in a slew of post-Charlottesville polls that President Trump’s supporters are on the verge of abandoning him.
Indeed, I was told by a Wisconsin-based reporter this week that his support among Republicans has increased there. That makes total sense to me.
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To understand why somewhere between 35-38% of Americans consistently approve of the job Mr Trump is doing, you need to reframe the way you look at his voters.
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It’s not what they are for that matters, it’s what they are against. So it’s not that a third of US voters are fervently on the side of Donald Trump – what’s more relevant is that they are adamantly on the opposing side of a culture war that’s been brewing here since the 1980s.
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Look at it like that and you can see why it doesn’t really matter what Mr Trump achieves or doesn’t achieve. He defies the normal metrics for success because his voters don’t so much support him for what he does as they adore him for what he’s against.
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Mr Trump is against the political establishment (the media, the Republican Party, political grandees like the Bushes and the Clintons) and change (which encompasses everything you had but fear you are losing) and he’s against the world (which has taken jobs and sent immigrants to take over America).
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You can trace the roots of this culture war back to Ronald Reagan’s moral majority. Historians may even go back to the civic explosions of the 1960s.
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If you believe America is engaged in a life-or-death battle over its identity, in which the past looks golden and the future looks, well, brown-ish, then Mr Trump sounds like he’s on your side.
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If you believe the forces driving that unwelcome change are the media and immigration, then Mr Trump’s Arizona speech is music to your ears. It explains why every long minute spent trashing the press makes perfect political sense.
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Conservatives in the American heartland have long believed, with some justification, that they can’t get a fair hearing in America’s mainstream press, which they see as overwhelmingly coastal and liberal. They believe the press has made it impossible for them to win elections.
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In a poll out today by Quinnipiac University, 80% of Republicans say they trust Mr Trump more than the media.
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No wonder his favourite enemy is the fake news. What this also means is that if Mr Trump continues to fail to rack up any major legislative achievements that would actually help his supporters, he, and they, have a built-in excuse.
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In fact I’m hearing about three different scapegoats. Jerry, I’ll call him that, is a mild-mannered African American in his early 70s from West Virginia. He grew up under segregation and it was to his family’s deep dismay that he voted for Mr Trump last year.
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He believes Mr Trump understands that America needs more discipline: no more young men walking round with their jeans halfway down their butts showing off their boxers, was how he described it to me. Jerry hankers for a time when young men dressed well, behaved well and didn’t answer back to their elders.
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When I asked him if he’d be disappointed if Mr Trump failed to live up to his campaign promises of healthcare reform, tax reform and making American manufacturing great again, Jerry was clear. Mr Trump, he said, would probably never achieve any of those things for three reasons – the media, the Russia investigation and the Republican Party.
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But he didn’t even really care – those are details, he said. What matters is that the president understands what America should be like. Mr Trump himself has understood this, viscerally, all along. He realised the power of tapping into cultural anger. Remember back in January 2016 during the campaign when he said: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
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He knew he had no limits.
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Today’s Quinnipiac poll isn’t good news for the president. By almost every metric, his overall support is ticking down. But on issues of trust, leadership, strength, values, he still has the support of a majority of Republicans. And his base is more solid still. I’m not saying Donald Trump will win again in 2020 but, given the complicated formula of American electoral maths, it’s certainly not impossible.
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He won by just tens of thousands of votes in three key states. If those votes are still there as he runs for a second term, what’s to say he can’t win again?

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Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt – A Legendary Career Ends …

Posted on August 24, 2017. Filed under: Sports |

At the IAAF World Championships in London, it was for Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt with his unique trademark winning pose, a heartbreaking end to an outstanding track and field career.

Running the final leg of the men’s 4×100 relay for Jamaica, Bolt failed to finish when a cramp in his left hamstring led him to pull up just after s teammate handed him the baton. Bolt collapsed on the track.

This is the first time since 2008 that a team other than Jamaica won the event at a major meet.

The eight-time Olympic gold medalist didn’t remain on the ground for long – with help he limped across the finish line and offered the crowd a tearful wave. Having run 23 championship races since 2008, this was only the fourth time Bolt failed to win.

And so now he is a legend ala ……

Bob Mathias. At 18 he won the Decathlon in London and was so exhausted in the mud and rain that he swore he would never come near a track and field ground. Yet come 1952 and there again he won. Sadly he was not allowed to compete in 56 because inadvertently he had broken the amateur rule.

Daley Thompson In 1984 and 88 equalled Mathias feat but could not make it for 92 due fitness problems.

Greg Louganis. He’s the only man to sweep the springboard and platform event at consecutive Olympics. He won four gold medals in all, though it is the gold he won after cracking his head on the springboard during the preliminary rounds in 1988 that everyone remembers most.

Al Oerter remains a Great winning the gold in four back to back Olympics.

For some reason Carl Lewis and Michael Phelps who won more Gold Medals than any, do not match the public adulation of those mentioned above – and of course Jesse Owens.

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The US – Much Maligned …

Posted on August 19, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers |

Robert Fredrikberg writes –

British policy in the 19th century was that its navy should be as large as the next two combined.

Air power is the most important thing these days. The US Air Force is vastly larger than anyone else’s.

So you might ask, who has the second largest air force? The second largest air force in the world is the air force of the US Navy! The Navy’s air force is larger than any other country’s whole air force.
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And the US Army has a third air force on top of that. So, totally dominant, basically. And it could stand a little cutting and still be totally dominant.

A number of commentators have brought up other powers. It seems to me that they are missing the point. What other country could wage a several year long war on the other side of the planet? None.

There are only a few countries that could even send in helicopters to rescue a hostage on the other side of the planet – without help.

Of course the US doesn’t always win. Of course it’s wrong most times. That’s not really the point. And I’m not even necessarily saying the situation is good.

It’s just a fact.

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1971 War – Pak Wins Sabuna Drain Battle …

Posted on August 17, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

As received from Sikander Mirza, who was kind enough to send it to me after reading my version of this Battle. Wonderful that Shahbir Sharif was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s highest Gallantry Award and then later his younger brother became Pak Army Chief following Gen Kayani.

During the 1971 War, India attacked East Pakistan on 21st November 1971. The General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi launched an attack on India on the western front (West Pakistan) on 3rd December 1971. After the Chamb Jaurian thrust Pak still had a 5 Division strong reserve under Gen. Tikka Khan. However at Suliemanke, two companies of 6 Frontier Force were ordered to take the Sabuna Drain.

Bravo Company 6 FF, was under a 1965 War Veteran and a Sitara-e-Jurrat Holder, Major Shabbir Sharif, who was also a Sword of Honor of Pakistan Military Academy Kakul.

The Indian Army had created an artificial Bund, steep on the Pakistani side, with a low incline on the Indian side.. In front of this ridge on the Pakistan side, there was also a Drain. There were only two bridges for vehicular traffic. Inside the Ridge there were camouflaged cemented bunkers.

It was important for Pakistan to neutralize this ridge, for it would pave the way for a Pakistani thrust. The ridge was called Saboona ridge, and the bridge was called Gurmakhera bridge. The other bridge was far away, and is not relevant.

At 4:00 P.M., 3rd Dec 1971, Sharif assembled the soldiers of Bravo Company and said, “Men! The moment for which we were commissioned in the Army has arrived. Today, it is a question of honor of the mothers who have borne us. I will only say one thing. If anyone from amongst you runs away from the battlefield – I will shoot him. And if I run away, then you have to swear by the honor of your mothers and sisters, that you will shoot me. Give me your word that you will die today rather than step back.”

At 5:45 PM, Shabir Sharif launched the attack against Gurmakhera Bridge. Before reaching the bridge, Shabir’s men, around 100 in number, had to pass next to the Indian Village of Beriwala. This village was reasonably well protected by the Indian Army. Bravo company knew that there were landmines in the region and a safe route through was not known.

“If you don’t risk, you don’t win wars. At most there will be a 10 percent casualty rate. Have faith in God and keep moving. I will lead.”
Bravo company passed through this landmine area safely without Shabbir having to lead.

When the company reached the bridge, Farooq Afzal was given the task to take a few men and check out things. Two Indian soldiers could be seen standing in front of the bridge. The Pakistani soldiers took them out and camouflaged Indian bunkers overlooking the bridge – two of which had the entire bridge area covered. The Indian fire halted further progress.

Asking Shabbir Sharif through wireless to provide covering fire, Afzal attacked the bridge from the front by breaking up his men into groups of three with the slogan ‘Allah O Akbar’ to distract the Indians from three different sides. The point being that at least one of the three would crawl up to the bridge and reach the area directly beneath the bunkers, where the Indian guns had no reach. The plan was successful but in the process 6 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Having reached directly beneath the two bunkers which were covering the bridge, the Pakistani soldiers took them down by lobbing hand grenades inside.

Once the two bunkers covering the Gurmakhera bridge were neutralized, Shabbir Sharif and his men joined Afzal. It was time to destroy the rest of the bunkers.

An intense battle developed as the Pakistani soldiers neutralizing the bunkers. In some cases where the Indian soldiers finished their ammunition, they threw out their wireless sets on the Pakistanis. Hand to hand combat was also seen while in a few cases the Indians ran away. The most common scene, however, was one in which grenades were lobbed out, and if the Pakistanis survived they would in turn lob back.

Sharif cleared two bunkers himself. While at the first one, he stood next to the bunker and called out the personnel inside to come out. The usual happened and a grenade was tossed out. Sharif threw it back inside, stunning his own men. This action was to become the topic of discussion in the entire company for the next two days.

The second bunker was cleared without daredevilry.

The entire operation of clearing the bunkers and taking control of the Saboona Ridge took 30 minutes. Shabir took out the signal gun and fired a success signal straight up in the air. The other companies were now aware that Sharif and his men had taken control of the Gurmakhera Bridge and the Saboona Ridge. The other companies were to proceed with their attacks, one of which involved capturing the Beriwala village that Sharif had bypassed earlier.

It was pitch dark, Sharif and a few men started collecting the bodies of the Pakistani soldiers who had died in the assault. Digging of new bunkers, this time on the opposite side of the ridge than the one facing Pakistan also began simultaneously.

It was at that time that an old man’s voice was heard from a distance.
“We need to go back to Gurmakhera Village. The Muslims have attacked Beriwala” Shabbir went closer to the old man. The man could not recognize the Pakistani army uniform due to the darkness and believed he was talking to an Indian soldier.

“I brought my son’s barat (wedding procession) to Beriwala in the afternoon. The muslims have captured the village. We had to run during the rukhsati (last ritual of the wedding).” “Don’t you know that there is a war going on?” Shabbir asked in Punjabi, “This is a silly time to have a wedding, that too when you are so close to the border”

“Please protect us. I have a whole procession with me here. Even the girl’s family is here. We need to get back to our village. The muslims are coming in this direction.” Sharif decided not to waste time, or unnecessarily panic the old fellow. “We will take care of the Muslims. You hurry up and get all your people across. And listen to the radio more frequently for any important announcements”

He then alerted all of his men manning the positions at the bridge that a wedding procession was going to be passing through and there should be no fire on it. While the procession was crossing over the ridge, a soldier asked Sharif: “Sir. These people are legitimate POWs. Why are we letting them cross?” Shabbir smiled. “Have a heart soldier. This is the happiest day of their lives. Let’s not make them spend it inside a cell.”

When the news of the Pakistani attack reached the opposing brigade commander, Brig. Surjeet Singh, he immediately ordered Delta company of 4 Jat and a squadron of T-54 tanks to recapture the the Saboona Ridge and the Gurmakhera bridge.

At 11:00 PM, one of Shabbir’s men informed him that he could hear tanks approaching the Gurmakhera Bridge. After Shabbir himself confirmed it, he positioned his rocket launchers near the bridge. There were three rocket launchers at his disposal, and two men were required to man each one. There was also some ammunition that had been taken from the defeated Indian forces on the ridge. Two of the rocket launchers were placed in such a manner that the tanks would have to go past them before they could come near the Gurmakhera bridge or the Saboona ridge. The third was positioned near Shabbir, to be used as a back up in case the first two failed.

When the tanks eventually came in pitch darkness, Shabbir was stunned to see that they passed by the first two positions without any fire from the Pakistani soldiers. Shabbir immediately called the men through wireless, and asked them why they didn’t shoot? “Sir, these are Pakistani tanks”, a soldier replied from the other side.

“No they are not”, Shabbir screamed, “Why would our tanks come from the side of the other bridge. That is not in Pakistani control. Shoot!”

Despite the clarification, there was so much confusion amongst the ranks that no one fired. Shabbir knew that if these had been Pakistani tanks they would have crossed over the ridge 3 km to the West and come as a reinforcement on the Indian side. He got hold of the rocket launcher which was near him, and fired at one of the tanks. When the tank caught flames and illuminated the scene, Sikhs were seen coming out of it. It was at that time that the entire Pakistani force started firing on the Indians.

The Indian foot soldiers were closer to the tanks and they could be easily spotted due to the flames and also due to the aerial advantage that the Pakistani forces had. From the initial 14 tanks that were ordered to attack, only 8 had managed to reach the bridge, and 4 of them had been destroyed in the first 5 minutes of the battle. The others too were safe only because they were out of range of the rocket launchers and Energa grenades (mounted on G3 rifles. The Indian retreat was inevitable. During this skirmish, 10 Pakistanis were killed and 13 injured, while on the Indian side there were 43 killed, numerous injured and 10 were made POWs, including an officer.

Despite the victory, Sharif knew that this was only the beginning and the Indians would definitely try again. He contacted the battalion headquarters and asked for ammunition and landmines. Another mystery was why the Indians had not blown away Gurmakhera bridge, which is usual in such conditions. Around 4:00 AM, an ammunition jeep arrived. In between, there had been a small attack on Sharif and his positions, but had been easily repulsed as the Indians were much less in number and there were no tanks.

When day broke, a search was carried out to find out any Indian soldiers hiding in the captured area. 55 men were rounded up, 3 being officers. Add to these the 10 POWs captured the last night, and Shabbir now had 65 POWs in all. “We should organize a party that escorts them back to our headquarters”, an officer suggested. “It is a long walk. Plus I need every one of my men here”, Shabbir replied.

“But they have to be sent back, we cannot keep an eye on them over here forever.” After a quite moment, Shabbir ordered the officer: “Ask them to take of their shoes” … “What?” exclaimed the officer. “What are we going to do with their shoes”

“Have you ever tried to walk in this area without your shoes?” Shabbir asked, “I have, and I tell you it is next to impossible to go far without them. Firstly you cannot run very fast, and chances of getting injuries on the feet are high.”

The officer assembled all the Indian POWs, “Listen, you see that tree. You will make a line, put your hands above your heads and run to that tree. Our headquarter is over there. Tell them that you will have been sent by Shabbir Sharif. Now, if anyone tries to run away, or break away from the line, I will shoot him and also the man in front and behind him. From this height I will be able to see all that is happening. If everyone starts running at the same time, I will ask my men here to take part in some duck shooting and we will shoot. So do not push me”

The POWs reached the headquarters without any escort. None tried to escape.

Once the POWs had been sent back, Shabbir’s men searched the bunkers thoroughly. A wireless set was found and although it had fixed frequency, the Indians had forgotten to change it during the attack. This gave a tremendous advantage to Shabbir, as he could now listen to the plans that were being made on the Indian side to recapture Gurmakhera bridge.

The other interesting item that was found was a bundle of Indian currency. This was perhaps the salary that was to be distributed amongst the Indian soldiers but had not been done so due to the Pakistan attack. Shabbir ordered the currency to be sent back to the headquarters so that they could give it back after the war – although due to lack of firewood, a small amount of the currency was burnt to make tea.

At 8:30 PM on 4th Dec. 1971, the Indians (4 Jat Regiment) attacked again with a squadron of T-54 tanks. Shabbir knew that they were coming, courtesy the wireless set that had been captured. He was also in a much better position ammunition wise, now having 102 millimeter anti tank guns, and landmines. The battle lasted only 30 minutes, with the Indians retreating with 14 dead, 21 injured and 8 MIAs (missing in action). The Pakistani side suffered minor injuries but no casualty.

Having suffered three defeats in their effort to retake the Gurmakhera bridge or the Saboona Ridge, the Indians finally launched a major attack on Shabbir’s men on the night of 5th Dec 1971. This attack had the support of 4 Jat and 3 Assam and T-54 tanks amidst heavy artillery shelling.

A company commander from the 4 Jat Regiment, Major Narayan Singh, had sworn that he would either retake the bridge or would never return. Narayan Singh was also interested in defeating Shabbir Sharif, as for the last two days he had been hearing from his own men that the Pakistani side had a very tough commander.

While the battle was going on, Narayan Singh with a few men, came close to Shabbir’s position. “Where is Shabbir Sharif?” he called out, “If he has the courage, he should come out and face me like a man”

Shabbir Sharif, being as hot headed as Singh, left his position and jumped in front. Perhaps Narayan Singh could not make out that it was Shabbir Sharif, as it was very dark, and he lobbed a grenade in his direction (it does not make sense for him to call Sharif out and throw a grenade at him). The grenade exploded a few feet away from Shabbir and his shirt caught fire.

A few Pakistani soldiers also came out and tried to put out the fire, as Shabbir himself was only obsessed with Narayan Singh. Seeing the Pakistani soldiers coming out, some of the Indians accompanying Singh were about to open fire when Singh stopped them.

“No firing” he said, “This is a man to man fight” Shabbir too, for his part, told his men to step back. The fire on his shirt had been extinguished. Both the Indian and Pakistani soldiers stepped back, but at the same time never took their guns off each other, or their fingers off the triggers.

A hand to hand combat followed between Sharif and Singh. The soldiers in the direct vicinity were standing close by as armed spectators. The rest of the soldiers (on the ridge) were at the same time involved in the fierce battle that was taking place due to the Indian attack.

Singh had his sten gun in his hand, and Shabbir held his wrist to prevent him from firing. After a short struggle, Shabbir managed to throw Singh on the ground and put his knee on his chest. Taking the sten gun from his hand, he emptied it in Singhs chest. While the Pakistani soldiers came to Sharif to check whether he was alright, those accompanying Singh disappeared in the darkness.

The attack petered yet again in an Indian retreat, although this was done after testing Shabbir’s men to their fullest capabilities. During this attack, there were 3 killed and 11 injured on the Pakistan side, while there were 19 killed, 45 injured, and 34 taken as POWs on the Indian side. 9 Indian tanks were also destroyed in this attack by the Pakistan artillery shelling and anti tank guns (2 or 3 of these tanks were rendered useless for they got stuck in the land before they were taken out).

Later, it was revealed that Major Narayan Singh was given Vir Chakra by India, a medal that is equivalent to the Pakistani Sitara-e-Jurrat, for his performance on the battlefield in 1971.

Shabbir’s right shoulder was badly burnt due to the fire that he had caught while fighting with Singh. When asked by one of his subordinates to go back and get some treatment, he said:, “I didn’t leave men fighting on the battlefield when I was not responsible for them. This time around I am their commander. Do you think I am going to go back leaving these men who I am supposed to command?”

He was referring to the 1965 war, when he as an ordinary Lieutenant, had been injured severely in the arm. Having gone back to the hospital for treatment, his arm was put in plaster and he was told that he cannot take part in the war anymore. He however, escaped from the hospital and went to the front, where he fought the rest of the war with one arm in plaster!

The 5th Dec attack created despondency amongst the Indians. Terming it a crisis, both GOC Major Gen. Ram Singh, and his Artillery Advisor Brig G.S. Reen took effective charge from Brigadier Surjeet Singh.

The Indians attacked yet again at 11:00 AM on 6th Dec. 1971. Shabbir was manning a 102 millimeter gun when a tank fired in his direction. He fired back at the tank and took it out. With a second tank lurking nearby, Shabbir could have abandoned the gun and saved his own life. He instead decided to keep firing at the tank in an attempt to render it useless before it caused any further damage. However, the tank’s shell landed only inches away from Shabbir and exploded throwing Shabbir and two other Pakistani soldiers 5 feet up in the air. Shabbir died seconds after he fell on the ground.

His last words were: “Don’t lose the bridge”

Having seen Shabbir dead, the Pakistani soldiers fought with even more vigor, more out of revenge than for anything else. The Indian attack was beaten back but at grave cost.

After the War, one of the Indian commanders, Col. Shashi Pal, came to the headquarters in the Pakistan area for talks. He was given the currency that Shabbir had sent back from the bunkers with due apologies for the currency that had been burnt for making tea. Shashi Pal shook his head slightly and said, “Politics apart, he was a fine soldier”.

Later it was also found out that the Indians did have the explosives in place to blow up Gurmakhera bridge. But the remote detonation had not worked for one reason or another.

Shabbir’s men had been saved by God, and nothing else.
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This seems a colorful version but broadly more detailed than my version which is not first hand but as gleaned from some who took part and a recce of the ground before and after the battle. Shows how different sides see things.
https://improveacrati.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/battle-of-sabuna-drain-1971-indo-pak-war-in-the-west/

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India n Pakistan “I” Days …

Posted on August 12, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan |

From a lover of India n Pakistan and their Militaries – HAMID HUSSEIN … …. Happy independence day to iNDIA and PAKISTAN. Wishing both countries peace and prosperity.

Apas mein doonon mulkoon ka parcham badal gaya Kal raat us key gham sey mera gham badal gaya. A poem by late Pakistani poet Ahmad Faraz titled ‘to my Hindustani friends’ summaries my own feelings about the two countries.

گزر گے کی موسم، کی رتیں بدلیں
اداس تم بھی ھو یارو اداس ھم بھی ھیں
Guzar gaye kai mausam, kai rutein badlein
Udaas tum bhi ho yaro, udas hum bhi hein.

فقط تمھی کو نھیں رنج چاک دامانی
جو سچ کہیںں تو دریدہ لباس ھم بھی ھیں
Faqat tumhi ko nahin ranj-e-chaak damaani
Jo such kahein to dareeda libaas hum bhi hein.

تمھارے بام کی شمعیں بھی تابناک نھیں
مرے فلک کے ستارے بھی زرد زرد سے ھیں
Tumharey baam ki shamein bhi taabnak nahein
Merey falak key sitarey bhi zard zard sey hein

تمھارے آینا خانے بھی زنگ آلودھا
مرے صراحی و ساغر بھی گرد گرد سے ھیں
Tumhare aeena khaney bhi zang alooda
Mery surahi o saghar bhi gard gard sey hein.

نا تم کو اپنے خدو خال ھی نظر آیں
نا میں یے دیکھ سکوں جام میں بھرا کیا ھے
Na tum ko apney khado khaal hi nazar ayen
Na mein ye dekh sakoon jam bhi bhara kya hey

بصارتوں پے وہ جالے پڑے کے دونوں کو
سمجھ میں کچھ نھیں آتا کے ماجرا کیا ھے
Bassartoon pey wo jaaley pare key donoon ko
Samajh mein khuch nahin ata key maajra kiya hey

تمھیں بھی ضد ھے کے مشق ستم رھے جاری
ھمیں بھی ناز کے جور و جفا کے عادی ھیں
Tumhein bhi zid hey key mashq-e-sitam rahe jaari
Hemhein bhi naaz key jor-r-jafa key aadi hein

تمھیں بھی ظعم مھا بھارتا لڑی تم نے
ھمیں بھی فخر کے ھم کربلا کے عادی ھیں
Tumhein bhi zum maha bharta lari tum tein
Hamein bhi fakhar key hum karbala key aadi hein

ستم تو یے ھے کے دونوں کے مرغزاروں سے
ھواے فتنہ و بوے فساد آتی ھے
Sitam to ye hey key donoon key marghzaroon key
Hawae-fita or boey fasad aati hey

الم تو یے ھے کے دونوں کو وھم ھے کے بھار
عدو کے خوں میں نھانے کے بعد آتی ھے
Alam to ye hey donoon ko waham key bahaar
Udu key khoon mein nahanein key baad ati hey

سو یہ معال ھوا اس درندگی کا کے اب
شکسستہ دست ھو تم بھی شکستہ پا میں بھی
So yey maal hua iss darindagi ka key ab
Shakista dast ho tum bhi, shakista paa mein bhi

چلو کے پھر سے کریں پیار کا سفر آغاز
چلو کے پھر سے ھم اک دوسرے کے ھو جاہیں
Chalo key phir say karein piyar safar ka aghaz
Chalo key phir sey hum ek dosrey key ho jaeen

تمھارے دیس میں آیا ھوں دوستو اب کے
نا سازو نغمہ کی محفل نہ شاعری کے لیے
Tumhare des mein aya hoon dosto ab key
Na saaz-o-naghma ki mehfil na shari key liye

اگر تمھاری انا ہی کا ہے سوال تو پھر
چلو میں ھاتھ بڑھاتا ھوں دوستی کے لیے
Agar tumhari ana hi ka hey sawal to phir
Calo mein haath barhata hoon dosti key liye

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Something for Mankind …

Posted on August 9, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Guide Posts, Personalities |

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr was a jurist and Supreme Court Justice for 30 yrs. He is famous for his concise, pithy, prescient opinions and remains one of the most widely cited Supreme Court justices. He is the author of the phrase, “clear and present danger.” These extracts are from his thought

ATTITUDE is more important than heritage, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say; it is also more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.

Carve every word before you let it fall. A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used. Don’t be ‘consistent but be true.

Every event that a man would master must be mounted on the run, and no man ever caught the reins of a thought except as it galloped past him. Man’s mind, stretched by a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. A new and valid idea is stronger than an army. The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are tending. The rule of joy and the law of duty seem to me all one.

Most of the things we do, we do for no better reason than that our fathers have done them or our neighbors do them, and the same is true of a larger part of what we think. People talk fundamentals and superlatives and then make some changes of detail.

To have doubted one’s own first principles is the mark of a civilized man. Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at the touch, nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

The only prize much cared for by the powerful is power. Yet nothing is so commonplace that it has not the wish to be remarkable.

Beware how you take away hope from any human being.

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