Surgical writing

Ashley Tellis’ piece in MINT on India’s options with Pakistan. He points to the United States’ failure to rein in Pakistan.

Supporting insurgencies within Pakistan, engaging in economic warfare, pursuing focused retaliation to punish Rawalpindi, or threatening major military action to induce external pressure on Pakistan then remain the only means left for neutralizing Pakistani terrorism. (Here he is talking about options for India).”

“It is indeed frustrating that even after suffering Pakistani duplicity on terrorism for over a decade now, successive US administrations have been unable to threaten Pakistan with anything more persuasive than the suspension of petty carrots.”

“That the US, the world’s greatest power and Islamabad’s biggest benefactor, seems unable to do much about these perils darkens the prospects for hope in South Asia—not Narendra Modi’s token slap against Pakistani terrorism. [Link]

His piece appeared in MINT even as there has been one more terrorist attack on a civilian building (a government building of the Enterprise Development Institute) in Pampore.

Brahma Chellaney too points the finger at the United States:

US President Barack Obama’s administration also opposes a move in Congress that would officially brand Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.

The US has a lot of leverage: Pakistan has one of the world’s lowest tax-to-GDP ratios, and is highly dependent on American and other foreign aid. It should use that leverage to ensure that the Pakistani military is brought to heel – and held to account. [Link]

Brahma’s piece has several interesting references. Worth checking out some of them.

Dr. Sashi Tharoor has praised the Indian government’s surgical strikes. See, for example,

Still, a country that refuses to suffer repeated body blows earns more respect than one whose restraint can be interpreted as weakness. [Link]

That was exactly the point that some of the columns written before India undertook its surgical strikes (in the week of September 26) missed. The most notable and disappointing example was that of Praveen Swami.

In contrast, Raja Mohan had a more thoughtful piece and Pratap Bhanu Mehta was more restrained than usual in his scepticism of government’s intentions and capabilities.

I reiterate that these three pieces were in the week before the strikes.

 

Trump may just lose an election; what about America?

(As you would notice below, this was first written on October 7, 2016, before revelations of Donald J. Trump (DJT)’s remarks on women, his apology, his press conference with some of the women Bill Clinton has had relationship with, the second Presidential debate and the so-called distancing of Paul Ryan from DJT. None of the analysis below and the conclusions are altered by them.)

As I write this on October 7, 2016, at some level, the momentum that Ms. Clinton (HRC) wrested from DJT after the first Presidential debate seems to be staying with her. This is notwithstanding the supposedly better performance of his VP running mate over hers. From here on, it appears that it is her election to lose.

(1) The tax returns of DJT are not the real issue. Most of the serious corporate backers of HRC – Google and Apple, etc., – have their own tax issues to deal with. Tax avoidance within the scope provided by the law is staple practice for many individuals and institutions.

(2) Peggy Noonan writes:

The first was Mr. Trump’s 3 a.m. tweet on Alicia Machado. Actually, that happened a week and a half ago, but this week the thought really settled in: He’s going to do that as president. Once he tweeted crazy things a lot and then he sort of slowed and then he was sort of winning and then the mad 3 a.m. tweet told you: No, it will happen as president, only it will be more serious then. This is the week his friends, staff and supporters realized it will never stop.

We do seem to have a clownish and loutish candidate with little self-discipline. Never mind that the other candidate is too disciplined in her own undisciplined ways.

(3) This article mentions how the FBI handled HRC and all her witnesses (immunising all of them) in contrast to how it handled Bob McDonnell.

(4) Check out this piece in ‘Washington Times’ here on the treatment she had meted out to the ‘Clinton ladies’ and, more importantly, the coverage of the media of her.

In addition to the other issues raised in the article, these statements stand out for me:

People cut a lot of corners when covering the Clintons, eh Carl?

I guess having a porn queen representing Hillary’s campaign is just one more sign of the Clintons’ debasement of America. Apparently, the MSM does not mind being part of this debasement.

(5) Read what Peggy Noonan wrote on the Bill Clinton critique of Obamacare:

The second was Bill Clinton’s admission that ObamaCare is a mess, “the craziest thing in the world.” At a rally in Michigan he said “you’ve got this crazy system” in which millions more people have insurance, but “the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.” Later he tried to walk it back but you can never walk back an obvious truth….

… In another world, what he said would be front-page news every day.

 (6) Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of the WSJ Editorial Board, wrote on Sept. 29 that only HRC stood between the American nation and the reign of the most unstable, proudly uninformed, psychologically unfit President ever to enter the White House.

(7) 17 of the top 100 newspapers in the United States have publicly endorsed HRC. None for Trump yet.

(8) Jack Hellner wrote in ‘The American Thinker’ on October 8, the day after Trump tapes were revealed:

I have never seen a media so in the tank.  The media show every day their bias by what they report, how they report, and especially what they choose not to report.  Our freedoms are in danger, and since they have no actual accomplishments to tout for their chosen candidate, they have to destroy the other.

Under normal circumstances, there is scope and room for discussion on the good (few) and bad traits (surfeit) of both the candidates and their bearing on governance in the country in the world. On policy issues, it could be easily divided into domestic – security, social, economic and foreign – trade, diplomacy and geopolitics – categories and their positions analysed threadbare. If choices were made consequently, then they would be understandable even if not agreeable.

I am not naïve enough to think that all commentators, all outlets and journalists would engage in such an exercise. Some revel in polemics, trivia and some like personality weaknesses. Some like them all. But, never has there been an overwhelming outpouring of commentary on the weakness of the other than on the strengths of the favoured. In that sense, both the objects of and the analyses reflect the decay in America.

(9) New York University development expert William Easterly had analysed coverage in The New York Times between 1960 and 2008 and found that the paper ran some 63,000 stories on autocratic governments, a staggering 40,000 on their successes, and just 6,000 on their failures. Ruchir Sharma has recorded this in his book, ‘Rise and fall of Nations’

Now, think of the above from the systemic risk perspective:

If DJT won the election, almost all of the so-called intelligentsia and the media would be ranged against him and not just in the United States of America. Media in most of the rest of the advanced economies and in the English language press in the developing world would also be against him. That is a natural check-and-balance.

On the other hand, if HRC won the election, what would be the ‘check-and-balance’ on her? After all, they have painted her the saviour of the world from the menace of DJT.

The extraordinary Presidential impunity that she would wield because of the immunity that large sections of the intelligentsia and almost all of the media have pre-emptively granted her bode ill for the Republic.

The staff at Daily Bell summarised the situation well:

This is part of a larger destruction of Western culture and values and it is ongoing. What’s taking place is not happenstance, not in Europe, nor in the US. Freedom is being destroyed, but in a deliberate manner, to send a message and increase polarization. Many currents are swirling beneath the surface that make this presidential campaign an epochal one. [Link]

The world is chugging along somewhat thoughtlessly into deep waters or unchartered territory, depending on one’s preference for metaphors.

Whoever wins, the law of unintended consequences will play out. To reiterate, it appears that it is Hillary Clinton’s election to lose. But, the manner in which she is ascending the throne would haunt the world and America for a long time to come. The elites who are engineering this outcome will ensure that all of us are extinguished by their egregious conduct.

It is in this world that my children would be growing up into full-blown adulthood. God bless them!

(This was published in Swarajya)

Story of Walter Pitts

My good friend Srinivas Varadarajan had sent this story to me in December 2015. I read it in April 2016. Today, as I was reading the third chapter of the book, ‘The rise of robots’, the name Norbert Wiener came up and that somehow made me recall this story. The story of Walter Pitts is associated with Norbert Wiener. I located it and I think it is a great read. It is a story of genius and unsurprisingly, it is a tragedy involving a woman and some skinny-dipping too!

Just savour this:

In other words, Pitts was struggling with the very logic he had sought in life. Pitts wrote that his depression might be “common to all people with an excessively logical education who work in applied mathematics: It is a kind of pessimism resulting from an inability to believe in what people call the Principle of Induction, or the principle of the Uniformity of Nature. Since one cannot prove, or even render probable a priori, that the sun should rise tomorrow, we cannot really believe it shall.”

It is a story brilliantly told by Amanda Gefter. This story underscores my conviction that most people are grossly overestimating the difference that new technologies (robotic, paper-less, fintech, etc., ) to our ‘lives’ in entirety. They are extensions of the material comforts including improved physical health that technology has already provided us.

Will they leave us feeling even more empty? My personal answer is YES.

Suppose they find technologies that will alter the neural networks in the business and also the chemical balance that would keep us all living long and happy, I doubt if the world can support all of us living longer and consuming longer.

But, let us not forget one thing. This story of people who believed that there is a logic to how the brain works and that such logic can be replicated and mimicked and how they fell victim to jealousy, misplaced anger and depression is as much a story of the limits of logic, science and human ingenuity as it is a story of human brilliance too.