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Showing posts from December, 2009

The Lost Decade

I found Paul Krugman's The Big Zero - how the first decade of the twenty-first century eroded value rather than creating - interesting. This article is deservedly having an impact and references to the Big Zero are springing up everywhere, at least in the liberal press. Many people may actually disagree, particularly in India, which has gained significantly over the last decade, and thousands, if not millions, have their lives transformed by the emergent opportunities in various industries. So, it may be worthwhile to look at Krugman's assessment on balance, and see whether it is fair to write off this decade as a time when nothing happened.

In all fairness, Krugman was writing about America. As most American commentators tend to do, he treated the American economic universe as his primary field of observation. And, no doubt, for all the talk of recovery, the mood is particularly gloomy in America. America lost, over all, during the last ten years. It is not just about the econ…

Should Shashi Tharoor 'tweet'?

ShashiTharoor's tweets have been extremely popular, candid and humorous. But somehow the government manages to make itself embarrassed on these, and the recent statement by S M Krishna, Tharoor's boss and the Foreign Minister, that he should discuss his 'perceptions' within the 'Four Walls' of the government and not tweet is a clear reflection how uncomfortable the powers that be are.

I am little surprised that we talk about the 'Four Walls' of the government. Where are those walls, really? This sounds too Kremlin-ish: That's not surprising because some of our Senior Ministers and bureaucrats cut their teeth in the old days of Indo-Soviet friendship and refuse to let go the old ways of life. The other two walls I know of - one is in China and the other was in Berlin - are not the right symbols for our government to choose. So, what is Mr. Krishna talking about?

What did Mr. Tharoor say on Twitter? He said that the dilemma we have is whether to make ou…

The Big Zero - Paul Krugman on New York Times

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I found this article by Paul Krugman and ended up agreeing to most of what it says. I reproduce the article in full below.
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Maybe we knew, at some unconscious, instinctive level, that it would be an era best forgotten. Whatever the reason, we got through the first decade of the new millennium without ever agreeing on what to call it. The aughts? The naughties? Whatever. (Yes, I know that strictly speaking the millennium didn’t begin until 2001. Do we really care?)


But from an economic point of view, I’d suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.


It was a decade with basically zero job creation. O.K., the headline employment number for December 2009 will be slightly higher than that for December 1999, but only slightly. And private-sector employment has actually declined — the first decad…

My 2010 Agenda

Let's call it a manifesto. I must make 2010 very different from 2009, and nothing short of a mini-revolution help me achieve what I want. Here are my thoughts on what I am going to do.

But before I get to that, a few words on my long term plans.

First, I shall definitely stay in Britain for next three years, but head out, to Asia perhaps, in December 2012. I gather I need three years to complete what I came here for - to learn. After that will be my time to concentrate on family, usual social life etc. But, I must give these 36 months in the pursuit of what I want.

Second, I shall focus on education. Become a teacher myself, perhaps, at least for a while. I am dreaming of setting up a college - an open access liberal education facility - and I have the sense of destiny pulling me into the project. This, deep in my heart, looks like a project I can devote the rest of my life too. That will surely be my New Year wish.

Third, I shall take up writing more seriously. I am aware of the sty…

A Round-Up of Christmas Day Messages

The Christmas Day is now over. My tenth Christmas away from home, of which the last six were in London. One always feels a bit sad to be away from everyone else on Christmas Day, particularly because, all shops are closed, there are no trains or buses and everyone else is busy with family. So, I spent time catching up on some reading and watching the tele, something I usually never manage to do. The news was boring too - not too much happens in Christmas anyway - but the most interesting thing was to contrast the four Christmas Day messages from five different sources.

Here is my summary:

The Queen: Her principal message revolved around Afghanistan. She said how deeply she feels about the families which lost their loved ones in the war. She talked about the commonwealth soldiers too, and their sacrifices.

She spoke with dignity and grace, as usual. It is her dignity which is currently sustaining the British monarchy, which is possibly in a terminal decline [despite King Faruque's obs…

Education 2.0: The Unbundling of the University

I have previous mentioned about a Facilitated Network Model of education, where modern learning technology - of cheap communication and rich media - transform the education to a more asynchronous, personalized yet collaborative process. I argued that the model of education as we have it today, is increasingly out of sync with our life.

This is not just because of technology. I say this because of wider social changes, primarily (a) withering of all certainties in life and (b) breakdown of the stages of life. One can possibly argue that the quest of knowledge does not get affected, at least too deeply, by the changing social rules But, the idea of the university is not about just quest of knowledge. It is primarily about connecting human knowledge to life. And, in the context of a rapidly transforming landscape of life, today's universities are inadequate facilitators of the stated purpose.

One can possibly argue that the nature of knowledge itself is changing. Being a blogger myself…

On Telengana

With my business connections in Hyderabad, I am increasingly worried about the state of affairs in AndhraPradesh and the political tension surrounding the formation of the Telengana state. I can see the Congress Party is split in two, with the coastal MPs fasting unto death and agitating with all their life's worth against the decision, and the ones from Northern regions quietly basking in the glory of finally bringing justice to a long forgotten region.

It will take some time for the dust to settle. There are two hugely contentious issues: One is the formation of the new state, and the second is the status of Hyderabad, which falls into Telengana geographically, and is closely linked by history with the region. If Hyderabad is supposed to become part of Telegana, expectedly its capital, it will suddenly change the city and the equations in the state. There are talks of making Hyderabad an Union Territory, which is really about postponing the decision for now, and taking one battle…

A Note for Christmas

The last Sunday before Christmas - the year feels like over. It is brilliantly sunny and bitterly cold outside. So cold that the snow won't melt even in the full glare of the Sun. The road in front of us is unusually quiet, but I know that the traffic would build up soon, after Lunch, when everyone would head for shops one last time. The newspapers report that Britain had one of the biggest shopping days in history yesterday, when people finally got over the recession hangover and returned to the shops, even if for one last hurray. One can almost hear the collective sigh - thank God that the year is over - and the bristling to start a new year.



2009 has been a tough year, for most people. It is partly about the recession, but not just that. It is as if everyone's ambitions suddenly froze because of the economic climate, everyone suddenly started postponing their life's decisions and wanted to wait till we reach the end of the tunnel. This is a strange, awkward collective fr…

Education 2.0: The Roll-back of Public Education

Across the world, public education is on its way out. It is definitely out of fashion in all of the Anglo-Saxon world, and increasingly the developing countries, which are burdened by out of date education systems, mostly out of touch academics and out of proportion education bureaucracies, are following that lead. It indeed looks like an easy solution: let the private entrepreneurs make money and educate a few people in the process.

I do not agree. I think this is another example of governments abdicating its role of governance. We set up governments not to make profit, but to take care of things which can not be managed by private individual pursuit of profit. It is indeed not the other way round. Education is one of those areas, and governments abdicating its role of educating people may actually alter the social balance, come in the way of social progress and end up making social relationships unsustainable.

Let me explain. In my mind, education is a social utility. The education sy…

Education 2.0: Ideas for An Open College

Idealism does not get you far in life, my teachers advised me. This is an advice I have not heeded, to my peril. I get excited by ideas, and not often care to assess the benefits, of personal and material kind, before pursuing one. And, so I have done many times before.

However, for all my day-dreaming habits and undying optimism, I have possibly not worked for anything even closely exciting as the one idea I am pursuing now: A global open college. A college, in short, that anyone can attend, anywhere in the world, and study a professional course in a wide range of subject areas.

That's the idealism bit. The idea is that you can decide to educate yourself one morning, and without caring for what your background is, or having to wait for admission cycles and filling out lengthy forms, you can immediately get started. The education, in this format, should come to you instead of you going to it. The experience should be global, and you should be able to connect up to thousands of other…

An Old Joke

This is an old joke, about the Four Dimensions of Happiness.

So, a happy man has

An American Salary

A British House

A Chinese Cook

And

A Japanese Wife.

The other end of the maxim, the four dimensions of unhappiness, is also spelt out as well:

A Chinese Salary

A British Cook

A Japanese House

And

An American Wife.

Apologies, because, this is very male and lots of stereotypes here [some are also dated, because Chinese salary is no longer that bad]. But, worth a laugh!

Gordon Brown on Global Ethic

The New Zealand's Equivalent of Danish Cartoons

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This advert, put out on billboards by St Matthew-in-the-City Church in Auckland, is causing a bit of a debate. Many residents are angry, they think the advert shows disrespect. The church wanted to do this to, yes to draw attention, and to spark a debate on Jesus' birth. But, what a timing?

But, then, I guess fundamentalists are everywhere and they always miss the point. And, the irony, indeed.

Saving British Airways

It is a great day for British Airways. It won an injunction on strikes called by Cabin Crew. This will keep the airline flying during the holidays, much to the relief of many passengers. It will possibly save the airline, for now. It will also possibly be the last nail in the coffin of the Trade Union movement in Britain, because the judgement was based on a technicality, which could have been avoided. Great day for British Newspapers, because they seemed to have swayed the opinion.

But, while everyone is happy, it is time to ask whether British Airways can be saved. The answer is possibly a resounding NO, given that this is completely out of touch and arrogant airline, living on borrowed time. The same arrogance is all but obvious in challenging the strike call in the courts, rather than trying to resolve the dispute. They are in denial that airlines is a service business and its crew is what it really has, and trying to take away their rights to strike is not the best way to make the…

The Concept of East Asian Union & America

In the context of the discussion about the East Asian Union, there is a lot of unease in America and Europe. It almost appears that there is some kind of conspiracy against them, by some socialist powers, though the idea is generating in Japan and the adherents, countries like South Korea and Taiwan, are strong American allies. I have been told that the scheme is to undermine American hegemony, which is partially correct, but seen from a different perspective, this is not such a bad thing for America itself.

Let me explain. I do not think East Asian Union, if it ever happens, will be about undermining anyone. We should not think about this in nationalist terms; as this is not going to be a nation and will not act like a nation. This is possibly the strongest rationale for promoting such an union. Asia, as of today, is much like the Europe of the Twentieth century. Home of strong and emerging powers, biggest armies and arsenal. Many of the world's most dangerous points of tension ar…

Agenda For India 2020

In the light of the Hatoyama doctrine and the shifting world economics and politics, it is time for us to rethink our plans in India and how this country should develop in the next decade. I am a great believer that India has the potential to develop into a powerful economy, but I do not think this is a given, and a lot will depend on the choices we make with regard to our development model. I am not sure it was about liberalization and that's it, however much the English language press wants us to believe that. It seems that we have caught up this free market credo just after its time has passed - we have a penchant for picking up the doctrines after its sell-by date - and it is important for us to think hard, yet again, on what is right for us.

I am not talking about a militant nationalism or old school protectionism, though both of those doctrines may make a comeback in the Western economies real soon. India should not, and I am confident, would not, follow the European and Amer…

Yukio Hatoyama on 'New Path for Japan'

In the context of my recent comment regarding the East Asian Community, I decided to post Yukio Hatoyama's article from International Herald Tribune, where it appeared in English. This article, understandably, created so much anxiety in the Washington Policy circles. However, it is said that there is less to worry about Hatoyama's intent than is currently thought. His comments about the failure of American style capitalism is all but common these days, and his idea of an East Asian community is not a new one. Besides, it was pointed out that the English article omits important sections that appeared in the original, longer, Japanese one, sections which would have made this sound much less belligerent.
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Yukio Hatoyama heads the Democratic Party of Japan, and has since become the prime minister of Japan. A longer version of this article appears in the September issue of the monthl…

From Hope to Audacity | Foreign Affairs

This article in Foreign Affairs was worth reproducing here, in the context of what I wrote about Obama's Nobel Speech and the requirements of pragmatism as John Gibb pointed out to me. This is written by ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, who was the U.S. National Security Adviser from 1977 to 1981. His most recent book is Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower.

From Hope to Audacity | Foreign Affairs

One can read the article by clicking on the link, but a registration will be required, which is free of cost. I shall encourage you to register. However, I have also reproduced the text here for convenience, and to be used in the context of the ongoing conversation.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The foreign policy of U.S. President Barack Obama can be assessed most usefully in two parts: first, his goals and decision-making system and, second, his policies and their implementation. Although one can speak w…

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