Good Old Gorby
Variety of Idiots
Matter of Stereotypes
Game of Chicken
You aren’t a politician if you cannot tell a lie very suavely and, of course, without blinking your eye.
Take the mercifully short, tongue-in-cheek address of President Obama at Hiroshima. “Seventy-one years ago on a bright, cloudless morning,” he said, “death fell from the sky and the world was changed.” That’s indeed a lie - a goddamn lie. Let's call a spade a spade. Death of innocent civilians was caused not by heavens raining it down, but by a cold-blooded cynical military decision. Recent research has established that even Harry Truman, hurriedly sworn in as President on April 12, 1945 after Roosevelt’s sudden death was hardly consulted in the matter. For all you know he might really have learnt about it from his press aides.
What, one wonders, were the thoughts uppermost in the mind of Paul Tibbets, a brigadier general in the United States Air Force who was the pilot who flew the Enola Gay - a B-29 Superfortress, the latest development in aviation, the most powerful plane ever built - when it dropped Little Boy - code name for the first atom bomb - on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, the U.S. dropped a plutonium implosion-type bomb (Fat Man) on the city of Nagasaki. Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic radiation killed over 100,000 people in Hiroshima and little less in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians.
Did those who unleashed this horror – “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth,” in Truman’s words - know their action will herald the arrival of a new phase of history which will render mankind capable of complete self-destruction?
The world knows the bombing of civilians in Hiroshima and, three days later, in Nagasaki bears the hallmarks of a crime against humanity. But Americans have unfailingly argued that that they chose, after great deliberation, the lesser awesome option to precipitate the end of the Pacific war rather than opt for full-fledged invasion of Japan that would have meant loss of many more lives. Military historians are candid enough to admit that no such option was ever discussed and debated. The moment the bomb was ready it was used despite knowing that after surrender of Germany the Japanese were planning to do the same to avoid further bloodshed.
Wasn’t it, all said, the 4-ton Little Boy, the long-in-making American atomic tit on August 6, 1945 for the conventional Japanese tat i.e., the surprise military strike against the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941?
Good Old Gorby
Do you, dear readers, especially if you belong to the generation that witnessed closely the last decades of the twentieth century, still remember good old Comrade Mikhail Gorbachev? Yes, I’m referring to the man who once along with Ronald Raegan was one of the two movers and shakers of the world. One wonders if he knew where his search for perestroika and glasnost will lead USSR to. There is, today, no dearth of people in his own country who accuse him of being a criminal for abetting the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Hardly did the man know that his tinkering with the system will bring the whole house down.
Today, after his wife’s death he lives a lonely life in his Moscow apartment, visited occasionally be a few close friends who lately organized his 85th birthday extravaganza in Hotel Ukraine whose owners refused payment because of his services to the Ukrainian independence.
Sometimes he must be introspecting as to what he achieved in his life. There was suppression of political dissent when he assumed power. It still is. Russian thirst for vodka remains undiminished despite his infamous campaign to lower alcohol consumption.
Here’s the latest on the latter. Two men are standing in a long, long vodka line prompted by the limited supply. One asks the other to keep his place in line, because he wants to go over the Kremlin to punch Gorbachev in the face for his anti-alcohol policy. He comes back many hours later and his friend asks him if he had indeed punched Gorbachev. “No,” the man answered despondently. “The line at the Kremlin was even longer.”
A federal judge in the United States has given the world an unprecedented glimpse into the ruthless business practices of Donald Trump used to build his business empire.
He made public more than 400 pages of Trump University “playbooks” which tell how Trump staff should target prospective students’ weaknesses to encourage them to sign up for a $34,995 Gold Elite three-day package.
Trump University staff had strict instructions to get people to pile on credit card debt and to target their financial weaknesses in an attempt to sell them the high-priced real estate courses. Here’s an un-trumped-op personal message of Trump: “Only doers get rich. I know that in these three packed days, you will learn everything to make a million dollars within the next 12 months.”
The courses, now subject to legal proceedings from unhappy clients, show someone who was absolutely shameless in his willingness to lie to people.
Judge Curiel released the documents, which all Americans must read before heading for the booth to cast their ballot to elect Obama’s successor. Whatever might happen to the legal cases, the allegations will dog Trump all the way to November. Lately, Hillary Clinton offered a preview of what is to come, calling Trump a “fraud” who is “trying to scam America the way he scammed all those people at Trump University.”
As The New Yorker columnist John Cassidy pointedly concludes his write-up on the revelations, “One thing is clear, though. If the revelations about Trump University don’t do any damage to Trump, it’s time to worry — or worry even more — about American democracy.
Varieties of Idiots
Yes, idiots come in various shapes and forms.
The English language, unfortunately, doesn’t have a precise word for the German “Fachidiot,” a narrowly specialized person accomplished in his own field but a blithering idiot outside it. In any case, a cardiac surgeon is basically a skilled auto mechanic who is not bothered by the sight of blood and palpitating organs.
And do you know what’s called idiot savant? He’s a mentally defective person with an exceptional skill or talent in a special field, as a highly developed ability to play music or to solve complex mathematical problems mentally at great speed. We had one called Shakuntala Devi a wizard in solving number problems but nothing else.
Sonia Gandhi is up to it once again - roaring like a wounded tigress. Of late when the opposition accused her son-in-law Robert Vadra, the family’s ever-exposed Achilles’ heel with a billion tender points, of buying a benami property in London, Sonia hit back: “Kabhi aisa nahi dekha... ek pradhan mantri hain… shahenshah nahi.” (He is a mere PM, not an emperor.)
“Roz...roz ye Congress-mukt Bharat ke liye naya mudda uthate hain. Roz galat iljaam lagate hain. Agar kuch galat hai to bina bhed bhaav jaanch karo. Doodh ka doodh, paani ka paani karo,” Sonia dared the government.
Right or wrong, is a different matter. Look at the cadence of the rejoinder which has real literary flavor. It appears that Madame has after all hired a literate speech-writer and improved her art of reading Hindi in that laughably twisted style.
Sonia also seems emboldened by the BJP’s shoot-and-scoot tactics on many of the allegations against the family. The propensity of BJP leaders appears to just spray verbal darts in every direction, hoping that something might hit.
Matter of Stereotypes
Amusing indeed has been the debate over Narendra Modi’s educational degrees. Never before has anyone questioned an Indian Prime Minister’s educational certificates. Even American Republicans were finally content with Barrack Obama’s birth certificate.
To the best of my knowledge, Indira Gandhi attended many an educational institution both in India and abroad but never qualified for a school leaving certificate. However, she graduated with flying colors from the school of life. Rajiv Gandhi spent three years at Cambridge and had real gala time but never passed any examination while his would-be wife was feverishly learning English language.
But then Modi is different. He’s thought to be an upstart by the old elite. How can a chaiwallah aspire to, and actually, become Prime Minister? Graduates of Doon School, St Stephen’s and Oxbridge were appalled at the affront of an OBC to climb to the top. Hence, the attack on the authenticity of his degrees!
Such attitude, however, is not new. Mahadev Desai records in his diaries that Gandhiji thought Ambedkar must be a Brahmin as he was so well-educated. Mahadev Desai corrected him. Such prejudices are deeply ingrained in the psyche of a hierarchical caste society that’s ours.
We associate institutions with Prime Ministers, and not tea stalls. For instance, Eton has produced nineteen British Prime Ministers, including the first, Sir Robert Walpole, and current one, David Cameron.
However, notwithstanding Kejriwal’s profound misgivings, India’s 15th Prime Minister holds an extramural degree in Political Science, which was achieved through distance education from the Delhi University in the year 1978, which according to the secular brigade is no education worth the name.
What would be the consequences of - God forbid - Donald Trump being elected president in November to take over from Barrack Obama? Whatever the initial shock, the world would have to learn with an unpalatable reality. According to one recent Morning Consult/Vox poll, some 28 percent Americans are likely to consider moving to another country. As per Google statistics the search “How can I move to Canada?” surged 350 percent on March 1 itself when Trump won seven Republican state elections.
According to pundits, there are few havens of sanity in our mad, mad world. Most surveys enumerating them include New Zealand, Finland, Norway and of, course, Switzerland. Of late, despite its severe winters, Canada too has found a place in the select list. In fact, as per one estimate over 23 % of far-sighted American rich have decide to opt for the land of the Maple Leaf.
So, America’s loss will be Canada’s gain.
Game of Chickens
I missed a heartbeat or two reading the Pentagon’s account how two Chinese fighter jets performed a hair-raising “unsafe” maneuver by flying within 50 feet of an American surveillance plane over the much-in-news-of-late South China Sea. Now, aeronautically speaking, that’s not much more than a hairbreadth. A collision could have been catastrophic — to the crews and to the already fragile diplomatic relations between China and its regional neighbors, and the United States.
China has indeed of late been behaving in a bellicose fashion in the South China Sea. In fact, it is a part of its sustained and increasingly dangerous effort to assert sovereignty over a vital waterway. However other nations also have rights in what China claims as its exclusive lake.
In a few weeks, an international arbitration court is expected to rule in a case brought against China by the Philippines. The outcome could have a profound effect on the struggle for control of the sea, which is rich in resources and carries $5 trillion in annual trade.
The incident reminded me of the phrase game of chicken. It’s used as a metaphor for situations where two parties engage in a showdown where they have nothing to gain, and only pride stops them from backing down. Bertrand Russell famously compared the game of chicken to nuclear brinkmanship, a method of negotiation in which each party delays making concessions until the deadline is imminent. The psychological pressure may force a negotiator to concede to avoid a negative outcome. It can be a very dangerous tactic; if neither party “swerves”, a “crash” is certain to occur.