Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What World-Class Journalism (Writing) Looks Like


Don’t mis-underestimate Dubya

The Bush family has an uncanny knack of knowing where the future will happen, says Jaithirth Rao

Posted online: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 at 0000 hours IST

As we prepare to welcome the leader of the world’s most powerful republic, it behooves us to make sure that we grapple with facts, not just biased opinions. It is unfortunate that so much of the information about the US is derived by our elites from the eastern seaboard, Left-leaning media who are on the opposite side of the American political spectrum from George W. Bush and who therefore have a vested interest in opposing and disparaging him.

The images of Bush they have succeeded in planting internationally are that Bush is dim-witted, a simple-minded religious fanatic, a supporter of a rapacious plutocracy. None of these are based on facts. But like all propaganda, there is a feeling that repeated often enough, loudly enough, it’ll become the accepted truth.

Let us take a look at the facts. The Bush family is as elitist as they get in America. Bush’s grandfather was a Republican senator from Connecticut. His son, George Bush Sr, took the decision literally to move the family “west”. This may seem like an accident. But what an intelligent and fortuitous accident it was. They moved to the southwest just as this part of the US was gaining demographically. The likelihood of a president of the US bobbing up from Connecticut, with its declining population, is pretty low. Texas on the other hand has been for the last 35 years on the rise economically and politically. The Bush family moved to Texas just as the state was moving from over a century of Democratic domination to becoming a bastion of the Republicans. Incidentally, a branch of the Bush family represented by the president’s younger brother has moved to Florida, another state with burgeoning demography and a flourishing economy. The family’s uncanny ability to anticipate the future and “move” to where the future will happen needs no better proof.

President Bush attended Yale and Harvard Business School. Critics will of course make snide remarks that this was on account of family connections. While that may help to some extent, to be dismissive of his attendance of top-class academic establishments would arguably be one more silly under-estimation of the man. Despite representing what is viewed by many as a political party committed to the white Protestant cause, Bush has reached out to the Hispanic community with intelligence and sensitivity. If nothing else, this represents another wise anticipation of demographic inflexion. The Republican Party would condemn itself to irrelevance if it fails to co-opt the growing Hispanic population. At considerable risk to his popularity with xenophobes within his own party, Bush has proposed a Guest Worker programme which is immigrant-friendly and responds to the concerns of the Hispanic voter. His ability to re-fashion himself as a “non-elitist” or to convert a marginal first term victory into a decisive one in the second round are not acts of the politically inept. Those who think of him that way seriously “mis-underestimate” him!

Bush has shown a broad-mindedness and inclusiveness in his appointm-ents that completely demolishes the argument that he is merely a mouthpiece for evangelical Christians. He may be a sincere, pious, believer in his faith, but he’s consistently stood for the separation of church and state and for the inclusiveness of all groups. This may be for principled reasons or because he his politically smart. The net effect has been positive. His executive and judicial appointments embrace Catholics (also new entrant into the stable of Republican supporters), Jews and African-Americans. Note that both his secretaries of state (the senior-most cabinet members) have been African-American. His surgical approach to Senator Trent Lott when he resurrected long-forgotten racial antagonisms is a classic example of heightened sensitivity.

In foreign policy, Bush has the reputation deservedly or otherwise of cold-shouldering Europe (or is it just Old Europe?) and reaching out to China and India. Again, one sees the same knack of grasping the future rather than swimming in the glue of the past. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and he have created an Indo-US CEO forum. Contrast this with Chirac’s clumsy response to the Mittal-Arcelor deal. China is the economic powerhouse of the future and India is headed the same way. Bush’s visit to China highlighted this despite the dozens of reservations and differences on Taiwan and other irritants. He was warmly received by the Chinese elite, an important lesson for his Indian counterparts.

As a betting man, the very fact that Bush is positive about India means that it is quite in order to go long on the Indian stockmarket. His ability to spot the trend has a tested track record. It is equally important to pay attention to the fact that almost instinctively he is on our side on a variety of issues, be it the approach to Islamist terrorism or the approach to nuclear power as a viable, even desirable energy source for the world. He has maintained a clear distance from ecology fundamentalists who would deny India nuclear fuel and at the same time hector us not to burn high-sulphur coal. How exactly are we supposed to provide for an energy-starved population who do not aspire to remain permanently poor?

The one argument I find most entertaining is that he is doing all this for the good of the US. Of course he is. That is what makes his approach so credible and self-sustaining. He has been elected by Americans to further their interests and that’s what he is doing. If he can find that doing business with India makes sense within that agenda, it seems to me that we have all the elements of a relationship not based on frothy rhetoric but on sound convergence of interests. It is in this spirit of intelligent practicality, conscious of our vital interests that we should “do business” with this pragmatic Texan.

Jaithirth Rao is chairman and CEO, Mphasis

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Arrogance of Power

Once most of us leave high school, the major form of bullying is the intimidation, fear and hate-mongering of the powers that be who wish to remain so. That is to say, the form of bull(ying) most prevalent then is bull(shitting) -- most commonly seen in the editorial sections of most newspapers. They’ll whine loudly about all the restrictions of THEIR freedom of expression, while having no compunction about suppressing everybody else’s freedom of expression.

That control of alternative and competing ideas has been particularly onerous in Hawaii -- in conjunction with the emergence of one-party domination -- by those they anoint as the experts and authorities, largely union shills and confederates. “Nobody will know the difference, if we all stick together.”

So there is this kind of collusion among the self-serving, privileged few. Editors making six-figure incomes will appoint themselves as spokesperson for the poor and disadvantaged -- thus not allowing them to speak for themselves, of their own truth. In this way, the poor and disadvantaged can be heard to say, “Pay the editors (demagogues) more; they're the truly deserving, not us -- money does not matter. The tourists, rich, federal government will pay our share” -- allowing everyone to evade the accountability and responsibility of their actions.

Even in the Age of the Internet, the old mainstream press cannot let go of its control -- and why they self-destruct in the new paradigm of the power of information that is shared -- and not that which is hoarded, distorted, and manipulated by a self-appointed few. In their electronic forums and discussions, they still exercise their right to “moderate” the comments on their boards so that nothing they don’t want to be said, is allowed to be heard in Hawaii, and in fact, when discussions in it become too engaging, it’s time to run another story about the perils of of the Internet and how it can ruin one’s life.

Of course they’re just being “objective,” which is a virtue permanently assigned those identifying themselves as the “press,” “academics,” “educators.” They would never think of their own ambitions and interests first -- like everybody else in society. They would never think to abuse power and trust -- and why God appointed them to oversee everybody else.

And so it came to pass that the mainstream press became a victim of its own arrogance, which is the essence of the authoritarian, bullying personality. They think they alone are so much smarter than everybody else that they’ll never be caught, discovered, exposed -- that they alone control that flow of information to make and break anyone of their choosing.

They’ll come back -- but no longer as gods and high priests of information and control. It’s not that they’re singularly worse than everybody else -- but that they’re not immune to the temptations for bullying control, as they think their training has made them -- because the reason for their choice of vocation made them congenitally more vulnerable to the lures of resentment, bitterness, envy in being constantly exposed to the rich, powerful and famous. That will distort one’s perspective of the human condition -- and the relentless, ruthless pursuit of MORE.

The rest of society is not so driven by ambition -- to become what they aren’t, which is always the denial of the person they actually are. And so they don’t know themselves very well -- which is the greatest flaw of all.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Difference Between Leadership and Bullying

Many growing up schooled in the public education system, never realize the difference between leadership and bullying -- because all they’ve seen is bullying, intimidation, coercion, manipulation, indoctrination, from their classmates, teachers, and the teachers from more senior teachers (administrators) on up. And so there is no real discussion of what freedom is -- but in its negative connotations, that if people were free, they would be free to do all kinds of horrible, antisocial things -- rather than that they have the freedom to create all the wonderful possibilities never seen before.

Because of that presumption of the evil and bad in human nature that they pride themselves in as the “liberal” way, they need to pass every kind of law and regulation to dictate appropriate (correct) behavior -- in every situation, and those that are not thus prescribed by authorities and experts on high, are implicitly forbidden and unlawful even to imagine. Another view, would be the confidence that if intelligence is simply awakened and allowed to do its will, thoughtless and antisocial behavior does not manifest -- but native intelligence does unless it is distorted, perverted, coerced.

So what is disturbing in the discussions that take place at the legislature, is the lack of faith and confidence that people do the right thing without these compulsions to do so. Freedom and free societies are really about having choices and the freedom to choose among the choices -- rather than to have ever increasing monopolies forced upon us, even and especially in our thinking -- by institutions originally organized for that reason.

The very language of these discussions, is adversarial and antagonistic, rather than being the object of “communications,” which means "to talk over with." Mass communications, the style adopted as the standard in the 20th century, is really a “talking at," or communications which somebody as perceptive as George Orwell, warned of the dangers as the doublethink of “mass communications.” The purpose is not to make communication more likely and possible, but to make it actually impossible -- with opposition and hierarchy hardened even before a word is exchanged. It is enough just to label the other as the opposition and inferior, not to have to listen to them. But in that way, they also become incapable of communicating effectively to anybody else -- because com-munication can only take place between peers and equals.

Thus, they exist only to nullify each other. It is the very denial of being in a free society -- this dominance and vanquishing of every other -- because that defines their essential human relationship, which is the basis of all society, culture and government.

Monday, February 20, 2006

District 21/22/23 Newsletter (Diamond Head-Kakaako, Waikiki-Moiliili/Pawaa)

Our next regular monthly meeting, will be on the 4th Wednesday, February 22, 2006, 6pm, at the Republican Party Headquarters, 725 Kapiolani Blvd.

Many of us are undoubtedly still recovering from the exuberance of the Lincoln Day Dinner, of which the Hawaii Republican Party draws the largest participation of its kind for this observance, of all the states. Attendance was reported at 1,300. Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman was the guest speaker -- and the most striking thing about him is how youthful he looks. But that seems to be a creeping evolution of the Republican Party here, as well as nationwide -- that there seems to be an infusion of new faces and new blood into the party -- bringing an enthusiasm and vibrancy not found in political parties that value seniority and the status quo above all else, and the only thing they know to do.

That seems to be the major tenor of difference between the parties these days -- how one seems to be relentlessly moving forward with new ideas and technologies, while the other party, is still hoping for a return to the good ol' days and the good ol' boys, so they can be the leaders once again. If one monitors the political literature of these times, it's usually not a Republican thing to comment very much on what the Democrats are doing -- since they don't seem to be doing much of anything but criticizing the Republicans for wanting to do things.

But the governor and other Republicans say the Dems are at least giving them a hearing now rather than just tuning them out and suppressing them. The newspapers are finding out that tactic doesn't work too well because readers just become former readers and subscribers -- because they are not a government monopoly for which we have no choice but to accept their terms. That's just the sign of the times -- in a world of increasingly greater choices. There's no hope of going back to the good ol' times and the good ol' boys, as though the future held no better choices, except the malaise of pessimism, cynicism and hopelessness.

The change in attitude from four years ago is quite striking in this respect. There is this noticeable sense of greater freedom, choice and change -- that makes all things possible -- not only within the Republican Party, but also, throughout Hawaii. We've gone from the thinking that "nothing is possible," in four short years, to the thinking that "anything is possible," -- and why not Hawaii being leaders at the front, on the cutting edge of developments -- rather than lagging 10-20 years behind the times, being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

I think that change in intellectual, cultural, as well as political climate, is the most important aspect and a true measure of real change -- rather than just shuffling the chairs on the Titanic, as seemed to be the theme of Hawaii in the '90s. How quickly we forget -- that things were that bad, and seemingly hopeless. So this year's high spirits at the Lincoln Day Dinner, was the exclamation point of the New Beginning -- that just promises to keep getting better!

And the Republican tent seems to be getting bigger and absorbing a lot of the elements that are feeling squeezed out of the Democratic Party as they seem to be realizing too late that they're being forced to the margins of society in trying to appease every extremist group and ideology -- and being torn apart by it. Oftentimes, just being on the edge, is not necessarily being on the leading edge -- but simply being out on the ledge, if one cannot make those proper discriminations.

So I highly recommend increasing one's exposure and involvement with the Republican Party because I think it is one of the most exciting affiliations and associations right now. That's where it is happening -- and what is happening in the world right now. As one who largely tracks thinking and intellectual/cultural developments, particularly on the Internet (which includes traditional mass media as well as the emerging alternatives), the sense of being a Republican is much broader than strictly party activity and ideology. It's more about people -- and how they interact and relate with each other as peers, rather than in the old power trips. That is the new political world that the Republicans have been faster to pick up on than the Democrats -- who still largely believe that nothing has changed in the last fifty years, and so they are still the party of the times -- rather than the realization that they are badly out of step with the times and need to refresh their whole portfolio -- if they really want to play a role in the future of leadership in this country.

Otherwise, they're going to be bypassed into irrelevancy because the good ol' days and the good ol' boys are not returning, and everybody else is moving ahead -- with or without them -- because leadership is not just what politicians do anymore. It is what everybody does in the new society -- in whatever they do. Even the modern political party structure is not top-down governance but bottom-up. It takes a while to get used to the concept but it is one whose time has come. The old political parties no longer exist. The Republicans in Hawaii have just been ahead in realizing that -- while the Democrats are wondering where their old coalitions have gone and power base is anymore once there has been a disruption in that continuity of the past.

It was easy when they just ran the previous lieutenant governor for governor; but once that familiar pattern stopped, they didn't have a contingency plan -- except for wishful-thinking.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hanging with the Best

Today’s big news story is the recommendation by the University of Hawaii President to join the Big Four -- of Johns Hopkins University, University of Texas at Austin, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Washington -- which is a coup even if they never do any research here -- because it is the association and branding along with the premier academic research institutions in the world, that puts them into elite company. It’s quite an honor for the University of Hawaii to be offered the opportunity to take its place among the most distinguished names in practical research. The University of Texas at El Paso is not the University of Texas at Austin, or some other Division II school we can beat up on to establish a winning record and be the sole big fish in a small pond.

It was just a short time ago that the University of Hawaii was struggling to maintain its accreditation under the former president, and now they get a chance to play with the big boys, eager show the world what we have to offer. Not to feel that we’re ready for prime time, will undoubtedly ensure that nothing discovered after the 20th century (or is it the 19th?), can ever be discovered or taught at the University. They seem to have a serious collection of Luddites entrenched there, hoping to keep their obsolescent courses relevant by not allowing any new possibilities to compete with the old. It’s shocking that such provincialism and anti-intellectualism should be justified as the way it is around there -- and done on that campus, which many claim is just an extension of high school -- only the “teachers" are more pretentious, authoritarian, and autocratic. Some professors proudly announce to their incoming classes that the notes for their lectures are unimproved for the last forty years -- as though that was some kind of distinction of unimprovable brilliance.

Virtually all the protests have come from those not involved in state-of-the-art research -- but those who don’t want state-of-the-art research done -- under any circumstances, and the navy affiliation is just their pretext. Of course such groups like to call themselves peace protesters, while allowing wars and genocide to rage around the world but they don’t know about it because they choose to ignore it unless it can be used to generate a great controversy over nothing of consequence.

“Liberals” are now disavowing the label and calling themselves “progressives,” while ironically being against everything truly progressive. Somehow, they think that if they could just turn back the clock to the good old days of The Great Depression, they could reel off another run of Democratic victories. Thus they are cheering for every setback to turn into a full blown Armageddon -- for their exclusive benefit, to show that they should be in charge.

Managing prosperity is not what they’re prepared to do -- so will first have to undermine that prosperity -- in order that they might impose their “solution” for the problem they have created, producing the comfortable and familiar boom and bust cycle. First there is overcoming failure, then there is managing success to the next level -- which is the elimination of an age-old problem. The dysfunctional cycle is to destroy that success, so one has a familiar solution to solve the “age-old” problems -- which we never move beyond.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Freedom of Speech and Expression

Contrary to the ACLU, freedom of speech and expression is not the unlimited right to prime real estate rent free -- and contrary to some newspaper’s editorial, moving down the block is not “effectively banning free speech.” It’s very important to keep these distinctions clearly in mind -- because with the Hawaii media, all these discussions get muddied in pidgin thinking.

In the other newspaper, the letters editor delights in propagating the “war” between pedestrians and bicyclists, by only publishing letters arguing who should have exclusive right of way to the sidewalks -- as though only by providing each person with exclusive right of way, was the solution -- rather than the problem.

As a biker with many pedestrian friends, the encounter of the bicyclist and the pedestrian, is one of the great opportunities for manifesting “Aloha,” with each deferring to the other in a friendly acknowledgement. That is the reality of most encounters of such nature here as well as all over the world. Only in the minds of people like the editor of the newspaper (the old mentality), is conflict necessary for one to vanquish the other, at every opportunity -- causing road rage wherever that person has been.

This sharing is actually is the greater meaning and purpose of what society is all about -- and not merely passing edicts to punish and restrict one or the other -- as though in an perpetual vendetta against the rights of every other.

I wish the editors of the newspapers would capture this true spirit of Aloha, rather than taking every opportunity to only publish the arguments that cause the ill-will and distrust of each against every other. The greatest expression of any society is the will to share -- and not the dominance of each against every other.

That is the reason the new media are exploding in these possibilities for improved communications and information exchange -- instead of maintaining the old control of the mass media to manipulate one group against every other.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Prejudice vs. Discrimination

That’s the major paradigm shift of the 21st century -- that every discussion that was dominated by the need for “more,” evolves to the discussion of “better.” “More” was the driver of life in the 20th century. However, once there is sufficient, simply more is usually not better -- as in the phrase, “More is better.” The transformation in understanding is that “Better is something else entirely”

Because of the effectiveness of mass media and propaganda techniques, what was famously done was to substitute one attribute for another, such as in equating “more” to “better,” when on careful reflection -- more and better, are totally different qualities.

In that same way, “discrimination” was equated to “prejudice,” when they are actually the opposites. The master observer of these propaganda and mass media techniques was the journalist, George Orwell, who gave the alarm on such practices in his two famous works, Animal Farm and 1984. He illustrated how two mutually contradictory and exclusive thoughts could be manipulated to be the same.

To “discriminate” is simply to be able to tell the difference -- between one thing and another. It does NOT necessarily imply a lesser regard and treatment; it could mean an even higher regard and valuing of what one has been able to discriminate as superior attributes. Therefore, to ban all discriminations, does not allow one to distinguish good from bad, good from evil, right from wrong, better from worse.

“Prejudice” on the other hand, is actually this prohibition on making the proper discriminations as to what is good and bad, right and just. Most of life is good with a rare bad -- so the advice not to be allowed to make that distinction, determine the exception, sets one up for deception and manipulation -- which is what the mass media is perfecty suited for. It is one-way transmission of values imposed by one group of self-selected people on every other. Freedom of expression for everyone is not their objective; freedom only to impose "their" opinions is what that mass media is all about -- their control.

But that is simply one manifestation of media and not the ultimate evolution of media, which is transpiring as we speak. It is the living, breathing dynamism of ideas being formed in the dialogue -- and not merely conclusions imposed after the truth have been predetermined by the self-selected group -- who determine that they know better than everybody else what is best for everybody else. They are commonly denoted as “liberals”-- which supposedly implies and denotes a moral and intellectual superiority (as though at sometime in a clouded past, God passed down another set of Commandments, that superseded His previous writings, and appointed this special class of priests to interpret and administer these edicts).

The major prohibition then became, that it was forbidden to distinguish this difference between “discrimination” and “prejudice,” and by that device, one had to follow the pronouncements of the self-appointed class, that such as they pronounced, was what was “politically, morally and socially correct” -- unquestionably.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

More Government is Not Better Government

The theme emerging from the two definitive statements from the leading articulators of government, the Governor and the President, is the recognition that MORE government is not necessarily BETTER government -- and is often, an indication of WORSE government.

There are two basic responses when discovering a problem: one is to eliminate the problem -- and the other is to exploit the problem, in making it worse, in the foolish notion that the object and purpose of life is to create more problems and a greater problem, and thus more work, more high-paying jobs -- with guaranteed job security as the problem threatens to grow completely out of control and have all of society at its mercy.

On the national level, that would be the threat of international security and defense, which in the past, was allowed to be tolerated, as long as it was safely somewhere else. The terrorists of the world made it a point to show how easy it was to transport terrorist ideologies and tactics anywhere in the world -- and so there had to be the war against terrorism as the enemy -- which includes the fear, coercion and intimidtion that prevents us from actualizing life at its highest possibilities of fulfillment. So that threat of fear had to be addressed as the first course of business entering the 21st Century.

Anybody who has worked with the criminal minds know that the only way to stop those constant threats is with firmness -- or the abuses grow out of control with each tolerance and denial. The Vietnam experience had undermined our confidence to act definitively against violence. Even pacifists have to recognize that when a life is to be taken, it is no virtue in thinking that the innocent has no more right than the violent perpetrator to express their freedom in taking the life of another. We needed a leader who could make that distinction.

On the state level, the great concern has to be the public education system because the PROBLEM of education and learning is not the general rule. It is the public education system that is the failure -- and most of its problems are the manufacturing of failure, to guarantee their job security -- at even the cost to the teachers and the students. The academic institutions are creating artifical demand in insisting we have to learn many things just because that is the academic tradition, while NOT teaching the few necessary skills that are the foundations for self-directed, lifelong learning -- with or without a teacher. That’s the kind of education everybody needs now -- from the preschoolers to the most aged, to learn throughout their entire lives without having to enroll and pay tuition to do so.

That threatens the entrenched status quo of those who think learning for learning’s sake has any relevance and value at all. The whole academic tradition has to be brought into the 21st Century -- from the medieval model of the universities, in which only the privileged and idle people were occupied. People need to learn all the new things and new ways that are coming into being -- and not merely the old things taught for a purpose one hundred years ago.

There needs to be a pause from just continuing to do things as they’ve alwys been done before MORE -- just because it’s always been done that way before.