The latest American mass killing
This 2015 Economist article about American mass killings is (sadly) relevant and fair even today.
The regularity of mass killings breeds familiarity. The rhythms of grief and outrage that accompany them become—for those not directly affected by tragedy—ritualised and then blend into the background noise. That normalisation makes it ever less likely that America's political system will groan into action to take steps to reduce their frequency or deadliness. Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing. This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.
I have long been skeptical of Google’s knowledge of us. Turns out, Facebook knows more. Much more.
I am scared of Facebook. The company’s ambition, its ruthlessness, and its lack of a moral compass scare me. It goes back to that moment of its creation, Zuckerberg at his keyboard after a few drinks creating a website to compare people’s appearance, not for any real reason other than that he was able to do it. That’s the crucial thing about Facebook, the main thing which isn’t understood about its motivation: it does things because it can. Zuckerberg knows how to do something, and other people don’t, so he does it. Motivation of that type doesn’t work in the Hollywood version of life, so Aaron Sorkin had to give Zuck a motive to do with social aspiration and rejection. But that’s wrong, completely wrong. He isn’t motivated by that kind of garden-variety psychology. He does this because he can, and justifications about ‘connection’ and ‘community’ are ex post facto rationalisations. The drive is simpler and more basic. That’s why the impulse to growth has been so fundamental to the company, which is in many respects more like a virus than it is like a business. Grow and multiply and monetise. Why? There is no why. Because.
This @vladsavov article about iPhone's 10th anniversary is pretty damn good.
The Apple difference is about doing things differently, not doing different things. As such, Apple invariably competes and interacts with, learns and benefits from, and collaborates with many others. The iPhone revolution belongs to Apple, but not just to Apple.
The Wire has constantly been an outlier putting forth substance that questions the current state of affairs. Yet again!
the Indian media has crawled because it chooses to merge ‘business’ with ‘balance’. This gives it sanction to promote views that are patently unconstitutional and divisive, at a time it should be ferociously defending the rights of all Indians. It has stopped taking risks, an essential requirement for good journalism to thrive. For proof look no further than the absence of submissions by many of our top media houses for investigative journalism awards. Worse, a large number have become cheerleaders for the new regime, ratcheting up temperatures in a “new India”. We will bear the consequences of this media warmongering in days to come.
A scathing uprooting of the (lack of) Opposition in 3 years of Modi sarkar. Astute!
The Opposition has scarcely learnt from the 2014 debacle—the Modi Mission was driven by a raft of solutions riding on the template of pride. It is not enough anymore—in a country with 60 per cent populace under 35—to state the obvious about what is not working. To be relevant to the masses, parties need to put across solutions.
Wooing the young demography of India calls for parties to dismantle the status quo, retire the geriatrics and craft and present an alternate narrative.
An extremely fair take on how vigilantism has taken over the fabric of Indian democracy under Modi sarkar.
Institutions take decades to build and moments to undo. Vigilante nationalism has corroded our universities, our armed forces, our media organizations, and our mechanisms of law and order. It will destroy them if we keep bending rules and abandoning due process to prove our patriotic credentials or worse, to challenge those of others.
This is an eye-opening piece from NYT's Frank Bruni. 'The President Who Buried Humility':
Every president in my lifetime has been conceited. It’s more or less a job requirement. Bush had a bloated faith in his gut and his charm, while Obama fancied himself the smartest, most soulful person in almost any room.
But they were nothing like Trump, who’s a preening cartoon. He brags like he breathes. It’s autonomic. And he gloats the way our parents and teachers always told us not to.
I concur. Thoroughly.
Populist politics is often constructed from a blend of nativism, bigotry, grandiosity, and coarse speech. Yet its aesthetic has an intimate quality. By banning cash with a symbolic sweep of his hand, Modi reached into the pockets of almost every Indian, as another journalist I spoke with last week put it. The Prime Minister made himself felt. India is racked by severe poverty and hindered by illiteracy; many citizens in the countryside cannot name a world leader or even their own national leader. After November 8th, many more knew Modi’s name.
Brave, strong open letter from the US press corps to Trump.
We’ve been around since the founding of the republic, and our role in this great democracy has been ratified and reinforced again and again and again. You have forced us to rethink the most fundamental questions about who we are and what we are here for. For that we are most grateful.
A great post by @SagarikaGhose for TOI contradicting the accusations that the media is anti-Hindu.
Some English media platforms may challenge an uncritical view of Hindutva politics, but they have equally challenged the politics of dynasty and social justice. The media today is a chaotic, multifarious and diverse platform, where an Owaisi and a Sakshi Maharaj are heard equally. This plurality of almost 400 channels, where beef eating brahmins coexist with prime time patriots, militates against any one ideology being consistently pushed, although it could be argued that today very few media outlets are inclined to challenge Hindu nationalism frontally. After all, the grisly hanging of Muslim cattle traders in Latehar hardly got the coverage it deserved.
“Is ‘Friends’ Still the Most Popular Show on TV?” Friends will live on in our hearts much longer than GoT or BrBa.
I am, however, surprised that a whole new generation — all of whom are presumably much more tweet-, text-, Vine-, and Tinder-friendly than I am — is feeling the same way, and expressing it by embracing the very show my generation once embraced. After all, each generation has the right to bury the icons of its forebears, just as we in our Screaming Trees T-shirts once shat all over the Eagles. Instead, these kids are going to Friends trivia nights at Asian-fusion tapas bars in midtown, and starting podcasts devoted to recapping and analyzing every single episode of the show.
Excellent retort by @bdutt to Chetan Bhagat's constricted letter to Kashmiri youth.
Slogans are small and irrelevant battles to fight over in a state where multiple ingredients have created a lethal mix - a neighbor intent on starting fires and fuelling them, the challenge of terrorism, the threats of militants, the perils of what was once a mostly political separatist movement getting more and more Islamized, popular anger and alienation, sins of omission and commission by different governments in New Delhi, and an accumulated and unresolved stockpile of injustices on all sides.
The complexity calls out for truth and reconciliation, not for shrill bombast by prime-time anchors who are modern-day hash tag warriors. Ask the men who really have to go to battle and they might tell you that if you genuinely care about the well-being of our soldiers, if you want to stop this senseless cycle of violence, you need a sustainable peace process in the Valley. And what you need above all is the imagination and gentleness of an Atal Behari Vajpayee who famously offered the Kashmiri people whatever was possible within the bounds of "Insaniyat".
.@Wired has a great behind-the-scenes story of WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption.
WhatsApp, more than any company before it, has taken encryption to the masses. What makes this move even more striking is that the company did this with such a tiny group of people. The company employs only about 50 engineers. And it took a team of only 15 of them to bring encryption to the company’s one billion users—a tiny, technologically empowered group of individuals engaging in a new form of asymmetrical resistance to authority, standing up not only to the US government, but all governments.
Seldom do people understand why Mumbai is my favorite Indian city. Here, ‘FT correspondent James Crabtree on bringing up a baby in Mumbai’. Touching.
Meanwhile, I began putting Alexander in a baby carrier and going for walks, ambling over to the Maidan in Churchgate, a large open space where teams gather to play cricket, or up to Fort, the historic heart of the old city of Bombay, where we would pick up his favourite snack — a freshly baked bun with butter — from Yazdani, an old Parsi bakery. For the locals, the sight of a giant red-headed foreigner striding around with a small red-headed foreigner strapped to his chest provided reliable amusement.
.@jonfavs, an Obama speech-writer writes why electing Hillary in 2016 is more important than Obama in 2008.
Hillary is also more than just a policy wonk who can’t wait to start shuffling through white papers in the Oval Office. She cares. She tries. She perseveres. And now she has a chance to tell the story she’s always wanted about America: the story about a country that found the courage to turn away from our darkest impulses; that chose to embrace our growing diversity as a strength, not a weakness; that pushed the boundaries of opportunity outward and upward, until there are no more barriers, and no more ceilings.
Apple Software VP Craig Federighi concisely explains what's at stake in Apple vs FBI and why it matters.
I became an engineer because I believe in the power of technology to enrich our lives. Great software has seemingly limitless potential to solve human problems — and it can spread around the world in the blink of an eye. Malicious code moves just as quickly, and when software is created for the wrong reason, it has a huge and growing capacity to harm millions of people.
.@TIME's exclusive cover about Apple vs. FBI is direct, informative and unbiased. #MustRead
Among the best pieces I’ve ever read.
‘You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?”’
Sometimes I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?
Where @ShashiTharoor talks about the phenomenon that Kanhaiya Kumar has become and how his alliance to CPI is disappointing.
Kanhaiya represents a voice of hope and aspiration - but he toils in the service of a party that opposed the introduction of computers into India (and smashed the first ones to be installed in government offices), denounced the entry of mobile phones as a toy for the rich (whereas nothing has empowered the Indian underclass more than the mobile phone), and consistently obstructs every progressive reform that would pull the poor out of poverty. His party, moored in a 19th century ideology, is manifestly unsuited to 21st century India.
A really smart advice to Smriti Irani after her RS speech which created so much hullabaloo.
Irani has, at times, fallen into the trap of believing that her strength lies in her self-image as a modern-day political Durga: Any dissenting voice has to be shown its place. Then be it jousting with vice-chancellors, senior academics and IIT directors or even getting into Twitter wars with journalists, Irani has become a symbol of this government’s penchant for shouting down its critics rather than engaging with them.
A detailed feature about @Dropbox’s move from AWS to its own data servers from @wired.
‘The Epic Story of Dropbox’s Exodus From the Amazon Cloud Empire’
Magic Pocket—Dropbox’s version of Amazon’s file-storage system—was still running on run-of-the-mill machines. The next step was to move it onto the company’s custom-built hardware. Aljamal and Turner, an English major turned engineer who is now a veteran of multiple tech startups, joined forces to ensure this new hardware dovetailed with the software. Aljamal and his hardware engineers designed a single machine, Diskotech, that could hold a petabyte of data. But there was a problem. The Magic Pocket software didn’t quite fit this new hardware. So Turner rebuilt Magic Pocket in an entirely different programming language.
One great day rebuttal about the absurdity of the oft-spoken ‘NaMo was a chaiwallah’ argument.
The wanderer then became an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker, who became a regional organiser and was put in charge of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The ABVP activist became an anti-Emergency activist. The activist became organising secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party's Gujarat unit. The party official became the organising force behind LK Advani’s rath yatra. The organiser became national secretary of the BJP. The national political leader was installed as chief minister of Gujarat (because of the many allegations against incumbent Keshubhai Patel). And then, he became prime minister.
Daniel Eran Diegler bluntly puts how encryption works. There's really no midway in this debate.
If companies like Apple are forced to build security backdoors by the government to get around encryption, then those backdoors will also be available to criminals, to terrorists, to repressive regimes and to our own government agencies that have an atrocious record of protecting the security of data they collect, and in deciding what information they should be collecting in the first place.
Not a revelation, but a confession.
‘Zee News Journalist Quits in Disgust Over JNU Coverage, Tells All in Letter’:
Why have we been forced to become so pathetic, unprincipled and the scum of the earth? After having studied in India’s foremost media institutions, worked in reputed organisations ranging from Aaj Tak, BBC and Deutsche Welle, all I have earned by way of professional recognition is the appellation of ‘Chhee’ (dirty) journalist. Our integrity lies in tatters. Who will take responsibility for that?
Indeed. A #MustRead.
‘Something Extraordinary is Going on in this Country’:
To stand a chance of winning the 2019 general elections, the BJP must widen its appeal and actively court the support of coalition partners. Under Modi and the RSS, it is doing the opposite. Could this mean that the RSS is planning to ‘derail’ democracy once more? The possibility is no longer remote, because hyper-nationalism has been the final card played by governments of other countries that have felt their support waning. Delhi shows that the BJP is beginning to play it too.
“An act of tyranny: ‘Modi govt threatened democracy; that is the most anti-national of all acts’”:
The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar and the crackdown on political dissent at JNU suggest that we are living under a government that is both rabidly malign and politically incompetent. It is using nationalism to crush constitutional patriotism, legal tyranny to crush dissent, political power to settle petty scores, and administrative power to destroy institutions. The instigation of this crackdown was the alleged chanting of some anti-national slogans at JNU, and a meeting to mark the death anniversary of Afzal Guru. But the government’s disproportionate response smacks of tyranny of the highest order. It ordered the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, whose speech had nothing anti-national about it.
Why is Apple fighting the US Govt. so hard on backdoors while everyone else is a spectator?
they are betting that customers will want to be inside the Walled Garden, or in effect have one of their own in the form of their phone. The twist, of course, is that for the longest time we’ve thought of that metaphor in terms of a firm trapping everyone inside its own systems. That’s not what it means anymore. Hackers and activists and many other people have wanted ubiquitous strong crypto for such a long time. With the exception of purchasing, it’s barely evident in the lives of ordinary consumers. Now we find Apple is working as fast as it can to make phones they themselves can’t break into—even with physical access to the device.
A reminder of why Apple vs. FBI debate is for all of us.
'The encryption fight isn't about Apple, it's about all of us' by @backlon.
Private communication is a freedom. Just because we have found a way to mediate it with technology doesn't make it any less personal, private, or precious than words spoken in our homes. It is the very fact of encryption that makes it possible to put communicating over the internet in the same category as our most secret conversations. The internet has allowed us to extend an essential part of what it means to be human across the entire planet. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it isn’t as valuable as the rest of what makes us human.
Exceptional piece on Apple's future in India by Anuj Srivas, ‘Why Apple is Getting Ready to Take a Bigger Bite of India’.
It’s a waiting game: the Indian consumer and market isn’t a shy animal that needs to be carefully coaxed into eating food out of a person’s hands. The average Indian consumer simply needs to have more discretionary income to spend, like the average Chinese consumer, and until that happens Apple may need to look elsewhere for growth.
“JNU stir: Why ‘anti-nationalism’ is an empty abuse that has no place in a free society” by Swaminathan Aiyar.
In Canada, the Parti Québécois has long demanded independence for Quebec province, and this is treated not as sedition but a legitimate democratic demand. In Spain, the state of Catalonia has long had powerful secessionist parties, which in the 2015 state election won 47.8 per cent of the vote. The Spanish government strongly opposes Catalan independence, but doesn’t jail dissenters. France does not jail Corsican secessionists. The list goes on and on. Free societies do not jail non-violent secessionists.
One of the best statesmen in the world speaks up on NaMo and more.
“Modi should know that he is PM of all of India, says Manmohan Singh”
His study at home is lined with books and papers, hallmark of a man who has deeply invested in knowledge and who believes that even if you lose all your earthly belongings-which he did, as a Partition refugee in 1947-you always carry your learning with you.
“Free Basics mess: Facebook board member makes things worse by bringing up colonialism”
But the incident also served as a reminder of how tone-deaf some of the attempts to popularise Free Basics in India were. After Facebook got initial push-back from the net neutrality community when it attempted to introduce Free Basics' predecessor, Internet.org, into the country, it changed the name from something that sounded both like the internet itself and a non-profit (it is neither) and sought to make the platform more open.
‘The problem isn't that life is unfair — it's that you don't know the rules’ by Oliver Emberton.
Can you imagine how insane life would be if it actually were "fair" to everyone? Nobody could fancy anyone who wasn't the love of their life, for fear of breaking a heart. Companies would fail only if everyone who worked for them were evil. Relationships would end only when both partners died simultaneously. Raindrops would fall only on bad people.
Most of us get so hung up on how we think the world should work that we can't see how it does. But facing that reality might just be the key to unlocking your understanding of the world, and with it, all of your potential.
Excellent piece about internet addiction by Tony Schwartz for NYT, ‘Addicted to Distraction’.
Endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.
“Why caste still matters in India” from The Economist. Still true 2 years after it was published.
The country’s great, liberal constitution was supposed to end the millennia-old obsession with the idea that your place in life, including your occupation, is set at birth.
“Elon Musk, for those unfamiliar, is the world’s raddest man.”
I thoroughly agree.
This guy has a lot on his mind across a lot of topics. In this one lunch alone, we covered electric cars, climate change, artificial intelligence, the Fermi Paradox, consciousness, reusable rockets, colonizing Mars, creating an atmosphere on Mars, voting on Mars, genetic programming, his kids, population decline, physics vs. engineering, Edison vs. Tesla, solar power, a carbon tax, the definition of a company, warping spacetime and how this isn’t actually something you can do, nanobots in your bloodstream and how this isn’t actually something you can do, Galileo, Shakespeare, the American forefathers, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, satellites, and ice ages.
I really think the Presidential system is the best way ahead.
One major by-product of this system is the forced internal democratisation of political parties in the selection of candidates for elections at all levels. In the direct run-off in the second round, a candidate must have the ability to attract voters sympathetic to other parties if he/she has any chance of winning the election. The most important change, however, would be the feeling of empowerment as Indians throughout the country participate in electing their President.
So, Obama's last #SOTU was pretty damn epic. NewYorker's report on the same is brief and well-written.
Specifically, he spoke of the possibility that the great U.S. democratic experiment will turn in on itself, in an orgy of partisanship, nativism, and money politics. In delivering this jeremiad, Obama was, in part, merely returning to the platform that he ran on in 2008. But he was also speaking as a wised-up, gray-haired President who has witnessed, firsthand, the consequences of the politics of dysfunction and brutalism—and who now sees, in the 2016 Presidential race, things going from bad to worse.
There is a lot of truth to this piece.
'Modriwal: Neta as risk taker'
Both Modi and Kejriwal emerged out of the electorate’s yearning for a challenge to the Congress-ruled established order, both promised a new form of politics, one through the anti-corruption movement, the other through muscular leadership.
The demolition of Babri Masjid is a day we must never forget.
The scars of the Babri demolition continue to haunt us even today. The political class was playing with fire, society was being burnt and polarised.
A switch to Presidential democracy would really help India.
Pluralist democracy is India’s greatest strength, but its current manner of operation is the source of our major weaknesses.
There was no Hindu or nationalist angle to Peshwa Bajirao's actions.
I really enjoyed reading this piece about the differences in traditional cameras and smartphone cameras.
This ad campaign from Tata Sky is a sweet memory of the India I've grown up in.
What is the theory of General Relativity? A simple explanation to Einstein's biggest achievement. #Einstein100
Great satire piece, this. Delhi desperately needs to become about the common man.
The story of AIB. From Twitter to podcasts to YouTube to The Roast to Hotstar.
Sometimes I feel that this country does not deserve anything fun at all. We have this weird mentality that if I don’t like something, no one should like it. That is a terrible attitude to have.