Doesn’t this advertisement make it appear as if Jimmy Wales endorses American Express? The fact that this is a solicitation for a sponsored forum is not, let us say, brought to prominence. Comments welcome.]]>
Image credit: Daniel Lynch on flickr
J. K. Rowling made a startling revelation in which she admitted contemplating suicide while going through a rough patch in her mid-twenties. The best-selling author had separated from her former husband and was living with her young daughter in a cramped apartment. It was at that time when Rowling started having suicidal thoughts.
We’re talking suicidal thoughts here, we’re not talking ‘I’m a little bit miserable.’
Mid-twenties life circumstances were poor and I really plummeted. The thing that made me go for help . . . was probably my daughter. She was something that earthed me, grounded me, and I thought, this isn’t right, this can’t be right, she cannot grow up with me in this state.
While the 42-year-old author has spoken of the depression and her life before Harry Potter, this is the first time she admitted having suicidal thoughts. Her first book was published in the year 1996 and eventually sold 325 million copies translated in 64 languages around the world.
Rowling has authored a best-selling series of fiction books that have enthralled millions of audience across the globe, mainly young adolescents. Her genius is palpable from the near-perfect world of magical dreams, wherein the young protagonist, Harry Potter, battles the forces of Evil and the most powerful Dark Wizard the world has ever seen. She is a gifted storyteller and her work never predictable. From the dark twisting lanes of the Knockturn Alley to the secret passages of the Hogwarts castle, her words evoke a sense of graphic details in the minds of the readers. But there is a lot more to her genius.
Harry Potter is a protagonist of a story, but a hero unlike others. He does not possess any superior abilities that make him stand out among the Wizarding community. However, he is a man of character, emotive and faithful to his friends. He is brave but never averse to his feelings. He is courageous but never fool-hardy. He is not perfect and still has a persuasion. Rowling’s romantic genius lies in rousing that part of our soul which relates to Harry, and appeal to the righteous hero that lies dormant within us.
It is explicable why Rowling’s work has been an enduring influence on the minds of young people. I have been a fan of her books since I was 14. The morality she exposits in her books is praiseworthy, indeed. Love and respect and tolerance and fidelity.
Her work has come under harsh criticism by conservative groups and her books banned, at least temporarily, in places around the world. The Church has criticised her for glorifying witchcraft and having a corrupting influence on the impressionable minds of the young. As a liberal, I have always scoffed at such criticism.
After the publication of the final instalment of the series, Rowling divulged that the Great Dumbledore, the epitome of righteousness and the perfect hero, was gay. This allowance received mixed reactions from all over the world. Some were critical and some others were disappointed. And then there were those who greeted this with adulation. But Rowling had the gall to challenge the conservative morality of the society. Dumbledore was a hero. How could he be gay? He had been so perfect.
Some refused to believe it and some let off relentless tirades against the author, for again, being a corruptive influence on the minds of the young. These are the same people who criticise the Bush administration for waging a preemptive war against Iraq.
But what do I say when my role-model makes such shocking comments in public? I am aghast. There are millions of people around the world who adore her, and much like me, consider her to be their hero. How will this piece of information affect their lives? I just wish Rowling had pondered about that.
I understand that Rowling underwent hardships that a lot of us have not had the misfortune to experience. I empathise with her for being honest. I love her for being a survivor. I love her for her creativity and expression. But as our hero, she is clearly wrong to be so vulnerable in the public. It is almost equivalent of saying that she would have committed suicide but for her daughter. It is wrong for her to be vulnerable, when there are so many vulnerable in the world.]]>
The word “talent” has a fascinating financial origin. Talent was the name of a coin in ancient times and those who had a lot of talent, or money, then - just as it is now - were indeed the ones who saved and invested gainfully.* Before making a long journey, the Bible says, a rich man called three of his servants and “unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one.”
He, that received the five talents went and traded with the same, and gained another five talents. And likewise, he that had received two, also gained another two. But he, that had received one, went and dug the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
After a long time the master of those three men returned, and reckoned with them. He that had received five talents came and showed another five talents, saying, “My lord, you delivered unto me five talents: behold, I have gained five talents more.”
The master said unto him, “Well done… I will make thee ruler over many things.” The master was also pleased with the man who had doubled his two talents. “Well done… I will make thee too ruler of many things.” These two men would now lead a more joyous life. They were talented!
Then the man who had received the one talent came to his master and said, “Lord, I was afraid and went and hid thy talent in the earth: here take what is yours.” The master answered and told him, “You wicked and slothful servant… you ought to have put my money to the exchangers and at my return I should have received it with interest.”
Obviously, this man had no talent. “Take therefore the talent from him and give it unto him which had ten talents,” the master then ordered. “And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.”
* Footnote: A talent was worth more than fifteen years’ wages of a labourer.]]>
AR Rahul and Soumya Bhatt. My old friends from school.]]>
Arnold Kling on Econlib.org
Left is always right. The Left’s working hypothesis is that good government would solve all of our problems. The hypothesis is non-falsifiable. The statement “If we had good government, then X” is always going to be true.
On Len Kaneworthy’s observation,
“The most striking of the report’s findings is how little of the federal government’s mobility expenditure goes to those with low incomes. This chart shows the estimated amounts that go to lower-income households (bottom two quintiles of the income distribution) versus middle-and-upper-income households (top three quintiles). In total, only about a quarter goes to the former group.”
Troy Camplin said: This is the same thing that happens when people argue that the only reason Communism has failed each and every time it’s been tried is because “the right people” haven’t tried it. Of course, they always imagine themselves as the right people.
Image leaked by an animal right activist. Taken at a discreet location near Lanzhou county.
Animal Rights activists have come together to protest against gratuitous steroid drug testing on dogs and other animals in the People’s Republic of China. Public officials have strongly denied any knowledge of such events, and have warned against rumor-mongering on the internet.
However, Animal Rights Watch, an organisation dedicated to the cause of protection of rights of animals have called their bluff.
“The government is plotting world domination! They are sponsoring clandestine research to produce chimaeras on a mass scale.” said the activist organisation in the missives released publicly earlier this day.
OK, not really.]]>
Image credit: © smh.com.au
The Chinese have recruited a former Pakistan Test player as coach for 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. Rashid Khan, who has been coaching China’s junior and women’s teams since 2006, has now been appointed as a coach for the games.
Cricket would be played for the first time in 2010 Asian Games. The decision to approve a proposal to include cricket was taken at the Olympic Council of Asia’s General Assembly in Kuwait on 17th April 2007.
The Chinese Cricket Association sought help from the Asian Cricket Council and the Pakistan Cricket Board to provide them with coaching expertise.
The Asian cricket powerhouses, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been the driving force behind the inclusion of this game in the tournament. Cricket is a religion among the millions of fans in the subcontinent. It has been also reported that less-experienced teams such as Hong Kong would be invited to participate in the inaugural tournament. This decision would also boost the Chinese Cricket Association which has boldly stated its ambition of becoming a force in One Day Cricket by 2019.
The chief executive of the Asian Cricket Council, Syed Ashraful Huq, has been optimistic about the prospects of cricket being included in the Olympic Games.
“China’s standing as the world’s leading sporting nation can play a major role in influencing future Olympic rosters. A major nation like China playing the game could help it qualify as a truly global sport.”
Image credit: © blog.synthesis.net.
… has been arrested in Bangkok. The BBC reported that Thai police picked up the suspected arms dealer, dubbed “the Merchant of Death”, at a luxury hotel in downtown Bangkok.
Viktor Bout was arrested by the police on a warrant issued by the US authorities which charges him of supplying weaponry to Columbian drug cartels. He is also accused of breaking UN embargoes on arms sales to many countries from central Asia to Africa but never prosecuted.
The US embassy in Thailand have congratulated the police on his arrest. In October 2006, various sanctions were placed by the US Treasury on Bout’s businesses and his assets were freezed and seized, including his fleet of cargo planes, which was rumoured to be the largest in the world.
Interestingly enough, it is believed that Bout inspired the Nicholas Cage starrer, “Lord of War” which grossed more than US $ 72 million worldwide.]]>
Image credit: © MeriNews.com. All rights reserved.
The denial of visa to the United States did not deter the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi from making inroads for development in the state of Gujarat. The shrewd capitalist leader and visionary seems to have great ideas for the development of the state and the country has a whole. His recent visit to Japan and his subsequent meeting with the Japanese premier, Shinzo Abe, has set the Japanese industry in a state of flurry. Friendly policies and lesser number of restrictions to trade and business make Gujarat, a favorite among other states of the union.
It was quite consternating to note that a lot of people were in disagreement to the notion of the Japanese setting up businesses in India and developing a Special Economic Zone on the Indiatimes “My Times, My Voice” forum. There were people still clobbering over the British rule of India, and apprehensive that Japan, with all its imperialistic motives, might take over the country and enslave us, just like the British. It is quite difficult to assimilate that a majority of the educated Indian junta is still living in the Stone Age or the Colonial Era or whatever. The notion of Japan taking over India is puerile, at best. Japan is an important military ally in East Asia with escalating interests in trade.
There were few posts proclaiming that Gujarat, or India for that matter does not need foreign intervention to develop. That is, once again, an assumption based on faulty premises. We are living in the era of increasing globalization, and to isolate oneself from this phenomenon is analogous to ensuring only profound grief for the future. For innovation and development in the economic and social spheres, it is essential that the restrictions placed on global players be reduced and the incentives increased.
“That the poor and the middle class would be hit hard” – This is not necessarily true. Industrialization can only spell development for the country’s economy. Apart from the infrastructural development, thousands of jobs would be created for the citizens of the country. Specialized services would be outsourced by these industries and would greatly increase the purchasing power of the employees. Increased competition would provide a boost to productivity, while effectively reducing costs for the consumers. There would be a lot others who would be left unemployed because they do not possess the skills to take the Japanese industries head-on. The only recourse available to them would be to evolve themselves, or to shift to other sectors of trade. For long, Indians have become used to the protectionist trade policies of the government to bail them out of any situation, even at the cost of industrial stagnation and efficiency. This attitude has to be changed, if the country is to progress. Leaving people to their own devices, for once, may compel them to tighten their belts and provide themselves incentives to compete with the Japanese.
A few expressed fears that Indian labour and capital would be exploited for Japanese interests. Oh? So you thought that the Japanese were altruists? They are astute businessmen. Period. The key is collaboration and interdependence. India gains, the Japanese gain. We all win.
It is imperative that we change our mindset towards thinking big and looking global.
On my commentary that the resources of the Middle-East were exploited for gratifying American interests, a friend of mine, Suresh K, countered: “So, the Arabs were better of without the Americans? Let the oil lie where it was, miles underground, with the Arabs having no resources for its extraction. The Americans came with their huge drills, took the oil out, and paid the Arabs, made them rich. The Arabs do not have value-addition processes for their oil products. Their chief export remains crude oil. They are losing out on the billions of dollars that corporations like Shell are making in non-oil producing countries. Why blame the Americans? Lack of ingenuity on the part of Arab countries is hardly the fault of the United States.”
In the words of Lee Kuan Yew, first president of Singapore, nationalist leader who transformed the fate of the small city-state:
“When most of the Third World was deeply suspicious of exploitation by western MNCs (multinational corporations), Singapore invited them in. They helped us grow, brought in technology and know-how, and raised productivity levels faster than any alternative strategy could.”
Image credit: © abro on flickr.
Recently, John Stossel, a reporter for ABC News and a self-professed proponent for free markets, contributed an op-ed to the Atlas Sphere. The question is ubiquitous: Why do people hate free markets? Why is selling of organs illegal? After all, it has the potential to save the lives of thousands of people who die waiting for organ transplants.
Today, 74,000 Americans wait for kidney transplants while enduring painful, exhausting and expensive hours hooked up to dialysis machines. The machines are technological miracles that keep many alive, but dialysis is not nearly as good as a real kidney. Every day, about 17 Americans die while waiting for a transplant.
That is indeed disheartening, but completely expected. People are leading largely unhealthy lives, consuming unhealthy food processed by large corporations such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. Let us take, for the purpose of illustration, the case of kidneys.
Kidneys are vital organs that have numerous biological roles. Healthy kidneys clean the blood by filtering out excess water and wastes. They also produce essential hormones to keep your bones strong and blood healthy. When the kidneys start failing, the body starts retaining fluid and the tissues and the tissues swell. A dangerous concentration of toxic wastes start accumulating in the body. At this point of time, you need immediate medical attention.
Chronic renal disease is the gradual loss of kidney function over time, with few signs or symptoms in the primary stages. Diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) are the chief causes that trigger chronic renal diseases. However, educated people can reasonably be expected to choose a to avoid such situations in the future. But man is not a rational animal. Instant gratification and avoidance of pain are a part of his primal nature.
Yet plenty of Americans would give up a kidney if they could just be paid for their trouble and risk.
Is this a statement of fact? Assuming for the sake of argument, that this statement holds true, the people who are willing to sell their kidneys in a free market or to the black market for that matter are not capable of making a reasonable choice. They are unable to realise the repercussions and implications of their choice. Kidneys are organs of cardinal importance and an individual needs them both of them to have a good quality of life, physical existence.
So giving someone a kidney is a good deed, but selling the same kidney is a felony.
If poor people are going to be exploited, yes, it is a crime.
The Kidney Foundation fears that poor people would be “exploited.” But what gives the foundation the right to decide for poor people?
The poor are as capable as others of deciding what trade-offs to make in life. No one forces them to give up an organ. To say the poor are too desperate to resist a dangerous temptation is patronizing.
The people of the country gave their rights to the welfare state under the aegis of the constitution. Life was nasty, brutish, short before then. The welfare state exists to protect the interests of its citizens and the society. Common sense dictates that only a person without means to support himself and his family would be willing to part with a kidney. It would be his personal choice and without any kind of physical coercion. But is this choice as free as it is made out to be? His financial circumstances determine whether he is desperate enough to sell his kidney and get compensated for it. That is not what I would call liberty.
A single kidney grows faster and larger than two normal kidneys and for that reason it is larger and heavier than normal, and so vulnerable to injury. Poor and uneducated people who sell their kidneys are only fit for blue-collar jobs and hence make themselves susceptible to health hazards.
But gatekeepers like Dr. Pereira say there should be “no barter, no sale of organs. That’s where we have to step in.” When I asked him who that “we” is that has the right to “step in,” he replied, “The government (and) the professional societies.”
That conceit — that the government and “professional societies” must decide for all of us, and the underlying hostility toward commerce — kills people.
Legalising organ-trade in itself is not the problem, however leaving it to the mercy of the market would mean that the prices of the organ would be driven by supply and demand of the organ, just like any other commercial product, subsequently driving the prices down.
In South Asian countries like India and Pakistan, an illegal market of human organs is thriving. A number of professional surgeons are conducting clandestine business operations which primarily attract rich westerners who are subject to strict laws against organ trade in their own countries. India and Pakistan have become a haven for medical tourism, mainly due to relatively cheaper availability of medical facilities and a colossal number of poor people willing to part with their body parts for small sums of money. Our problems will only multiply if organ trade is commercialised. There would be a huge influx of foreign visitors and the country would be left cheated and helpless.
The answer does not lie in the extremes. A regulatory mechanism has to be built into place and implemented effectively and a balance struck. Cadaver donations should be made compulsory and alternate means for harvesting organs suitable for transplantation should be promoted. Those who give up their organs should be assured of health services from the government after the surgery and throughout their lives.]]>