Opinion

David Brooks on PTSD and Morality

David Brooks on PTSD and Morality

Reviewing David J. Morris “The Evil Hours,” and other works that examine recent war experiences, David Brooks elegantly makes the connection between PTSD and morality. The psychological duress that veterans experience which  ill prepares them for civilian life, is more symptomatic of a moral quagmire inflicted upon a nation that is always at war. 

 

David J. Morris returned from Iraq with a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The former Marine turned war correspondent was plagued by nightmares. His imagination careened out of control; he envisioned fireballs erupting while on trips to the mall. His emotions could go numb, but his awareness was hypervigilant. Images and smells from the war were tattooed eternally fresh on his brain, and he circled back to them remorselessly.

Read more of this OP Ed from The New York Times about PTSD by David Brooks

The Notoriety of Plea Bargaining in America

Honoré Daumier: A Criminal Case

 

Does the criminal justice system in America falter with respect to plea bargaining? In terms of efficacy, this process rates highly as it saves the judiciary precious time and resources by avoiding a lengthy trial. However, one of the most serious pitfalls is the enormous amount of power that is vested with a prosecutor. Their decisions are often held behind closed doors and they are rarely open to review or scrutiny. Mandatory minimum sentences give the prosecution a great advantage over the defense counsel and more often than not an innocent defendant will falsely believe that they would not fare better at trial. In this article, Federal Judge Jed S. Rakoff describes the legal history and suggests a more judicious way of plea bargaining. 

 

The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes. Read more…..

Roger Cohen Recounts His Mother’s Battle With Depression

Roger Cohen Recounts His Mother's Battle With Depression

This is a heartfelt Op ED by Roger Cohen about his mother’s battle with depression.

Patient No. 9413

 

My mother was a woman hollowed out like a tree struck by lightning. I wanted to know why.

Ever since her first suicide attempt, in 1978, when I was 22, I had been trying to fill in gaps. She was gone much of the time in my early childhood, and when she returned nobody spoke about the absence.

I learned much later that she had suffered acute depression after my younger sister’s birth in 1957. She was in hospitals and sanitariums being shot full of insulin — a treatment then in vogue for severe mental disorder — and electricity.

To read more of Patient 9413 click here

Is Narendra Modi India’s First Openly Right Wing Prime Minister?

Narendra Modi is India's First Openly Right Wing Prime Minister

In an Op Ed piece for India Today, Shekhar Gupta writes about Narendra Modi as being India’s first openly or unapologetically right wing prime minster. His predecessor from the ruling BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a prime minister who stood in stark contrast. Gupta argues that except for a few years of Indira Gandhi’s avowed socialism after 1969, Indian prime ministers have adopted whatever political ideology that suited them for the occasion, which was often a mix of what was convenient and brought votes.

 

Answer this one honestly. In all your life, have you seen anybody else, or specifically, any public figure who resembles his own mask as much asNarendra Modi does? You could possibly argue that computers have rendered mask-making more accurate. Yet, we have never seen a real face and mask so like each other as with Modi. Sometimes you’d even wonder which one is more real. But why are we making such a big deal of it?

The mask has been an essential metaphor in BJP politics ever since rebellious but erudite K.N. Govindacharya mocked Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a mere mukhauta (Hindi for mask) of the BJP while the real face was entirely different. It was a diabolically clever description. What Govindacharya meant was, RSS…..

Read more about why Shekhar Gupta refers to Narendra Modi as India’s first openly right-wing prime minister here:

How The Internet of Things May Change Life As We Know it For The Better

 

This article by Geoff Webb for Wired Magazine, speaks of the almost infinite possibility of the Internet of Things to improve our lives. It starts with a great anecdotal story about Florence Nightingale who was able to greatly improve the quality of battlefield medicine in war torn England by using simple data that was available from the hospital she volunteered as a nurse. The story is used effectively to illustrate the transformative power that data has over our lives. Today as we are empowered with new gadgets and technology that can reveal information about nearly anything, the realm of possibility to do good with the Internet of Things seems limitless. 

 

In 1854, Florence Nightingale turned her back on a life of privilege and instead volunteered as a nurse, looking after soldiers wounded during the brutal and often mismanaged battles of the Crimean War. On arrival at Scutari, she discovered the …


Read more about Changing the Course of History, by Geoff Webb for Wired Magazine

Is The Arrogance of Silicon Valley Elitism or Disruptive Genius?

Is The Arrogance of Silicon Valley Elitism or Disruptive Genius?

 

 

Lately there has been a lot of buzz in the media about the arrogance of Silicon Valley. Writing for Wired Magazine, Christopher Nieman goes as far as to say that a cocktail of conceitedness and greed could poison the widespread adulation and trust that the high-tech industry currently enjoys. A souring of popular perception could bring about the demise of companies that have been flourishing in the tech sector. He illustrates this point with an analogy of today’s hi-tech industry with companies that used to produce plastic. These companies were once symbols of  great wealth. Eventually, most plastic manufacturers went bankrupt and the public would learn, much to their dismay, of its extreme toxicity.

Today the word ‘plastic’ represents what is artificial, worthless and severely harmful for the environment. America’s fascination for plastic was later replaced with silicone, the basic building block of every hi-tech gadget. It has propelled an industry that has generated vast and unprecedented levels of wealth. The public’s fascination with Silicon Valley and it’s most successful entrepreneurs has created and sustained a culture of idolatry.

Nieman suggests that this love affair is about to end. In today’s Silicon Valley, the cost of living has shot up so much, that many middle class families have been forced to move out of the bay area. There is a growing  political unrest about the role a company like Google has played in assisting the NSA with its unconstitutional breach of user privacy. Like Google, Facebook and Twitter reap great profits by using personal information that is available for free. The average user is willing to depart with this sensitive data because of a trust they have for these corporations. Once this good faith dissolves, many of these companies may face an unfamiliar business environment, that could threaten profit margins and sustainability.

This is perhaps the most poignant point Nieman makes in criticizing the corporate culture of Silicon Valley. He is right in claiming that the vast majority of people have not benefited  monetarily from any of those mind boggling fortunes. In fact, amongst employees of these companies, whose numbers are far fewer than those of similarly valued companies in other economic sectors, there is a vast difference of income distribution.  An example from Thomas Picketty’s, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, reveals that the CEO of APPLE earns more than six thousand two hundred times the wage of an average Apple employee. This is a trend common amongst most Fortune 500 companies.

 When it comes to inequitable wealth distribution, what sets the valley apart from other industries, are the incredible tax breaks  that it enjoys. Without a serious political debate questioning these practices, such perks shall be taken for granted. This has fostered a sense of entitlement amongst these tycoons, which has been the fodder for a now pervasive and storied arrogance.  Vivek Wadhwa writes in the Washington Post, that most of the moguls of Silicon valley do a poor job promoting social causes or giving to charity. In addition, the workplaces they create cry for diversity and gender equality.  Some make a blatant display of their disdain for the poor, and a case to this point is the CEO of AngelHack who has referred to the homeless as ‘trash,’ that has no place in San Francisco.  

 While Neiman and Wadhwa make many astute observations about the culture of arrogance that has dominated the valley, Andrew Leonard for Slate seems to have completely missed the point in his dismissal of Balaji Srinivasan who has often been touted as the poster boy for this phenomenon. The reason for this are false media reports that have described Srinivasan to be advocating for Silicon Valley to secede from the United States of America.  

The video of Srinivasan’s speech, which has been widely misquoted is available for readers of the Literati at the end of this article.  The foundation for Srinivasan’s argument lays within  the intellectual framework of the famous political scientist Albert O. Hirschman’s treatise Exit, Voice and Loyalty.  ‘Voice,’ and ‘Exit’ are fundamental concepts in political science. ‘Voice’ represents an attempt of reforming the political process by active participation. ‘Exit,’ on the other hand is the opposite process of ‘Voice,’ which involves leaving or completely withdrawing from the political system. From the post-colonial world ‘Exit,’ has been accomplished by immigration.

Srinivasan’s notion of Silicon Valley’s ultimate ‘Exit,’ is not one of mass migration to another country or the creation of another nation state more suited to the needs of technocrats. Instead, it involves a technologically empowered society that finds true representation in cloud based communities of their choice. One day, these groups could do a better job at eradicating poverty and preventing meltdowns of the global financial system. They may even render nation states to be irrelevant and this is Srinivasan’s prophetic vision for Silicon Valley. 

 

Holocaust and Israel of Today Very Similar Says Survivor [video]

Holocaust of Nazi Germany and Israel of Today Very Similar Says Survivor
Hajo Meyer was nine years old when Hitler came into power in Nazi Germany and lived through the Holocaust. He spent 10 months in Auschwitz. He learned first hand what the doctrines of a Fascist state were. Meyer claims that the most important lesson that he took from this experience was that his people (Jews) should never become perpetrators like the Nazi’s were.

Meyer claims in this video to be proud to be Jewish but speaks of this pride in a non Zionist fashion. He claims that Jews were the pioneers of inter-human ethics and that these principles are enshrined in the Old Testament which specifies good manners and warmth not only towards foreigners but also towards servants. Jesus Christ in this fashion was a Jewish prophet. The Holocaust deprived people of understanding this legacy. When Jews were sent to concentration camps in Nazi Germany, the world was silent in more or less the same way they are today about Arabs being persecuted in Israel.

Meyer goes on to state how present day Israel is not very different from Holocaust era Nazi Germany. Today the Arabs of Palestine are treated like vermin, much the way Jews were when they were gassed to death. Any criticism of Zionism is considered anti-semitic and Meyer feels that it is important to speak out against the atrocities of the Jewish state to not only protect it but also to save the whole world and Jewish heritage.

Does Narendra Modi Hate Women?

In a New York Times Op Ed, Sonia Faleiro  describes Narendra Modi, a strong contender to become India’s next prime minister in 2014,  to be no ‘Champion of India’s Women. Sonia makes her claim based on the fact that the Modi administration in Gujurat   politically manipulated and publicized the success of  Nari Adalat,  a grassroots court system dedicated to India’s marginalized women, for political mileage. She concludes that “The features that made the program a success — in-person surveys, nuanced assessments of caste tensions, meetings with local leaders, and home visits to women who often can’t leave without permission from their husbands or in-laws — are mostly gone. ”

If we were to examine Sonia’s claims without taking sides, and with just a little common sense  it seems odd and unlikely for a chief minister to claim credit for something like the    Nari Adalat if it was not successful. Sonia does not really substantiate her claims.

Sonia does admit that the Modi administration has expanded the Nari Adalat
in Gujurat. She does not seem interested in analyzing the functioning of this local court across the other 35 states in India, where the politics and the politicians are very different. Such an analyses, could have given credence to her claims.

The other reasons Sonia cites are raw data, like male to female population ratios in Gujurat(918 lower than the national average of 940), the exploitation of Dalit women in tribal areas, the inefficacy of a government official in Ahmedabad in dealing with spousal abuse, and an Oxfam claim that one in three married women in Gujurat are subjected to domestic violence.

Sadly none of this data indicates that Modi is any worse at protecting the women of his state, than other politicians. The truth is that there are many states in India with similar statistics.

There is however, plenty that Narendra Modi has said in public to indicate he is a misogynist.

He has referred to Sunanda Pushkar, the wife of Minister Shashi Tharoor as his ‘fifty crore girlfriend,’ and  Sonia Gandhi, leader of the ruling Congress party,  according to Modi, needs lessons in ‘running a kitchen.’  

As Monobina Gupta’s excellent article tells us, when it comes to misogyny in the Indian political sphere, there is sadly so much to go around that Narendra Modi and the fascist Hindu Sangh Pariwar do not make a cut above any other Indian political party.

 

 

 

61 Years Later, Queen Elizabeth pardones Alan Turing, the Father of Modern Computing, for being Gay. No Apology for Turing’s Chemical Castration and Suicide.

Alan Turing(1912-1954) was the father of modern computing. Trained as a mathematician, he developed the concepts of ‘algorithms,’ and with the Turing machine, computing. He is also the father of artificial intelligence.

Turing played a pivotal role as a code breaker during World War II, by deciphering the Enigma Code, which was used by Nazi Germany’s military communications.

This cryptanalysis gave the Allies an upper edge during the war and Turing without a doubt, became a war hero of exceptional caliber.

His contributions to science are monumental. However his legacy has been marred by the tragedy of his death.

As an openly gay person, Alan Turing was convicted for ‘gross indecency.’ He had the choice of either facing a prison sentence or being released on parole that was conditional upon his participation of hormone treatments.

He was injected with estrogen to quell his libido, a process otherwise known as ‘chemical castration.’

Humiliated, stripped of his special security clearance upon his criminal conviction and barred from entering the United States Turing would commit suicide by poisoning himself.

Although in 2009, Gordon Brown had apologized for Turing’s treatment on behalf of the British Government, his criminal conviction had stood until today. It was annulled by  a rare mercy pardon by Queen Elizabeth II.

Besides the pardon, the Queen issued no statement about Turing’s unjust treatment and the tragedy of his suicide. It’s little justice too late.

 

 

 

Using Comics to Counter Islamophobia

Depending on your socio-political views, you may choose to agree or disagree with me when I say: Islamophobia is in the air. Be it the USA, UK or even Myanmar, there are a good number of people out there who view Muslims as a community that is troublesome and refuses to integrate. In the midst of all this, it was a pleasant thing to read when Marvel announced that the leading character in their new comic book series will be a Muslim girl.

Just like all other super-heroes, this one too has a story — Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms Marvel) is an American teenager of Pakistani lineage who hails from New Jersey. Her superpower? Shape-shifting.

As per the comic series, Kamala comes from a conservative and orthodox family (possibly hinting at a crisis between her Muslim and American identities). She has a father who wants his daughter to become a doctor, a paranoid mother and a conservative brother.

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