Strategies for terrorism

Danger Room has an interesting take on how to win against terrorism. The crux is this:

  1. Don’t panic and get into a fortress mentality. if you do, they have already won.
  2. Work the odds; statistically, some events are bound to happen. as long as they are not extreme events (nuclear terrorism), learn to live with the risk.
  3. Focus heavily on eliminating chances of extreme events.

The point seems to be that current US response in battening down the storm hatches and huddling in fear is unjustified and counter productive.

So why do they persist with this approach?

The answer appears not only plausible but at some level depressing as well.

Look at the charts that our own Lena Groeger compiled. She tallies $6.6 trillion in defense spending after 9/11. There is nothing that al-Qaida could possibly do to justify such a monster expenditure. Why did it happen?

Former White House counterterrorism chief. Richard Clarke has an answer. “There’s going to be a terrorist strike some day,” Clarke told Frontline for its “Top Secret America” documentary this week. “And when there is, if you’ve reduced the terrorism budget, the other party, whoever the other party is at the time, is going to say that you were responsible for the terrorist strike because you cut back the budget.  And so it’s a very, very risky thing to do.”

In other words, the same fear of limited, near term, pusillanimous political interests seem to outweigh larger national or global interests. At some level, we see similar behavior from Indian politicians on India-Pakistan issues.

The post on Danger Room seems to be down. In case you can catch it, read the whole thing. Insightful and thought provoking.

28 times to 158 times in 35 years

WaPo is running a series of  reports on growing gap in earnings between the richest 0.1% and the rest of US. The largest gain is in executive compensation.

In 1970, average executive pay at the nation’s top companies was 28 times the average worker income, according to the Frydman-Molloy data and numbers provided by Emmanuel Saez at the University of California at Berkeley. By 2005, executive pay had jumped to 158 times that of the average worker.

Growing-income-share

Since revealing these growing disparities would be embarrassing to all and sundry, there is some serious lobbying going on to ensure that executive compensation would not be released into public domain.

A group backed by 81 major companies — including McDonald’s, Lowe’s, General Dynamics, American Airlines, IBM and General Mills — is lobbying against new rules that would force disclosure of that comparison.

The companies and their Republican allies in Congress call comparisons between the chief and everyone else in the company “useless.”

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Anna Fallout–India on a high wire

I am sure that almost everyone above 5 years of age in India is familiar with Anna Hazare and his team leading the struggle to fight the corruption endemic in Indian context.

While there is no doubt that Anna Hazare did more than most in raising the awareness and more importantly the “will-to-act” among Indian middle class, the recent “victory” is in every danger of becoming a pyrrhic one.

In all the celebratory backslapping and nationalistic fervor, a few contrarian voices that argued against the very public, media spotlit fight, were submerged and in a few cases, even stifled.

  • The point is that Anna Hazare’s struggle to modify the Lok Pal should not result in 2 things:
  • A breakdown of Indian constitutional bodies & a benevolent dictator who can set himself/herself up as an arbiter of honesty and integrity in Indian life.

Seriously, when a constable in Indian Police Service (entry level position) gets (even after PRC increase) barely 5000 INR (~$150) per month, do we expect him to not look for “alternative” sources of income to feed, educate and keep his family in good health?

Gurucharan Das, one of the more respected voices in India, cautions among similar lines:

A year ago, no one in India could have imagined that cabinet ministers, powerful politicians, senior officials and CEOs would be in jail now, awaiting trial for corruption. The credit for this dramatic shift belongs in no small part to the anticorruption movement of a 74-year-old activist, Anna Hazare, supported by determined justices of the Supreme Court, an exceptional auditor general, rival television channels in search of “breaking news” and, crucially, a newly assertive Indian middle class. The long-term impact of this movement is unclear. It could lead to something profoundly good, or it could destabilize the whole system. (emphasis mine)

It would be a shame if Mr. Hazare’s movement contributed to undermining India’s finely crafted constitutional system, which has made its democracy the envy of the developing world. Street protests and hunger strikes can gain attention, but legislation requires working within the system, in the messy details of parliamentary negotiation.

Negotiation does not necessarily mean abdication or even compromise. What we need is a viable, sustainable legislation (with effective enforcement mechanisms) that will address this.