Reading through some of the reactions from “experts” to the S&P’s downgrade of US debt, I see words such as “irresponsible”, “misguided” and “inappropriate” being bandied around. These experts seem to be of the view that in view of all that the US is already going through (given the debt crisis et al) it was not correct for the S&P to push it further down into the abyss by downgrading its debt.
Now, the S&P is a rating agency. Its job is to rate debt, categorizing it in terms of how likely an issuer is to honour the debt it issues. It is a privately held firm and it is not the job of the S&P to prevent global crises and save the world. In this case, the S&P has just done its job. And having been following the crisis for a while I’m of the opinion that it’s done the right thing (check Felix Salmon’s article on this; he says the downgrade is more due to the risk of the US’s willingness to not default, rather than its ability; given that there is no permanent solution yet to the debt ceiling and it issues all debt in its native currency).
If a simple move like this by a private company is going to bring down the world, it is because of screwed up regulations (read Basel 2 and Basel 3) that ended up giving way too much importance to firms such as this. And I’m sure the US had adequate representation at that meeting in Basel where the accord was adopted, so it can be partially held responsible for the enormous power that rating agencies currently wield.
The bottom line is that excessive regulations based on dodgy parameters have been responsible for a lot of the mess that we see today. #thatzwhy we need strong regulations.
It was amazing, the silence that greeted us when we returned to Leh from Nubra Valley. We had heard from drivers passing the other way that there had been some sort of disaster in Leh the previous night and that a hundred people had died. There was absolutely no traffic coming from the other side, and the heavy rain didn’t help; not least those of our group who were on the bike (I had finished my turn on the bike a while earlier; more on that in another post).
The only sign of activity on the way was the Rimpoche’s procession. Stanzin Nawang Jigmed Wangchuk is 5 years old and is believed to be the reincarnation of former Ladakh MP Bakula Rimpoche He was at Sumur monastery (in Nubra Valley) and on that day he was on his way to Leh.
The previous day, our driver had informed us to get up early so that we could go to Sumur in time to see the festivities there, in honour of the departing Rimpoche. Unfortunately, late night drinkage meant by the time we reached Sumur the procession had long passed. There was little sign of their having been any celebration by the time we got there.
Coming back, as we descended into Leh valley from Khardung La (supposed to be the highest motorable pass in the world) it looked the same. From on top of the hills, it looked pretty much the same as it did when we left for Nubra the previous day. Except for the lack of traffic in the opposite direction, nothing was different. And the crowd we saw at the Rimpoche’s procession (it was some distance off the main road) only reinforced the sense of normalcy.
Of course, we knew in our heads that things were far from normal. Having gotten back into the Airtel network we had called our families and figured what had happened. Our driver Jugnes had got a call from a relative saying the authorities had requested his village to be evacuated as it was supposed to be in a dangerous low-lying area. We had ourselves been caught in the rain and seen very few army men at Khardung La. All I’m saying is that by the look of things nothing at all looked amiss.
And then when we entered town (and got past another crowd of people waiting for the Rimpoche) it hit us. Not a soul on the streets. Not a single shop open. No one picking up as we called the travel agent’s office. Us not sure if we had a reservation at the hotel where we’d stayed two nights prior before embarking for Nubra (it turned out we did have a reservation; and the kindly hotel staff conjured up some sort of a sandwich for our lunch from whatever supplies they had). It was surreal. And scary. We thought after a couple of hours of rest we should go check out the affected areas to see what has happened. But before that could happen, we realized we ourselves weren’t out of danger.
Last evening I borrowed Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers from the library. Finished off reading it in one sitting this morning. I had been disappointed with his earlier book (The Tipping Point) and have been describing it as a blog post that has been written in 200 pages.
Outliers, on the other hand, is significantly better. For starters, there is a really nice narrative style which goes the book going. Having read the book, I still haven’t understood the central idea of it, but there are enough interesting sub-plots and side-fundaes that it’s worth reading. Some notes.
- The second chapter of the book hints that you need to spend a considerable amount of time fighting it out at something before you become a stud in that. Gladwell claims there are no “natural studs” at anything, and people become studs at something only after reasonable effort. I think the key is on taking that step up to studness after you have put enough fight, and some people (pure fighters) don’t seeem to do that
- There is tremendous non-linearity in the world, and this is a point that Nassim Taleb had also made in Fooled by Randomness. Basically, there are some discrete steps. For example, if I had applied the brakes even one second earlier, I could’ve prevented the car crash I was involved in this April. One extra mark here or there can change a candidate’s JEE rank by 500 places, and totally change his life. Etc.
- Gladwell talks about “honor cultures” – where people tend to take offence easily. He claims that this kind of culture is more prevalent in pastoral communities where people need to be more aggressive and possessive. When I read about “honor cultures”, I was reminded of Rajasthan, and the Rajputs there going to war on one another on trivial “honour issues”, and Prithviraj Chauhan using “honour” as the excuse for supposedly pardoning Mohd Ghori in the first battle of Tarain in 1190. Was Rajasthan a traditionally pastoral society in those days?
- The Power Distance Index that he talks about makes sense, but unfortunately India is not mentioned in the studies that he quotes. I would expect India to have a fairly high power distance index, but I’d also be interested in seeing if India’s PDI varies regionally – I would expect it to be higher in the north than in the south
- A while back, I had written one reason as to why there doesn’t exist a strong breakfast culture in North India. Gladwell’s chapter on rice cultivation inspires an alternate reasoning. He claims that rice farming is much harder than wheat farming, and the former tends to take longer hours, and occupies a larger proportion of the year. Maybe due to the longer hours, south indians felt the need for three meals a day, while two were sufficient in the north. Also, rice digests quicker than wheat, so eating at more frequent intervals is warranted.
- The epilogue, in which Gladwell talks about his mother’s family, gives an indcation about the “race system” in Jamaica. Compared to our caste system, which is discrete, Jamaican discrimination is on a continuous scale which has several shades of brown between black and white. Also, this continuous scale means that a child lies somewhere on the colour line between his father and his mother, and his standing in society is determined by his own colour. On the other hand, in the Indian caste system, rules dictate that the child belongs to either the father’s or the mother’s caste. Interesting to see how much of a difference this has made in general economic development.
I know a lot of this might not make sense to you if you haven’t read the book. I have just noted some headline points here. If you need more fundaes, leave a comment with your question and I’ll write about it.
And I would definitely recommend you to read the book. Nice quick read it is.
So I continue my series of publishing interesting search terms which people used to land on my blog. As I had mentioned before I plan to make it a monthly feature, and so far I’ve been keeping my word.
For the first time ever since I installed Google Analytics, the most searched for term that led to my blog wasn’t “noenthuda”. The honour went to “my friend sancho review” (google for it – my site is no. 2 or 3 for that) with noenthuda coming a close second. Coming in a close third was a phrase that had made last month’s list – “isb chutiya”. Some 60 people landed up on my blog in the month searching for this phrase. Seems like there are lots of chutiyas at ISB.
and close to 30 people landed up here searching for “mandelbrot noenthuda”. Maybe I should create noenthuda fractals.
So coming to this month’s list:
- course books at iimb
- why do so many money managers have mbas?
- amrita scissors
- arjun shivlal yadav marital status
- brahmin mess in jayanagar
- cleavage “cleavage theory” pakistan
- english education and english books in tamilnadu after 1990
- good photographs of nri boys for marriage
- how to end an arranged marriage engagement
i wana do regular graduation from gurgaon but did 12th 10 yrs back
pictures of inidan boys married foregins
upendra’s house kathriguppe
when burst of stove is accident and when suicide what is difference
More next month