God save the king. Surreal is the word that springs to mind while reading the news. Here is what I mean. Amitabh Bachchan, arguably one of the most well known Indians in India, is recovering from some minor surgery in a hospital in Mumbai. BBC News report that
… fans have been offering prayers to the actor’s speedy recovery in temples.
“God has listened to our prayers. Amitabh’s surgery was a success last night,” said a fan, Sougata, who has been offering prayers at a temple in the eastern city of Calcutta for the past four days.
So let me get this straight: this alleged god is someone who when petitioned earnestly enough by fans bows to popular pressure and fixes things so that the outcomes pleases the fans. A pretty pathetic conception of god, if you come to think about it. This god appears to be not fully in control of his alleged creation. He needs to be told what to do. Then he may or may not “listen” to what he is told. And if the outcome pleases the devotee, he praises god for his wisdom in answering prayers. A fickle-minded stupid god is the most generous description of the entity that the fans so earnestly believe in.
Thousandth dead man walking. The US to carry out the 1,000th execution since it reintroduced capital punishment in 1976. Texas has chalked up 355, many under the watch of Bush the Idiot (a murderous SOB.) California, my adopted home state, ties with Nevada at 11. Not too bad considering that it is a very populous state.
I do not oppose the death penalty in murder cases where there is not the slightest doubt regarding the murderer. If a person knowingly kills another, that person forfeits his right to live. In a sense, if A kills B, A is actually also in effect killing himself, under this system of justice. I conjecture that a lot of would-be murderers will think twice if they were convinced that when they pull that trigger or use that knife, with some good probability they are pointing that gun or knife at themselves. I do oppose the death penalty for minors, mentally unstable people, and in cases where there is even the shadow of a doubt about the guilt of the accused.
Drugs kill. So the Singapore government has hanged a convicted Australian drug smuggler who was caught smuggling 400 grams of heroin. The Australian, of Vietnamese descent, was caught in Singapore airport on this way to Australia from Cambodia.
The Australian government pleaded for clemency to the Singaporean government. The Australians did what needed to be done but the outcome was predictable: they hang drug offenders in Singapore. And if that is the law of the land, it will be carried out without flinching. Doesn’t matter who pleads, the law is the law. And once everyone understands that the law will be impartially applied, everyone knows the risks of breaking the law.
In India, for instance, there is a law but its application depends on who you are. If you are a rich Bollywood hero, you can get away with murder. Run over a few people in your SUV and kill them? Here is a get-out-of-jail card for you if you are rich and influential.
Take the profits out of the drug business. The war on drugs is the most bogus war, worse than Bush the Idiot’s so-called “war on terror.” Criminalizing drugs leads to all the crimes that are associated with it. Criminalizing restricts supply because the cost of supplying goes up. It also restricts suppliers to the already criminally inclined. Profits and prices have to go up to match the risk—a sort of risk premium. The high profits force the desperate to take chances that sometimes lead to the hangman’s noose.
The obvious solution is to de-criminalize drugs. If you do that, then the criminals get out of the drugs business, competitive markets reduce the price, and hence no economic profits remain to lure people to their deaths. That is the solution for laissez faire states such as democracies. For a state like Singapore, I support their zero-tolerance approach to drugs. If you want to live or work or even transit through Singapore, don’t have drugs. If you want to do drugs, do it elsewhere where it is legal.
Incentives matter. Orkut, the social networking site, is struggling with servers that are clearly not well-trained. Their solution: withhold donuts from inconsiderate servers till they behave. Here is the message I was getting yesterday when I tried to access some page on orkut:
Bad, bad server. No donut for you.
Unfortunately, the orkut.com server has acted out in an unexpected way. Hopefully, it will return to its helpful self if you try again in a few minutes.
It’s likely that the server will behave this way on occasion during the coming months. We apologize for the inconvenience and for our server’s lack of consideration for others.
When I worked for HP many years ago, we used to get donuts every morning at the coffee stations. So we were good servers and HP did well. Then the management decided that free donuts was not such a hot idea. So they stopped with the free breakfast altogether. Result: HP is rapidly going down the tubes.
Google, on the other hand, is rising. Why? Just walk into their free cafeteria in Mountain View, California, like I did a few months ago. Not just free donuts, but an incredibly huge variety of foods and drinks from all parts of the world totally free. Lesson: want good servers, serve free food.