Saturday, April 3, 2010

Capitalism: A Love Story

I had been waiting for "Capitalism: A Love Story" DVD to be released. Yesterday, finally I got a chance to watch it. To tell you frankly, I liked Moore's intentions, but I was seriously disappointed with his treatment of subject and promoting ideas which have historically proven to be unsuccessful or even detrimental to the growth of economy.

There has been a lot of talk in the documentary about layoffs and job losses. I might be over simplifying this even by Michael Moore's standards, but, jobs are created when the economy grows. The old fashioned worker's union can't sustain economic growth. Also, Moore looses much of his credibility by showing top bankers finding difficulty in explaining simple concepts like derivatives. I was waiting for him to use terms like "mortgage backed securities", "securitization of credit card receivables', or "auction rate securities" and explain how they hurt the economy or people.

But anyway, I didn't really intend to write a movie review. I really wanted to comment on economy. It amuses me that capitalism or socialism are just classified as two simple words. One is good, the other one is evil or vice-versa.

Let's start with simple definitions. What is Capitalism? In simple words, capitalism is a form of economic environment where society is divided into two simple classes. Capitalists and workers. Capitalists own and run the businesses, workers offer their services for a salary or wage. Capitalists sell the produced goods for profit and workers receive market adjusted renumeration for their work. It is imperative for capitalists to find new markets, keep the production cost low (including salaries and benefits to its employees), keep the selling price high and invest in remaining profitable.

What is Socialism? Socialism is an economic system which intends to concentrate the wealth creation into a centralized body (i.e. government) and distribute it to the common man with the intention of shrinking the disparity between rich and poor. A simple example would be government running factories and controlling the means of production, and compensating everyone (including the executive staff) .

Which form of economy is good? Feels like capitalism will concentrate all the wealth into fewer hands and keep a large pool of workers in a vicious cycle of hand to mouth. Well, Socialism feels like a free-for-all system and no one has any desire to compete since one can easily benefit from the profits by contribution of others.

The real answer, in my mind is a combination of these two. Absolute capitalism or absolute socialism can't sustain itself. The very basic nature of human being is to compete and prove one's capability. A system where success and competition is not rewarded will drive out the talent and the system will dry out gradually.

That being said, ensuring some sort of balance in the society is not too much to ask. We witness socialism in various forms. It can be a social security benefit, unemployment benefit, medicaid, medicare, government controlled ration stores, public distribution system etc. The objective of these organizations and agencies is not bad at all. They want to provide for the poor or underprivileged.

However, we human beings are not known to be driven by good ideas or good motives. There must be something for us in order to make something work. It is not a surprise that any agency which doesn't have profit motive slacks and eventually faces huge losses. The sense of ownership is difficult to achieve without ownership. And thats where socialist ideas fail

I think that there is a possibility of creating a system which has the right mix of socialism and capitalism. The comprehensive set of regulations which can allow market to thrive but at the same time put right set of controls so that no one is taken advantage of. Consider this, if McDonalds books profit selling burgers, then shouldn't it be sharing the profit with its employees? As Peter Gibbons in Office Space says "Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime".

The reality is that extremes of any model is bound to be bad. A country needs to be socialist for people who need help and capitalist for people who can help. In other words, hard working and capable citizens need to participate in a free enterprise system comprehensively regulated by authorities so ensure balance in the competition, but poor, disabled or elderly should be protected by programs which, for the lack of better world might be of socialistic in nature.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dark Knight- Movie Review

I know ... its 2010 and too late to post a movie review on Dark Knight. But this is an old review I wrote long ago in a newsletter. I didn't want to lose it so I am posting it here.

Feel free to 'review' the review and post comments.
So hopefully you have already seen the movie Dark Knight. If not, it is highly recommended. So what this movie is all about? Well, the Joker announced it on the PA system ‘tonight you are going to be a part of a social experiment’. If not already, you now start realizing that you are seeing a vulgar display of an anarchist at his best (or worst!).

Last movie I saw with such a social experiment was a German movie ‘Das Experiment’ which intended to bring out the “prisoner’s dilemma” by simulating prison condition on perfectly normal people. As a matter of fact, I personally have a problem with choosing a comic character to develop a line of script which flirts with human mind, because kids will tend to watch this movie and the theme is quite adult. Which also raises a question why did the movie get a rating of PG-13?

The movie starts with a superb introduction of the Joker and very quickly establishes the magnitude of his personality and control over the underworld of the city of Gotham. He proposes the final solution to the Batman problem and initiates a series of bloody and violent events to prove his seriousness and so the story goes..

What he really is doing is trying to prove that secretly everyone is as evil as he is. That is why he subjects people to situations where they must reveal their core character, wants to rip off Batman’s mask, executes events that change ‘White Knights’ like Harvey Dent into villains of highest order.

In other words, he believes that everyone is same as he is. Just that everyone is either pretentious or still getting there. He claims ‘‘See.. I am not a monster; I am just ahead of the curve’.

The movie can be disturbing to some, especially if you knowingly or unknowingly identified that the Joker is trying to prove the fickleness of human nature in the back drop of anarchy. The screenplay is excellent. Each and every dialogue of Joker is spine chilling and in some weird way you start getting impressed with the twisted logic he throws in for everything evil he stands for.

The movie is quite dark (literally). The overall canvas is gloomy and has a nerve chilling coldness. Thanks to the outstanding background score by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer, which clubbed with superb performances by the lead actors leaves nothing to pin point in terms of technical flaw.

Performance wise, Heath Ledger clearly steals the show. His dark, villainous and poetic style supercedes standards set by Jack Nickolson as Joker. Trivia- Heath Ledger shared screen time Gyllenhaal siblings (Maggie and Jake). Christian Bale is just OK. Doesn’t come any close to the caliber he has demonstrated in movies like ‘The Prestige’. Aaron Eckhart gave an excellent performance as Harvey Dent aka ‘Two Face’. Special mention to Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon! I am sure quite a few Oscar nominations are on the cards for this movie. Definitely worth your money!

Rating: 4.5/5
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman

Saturday, February 6, 2010

TCS website hacked

Today I logged on to only to find that the website is hacked. I can't believe my eyes here is the screen shot. As I write this blog, the website is still hacked and up for sale.

Google Wave- Anyone impressed .. yet?

I was one of the most excited people when I received the much coveted invitation to open an account on Google Wave. This was one of the most hyped product google ever launched. I was very impressed with the product rollout

See the youtube video of the product roll out and you would be really impressed.

I have been using (or rather trying to use) google wave for more than a few months now. I kept on convincing myself that it is a great product and with time it will become better since this is just a Beta version. But, seems like Google Wave might not create the kind of impact Gmail created.

Google Wave claimed that it will change the way we think about communication. Electronic communication is just an extension of the traditional form of communication. In other words, instead of writing a letter on a piece of paper and mailing it to someone else's address, email allows us to open a browser (read page) and mail it to a unique address. So if we had to start over, how would the communication behavior look like?

I don't think that if we have to start the style of communication all over again, then it is going to look anything like Google Wave. For one reason, that understanding how to work Google Wave is so complicated (and I am an IT professional) that it seems that you would require a really strong determination and reasonably good technology savviness just to have a normal communication. How can that be anything to look forward to?

It seems that google is missing the point. People generally don't like technology. Thats why Microsoft was successful. Remember those days before microsoft? Just booting the computer using a bootable disk on a command prompt on DOS operating system? And then it all changed when you didn't have to remember those syntaxes anymore and you could do almost anything with click of a mouse and operating system was UI based.

So, if using Google Wave is going to be complex and difficult to manage, very likely people won't like it.

Anyway, lets see what happens. I love google and its products. I want them to be successful, but Google Wave so far is not impressing me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Irony or what?

I was delighted to read this on today. At least someone gets it. Tony Abbott's call is very rightly. If Australia doesn't address this issue in a timely manner, this issue will snowball into something really big.

I particularly liked this piece.
"The Opposition Leader also challenged ethnic leaders to show greater respect for Australian values, in a speech supporting population growth, immigration, and a strong border-protection policy."

I could only hope that Indian national leaders could collectively stand for such a cause in India (except for the population growth part of it) and do away with local divisive politics.

The irony is comical because as we read about India's strong objection to racial attacks in Australia, congress party in Maharashtra tries to legally put discriminatory policies in place to discourage job procurements by non-marathis in Maharashtra. (read "Maharashtra to grant taxi permits only to domiciles" ). Not to forget that that it is the congress government at the center which is trying to protect Indians in Australia, but at the same time playing a divisive politics within the country. Don't you have the responsiblity to protect Indians within India as well??

Monday, January 4, 2010

Murder of Neeraj Garg.. the racism in Australia continues

Finally Australia has started coming out from the state of denial to recognizing that there is a problem of racism in the country.

The sooner the Australian government realizes this, the bettter off they are. It takes a lot of political will to fight racism or any other kind of identity clash between civilizations. An Indian must know since we are dogged with such clashes since the birth of Christ (and it is an idiom, so don't get started on political correctness of this phrase) between Hindus vs Muslims, Upper Caste vs Lower Caste, Marathis vs North Indians, North Indians vs South Indians, Tamil vs Hindi.. you name it.

Arrival of Immigrants in Australia is not something new. However, Australia is witnessing something they are not used to. A rapid increase in immigration. Austraian government has put reforms in place which enables Australia to tap into the international talent pool and thus fast track its growth...well.. in theory.

The reaction to those reforms is that students from countries like India, China etc are attracted to come to Australia to become a part of the growth story the government is trying to create. This should be seen as a measurement of success.

However, the fast speed of immigration does change the look and feel of the country demographics. People, who are used to seeing things in a certain way, feel a little uneasy with increased number of unfamiliar faces around them. Compare this situation to the guests who come to your house in big numbers and don't leave for months.

This is the phase where government and other social outfits need to step in and talk about the culture of diversity, inclusiveness and benefits of a multi cultural society. They need to ensure that the people see the value and understand that diversity should be celebrated and feel proud of it. Lack of such political and social attempt results into racism, apartheid, rise of seggregationists. The price of neglecting this situation is really high and the society suffers from this for ages to come.

Australia is at a very sensitive stage of its reforms. If they don't sit up and take a note of this butterfly effect, they will eventually be fighting these demons forever.