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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"UNLIKE many other Asian countries—and in stark contrast to neighbouring Pakistan—India has never been run by its generals. The upper ranks of the powerful civil service of the colonial Raj were largely Hindu, while Muslims were disproportionately represented in the army. On gaining independence the Indian political elite, which had a strong pacifist bent, was determined to keep the generals in their place. In this it has happily succeeded. But there have been costs. One is that India exhibits a striking lack of what might be called a strategic culture. It has fought a number of limited wars—one with China, which it lost, and several with Pakistan, which it mostly won, if not always convincingly—and it faces a range of threats, including jihadist terrorism and a persistent Maoist insurgency. Yet its political class shows little sign of knowing or caring how the country’s military clout should be deployed. But there have been costs. One is that India exhibits a striking lack of what might be called a strategic culture. It has fought a number of limited wars—one with China, which it lost, and several with Pakistan, which it mostly won, if not always convincingly—and it faces a range of threats, including jihadist terrorism and a persistent Maoist insurgency. Yet its political class shows little sign of knowing or caring how the country’s military clout should be deployed.That clout is growing fast. For the past five years India has been the world’s largest importer of weapons (see chart). A deal for $12 billion or more to buy 126 Rafale fighters from France is slowly drawing towards completion. India has more active military personnel than any Asian country other than China, and its defence budget has risen to $46.8 billion. Today it is the world’s seventh-largest military spender; IHS Jane’s, a consultancy, reckons that by 2020 it will have overtaken Japan, France and Britain to come in fourth. It has a nuclear stockpile of 80 or more warheads to which it could easily add more, and ballistic missiles that can deliver some of them to any point in Pakistan. It has recently tested a missile with a range of 5,000km (3,100 miles), which would reach most of China." (TheEconomist)


"When Joseph Weisberg was training to be a case officer for the C.I.A. in the early 1990s, he soon learned that deception was a crucial skill, one that involved lying to his family on a regular basis. 'It was painful,' Mr. Weisberg recalled. 'Fundamentally, lies were at the core of the relationships. I lied to all my friends and most of the people in my family. I lied every day. I told 20 lies a day and I got used to it. It was hard for about two weeks. Then it got easy. I watched it happen to all of us.'  So does he find it easy to tell lies now? 'It’s had the opposite effect,' he said.  That experience, though, has been put to good use in the critically acclaimed FX show 'The Americans,' of which Mr. Weisberg, 47, is the creator and head writer ... Mr. Weisberg came to New York in 1997 by way of Chicago, where he grew up in a liberal Jewish home. His father, Bernard, was a prominent civil rights lawyer, and his mother, Lois, a well-known social activist celebrated by the writer Malcolm Gladwell in a 1999 New Yorker article as a 'connector' for her uncanny ability to navigate the city’s social strata. In 1987, Mr. Weisberg graduated from Yale University, where he took classes in Russian history, having come of political age in an era when President Reagan railed against Soviet-style communism. Three years later, he joined the C.I.A. and moved to Washington, because, he said, 'I wanted a job where I could be a cold warrior,' adding, 'where you can be a brainy, dark weirdo and do all kinds of fascinating crazy stuff.' The move startled his family and friends. 'He was contrarian,' said his older brother, Jacob Weisberg, the chairman and editor in chief of the Slate Group. (Jacob Weisberg’s wife, Deborah Needleman, is the editor in chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.) 'Growing up in a liberal family, joining the C.I.A., was the most transgressive thing you could do.'” (NYTimes)


"The new sheriff is a high-intensity person. Friends tell me she also reviews new apps in great detail, down to color choices. (Didn’t another successful leader so annoy people?)
The protests over Mayer’s hiring practices and (supposed) micromanagement are nothing compared to the howls of pain over Mayer’s most controversial decision: No more Working From Home. The prohibition is an affront to accepted beliefs about white-collar productivity, work/life balance, working mothers, sending less CO2 into the atmosphere. Does Mayer oppose a balanced life and a greener planet? No, presumably — but reality intrudes. Once the king of the Web, Yahoo! stood by and watched as Google and Facebook seduced their users and advertisers. In 2008, in an effort to bolster its flagging on-line fortunes, Microsoft offered more than $44B to acquire Yahoo. The Board nixed the deal and Yahoo! kept sinking. Right before Mayer took the helm in July 2012, Yahoo’s market cap hovered around $16B, a decline of more than 60%. The niceties of peacetime prosperity had to go. Unlike her 'explicit' predecessor, Mayer doesn’t stoop to lash out at the protesters but one can imagine what she thinks: 'Shut up, you whiners. This is a turnaround, not a Baja California cruise!'  In the Valley, WFH has long been controversial. In spite of its undeniable benefits, too-frequent abuses led to WFH becoming a euphemism for goofing off, or for starting a software business on one’s employer’s dime, an honored tradition.Telecommuting requires a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection from your computer at home to the company’s servers. These systems keep a traffic log, a record of who connects, from what IP address, when, for how long, how much data, and so on. Now, picture a CEO from the Google tradition of data analysis. She looks at the VPN logs and sees too much “comfort”, to be polite. Mayer did what leaders do: She made a decision that made some people unhappy in order to achieve success for the whole enterprise (toned-up employees and shareholders). After seeing Yahoo! lose altitude year after year, the criticism leveled at Mayer makes me optimistic about the company’s future: Mayer’s treatment hurts where it needs to." (Monday Note)

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