Everybody Knows

Back in April I had written about the old retrofitted Russian aircraft carrier that India was buying (“The War and the Circus“). “In January 2004, India signed a deal to buy the antique and obsolete 1980s-design Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. Originally the deal was for $1.5 billion but the Russians later said that the retrofitting will take an additional $2 billion. The heap of prettied-up scrap will be delivered to India sometime in 2012, and it will be accessorized with 16 matching MiG-29Ks. The deal was made by the Congress-led UPA government. Pranab Mukherjee and lots of other people got lots of foreign trips out of the deal. The Indian navy big bosses must be looking forward to having another floating deck to strut about on.” Here’s an update on the deal.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

The Telegraph article of July 25th, “CAG report reveals colossal waste of money on Gorshkov“, says:

The Russians are now asking for even more. A team of officials from India and Russia are at work to redraft the contract with an escalated price. The total price of the Gorshkov package has now gone up to $2.9 billion. India is trying to get it down to about $2.2 billion.

“The objective of induction of the ship… as an aircraft carrier in time to bridge the gap in Indian Navy capabilities has been defeated,” the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) has concluded. The auditors have written that the defence ministry did not co-operate with them.

“We were not given any documents after September 2007 and not allowed to photocopy documents, either,” said Gautam Guha, the director general (audit), defence services.

The CAG report tabled in Parliament today also unearths irregularities in acquiring the French-origin Scorpene submarines that caused delays and led to an increase in project cost by Rs 2,838 crore.

The Gorshkov is a rusty old tub, the audit findings show, but India is sinking public funds into it for a worthless cause. The ship was originally scheduled for delivery in August 2008. There is little chance the navy will get it before 2013.

Colossal waste of public funds eventually leads desperately poor third world countries to be trapped in persistent poverty. The opportunity cost of such waste is incomprehensibly large — imagine the infrastructure that could have been built in the country, imagine the increase in the stock of productive capital. (Hat tip: Sudipta Chatterjee.)

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Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old black Joe’s still pickin cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And now for something completely different. Or perhaps not.

From The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs (written by Fake Steve Jobs):

You must have heard about this. Some dude who worked for us in China had a bunch of prototype next-generation iPhones (which by the way do not actually exist) and he lost one of them and the security dudes at Foxconn, our manufacturing partner, scared the shit out of him and mistreated him and finally he jumped off a building and killed himself. Twenty-five years old. I’m totally freaked about this. Because let’s be honest. Foxconn went after the guy because they know we’ll go after them. They told us about the missing prototype (which as I said before does not actually exist and never did exist) and we went apeshit on them. I mean really, really apeshit. Like the kind of apeshit that means this mistake is going to cost your fucked-up Third World manufacturing company billions and billions of dollars and ruin you and bankrupt you and drive you out of business.

Well, this is the world we are living in. These are the people we are dealing with. This is how we have to deal with them. We can’t make these products in the United States. Nobody could afford to buy them if we did. And, frankly, the quality would be about half what we get out of China. But these guys play rough. They really do. They are not nice people. And, though we talk a good game about how we insist on workers being treated with dignity, blah blah blah, well, I mean, come on. Have you ever been to China? We have. We’ve been to China. We know what goes on there. We know how they open your mail, and listen to your phone calls, and let their factories pollute like crazy and exploit workers, all in the name of progress. And we turn a blind eye to it. We let them know when we’re coming to visit, and they give us a tour and put on a little show of how great things are, and how wonderful the dorm life is, and afterward we pretend to keep an eye on them — but it’s all theater. It is. We know it. What’s more, you know it. Everyone knows it.

We all know that there’s no fucking way in the world we should have microwave ovens and refrigerators and TV sets and everything else at the prices we’re paying for them. There’s no way we get all this stuff and everything is done fair and square and everyone gets treated right. No way. And don’t be confused — what we’re talking about here is our way of life. Our standard of living. You want to “fix things in China,” well, it’s gonna cost you. Because everything you own, it’s all done on the backs of millions of poor people whose lives are so awful you can’t even begin to imagine them, people who will do anything to get a life that is a tiny bit better than the shitty one they were born into, people who get exploited and treated like shit and, in the worst of all cases, pay with their lives.

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And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through

Ashok Malik writes about “The Silence of Mr Singh” in today’s Pioneer. Dr Manmohan Singh has to be the second-greatest cockup that India has produced by way of prime ministers.

Over the past week, the UPA Government has almost willed itself into a crisis. In the end, the controversy over the India-Pakistan joint statement — following the meeting of the two Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Summit in Egypt — will blow over. Yet, completely needlessly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress have exposed crucial chinks in their armour.

There were, really, three episodes. First, the joint statement was drafted in decidedly ambiguous language. Next, the Congress declined to back its Prime Minister and left him hanging. Finally, Mr Singh repeated mistakes that have troubled him in the past, reopening the debate about his political acumen.

Give the man a break. He’s a bureaucrat following orders. He’s as real a prime minister as Fake Steve Jobs heads Apple. Anyway, the less said about Mr Manmohan Singh the better. Everybody knows what he is by now.

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Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows that everyone and his mother is buying netbooks these days — and the OLPC paved the way. It seems that Negroponte thinks that the biggest mistake that OLPC made was Sugar. Here’s a bit from an interview.

[T]he biggest mistake was not having Sugar run as an application “on a vanilla Linux laptop”, said OLPC founder and chairman Nicholas Negroponte. “Sugar should have been an application [residing] on a normal operating system,” he told ZDNet Asia in an interview.

“But what we did…was we had Sugar do the power management, we had Sugar do the wireless management–it became sort of an omelet. The Bios talked directly with Sugar, so Sugar became a bit of a mess.”

Negroponte added: “It should have been much cleaner, like the way they offer [it] on a stick now.” The availability of the Sugar interface via a USB could possibly herald a “naked” XO laptop in future, said Negroponte.

Wayan Vota of OLPC News has a different take on the matter:

Sugar was not a mistake, it is one of the defining aspects of the XO laptop, and saved it from even more unfavorable comparisons to traditional laptops and accusations of being underpowered.

For me, the biggest mistake for OLPC was not Sugar – that was genius – it was the “$100 laptop” moniker. With the use of the word “laptop” Negroponte doomed the XO to be compared with traditional laptops and Sugar with Windows XP.

Everybody should know that I never made fun of the OLPC — my only point was that it is not appropriate for India.

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Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows