Saturday, June 28, 2014

Is democracy overrated?-3

Perhaps the people have seen that what kind of chaos ensues when they have democracy so they opt for a dictator who has promised to deliver on their pledges. But I believe other thing is that whatever form of government one needs, the basic needs of the people should be met. People really don’t care about in which form of government they are in as long as they are being fed and their needs are taken care of. This is only true I believe in places where there has been no history of democracy and people are not used to being ask to give their opinion freely. And also there are forces that see democracy as a western concept and convince people not to participate in it as it is an alien concept to their culture. Other things I have noticed that democracy has not be explained fully or its benefits or flaws and it has just been copied from the West and that puts it in suspect with people with deep religious and cultural inclinations. Mostly democracy is a one way street where people choose their representatives and expect them to work according to what their elected officials have promised. These elected officials should know that the voters have entrusted them with responsibility and they should carry out their job fairly and honestly but this can only happen when the voters know what the issues are and held their elected officials accountable for things they do in the office. But this kind of democracy is usually absent in the Middle East and other countries who have half heartedly embraced it and the officials still behave they are in medieval times where they can order and it will not carry any repercussions. And this is what democracy means in those countries then they are better off with being without one.

Is democracy overrated?-2

The glaring example of not to impose western style democracy is in the Middle East. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in the guise of search for WMD (weapons of mass destruction) which former President of Iraq was iffy about it, this was just supposed to secure them and when the U.S. could not find them then the narrative changed into Iraq becoming a beacon of democracy in an area not known to have one. Now after ten years and spending almost a Trillion dollars of U.S. tax payer’s money, where are we in Iraq. True we had elections but the country is being torn apart by ethnic and sectarian strife and the U.S. is trying to save Iraq from itself. Democracy was also tried during the Arab spring but what we have is back to the old days with Egypt after experiencing some sort of democracy only to be squandered by incompetency and other issues is back to being a semi democracy of what I can call Middle East Democracy. Middle East democracy is when a so called ruler stages an election and there are no or insignificant opposition to show that they have competition and then when the election results come, the incumbent has won election by more than 90 percent in some cases. This results shows their own public that how popular they are and the world that an election was held. And everybody knows that how much intimidation and coercion was used in these elections, yet these elections are given an example of western democracy when it is not.

Is democracy overrated?

Just to make it clear, I not against democracy since I live in a democratic society and I believe in it but as with the rest of the systems prevailing around the world, democracy is the invention of human beings. The democracy which is being practiced in the West and in many other countries have been evolved over decades and sometimes centuries. Democracy of what I understand is one vote, one person so that every body's opinion is supposedly counted in the decision who is going to govern and have a say in the daily affairs of the citizens. This can be ideal if every citizen is educated and knows his or her rights and can defend it through a ballot box or go to their elected official to address their grievances. And on the opposite side, the elected officials are receptive to their constituents and do help in alleviating whatever problems they are facing. But as I said above it is fine with well established democracies or people who believe in one and have positive views of it. But what if the people who have never experienced one and have experienced it but in seriously flawed way that they think that dictatorship or some form thereof is better than an alien concept thrust over them. If you see in the Middle East today and some other countries, democracy has been used as tool to rule over people without any accountability and without any improvement in the lives of people. And they are being fed again and again that democracy is great but they meet their constituents only when they need their votes come election time.

On the lighter side-Movies-Wolf Creek 2 (2014)

The return of the down under serial killer in this bloody and brutal sequel to the killer trucker from Australian outback. In this movie a the killer plays games with a British Tourist stranded on the lonely roads of Australia. Extremely violent and not for the squeamish. Recommended for horror fans only.

On the lighter side-Movies-300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

Unnecessary and brutal sequel of the movie 300 regarding the war between the Persian Empire and Greek soldiers. Bloody and very violent movie. Although I enjoyed it for sheer depiction of violence ( Disclosure: I am not a violent person) and brutality but it gets to you eventually and you get turned off. Recommended for action fans only.

Memories of childhood-3

Then I remember we moved to another building where we had our apartment on the 16th floor but I don’t remember if I pushed elevator buttons there or not. I developed a habit that on Sunday when everybody was asleep I used to get up and in my pajamas go to the living up and turn up the television to watch Chinese Martial Arts movies. It was really fun and to this day I still love martial arts movies although I don’t get up as early to watch them with the entire internet available now. These memories will linger will me for the rest of my life. As our stay in Hong Kong was cut short by some shenanigans in my dad's head office, we returned home but the memories does not end there as I sometimes used to watch movies in the cinema with my dad who was not a movie person to begin with but for my sake he went with me in some movies. I miss those times and the memories I have will never fade away from me as they are as vivid as the day I experienced. I just wish I could have remembered some more especially during my time in Hong Kong. And it was really fun to be with my father in that trip as it is now ingrained in my mind and surely if my father was alive he would have told me more things that I did at that time. And I believe that many people have some particular time in their childhood which they remember vividly wherever they are. Childhood memories are the best.

Memories of childhood-2

Since my dad's office used to receive lots of mails from outside Hong Kong and my dad was the manager there so all the staff had instructions to peel off the stamps and keep it for me so that I could add to my collection. And there were little parties and beach excursions as the staff of the branch use to invite my family. Then there was the clientele which was very diverse who became close friends and invited us into their homes and other parties. I loved to go to Kowloon on a boat with our car parked on it so that when we reached there, we would drive it in the territory which as across Hong Kong Harbor. Then I remember the typhoons which used to sometimes seem like swaying the building to and fro. And again my favorite part was to wear my rain coat and stand in the back yard of the apartment and enjoy the rain coming down. Among several favorites habit of mine was at night I used to check the weather to find out if it is going to be sunny or rainy so as to dress accordingly and I have carried this habit through the years without fail. I am addicted to Ice cream and at a small age in Hong Kong I loved the music on the Ice Cream and sometimes I used to go down with my Dad to purchase Ice cream. Other thing that I was naughty about was we used to live on the third floor of the building which was I believe more than 20 stories tall. So every day coming back from school I used to push my floor button and then when getting out I used to push the rest of the floor buttons. I know I was bad.

Memories of childhood

Every grown person has memories of his childhood when life was carefree and your parents took care of everything. You did not have any worries in the world as your worries were outsourced to your parents and if you happen to have older siblings to them to take care of you and feed you and keep you safe from harm. If you ask most of the adult people, they would gladly say that their childhood was the best times of their lives ( I am saying most since there will be people who will have bad memories which I will not elaborate). As with most people I also have fond memories of my childhood and how do you define one, I will say in my case it was below years of my life as that was the best one I can remember vividly and wished it lasted longer in terms of how I enjoyed it (as I believe most of the people will agree with me on this). I used to live in Hong Kong long time ago for one year and a half (I wish it was more than that) when my Father was transferred there for a job and it was so much fun as I used to go international school and in the evening when I used to pick up my father my first habit was to buy miniature toy cars every day from a toy store in his office building. I also remember buying my favorite Cadbury® candy and traveling on a double Decker bus. It was a time when the British ruled the colony so it was as carefree as it can it can get ( I don’t know how it is now but the way I see it in the movies it looks just the same with more technology and more hustle bustle I believe).

Elements of Surprise

Do you like surprises or do you freak out when there is a surprise? There are surprises where you feel excited and there are ones which you would not rather be surprised and still there are others where any surprise can bring victory or defeat to the parties involved. You get excited when you are given a surprise birthday party or a gift which you were not expecting and some kind of promotion which is least expected. Then you are surprised by the birth of your child since you were expecting a boy or a girl and you got either or even both and this surprises you more and worries come around regarding all the energy to be used in raising both at the same time. And then there are surprises that you find yourself into which are not pleasant and sometimes shocks you into a freeze and you don’t know what to do immediately to tackle this. Like finding out that you have some debilitating disease or finding your loved ones have a few months to live. Also finding out that suddenly your perfect life is not that perfect with cheating spouse and frauds and criminal behavior in one's family can be really heartbreaking surprises. Then there is the surprise you see in the battlefield where a little surprise or a bit of an unlikely maneuver by one army can turn the tidal of war into either victory or defeat. All these elements of surprises the sad ones and the happy ones are usually fairly common in the general public as no person will go against being happily surprised to get sick or disappointed at a surprise birthday party (although in the gift department the surprises will make someone disappointed).

Beauty Parlors

While driving through one of the small towns in New Jersey on the way back to my house, I saw some women sitting in beauty parlor waiting for their turn on the seat for the ritual of getting their nails or hairs done and I started to think about how much women take care of them at any age. I know that as a male I would not understand or even qualified to discuss this matter but just for curiosity sake I will discuss it anyway. I went two times actually to a more expensive barber with both male and female clientele and even at early hours, there were older women sitting in the chair getting their hair washed and get it done and even after that they were making appointments in the future and you know that it is not cheap for female hairs to be done in a certain way. It is not only the hair but the manicure and pedicure, in other words taking care of their nails by sitting practically for hours is another one of the big business that is mushrooming everywhere. Recently a new nail salon are opened up in my town which already had two in a short driving distance that I know of. Everywhere you see there is a line of women sitting waiting for your turn and some have appointments specifically to go to these places. I guess it is a profitable and recession proof business as females wants to look good always and especially during the recession. And I guess you may be right that I still don’t get this spending huge sums of money on things which can you do at home if you want to.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Father’s day

Father’s day is always a sad day for me since my father passed away five years ago. It is not the same without him and I don’t feel like enjoying or celebrating this day but I am now a father too so I have to celebrate it reluctantly. Anyway this year Father's day was on June 15, 2014 and we knew that something was being planned along the lines of having a lunch together with my in laws and we knew the place where we had to go but we were not that certain about the timing. Well we were fast asleep till 11.00 in the morning when my brother in law called to say that he is leaving by 12.00 and then started to scramble and reached at our destination around 1.20 P.M. but he was nowhere in sight and after waiting and calling him on the phone, we decided to go ahead and eat our appetizers and when we were done, he came around 2.00 P.M. with his family and in laws. As you know that Father's day is a special occasion for all dads so the restaurant was full with people with their families. Appetizers were good and the food consists of bread, white rice, grilled chicken, gravy chicken, goat meat, beef and some vegetable dishes. The food was good but I would not consider it exceptional that I would go out and recommend it. After that it was time for my favorite thing, dessert, ice cream and rice pudding. There was also tea there but since I am a coffee and soda person I stayed away from them. Then to keep it as a memory for years to come, we started to take group photos of each other. When that was done, we headed to our homes to pass the rest of the Sunday.

On the lighter side-Movies-The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)-Jude Law, Ralph Fiennes

A concierge and his lobby boy adventures during the world wars in a fictional country somewhere in Europe revolving around the theft of a rare painting and a murder. Superb story and highly enjoyable and great movie. Highly Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies- The Lego Movie (2014)

A normal and meek guy becomes an unlikely hero to save his world from tyranny in this fantastically innovative and enjoyable movie for all ages. Highly Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-13 Sins (2013)

Based on a Thailand movie, a guy gets messages asking him to random and increasingly gruesome stuff to people and win big money. Enjoyable movie with each increasing task with more money gruesome and highly dangerous. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Joy Ride 3: Road Kill (2014)

The killer truck driver is back in this bloody and gruesome movie with guess what lots of killing and torture. If you are like gore, this movie is for you, otherwise stay away. Not Recommended

Pakistan finally launches operation against Militants-2

I wrote that there was a little bit of surprise but since everybody was saying that an operation was imminent, the element of surprise was gone. Most of the militants according to the local population have gone to Afghanistan and what remains are the ones who are too stubborn will fight to the death. If you happen to venture into Pakistan, you will now find troops and other security agencies on high alert but people going about their business. The Taliban have already threatened to give a tough retaliatory response to this operation and Pakistan is bracing for this. And in some reports they have asked foreigners and multinational to leave as there are going to go after every governmental body. Since the world is already pre occupied with Iraq, they will let the Pak Army do the messy job of taking these people head on. But by now with all the space being given to the Taliban and its supporters, this terrorism will not end in just North Waziristan but with the sleeper cells in many cities, it is going to be bloody and tough fight. The government although have done their homework but the sympathizers and supports of the Taliban are everywhere in the country and this operations should be conducted with tracking down this network of support that have sustained this Taliban. Also there should be no distinction with pro Pakistan Taliban and anti state ones as they both have wreck havoc with the country. Only time will tell how this operation goes because as the government and Military has said the operation will go on till the elimination of terrorists and terrorism, so there is not time table on when it will end. Stay tuned.

Pakistan finally launches operation against Militants

Although it was long being demanded by the U.S. to dismantle terrorists’ safe havens in the North Waziristan agency in the Pakistan's northwest. Pakistan finally launched a ground assault on the area roughly the size of Connecticut few days ago and it came as a surprise to most political parties there. Although there were talks of conducting one but the talks that were being conducted from both sides were not seen as going anywhere. And the final straw came when the militants attacked the country's biggest airport in the biggest city of the country which nudged the country to conduct this operation. The military was always dead set against any talks with the Taliban militants but had to defer it to the government in this case because they trying to support this fruitless endeavor by an regime that was scared of the blowback in case of the assault on the Taliban and other worldwide militants holed up in the lawless northwest. It was also reluctance by the military when they were asked to eliminate the North Waziristan safe havens since the Haqqani Network was a so called strategic asset of the Pakistan Army where they were at war with the state but were busy fighting the U.S. in neighboring Afghanistan. And I am not sure if they will even eliminate this threat. The rumors of the operation were so loud for a long time that most of the militants just decided that they will move to Afghanistan for a while and when the dust settles will come back. So the effectiveness of the operations is also in question.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Different rules for different groups

The so called war on terror is not going that great lately as myriad groups of people are terrorizing weak states in their quest to bring their own version of the so called revolution. Most of these groups are in Islamic nations fighting the government whom they believe are either too close to the west or are not Islamic enough. But in their zeal to overthrow the incumbent regimes, everybody has become a fair target as children, women and old people are killed mercilessly and the so called moderate Muslims keep quiet or just look the other way. This article is not about Muslims against Muslims but about how there are different rules of engagement for different groups of people. The insurgents or militants don’t play by any rules and their impact is to create a regime for themselves and in this regard they kill soft targets who are not combatants in the conflict. While the forces fighting these militants (or whatever you can call them) have their hands tied by trying to avoid civilian casualties and at the same time trying to fight these militants. If the armies don’t have these kinds of restraints put on them then there is no way that these militants can succeed since they don’t have the advance power that regular armies have. So the militants can do whatever they want and thus create terror among local population while the Military has to tackle on two fronts. But still with these constraints in place, the military still win with better intelligence coordination and cutting off terror funding. Even playing with different set of rules, the good guys can win over the bad ones; you just need discipline, focus, determination, patience and prayers.

Survival of the minorities

You know that nowadays it is hard for some minorities to survive in their own countries where they were living peacefully for centuries. Due to scare jobs, bigotry, intolerance and just misguided propaganda, minorities are having a hard time surviving in countries where their ancestors have settled down. Mostly these minorities are vulnerable in countries which have weak governance and are mostly in third world countries. It is a shame that these minorities, be it the Shiites Hazaras, Christians and Hindus and Ahmadis in Pakistan, Muslim refugees in Myanmar and several ethnic minorities in African countries are facing a hard time living under the weak governments and they are choosing risking their lives by illegally immigrating to safer countries which are not even sure they will be able to make. But the power of saving ones lives is an overwhelming incentive for these minorities since they cannot see their lives and livelihood safe in their own native countries. It is a shame that minorities whom their native countries have sworn to protect are feeling so much insecure that they are leaving their ancestral land and heading to different countries with different cultures and religions. I know how hard it is build your life in a new country and these minorities have uprooted themselves since their native countries have either refused to protect them or are reluctant or just don’t care for their protection. But despite all odds these minorities are leaving their native countries and it seems that the native countries are not even persuading them to stay behind. Once these minorities leave, the only regret will be left to the countries who have failed to protect them as these minorities have and will work harder to achieve what they have lost and then some.

Two elections, two different reactions-3

For sure the outcome of the election would have been a foregone conclusion as most of the country is under civil war and the elections could not have been conducted in those places. And with reportedly more than 160,000 people killed and several million fled into other countries, it is doubtful that the election would have claimed any kind of legitimacy. Also the remaining population had no choice but to vote for the incumbent regime as there was no alternative and their lot is tied to the survival of it. Though this election was an exercise in futility but the world has reacted with the same prediction since Syria has not been anybody's favorite from the start because of its association with Iran. But the West is also afraid to arm the rebels because they feel that the weapons may fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda inspired Jihadists who don’t care about killing anyone who does not agree with them. And if we don’t know for sure if the elections in Syria has been conducted fairly given all the circumstances, how can we be sure that the elections in Egypt is fair too. The results in Egypt and Syria has been accepted at face value and shown to support the regimes which had all the power to stir the votes towards them by intimidation, coercion, pressure and violent persuasion. Despite their elections, both cannot be called democracies as one man show prevails in both countries and we should call it as such and maybe realize that it is better to deal with one man governments than to face chaos in that part of the world.

Two elections, two different reactions-2

It may also be that the Muslim brotherhood that have been doing excellent social work failed to do the inevitable and did not have a plan to solve the Egyptian economic crisis. Implementing Islamic laws when the people are finding it hard to feed themselves will never be a panacea for good government. They clearly outreached themselves and the people who had initially voted them into power started to rebel against them. But instead of solving the economy, they tried to stifle dissent and portray the opposition as remnants of the previous regime. Although military coup was not the solution but they were so much involved in their own world that they did not believe that a government elected by a majority could be toppled by the Military and then supported by the same people who had them elected first. Whatever was the reason, the new military government and the elections have been welcomed by everybody who wants to stay engaged with a government that does not want to impose Islamic laws or even if it does, first have to take care of the economy, where most of the Egyptians are barely surviving. Everybody seems to be happy that a threat of a so called Islamic government in their neighborhood but regardless of which government comes, the main issue will always remain how to improve the life of the citizens without entangling them in things which should be private matter. The Syrian elections are completely different matter as it has been denounced by the world community as illegitimate and a farce. Since I did not monitor the elections I don’t know if it is a farce or illegitimate.

Two elections, two different reactions

It is good to read other countries' newspaper and their analyses since it shows what other people are thinking and I came about an article regarding the recent two elections held in two Arab countries. One was in Syria and one was in Egypt. But the reactions for both the elections were different. Although both were held under duress since both are under two strongman but the world does not see it that way. The article was about how the world is reacting to both of them which although are similar in their dubious nature of how they were conducted but the results were a foregone conclusion but the world is siding with one while denouncing the second one. My analysis will be based on the article I read and my own observation. It is no way to reflect on my support for either regime as I try to give my own unbiased opinion on the situation in both countries. Lets start with Egypt, the election there were held recently the former military general who staged a coup (let’s call it what it is and not sugar coat words) was elected with almost 96 percent of the votes. And congratulations have started to pour in from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations who are happy to get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood who held power before them and were seen as a threat to the Arab autocratic governments in the region. Maybe it is because Muslim brotherhood was too radical for other Arabs to digest or on the face of it with all the noise of Islam; it is hard to implement a true one in reality.

On the lighter side-Movies-Non-Stop (2014)-Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore

On a non-stop (hence the name of the movie) a sad lonely Federal Air Marshall who has been grieving his dead daughter starts get text messages that he has to deliver $150 million otherwise the passengers will be killed. Thrilling and edge of the seat suspense action movie. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)-Chris Pine, Kevin Costner

An undercover agent for the CIA finds evidence that links Russia's involvement in bringing down the U.S. economy. Suspenseful but slow at times. Recommended with caution.

The terrorists attack at Karachi Airport, Pakistan-2

Perception is everything and the first thing you see that an airport of a country that is trying to woe investors to invest in that country and offering all kind of incentives is under siege from terrorists, no amount of incentive will make anybody come there since the fear of getting killed triumphs any incentives whatsoever. If the Pakistani investors and people increasingly feel insecure in their homes and outside, how can expect foreigners to visit that country. Most of the international deals are being signed in Dubai and other places outside Pakistan. Minorities are increasingly being targeted and even Muslim minorities are not being spared. You can cry hoarse about the progressiveness of a country by staging fashion shows and movies against the Taliban but the perception is that Pakistan is supporting them and now they have come to bite them back since they believe that Pakistan government is allied with the West and they want to impose their own version of sharia (or Islamic Law) in the country by violent means. Is the government up to the task to tackle this menace? By the looks of things, they are not ready to fight to the death and that is what scares the western countries and the other countries around them. The government is scared of Taliban and they don’t have the resolve to fight them on any front. And that is what is dragging this country to an extremist point where only the Army if it decides to fight will be able to fight to the finish and if they need help they should not be hesitant to ask for it. For if this menace gets out of the country, and then you can well imagine the response of the international community will be.

The terrorists attack at Karachi Airport, Pakistan

Last Sunday, the biggest and busiest airport in the Nuclear Armed Pakistan came from heavily armed terrorists. There are 10 to 12 terrorists who came in a pickup truck wearing fake IDs and fake Police clothes and started firing inside the airport which damaged some planes. Since the police was no match for the heavily armed and determined terrorists, Pakistan military had to be called in with its elite commandos involved in flushing out the terrorists. All in all more than 20 people were killed including all the terrorists. The Taliban has now claimed responsibility saying that it is in retaliation to the drone attacks carried by the U.S. which killed their leader. This really exposes the gaping security holes in that country's infrastructure and the image of Pakistan as an insecure state will increase and for sometimes the foreign investment will be hesitant to invest and the remaining one will think twice before investing there. Whatever few airlines there are operating are the ones who are willing to take the risk to fly there since the Western airlines don’t fly there due to security concerns. With a plethora of intelligence agencies where was all the intelligence that should have come to prevent this kind of attack. And even if there were reports, it would not have made any difference since the security agencies don’t have the heart to fight against these well determined people. How can you invite foreign investors into a country where the first experience they will get is an airport in siege? I know that it is just a handful of people but they have paralyzed the whole country.

A nice day at the Park

This past Sunday, the weather was good and we were babysitting for my wife's niece and we decided that rather than sit at home, why not go for a stroll in the park and let the children (my daughter and wife's niece) run for a while in fresh air for a change. We reached the park which was a short drive from our town, since our town has no noticeable park so we have to drive to nearby parks to enjoy the open air and space. After reaching there, we had a small ball so we let out the kids to play. We came at around six in the evening at which time; the park seemed to be not that crowded. Some of the kids were biking and the moms just sitting or jogging with them and there were too little kids football team practicing. We sat down and let the kids play with the ball but my wife's niece who is around two years old was more interested in catching the birds or running after them. But besides this main activity, she was still running around, while my daughter decided to talk a one and half long walk across the park which if see from where we were sitting look too intimidating to walk for us. The kids did not wanted to leave especially my wife's niece since she was too much involved in chasing birds in the park, but as it was getting a little darker and a close time to dinner and there was nothing in the house to eat and we had to order from outside, it was time to say goodbye to the park for another day and we headed back home happy and satisfied over our venture for a few hours at the park.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The long arm of the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-2

It is said that the U.S. is only one of the few countries in the world that subject its citizen and permanent residents' income anywhere they earn it. I personally think it is unfair since it subjects the people to two taxation, one of your citizenship and one where you are living but this law can only be done by act of Congress, which is already as it is divided is in no mood to do anything about it but in the meanwhile the crackdown against foreign accounts continues. The IRS went first after Swiss bank accounts since it was famously said that they have the best kept secrets if you want nobody to know where you hid your dirty or untaxed money. But after much pressure, the Swiss are relenting and have started to cooperate with the IRS in handing over to them information about U.S. citizens accounts held with them. The downside of all this is that many international banks are starting to take the money of the U.S. citizens since they don’t either want to bother with reporting to the IRS or they want to be shut out of the U.S. financial system if they don’t and the other thing is that it is a trickle but many ultra rich Americans are starting to renounce their citizens and taking up residency in less taxed countries. Although I know that it is up to each individual how to make your own decisions but it is really unfair that to save some money you will renounce the citizen of your country. But for most of the rich people, they will have no choice but to pay their fair share of tax whether they have account here in the U.S. or abroad. And what is the fair share is a complex which will be dealt later on in my blog.

The long arm of the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Although it is a fact that any U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident who earns income from anywhere in the world have to report it to the U.S. IRS so that they can be taxed but the implementation of the law was very relaxed and sometimes ignored outright. Many Americans and permanent resident have account in the millions of dollars in secret and not so secret accounts in tax haven countries of the world out of the prying eyes of the tax authorities of the U.S. All this operation was running smoothly when we encountered this great recession some years ago and then the Congress and the IRS woke up to the problem and starting tackling it on aggressive basis. Although they went for the ones who are truly and fabulously wealthy, they went after banks who were holding American citizen's accounts on which they were not paying taxes. And all of a sudden or I should say a slow moving storm gathering steam suddenly the IRS is going after each American who have held overseas account. Now the news came that around 77,000 international banks have agreed to cooperate with the IRS in identifying and informing that about the accounts of all the American citizens and permanent residents to them so as to avoid being shut out from the world's biggest economy. I know that they did not do it voluntary and more may be in discussion to hand over the details but that shows how far the reach of the world's biggest economy and militarily powerful country can achieve if it puts its influence and pressure onto other countries.

The cloud we should be all on

Recently my computer had been acting up and before it died on me, I decided to transfer some of my more important and ultimately irreplaceable files to the cloud. So what is a cloud? Simply put my files are not on my hard drive but on other companies servers and if I lose my computer I can still be able to access my files stored on cloud on their servers. In fact I don’t need to have my computer with its hard drive physically located in one place because with cloud computing I can access my files stored there from any place in the world. Although this is a recent trend but it is a phenomenal one too. And I have just started to store my stuff on it and it is not only in one storage company as there are many out there which will give you a few Gigabytes of memory for free to store you stuff in the hopes that you will want more and then they can be able to charge you for that. And since I have registered with two companies, I just wanted to make sure that I remain diversified and not rely on my company for all my storage needs. But it is only for small storage needs so that I don’t go over the free limit. But if my needs arise I may go for the cloud and store my stuff there as you never know when one's computer act up and all your files in your hard drives get corrupted. I will also be teaching my daughter how to store her stuff in the cloud and if you have not heard about it, just check it in one of the search engines and try it out, I know that you would not be disappointed.

The return of the soldier

Recently the last remaining American soldier held in captivity was released by the Taliban to U.S. custody after five years. Initially a celebration of sorts for the released soldier has now come back to haunt the U.S. administration as accusations have started to fly in various directions. I believe it was supposed to be a celebration and a cause of happiness that the U.S. does not leave its military personnel behind in times of war. But now with his fellow soldiers accusing him of desertion and the Republicans calling the deal to release 5 dangerous Taliban from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in exchange for the soldier has set a dangerous precedent according to them. And although I believe that he is innocent until proven otherwise but all these accusations disturb me a lot. Although it is a good sign that we got our soldier back but are we negotiating with terrorists to get our man back? This is the question that is disturbing. Does this deal gives an incentive the various groups opposed to the U.S. to go and capture some soldier and then wait for the U.S. to give them some incentive to in exchange for that release? And if the charges are true regarding his desertion or cowardice they should be fully investigated as this is one rare time that the release of soldier from captivity is not being hailed as an achievement but a mockery of bravery. He is now not been treated as a hero but as a villain. I hope that this situation clears up fast enough so that we can move to other important issues otherwise this mess of a situation does not bode well for future prisoners of war (I HOPE NOT).

What GOD makes cannot be replaced-2

The same thing happens when the scientists and environmentalists lament the disappearance of endangered species because there are no way the humans can recreate them and once they are lost, they are lost forever. And the same thing happens when we have a drought and we are struggling to get enough water to feed our farms, families and other needs because despite all the advancement, the water remains one of the several elusive things that the human beings cannot recreate. All the things that GOD made has not be replicated down to the single nerve cell or even the non human forms and this is what sometimes frustrates human beings that they are so much restrained in duplicating natural things that should looked to seemingly easy to replicated. I was just thinking about the minute of things like the crown or implant that the dentists try to implant in your mouth. Even this minute thing is not made exactly as the original one as you are cautioned to be careful for the rest of your life not to chew sticky things. And the above examples are just a little batch of things that the humans are unable to recreate and will never be and so we are reduced to recreating an extremely flawed and artificial version of the original things and that too on a small scale as rain, harnessing energy and many other things remain elusive and out of our grasp. We are still trying to understand how things work and the more we study the more we scratch our heads and stumble in our quest to create the perfect duplicate of what GOD has made and we are nowhere near it or can never be near it.

What GOD makes cannot be replaced

Another trip to the dentist (yes this year it is ongoing, since I cannot take this procrastination and avoiding it anymore). Sitting there on the chair and watching TV, my nerves numb with Novacane and the other anesthesia injected into my nerves so that I don’t feel the pain, I was just thinking that how we try to recreate implants and crowns and bridges in our teeth and how we make sure they are as good as the original, but no one can guarantee that it would be as good as before. But as humans try to recreate the originality of what GOD has created they have not come as near to the original as they can. That is why we have the artificiality of everything to make our appearance or our pain look better. Some people like to have implants and some want to have a crown to make your damaged tooth feel like new but anytime you chew something hard you can be rest assured that your artificial or manmade implant or crown will come off. No matter how strong the material is you apply with the artificial teeth, it would someday come off naturally or by accident like some hard stuff that you have chewed that you think can withstand the artificial teeth glue material. And the same goes for the species that are sometimes lost forever due to natural or manmade events. If you see different wounded soldiers or ordinary persons working with artificial or robotic limbs trying to recreate what nature gave them originally, they are successful to a point as it is just made by humans and can have defects.

On the lighter side-Movies-Robocop (2014)

A Detroit cop almost dies in a car blast and is given a chance at resurrection as a part robot, part human in this remake of the 1980s movie which was far better than this one. Violence galore but it is not at par with the first one. Recommended with caution.

On the lighter side-Movies-Lone Survivor (2013)-Mark Wahlberg

A fight to the death to capture the Afghan Taliban Leader Ahmad shah in 2005 is the real story of this beautiful filmed and ultimately satisfying action packed movie. Highly Recommended

On the lighter side-Travel-Luray Caverns, Virginia-4

Since my wife was wearing a flip flop (and I was wearing an open ended sandal), my wife's flip flop broke. Since tried unsuccessfully to find some replacement but the store did not have any and we had to go downstairs in the cavern with a broken flip flop and a very upset woman. As we ventured into the caverns, we stood in awe of the magnificent and still forming cave patterns that cannot be described in words but only to be witnessed personally and up-close. Most of the cavern has moist walls and the guide told us not to touch them since they are wet and so is the floor in some places. It was lighted inside by artificial light and at different areas, there were individual guides telling us the history of that portion of the caverns. Thank GOD there was railing so that my wives was holding onto it and not get slipped with her broken flip flop. After a long winding and sometimes treacherous walk inside the caverns and also standing outside for an hour wait, we went to the nearby souvenirs shop to get some gifts from there and then headed towards our car. After that it was time to eat and we bought pizza to snack along the way back to the hotel. As usual I was tired but my wife and daughter went again back to the pool while I took a nap and at night ate our remaining food that we had brought with us. The next morning after eating our breakfast and checking out we headed back home and thankfully it was another smooth ride with no traffic in sight. We reached home around 5.00 o'clock in the evening and another successful trip wrapped up.

On the lighter side-Travel-Luray Caverns, Virginia-3

If you drive from New Jersey which has the highest population density you would feel effects of open space the further you go away from the state. As I was driving past New Jersey I saw open spaces and when we reached Virginia, there was open space all around. And once I started driving towards the Luray caverns, the open spaces were obvious at first ascending and then descending towards the caverns. I like the open spaces as the rush of traffic gets to me and the greenery and mountainous areas were breathtaking. We took some pictures and reached the caverns to see the long lines and numerous cars in the parking area. I dropped my wife to get the tickets and she came back to tell me that it would be one hour before we reach the caverns. That was how long the line was in hot weather with sun blazing. We had no choice but to buy the tickets and stand in line. There a maze area nearby where you could go in and find yourself way out of the maze but it was not free and I was not in the mood to go there either. Another was a museum nearby where they showcased the history of the caverns and of the Shenandoah Valley, no interest here either. I just wanted to go inside the caverns and it really took us an hour just to reach the shade area of the entrance. We asked a couple to take a picture of our family and they asked us to do the same for them.

On the lighter side-Travel-Luray Caverns, Virginia-2

Near our hotel, we stopped by to get the gas and get ice cream and then went to the hotel which was about 30 miles from Luray caverns. On the way we passed through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and then to Virginia. Our hotel was near a busy highway long Route 81 and was called Hampton ® Inn. We check in the hotel and after putting our belongings down, I was in no mood to go anywhere and since we had brought our own food, we ate some and I went to take a quick nap and my wife and daughter went to take a look at the pool area. We had not planned anything for the first day as the Caverns were open from 9.00 in the morning so we were supposed to go on Sunday. The first day went by relaxing and the room was not that bad either. We were supposed to stay till Monday so it was just fine with us in that hotel. Since the breakfast was on the house, we ventured down to get our share of it and there was rush in the eating area as the hotel was full as per the receptionist. Well after eating our breakfast, we got a discount coupon from the lobby. It was buy one and get the second one at half price so it was pretty good for us. It was around twelve o'clock that we started to drive to the caverns about 31 miles from our hotel. It was a nice and sunny day. Traffic was extremely light so we had a smooth ride towards the caverns.

On the lighter side-Travel-Luray Caverns, Virginia

We were already high on vacation (actually my wife was) as she was again looking for a weekend getaway, even after the exhausting trip to Disney World and the memorial day weekend was the excellent way to go on one. And she started to eagerly look for some place where it would be enough to go on a weekend trip without breaking the bank and where we can drive easily. I was also craving for some vacation time but not this fast as it was only a month that we had come back from Florida and she finally found a place to go which I had never heard off before. It was called Luray Caverns in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley about 341 miles from our house. I did not explore that much as I saw some pictures of it on the internet and read a little but watching it would have been an experience. As the day came on Saturday, we had already packed our bags which my wife said is more than packing stuff for three days; we started our journey towards Virginia. As our check in time was 3.00 P.M. we started at around eleven. Our hotel was 311 miles from where we live and I was dreading that there would be traffic as it was a memorial day weekend as it is called the unofficial start of the summer season. But to my surprise the roads were not clogged and we were driving at the maximum speed limit without a hint of even slowly down due to construction or accident. As I love to drive, I was the main person at the helm of the driving seat.