Monday, August 22, 2016

Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas by Edward Klein

Image result for the blood feud the clintons vs the obamasIn the recent democratic presidential nominations, one could see that Obama came to support Hillary only after she had won the presidential nomination. One also wonders would Obama have supported Hillary the way he does now had it not been for Trump's vitriolic speeches on Obama and his administration. I guess in Obama's mind he had to choose the lesser evil. 

As an outsider to American politics, I had no inclination of the animosity between the Obamas and the Clintons. It all started back in 2008, when both camps attacked each other bitterly over the presidential nomination. Bill, the playboy, master politician, had his eyes set on the prize; he would rule the office through proxy; of course his wife was her own man/woman. She would bitterly fight her husband for control, along with being a feminist she was also ambitious, she wanted to be the first female president of the USA. She had spent plenty of time as a senator and fought through the shame of Bill's indiscretions, but before this family tussle could ensue, enter a charming community organizer who was supported by the left wing of the Democratic Party. Obama defeated Hillary and Bill, not without having virulent exchanges. Bill called Obama another Black candidate and Obama called Bill a racist. In the end Obama came out on top, defeating the most powerful couple on the planet. Obama had ample support from her wife Michelle,"who wore the pants in the family". Another X factor is Obama's camp was Valerie Jarrett the woman who ran his campaign and was most close to not just Barack but she was/is best friends with Michelle. Valarie during Obama's 8 years in office virtually ran his government. The centrists in Obama's camp knew that Clintons were too powerful to be kept out of government and that it will be difficult to run the govt without them, they wanted Hillary as Secretary of State. Michelle and Valerie fought this idea tooth and nail. In the end Barack made Hillary Secretary of State. It was like having Kejriwal as PM and Modi as Dy. PM


Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert Thorogood

Image result for The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert ThorogoodThe incorrigible, Detective Inspector Richard Poole is back. We last met him in the sublime "A Meditation on murder" He is also the star of the TV show Death in paradise, the book is based on the characters from the same show, written by the sane author.

Plot Summary: Polly Carter is a world famous super model. She is currently staying in Saint Marie with her twin sister, Claire, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair to move about. On one fine morning Claire wakes up to find her famous sister sitting in the drawing room and smoking. Claire and Polly never had a cordial relationship, but on that morning Polly looked distinctly perturbed with Claire. Polly ignoring Claire's caretaker Sophie, pushes her to the outside lawn to have a word with her invalid sister.

Soon, Sophie witnesses an argument between the two sisters. She watches Polly pushing Claire from the lawn towards the cliff. Sophie runs after them, when she reaches the end of the cliff, she sees Claire a little distance away from the edge of the cliff still ensconced in her wheel chair, but Polly is missing!  She walks towards the edge of the cliff and sees Polly lying dead on the floor below. Polly has committed suicide.

That is the only logical conclusion. No one else was on the cliff, Claire is paralyzed from waist down she could not have pushed her sister. So, it could only have been a suicide, but then what is Richard Poole doing investigating a suicide? Poole is sure this was a murder but he has three problems. Who did it and how? and the bigger problem of his mother visiting him on Saint Marie.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years by AS Dulat

Image result for Kashmir: the vajpayee yearsAS Dulat, is an erudite on the subject of Kashmir and also ex RAW chief, India's premiere Intelligence agency. In Kashmir, the Vajpayee years, Mr. Dulat shares his opinions, thoughts and experiences on the conundrum that is Kashmir. The author has spent a lifetime in Kashmir and knows all the power players personally. His work on Kashmir for the IB, RAW and the PMO make him a considerable expert on the subject.

Mr. Dulat is an ardent advocate of dialogue with all parties involved. During his lifetime he engaged in dialogue with Kashmiris from all walks of life, which included hardened separatists and even Pakistan backed terrorists. From his understanding there are two ways to untangle the 'Gordian knot' as he calls the problem of Kashmir either we blow the Kashmiris to hell and destroy ourselves in the process or talk to them and come to a mutually acceptable solution. Kashmir is a Muslim dominated state who at the time of partition was ruled by a Hindu ruler, Raja Hari Singh, the King of Kashmir was still contemplating on which direction to go whether to stay with India, go with Kashmir or become a sovereign state. This is when the Pak army invaded Kashmir and Hari Singh's hand was forced to accept the help of Nehru. Indian Army was lodged in Kashmir and has not left since.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Image result for predictably irrational

Dan Ariely, is a behavioral economist, and a contemporary of Daniel  Kahneman, who is the author of Thinking Fast and Slow. When Dan Areily was young student in Israel, he was involved in a tragic accident which burnt half of his body, the poor fellow had to go to the hospital to get his bandages changed everyday. It was an excruciating process, the nurses used to pull the bandages quickly to shorten the duration of pain, Dan did not like this approach and after some research and education suggested an alternative, he suggested that the bandages be removed slowly, which would increase the duration but lower the intensity. Dan's recommendation were never implemented on a large scale, he was befuddled by the behavior of the nurses, after all their skills and experience they kept making the same mistakes. Perhaps, other people similarly made the same mistakes, they misunderstand the consequence of their behavior and, for that reason repeat the wrong decisions; This is the scope of this book. The author through repeated experiments and empirical evidence shows how we humans make the same mistakes again and again without learning and delude ourselves into believing that we are logical and rational beings.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Between Military and Mosque by Husain Haqqani

Image result for between the mosque and the military haqqani book cover

Husain Haqani is Pakistan's former ambassador to USA, he is also an erudite on the subject of Pakistani politics and History. Through this book the author takes us through the history of Pakistan over the last 7 decades. The influence of religion and Military on Pakistan and how these two institutions have shaped Pakistan for good or bad and will continue to do so for decades to come.

Pakistan throughout it's history has had an arduous existence. From a dearth of resources, hostile neighbors and to a struggling economy. Pakistan has had to deal with a multitude of complex problem some of them her own creation. In fact the idea of Pakistan, as a separate state for Muslims, is in itself a misnomer since there are more Muslims in India than Pakistan.  The author enlightens the reader on Pakistan's three pronged approach to counter these myriad of problems.

A) Perpetual hostility towards India, Pakistan views Kashmir as an unfinished business of partition and feels it was cheated of it's territory. After India orchestrated the split of East Pakistan from the west, this enmity grew further.

B) Islam as the unifying force, Pakistan was created in haste and in this haste a lot of different and incompatible sections of the populace were brought together be it the Bengalis, Baloch, Sindhis, Afghans and Punjabis etc. Pakistan has tried to keep everyone under the prodigious umbrella of Islam.

C) Reliance on an external benefactor - Pakistan quite early in its history recognized the importance of USA; Pakistan started vowing USA. Pakistani diplomats and generals started deftly coaxing large sums of money from America. Pakistan a third world country maintains a first class military and to sustain its military expenses it looks to USA, China and Saudi Arabia to foot the bill. In return the Pakistanis act as bases for these countries to wage war. The author goes into much details about this in his book.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

Image result for sleeping murderGwenda who has lived most of her life in New Zeland has moved back to England with her new husband. She has settled in a beautiful villa in Dillmouth. While she is settling in her new house, she is constantly reminded of some vague familiarity with her new place. Gwenda is in for a shock when these obscure reminiscences are turned into a memory of murder. It turns out Gwenda's new house is actually her old house. As a small child she used to live here, but was packed and sent to her relatives in NZ.

Gwenda is now suffering from panic attacks and wants to get behind the mystery of her past. Can she verify the veracity of her childhood memory? what happened to her family? who is the murdered person in her visions? The old spinster Miss Marple steps in to help Gwenda decode her past. Miss Marple warns her to let sleeping murder lie or she might get more than what she bargained for.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Killing Patton by Bill O'Reilly

Image result for killing pattonBill O'Reilly is an American right wing political commentator and a news personality, with a daily show on Fox News. Bill is like the Arnab Goswami of USA or vice versa. Outspoken and sometimes even boorish Bill is loved and hated in equal measure by his audience, although watched by millions. Bill, along with Martin Dugard, is also the co-author of several popular historical books. Most notably their popular 'Killing' series. Killing Patton is their attempt at documenting the last few years of the audacious US general, George S Patton, who led the military campaign against the Nazi forces.

The authors try and uncover the mystery behind Patton's strange and sudden death. It seems that the General was on the hit list of not only the Nazis, who regarded him as a superlative military commander but also Russians and some clandestine US Govt agencies. The reason why the latter wanted Patton dead was because by the end of the war Patton's status had grown legendary and he was planning to ascend to important political offices, but his view did not fit the new political views especially of some of his peers and these Govt agencies.

There is some genuine evidence brought forward by Bill and Martin which indicates foul play in the car accident which lead to the death of Patton. I'm not sure what the governments response has been? This incident is reminiscent of the mysterious death of another military leader SC Bose, post the second world war.