General Thinking

Explanation and Exception

Why are there seasons on our planet?

The ancient Greeks used to had their lore. Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter was abducted by Hades, the lord of the underworld. When Zeus consented to Persephone being married to Hades; Hades made a concession to allow her to visit her mother for 8 out of the 12 months in a year. This is why we have Spring, Summer and as the time for Persephone to leave comes closer, Summer gives way to autumn. During the 4 months when Persephone is away, Demeter becomes very sad. Demeter being the goddess of fertility robs the earth of its fertility and so the winters are cold.

This is an oversimplification of the story. I did not want to write 4 pages.

If any Greek had even visited Australia, the question of why is it summer in Australia when it is Winter in Greece might have come up. But that was not to be.

It is human to try to find a way to explain all the things that go on around us. This is part of the reason Economics is even an area of study. Truth be told, economics is about the psychological relationship between people and money. Whoever thought it might be possible to translate human psychology into a set of equations. But we NEED to explain.

If the Greeks had come across Australia, they would have probably created an exception to the rule. 

The earth is tilted on its axis and this axial tilt is what causes seasons. It also causes days to be longer in the summers closer to the poles and nights in winter. 

Every axiom, every rule, every law that you have ever been taught which has a corresponding exception is probably a poor explanation. It is there because we do not know the actual explanation. It is a placeholder in the interim so that it does not drive us crazy.

A good explanation does not require exceptions. It often ends up explaining other things that you were not even seeking to explain.

Learning by Proxy

Whether we can weather the Weather | Learning by Proxy

Usually, weather updates are for the end but I guess we need to start this one with some updates. If we had left it to our forefathers they would have just thought that the gods are angry with us. Unfortunately, we cannot brush this one away that easily.

Climate Change is real and it is finally knocking on the doors of rich people.


Studying in Agra in 2001, I was used to sweltering heat and freezing cold. Summers would reach up to 50 degrees Celsius. I have watched students collapse while walking from the hostel to the college which was about half a kilometre away. We usually had to deal with that in the absence of electricity given that the campus was located 20 km from the city and the electricity supply was not great. Winters used to be equally hard with temperatures plummeting to low single digits. This weather was a result of climate change.

I just used to think Agra sucked!

The countries in the tropics have been experiencing some of the worst impacts of climate change already. People from Guatemala have been migrating to the USA, not because of jobs – it’s because they want to live. People from Syria are going to Europe not for jobs – for life.

Put yourself in that position. Imagine leaving everything, all your possession, your identity, your life, your relatives and deciding to go to a foreign land undertaking a perilous journey that is half likely to kill you. Would you do that just to get a job??

The march of climate change has progressed to a point where the rich countries can now experience the same. Temperature fluctuations that range 20 degrees within a day, flash flooding, hurricanes, etc. The days of outsourcing pollution and calling it a day are over.

And used to pass Verviers often on the way to work

Germans are also required to go swimming in the mountains

In the meantime, as usual, Eastern US is underwater and the Western US is on fire.

Tropical storm Elsa put New York underwater.

220,000 Acres have been burnt by the biggest of the 53 wildfires that are burning in the west. Temperatures have soared to 52 degrees Celsius in Oregon, a place that is under snow most of winter. That is like Shimla having 50-degree temperature. Unprecedented drought, it is so dry and so hot…

Firefighters battling the many wildfires in the region say the air is so dry that much of the water dropped by aircraft to quell the flames evaporates before it reaches the ground.

Source: BBC

People are also starting to realise that weather is a system and one change can affect others. The forest fires are starting to affect the weather in Toronto. Toronto looks like Delhi in Winter now.

Source: CBC

In China,

The subway train in Zhengzhou, a city of five million in central China, was approaching its next station when the floodwaters began to rise ominously on the tracks. The passengers crowded forward as the water rose, submerging the cars at the rear first because they were deeper in the tunnel.

As the water reached their waists, then chests, finally their necks, the passengers called emergency services or relatives. One gave her parents the details for accessing her bank account. Some cried. Others retched or fainted. After two hours, it became difficult to breathe in the congested air that remained in the cars.

Source: New York Times

There was flooding in a city of 5 Million people and the degree of flooding has been unprecedented.

Further west in Iran,

Iran is struggling with a fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, an economy strained by American sanctions and stalled talks on rescuing a nuclear agreement that was once seen as an economic salvation.

Now the country is contending with a different but easily foreseen crisis: a severe water shortage.

A prolonged drought and rising temperatures from climate change, combined with decades of government mismanagement of natural resources and lack of planning, have turned the water crisis into a volatile incubator of protests and violent unrest.

Source: New York Times

Iran is a classic case, where you can see how migrations begin. People desperate for water will be forced to move to another country. This will be projected by western media as a political failure and spun to try and extract a nuclear deal out of the country rather than take ownership of the climate catastrophe that they have perpetrated.

So now that climate has come beckoning to their doorsteps, EU legislators are willing to take action on it. They unveiled a new plan,

In what may be a seminal moment in the global effort to fight climate change, Europe on Wednesday challenged the rest of the world by laying out an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, a plan that also has the potential to set off global trade disputes.

The most radical, and possibly contentious, proposal would impose tariffs on certain imports from countries with less stringent climate protection rules. The proposals also include eliminating the sales of new gas- and diesel-powered cars in just 14 years, and raising the price of using fossil fuels.

Source: New York Times

This proposal need not have waited till 2021. You did not need a flood to wash away two countries to decided to do something about it. Also, now that the troubles at your doorstep, moving too quickly on policy moves of this nature will hurt the developing countries.

Come to think of it, given that they have outsourced most things to other countries, implementing a tariff of this nature would be hard on them. Production and supply chains cannot be changed overnight. Eventually, the cost will be passed on to European consumers and the only solution is for their consumption to come down. In the interim, inflation will increase. How the EU will deal with the economic repercussions of this move will be worth watching.

Chinese Carbon Trade

I had explained the formulation, formation and challenges surrounding the carbon markets in the post I had written 2 months ago. In case, you have not read it, I would recommend it. Last week, China announced their very own carbon trading system. This system will apply to the 2200 power plants in the country, which account for 40% of the carbon footprint.

China has set up the trading platform of the national ETS on the Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange.

As in other carbon markets, emission permits are allocated to participating firms, which they can use to cover their own emissions or sell on the exchange.

It is part of China’s plans to use market mechanisms to help bring emissions to a peak before 2030 and to net zero by 2060.

Source: Reuters

Carbon trading and emission restriction is an important first step in controlling climate change. It will make a huge difference to how the industries decide to regulate themselves.

Under the scheme, power plants will have a free permit to cover their verified emissions. But even if it exceeded its verified emissions by 100% it would be needed to buy only 20% of the surplus emission on the market. This entirely defeats the scheme on its own. If the power plant were causing 100% more pollution, even then, they would be needed to buy the 20% mandatory amount.

Further, there are deeper problems,

The biggest difference between China’s carbon market and Europe’s has to do with the total number of permits allocated. In Europe’s system (and in theoretical cap-and-trade markets that have been proposed by US policymakers, economists, and others), there is a cap on the total number of permits, which falls over time. This drives up the carbon price (Europe’s surged to record highs this year), and drives down emissions.

But China’s system doesn’t have a cap at all. Instead, permits are allocated to each plant based on a formula that accounts for how efficiently the plant runs compared to a benchmark for its class, and on how much electricity it produces relative to its maximum capacity. More efficient plants receive more permits, as do plants that run less often. These forces should push plants toward maximum efficiency, and favor newer facilities.

Source: Quartz

Also, the pricing of the carbon credits is far too low at 40 ($6.18) Yuan per tonne. Compare this with the European pricing of almost 50 Euros per tonne. The price needs to be set much higher considering that the maximum that any plant is needed to pay is also capped. Not to mention the fine is also fixed at a measly $4600.

China aims to expand the ETS to cover eight high-emission industries, including petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, non-ferrous metals, papermaking, steel, power generation and aviation, though the timescale is not yet known.

Financial institutions or individual investors will not be allowed to participate in trading in the early stage of the national ETS, but institutional investors will be included once the trading mechanism matures.

Source: Reuters

This policy can be only credited as ‘something is better than nothing.’

HR Tech

For every company out there which loves all of its profits, the one thing they do not like to deal with is people. Unlike machines or code, people cannot be standardised. Each one needs to be recruited separately, each one needs to be led uniquely and each has to be evaluated separately. This is painful, time-consuming and most importantly needs a lot of manpower to undertake.

So you need to recruit to be able to recruit.

Companies that purported were founded to make this process easier have all been clubbed under the banner of HR-Tech companies. They all play a role in automating all of the HR processes, starting with recruitment going right up to evaluation.

Today, there are a lot of companies that will teach you how to build a resume so that you can game the algorithms that would evaluate your resume. Two can play this game. But what when an algorithm sends you home?

Stephen Normandin spent almost four years racing around Phoenix delivering packages as a contract driver for Inc. Then one day, he received an automated email. The algorithms tracking him had decided he wasn’t doing his job properly.

The 63-year-old Army veteran was stunned. He’d been fired by a machine.

Source: Bloomberg

MIT Technology Review went after the whole thing, conducting a detailed analysis of all of the different programs that companies have been using to screen candidates. They found software that evaluates you on the basis of your personality or the tone of your voice!!

Performance on AI-powered interviews is often not the only metric prospective employers use to evaluate a candidate. And these systems may actually reduce bias and find better candidates than human interviewers do. But many of these tools aren’t independently tested, and the companies that built them are reluctant to share details of how they work, making it difficult for either candidates or employers to know whether the algorithms are accurate or what influence they should have on hiring decisions.

Source: MIT Tech Review

All these algorithms are built with the biases that the programmers who were writing the algorithm had. To make matters worse there is no evaluation of it, it is just accepted for what it is.

We would never allow a drug to be sold in the market without having gone through rigorous testing — not even in the context of a health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. Then why do we allow algorithms that can be just as damaging as a potent drug to be let loose into the world without having undergone similarly rigorous testing? At the moment, anyone can design an algorithm and use it to make important decisions about people — whether they get a loan, or a job, or an apartment, or a prison sentence — without any oversight or any kind of evidence-based requirement. The general population is being used as guinea pigs.

Source: Harvard Business Review

Algorithms are having an outsized impact on the lives of people. When your life can start depending on some stupid input that an algorithm got without context it will results in drastic consequences. We are still at a stage where we can stop this but the window is closing.


Why train compartments are divided

General Thinking

Chance and Life

The lore goes – when Edison created the light bulb he said “I did not fail a thousand times, I just found a thousand ways how not to make a light bulb.”

Now, think about that for a minute.

If you tried to do something a thousand times. It shows determination but it also shows that you are just waiting for probability to kick in and show you the way. If you attempted the IIM entrance exam 1000 times, I am sure at some point you are bound to clear it. Even if you were going there unprepared and just marked A for all questions.

The CEO of Nokia at the time of the Microsoft acquisition was Stephen Elop. He said, “we did not do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.” In other words, it was sheer bad luck.

I often tell entrepreneurs to speak to those who have failed. They would be able to provide insights on the things that can trip you up. By comparison, someone who has succeeded will have little value to provide. In being successful, one would have certainly avoided several pitfalls. The trouble is, there are often more pitfalls that they avoided by sheer luck, which they did not even know existed, than the ones they avoided thoughtfully. 

Or as Bill Gates put it – Success is a poor teacher, it seduces smart people into thinking that they cannot lose.

Whether you are successful or not, there is a role that chance played in making it happen. We talk about chance only when something does not go our way. We never think about the role of chance in our life when things work out. WE just think that WE made it happen. 

We have gone to such extremes with this thinking that if someone were to succeed and you were to tell them, “it was your lucky day”; they would react as if you slapped them across their face. But someone who failed would love to palm off the responsibility of the failure to, “it wasn’t my day”.

Probability is real in everything we do. We need to learn to acknowledge it.

Learning by Proxy

Chinese Suicide | Learning by Proxy

Every great empire that has ever existed in the world has eventually fallen prey to the ego of one man who was handed a fully formed country. The one thing that we can be certain of is that history repeats itself. China earned its place in the world through the sacrifice of billions. That sacrifice is going to squandered to sate the ego of one man.

Chinese Suicide

Mao Zedong oversaw the Cultural Revolution during his 33-year reign in China. It was a complete disaster. After his death, Deng Xiaoping took over as the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He was the one who insisted on ensuring that every Chairman has a 3 year limit as the Chairman of CCP. China does not have elections, they do not follow democracy. But the CCP used to follow a system through which people were promoted from within the party to rise up to Chairman.

That was until in 2018,

The decision announced on February 25th to scrap term limits for China’s president, Xi Jinping, pierces the veil of Chinese politics. It reveals that, at a time when the ruling Communist Party is presenting China to the world as a modern, reliable and responsible state, capable of defending globalisation, the internal political system that the party monopolises is premodern, treacherous, inward-looking and brutal. It also shows that Chinese leaders’ own attempts to make the party otherwise have not got far.

Source: Economist

When you have the ultimate power within an organisation or a country, you start to feel unshakeable. This in turn results in very poor decisions being made and that results in something akin to the Cultural Resolution cited above.

The clampdown on Hong Kong over the past few years is a classic example of a poor decision by someone who cannot believe that his power is being questioned.

One of the things that supported the rapid rise of China over the last 20 years was the free run of capitalism and the promotion of businesses at all costs. As a result, there were businessmen who grew more and more powerful and that does not portend well for an authoritarian. Last year, Alibaba’s financial arm was on the verge of being listed in Hong Kong, when the Chinese government went after them and killed their IPO. Jack Ma has all but disappeared from the scene in the meantime.

Now, the qualifying factor for a company to be pulled up seems to be a listing on stock markets overseas.

Chinese regulators have gained a reputation for aggressive action, but even hardened investors were shocked by the announcement of a probe into ride-hailing firm Didi (DIDI.N) just two days after its $4.4 billion New York stock market debut.

While Didi’s initial public offering (IPO) prospectus did mention some of the regulatory risks to its operations, there was no indication that the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) would begin investigating the company and ban it from accepting new users during the review. read more

Source: Reuters

Didi is the Uber of China and a ban from accepting new users can be crippling to their business. China has been a place that was always hostile to international companies. They chased Google and Facebook out of the country. It is indeed surprising that they are going after their own!

In the year 2000, China was not a very affluent economy but as the years progressed their wealth has grown. It is projected that in the next 10 years, China might even surpass the USA to become the largest economy in the world. Having said that, they do not exist in a void and shunning international capital is not going to do them a lot of good.

The measures could have far-reaching implications for a raft of China’s tech giants that are planning IPOs offshore, and for the global investment firms that hold stakes in them. Many investors bought into fast-growing Chinese startups expecting to cash out after the companies list on global exchanges.

In the U.S., IPO bankers scrambled over the holiday weekend and into Tuesday to understand the directives coming out of China, according to people familiar with the matter. Some fielded calls from furious fund managers who had purchased shares of Didi in its IPO last week, only to watch the company lose a huge chunk of its value—as of midday Tuesday, Didi’s stock was 12% below its IPO price.

A big question on those investors’ minds: Who knew what, when? Didi has said it wasn’t aware of Chinese regulators’ plans to put it under cybersecurity review and ban new downloads of its app ahead of its IPO.

Source: WSJ

The investors in the US are going to get vary of investing in any future IPO given how arbitrary and sudden decisions in China can be. Many of these companies have invested in other startups overseas and that might also come under question with several of these startups wanting the Chinese investors out. They would want their structure and ownership to be clear rather than hanging by a thread once such actions are taken.

On Monday, China’s cybersecurity watchdog announced probes into truck-hailing platforms Yunmanman and Huochebang, as well as job listing site Boss Zhipin. New users cannot register for these three apps during the investigation.

Yunmanman and Huochebang are China’s two major truck-hailing apps and label themselves as “Uber for trucks.” They merged in 2017 to create a new firm — Full Truck Alliance, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange last month, and is currently valued at $21 billion.

Source: CNN Philippines

Didi is in focus because it is one of the better-known companies but it is not the only one in trouble with the Chinese authorities.

You don’t want foreigners to own your company, you don’t want foreigners to invest. But you want them to take loans from you and keep buying from you. How long will that party last?

Xi Jinping is probably going to remain, chairman, till he dies. He is bound to make missteps and his ego will ensure that he puts more resources behind those mistakes.

Shorting is a term used in the stock market where you sell a share when it is high and then buy it later after it falls. How do we ‘short’ China?


Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to global emissions and therefore global warming. While industry contributes just as much, transportation also happens to be the most visible. This augured well for Elon Musk and helped him turn a bad investment in a high-speed electric car company into at least a legitimate one.

The one thing perhaps the entire industry and the world agrees on is that oil HAS to go. Countries in Europe were the first to take steps towards it, but Belgium has taken by far the boldest step.

The regional Brussels government announced on June 25 a new ban on fossil fuel-powered cars in region that will come into effect over the next 14 years. New sales of diesel cars will be prohibited 2030, and new gasoline car sales will be illegal in 2035. The move is in accordance with existing efforts in Brussels to reduce pollution, and the EU goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions 2050.

In order to meet these timelines, government leaders have rolled out a broader plan called the “Low Emission Mobility Brussels” roadmap that encourages use of public transportation and will build infrastructure for electric vehicles. Under the plan there will be 22,000 charging stations in the region by 2035. The hopes to reduce total transport emissions by around 70% by 2030.

Source: Quartz

Not too far from the continent, London has decided to take a slightly different approach from that of the rest of the world towards cleaning up with public transport. Hydrogen Fuel Cell powered buses.

London’s iconic red double-decker buses are getting a bit greener. London mayor Sadiq Khan announced city will add to its fleet hydrogen fuel-cell double-decker buses that produce no pollution.

The 20 new buses join the 500 electric and 3800 hybrid buses already in service as part of efforts to improve the city’s air quality, as well as to make all of London buses zero emission by 2030.

Source: Quartz

There is a philosophical battle when it comes to clean transportation. Battery based transportation requires batteries to be charged, often involves chemicals that are harmful to the environment and a very difficult recycling process for the batteries once they are exhausted. Hydrogen Fuel Cells by comparison just combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce water and some energy. You refuel the vehicle with hydrogen instead of petrol.

The main argument against hydrogen fuel cells has been safety which Elon Musk is the first to point out. He does not tell you that he straps on the same hydrogen to his rockets and sends them to space, then it magically becomes safer! He has set the research in Hydrogen fuel cells back by decades single-handedly.

I am glad to see countries adopting it nevertheless. Reminds me of Edison (D.C.) versus Tesla (A.C.). Edison did everything in his power to bring down alternating current and his argument against it was that it was not safe! All of us use AC and not DC today. It is ironic that Elon Musk who is the modern-day Edison is running a company called Tesla.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Americans are still struggling to figure out how to get heavy-duty vehicles to run on electricity (battery).

While some trucks cover over a thousand miles in a day, others operate at short range. These vehicles are more feasible for electrification in the near term, according to Brennan Borlaug, a researcher at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the lead author of a recent Nature Energy study on electric-truck charging infrastructure.“We see this as being probably the first step on the path to heavy-duty-truck electrification,” Borlaug says. Because these trucks usually drive relatively short distances and return to the same place every day, they don’t need high-capacity batteries and ultra-fast public charging infrastructure—requirements that manufacturers are still working to meet for long-range vehicles.

However, the researchers weren’t sure if the grid could handle many electric trucks simultaneously charging in one place. Unlike electric cars, which have relatively low power requirements and would be distributed through neighborhoods, fleets of electric trucks might strain electricity distribution systems.

Source: MIT Technology Review

Throwing more money and research behind a bad technology. That is the greatest achievement of Elon Musk.

Playing with Fire

In 10 days from that tweet, cases have doubled in America. In the meantime, across the English speaking world in the Northern Hemisphere there is an incredible experiment underway!

Baseball and Basketball seasons are in full swing in America with full capacity crowds. Across the country, people have gotten rid of masks. Especially those who are not vaccinated. Cases numbers are shooting up in middle America which is a predominantly right-wing bastion where there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy. The sporting events are the oil needed to catalyse the spread of the virus.

Across the pond, the blond mop (read Boris Johnson) has decided that all restrictions are to come off on the 19th of July. In the meantime, COVID went from the May lows of 1000 cases a day to 34000 cases a day in Britain.

Source: Worldmeters

To make Indian leaders look like novices, England went ahead with Cricket at Lords, Tennis at Wimbledon and Football at the Wembly – all with full capacity crowds. And now, the restrictions will be removed.

Roughly 60,000 fans packed Wembley Stadium on Sunday to watch Italy defeat England in the final of the Euro 2020 football tournament. The same weekend, Wimbledon’s Centre Court was full: 15,000 people witnessed Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty win their singles titles. And on Saturday, 23,000 spectators filled Lord’s Cricket Ground, where England played Pakistan.

Now England waits, with anxious anticipation, to see how many of these sports devotees fall ill with Covid-19.

All three events were part of England’s move towards July 19, when the economy reopens completely following the coronavirus pandemic. At Lord’s and Wimbledon, there were no limits on attendance; Wembley was two-thirds full, as it was during the Euro semi-finals earlier in the week. As the first major sporting contests permitted to play to such massive crowds since the pandemic began, they were also trials. The goal: to help the government understand not only if such fixtures are safe, but also the kinds of protocols that full-capacity events will need in the near future.

Source: Quartz

This August will be interesting to watch. I think the people who should be most worried are not the ones who might get infected by COVID and perhaps even die. The people who should be worried are the ones in leadership positions at Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The impatience amongst leaders to make it seem like they have moved mountains has resulted in these events.

By August we will know how well these vaccines really work in the real world where new strains are being born by the week!

In the meantime – Japan – “Hold my beer! Watch me put together the Olympics”.


When you are the RICHEST person in the world but also petty!

That is not a phoenix, it’s Mount Etna erupting!

General Thinking

Burn your Ship

The story Hernán Cortéz is often cited by many as an act of bravery and courage. 

He left on an expedition to South America and upon arrival at Mexico, the first thing that he did was to ask his crew to burn the ships. There was going to be only one way out – Victory! Once they burnt the ships, they had to win at all costs. They could beat the Mexicans or die trying. The reason this story is referred to as a tale of courage is because they won! Had they died trying, it would have been a tale of human stupidity. 

Investors love to talk about entrepreneurs who do NOT believe in having a Plan B. Those who have 100% faith in their mission and are willing to go down fighting for it. I would like such investors to take their own advice and invest ALL of their monies in that one founder and show the willingness to burn the ship themselves. Why diversify?

Going back to Señor Hernán Cortéz. He was quite the womaniser who liked to maintain relationships with the wives of other men. He routinely lived beyond his means and had run up a huge debt in Spain. He set off for Mexico with a loan and would have rather committed suicide along the way than to return to Spain empty-handed. If he had gone back to Spain with nothing, his creditors would have had him thrown in jail. 

If you have any clue about what the Spaniards did to the natives of South America, you would understand why Cortéz wanted to avoid prison in Spain at all costs. He burnt his ship not because he was courageous; he burnt it because he was a coward and did not wish to face consequences back in Spain.

Smart people have a Plan B, just in case Plan A does not work out. You should not be driven to suicide if your plans don’t work out. 

Learning by Proxy

US Jobs | Learning by Proxy

Life is filled with dichotomies. One of the dichotomies facing American businesses right now is the high unemployment rate coupled with the inability to find workers. One would assume that if there were jobs on offer, people would come out looking for work. That has not happened.

US Jobs

Donald Trump had presided over the best jobs market in a long long time. George Bush the last republican president handed an absolute shit-show to Obama before he departed. The 2008 recession was just getting started when Obama stepped into office in Jan 2008.

Obama handed over an economy that was in great shape to Trump and thankfully Trump was only focused on building the wall and female reproductive rights (read supreme court). As a result, the tailwinds carried the economy all the way till COVID, that is.

The lockdown precipitated huge job losses and also furloughs (Unpaid leave). Restaurants, Cafes, Hotels, Amusement Parks, all businesses that had a physical interface with the customer laid of people like crazy. Then, the COVID situation got worse because nobody would listen to the president and drink bottles full of Clorox. His wisdom fell on deaf ears.

Biden moved in – pushed the vaccine agenda and America is open to business again.


The number of corporate calls with at least one mention of “labor shortage” is surging, according to transcripts collected by Sentieo, a financial research company. Up until 2021, there had been fewer than 60 mentions per quarter of the phrase “labor shortage.” In the second quarter of 2021, “labor shortage” was referenced 136 times.

“You certainly can’t have a conversation with any business person across America, certainly, [and] I think fast coming across the globe, without labor shortages and tightness in markets coming up,” said Marie Robinson, executive vice president and chief supply chain officer of food-distributing giant Sysco, on a May 20 analyst call.

Source: Quartz

There are a few things at play over here. There has been a huge push to try and raise minimum wages in the United States to $15 per hour. Currently, it is stuck at $7.25 per hour.

Source: Wikipedia

The green line represents the actual minimum wage as advertised. Which seems to have gone from $1 per hour to $7.25 per hour. The blue one represents the inflation-adjusted purchasing power as per 2020 dollars. It is obvious, being part of the labour force in 1970 was far more rewarding than in 2020.

This is precisely what makes those obnoxious CEO salaries possible. They are pinching 10 dollars each hour from those serving at the frontline and putting it in their pockets. That is how Jeff Bezos earns $149,353 a minute.

At $7.25 an hour, working 10 hours a day, 25 days a month (Sunday off), one would make $1812.5.

The Republicans have been quick to place the blame at the Democrats’ doorstep. The $2 Trillion aid package sent out a $1400 cheque to the poor, which Biden enacted as soon as becoming President. First of all, if $1400 is keep people away from jobs, you really need to consider how much you are paying them. In large cities in America, rent alone can be $500 – $1000 in poorer neighbourhoods.

But there is more than that!

Three million Americans retired during the first six months of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, and that could make returning to full employment in the US more challenging.

The US labor market is like a complicated, sophisticated house party: It’s not just one-in, one-out at the main entrance. People are switching rooms, popping in the side-door, falling out the windows and sneaking in again through the back. Americans have been quitting at the highest rate in decades as the pandemic recession spurred them reevaluate what they want from their employers, even as record-high job openings entice them with new opportunities.

If more workers are demonstrating the leverage they now hold by quitting, many are also showing their independence from the labor market by retiring. During the pandemic, the share of Americans in retirement jumped from about 18.5% to 19.5%:

Source: Quartz

America is ageing. The median age was 30 in 1980, it has slowly crept up to 39 by 2021. Youngsters are unwilling to start families because it is very expensive and the disparities they have inherited make it harder and harder for them to cover the costs.

Several immigrants, especially the undocumented ones who would have worked the seven dollar jobs most probably left the country during the lockdown, unable to cover costs in the US.

Most importantly, these people who work low wages were the first ones to be exposed to COVID and also died by the hoards. They also were in no position to afford care for themselves. There is bound to be fear about exposing themselves once more.

Also, irrespective, if the businesses are desperately looking for people, this is the time to ask for more. This is when they can hope to get ahead. So many are probably just playing hardball.

As a result,

“As you know, we are experiencing one of the greatest hiring challenges in the history of DFW Airport,” wrote Ken Buchanan, executive vice president of revenue management and customer experience at DFW airport, in a May 27 letter to concessionaires. “As we prepare for a busy summer, please continue to practice DFW Airport’s high standards of hiring operations and refrain from soliciting employees from other DFW operations (‘poaching’).”

Source: Quartz

Anti-poaching agreements are illegal. Apple and Google settled their case by paying $415 Million back in 2015.

Space Race

The term Space Race was coined during the cold was to describe the competition that was unleashed between Russia and the US to reach space. The fear at the time was that whoever had control of space, would be able to look into another country and control them just by having the capability to attack them at will.

Russia armed some German documents built their rockets. At the same time, Americans ran ‘Operation Paperclip‘ and smuggled all of the German scientists waiting to go to trial at Nuremberg to America to build their rockets.

Today, capitalists who have squeezed so much money out of people, as cited above, are taking that money to engage in some ego wars by going to space.

Jeff Bezos announced at the end of last month that he was going to go to space on July 20th with his brother on the Blue Origin spacecraft.

Richard Branson who has been working on Virgin Galactic since 2003 announced that he would be going to space on 11th July using a craft that is first flow under a plane to the upper reaches of the atmosphere before being released to launch to about 60 km above the earth.

Not only are they waving it at each other, but they are also trying to turn it into a mission to habilitate their image and get as much PR as they can.

Sirisha Bandla, a Telugu-origin woman, is all set to realise her childhood dream of going to space. With Virgin Galactic launching its crewed test spaceflight on July 11, Bandla will be the backbone of this operation and accompany company’s founder Richard Branson to space.

Source: New Indian Express


An 82-year-old woman who has spent six decades trying to reach space will join Jeff Bezos on the first human flight by his space company later this month.

Wally Funk, who underwent training in the 1960s, will become the oldest person to ever fly to space.

Mr Bezos has invited Ms Funk as an “honoured guest” and shared video on Instagram of him telling her the news.

She will join the Amazon founder, his brother Mark and a mystery person who paid $28m (£20m) at auction for a seat.

Source: BBC

Rich people. 🤦🏽‍♂️

Corporate Tax

Three issues back, I had explained the tax deal being entered into by the G7 and what that meant for the rest of the countries. I had ended that piece by saying – let the intimidations begin.

Turns out 130 countries have already fallen in line.

Officials from 130 countries, including G20 nations and OECD members, agreed on Thursday in Germany’s business hub of Frankfurt to the broad outlines for an overhaul of rules for taxing international companies.

“The principles underlying the solution vindicate India‘s stand,” the government said in a statement.

It listed advantages such as a greater share of profits for the markets, consideration of demand-side factors in profit allocation and tax rules to stop treaty shopping.

Source: The Wire

Given that India is not a tax haven and we “try” to tax corporations at a rate that is double what this agreement requires, I do not even know what this means for India. Also, given that the Prime Minister was casually joking about India’s commitment to “defending democracy, freedom of thought and liberty”, I don’t even know how serious they really are.


The American oil & gas industry delivers one thing without fail – Catastrophe.

General Thinking

Hard Work

is for fools!

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. ~ Proverbs 14:23

Americans did not invent capitalism. It was around 2000 years before the country even came into being as evidenced above. The Americans perfected it.

There is a myth that is at the heart of capitalism; the harder you work, the more you get paid. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Kindergarten teachers are the poorest paid — everywhere in the world — and it takes incredible work to handle 20 kids even with help. They probably have shorter hours than most other professions, but the work, during the hours that they put in is incredibly hard. Take a university professor by comparison. Those who are dedicated, end up running a consulting business on the side as well. Not only that, the universities themselves would easily pay them 20 times the money that the Kindergarten teachers are paid. Hard work gets paid like shit.

Nurses have the unenviable work of not only administering most of the medicines, getting the reading, changing the patient and cleaning them. Unquestionably harder work than the doctors. Doctors probably know more, in terms of medicine, which is what they have been trained in; if they were to undertake the upkeep of a patient, most would be unable to cope. We all know who gets paid more.

This brings us to the CEO as opposed to his workers. In any large company, the CEOs spend most of their time blowing up the money that those working in the company, make. They take a few decisions now and then and take the credit for things running smoothly. Most workers work infinitely harder than the CEO but they are not the ones who get paid the most.

There are just too many jobs in this world, that will take too much work for too little returns. Also, working really hard has never guaranteed more money.

The people who work in finance make the MOST money of any profession in the world. Also, when they screw up monumentally, the American government bails them out and they pay themselves huge bonuses. Their work requires ONLY talking most of the time. Hence proving that Proverbs 14:23 is completely wrong.

Hard work is for fools. Making money often comes down to being educated and having the willingness to be ruthless.

Also, follow me on Twitter @viveksrn to know when the newsletter drops.

What we think, we become ~ Buddha

You can follow my podcasts here.

Originally published on

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Philanthropy | Learning by Proxy

When you hear the word Philanthropy, you conjure up images of generous people with buckets full of money hurling their money at hoards of poor people. The truth is far from that. Often they are giving away little to nothing and what they do give is more than recovered through the access that they are able to secure to the corridors of power.

I think the word needs to undergo redefinition.


In the last edition, I dove into the antitrust cases and the laws that are being put together against the tech titans of America. The original antitrust case which resulted in the creation of the FTC in the first place was a case against Standard Oil.

A company founded in 1870 by John D Rockefeller became an oil monopoly making him immensely rich. The company unsurprisingly grew through the acquisition of smaller competitors. In many cases, they were acquired and shut down because they were inefficient. What it did was eliminate one more competitor for the company.

Standard’s actions and secret transport deals helped its kerosene price to drop from 58 to 26 cents from 1865 to 1870. Rockefeller used the Erie Canal as a cheap alternative form of transportation—in the summer months when it was not frozen—to ship his refined oil from Cleveland to New York City. In the winter months, his only options were the three trunk lines—the Erie Railroad and the New York Central Railroad to New York City, and the Pennsylvania Railroad to Philadelphia. Competitors disliked the company’s business practices, but consumers liked the lower prices. Standard Oil, being formed well before the discovery of the Spindletop oil field (in Texas, far from Standard Oil’s base in the Midwest) and a demand for oil other than for heat and light, was well placed to control the growth of the oil business. The company was perceived to own and control all aspects of the trade.

Source: Wikipedia

There is an uncanny resemblance in the business practices of Standard Oil, to that of another company we know today.

By 1890, the American government got fed up and passed the Sherman Act which became the basis for anti-monopoly proceedings.

Even so, it was only in 1911 that the Supreme Court finally ordered the breakup of Standard Oil into 34 companies which gave birth to Exxon, Chevron, Mobil, Amoco and several others.

Between 1890 and 1911, as his name became associated with notoriety, in order to bolster his image, John D Rockefeller started the Rockefeller Foundation. At the time, it immensely helped rehabilitate his image, enough to keep Standard Oil together for 15 more years!

As of 2016, Rockefeller Foundation has 4.1 billion dollars under management. In 2019, the foundation gave away 103.8 million for development.

In the dictionary, the word Philanthropy means “Goodwill to fellow members of the human race.” A secondary meaning is “An act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.”

Obviously, this is rather broad and all-encompassing.

As it would turn out, Mr John D Rockefeller had provided American businessmen, who would come after him with a template. Not just for image rehabilitation but also for tax evasion.

Establishing a private foundation may make it possible for you to:

Reduce your income tax for every year in which you make a contribution;

Avoid capital gains taxes, depending on the characteristics of assets contributed;

Increase the foundation’s assets through tax-advantaged growth and compounding;

Reduce or eliminate potential estate taxes.

Source: Forbes

The article above explains each aspect in detail in case you are interested.

So in his footsteps followed the likes of John Koch, Julia Koch and family, Henry Ford, Julian Robertson, Ted Turner, Amos Hostetter, Phil Knight, George Kaiser, Donald Bren, Leonard Lauder, Denny Sanford, Charles Schusterman, Eli Broad, Jim Simons, David Hewlett, Gordon Moore, and then came Bill Gates.

Bill Gates started the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations in 2000. Just 15 months before that, Bill Gates was sitting in a deposition on an Antitrust case against Microsoft. His ego as well as his image had taken a major bruising. He needed to desperately rehabilitate it. Also, he had amassed a lot of wealth from Microsoft and he needed to sell his shares and get the money out. There was no way that he could do it while still at the helm of affairs. Much like the Jeff Bezos conundrum today.

Now, the Foundation also happens to be the largest landholder in the United States of America and also one of the big stakeholders in Four Seasons. He even set up an incubator to work on potential vaccines in Feb 2020. One of the candidates incubated was by a group of scientists from Oxford. When they came up with it, they just wanted to release all the data online for free.

When the director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute had funny ideas about placing the rights to its COVAX-supported vaccine candidate in the public domain, Gates intervened. As reported by Kaiser Health News, “A few weeks later, Oxford—urged on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—reversed course [and] signed an exclusive vaccine deal with AstraZeneca that gave the pharmaceutical giant sole rights and no guarantee of low prices.”

Source: New Republic

I have no idea how that is justified as philanthropy, sure sounds like an investment to me.

The foundation claims to have given away USD 48 Billion dollars. What they do not tell you is that a lot of it is pledged and not really given away yet; also, this is the aggregate over 21 years! Take your calculators out and divide. On USD 100 Billion if you are getting a 10% return year on year and giving away USD 2 Billion each year, the ‘giving’ is a smokescreen to get away with anything.

Not to be singled out, he launched the Giving Pledge in 2010 through which he brought hoards of tech and non-tech Billionaires from across the world into the Foundation business. This included everyone from 80-year-old Warren Buffet to then 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg. Mark may have fired this shot too early to benefit from any goodwill.

The divorce was a kick in the shin for Bill Gates. His carefully crafted image took a hit and too many inside stories “leaked” out further decimating his image in the public eye. Much like Mark Zuckerberg, the foundation card is going to be hard to use any longer.


Warren Buffett has resigned from his trustee position at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the 90-year-old investor announced Wednesday.

In a statement, Buffett didn’t specify why he’s leaving the foundation, but noted he has already resigned from all corporate boards other than Berkshire Hathaway’s. Buffett added that the foundation’s new CEO, Mark Suzman, is an “outstanding” selection and has his “full support.”

Source: CNN

Solar Energy

There are few things that are achieved ahead of time; even fewer when it is a government endeavour. India had set itself the goal of reaching 20 GW by 2022. This target was met 4 years ahead of time. Further, the total solar deployment in India today stands at 40 GW as of March 2021.

The rapid growth in deployment of Solar Energy was thanks in part to the huge impetus from the government, low priced solar panels from China flooding the Indian market and costs declining rapidly in the face of huge scale. And then we ourselves threw a spanner in the works.

A bunch of Indian Solar panel manufacturers went to the government and lobbied for a reduction of imports. Much like the government is fixated on killing the e-commerce industry, the Indian government to its own detriment promptly levied a tariff on imported solar panels. To add to this several states wanted to re-negotiate the cost of electricity being supplied and reneged on their agreements.

Imagine, you build a projection to build a solar plant for Rs. 4000 Crores. The central government tells you, your solar panels will cost 40% more and the state government tells you they will pay you 50% of what was agreed. What do you do?

Imports dropped and so did new solar capacity added. Further,

The dysfunction also shows in how poorly India’s solar markets are designed. Apart from rooftop solar, ground-based solar is the other big part of India’s solar sector. Its growth, however, entirely depends on tenders from government bodies like NTPC and SECI.

Let that sink in. The rate at which India adds fresh solar capacity is determined not by demand (DISCOMs’ demand for solar power) or supply (investors wanting to put money into solar projects), but the rate at which NTPC and SECI produce tenders. “We need a SECI that is 10 times larger,” said a senior financial officer at Mumbai-headquartered conglomerate Shapoorji Pallonji. Or, better yet, a liberalised solar market.

Source: The Wire

India has also had an erratic energy policy. Last year as the country went into lockdown due to the CAA protests (it’s clear now, COVID was not even part of the decision matrix, just an excuse), the government pushed through a policy to promote more fossil fuel-based electric production!

In this context,

After running one of the world’s largest petroleum businesses for more than two decades, India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani today (June 24) announced he’s steering his company, Reliance Industries (RIL), towards renewable energy with an investment of 75,000 crore Indian rupees ($10 billion) over the next three years.


The RIL chairman said that his company plans to build four gigafactories to manufacture and integrate all critical components of the New Energy ecosystem.

The four factories will make or use:

Solar photovoltaic modules, for the production of solar energy.

Energy storage batteries, for intermittent energy.

Electrolysers, for the production of green hydrogen.

Fuel cells, for converting hydrogen into mobile and stationary power.

“Reliance will thus create and offer a fully integrated, end-to-end renewables energy eco-system,” Ambani added.

Source: Quartz

All said and done, Reliance is a petroleum company and there is no doubt that across the world there are serious questions that are being posed about the long term sustainability of oil. 3 issues back, I had written about Engine One which had pulled off a coup with ExxonMobil.

With Indian manufacturers not being in a position to compete on price or scale and with the Chinese manufacturers being pushed out thanks to the duty imposed on them, the deck is clear for Reliance to move in; if they can deliver.


Pfizer and Moderna are being distributed only in the western world. The vaccine manufactured by these companies uses new technology. Quite frankly, nobody including themselves knows what the long term effect of the vaccine would be. The world has never had an mRNA based vaccine and it literally instructs the body to do something (product proteins) that it did not know how to. What will it do thereafter? In theory nothing. In practice, nobody knows.

The issue is that there is a non-zero probability that there are some long-term side effects that only surface 5 or 10 years from now.

Since the companies see themselves as rising up to a humanitarian crisis, they want to be indemnified from any legal challenge that arises out of side effects or such issues in the future.

Countries like the US have provided them with indemnity. Also, given that a country like the US can print a few Trillion dollars at will and distribute, the companies have little reason to worry that the indemnity would be lived up to.

But what about countries that do not have high credit ratings? What about those who have defaulted on their bonds?

Officials from Argentina and the other Latin American country, which cannot be named as it has signed a confidentiality agreement with Pfizer, said the company’s negotiators demanded additional indemnity against any civil claims citizens might file if they experienced adverse effects after being inoculated. In Argentina and Brazil, Pfizer asked for sovereign assets to be put up as collateral for any future legal costs.

One official who was present in the unnamed country’s negotiations described Pfizer’s demands as “high-level bullying” and said the government felt like it was being “held to ransom” in order to access life-saving vaccines.


Pfizer asked for additional indemnity from civil cases, meaning that the company would not be held liable for rare adverse effects or for its own acts of negligence, fraud or malice. This includes those linked to company practices – say, if Pfizer sent the wrong vaccine or made errors during manufacturing.

Source: The Wire

The East India Company came to India as traders and then appropriated a lot of the wealth of the land. This a nouveau imperialism – let us call it vaccine imperialism.

Just because you are uncertain about your product, the country is supposed to pledge its sovereign assets to cover your ass?!! Sovereign assets belong to the country. The people of the country. So you will be taking more from the people and giving it back to them!

Jair Bolsanaro might be an idiot, but he would be an even greater idiot if he gave into this nonsense.

Delta Variant

In my last post from April – Mutation Vs Mute Nation – I had explained how a virus mutates and why the widespread transmission of COVID is a problem. We spawned a new devil now branded the delta variant. Turns out…

The Delta variant has certain significant mutations in the spike protein of the virus—the pointy elements that give it the shape of a crown (which is why it’s called the coronavirus). These spikes are like hooks that have to find the receptors in a human cell to link with. Studies have shown that these spikes hook onto receptors called ACE-2. Once these spike proteins can unlock the cells, the infection spreads by replicating the genetic code of the virus.

Some key mutations in the Delta variant—such as the E484Q, L452R, and P614R—make it easier for the spikes in the virus to attach to ACE-2 receptors. This means it can infect and replicate faster, and even evade the body’s natural disease-fighting immunity more efficiently.

The spike protein mutations make the Delta variant the “fastest and fittest” variant yet, according to the WHO. The disease caused by this variant might also exhibit different symptoms than other viral mutations. Those with the Delta variant often complain of headaches, sore throat, and a runny nose, replacing cough and loss of taste of smell as the most common symptoms.

Source: Quartz

The mutation is faster and stronger. Now, in the UK they have also found the Delta + Variant, which is also taking hold in India across 10 states. They have also found the Gamma and Lambda variants which are further mutation on the delta variant.

An analysis by the Gupta Lab at Cambridge University, a team of infectious diseases specialists led by Ravindra K. Gupta, has found that the AstraZeneca vaccine (called Covishield in India) is significantly less effective against infections from the Delta variant. This study was conducted in a lab using samples from vaccinated individuals and testing them against the wild type of the coronavirus (first detected in Wuhan), Alpha variants (first found in the UK), and Delta variants, first seen in India.

Source: Quartz

This explains why those who had been given both doses of the AZ vaccine in India still ended up getting infected and in many cases died. Pfizer and Moderna have not published data from their end.

Just when we thought it was all coming to an end.

On that note.


You just need to stand your ground

General Thinking

To be good…

You have to be willing to be bad first…

When I started writing this blog, I did, because there were those who told me that I spoke well and I should probably write. First of all, speaking and writing are two incredibly different skill. As much as singing and dancing are. Just because you are good with one, you need not be good with the other. 

Just like singing and dancing are both art forms; speaking and writing are both forms of expressing an idea.

For me, I needed to get started. The lockdown last year freed up a good 4 – 7 hours of time I would have normally spent sitting in a car shuttling across the city each day. I started writing. Now when I look back at some of the blogs that I had written back then, I find 7 in 10 sucked.

I would like to believe that there has been a certain degree of improvement since. I will let you be the judge of that.

Either way; part of the process of becoming a better writer involves delivering shitty posts. You need that practice to become better. You need to see how you can improve and continue to work on it consistently.

To be great at something you have to be willing to be bad at something first.

The trouble with the world today is that we expect excellence from the beginning. We expect to pass an exam (which are useless) on the first attempt. We expect to deliver the very best, the most flawless work in the first pass it. We expect never to fail. 

The only that you can deliver without failure is mediocrity. 

Learning by Proxy

Techocalypse | Learning by Proxy

Learning by Proxy is a weekly newsletter that covers things happening around the world, along with some context that helps you understand it better.
This is the 65th edition of the newsletter.

Technology regulation is becoming a minefield of complications. While the internet started out in America but its regulation started in Europe. Finally, the American legislation is catching up and how?

They are going for the jugular! While it might be hard to bell the cat; they have created the bell.


In 1997, Apple was hanging on to dear life. When Michael Dell was asked what his one advice to Steve Jobs would be, he said, “Take the cash and return it to the shareholders and shut down the company”.

Both Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk were balding. Jeff went one way (shave) and Elon another(implants).

Mark Zuckerberg was probably being a prick to someone in High School and Bill Gates was the worst human to walk the planet, a title he is proud to holds to this day!

Lisa Khan was in primary school.

As the years passed, all of the companies mentioned above grew and as they grew, they made it their business to dominate their respective field. Often this involved buying out any of the up and coming competitors OR intimidating them and their investors to drop the gauntlet. They grew so much that today each of the companies is valued at figures that are comparable to the GDP of various nations. Not small ones – Apple is 70% of the GDP of India.

Between the incredible management of COVID over the past few months and the misreporting of numbers, it might as well be 100%.


Lisa Khan grew up and went to Yale. Don’t get impressed yet, George Bush also went there. But then she wrote an article while at Yale.

Amazon is the titan of twenty-first century commerce. In addition to being a retailer, it is now a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space. Although Amazon has clocked staggering growth, it generates meager profits, choosing to price below-cost and expand widely instead. Through this strategy, the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it. Elements of the firm’s structure and conduct pose anticompetitive concerns—yet it has escaped antitrust scrutiny.

Source: Yale Law Journal

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a body that adjudicates ‘fair play awards’ for businesses. But instead of using carrots, they like to use sticks. They enforce Anti-Trust laws and are responsible for consumer protection. Under the Trump administration, all of the agencies were skewed towards the businesses. Their staffing reduced by half in many cases and headed by complete jokers. He even dismantled the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which was Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild under Obama – to rein in banks, you know, who caused 2008.

Biden is making amends and he appointed Lisa Khan the head of the FTC.

Four years ago, Lina Khan was a month out of law school, where she had published a groundbreaking article arguing that the prevailing legal doctrine was allowing Amazon to get away with anticompetitive behavior. Antitrust law was not yet a high-profile issue, and Khan’s suggestion that it might apply to tech companies whose core consumer offerings were free or famously cheap was considered bizarre by much of the legal establishment. This week, Khan, at all of 32 years old, was appointed chair of the Federal Trade Commission, one of the two agencies with the most power to enforce competition law.


The introduction of the five House antitrust bills and the elevation of Khan to FTC chair, for example, look like two separate stories. But they’re really two parts of the same story: Khan was herself the key investigator behind the House antitrust subcommittee’s investigation of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, begun in 2019. The bills introduced last week are the fruits of that investigation.

Source: Wired

Lobbyist in Washington DC and lawyers in San Francisco had a busy week and signed several retainers!

Now there are 5 laws that are being pushed through Congress to rein in the Tech Companies. I had written about this piece-meal in my previous editions. Here, here, and here.

The 5 bills that are currently on the floor are –

  1. Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021 – Essentially supposed to make it a little more costly to acquire.
  2. Access Act – Meant to protect and ensure support for senior citizens – trains its guns on data portability. No more platform lock-in.
  3. American Choice and Innovation Online Act – Self-preferencing of services.
  4. Ending Platform Monopolies Act – Platform companies competing with services on their platform. Apple Music Vs Spotify or Amazon selling the same products that sellers sell on Amazon.
  5. Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021Banning M&A, especially for the Big 4.

Barring the first law, which is a mandatory fee meant to make M&A more expensive, it would certainly not act as a deterrent. A few million dollars are not going to stop Billion dollar deals.

The next four are meant to be applied to companies that are considered “Covered Platforms”

This is defined as:

(i) at the time of the Commission’s or the Department of Justice’s designation under section 2(d), or any of the twelve months preceding that time, or in any of the 12 months preceding the filing of a complaint for an alleged violation of this Act –

(I) Has at least 50,000,000 United States-based monthly active users on the online platform; or

(II) has at least 100,000 United States-based monthly active business users on the platform;

(ii) is owned or controlled by a person with net annual sales, or a market capitalization greater than $600,000,000,000, adjusted for inflation on the basis of the Consumer Price Index, at the time of the Commission’s or the Department of Justice’s designation under section 2(d) or anyof the two years preceding that time, or at any time in the 2 years preceding the filing of a complaint for an alleged violation of this Act; and

(iii) is a critical trading partner for the sale or provision of any product or service offered on or directly related to the online platform.

Source: US Congress

The hope is that with the teeth that these laws provide, the FTC will be able to go after very specific companies. How many companies have a valuation greater than USD 600 billion?

In its current form, the bill would not even be pass because it is too tightly defined. This becomes a problem because…

A bill of attainder (also known as an act of attainder or writ of attainder or bill of penalties) is an act of a legislature declaring a person, or a group of persons, guilty of some crime, and punishing them, often without a trial. As with attainder resulting from the normal judicial process, the effect of such a bill is to nullify the targeted person’s civil rights, most notably the right to own property (and thus pass it on to heirs), the right to a title of nobility, and, in at least the original usage, the right to life itself. Bills of attainder passed in Parliament by Henry VIII on 29 January 1542 resulted in the executions of a number of notable historical figures.


The United States Constitution forbids legislative bills of attainder: in federal law under Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 (“No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed”), and in state law under Article I, Section 10. The fact that they were banned even under state law reflects the importance that the Framers attached to this issue.

Source: Wikipedia

A law that targets a very small number of companies only will be treated the same way, a law only meant for the blacks would be treated. It is discriminative. The legal experts who get paid tens of millions by the top tech companies would know this. So this language would have to be tweaked. It remains to be seen if it has any teeth left when they are done with it.

The one thing that is clear, is that the anti-trust case against tech companies has bi-partisan support in the US, for vastly different reasons, but they support it nevertheless. With an FTC that is helmed by someone with strong opinions and with lawmakers who are willing to make the required laws, it won’t be too long before the axe starts swinging.

Now you can see why Jeff Bezos could not wait a day longer to quit his role as CEO of Amazon and start dumping Amazon shares. By the time this investigation start delivering blows, the newly retired Jeff Bezos would have formed a “foundation” and “Donated” all of his shares to it which would then have sold it to engage in “Philanthropy”.

Facebook bought Instagram for USD 1 billion and WhatsApp for USD 19 billion. Do you want to know what happens if the company is not allowed to buy another on the cheap like that?

and then,

The United Nations Special Rapporteurs have written to the Government of India expressing concerns about the newly notified IT Rules, 2021, and asked it carry out a detailed review, and consult with all relevant stakeholders.

Source: Inc42

Instead, if these guys could just get the world leaders around a table just like for the climate summit and debate and agree to a single law for the Internet globally, there would not be an IT Rules, 2021.

If we can agree on protocols such as Bluetooth and IEEE 802.11 (WiFi for short); why on earth can’t we agree on a set of protocols for how the internet functions and how things work within it globally?


The leg that kicked the axe

The leg of course belongs to Britain. And the result – Brexit.

Britain left the EU in the midst of the Covid lockdown and went into stricter lockdown in Jan 2021. As a result of it, consumption declined and the hits that the county has been taking have generally been macro-economic. The fund movement by large banks to the mainland, and such.

Now as Britain emerges from the lockdown (sort of), the real effects are being left.

Agnieszka Bleka has had to work hard in past years to find companies that need workers, spending much of her day reaching out to local businesses in the northern English city of Preston where she is based.

But now, Ms. Bleka, who owns Workforce Consultants, a company that finds jobs in Britain for mostly Eastern and Central Europeans, said that she was fielding several calls a day from companies looking for temporary staff, and that she can’t keep up with the demand.

“The fish pond is getting smaller,” she said. “And people are picking and choosing the jobs, or leaving as well, going to their home countries.”

Source: New York Times

Brexit was supported in Britain because there was a perception that the migrants were stealing local jobs and causing unemployment amongst the British. To say the least, Brexit has been immensely successful. It has chased all those migrants who were doing the hard work, away.

Jack Kennedy, an economist at Indeed, a job search site, said the demand for hospitality workers was outpacing the number of available workers across the sector.

“The job postings have been rising so fast and the supply of candidates just really hasn’t been able to keep up with that,” he said, adding that a reliance by some industries on foreign-born workers who may have left during the pandemic had probably been part of the problem.

But the dearth of employees is also driving up pay, he said, with hourly wages advertised for hospitality roles across the country increasing. That raises the question of whether other industries struggling to fill roles will follow suit, and how big of an impact on the economy the shortages will have.

Source: New York Times

It seems like there is a solution to this problem – Immigrants!


In the show Mosquito Coast, Allie a character played by Justin Theroux walks into a poor neighbourhood. There are several homeless people who are making good with any shelter they can find. He says – you know what their crime is, they don’t consume.

Capitalism stands on the bedrock of consumption and if people don’t consume; capitalism fails. This is also the reason we will never successfully fight climate change till we hang around in this capitalistic paradigm.

China is an authoritarian state but it operates in a capitalistic paradigm. If the Chinese Communist Party is going to clamp down on free speech, the millennials have found a novel way to protest.

During its seven decades of ruling in China, the Chinese Communist Party has become increasingly skilled at crushing street protests such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square student demonstrations. But the government is now facing a new form of resistance that may be a little harder to put down—“Tang Ping” (躺平) or lying flat, a passive approach to life that subtly thwarts the government’s desire to foster a hardworking and productive populace.

The concept advocates an almost monastic outlook, including not getting married, not having children, not having a job, not owning property, and consuming as little as possible. For many, this is almost the only way in an authoritarian country to fight against the growing pressures from long work hours, skyrocketing housing prices, and the ever higher cost of raising children. Lifestyle philosophies based on rejecting ambition, and being a cog in China’s capitalist machine have been spreading in recent years, and “lying flat” is the latest culmination of such trends, explained Wu Qiang, an independent political analyst in Beijing.

Source: Quartz

The Chinese government has treated people like machines. They restricted reproduction to one child when they wanted and now want to turn that knob to 2 since it suits them. They seem to have found the extent to which humans – living in how much ever ignorance – would allow the government to push them around.

What can you do when the rebellion involves doing nothing? Can you really punish them?

“You can’t stand up, but you don’t want to kneel down. Then you can only lie flat,” one Weibo user recently put it.

Source: Quartz


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