Report cards

Here’s some fun, on another gloomy Pedestrian Day, courtesy “Bhutanomics”, a website many have been frequenting recently. I’m tempted to run a poll to see whose report card is the funniest (i.e., the most accurate).


Comments rule

This blog has enjoyed tremendous success. That success – measured by the number of readers who visit this blog every day – is not just because of my posts. Instead, it’s driven mainly by your comments.

Many of your comments are informative. They are thoughtful. And they are insightful. In fact, many of them are better than the original post. That’s why they generate so much attention. And that’s why there’s such vibrant debate.

So naturally, I am deeply grateful for your comments.

That said, some of the comments have also been spiteful. They’ve been written with the sole intention of lobbing personal attacks at other people. Such comments distract our readers from the main issues; they compromise healthy discussions, and they suffocate constructive debate.

The prime minister and other public officials, including yours truly, have all been victims of abusive comments and personal attacks. Other prominent people and some commentators have also suffered. But, so far, I have not intervened; I have not moderated the comments. That’s because I did not wish to risk stifling any one’s views in any way. Plus, I strongly believe that, in the overall analysis, a free-for-all discussion space generates more good than harm.

However, the number of malicious comments intended to discredit people has increased sharply. Perhaps that’s because we’ve been discussing many more controversial issues. But then again, perhaps it’s the looming elections that is spawning the vitriol.

So I’ve decided to moderate this blog, more carefully, and more attentively. I am aware that I risk interfering in your views and how you express them. But I am also keenly aware that, left unchecked, personal attacks and vicious comments will crowd out other useful comments. And that the fruitful discussions we enjoy now will degenerate to meaningless noise.

That’s why I have decided to moderate all comments. But I will do so reluctantly. And with great hesitation.

Starting with this post itself, I will remove any comment that I think is abusive; that I consider to be a personal attack; or that is not directly relevant to the issue that I have raised.

On my part, I commit to actively engage in the discussions by interacting with you instead of just listening to you. If you would like to raise issues that are not directly relevant to my post, you may do so by emailing them to me – I’ll consider posting them as separate entries.

Thanks to your active participation, this blog has enjoyed tremendous success. Let’s work together, with dignity and mutual respect, to strengthen and build on that success.


Big Picture 13

Where, in Bhutan, is this place? The best answer wins a packet of Nado’s zurpoe incense.

I’m sorry

My blog has been giving me a lot of trouble lately. I haven’t been able to access my control panel. So that means that I haven’t been able to update posts or approve new comments.

I’m sorry if you’ve had trouble with this site. I’ll try to fix the problem as soon as possible.

On a happier note, it looks like my recent problems are due to the increasing traffic on my blog.

Big picture -12

Can anyone tell me what this is?


When loss is gain

Our gain

Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, launched When Loss is Gain yesterday, at the closing session of Mountain Echoes 2012, a literary festival that keeps getting bigger and more successful each year.

When Loss is Gain is written by H.E Pavan K. Varma, India’s ambassador to Bhutan, and a prolific writer who has already authored no less than 16 other books. This, however, is his first work of fiction, and one that you will most probably read continuously, in one sitting, from cover to very enjoyable cover.

The story, set mostly in Bhutan, is about the profound transformation in the lives and fortunes of a couple of Indians who accidentally meet in Wangsisina.

The book is already a commercial success in India; a French edition will be released soon; and there’s excited talk about making the story into an international film.

In short, the book has projected Bhutan to India and the world. And in doing so, it will, in some ways, transform the lives and fortunes of Bhutan and her people.

Your Excellency: congratulations … and thank you.

About financial crisis

If you, like me, want to know more about the global financial crisis, here’s a quick two-step process.

First, get hold of Justin Cartwright’s novel Other People’s Money. Okay, it’s fiction. But it’s very readable. And you’ll find that the story, which revolves around a failing London bank, provides an enjoyable introduction to why financial institutions collapse, and how rich bankers, powerful politicians and influential journalists conspire to prevent the bank from crashing.

Justin Cartwright’s story also mentions Bhutan – not as the land of gross national happiness, or as an up and coming financial centre, but, interestingly, as a refuge for the mysterious yeti!

Second, download Getting up to Speed on the Financial Crisis: A One-Weekend-Reader’s Guide by Gary Gorton and Andrew Matrick. This paper, also quite readable, is a summary of 16 other documents, and explains what happened during the financial crisis 2007 – 2009.

The one-weekend guide also has a Bhutan connection. The paper was recommended by Dorji Wangchuk on one of his many informative tweets. Dorji Wangchuk is an economist and financial expert working in the UK.


Big picture

It’s been a while since we last played the “Big picture”. The person who most accurately tells what the picture is receives an appropriate gift.

Double wedding

Double the joy

Earlier today, twin sisters Sonam Lucky and Lucky Wangmo married twin brothers Nima Dorji and Dawa Wangchuk in a double wedding.

How rare is that? Very rare. Facts About Multiples, an online encyclopedia of multiple birth records, has recorded just 28 instances of quarternary marriages i.e., twins marrying twins.

How cool is that? Very cool. Many guests talked about the double wedding as a spontaneous opening act to the much anticipated Royal Wedding that we will celebrate in October this year.


Powerful tendency

Absolutely right

In their editorial last Sunday, The Journalist warned us that “Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”.

Their editorial, and the quote about how power can corrupt, reminded me about a conversation I had with a friend of Bhutan several years ago. This is how she explained the context of the quote by Lord John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, an English historian and the First Baron of Acton (1834-1902):

In 1870, the Catholic Church entered a crisis over Vatican’s promulgation of the dogma of “papal infallibility” — the dogma in Catholic theology that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error, when he teaches faith or morals in the context of divine revelation.

Lord Acton was a devout Catholic. He went to Rome to fight against the dogma of papal infallibility, but failed. It was in this context that, on April 1887, Lord Acton made his famous statement in a letter to an ecclesiastic scholar Mandell Creighton:

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. “

This friend of Bhutan carries considerable influence and authority herself. And she explained that knowledge of this story could be useful in any fight against those who abuse authority and misuse power.

And for good measure, she added:

I have met only one man in my career who quoted the much misquoted quote accurately, word for word: His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.