Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Hindi belt

i find that my knowledge of the Hindi belt is very poor. Recently, I came across the writings of Mrunalini Pande whose mother Shivani and sister Ira Pande are also writers. Here is an Obituary of Shivani by Ira Pande. The next step is to browse The other country:Dispatches from Moffusil by Mrinal Pande

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reducing cognitive decline

How to reduce the risk of cogniitive decline with age "Studies have found that women may be at reduced risk of cognitive decline, simply because of the activities they choose. "

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lucy Crehan about education in Singapore

Still about Singapore. It does not go into other aspects like tax haven status, as a part of global chain in whose name goods are supposed to change hands and marked up while still in sea, labour practices....Hi - From "Cleverlands: The Secrets Behind the Success of the World’s Education Superpowers" by Lucy Crehan:
"The system produces spectacular results in reading, maths and science, the policies are ever so sensible and carefully thought through and the teacher training provision seems excellent. Vocational education is well-funded and leads to low unemployment rates, and introducing sophisticated career structures that offer teachers incentives, time and support in developing their practice could suit countries in which professional development is ineffective, or only available for the most dedicated of teachers. Offering teachers sabbaticals in which they work in the civil service designing curricula and education programmes is also an idea that might transfer well to a Western context, and might ensure that such programmes are workable and beneficial when implemented in the real-life context of a school. In these ways I found the Singaporean system to be very well run. However, when you spend a bit of time in this system, and you also see the less shiny side. Children’s futures are decided at a young age based on results that are heavily influenced by private tutoring, and an intensely competitive structure piles pressure on students at all levels. Would you want this in your country?"
P.S. Another from the same section:
This bit may be useful in any country and probably known to many teachers. But university teachers generally are not trained. I find that I missed many of these.
From "Cleverlands: The Secrets Behind the Success of the World’s Education Superpowers" by Lucy Crehan.
In the sections about Singapore:
"Well, all these teachers have a mentor and have colleagues to work on their planning with them in weekly planning meetings. But what they also have –which seemed to play a role in making sure all lessons were of at least a minimum, decent standard –are teachers’ guides. Students have good quality textbooks too, of the same high quality as those found in Finland, but many of the teachers also have accompanying books that contain a whole host of useful information and advice, which are crafted by individual schools and subject departments, and contain: 

Objectives for the lesson
Common misconceptions children have about this topic 
Suggested questions to get them thinking 
Assessment questions to help figure out what they’ve understood 
Suggested activities
Having a book like this when I was teaching secondary science would have saved me so much time. Even if you were to follow these tips and utilise the student textbooks, and not do any planning, your lesson would be boring but well-constructed. If you were to use these tips as a springboard, allowing you the time to make the lesson your own and modify it to suit the particular needs and interests of your children it could be well-constructed and exciting. "

Is there a lesson for NGOs here?

"Many believe that millions of people flock to the dozens of religious groups like Singh's because they feel that mainstream politics and religion have failed them. In what they feel is an increasingly inequitable world, they feel let down by their politicians and priests, and turn to gurus and shamans for succour." from How a divided India fuelled the rise of gurus by Soutik Biswas 
Related here and here.
p.S. Rahul Banerjee says "There definitely is and i will write on it shortly in my blog!!"

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tyler Cowan asks

What should I read to better understand the Indian caste system? I thank you all in advance for your assistance.
P.S.I think nobody knows. May be some thing along what Steve Sailor suggests may be good. How historically important groups and persons perceived it, some of the main facets like individual's attitude to community, other world, manual work, purity, the role of religious organizations. And how it works in practice now including economic aspects and any evolving changes. I think Namit Arora's book covers this kind of stuff and is readable. https://www.amazon.com/dp/9383968192

Tim Taylor reports on global value chains

The Smile Curve: The Distribution of Benefits from Global Value Chains Excerpts:
"Global value chains have been on the rise. Roughly one-third of international trade is "traditional" trade, in which all of production happens in one country and all of consumption happens in another. About two-thirds is either a "simple" global value chain, in which "value added crosses national borders only once during the production process, with no indirect exports via third countries or re-exports or re-imports" or a "complex" global value chain, in which the value-added crosses national borders at least twice. The Global Value Chain Development Report 2017, which has the theme of "Measuring and Analyzing the Impact of GVCs on Economic Development," explores these issues and others. 
....
Here, I want to focus on some discussion from the report about how the benefits of global value chains are distributed, and the idea of the "smile curve." Consider a value-added chain which starts off with the production of new technology and high-tech components. These parts are then combined with other lower-tech inputs, like pieces of molded plastic and small flashing lights, during a manufacturing process. Finally, the finished product is marketed and sold to consumers, together with certain kinds of after-sales servicing. The "smile curve argument is that as most of the economic gain from this global supply curve is collected at the front end (new technology and high-tech components) and at the back end (marketing and sales), with less of the economic gain collected in the middle stages (lower-tech components and manufacturing).
From David Dollar's executive summary:
""[I]n developing countries deeply involved in GVCs, virtually the entire population benefits from the expanded trade and faster growth, though not all to the same extent. In developed countries, by contrast, the benefits of expanded international trade and investment are highly concentrated among the very skilled in the workforce and the owners of capital. Both groups are already high up in the income distribution, and globalization increases their share of the pie."

Dera Sacha Sauda protest their leader's conviction

What Is In It That People And Politicians Flock To DerasAs "Not only some of the deras have massive following, these have become an instrument of politics. While these deras depend on politicians for various facilities and patronage, the politicians flock to them for the large vote banks they constitute. For the followers, the word of the Dera chief is final and irrevocable. No wonder political leaders cutting across party make a beeline to these deras before the elections to seek 'blessings'."
"He Is PM Of India, Not BJP,' Says Furious High Court After Haryana Riots
HOME | ALL INDIA 45 COMMENTS Army Near Dera Sacha Sauda's Sirsa Base, Thousands Of Followers Inside: 10 Points

Saturday, August 26, 2017

First trip abroad

Some of my comments on Ramarao Kanneganti's Wall in a post about his first trip to USA for higher studies.
Me1) Much contrast from my first trip in 1968 From Bombay to London. I did not want a family send off and was vague about my trip to avoid my father. I only remember there were 3 or 4 stops and weren't straight to a hotel arranged by the Nuffield Foundation people. It was quite close to the British Museum. My troubles started. Even though one was familiar with the west from films and books, the accents were difficult to follow. It was cold, towards the end of September. I could not eat the food in the hotel except for bread. I do not remember how I handled the bathtub but remember the problems later when Professor Wall put me up in his house since rooms were not available. I did not know about how to use the beds and used the bed cover to cover myself. It was cold and I kept the heater on. I did not know one had to clean the bathtub after a bath. They had enough of me and found a room in a seminary. Rooms were available since theology was not very popular. The heating was off by 10:30 in the night and I panicked. Then one of the theology students showed me the mystery of western beds; how to get under all those blankets and how to make a bed. From cockney to Scouse, language still difficult but theology students were helpful. Some were agnostics and were in it for social work. They introduced me to Bob Dylan. Next December when I landed in USA it was smoother. Except by that time, I considered myself a veteran and on the first evening went to a bar called The Pub in New Haven since it sounded British. It turned out to be gay bar and with my new British habits invited one of the guys to the guest house I was staying. I was alone in the guest house since there was Yale-Harvard game that night. It was a bit of struggle to extricate myself.
Me2) Those days after drinks in a pub in Liverpool which ended around 10:40, one of the people would invite everybody to his house to a have a coffee. I was following that habit and thought that women did not go to bars that much in America. Somebody told me about the pub later. I seem to be remarkably unobservant. These days travel is more difficult for me. The modern technology confuses me and I have become a stay-at-home man. Apart from the actual home, the only area I feel comfortable is around Krishna river in Guntur District.
Me3) This may interest a Kamala. While I was in USA from 1969 December to 1970 July, I made friends with Americans of African and Jewish origins and stayed in their homes too. I recently contacted one of those friends to inform her about Gidla Sujatha and she replied that she would be happy'to connect with this young sister'. The deposit for the house in which I live was paid by a British friend in hose house I stayed several times. As some famous Liverpudlians said ' I got by with a little help from friends'.

Inequality natural?

Via Jack Moravia
Imagine a room full of 100 people with 100 dollars each. With every tick of the clock, every person with money gives a dollar to one randomly chosen other person. After some time progresses, how will the money be distributed?
If on quick reflection you thought “more or less equally”, you are not alone. I asked 5 super-smart PhDs this question and they all had the same initial intuition.
How does the distribution look? Play the movie above to see. Here’s how it works.
Counter intuitive problem

Friday, August 25, 2017

Three articles for future reference'

50 Years Ago an Economist Worried About Unchecked Corporate Power. Here’s What His Theory Got Wrong This is about John Kenneth Galbraith's 'The New Industrial State' :
"The implication of all this was clear: The ordinary American’s say in the economy was being hijacked by modern marketing, and their say in the democracy was being supplanted by large corporate needs.
It is a good theory. To be sure, it is built on a few assumptions that could easily be disputed. But the theory itself holds together. Unlike much of modern economics, it’s wonderfully simple to understand, and has sweeping implications. And I am sure some will have read to this point and wonder whether it didn’t actually all come true. The answer is that it didn’t, and let me explain why."
Noah Smith on The market power story:
"So, there's this story going around the econosphere, which says that the economy is being throttled by market power. I've sort of bought into this story. It certainly seems to be getting a lot of attention from top economists. Autor, Dorn, Katz, Patterson and van Reenen have blamed industrial concentration for the fall in labor's share of income. Now there's a new paper out by De Loecker and Eeckhout blaming monopoly power for much more than that - lower wages, lower labor force participation, slower migration, and slow GDP growth. The paper is getting plenty of attention.
That's a big set of allegations. Everyone knows that the U.S. economy has been looking anemic since the turn of the century, and now a growing chorus of papers by well-respected people is claiming that we've found the culprit. Monopoly power could potentially become Public Enemy #1 for economists, the way taxes and unions were in the 70s, and antitrust could become the new silver bullet policy.
With those kind of stakes, it was inevitable that pushback and skepticism would rev up - after all, you don't just let a big theory like that go unchallenged. "
Chris Dillow on A new capital? :
"What does capital do in the digital economy? This is the question posed by Phil in an important post. He says:
Capital is proving itself surplus to the requirements of social production and is therefore assuming ever more parasitical, rentier forms…How long can these parasitic relations last? When will Uber drivers call time on the very visible deductions made from their fares and replace the app with a cooperative effort? Is the time coming when Silicon Valley can no longer ponce off ad revenues generated from other people's content? 
I certainly agree that a feature of modern capital is parasitism. Perhaps the most egregious examples of this are not so much social media firms using the free content provided by its users to generate ad revenue for themselves but the way in which bookies and doorstep lenders (the latter with mixed success) use their low cost of capital to exploit the desperate.
However, I’m not so sure that labour can yet be as autonomous as Phil claims."
Perhaps at some stage, one has to think about all these together.

Quotes from Lucy Crehan's Cleverlands

Hi - I'm reading "Cleverlands: The Secrets Behind the Success of the World’s Education Superpowers" by Lucy Crehan and wanted to share this quote with you.  Nuanced writing. Difficult to summarise but I will quote any way. From chapter on Japan

"I said earlier that I think this belief alone makes a difference to student outcomes, over and above the particular policies of comprehensive education or mixed-ability classes, and here is why: teacher expectations make a difference. Research suggests that if teachers believe that students have great potential, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the students are more likely to succeed as expected. This is called the Pygmalion effect, after the mythical King of Cyprus who fell in love with a woman he had carved out of stone, and whose dreams came true when the goddess Aphrodite took pity on him and turned the statue into a real woman. The psychologist Robert Rosenthal was the first to use this term in an educational context in 1968, to describe the results of an experiment he carried out with school principal Lenore Jacobson. 80 Rosenthal and Jacobson gave the children at Jacobson’s school an IQ test at the beginning of the school year. They told teachers that this was a measure of student potential and ‘blooming’, suggesting that it could tell which students would perform well that year –in fact it could do no such thing. Teachers were told that certain students in their classes had come in the top 20 per cent of this test, whereas actually they were randomly selected from the class list. At the end of the year, the children took IQ tests again to estimate any change, and the students the teachers had expected to do well based on the invented test results had actually improved their IQ scores, relative to the other children. The only explanatory factor was the teachers’ expectations of them. 81 On a less positive note, the same thing happens in reverse (the Gollum effect), and when teachers have low expectations of children, it effects their scores in the expected direction too."
From an earlier chapter on Finland:
"Despite these challenges, though, Finland is still amongst the top-scoring countries in the world, and on average in 2012, still the highest scoring non-Asian country. Their approach in the early years of starting formal schooling at seven after providing high-quality preschool means that nearly all children can meet the demands of the school curriculum from its outset, and progress through it together. Their decision to delay selection into different schools or classes until the age of 16 is consistent with their remarkably equitable outcomes. And the existence in Finnish schools of all of the conditions for intrinsic motivation for teachers –autonomy, mastery, relatedness and purpose –puts them in the enviable position of being able to choose from the best, which in turn, allows them to grant teachers as much autonomy as they do. Curiously, there are some similarities here between Finland’s approaches and that of one of its Asian competitors, despite the enormous cultural differences. Come with me to Japan."

Links 25 August 2017

Delhi govt imposes blanket ban on manual cleaning of sewers, offenders to be booked under culpable homicide
Parents Still Lose Sleep Worrying About Grown Children, Study Confirms "Seidel says that this trend along with the emergence of technology like cell phones and social media, gives parents a deeper insight into what is going on in their adult children’s lives, which may lead to more cause for concern."
Brazil: Slaves To Fashion - Latin America Investigates At 23:00 "You end up wherever you can. As long as that option exits people will take it......I think that it is very difficult to end this type of system because many workers aspire to become sweatshop owners"
A review of “Merchants of War and Peace: British knowledge of China in the making of the Opium War” by Song-Chuan Chen by Salvatore Babones "Despite its focus on the run-up to the Opium War, Merchants of War and Peace is in the end neither a book about merchants nor a book about the war. Merchants and the war merely form the backdrop for a very profound book about the power of knowledge.
In Chen’s telling, the Canton system “dictated China’s perception of and relations with the Europeans” in ways that led to its own undoing. A system designed to keep foreign trade flowing while the foreigners themselves were kept at arm’s-length set up a century of foreign invasions—economic, cultural, and military. Could a more outward-looking China have staved off the depredations of the “century of humiliation”? Chen is too much the academic historian to speculate, but global engagement has certainly worked wonders for 21st century China. We can only wonder what might have been."

Some podcasts

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Squat toilets

May be some thing in the indian way of defecating. I have been using western type toilets since 1964. I find that I cannot squat for weeding and am reduced to weeding from a chair. That increases pressure on the back and soon I have to start doing exercise to counter the back pain. I think that Indian squatting position is also recommended as an exercise for pregnant women.
 Is it safe to use a squat toilet during pregnancy?

Parsley and coriander

A risky profession

Quiet Epidemic of Suicide Claims France’s Farmers
An older article Farmers' suicide:across culture from Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cleverlands by Lucy Crehan

Thoughts on 'Cleverlands' by Lucy Crehan
A shorter review from The Economist The lessons from world's swottiest countries : "As a science teacher in London she had read about countries that scored higher in PISA than England, and wanted to see their schools up close. So she taught in Canada, Finland, Japan, Singapore and Shanghai. “Cleverlands”, her first book, is her account of that odyssey."

Monday, August 21, 2017

Update on Gidla Sujatha

"Our neighbours in India have been actively trying to kick my mom out of her apartment. Her (upper) caste colleagues hate the fact that her daughter wrote a successful book. That is the irony; we cannot even celebrate the publication of the book because we are afraid that it will make people around us unhappy. Even fellow untouchables are not posting it on social media for fear of being exposed to their colleagues and (upper) caste friends as untouchables," she elaborated. From 'INDEPENDENCE WAS ONLY TRANSFER OF POWER; TRUE FREEDOM IS EQUAL ACCESS TO EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE'

A different kind of dystopia

Our technocratic dystopia

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”
As if these words were not ominous enough, Sagan follows up just a page later with another paragraph which is presumably designed to reduce us to a frightened, whimpering mass.

“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us - then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. 

The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

That was Carl Sagan in 1995 from  Carl Sagan's 1995 prediction of our technocratic dystopia by Ashutosh Jagalekar in his excellent post. He asks 
"In terms of people “losing the ability to set their own agendas or question those in power”, consider how many of us, let alone those in power, can grasp the science and technology behind deep learning, climate change, genome editing or even our iPhones? And yet these tools are subtly inserting them in pretty much all aspects of life, and there will soon be a time when no part of our daily existence is untouched by them. "

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Goldman's foray into cryptocurrency

"In plain english that’s the same as throwing cheap dollars at bitcoin, pump it higher (by preventing a dollar squeeze from ever emerging) at the same time as lining up investment funds and passive investors to dump the coins onto later.
If you’re thinking at least with bitcoin there’s no prospect of over-investment leading to the sort of over-production that could stifle the bull case in the long run, you’d be wrong. Every penny diverted from productive investments over to non-productive bitcoin, is a penny diverted from the productive sector to the consumption sector without any compensatory output guaranteed.
When the cost of dollars goes up accordingly to compensate, which it will eventually have to do, the opportunity costs of not being invested in the productive sector will be too great to ignore. Funds will then cash in their bitcoin gains and transfer over. The latter’s gain will be the former’s loss. But unlike the commodity market there won’t be an obvious fundamental floor to stop at on the way down.
If all this, meanwhile, is coupled with a boom in wider cryptocurrency production, the crash might come even quicker." from 
Meanwhile Tim Taylor has a long post Blockchain: new frontiers
Check also the old Post from Economist's View

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Michael Pettis discusses economics via accounting identities

Michael Pettis on current accounts and the Chinese economy transcript of a disucussion and may need registration.
The first part is a general discussion from US to Europe. Excerpts:
"Michael Pettis Right. Again, one of the big problems in this discussion is that we tend to think of savings as something that households do and households are one of three groups that save. And we tend to think of changes of saving as reflecting changes in thriftiness or all that stuff, prudence etc. 
Cardiff Garcia The other two groups by the way in addition to households are the corporate sector and the government.
Michael Pettis Yes, exactly. So if you look for example at Germany, Germany was running current account deficits in the 1990s, quite large. And then after the labour reforms of 2003-2004, they started running huge current account surpluses, the largest in the world. Many people said that was because German households, seeing an uncertain world, became thriftier, more prudent etc, but if you look at the numbers that’s not the case. Their household savings rate was unchanged. 
What happened was that the labour reforms, which is usually a euphemism for reducing wages, caused, and you can see it clearly in the numbers, the household share of German GDP contracted. And because the household share contracted, consumption contracted and savings went up. Who was responsibility for the higher savings? German corporates, because their profitability went up as wages went down, so it was business savings that went up and business savings went up simply because wages went down."
About China:
"Cardiff Garcia Michael, you wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal that a few years ago everybody thought that China was going to have a financial crisis. You said that wasn’t the case. You recently wrote that now everybody is saying that China might even be able to manage 6% or 7% GDP growth into the future for the next ten, 15 years and you said that’s wrong also. Let’s take the first bit: why is it that China will be able to avoid a financial crisis?
Michael Pettis..........Crises are caused by what economists refer to as sudden stops. That is when you have a significant mismatch between assets and liabilities and some event prevents you from rolling over the liabilities. That’s when you have a crisis. Now, if you look at the Chinese balance sheets, they look terrible, particularly the small banks. Not only do they have really awful assets but their funding base is terrible. It’s all purchased money, very little retail deposits. So you would think with these kinds of balance sheets, China should have a crisis. But as long as the banking system is closed and most of the money remains within the banking system and the regulators are credible, then that mismatch disappears because the liabilities can easily be restructured by the regulators. They can force banks to lend among themselves if there’s a run on any one bank......
 I think there’s a consensus on this now, they know what the reforms are, and they involve a transfer of wealth from local governments — from governments, but because of political centralisation it will be local governments — to the household sector. That’s the only way to increase consumption and reduce savings.....
Now, again wearing my banker’s hat, that means among other things you want to re-centralise the credit allocation process. So what I’m expecting to see, what I have been speaking to my students about for a couple of years, is that one of the indications that the President is being successful in his attempts to implement the necessary reforms is we should start to see a change in the credit allocation away from the local governments back towards Beijing. There are many ways this can happen.
For example we all know there are too many banks in China so there are going to be a lot of mergers. The big question is, do you have all of these local banks merged into the big Beijing banks, so you create these huge zombies but run by Beijing, or do they merge among themselves and create alternatives to the Beijing banks? If my model is right it’s going to be the former. That’s what the President will have to do. And what I suggested is that this is related to the fact that interbank interest rates have been extremely high recently. You know how the interbank lending works in China: it’s basically the big four lend to the local provincial and local banks because of their huge retail branch system. So what happens if you raise the interbank rate? Well if you raise the interest rates it’s a transfer of wealth from net borrowers to net lenders. Who are the net borrowers? They’re the small local provincial banks. Who are the net lenders? They’re the big Beijing banks.
So I don’t know if this was their plan but to me it’s very consistent with this whole process of the re-centralisation of power. Basically high interbank rates weaken the local banks tremendously at the expense of the big Beijing banks and that’s what I would want to see if Xi Jinping is going to be successful."

The Columbian exchange

"One of the big problems with both Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson's (AJR) work on development, and also with Spolaore and Wacziarg's QJE paper on genetic distance, is that they hadn't actually read, or properly internalized, the teachings of Crosby and Diamond. AJR argued that disease climate was a proxy for institutions and not geography, whereas clearly one might make a case that it's also a good proxy for climatic similarity. Areas of the world where European peoples died are also areas of the world where European crops and cattle also died. This was an insight that AJR missed. If Acemoglu got a John Bate's Clark for his work on institutions, then Crosby certainly deserves a Nobel. 

    Of course, there's more here. The insights of Crosby/Diamond don't end in 1500. First, history casts long shadows. But, aside from that, the world was largely agrarian even long after the Industrial Revolution in 1800. In Malthusian societies, agricultural technologies are very important. If you are a farmer in Angola, those new varieties of wheat, and farming technologies discovered in the American midwest in 1900, or even 1950, are not going to help you. If you live in Australia, the Southern Cone countries, or Europe, they will. " from 
The Wikipedia article Columbian Exchange.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A comprehensive article on Acute Encephalitis Syndrome

The Gorakhpur mystery New research promises to find the causes behind India's annual encephalitis outbreaks by Priyanka Pulla
"John and several other researchers, including Vashishtha, have been calling for a change in the definition of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. AES is too broad a label, they say, because any illness meeting the criteria of fever, altered mental status and seizures is classified as AES. This means many encephalopathies caused by non-viral agents are also classified as AES by inexperienced doctors who don’t focus on case-definitions. This is harmful, John argues.
The term Acute Encephalitis Syndrome was never meant to be a diagnosis. It was merely a surveillance tool created by WHO so that it would not fail to count cases that could be Japanese encephalitis, but couldn’t be confirmed because of a lack of access to lab testing kits.
“In other words, AES means that Japanese encephalitis is most likely. It is purely a surveillance terminology. It has crept into clinical diagnosis, unfortunately, and now people are using it as a diagnostic category,” he says."
And much more.

Cyril Connolly review of 'Washington's long war on Syria'

Stephen Gowan’s new book, ‘Washington’s Long War on Syria‘:
"The Muslim Brotherhood – ideological precursors to al-Qaeda and ISIS – has been on a mission against the governments of Syria, Libya and Iraq dating back to the 1970s when it declared a ‘war without end’ against Ba’ath Arab Socialism which it viewed as being incompatible with the Quran.
The US found an ally and strange-bedfellow in the Muslim Brotherhood, which could carry out its economic decree by proxy."

Rajiv Malhotra interviews V.S.Ramachandran

https://youtu.be/JB_lc00AWIE
One of those things. Many of the remarks seem innocuous, RM planting some ideas but did not really pursue them. There is a sly remark (after 1:09:20) by VSR about people trying to cover their inferiority by being part of a group which has achievers. This of course applies to several group phenonomena. In my extrapolation, I see this element in glorifying our ancestors and their works as well as currently trying to rub shoulders with achievers, not just Hindutva people but various groups. See, for example, Iqbal's pride in his Brahmin ancestry http://www.hvk.org/2002/0202/186.html

Thursday, August 17, 2017

More uses of blockchain technology

Indian women on record

Via http://www.womenonrecord.com, from a post of Rahul Banerjee

Adam Smith on impartial observers

Adam Smith's impartial spectator

Abstract

Adam Smith claims that humans naturally sympathize with others and seek their approval. The process of matching our sentiments with others’ sentiments forms the basis of our moral judgment. But what do we do when sentiments conflict? Smith saw that we need to move beyond literal impartial spectators to reach some ideal by which we can judge others’ sentiments and our own. That ideal is a category that we develop inductively. The category then allows us to construct imaginary representations of a perfect impartial spectator to arbitrate conflicts between the views of literal impartial spectators and our own.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Indian Express on Gidla Sujatha's book

Ant to elephant, Andhra to New York, writer maps caste "“I still feel caste and it is like an un-get-rid-offable stench when I am visiting India, beginning at the check-in line at the airport.Our experience has been that whenever we have thought we have plumbed the depths of casteism, we find that it is even deeper,” 
The article does ot mention much about her mother Manjula whose story, her relations with her husband apart from caste oppression is a powerful part of the book. Her uncle is sometimes mentioned along with Kalekuri Prasad "Like the eminent Dalit revolutionary thinker K. G. Satyamurthy, who was one of the founders of the People’s War Group, Kalekuri Prasad too was a guile-less individual who never hid anything. There are many other similarities between them; to be honest, neither had any personal life of their own. They were both two great common men who were totally dedicated to society."
Perhaps, the unpublished writings of both of them will come out some day.

A long article on Julian Assange

A man without a country by in the New Yotker. The main claim seems to be that Julian Assangeis not neutral in his treatment of US and Russia and the author presents some circumstantial evidence. The clincher is "James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, put the conclusion bluntly to me: “It was done by a cutout, which of course afforded Assange plausible deniability.”"
In any case, if one looks at the conflicts around the world, US is involved in many more places than the Russians. More about James Clapper in the Wikipedia "Following the June 2013 leak of documents detailing NSA practice of collecting telephony metadata on millions of Americans’ telephone calls, two U.S. representatives accused Clapper of perjury for telling a congressional committee that the NSA does not collect any type of data on millions of Americans earlier that year. One senator asked for his resignation, and a group of 26 senators complained about Clapper’s responses under questioning. In November 2016, Clapper resigned as director of national intelligence, effective at the end of President Obama's term. In May 2017, he joined the Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) as a Distinguished Senior Fellow for Intelligence and National Security."
P.S. What if the DNC Russian “hack” was really a leak after all? A new report raises questions media and Democrats would rather ignore from Salon.com
P.P.S. I knew Julian Assange in the early 2000's. He took a course on Complex Analysis from me. He got mediocre grades (mathematics did not seem to be his main interest) and we chatted off and on about politics. He never asked me for better grades in assignments and generally wanted to know what he did wrong in assignments.

Rahul Banerjee examines shit problems in Rewa

When pigs fly!!
"Rewa Municipal Corporation was given money under the NRCP a couple of years ago. The municipal planners under the direction of the planners of the State Government designed and constructed a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) from the funds provided which is ready. However, they forgot to lay sewer lines in the town to collect the waste water and direct it to the STP!! So the STP is standing like a monarch of all the shit that it can survey without any of it coming to it!! I have interviewed many people of Rewa town in the past few days but not one of them had heard that the STP had been built and none knew where it was situated. The engineer of the municipal corporation who is supposed to supervise and monitor its construction was evasive as to where this STP was located. Eventually I had to go through the google satellite map of Rewa with a tooth comb to find out where the STP was located!! Belatedly the contract for laying the sewer lines and constructing more STPs has been given to a firm now. The staff of this firm too were evasive about where exactly they are working and refused to give me any details. So STPs and sewerage lines are being built without the citizens knowing anything about this."

M.S. Swaminathan on Indian farming

Why can’t the government provide a higher income for farmers? M.S. Swaminathan
"The government is willing to pay Seventh Pay Commission salaries to insulate government servants from inflation, but they cannot provide a higher income for farmers to improve their lot? If you really look at what is happening now, farm loan waivers are posing a bigger burden on the government exchequer compared to what higher pay for farm produce will incur. But the government is not prepared to give the ₹20,000 crore or so for farmers by way of higher MSP. In 2009, the UPA government gave ₹72,000 crore as farm loan waiver, but no government is prepared to take long-term steps to ensure the economic viability of farming."
"Unfortunately, all policies today are related to corporate powers."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Namit Arora on 'What do we deserve?'

I am now reading this section of Namit Arora's book of essays The lottery of birth
An earlier version from 2011 of the article:
What do we deserve?
 A long video talk by him on the same topic in 2015:

The latest from Neville Maxwell on India-China border disputes

This is India's China war, round two
More about Neville Maxwell:"Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, who said he had been brainwashed into detesting Maxwell as an India-hater, praised Maxwell as a "relentless journalist and scholar"." I think his book India's China war is banned in India but may be abaialable free online. I suspect that the border problem is mainly due to Nehru's blunders and Neville Maxwell's analysis may be better than most. But I have not read him recently.

Ambedkar and Mandal

Ambedkar and two Mandals
"On November 26, 1949 the Constituent Assembly approved and adopted the final draft of the Constitution. This final draft was the culmination of almost three years of extensive, high quality debate and discussion among the 299 members of the Assembly. The chairman of the Drafting Committee (which had produced the original draft for discussion) made a memorable speech to the Assembly on that final, historic day. That person was Dr B R Ambedkar, who of course, was himself a member of the constituent Assembly.
But, did you know that he almost did not make it to that august Assembly? That's because most major political parties, chiefly the Congress party and most of its senior leaders, did not want him to be elected. Unfortunately, Ambedkar was a hated man. In his own words, uttered on May 21, 1932, he said, "I am the most hated man in Hindu India. I am denounced as a traitor...branded as the greatest enemy of the country." This was because of his insistence that the depressed classes (the word Dalit came into usage much later) be given a separate electorate, just like Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. Mahatma Gandhi was firmly against this. All the animosity against Ambedkar, especially from the senior political class, came to the fore during the elections to various provincial legislatures (what we would later call the Vidhan Sabhas) in July 1946. These legislatures in turn would elect members of the Constituent Assembly, which would then write India's Constitution. Ambedkar was actively sought to be excluded or defeated in the provincial elections by senior leaders from the Congress Party. So he was not able to make it to the Constituent Assembly from his native Maharashtra.
It was thanks to Jogendra Nath Mandal that Ambedkar finally made it to the Assembly from the province of Bengal in 1946. Mandal was the head of the Scheduled Caste Federation of Bengal and Ambedkar was its national head. He persuaded Ambedkar to become a candidate for the Constituent Assembly from Bengal because Ambedkar did not have the requisite support from his home province. To ensure Ambedkar's victory and eventual entry into the Constituent Assembly, the Dalits of Bengal took support from the Muslim League and Anglo Indians. "

Mr. Khanna goes back to Pakistan

Sunday, August 13, 2017

About publishing and children

The problem with children, particularly non-academic ones is that they think that one is brilliant if he or she has published some stuff. They may be even try to publish even unpublished stuff. In my opinion most of the published stuff is rubbish. But it is a process which keeps certain activities alive out of which worthwhile and some dangerous things also come out. Recently one of the children asked me why I am not working on one of the millennium problems. Once I accidentally did for a couple of days and even got my name mentioned in a book ( PoincarĂ©'s Prize by George Szpiro) for that effort. Except for exceptioptional people, the way esearch happens is that you may be interested in some general area where you have done well in university and want to do research in that general area. You look around, find schools where such research is done and try to join one of them. Once you join one of them, there are specialists in some of the topics in that area, who tell you what to read to get to what sort of problems in which they may be able to help you. Often it is an industry to publish papers because number of publications are important for survival in the current academic job market. In better places somewhat better things happen but it is very rare to have research places where number of publication do not matter. As usual there are exceptions both among institutions and people. Anyway, the research one does is often determined by this entry point and we often do not get to big problems. But even good places which have entry points to big problems like millennium problems have not really succeeded so far. The one who solved PoincarĂ© conjecture was an outsider.
The reason I looked at PC for a couple of days was this. I did not enter mathematics in a standard fashion. I did not want to be guided and wanted to study topology. In my days there was only one in that area in TIFR and he was abroad. But the institute encouraged me and Raghunathan and Ramanan went out of their way to learn some topology to help me. But their directions were more sophisticated than my interests and I continued my way and Poincaré conjecture was one of the big problems in that area I chose. I did not get any ideas and I knew lot of brilliant people spent years on it without getting anywhere. One of them was C.D. Papakyriakopoulos. He published a long paper on his efforts. One day when I was idly browsing it, I noticed I can reduce it a more accessible one. It did not take much time and I wrote of a short paper and sent it off which was accepted almost immediately. Then I noticed that it could not work. But the paper was accepted , I was young and could do with some publications and I kept quiet. Somebody immediately published a counterexample and since C.D.P. was famous, my name was mentioned as one of those who showed the famous mathematician's attempt did not work. To this day nobody mentioned the absurdity of it that I noticed soon after. That was my one two-day attempt at a big problem.

P.S. The absurdity of CDP's approach as far as I remember: if it worked, it would have shown that a hologram three sphere is a real three sphere which is patently absurd. But to see this, one has to look at his paper and the argument there.

Chabahar and Gwadar ports

Dueling ports underline China-India rivalry from Asia Times

More on Chabahar port from Wikipedia: "Development of the port was first proposed in 1973 by the last Shah of Iran, though development was delayed by the 1979 Iranian Revolution.[2] The first phase of the port was opened in 1983 during the Iran–Iraq War as Iran began shifting seaborne trade east towards the Pakistani border in order to decrease dependency on ports in the Persian Gulf which were vulnerable to attack by the Iraqi Air Force.
India and Iran first agreed to plans to further develop Shahid Beheshti port in 2003, but did not do so on account of sanctions against Iran.[4] As of 2016, the port has ten berths.[1] In May 2016, India and Iran signed a bilateral agreement in which India would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600 meter long container handling facility at the port.[5] The port is intended to provide an alternative for trade between India and Afghanistan. This port is 800 kilometers closer to Afghanistan than Pakistan's Karachi ."
Check also the Wikipedia article on Gwadar port.

Gonds