Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On the power of LISP


Bion of Borysthenes, an ancient Greek author, observed that “Boys throw stones at frogs in sport, but the frogs die in earnest.” The little boys are the Washington hawks. The frogs are the rest of the world.-- Professor Juan Cole.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Purpose of Alabama's Current Constitution

The Constitution of the State of Alabama, adopted in 1901, is the sixth constitution that state has had.  The purpose of establishing that Constitution?

From the second day of the 1901 Constitutional Convention: (emphasis added)

CHIEF JUSTICE McCLELLAN - Gentlemen of the Convention, I have the honor and pleasure of presenting to you the gentleman whom you have elected to preside over your deliberations, the Honorable John B. Knox of Calhoun County.

MR. KNOX - Gentlemen of the Convention:

I thank you for the high honor you have conferred in electing me to preside over the deliberations of this Convention. Viewed from the standpoint of my profession, to which, up to this moment, my life's work has been devoted, it is a great honor, indeed; for I know of no higher honor that can be conferred upon a lawyer than to be made President of the Constitutional Convention, which represents the sovereignty of his people; and numbers among its delegates, in large part, the intellect and talent of the State - those who have in the past, and will in the future exert a potent influence in shaping and directing the affairs of the State.

In my judgment, the people of Alabama have been called upon to face no more important situation than now confronts us, unless it be when they, in 1861, stirred by the momentous issue of impending conflict between the North and the South, were forced to decide whether they would remain in or withdraw from the Union.

Then, as now, the negro was the prominent factor in the issue.

The Southern people, with this grave problem of the races to deal with, are face to face with a new epoch in Constitution-making, the difficulties of which are great, but which, if solved wisely, may bring rest and peace and happiness. If otherwise, it may leave us and our posterity continuously involved in race conflict, or what may be worse, subjected permanently to the baneful influences of the political conditions now prevailing in the State.

So long as the negro remains in insignificant minority, and votes the Republican ticket, our friends in the North tolerate him with complacency, but there is not a Northern State, and I might go further and say, there is not an intelligent white man in the North, not gangrened by sectional prejudice and hatred of the South who would consent for a single day to submit to negro rule.

If the negroes of the South should move in such numbers to the State of Massachusetts, or any other Northern State, as would enable them to elect the officers, levy the taxes, and control the government and policy of that State, I doubt not they would be met, in spirit, as the negro laborers from the South were met at the State line of Illinois, with bayonets, led by a Republican Governor, and firmly but emphatically informed that no quarter would be shown them in that territory.

One has studied the history of recent events to very little purpose who has failed to discover that race prejudice exists at the North in as pronounced a form as at the South, and that the question of negro domination, when brought home, will arouse the same opposition in either section.

And what is it that we want to do? Why it is within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this State.

This is our problem, and we should be permitted to deal with it, unobstructed by outside influences, with a sense of our responsibilities as citizens and our duty to posterity.
One might argue that the Alabama Constitution has been sufficiently amended that the original goal no longer applies.  One might also note that the thrust of American "promotion of democracy abroad" has often been not reforms of the target nation's political culture, but a revolution -- which leads to the question - why does that not apply to Alabama?   Should not Alabama at least hold another Constitutional Convention where, even if they vote to keep their Constitution as-is, they explicitly renounce the idea with which it was created?

I leave you with another gem from the same speech quoted above:
As stated by Judge Cooley, the right of suffrage is not a natural right, because it exists where it is allowed to be exercised only for the good of the State--to say that those whose participation in the affairs of the State would endanger and imperil the good of the State have nevertheless, the right to participate, is not only folly in itself, but it is to set the individual above the State.
Saddam Hussein (or Bashar al-Assad, or the US allies of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, etc.)  could argue that they were following this policy;  they were allowing the right of suffrage only where it is to be allowed for the good of the State.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Wall Street killed the goose that laid golden eggs

If this story is correct,  the average American thinks the stock market is rigged and wants no part of it.  So, trading volume at the New York Stock Exchange is at a fifteen-year low.
The slump in trading volume is so pronounced that the big investment banks have had to resort to multiple rounds of deep layoffs, resulting in tens of thousands of investment bankers losing their jobs.
Effective regulation is what makes the market work; but few people in politics and even fewer on Wall Street want to concede that the government has a role in sustaining the market.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hudson Institute: The Wrong Enemy

 The video of a Hudson Institute event is available here.
New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001 to 2013. She is among those who believe that the problems faced in Afghanistan can be traced back to the policies of Pakistan’s politico-military-intelligence establishment. Her latest book, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014, is filled with firsthand accounts of Gall’s meetings and interviews with politicians, generals, jihadis and intelligence personnel from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. In an excerpt printed in the New York Times, Gall asserted that not only did Pakistan fuel the Taliban but that elements within Pakistan’s intelligence services even protected Osama bin Laden.

On the launch of The Wrong Enemy, Hudson Institute hosted a book talk with Carlotta Gall. Writer and analyst Dr. Mohammad Taqi joined Gall to discuss her work and the US-Pakistan relationship. Hudson Senior Fellow Husain Haqqani, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, moderated the event.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Great American Lawn Scam?

Having (uncharacteristically) done the (supposedly) prescribed lawn care last autumn, I was surprised how bad the lawn in the backyard had done.   I have to replant substantial portions of it, so what am I doing indoors writing this on a nice sunny day, ideal for yard work?

Long story short - I want to plant fine fescue.  Fine fescue is not sold by the usual stores in New Jersey.  Had to order seed from out-of-state.  The delivery got delayed (a mis-routed railway wagon, apparently). So here I am with no seed.

The longer story:

What is culture?

Having encountered the "they all drink coke and wear blue jeans, so belong to the same culture", this page full of definitions of what culture is, is refreshing.

For the purposes of the Intercultural Studies Project, culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group.
"Culture is the shared knowledge and schemes created by a set of people for perceiving, interpreting, expressing, and responding to the social realities around them"

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A.K. Ramanujam: Is there an Indian way of thinking?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Rush to War with Syria  
(via turcopolier.typepad.comP

Remember when the Syrian Government allegedly used poison gas on its people? And the big rush to war which ultimately Obama ended by accepting the Putin+Syria offer to destroy all its chemical weapons under international supervision?

Seymour Hersh narrates:

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.


A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’

Race in America - just 14 years ago.

Wiki: ( )

During the 2000 Republican presidential primary, Senator John McCain was the target of a whisper campaign implying that he had fathered a black child out of wedlock. (McCain's adopted daughter is a dark-skinned child from Bangladesh). Voters in South Carolina were reportedly asked, "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew that he fathered an illegitimate black child?". McCain would later lose the South Carolina primary, and the nomination, to George W. Bush.

In addition, on the week of the nomination vote, dozens of radio stations were called on the same day asking talk show hosts what they thought of McCain's fathering of a black child out of wedlock. McCain later said of the incidents:
"There were some pretty vile and hurtful things said during the South Carolina primary. It's a really nasty side of politics. We tried to ignore it and I think we shielded [our daughter] from it. It's just unfortunate that that sort of thing still exists. As you know she's Bengali, and very dark skinned. A lot of phone calls were made by people who said we should be very ashamed about her, about the color of her skin. Thousands and thousands of calls from people to voters saying, 'You know, the McCains have a black baby.' I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like those."
 Is there a comparable phenomenon in Indian politics?   Perhaps with respect to Muslims?

PS: More on Bush-McCain-South Carolina: