Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Vanishing American Dream?

Capitalist Imperialist Pig displays this graph from Kevin Drum,

Drum Income

showing the median income for men and women in the 35-44 age group over the past few decades. The men's median income has stagnated or even reduced a little over the past 30 years. Given that the per capita GDP has increased substantially over time, this is taken to be a sign of increasing inequality, the increasing stress on the middle class, and the death of the American Dream.

For what it is worth, here is the size of the 35-44 age group over the past few decades, culled from the US government census site. (The documents are many megabytes, and I won't link to them from here).


The size of the 35-44 age group has grown from 25 million in 1980 to 45 million in 2000, a factor of 1.8. Of course, we need to extract the men, and from that the full-time working men, but unless things have gone greatly wrong, this should track the overall population quite closely. Without having done any calculation, I think there is room in this great expansion for many jobs below the (relatively constant) median and as many jobs above the median, so the average might have increased, the middle class overall may have increased. This can't be the only effect, all the concerns previously mentioned have to be taken seriously, but I think the demographics is making the situation seem worse than it actually is.

In any case, we don't have to look to overseas competition, the size of the labor pool in the US itself has increased so much; that would tend to hold down the median wage as well.

PS. Let me work out an example, for simplicity, using the full population figures (as though everyone worked).

Suppose in 1980, all jobs pay $40K, that the mean = median; all 25 million earn this.
Suppose by 2000, the 20 million additional jobs are 10 million at $30K and 10 million at $100K (and we keep the 25 million at $40K).

The median remains $40K.
The average is now $51.1K, 1.28 times the mean of 1980.
The total income for the 35-44 age group has gone up by a factor of 2.3.
Inequality has increased, but it is a judgment call whether we're better off/worse off than in 1980.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Steps to Partition - 2

Another popular argument about Partition (prevalent mainly among Pakistanis) is that Partition was thrust upon Muslims by a Hindu majority unwilling to grant them sufficient constitutional safeguards. Jinnah, we are told, advocated Pakistan only as a bargaining position. It was Hindus, the Congress and Gandhi that partitioned India.

On a somewhat unrelated note, it is claimed that the idea that Pakistan began with the Arab invasion of Sindh circa 700 AD is one created by Pakistani military dictator Zia-ul-Haq in the 1970s, during his Islamization drive.

If one takes that position seriously, one must then parse these speeches carefully.
(from )

Some speeches of Jinnah

From 'Speeches, Statements & Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam', ed. Khurshid Yusufi, Publ. Bazm-e-Iqbal, Lahore, Volumes II and III.

1. Speech at a Lunch given by Dr. Sir Ziauddin Ahmad, Vice-Chancellor, Muslim University, Aligarh, March 8, 1944(full text)

Responding to the toast, Mr. Jinnah who looked very happy in the midst of the members of the Muslim University referred to the rousing reception they had given him at the station which had almost crushed and suffocated him.

Proceeding, he remarked that it was a fact that there were two parties - Congress and the British Government - when they started their organisational activities. But, thank God, through the efforts of their workers, including the Vice-Chancellor they had made every Mussalman conscious of his position and the seven years' struggle of the Muslim League had raised the Mussalmans to the position of a nation whose voice was heard not only in India, but all over the world.

Pakistan, the Quaid-e-Azam remarked, was not the product of the conduct or misconduct of the Hindus. It had always been there; only they were not conscious of it. Hindus and Muslims, though living in the same towns and villages, had never been blended into one nation; they were always two separate entities.

Tracing the history of the beginning of Islam in India, he proved that Pakistan started the moment the first non-Muslim was converted to Islam in India long before the Muslims established their rule. As soon as a Hindu embraced Islam he was outcast not only religiously but also socially, culturally and economically.

As for the Muslim, it was a duty imposed on him by Islam not to merge his identity and individuality in any alien society. Throughout the ages Hindus had remained Hindus and Muslims had remained Muslims, and they had not merged their entities - that was the basis for Pakistan. In a gathering of European and American officials he was asked as to who was the author of Pakistan. Mr Jinnah's reply was 'Every Mussalman.'

Now the question is how to get Pakistan? Raising his eye-brows and speaking in grim tones, Mr. Jinnah said, "not by asking, not by begging, not even by mere prayers but by working with trust in God. Inshallah! Pakistan is now in your hands."

The Dawn, March 10, 1944

2. Presidental Address at the 27th Session of the All India Muslim League, Lahore, March 22, 1940(excerpt)

..A leading journal like the London Times commenting on the Government of India Act 1935, wrote, " Undoubtedly the difference between the Hindus and Muslims is not of religion in the strict sense of the word but also of law and culture, that they may be said, indeed, to represent two entirely distinct and separate civilisations. However, in the course of time, the superstitions will die out and India will be molded into a single nation.'.

So, according to the London Times, the only difficulties are superstitions. These fundamental and deep-rooted differencs, spiritual, economic, cultural, social and political, have been euphemised as mere 'superstitions.' But surely it is a flagrant disregard of the past history of the subcontinent of India as well as the fundamental Islamic conception of society vis-a-vis that of Hinduism to characterise them as mere 'superstitions.'

Nothwithstanding a thousand years of close contact, nationalities, which are as divergent today as ever, cannot at any time be expected to transform themselves into one nation merely by means of subjecting them to a democratic constitution and holding them forcibly together by unnatural and articifical methods of British Parliamentary Statute. What the unitary government of India of 150 years had failed to achieve cannot be realised by the imposition of a central federal government. It is inconceivable that the fiat or the writ of a government so constituted can ever command a willing and loyal obedience throughout the subcontinent from various nationalities except by means of armed force behind it.

The problem in India is not of an inter-communal character but manifestly of an international one, and it must be treated as such..."

3. Speech at the meeting of the Muslim University Union, Aligarh, March 10, 1941(excerpt)

... Hindus and Muslims differ fundamentally. But even amongst the Hindus themselves there are castes sub-castes and numerous other divisions exclusive of each other and 60 millions of depressed classes are considered untouchables. The irony of the situation is that the Hindu caste community which is not only least fitted but unfit for any experiment in the realm of democracy is clamouring for and is falling head over heels in love with democracy. The Hindu leaders are doing great harm to the interest of the country by ignoring realities and building on sand.

It was after mature consideration that the Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution popularly known as Pakistan. Pakistan has been there for centuries. It is there today and it will remain till the end of the world. They are our homelands. They were taken from us and we want them back. What title have Hindus to it? I maintain that it is more in the interests of Hindus themselves. The League advocates independent states for the Mussalmans where they are in a majority and as well for Hindus where they are in a majority that is the Hindu zones. Surely they ought to be contented with that. Their dream to rule over the whole of India will never materialise.

Archives of Freedom Movement, Vol. 237

Steps to Partition

In school days we learned that during the British Raj, Hindus took to English education and modernizing with much greater alacrity than Muslims, and dominated employment by the government. This led to a fear among Muslims of permanent domination by Hindus in an independent India, and led to the demand for Pakistan, a independent nation for the Muslims of the subcontinent.

In reality, in the United Provinces, it could only have been a fear of losing their dominant position that could have led UP Muslims to demand Partition. This post by sadna on is illustrative. (Muslims constituted 14% of the population of UP at that time.)

A Narrative of Communal Politics: Uttar Pradesh, 1937-39 (Sage Series in Modern Indian History, Vol. 2)
by Salil Misra

page 258
One notable feature in the Assembly during 1937 and the first few months of 1938 was a number of questions put by Muslim Leaguers regarding the proportion of Muslims in various jobs and the financial grants provided by the government to specifically "Muslim" educational institutions. The idea behind this enquiry was obviously to establish a case of discrimination against Muslims, or put the government on the defensive, or more significantly mobilize the non-League non-Congress Muslim legislators in the Assembly. The interesting discovery, unfolded on the floor of the Assembly by mid-1938 was that Muslims had a representation in the government jobs well in excess of their proportion of the population. This then sparked off a volley of questions from mid-1938 onwards, this time from the "Hindu" quarters as to why the Muslim proportion was so high.

Pant [Govind Vallabh Pant, Chief Minister of United Provinces-sadna] prepared a statement showing the representation of various religious communities in the important public services in UP and established that the proportion of Muslims was quite high and ranged from 30 to 60 percent in various jobs.

He then added:

"Give me the returns from any provinces showing that any Government in any province has treated the minority like this and I will accept defeat. I claim and I claim that we have not only been just but we have been generous and we will contine to be so because we know that these posts may come and may go. But how long can you afford to misunderstand us. Our actions will prove too strong even for your misunderstanding?.."

By the middle of 1938, the League's outburst on Muslim representation in jobs in UP died out. The number of questions put to the government also came down significantly. Pant had mentioned that earlier the number of questions put to the government in the UP Assembly far exceeded those put in any other Assembly. This lack of enthusiasm may have been because the Congress government had effectively called the League's bluff on the question of Muslim employment. The other reason probably was that Muslim League's campaign had sparked off a counter campaign from the "Hindu" quarters about discrimination against Hindus in government employment.

The reference the author uses for the above are the volumes of U.P Legislative Assembly Proceedings.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Life as a dhimmi -4

From the Hindustan Times (via BRF)

Malaysian Hindus protest demolition of temples
Press Trust of India

Kuala Lumpur, May 25, 2006

Minority Hindus staged a rare protest on Thursday to condemn the demolition of temples by authorities.

About 50 protesters gathered on the sidewalk outside the headquarters of Kuala Lumpur City Hall, and threatened to file a civil suit against the government and local councils if the destruction of Hindu temples doesn't stop.

Waving banners that read "Demolishing temples is criminal," the protesters chanted prayers to the Hindu God of destruction, Shiva, and smashed a coconut as a prayer offering.

The activists said hundreds of Hindu houses of worship have been destroyed in the past 15 years across the country, blaming a growing "Islamisation" of Malaysia.

At least seven temples have been torn down, partly destroyed, served demolition notices or torched since late February in various parts of the country, they said.

"We are not asking for a club to play billiards. We are not asking for a prostitution centre," said P Uthayakumar, the group's lawyer. "We are asking for our temples to pray."

About 60 per cent of Malaysia's 26 million people are Malay Muslims.

Chinese, most of them Buddhist or Christian, represent about 25 per cent of the population and ethnic Indians -- mostly Hindus -- make up 10 percent.

The activists -- gathered in a coalition calling itself the Hindu Rights Action Force -- were turned away by City Hall police officers who refused to accept a petition denouncing the temple destruction.

Beauty Sleep

If not beautiful, at least slim.
Sleep may help you keep slim. At least according to this research from Ohio Case Western Reserve University:

Researchers from Ohio's Case Western Reserve University, followed nearly 70,000 women for 16 years.

They found women who slept five or fewer hours a night were a third more likely to put on at least 33lbs (15kg) than sound sleepers during that time.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

...and flowers bloomed like madness in the spring


I was supposed to prune the bushes in late March, but never did. As a result, the bushes are over 6 feet tall. The picture does not do justice to their wildness and brilliancy. (It never does).

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fortune Cookie

"To truly find yourself you should play hide and seek alone".

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Jamaat Ud Dawa

The Dawn, May 3, 2006
JAMAAT-UD-DAWA: Responding to a question, Ms Aslam said the government had no intention of designating the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its affiliate organisation as terrorist entities as done by the US. However, Pakistan would be legally bound to take action if they were placed on United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee�s consolidated list, she said.

She said the US had approached the UNSC for designation of the organisations as terrorist outfits and for putting them on the committee�s list.

�We do not put any of our entities on the terrorist list if the action is taken under the US domestic law,� she said in reply to a question.

The Times of London, May 21,2006

The children, all Christians, had fallen into the hands of Gul Khan, a wealthy Islamic militant and leading member of Jamaat-ud Daawa (JUD), a group linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Khan lives near Pakistan�s border with Afghanistan, but when in the Punjab he stays at the JUD�s headquarters in Muridke, near Lahore, where young men can be seen practising martial arts with batons on rolling green lawns patrolled by guards with Kalashnikovs. Osama Bin Laden funded the centre in the late 1990s.

The JUD, which claims to help the poor, says that it has created a �pure Islamic environment� at Muridke that is superior to western �depravity�. Khan�s activities explode that myth. He planned to sell his young captives to the highest bidder, whether into domestic servitude or the sex trade. The boys knew only that they were for sale.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

9/11 Conspiracy Theories

The Pentagon had to release some video footage of American Airlines Flight 77 slamming into the Pentagon, on September 11, 2001, under the Freedom of Information Act, and that has woken up the conspiracy theorists all over again. The common conspiracy theory is that it was a missile, not a plane, that hit the Pentagon.

I might as well mention my favorite theory in this regard. It was Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon alright, the question is who was piloting it?

This had had some discussion on which is where I may have heard of it first.

The Washington Post on September 12, had this about Flight 77:

But just as the plane seemed to be on a suicide mission into the White House, the unidentified pilot executed a pivot so tight that it reminded observers of a fighter jet maneuver. The plane circled 270 degrees to the right to approach the Pentagon from the west, whereupon Flight 77 fell below radar level, vanishing from controllers' screens, the sources said.

Less than an hour after two other jets demolished the World Trade Center in Manhattan, Flight 77 carved a hole in the nation's defense headquarters, a hole five stories high and 200 feet wide.

Aviation sources said the plane was flown with extraordinary skill, making it highly likely that a trained pilot was at the helm, possibly one of the hijackers. Someone even knew how to turn off the transponder, a move that is considerably less than obvious.

So the plane went through a fighter jet maneuver, flown by someone with extraordinary skill. The problem is that none of the five hijackers showed any evidence of such skill.

Wikipedia says:
The hijackers were reported to have been Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, and the suicide pilot Hani Hanjour.

Wikipedia tells us that Khalid al-Mihdhar was a poor student of flying, as was Nawaf al-Hazmi. There is no mention of where Majed Moqed or Salem al-Hazmi might have had an opportunity for flight training. Hani Hanjour was not very competent; he was rated poorly by whomever remembers him. He did get a FAA commercial license, but of his performance even in 2001,
....a JetTech manager said “He could not fly at all.”
In September, Hanjour began to make cross-country flights in August to test security, and tried to rent a small Cessna 172 plane from Freeway Airport in Maryland - though he was declined after exhibiting poor flying skills
(This from Wikipedia as well).

So, none of the hijackers' persona fits the expert pilot profile. Since the identities are real, it must have been some real professional pilot who assumed one of these identities.

Where did the professional pilot come from? We conspiracy theorists believe that this was a Air Force pilot from one of two American "allies" - either Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

The fact of the involvement of the military of a "friendly country" in this attack on American soil would be definitely covered up by an Administration that was, from the beginning, keen to go to war with Iraq.

Alas for conspiracy theories, if one believes Steve Koeppel of Palm Springs, California (here), who says "I used to do airdrop in a C-141, flying at 300' AGL up to 280 knots. ", the pilot was not so great. Koeppel explains the flight path, and says:

Upon passing the Washington Monument, the plan may have been for the pilot to make a right turn and dive into the building. A right turn at this point would have led the airplane to hit Pentagon on the Potomac River side where the Secretary of Defense has his office.

But being unfamiliar with flying large airplanes at high speeds, the pilot wouldn't have taken into account the large radius required to make the turn.  This would explain the circuitous 270 degree turn that was made to the impact point.

When he rolled out, he'd simply point the nose of the airplane at the center courtyard of the Pentagon and dive toward his target.  What he wouldn't know without experience is that when you dive, you accelerate the airplane and the lift increases.  This causes the nose to rise,  which would cause him to overshoot the target.  In a panic, he would push forward on the controls and overcompensate, which would account for eyewitness descriptions of the airplane striking the ground short of the Pentagon.

Of course, this is all speculation, not facts.

Of course, this is all speculation, not facts.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Some more thoughts on network traffic monitoring

(Please note: I'm no expert on any of this).

I believe it is possible to monitor network traffic on a statistical basis, i.e., without violating anyone's privacy to detect certain types of threats. For instance, you can find the following on the web, from 2003:
AT&T developing early warning tool

As an example, Eslambolchi points to the MS-SQL Slammer worm, which was reported on the Internet in January. AT&T saw anomalies in its network three to four weeks before that worm hit and was able to take certain precautions. "When the worm actually happened, AT&T's network did not take a hit,'' Eslambolchi said.

One can go to the AT&T business website, and find this:
AT&T Internet Protect

As far as I understand, the idea is that when a computer is infected and is attempting to spread its infection over the network, and as more computers get infected, there is a change in the normal patterns of traffic in the network that can be detected early enough to be useful to blunt the attack. I don't think any human follows or needs to follow individual network sessions on the Internet, what is done is a statistical analysis.

Notice however that we are talking about something that would be growing and affecting many, many computers. The NSA, with its phone call records faces a very different scale of problem, if they're trying to use anomalous calling patterns as a warning sign of terrorist activity. In the case of say, the 19 hijackers and their handlers of 9/11, the statistical monitor would have to extract changes in patterns in the phone calls of this small network, flag them as as suspicious and give them to an analyst to examine. This is worse than a needle in a haystack.

If the NSA already had suspicions about this small network, it could simply monitor them rather than the whole nation. If the belief is that actually quite a few people know one way or another of an impending terrorist attack, and the change in their calling patterns can be picked out from the vast mass of call records, then the question is why does not human intelligence get to know of it? And how are you going to isolate the terrorist threat from among this larger group of people who are somehow in the know in time to nullify the threat?

Ultimately, the point is that there are possible legitimate, civil-liberties-neutral and illegitimate, civil-liberties-violating uses of a nation-wide database of call record data. The point of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are that civil liberties are inalienable, and that to keep the government from stepping all over these, the responsibilities and powers are divided among three branches of government. However brilliant an idea the Bush team may have to protect us all, they need to run it by Congress and the Courts, to follow a process of law.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mad to dissent

The Soviet Union was notorious for locking up dissenters as having psychological pathologies. (This response is essentially an extension of the principle that those who disagree with oneself are morons.)

Now this procedure comes to Cleveland, Ohio.

A British colonial officer, Thomas Munro, noted in India, in 1824, "It is an old observation, that he who loses his liberty loses half his virtue". I hope Americans hear and heed this warning.

NSA's collection of phone records

In the past few days, various newspaper articles have brought to light that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is obtaining call records from various telecoms (notably not included is Qwest) for all calls made on their network. This data is said to be needed for national security reasons. As far as we know, there is no judicial or legislative oversight of what is being done with the data.

As a (low-level) employee of one of the telecoms that is sending records to the NSA, I feel a sense of betrayal.

The data that the NSA is collecting is called CPNI (Customer Proprietary Network Information). It includes the "time, date, duration and destination number of each call". Even though my job takes me nowhere close to such information, I nevertheless must take an yearly refresher course on the safeguarding of such information. I don't pay close attention to all this, because it is not a situation that I encounter, but apparently, even to develop a sales proposal to an existing customer to provide them better service based on what the telco already knows of their usage patterns, one must get consent in writing from the customer.

Now this.

We can only speculate how the NSA might be using this data. One easy guess is that given a target number, it can find all phone numbers that received from or made calls to that target number, and then all phone numbers that called or were called from these numbers, and then, given that the Administration considers warrantless wiretapping to be justified, the NSA can listen in on all these phone calls.

This is simply not acceptable as a unilateral action by the Executive. The Constitution doesn't grant the Executive such sweeping powers.

I know right-wingers who don't want to use New Jersey's EZ-Pass (electronic toll-paying) because it means that someone somewhere knows when their vehicle has passed certain points of the highway, and this they feel, is a unwarranted intrusion on their privacy. They use the cash line instead.

Yet, people of the same stripe seem to be justifying the NSA action on the blogsphere.

Maybe the day is coming when every vehicle will have a GPS device and a transmitter and will report its position at all times to a central repository. It will certainly buy security - car theft will fall heavily if the engineering is put in to make this difficult to disable. Hit-and-run drivers will be easily identified. What do innocent people have to worry about, a benign and protective government having all this data? Well, the government is not your Mom, and you don't tell your Mom everything, do you? Why not?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

More azalea

Enjoy it while it lasts!

Golden Azalea

I couldn't resist this azalea, though it carried a hefty price tag.


New starts

Daisies on request. Now have to figure out where they'll do best.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hindu Utopia

Seems to me that if Hindus have ever thought of utopia, then its defining feature is that everyone minds their own business. Rama Rajya is simply the state of affairs where everyone is free to mind their own business. Of course, "one's own business" is based on "one's own tradition".

Monday, May 08, 2006

More azalea


Hehe, I'm using photos as a way of not writing :).

Anyway, a small flock of robins descended on the lawn yesterday - notably snubbing the neighbors. I'm wondering whether that is good or bad. If it means the return of the earthworms, of which I haven't seen one this year, compared to the abundance of previous years, then it must be good. On the other hand, if it is some new round of pests....

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More azalea

I'm going to have to try again when the day is less bright.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cartoons - Vote-bank politics

Outlook India

Beni Prasad Verma backs bounty for Danish cartoonist


Virtually endorsing a Uttar Pradesh minister's announcement of a reward for anyone beheading those reponsible for caricatures of Prophet Mohammed, Samajwadi Party leader Beni Prasad Verma today said he would give half his properties to the person who killed the cartoonist.

Speaking to reporters here, Verma, general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, alleged Christian countries had always been "anti-Muslim".

Haji Yaqoob Qureshi, Uttar Pradesh's minister for Haj, had earlier announced a reward of Rs 51 crore for anyone who beheaded the artist reponsible for the cartoons first carried by a Danish publication. The move triggered a widespread controversy that cost Qureshi his ministerial post.

Verma said the Samajwadi Party had always fought for the dignity and pride of Muslims and would not tolerate their humiliation.

Alleging that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre was anti-Muslim, Verma claimed it had pressurised Uttar Pradesh Governor T V Rajeshwar not to give his assent to the Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar Urdu University Bill.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Garden pic


Lew Rockwell speaks

Lew Rockwell writes:

The conservatives denounce their presidents for the same reason that the left denounces Stalin: they want to evade responsibility for the results of the policies imposed by monsters that they themselves created. When the left does this, we know not to take it too seriously. If you give the state the right to expropriate all private property, you can't be too surprised when dictators take over.

Similarly, when the whole of your intellectual enterprise has been wrapped up in celebrating the nation-state and its wars, condemning civil liberties, casting aspersions on religious liberty, and heralding the jail and the electric chair as the answer to all of society's problems, you can't complain when your policies produce tin-pot despotic imperialists like Bush. You have no intellectual apparatus with which to beat them back.

The problem with American conservatism is that it hates the left more than the state, loves the past more than liberty, feels a greater attachment to nationalism than to the idea of self-determination, believes brute force is the answer to all social problems, and thinks it is better to impose truth rather than risk losing one's soul to heresy. It has never understood the idea of freedom as a self-ordering principle of society. It has never seen the state as the enemy of what conservatives purport to favor. It has always looked to presidential power as the saving grace of what is right and true about America.

Along with my general approval, I note that any ideology, including libertarianism, can be a powerful shield from the truth.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Health Care Costs

According to Paul Krugman, in today's New York Times, Medicare spends 98 cents of each dollar of funds on health care. The insurance company Aetna spends 79.4 cents of each dollar on health care - the rest is profit, marketing, administrative expenses, including screening out bad risk.

Krugman also quotes a doctor, Benjamin Brewer, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, that he has to hire four staff members to handle the paperwork associated with 301 different private insurance plans; he could probably reduce to one staff member with a single payer plan.

The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that lack of health insurance leads to 18,000 unnecessary American deaths... each year