Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Farhat Taj

More on the NWFP. Read this.

Previous collection of Farhat Taj links.

Ishq Nachaya

The story behind the song, and a translation.

Urdu turning Arabic

I don't know how much tongue-in-cheek this Nadeem Paracha column is; judge for yourself.

“Oh, come on, you know what I mean,” I said. “People sending text messages and emails telling Muslims to become better Muslims by saying ‘Allah Hafiz’ instead of ‘Khuda Hafiz;’ ‘Jazzak Allah’ instead of ‘thank you;’ ‘salat’ instead of namaz.’. What’s more, what is this other new idea of shouting Alhamdulillah instead of answering with a simple ‘yes’ or a ‘haan?”

“Chalo jee, now you have a problem with that too,” my friend chuckled.

“Of course, I do,” I said. “Sometimes I feel one can now hear more Urdu on the streets of Dubai than in the drawing-rooms of Pakistan!”

Saturday, January 30, 2010


In the comments to QOTD-2, Sandip has provided a link to more subhaashitas. There are a lot of good ones there, but one struck me given the ideological quarrels of today. Perhaps this is the centrist view of American politics?

(#124 on that page, citation given as Mahabharata 5.33.65)
There are two types of people who should be pushed in deep water with heavy stones tied to their body!
One who does not donate inspite of being rich and the other who does not work hard inspite of being poor !!

PS: Kisari Mohan Ganguly's translation renders it this way: "These two should be thrown into the water, tightly binding weights to their necks, viz., a wealthy man that doth not give away, and a poor man that is proud. "


In order to destroy the past of a people, all you need to do is give them a history.

Balu's essay, What do Indians Need: A History or the Past? is essential reading for any Hindu. (PDF file)


Encountered on the BRF forum:

"Asvam naova Gajam naova vyaagam naova ca naova ca a
AjaaPutram bailam dvait\ dovaao duba-lagaatk aa"

"Horse (Ashwam)? - No, Elephant (Gajam)? - No, Tiger (VyaGhram)?? - No,Not at all!!
Only the baby goat (AjaaPutram) is sacrificed during any ritual.

Conclusion is that even God does not protect the weak!!"


The real challenge that Gandhi had taken up seemed to be about the survival of the Hindu tradition as a tradition. That is, according to him, traditions lived and survived through their capacity of elevating people morally and spiritually. If Hindu tradition was not capable of doing so to all the people inside its fold, its degeneration and corruption were inevitable. Gandhi seemed to have understood the real challenge of Christian conversion: a challenge for the survival of traditions that are very different from religions like Christianity and Islam. If these traditions had something to offer to humankind, they should be able to show it. If they did not, they might as well perish and all might as well convert to Christianity. This was the uncompromising position Gandhi took. - Sarah Claerhout, Ph.D thesis, "Losing My Tradition - Conversion, Secularism and Religious Freedom in India, available via TheHeathenInHisBlindness yahoo group.

Why I quote it is because this very challenge has been raised by my niece (though she may not recognize it as such). What of our specific culture and tradition can or ought to survive in this globalizing sea of cultures? What constitutes the limits of acceptable change — are there any limits? What is the "meta-tradition" or philosophical outlook within which changes are not seen as abandoning our ways? That is why the above strikes a resonance with me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What is wrong with America....

The generally poor quality of our Congress. How does the President have a better grasp of issues than 140+ representatives?

How you will know America is getting better

How you will know America is getting better is when Jon Stewart starts running short of material.


Jakob De Roover in Outlook India
To someone who has no first-hand experience of the academic study of India in the US, it must be difficult to imagine the number of young scholars who say things like `this is what I really think, but I will not say it in public, because I'm up for tenure'.


In Europe, the issue cannot be separated from the colonial past and the present state of affairs, where the old continent is losing its earlier dominance to rising Asian nations that outpace it in every way. In response, Europeans have developed a set of strategies to convince themselves that their civilization is still morally superior. Here, scholars of India have an important role to fulfil. Simply put, they are expected to do the following: acknowledge that India is indeed going through swift economic growth; next, point out that it still has tremendous poverty, the caste system, superstition, religious conflicts, gender inequality, exploitation, child labour, nepotism, bribery, revolts, incompetence...; and provide appropriate details on these flaws and the necessary footnotes or fieldwork. In this way, these scholars should contribute to what John Gray calls the ‘comfort blanket against an unfamiliar world’, which Europe is weaving around itself. ‘Rest assured; we are still on top’.

Naturally, few scholars today would be willing to state explicitly that the European civilization is superior. Yet, while they disavow Eurocentrism, they also reproduce a deep-rooted cultural asymmetry. When European scholars describe India, they tend to connect all ills and atrocities in that society to the nature of Indian culture. One links widow-burning, dowry murder, domestic violence, female infanticide and caste discrimination to ‘Hindu’ foundations. Europe also loves to celebrate Indian authors whose specialty is revealing the ‘dark underbelly’ of Indian society. In contrast, social ills and atrocities in European societies are characterised as aberrations: racism, colonial genocide, the two World Wars, the Holocaust, sexual abuse, etc. are considered as acts that deviate from the true temper of European culture. This stance of cultural asymmetry has become the hidden premise of the European study of India.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lawrence Lessig Replies to Glenn Greenwald

Lawrence Lessig takes on the absolutist position towards the First Amendment on HuffPo.

Lessig establishes that corporations are creations of the state, and thus, (under established law, upheld by this Supreme Court), can have restrictions on speech put on them by the state (e.g., just as government employees have such restrictions).

Of what nature can those restrictions be or not be?
If the government's reason for silencing corporations is that they don't like what corporations would say -- if it thinks, for example, that it would be too Republican, or too pro-business -- then that's got to be a terrible reason for the regulation, and we all ought to support a decision that strikes a law so inspired.

That, however, is not the only, or the best, justification behind the regulations at issue in Citizens United. Those rules not about suppressing a point of view. They're about avoiding a kind of dependency that undermines trust in our government. The concentrated, and tacitly, coordinated efforts by large and powerful economic entities -- made large and powerful in part because of the gift of immunity given by the state -- could certainly help lead many to believe "money is buying results" in Congress. Avoiding that belief -- just like avoiding the belief that money bought results on the Supreme Court -- has got to be an important and valid interest of the state.


My point is not that the state's power to condition should be unlimited. The point instead is that it's not so simple, or absolute, as Greenwald would have it. And given the true complexity of these evolving and complicated doctrines, it is certainly fair to be critical in the extreme of this decision by the Court, favoring speech that most believe it naturally likes (unlike abortion-speak), in a decision that ignores the judgment of Congress about the conditions under which the integrity of that body, or any election, proceeds.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sustainable values

Thomas Friedman:
Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, likes to talk about two kinds of values: “situational values” and “sustainable values.” Leaders, companies or individuals guided by situational values do whatever the situation will allow, no matter the wider interests of their communities. A banker who writes a mortgage for someone he knows can’t make the payments over time is acting on situational values, saying: “I’ll be gone when the bill comes due.”

People inspired by sustainable values act just the opposite, saying: “I will never be gone. I will always be here. Therefore, I must behave in ways that sustain — my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my environment, my country and my future generations.”

is about sustainable values, and not just in corporate life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Men ... have a tendency to confuse correct logic with an accurate assessment of a situation. — from here

Monday, January 25, 2010

Glenn Greenwald in the dust-bin

If you were wondering where the link to Glenn Greenwald's blog on on the top left column of this page went, I deliberately erased it. Why?

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision overturned over 100 years of jurisprudence and struck down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns. Glenn Greenwald supports that decision, which is fine by me. The basis of his reasoning is that the Bill of Rights, and specifically the First Amendment is absolute: either a law is consonant with the strict letter of the Constitution or it is not. Since
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
there are no limits to free speech, and the Supreme Court decision is right. (There is more, on whether money is equivalent to speech, and whether corporations, but these are really digressions from the real issue).

Again, so far, no complaints.

My view is different: the Bill of Rights does nothing to handle the competing claims against it. For instance, can the Muslim call for prayers be done over loudspeakers, as it is done in India? What about the right of people to a reasonable expectation of quiet? Do school students have unlimited free speech? What about school discipline? (The Supreme Court has upheld limits on students' rights on these very grounds.) The only way to balance these competing incompatible claims is to look at the outcomes and to decide which one is acceptable by contemporary standards and that is beneficient to society. The Congress has the task of making such choices (the courts can review them).

Glenn Greenwald does not accept this reasoning as even a legitimate point of view that we can agree to disagree on. For him only the absolutist reasoning is legitimate. As per him, those of us who share my reasoning are for the Constitution when it supports what we want and against it when it goes against us. His stance reminds me of that of the Islamic fundamentalist, to whom those who don't agree with him is munafiq.

I can understand the absolutist point of view, its fear of slippery slopes - if we yield an inch to the Congress, it will take a mile. To absolutists, rights (as in the text of the Constitution) are given sacred text, rather than conventions the Founding Fathers engineered precisely by considering (the historical experience of) the outcomes of not following the conventions, the outcome of judicial decisions is not important, all that matters is the adherence to text. I happily agree that when we have no good guide, then following the text strictly may be the best thing to do. But the century-plus of legislation on this issue arose precisely because following the text strictly didn't work; and there is a century worth of just-as-distinguished justices who did not find this legislation to be abridging the First Amendment.

I don't support fundamentalists of any type, and Greenwald's recent articles establish him to be one, by my way of thinking. Hence the move to the trash.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Kevin Drum of Mother Jones appears to be unaware of CALEA.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) is a United States wiretapping law passed in 1994, during the presidency of Bill Clinton (Pub. L. No. 103-414, 108 Stat. 4279, codified at 47 USC 1001-1010). In its own words, the purpose of CALEA is:
To amend title 18, United States Code, to make clear a telecommunications carrier's duty to cooperate in the interception of communications for Law Enforcement purposes, and for other purposes.
CALEA's purpose is to enhance the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct electronic surveillance by requiring that telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have built-in surveillance capabilities, allowing federal agencies to monitor all telephone, broadband internet, and VoIP traffic in real-time......In the years since CALEA was passed it has been greatly expanded to include all VoIP and broadband internet traffic.From 2004 to 2007 there was a 62 percent growth in the number of wiretaps performed under CALEA -- and more than 3,000 percent growth in interception of internet data such as email.

Rubbing Pakistan's nose in it

I witnessed Javed Miandad (wiki) on Capital Talk on GeoTV, complaining about Sri Lanka touring India and Bangladesh (but not Pakistan) and that shows there is a conspiracy against Pakistan. Neither he nor anyone else on that show even hinted that something might have happened to keep the Sri Lankans away:
In a commando-style operation, a dozen gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in the heart of Lahore, Pakistan's cultural and political hub, at 8:45 Tuesday morning [March 3, 2009]. The attackers fired rockets, grenades and multiple rounds of ammunition at the team's bus and the police escorting it, killing eight people and injuring six.

Such liars should be whipped. The article excerpted below is second-best.

Sushil K of the Indian Express.
I say downright pathetic if it wasn’t so tragic. Mohammed Ali Jinnah must be squirming in his grave. His two-nation theory just got the boot from the people and government of the country he got his colonial master to carve out of India. The IPL has exposed the Pakistani envy and love for and of all things ‘India’. Partition was a mistake and nobody knows it better than our brothers and sisters the other side of Wagah.

Just for a couple of days at least the people of Pakistan, and that includes those who make up the Pakistani establishment, gave the impression, articulated the view, that they wanted to be Indians, that they would kill to be Indians. The cries of anguish and anger and disappointment gave that feeling away. Never have any country’s people reacted to a sports snub the way Pakistanis reacted to their players’ IPL exclusion, the most vociferous the Government of Pakistan, hurling threats to do this and that to Indians, tit for tat etc, etc…

All because of a game or two of cricket, may be four/five, on Indian soil? Damn right, hurt pride had a lot to do with the clamour to pay India in the same coin but having said that let’s not forget Pakistan has nothing in its chest — except the American F16 and, soon, US drones — to hit at India, or that India/Indians would want from them.

I can’t think of one thing. What does Pakistan have that Indians should envy or covet? They watch our movies, sing our songs and eat no different. Their celebrities get to be real celebrities only after they make it to a celebrity party in Bombay or Delhi. Their stand-up comedians get instant laughs only on Indian TV shows. And, to top it all, their top gunman is incarcerated in India and that true-blood Pakistani boy is ranting and raving that he is an Indian, his Pakistani mama is an Indian and his Pakistani father is an Indian and two days later he tells the court a few of the nine other Pakistanis who made up 26/11 attackers were Indians. If that does not show how much Pakistanis want to be Indians, what does?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Clemons interviews Stiglitz

Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation interviews economist Joseph Stiglitz. Worth a watch.

Irfan Husain on what the Taliban want

People like Glenn Greenwald and his following on constantly berate the US for its actions, blaming the US and the US alone for troubles in the Muslim world. So I post this from Irfan Husain, in Dawn, which has quite the opposite message.

Irfan Husain in The Dawn:
Those urging the government to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban need to be clear whether they want their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters to lead the lives their Afghan counterparts had to not so long ago. To the Taliban, these are non-negotiable conditions to their stated desire to impose their version of the Sharia on the rest of us.

Largely due to the shrill voices that have crowded out reason from media debate, there is a lot of confusion and ambiguity about what the Taliban want, and how far the government should go in meeting their demands. Some argue that their excesses are the result of the western presence in Afghanistan, and our government’s military anti-Taliban operations in the tribal areas. How the extremists hold school-going children responsible for these policies, and destroy schools is something their apologists in the media have failed to explain.
So much as I wish it were otherwise, I fear a military solution is the only one currently available. Negotiating from a position of weakness is a sure recipe for disaster.

IPL and Pakistan

No Pakistani players were selected for the Indian Premier League cricket teams. This has resulted in a lot of hot air from both sides of the border.

E.g. this from India and see this and mentions in this editorial in Dawn.

Since the Pakistani players undeniably have talent, the question is why did (the private parties comprising) the IPL not pick any of them? Was it purely a business decision? (e.g., extra security would be needed).

IMO, this letter from an Indian, published in the Daily Times of Pakistan, said it well:

Comment from Mumbai

Sir: Apropos your editorial ‘Politics at IPL’ (Daily Times, January 21, 2010), while one can understand the hurt felt by the Pakistani players and Pakistanis at large, I tend to believe that this is an instance of ‘non-state actors’ acting without the guidance of the Indian state. If Pakistanis and the Pakistan state can wash its hands of 26/11, why hold the Indian state responsible for the decision of a few rich individuals? After all, what is good for the goose should be good for the gander as well!
Mumbai, India

The DT editorial is here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court inaugurates the Corporatocracy

America has been gradually turned into a country of, by, for corporations. The Supreme Court has put the final nail in the coffin of American democracy, by removing all restrictions on the use of corporate money in federal campaigns.

Remedial legislation is likely to be impossible - the Supreme Court will rule it to be unconstitutional. I think, just like with slavery, a constitutional amendment will be necessary. However, getting such an amendment in the face of the money that corporations can throw against it is going to be next to impossible.

Essentially, the US of A is moving to a situation where governance is no longer responsive to the citizens, and only a revolution can bring about change.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Knowledge flow vs Knowledge hoarding

Thomas Friedman lays it out:
John Hagel, the noted business writer and management consultant argues in his recently released “Shift Index” that we’re in the midst of “The Big Shift.” We are shifting from a world where the key source of strategic advantage was in protecting and extracting value from a given set of knowledge stocks — the sum total of what we know at any point in time, which is now depreciating at an accelerating pace — into a world in which the focus of value creation is effective participation in knowledge flows, which are constantly being renewed......

Have no doubt, China has some world-class networked companies that are “in the flow” already, such as Li & Fung, a $14 billion apparel company with a network of 10,000 specialized business partners, and Dachangjiang, the motorcycle maker. The flows occurring on a daily basis in the networks of these Chinese companies to do design, product innovation and supply-chain management and to pool the best global expertise “are unlike anything that U.S. companies have figured out,” said Hagel.
The orchestrators of these networks, he added, “encourage participants to gather among themselves in an ad hoc fashion to address unexpected performance challenges, learn from each other and pull in outsiders as they need them. More traditional companies driven by a desire to protect and exploit knowledge stocks carefully limit the partners they deal with.”

When does public opinion merit respect?

"When does public opinion merit respect?. Only when it agrees with my political agenda." Glenn Greenwald dissects NYT columnist David Brooks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lame Duck President

Obama made history today - becoming the first President to become a lame duck before one year of his presidency was over. In the blue, blue state of Massachusetts, a tea-bagger Republican won the Senate seat made vacant by Edward Kennedy's death. Given the craven, pussilanimous, spineless Democrats, this means the president's agenda is dead. Moreover, Obama will not be able to do the hard things necessary to turn the situation around. Chances are that he will be a one-term President.

What comes next? Maybe a tea-bagger Congress and a President Sarah Palin.

To an objective observer, it must be strange to see in this the demise of Democratic governance when they have 59/100 seats in the Senate. But the Democrats stand for nothing, and sway with each gust of wind. And so now, they are swept away.

Perfect boiled eggs

The science and technique of boiling eggs.

So this is what I discovered: given that my burner is consistent in its heat output, given that I use the same pot each time, given that my tap water always comes out at around 40 to 45 degrees, and given that my apartment is at a relatively stable temperature year around, there is a precise volume of water I can use to hard boil an egg such that if I start it cold, bring it up to a bare simmer, then immediately shut off the heat, the water temperature will drop to below 170 degrees just as the central yolk temperature reaches 170 degrees, thereby guaranteeing that my egg will be perfectly cooked every single time.

Indian Military Defeats

In response to a question by CIP I reproduce this section of "A Matter of Honour - An Account of the Indian Army, its officers & men" by Philip Mason.
 (Added July 13, 2013)
French and English
1. A Rabble of Peons

.... There was another turning-point which must be scored to the French credit. In 1746 an engineer officer in the French service, M. Paradis, with 230 French soldiers and 700 sepoys, and with no artillery, attacked across a river an Indian force of over 10,000 men, strongly posted, and with guns, and drove them headlong from the field.  This, the battle of San Thomé, was the first occasion of many which proved that a resolute attack by properly trained men could usually defeat the forces of an Indian prince ten times as numerous.  From this moment, the French, and a little later the English, ceased to be suppliants; from now on it was they who were courted.....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Young talent

16 year old Anwesha
Youtube sacrifices too much sound quality - the clarity of her voice is compromised.

I think this is slightly better, but I like the song less:

One of the songs mentioned in Wiki:

Particle Physics: Victim of its own success

Tommaso Dorigo explains.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pakistani view of Bangladeshi secularism

Huma Yusuf, in Dawn.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Protect yourself from debit card fraud

Consumer Reports, via yahoo outlines 3 steps to help reduce the chances of being a victim of debit card fraud.

NWFP, FATA and Farhat Taj

Farhat Taj is
a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy.
She has a series of articles in The Daily Times of Pakistan, which present a different point of view, worth examining whether you believe her or not. Some of her articles:

December 19, 2009

December 26, 2009

January 2, 2009

January 9, 2009

January 16, 2009

Friday, January 15, 2010

Welfare of All

From a "Crash Course in Jewish History": (18th-19th century)

"Despite the oppression some amazing things happened in the Pale.

For one thing, charity -- tzedakah, which in Hebrew means "justice" -- thrived, as Jews helped each other. The historian Martin Gilbert writes in his Atlas of Jewish History that no province in the Pale had less than 14% of Jews on relief, and Lithuanian and Ukrainian Jews supported as much as 22% of their poor population:

"Among the charitable societies organized by Jews were those to supply poor students with clothes, soldiers with kosher food, the poor with free medical treatment, poor brides with dowries, and orphans with technical education."

This was an incredibly sophisticated social welfare system. In times of great hardship, no Jew was abandoned. "

Today, Jews are successful in many areas of endeavor. In pondering the roots of the success, I noted the above; another idea is the emphasis on education; and wonder why there is such ideological resistance today to the idea of taking care of all humans - surely it is necessary if the world is improve its average of accomplishment.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What The Duck!

Photography cartoons.


The (futile?) quest for new physics:
Unfortunately, the measured rates are all in excellent agreement with standard model predictions.

Mayhem in Pakistan

The number of Pakistani civilians killed in militant attacks rose by a third in 2009 over the previous year, according to a new research report....Militants carried out 87 suicide attacks in 2009, up from 63 the previous year,.... The bombings, which tend to inflict harm over a wide area, also helped account for a 60 percent rise in injuries, to 7,334.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It wasn't the Fed

Krugman: It was dysfunctional markets.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Infoworld's tech. top 10


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Life as a Dhimmi - 7

Inshallah (I say this as a bonafide idolatrous infidel) the Malays will come to their senses soon.
The attacks, unlike anything Malaysia has seen before, have shaken a country where many Muslims are angry over a Dec. 31 court ruling that overturned a government ban on the use of the word Allah to denote the Christian God.

Though that usage is common in many countries, where Arabic- and Malay-language Bibles describe Jesus as the “son of Allah,” many Muslims here insist that the word belongs exclusively to them and say that its use by other faiths could confuse Muslim worshipers.

Wiki: Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram (one of Gandhi's favorite bhajans)
Transliteration (ITRANS):

raghupati raaghav raajaaraam,
patit paavan sitaram
siitaaraam, sitaram,
bhaj pyaare tu sitaram
iishvar allaah tero naam,
sab ko sanmati de bhagavaan


Lord Rama, Chief of the house of Raghu,
Uplifters of those who have fallen, (O divine couple) Sita and Rama,
Beloved, praise Sita and Rama,
God or Allah is your name, (meaning that the supreme can be called by many names)
Lord, bless everyone with this wisdom.

Kabir (1435-1518)
Does [the Muslim's God] Khuda, live only in the mosque?
Is [the Hindu's God] Ram, only in idols and holy grounds?
Have you searched and found Him there?
You imagine that Hari [Vishnu] is in the East, and Allah is in the West;
But search for Him only in the heart-that is where Ram and Karim both live.
Which, then, is false, the Quran or the Vedas?
False is the man who does not see the Truth.
It is One;
It is the same One in all.
How can you imagine that It is two?
Says Kabir: 0 Lord, every man and every woman are Your own forms;
I am the simple child of Allah-Ram;
He is my Guru, my Pir
Brother, where did your two gods come from?
Ram, Allah; Keshav, Karim; Hari, Hazrat-so many names!
There may be many golden ornaments, but there is one gold;
it has no two-ness in it.
Merely for the sake of exposition, we make of the One, two.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

An interesting piece

A musical analogy to the turmoil in the Muslim world:

At the end of the 1930s jazz had developed to point where white musicians were able to play it very well. Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden and Gene Krupa, would be notable examples. Many young African-American musicians, notably Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie, felt that their music was being stolen out from under them by white people and set out to create a way of playing that was so original and complex that the white musicians simply couldn't play it. Thus was "Be-bop" born.

What many Muslims, violent and non-violent alike seem to have hit on is that their ancestral religion is indigestible by globalization. It is a music that globalization, in its American version, simply cannot play: a sort of divine be-bop.

Today in countries like Egypt even moderate Muslims, people that don't plan on putting a bomb in anybody's jockey shorts, are wearing beards and hijabs and chorusing, "Islam is the answer": They see it as a vaccine against being digested and assimilated and then excreted by the dynamics of globalization.

Are Muslims just being insanely paranoiac when they accuse the United States of trying to "destroy" Islam?

In my opinion, yes and no. "Yes", from the American point of view, where we think it jolly nice if some people go to church on Sunday, others go to temple on Saturday and, what the heck, others can go to mosque on Friday if they want to... but for the rest of what is left of the week, it is business as usual or else.

"No", from the point of view of many Muslims, if by "to destroy" means "to trivialize" their religion, which, in their view, is a seven day, 24 hour a day project, which is the arbiter of all human affairs. This is contrary to the rules of our economic system: within globalization the "market" has taken on the role that Islam assigns to God. Therefore Islam being indigestible in its present form must be reshaped or "Disneyfied" if you will. Except it can't be and still be Islam.

More than confronting the American people themselves, it seems to me that Muslim fundamentalists are confronting history's most powerful exponent of a system that was once described as turning "all that is solid into air", leaving commerce as the fundamental activity of all human beings. If we consider in what shape our economic system has left the teachings of Jesus Christ, perhaps the Muslims aren't as far off target as they appear at first glance.

If you stop and think about it, every traditional relationship between human beings that ever existed anywhere, clan, tribe, nationality, religion, family authority, has been either dissolved or degraded by our economic system: this is what we have lost in exchange for our standard of living. We happen to be cool with that, but not everybody else is.

Be that as it may, the principal objective of Muslim fundamentalists, in my opinion, is to eject an alien civilization (us), and all those who empower it (ME regimes), from the spiritual-emotional center of Islam. At heart this is just an continuation of the dismantling of the Euro-American (white) domination of the world that began at the end of WWII, a domination which globalization has given a new breath of life.

Read this too.

In Favor of Drone Attacks!

Irfan Husain joins Farhat Taj in challenging the conventional wisdom about drone attacks.
The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It is in this context that they would welcome anyone, Americans, Israelis, Indians or even the devil, to rid them of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Therefore, they welcome the drone attacks.

A New Indophobia?

Or should it simply be "Barbara Crossette strikes again?"


From a comment here:

...if the bond rating agencies and banks had been infiltrated by al qaeda, could we tell the difference?

And if you read the main article, please follow and read all the links, or you won't get the point.

Friday, January 08, 2010

On the Earthquake Puzzler

Regarding the earthquake puzzler:

The puzzler was that in a sample of some 118K tremblors of magnitude 4 or greater over a 10 year period, they occur more often on Thursdays and Sundays than any other day of the week. There is no physical or measurement bias reason for this to happen. We naively expect the number of earthquakes on any day of the week in this sample to be the same. Of course, as with any sample of random events, there won't be exactly the same number of events on each day of the week. But in this case, the deviation from the average is much larger than can be (naively) expected by chance.

Imagine tossing a fair coin 10 times. Fairly often, you will get 7 heads and 3 tails (or 3 heads and 7 tails), and not be surprised (roughly 12% of the time, each). If you toss the coin 100 times though, you expect to find 70 heads and 30 tails very rarely. The expectation is that the results will be centered around 50-50 (e.g., 55-45, 53-47, etc.)

But suppose the coin, while fair, has a memory. Suppose the probability of getting heads on a toss, **given that the previous toss gave a heads** is not 1/2 but 1/2 plus something (and likewise for tails, the next toss after a tails is somewhat more likely to be a tails). Can such a coin still be fair? Certainly. Systems in the real world often a finite memory, so eventually it will be true that the probability of a toss giving heads given that N tosses ago was heads will be 1/2, where N is some number, perhaps large. If the memory effect works exactly the same for tails as for heads, a little bit of reflection will suffice to convince yourself that in the long run this coin will yield as many tails as heads.

But see what happens: suppose the coin has an effective memory of 10 tosses. Then (in a handwaving way) a sequence of 100 tosses of the coin really corresponds to 10 **independent** tosses of the coin. And for a sequence of ten tosses, you aren't surprised when you get 70% heads and 30% tails, it happens quite often by pure chance.

The random processes that produces earthquakes also has a memory. This is what the autocorrelation function reveals.
chart5 What the chart is saying is that the underlying process has probabilities affected at a 15% level by events that happened 200 days ago. (I haven't displayed it here, but this extends out even to more than a year out). So, while the sample of earthquakes appears to be large - 118K earthquakes over 3650 days - in reality, just like the coin with the memory, there are much fewer **independent** instances, and we should not be surprised by seemingly large deviations from the average.

In the comments on Prof. Rabett's blog, you will find that the predominance of Sunday earthquakes persists even with an additional decade of data. You will also find that if the week had 9 days instead of 7, the same weirdness would be there - one of the days of the 9 day week seems to be favored more than what (naive) chance would suggest.


(via V.) See this.
A policeman, R Vetrivel, in Tamil Nadu lies on the road begging for help. The 44-year-old's legs have been chopped off by gangsters.

A government convoy passes by this part of Tirunelvelli. It includes two ministers - for Sports and Health - in the Tamil Nadu government. The convoy stops. Neither of the ministers step out of their cars. With them are bureaucrats - a Collector and a Health Secretary.

The Collector, M Jayaraman, finally gets out of his car after dithering for eight minutes. But nobody offers to take the wounded inspector to hospital. Finally, the Collector phones for an ambulance. It doesn't arrive.

Twenty minutes later, the cop is placed in one of the cars (the ministers still don't offer theirs). The policeman dies en route to the hospital.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Some gems

From Hamid Mir, on Pakistan's Geo TV's "Capital Talk" (paraphrased):

In Pakistan, the US is even more unpopular than India. (Though he and his panel discussed further and agreed that towards the US it was resentment, not hatred.)

Didn't Pakistan extend a hand of friendship to the US in accepting the Kerry-Lugar Bill?

Musharraf's stance was "I am the only non-terrorist in a nation of terrorists".

Earthquake puzzler

Professor Eli Rabett has a New Year's Puzzler.

Count me as puzzled. Since all the details and links are on Rabett's page, I'll pose it briefly: The 118,425 earthquake events of magnitude 4 or greater in the period 1999-2009 (average of 32.4 events a day) disproportionately occur on Thursdays and Sundays.

I followed the links, extracted the data (looks like this:)
Link to USGS Home Page

NEIC: Earthquake Search Results

1999,01,01,010239.86,-35.59, -71.75,4.1, 96
1999,01,01,013507.06, 21.68, 143.12,4.3,310
1999,01,01,020326.52,-23.44, 179.99,4.3,550
1999,01,01,030230.57,-10.76, 117.82,4.2, 33

and obtained this chart after suitable crunching:


Naively, the deviations from the average should be of the order of 50 or 100 and not 800. (The distribution is expected to be uniform. In polls with sample size of 2000, the sampling error is said to be 3%; this is a sample a hundred times larger, and so the sampling error is 1/(squareroot(100) or 0.3%. 0.3% of 17000 is 50).

Now, while the average number of events per day is 32, there are days with more than 100 events. For instance, Sunday, December 26, 2004 had 306 events! The distribution of events looks like this:


i.e., the plot shows the number of days in 1999-2000 that there were 1,2,3,...,306 events.

Note: Earthquakes are correlated in time - for instance, a large earthquake will typically  have a lot of aftershocks soon after.

My initial guess was that the long tail of this distribution is what was causing the discrepancy. That is, even though 10 years would seem to be a suitably long time to make an average, we have only a few days in that period with 200 or 300 events, and those few events happen to cause the discrepancies. To put it another way, if there were a huge once-in-ten-years event and it just so happened to occur on a Sunday during 1999-2009, then Sunday would have a lot more earthquakes than the other days of the week. Only over 100s of years would the average be smooth.

i.e., the existence of large rare events disrupts the naive expectation.

Another way of looking at it is that the distribution of earthquakes on Mondays, Tuesdays, etc., for 1999-2009 should look pretty much the same except at the higher number of events. Unfortunately, that is not clear on the chart drawn accordingly:


Then I thought, suppose I drop days that have more than a certain number of events - say, twice the average or around 64. Would the remaining days be closer to the uniform distribution? I tried, and it doesn't work.

Another way of looking at the data is to sort the Mondays from minimum to maximum number of earthquakes and draw a cumulative sum. E.g., the number of quakes that occurred on different Mondays might be, when sorted,
then I plot the curve passing through the points
(1,8), (2, 8+8), (3, 8+8+9), (4,8+8+9+11), etc.

If I do that for each day of the week and superpose, I expect the lines to essentially lie on top of each other until the days with high number of events cause the lines to diverge.

Instead, I get this:

Upshot is that I have no real clue as to why the distribution of earthquakes over days of the week 1999-2009 is not uniform. (Perhaps the correct thing to do is to restrict to say, magnitude 4 to magnitude 6 earthquakes.

PS: accumulated in time order the curve is more like expected, though notice Wed gets its deficit early!

PPS: I have a time-series (# of earthquakes on each day from Jan 1, 1999 to Jan 1, 2009). Convert it into a zero-mean, unit variance parameter. Here is a crude computation of the autocorrelation function. As you can see, it shows no sign of going to zero, and that is why this distribution has funny properties.


PPPS: in response to the comment by Arthur Smith:


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Dismal Science

Just how bad economics has become, courtesy CIP.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Year!

A belated Happy New Year to whomever happens to pass this way!