Sunday, February 27, 2011

You are being lied to. What's new?

The story about the pensions of state employees causing states to go bankrupt, etc., is a bit overblown.

Most of the pension shortfall using the current methodology is attributable to the plunge in the stock market in the years 2007-2009. If pension funds had earned returns just equal to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds in the three years since 2007, their assets would be more than $850 billion greater than they are today. This is by far the major cause of pension funding shortfalls. While there are certainly cases of pensions that had been under- funded even before the market plunge, prior years of under-funding is not the main reason that pensions face difficulties now. Another $80 billion of the shortfall is the result of the fact that states have cutback their contributions as a result of the downturn.

Strange deformation in rail in New Zealand earthquake


Friday, February 25, 2011

The Republicans' Crony Capitalism on Display

The Wisconsin bill that seeks to eliminate unions of public sector employees also has stuff like this:
“Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

As Paul Krugman explains:
What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011


This blog had mentioned Light Peak, a new computer peripheral/electronics interconnect technology from Intel and the speculation that Apple would leapfrog USB 3.0 and go for this technology.

Well, it did, under the tradename of "Thunderbolt". Here is the Intel page and the Apple page.

The promise is of 10 Gpbs of throughput in both directions, daisy chaining, 10 watts of power for peripherals, simple (cheap???) adapters to connect Thunderbolt to USB and Firewire devices and general joy and salvation for the world.

On the Raymond Davis affair

Praveen Swami has a nice theory of what happened in Lahore with the shooting of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor.

However, I quote it here, because a worried-by-deficit US needs to heed Prof. Christine Fair:
“The bottom line,” says C Christine Fair, a scholar at Georgetown University, “is that the Pakistanis do not want a strategic relationship with the US. Washington needs to get over the idea that throwing more money at Pakistan will make it see its own interests differently.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Amazing Example of Leadership Skills

This is from Donald Rumsfeld, G.W. Bush's Secy. of Defence. (PDF file)

April 7, 2003    11:46 AM
TO:              Doug Feith
FROM:        Donald Rumsfeld
SUBJECT:  Issues w/Various Countries

We need more coercive diplomacy with respect to Syria and Libya, and we need it fast. If they mess up Iraq, it will delay bringing our troops home.

We also need to solve the Pakistan problem.

And Korea doesn’t seem to be going well.

Are you coming up with proposals for me to send around?

Monday, February 21, 2011

For pixel peepers

The full frame:

For pixel peepers

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Majorly Profound

Added "Major Bearls Oph Wisdom" to the Blog List.

Major and his fourth cousin thrice removed (twice by ISI and once by CIA) express a widespread opinion about Pakistan in a very humorous way.

South Asian
Indians are Indians and Pakistanis when caught in tight situations (like in Airports) are Indians too. In other circumstances they are South Asians. Being "South Asian" offers many advantages. Such as an overwhelming numerical advantage.
Example: When faced with the question “Is radicalization a problem”? South Asians can reply with a straight face "Only 170 million, or less than 10% of the South Asians are radicalized". Which sounds entirely reasonable.


A round of applause for AK-facilitated egalitarianism!!

So what of this elusive little-understood animal (like the Yeti and “Silent Majority” of Pakistan) called Liberalism? More importantly what is and why Liberalism? Liberalism wimmens and gentlemards, among other things, is to ensure social mobility and equal participation in governance. And social mobility in yesteryears depended on access to capital producing goods. Like Land. Ergo, if Liberalism had existed before Salman Taseer’s assasination, Land reforms would have been implmented. Pray tell me how did that go? As you would have guessed:

Fantastically!! We had the Provincial Tenancy Act of 1950!! 

Since yours sachly fancies himself as a story teller more than a lawyer (and is allergic to the word “WHEREAS” in all caps that every legal document seems to have) instead of describing the law, let me tell you a story. There are 1.7 million landless agricultural workers  in Pakistan and in January 2002 The honorable High court of Sindh dismissed petitions for the release of bonded laborers citing this very same act and declaring bonded laborers to be a “dispute” between Landlords and peasants. Covered by the Tenancy act. So much for equal rights and social mobility based on capital producing goods. So, did the “liberalism” enabled by tenancy act die with Salman Taseer’s assassination?


Did the egalitarianism of the threat of a few peasants banding together, declaring their landlord to be a blasphemer and shooting him in the head become a real possibility after Salman Taseer’s assasination?

Emphatic yes!!

So wimmens and gentlemards, I submit that egalitarianism has taken birth!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Contaminated Genomes

I wonder whether all those studies of the genetic distance between various human groups is affected by this kind of problem
Nearly 20 percent of the nonhuman genomes held in computer databases are contaminated with human DNA, presumably from the researchers who prepared the samples, say scientists who chanced upon the finding while looking for a human virus.

A cheap way to mathematical immortality?

From here.  Pay your fee and you get to name a mathematical theorem!

The Anthrax Attacks - case not closed

The 2001 anthrax attacks helped raise the fear level in the US of A, and propelled it to war.  The perpetrator(s) have not been found.  The FBI pinned the blame on a scientist, Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide;  but its case was not convincing to a lot of people.  Now the FBI's case has been further weakened.  The perpetrator(s) remain at large.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Libertarians and Asteroid Defence

The Libertarian Argument:

1. The sole moral purpose of government is to protect people's rights.
2. An asteroid crashing into the earth does not violate anyone's rights.
3. Therefore, it is immoral for the government to tax people to build a defence against asteroids.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pakistan demands to suck at the US taxpayers' teat

Reminder from 2009:
"A company at the verge of failure is quite clearly able to get a bigger bailout than a nation that has been accused of failure," Ambassador Husain Haqqani said in remarks at a Washington think tank.
"That's something that in this town needs a review," he said, calling for investments in schools and infrastructure to help nuclear-armed Pakistan fight al Qaeda and home-grown extremists battling the civilian government in Islamabad.

Pakistan and Afghanistan deserve more resources than "some failed insurance company or some car company whose achievement is that they couldn't make cars that they could sell," said Haqqani.

Bad Governance could trip up India

Falling Apart?

Giving the Pakistani government more money because it is "too big to fail" is a doomed policy in every way except one: it allows us to believe (for the time being) that nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of people who would like to detonate those weapons in Long Beach or Baltimore Harbor.
This belief will be true until it is no longer true. The day when it is no longer true will be the day that a gaggle of pundits assembles on TV to say: "how could this have happened?" Everyone will express shock at the turn of events.  But this turn of events is inevitable.  Pakistan's government will fall.  Whether it falls this year or next or in 2014, no one at the highest levels of the United States government doubts that Pakistan's current government will fall.  What happens after that is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Corruption in India

Forwarded to me.   If India was not so corrupt, why should anyone in India be poor?

FYI: 1 lakh = 100,000,   1 crore = 10,000,000

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Egypt - 2

From The Friday Times:

Also, read M.J. Akbar.
Jawaharlal Nehru once said that Gandhi's greatest contribution was not the liberation of India from the British but the liberation of Indians from fear. The second had to precede the first. Fear of the Raj disappeared, Nehru said, during the great Non-Cooperation, or Khilafat, Movement between 1919 and February 1922. Fear finally began to retreat in Egypt when a 26-year-old woman, Asmaa Mahfouz, posted a video of herself on the Net with a simple message: "Do not be afraid."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011