Saturday, March 31, 2012

Garden - March 31, 2012


Garden - March 31, 2012, a set on Flickr.

Rainy Saturday morning. A few shots of bedraggled birds.

Garden - March 30, 2012


Garden - March 30, 2012, a set on Flickr.

Caught on a Friday evening at the bird feeders. It is the standard set of birds.

Autofocus was seeming sluggish.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Romney: My father fired your father! LOL!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why does the right wing feel compelled to smear Trayvon Martin?

Dunno why, but they're doing it.

In the meantime, there is some video here said to be of Zimmerman arriving at the police station, seemingly unbloodied.

Monday, March 26, 2012

How to be a (South Asian) Strategic Analyst

MajorlyProfound explains.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Perils of the Smartness Obsession

Paul Frampton, distinguished professor of physics, age 68, was in the news. He was arrested in Buenos Aires in January on the charges of attempting to smuggle two kilograms of cocaine out of the country.

Professor Frampton was likely the victim of a scam. Like the New Zealander Sharon Mae Armstrong, he was lured to Argentina by the other end of an internet romance.  He never met the "model" but was persuaded by an associate to carry a bag on her behalf.  The bag had cocaine in a hidden compartment.
Sharon Armstrong had five kilograms of cocaine in her luggage.

As a physicist blog put it,
Everyone passing through international airports will know that they must pack their own bags and be responsible for the contents. Travellers are continually warned and asked about it. It is easy to be befriended especially in honeypot traps. The details of how Frampton may have been tricked are not yet known but similar stories are well-known. Cases have even been turned into films such as Bangkok Hilton. It will be hard for an intelligent professor to persuade his prosecutors that he was naive enough to innocently accept to use a suitcase with cocaine stuffed into the padding. We wish him luck.
So far naivete and perhaps stupidity have been on display - why my headline? Well, someone drew attention to a section in this preprint by Frampton which I have reproduced after the fold.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3 Cases of American Justice

The final story is not yet written on any of these cases. There are three deaths involved here.

Garden - March 19-20, 2012


Garden - March 19-20, 2012, a set on Flickr.

Garden roundup. The warm weather is accelerating everything. The magnolia is flowering. The daffodils are less confused than last year, but still sparse. I've added some bought flowers. Not visible is that I have spread around 400kg of manure/ around various shrubs, roses, flower-beds, etc., 100kg more to go.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kishore Kumar in Padosan

Old, but still fresh.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Glenn Greenwald on Beltway's supporters of terrorism

Glenn Greenwald:- my summary:

The law of the land, as upheld by the Supreme Court in Holder v Humanitarian Law, criminalizes purely political speech as "material support for terrorism" if the speech is performed in coordination with or at the direction of a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) is a designated Terrorist organization.

However, the MEK is against the current Iranian regime, and has a large number of American supporters who have received money from it, met its leaders, attended its meetings and publicly advocated on its behalf. These supporters include names like "Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean, Michael Mukasey, Ed Rendell, Andy Card, Lee Hamilton, Tom Ridge, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark, Michael Hayden, John Bolton, Louis Freeh".

By any standards of "equal justice for all" these supporters are guilty of material support for terrorism, and should receive the same jail sentences as other people convicted for speech far less connected with designated foreign terrorist organizations.

"With Equal Justice For All" is increasingly a cynical slogan.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Garden - March 14, 2012


Garden - March 14, 2012, a set on Flickr.

Slow progress and race against Spring.

The Incredible Volkswagen Transparent Factory

The decline of Goldman Sachs

In Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs (NYT), Greg Smith writes:

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.
People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The God Botherers

Hunter dissects one such on dailykos. (a god-botherer is "defined as someone who has created a nice little God in their own image, for apparent exclusive use as cudgel for their perceived enemies").

Friday, March 09, 2012

Is Gandhi in Hell?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Life as a dhimmi - 11

This has been going on, in pre- British India, in British India, and now in Pakistan.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The joke is on the Libertarians

In their divorced-from-the-real-world philosophy,  Libertarians hold as the primary principle the sacrosanctness of property rights.  In real life, though, when the billionaire Koch brothers assert their ownership of the libertarian think-tank, the Cato Institute, what happens?  ( The Koch brothers' goal is said to be "to align the institute more closely with the Republican Party… to transform Cato into an “ammo” shop, manufacturing whatever ordnance it takes stop President Obama from getting re-elected next November…")

Here, Prof DeLong tells us, "No libertarians in foxholes":

The Kochs' point of view is simple: since William Niskanen's death the shareholders' agreement says that they own a majority of the shares of Cato, and it is their property with which they can do as they wish. It is hard to see how any true libertarian could possibly disagree, and seek to do anything other than to vindicate the Kochs' liberty interest in what is their property. But…

I count fifteen strongly opposed to the Kochtopus, four of much lesser weight--Erick Erickson, Thomas DiLorenzo, Daniel Foster, and Robert Wenzel--climbing on the gravy train, and three--Arnold Kling, Walter Olson, and Jonah Goldberg--damning themselves to eternally chase the banners in the antechamber of hell as a result of their refusal to take sides.

From my perspective, of course, the delicious irony is that the arguments against the Kochtopus--powerful and convincing arguments--are not libertarian but rather Burkean, communitarian, and social democratic ones, and thus arguments that no true libertarian could ever possibly make...

Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong
Via, an excellent essay by William D. Nordhaus.

A1 Beta Casein

There are rumors of the danger of cow's milk.  Further googling reveals the culprit is possibly one of the versions of milk proteins -  A1 beta casein - which is produced in varying amounts by different breeds of cows.  (The safe form supposedly is A2 beta casein.)  A digestion product of A1 beta casein (and not A2) is beta casomorphin, BCM7, which is an opioid and an oxidant that can damage low density lipoproteins (LDL), and "opioids have an effect on immune function which is a possible reason why A1 beta casein and BCM7 are so closely associated with autoimmune disorders."   (We are also told that "BCM7 is too large to be absorbed through a healthy intestinal lining", so you have to apparently have some intestinal problem for BCM7 to act.)

A1 Beta Casein: The Devil in Your Milk.

A2 Dairy Products of Australia Beta Casein web-site.

The first link claims:
A1 beta casein is only produced by cattle belonging to the Bos taurus subspecies which predominately exist in the western hemisphere. The Guernsey breed tends to produce about 10% of their beta casein as A1, the Jersey breed tends to produce about 35%, and the Ayrshire, Holstein, and Freisian breeds tend to produce 50% or more. Goats don’t produce A1 beta casein which makes their milk and the dairy products derived from it an excellent alternative.
 Milk from Indian cows may be lacking A1 Beta Casein.  The second link has a scientific citation
" For instance, a recent study on the beta-casein allele frequency in indigenous Indian cattle (Bos indicus) and river buffalo breeds (618 animals of 15 zebu cattle breeds and 231 buffaloes of 8 river buffalo breeds) reported 99 to 100% presence of the A2/A2 genotype in its indigenous cow (0.987) and buffalo (1.00) breeds (11). The same study also reported an absence of the A1/A1 genotype, thus in Indigenous Indian cow and buffalo breeds, nearly all animals are homozygous for the A2 beta-casein allele. 
While who knows what is true, if it is true, look at the possible implications.  In India, a milk-heavy diet will not contribute to heart disease, Type-1 diabetes, autism and schizophrenia (in all of which A1 beta casein is supposedly implicated).  So the vegetarian Indian milk-heavy diet might cross over to the US of A, where it can no longer work.

Or, assuming that at some point, (e.g, the China Study), milk and specifically casein, was implicated in various diseases studied in the West, but the A1/A2 beta casein difference was not noted, milk alarmism might wrongly influence diets in India.

Also think about what a big mistake trying to cross European and Indian cattle would be for India, unless the European cattle were screened for A1 beta casein.

From the A2 Dairy Products site: (DM-1 = Type 1 diabetes mellitus)

 Figure 2: Correlation of A1 beta-casein per capita (excluding cheese) in grams/day and new cases of DM-1 in 0 to 14-year olds between 1990-94 (r=0.92, 95% CI: 0.72-0.97) (p<0.0001). Dotted lines are the 95% confidence limits of the regression line [adapted from reference (13)].

PS: Here is the counter-argument: (PDF)

Scientific Report of the European Food Safety Authority (2009).

Based on the present review of available scientific literature, a cause-effect relationship between the oral intake of BCM7 or related peptides and aetiology or course of any suggested non-communicable diseases cannot be established. Consequently, a formal EFSA risk assessment of food-derived peptides is not recommended.