Sunday, April 28, 2013

On Alcohol

This train of thought began with tweets from academic and novelist Sunny Singh

For most part religious leaders = loons. For one guru, 'yoga cures homosexuality', for another 'giving up meat+alcohol stops rapes'

Lets be clear most men who consume alcohol don't rape. Blaming rape on meat+alcohol is a smokescreen to not address the real point: misogyny

Rapists rape because they need to assert power+ because they see the victim as powerless and less than human. Misogyny abets those views.
I don't disagree.  However, I thought I knew that alcohol plays a huge role in rape in Western societies.  So, as ever, I checked with Google devata,  and found this is what Wiki says:
Alcohol remains the most commonly used date rape drug, being readily available as well as legal, and is said to be used in the majority of sexual assaults.
Brown University advises its students:
  • 55% of female students and 75% of male students involved in acquaintance rape admit to having been drinking or using drugs when the incident occurred.
  • 90% of all campus rapes occur when alcohol has been used by either the assailant or the victim.

Ireland's Rape Crisis Network Blog had this:
The facts suggest that alcohol is the most common drug used to facilitate sexual assaults and rape . Although drugs such as Rohypnol and GHB have received much attention internationally as ‘date-rape drugs’, in Ireland, there has been no evidence to suggest that they are used with regularity in incidents of sexual assault . The recent Rape and Justice in Ireland study did not identify conclusive evidence of the use of such substances in medical records of complainants of rape between 2000 and 2005. Alcohol, however, was found to be present in the majority of rape complaints in Ireland.
and this
The use of the term ‘date-rape’ is therefore largely a misnomer – the vast majority {>70%)} of those who use alcohol to facilitate rape are non-sexual acquaintances with whom the victim was socialising.
 So, alcohol is like guns, the vast majority of gun-owners do not kill people, as the NRA puts it, guns do not kill people, it is people who kill people.  And of course, as Sunny Singh rejoindered:
factor does not equal causation
Again, no real disagreement from me; so my remaining puzzle is why did this all even provoke a response from me?

The answer is, I think, that I simply do not accept the consumption of alcohol as a **cultural norm**.

a. I'm not talking about legality,  I mean it as the dominant culture's accepted practice.

b. I know I'm currently on the losing side of this.  But then, so was vegetarianism/veganism.  Even being in a rapidly diminishing minority is no reason for me to change my views.  Only a demonstration that this is a worthy cultural norm would be able to do so.

c. Alcohol in all its varied forms is very much an acquired taste, and of course, pushed along by powerful cultural and economic forces.   As long as that is so, the misery caused by its use is an unavoidable by-product.

d. The term "brahminical" is much derided these days, because supposedly brahmins and no one else, was responsible for the "caste system".   That 60 years after separation from Hindus, Islamic Pakistan still has "untouchables", or that the supposedly anti-caste break-aways from Hindus - those converted to Islam, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs - all continue to have the "caste system" show the lie to that. Meanwhile, the term "brahminical" also embraces a huge host of **virtues** (including abstinence from alcohol), and I for one am not going to throw out the baby with the bath-water.

Well, thank you for reading my rant!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Devdutt Pattanaik: TED talk

This talk is worth watching:

Friday, April 19, 2013


Timūr-e Lang - Tamerlane - Timur the Lame - is a hero in Central Asian histories.  He was a monster in real life.   
 To quote:
Amir Timur, from Central Asia, waged Jihad against India (1398-99) to become a ghazi or martyr, had accumulated over 100,000 captives when he reached Delhi.  On the eve of his attack on Delhi, he killed them all.  From his assault on Delhi onwards to his return to his  capital, he has left a tragic trail of barbaric slaughter, destruction, pillage and enslavement, which he recorded in his memoir, Malfuzat-I-Timuri.
I suppose naming a child "Timur" might be like naming a child "Adolf",  the taint of Hitler not extending to the first name.  The name "Tamerlan" however, is very specific, and can only refer to the conqueror.   Now another Tamerlan - Tamerlan Tsarnaev - seems to have lived up to the original, being suspected of being one of the two Boston Marathon bombers.

Why are some peoples supposed to face up to their history, and others given a free pass?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bird feeder

I decided to set up a bird feeder in the backyard, too. Red sugar water for hummingbirds, and thistle seed for goldfinches.  The cylinder/dome is to baffle squirrels - not that they are much interested in this food.


This magnolia is at the edge of my lot; the backdrop is my neighbors'.  My lawn is nowhere as green.  The yellow bush in the background is Forsythia.  It grows rapidly and requires frequent pruning and so I don't have any.  It, like the magnolia, flowers for a couple of weeks in the spring.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013


Unlike last year when the weather (I think) confused them, the daffodils are much better this year.

Saturday, April 06, 2013


"The Hindu" newspaper, despite its name, functions like an arm of the Chinese propaganda machinery.  Therefore, when it posts an article like this, it is time to worry.
It is worrying that West Bengal’s political class remained tactical spectators to the Kolkata rally organised by Muslim groups in support of Bangladeshi war criminals.
Praveen Swami reviews the West Point Center's paper on the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba jihadists,  and finds that jihad is more about politics than about religion.  But that is the good news.  The bad news is:
Pakistan’s jihadist movement has embedded itself in the historical consciousness of its audience, offering solutions that democratic political life doesn’t appear to hold out. ....{and a solution} needs a thoroughgoing reform of Pakistan’s political system and polity—something neither dollars nor bombs can bring about.

Friday, April 05, 2013

A trio on Pakistan

I was pointed to these:

Terror Group Recruits from Pakistan's 'Best and Brightest'

ProPublica tells us, according to a study released today by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., which draws on 917 biographies of Lashkar fighters killed in combat:
In fact, the fighters had higher levels of secular education compared to the generally low average for Pakistani men, the report says. Relatively few studied at religious schools known as madrasas. They joined Lashkar — which spews anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-Indian rhetoric — because they wanted more meaningful lives, admired its anticorruption image and felt an obligation to help fellow Muslims, the study says.

"These are some of Pakistan's best and brightest and they are not being used in the labor market, they are being deployed in the militant market," Fair said. "It's a myth that poverty and madrasas create terrorism, and that we can buy our way out of it with U.S. aid."
Election Commission Pakistan rejects nomination papers of PML-N's Ayaz Amir
and commentary.

Legalized Hypocrisy
( Opponents of Islamic ideology face election ban)

In Thatta, Muzaffar was grilled by the returning-officer under Article 62. He was asked to recite the Third Kalma, which he did. He was asked to explain the number of compulsory verses in the namaz prayer of early morning, which he did. How many times do Muslims say namaz in a day? He knew that too. He was likewise able to recite the long prayer known as Dua-e-Qunoot. He was then asked about the events of the Battle of Badr fought by Islam’s Prophet, and he knew them. He also knew the significance of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. His papers were accepted.
At least one Urdu columnist, Saleem Safi, asked some embarrassing question the next day, saying that even the founder of Pakistan, Jinnah, might not have passed the catechism of Article 62.
 NY Times: (however, the author, William Milam, is said to be one who denies the 1971 genocide in East Pakistan)

The feeling comes that the inflection point of the “muddle through” curve is being reached, that in effect, the too-large glass we should look through has now filled to overflowing with problems that Pakistan cannot handle — a weak state under attack from the monsters it created, with mostly dysfunctional political and economic institutions, going in a vicious circle, and showing no promise or hope of transformation.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


There is no perfect state-of-nature capitalism from which Richard Nixon and Franklin Roosevelt led us astray. Capitalism can only exist in a framework -- monetary and legal -- set up by the government.  --Neil Irwin

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


Rep. Rush Holt, NJ-12 (D) wrote:
Helium is useful for much more than filling party balloons.  It is required for the operation of MRI machines and quantum computers, the manufacture of microchips and optoelectronics, and the conduct of countless scientific experiments.  For many decades, recognizing its value, the United States has stockpiled the gas, which is found as a trace component in some natural gas fields.  Under the Gingrich-inspired drive toward privatization of government resources, the 1996 Helium Privatization Act required selling off the national reserves, eventually to leave users of helium at the mercy of the international market.  The law was poorly crafted and required helium to be sold at a price that is far below fair market value.  This fire-sale pricing has squandered a relatively rare and valuable resource, has reduced returns to taxpayers, and, most important, has resulted in an unreliable supply of helium.

In collaboration with both the Republican and Democratic leadership on the Committee on Natural Resources, I have introduced legislation to establish public auctions to set a fair price for helium.  Although our legislation does not provide the long-term fix we will need ultimately to insure adequate supply, it would allocate a portion of our helium reserves for research and defense purposes and stop the firesale of public resources. 
I wish that when the 1996 bill was passed, lawmakers had cared less about whether a policy was nominally “public” or “private” and more about whether it was intelligently crafted and carefully executed with the long-term future in mind.
The bill on (Holt is a co-sponsor).

Monday, April 01, 2013

Those old Cronies: Colonialism and Capitalism

Anyone who tells you that capitalism is a force for freedom needs their head examined.  Let us see how British capitalism fared in British India.  The statistics come from "The White Sahibs in India" (1937) by Reginald Reynolds.
"From the plantations, mainly owned by European companies, dividends upto 225 per cent have been received in recent years."

Novartis AG vs. Union of India and Others

For the text of the judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the Novartis patent case - try this link, it should download you a PDF file.

Without knowing anything about the case, if the patent application is for something new, then the patent cannot cover the old as well.  That is, if there is a new formulation of a drug, then either the new formulation is indeed new, and should be granted a patent, but that patent cannot cover the old formulation of the drug.   If the patent application claims that the patent covers the old formulation of the drug as well, then the patent is not for something new, and should not be granted.