Friday, August 31, 2012

Romney asks, I answer

Mitt Romney: “ ‘Hope and Change’ had a powerful appeal. But tonight I'd ask a simple question:  If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”

On the eve of the 2008 elections, Nov 3, 2008,  S&P 500 closed at 952.77 and the Dow Jones closed at 9139.27.  As I write this, S&P 500 is at 1411.38 and the Dow Jones is at 13138.61.  As goes the stock market, so go my savings. As a person who saw his 401K reduce to 201K in the Bush years,  the good feeling on Nov 4, 2008 has only improved.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Republican Vice-President Nominee Congressman Paul Ryan blames Obama for the shutdown of an auto plant in his district, when it shut down before Obama became President.

Paul Ryan ought to know better because he has repeated this lie and has been called out on it several times this campaign.

PS: even simpler:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Republican Slogan!

Friday, August 24, 2012

On the origin of Indians - 3

Toomas Kivisild, Siiri Rootsi, Mait Metspalu, Ene Metspalu, Juri Parik, Katrin Kaldma,
Esien Usanga, Sarabjit Mastana, Surinder S. Papiha & Richard Villems, “The Genetics of
Language and Farming Spread in India,” ch. 17 in Examining the farming/language
dispersal hypothesis, eds. Peter Bellwood & Colin Renfrew (Cambridge: McDonald Institute
for Archaeological Research, 2003), pp. 215–222.

can be found on the web.


Second, great caution is required when interpreting the dates deriving from Y-chromosomal STR coalescent calculations. Table 17.3 reveals that profoundly inconsistent time estimates can be reached when different calibration methods are used. Hence, it seems safer to operate with raw diversity estimates to determine the polarity of the movement leaving the time of origin question unanswered until reliable dating methods for Y-chromosomal STR diversity are worked out. 

Yet, even if time estimates are avoided, there are some problems introduced by sampling strategies and differences in demographic histories. For example, in the study by Quintana- Murci et al. (2001), a decline in diversity stretching from Iran to India was observed in haplogroups 3 and 9 and the authors rushed to interpret this empirical observation in favour of directional gene flow to India during Neolithic period (haplogroup 9). They linked this finding to the introduction of Indo-Euro- pean languages (haplogroup 3) to India. Time estimates for their spread were derived from the STR clock. 
Here, however, the clock is just a secondary problem, the first being the Indian reference sample used. Indeed, the Indians included in this study consisted of a (limited) sample from Gujarat one of the western maritime provinces of India. When extending the Indian sample with colIections from different states, a quite different, even opposite, pattern emerges (Table 17.3). Indians appear to display the higher diversity both in haplogroups 3 and 9 even if a pooled sample of eastern and southern European populations was considered.If we were to use the same arithmetic and logic (sensu haplogroup 9 is Neolithic) to give an interpretation of this table, then the straightforward suggestion would be that both Neolithic (agriculture)and Indo-European languages arose in India and from there, spread to Europe. We would also have to add that inconsistencies with the archaeological evidence would appear and disappear as we change rate estimates (Table 17.3).

On the origin of Indians - 2

Michel Danino summarizes the past several years of genetics research



It is, of course, still possible to find genetic studies trying to interpret differences between North and South Indians or higher and lower castes within the invasionist framework, but that is simply because they take it for granted in the first place. None of the nine major studies quoted above lends any support to it, and none proposes to define a demarcation line between tribe and caste. The overall picture emerging from these studies is, first, an unequivocal rejection of a 3500-BP arrival of a “Caucasoid” or Central Asian gene pool. Just as the imaginary Aryan invasion / migration left no trace in Indian literature, in the archaeological and the anthropological record, it is invisible at the genetic level. {Arun's note: The only evidence for an Aryan invasion/migration is linguistic; the problem is that linguistic evidence is interpreted in the framework of an invasionist scenario, and thus props it up. } The agreement between these different fields is remarkable by any standard, and offers hope for a grand synthesis in the near future, which will also integrate agriculture and linguistics.

Secondly, they account for India’s considerable genetic diversity by using a time- scale not of a few millennia, but of 40,000 or 50,000 years. In fact, several experts, such as Lluís Quintana-Murci,20 Vincent Macaulay,21 Stephen Oppenheimer,22 Michael Petraglia,23 and their associates, have in the last few years proposed that when Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa, he first reached South-West Asia around 75,000 BP, and from here, went on to other parts of the world. In simple terms, except for Africans, all humans have ancestors in the North-West of the Indian peninsula. In particular, one migration started around 50,000 BP towards the Middle East and Western Europe:

“indeed, nearly all Europeans — and by extension, many Americans — can trace their ancestors to only four mtDNA lines, which appeared between 10,000 and 50,000 years ago and originated from South Asia.” 24

Oppenheimer, a leading advocate of this scenario, summarizes it in these words:
“For me and for Toomas Kivisild, South Asia is logically the ultimate origin of M17 and his ancestors; and sure enough we find the highest rates and greatest diversity of the M17 line in Pakistan, India, and eastern Iran, and low rates in the Caucasus. M17 is not only more diverse in South Asia than in Central Asia, but diversity characterizes its presence in isolated tribal groups in the south, thus undermining any theory of M17 as a marker of a ‘male Aryan invasion’ of India. One average estimate for the origin of this line in India is as much as 51,000 years. All this suggests that M17 could have found his way initially from India or Pakistan, through Kashmir, then via Central Asia and Russia, before finally coming into Europe.”25

We will not call it, of course, an “Indian invasion” of Europe; in simple terms, India acted “as an incubator of early genetic differentiation of modern humans moving out of Africa.”26

Genetics is a fast-evolving discipline, and the studies quoted above are certainly not the last word; but they have laid the basis for a wholly different perspective of Indian populations, and it is most unlikely that we will have to abandon it to return to the crude racial nineteenth-century fallacies of Aryan invaders and Dravidian autochthons. Neither have any reality in genetic terms, just as they have no reality in archaeological or cultural terms. In this sense, genetics is joining other disciplines in helping to clean the cobwebs of colonial historiography. If some have a vested interest in patching together the said cobwebs so they may keep cluttering our history textbooks, they are only delaying the inevitable. .

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On the origin of Indians

Genetics does not support an "Aryan Invasion/Migration Theory".

Monday, August 20, 2012

Douglas Engelbart : The Mother of All Demos

Douglas Engelbart : The Mother of All Demos, December 9, 1968
On December 9, 1968, Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, presented a 90-minute live public demonstration of the online system, NLS, they had been working on since 1962. The public presentation was a session in the of the Fall Joint Computer Conference held at the Convention Center in San Francisco, and it was attended by about 1,000 computer professionals. This was the public debut of the computer mouse. But the mouse was only one of many innovations demonstrated that day, including hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow

"The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" by Michelle Alexander is a disturbing read.  Quite contrary to the ideal of "equal justice for all", the War on Drugs has unleashed a nightmare of unequal justice for the African-American community. 

The laws against drugs are harsh, and unequally applied.  Police and prosecutorial discretion makes sure that it is blacks rather than whites (who have an equal rate of drug use) that are targeted.  The wide powers given to the police result in many casualties, even of people quite innocent of drugs.

Possession of a small amount of marijuana can entangle one in the justice system.  Poor people get very poor quality legal representation.  Once convicted, people lose their right to vote, their ability to get any kind of government help and of course, future employment is a problem.   

All in all, the war against drugs has made the US be the country with the largest percentage of its population in jail - more than repressive dictatorships even, and it is creating a permanent underclass with little means of climbing out of its poverty and misery.

The laws are unjust in their content and in their application, but the laws involve drugs, and I wonder why in the face of severe penalties people continue to use them.  I do not understand the diminution of freedom or of quality of life if one eschews drugs.  But then I come from a culture where self-restraint is a cardinal virtue; while American culture is generally permissive.  Michelle Alexander has no good explanation, except that "we all are sinners, we all suffer from lapses" and that Barack Obama, in his youth, used drugs fairly extensively.

It is a depressing book, that anyone interested in America should read.

PS: added on January 17, 2015. To clarify my last paragraph: the "Old Jim Crow" laws kept blacks from exercising their fundamental rights. The "New Jim Crow" however is unequal application of laws regarding behavior that society has legitimate reasons to criminalize. (Maybe criminalization is not the best policy, but that is a different debate.) The easiest way not to get caught up in "New Jim Crow" (except as an innocent bystander, which does happen) is not to indulge in this behavior. An explanation is needed as to why people don't respond rationally to this (dis)incentive, and is lacking. This is not like say, outlawing of traditional use of peyote in American-Indian ceremonies.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Insanely Simple

Once I had started Ken Segall's book "Insanely Simple - The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success", I could not put it down till I reached the last page.

Simplicity requires strong character, smarts, courage, creativity, even obsession, and very hard work.  When achieved, it might just help move the human race forward.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.   Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.   You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart....  (Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement address, June 12, 2005)
Your heart, presumably, wants to lead you to excellence.   (Otherwise, be distrustful of your heart.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ayn Rand: sociopath

In brief, she found the epitome of her philosophy - "I am like the state, what is good for me is right" - in a repeat criminal who kidnapped and brutally murdered a 12-year old girl.

And this assessment which I endorse:
By the appraisal of any normal mind, there can be little doubt that William Edward Hickman was a vicious psychopath of the worst order. That Ayn Rand saw something heroic, brilliant, and romantic in this despicable creature is perhaps the single worst indictment of her that I have come across. It is enough to make me question not only her judgment, but her sanity.

At this point in my life, I did not think it was possible to significantly lower my estimate of Ayn Rand, or to regard her as even more of a psychological and moral mess than I had already taken her to be.

I stand corrected.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Are Indians corrupt?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Is Oscar Wilde wrong?

Oscar Wilde:You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies. 

Think about it.  By that measure, Obama is a pathetic loser.

PS: It might not be Oscar Wilde, it might be Dr Who or Joseph Conrad or someone else.  That is the danger of relying on the Internet for quotes.  However, in "The Picture of Dorian Gray", Oscar Wilde does have this passage:
"I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.  A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.  I have not got one who is a fool.  They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me."