Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Whither Pakistan? Tarek Fateh with Dr Baland Iqbal

Sorry, Urdu/Hindi speakers only. Tarek Fateh dissects and examines under the microscope the Pakistani mindset. He sees as the only solution the dissolution of Pakistan into its four provinces.

Update: for the Hindi/Urdu challenged, my rough notes below the fold.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Indo-European Invasions into Europe

The findings suggest that the arrival of modern humans into Europe more than 40,000 years ago was followed by an influx of farmers some 8,000 years ago, with a third wave of migrants coming from north Eurasia perhaps 5,000 years ago. Others from the same population of north Eurasians took off towards the Americas and gave rise to Native Americans.
Genetically speaking, there seems to be no trace of any genetically significant movement of Indo-European people into Europe either (unless it is the farmers, but linguists think that 8000 years ago is too far back.  The last population-genetically significant influx of people into India was 12,000 years ago or earlier.)  On the other hand, the vocabulary of a language like Greek is estimated to be more than 30% non-Indo-European (e.g., compared to less than 4% of the 10,000 word vocabulary of the Rg Veda), so a elite dominance language replacement theory might work for Greece, where it can't work for the language of the Rg Veda.  The only way it might work is if an Indo-European language was superposed on a previous Indo-European language.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Replies to climate-change deniers

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bee on the Scientific Method

Bee (Sabine Hossenfelder) has an essay worth your time: Does the Scientific Method need Revision?

IBM's predictions from December 2009

IBM's predictions for today from five years ago:

ARMONK, N.Y.     - 17 Dec 2009: Today, IBM (NYSE: IBM) unveiled a list of innovations that have the potential to change how people live, work and play in cities around the globe over the next five to ten years:
·         Cities will have healthier immune systems
·         City buildings will sense and respond like living organisms
·         Cars and city buses will run on empty
·         Smarter systems will quench cities’ thirst for water and save energy
·         Cities will respond to a crisis -- even before receiving an emergency phone call

Lessons from a school shooting

Both houses of the Indian Parliament observed a moment of silence and passed resolutions condemning the killing of school children in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Beyond the natural empathy one feels at the cruel loss of young lives, there are some sharp lessons to be learned.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Invasion That Never Was

Anand Rangarajan, here:

But it was the publication in 2011 of a path-breaking study that ultimately sealed the fate of the Aryan Invasion or Migration theory. Analysing 600,000 SNPs from as many as 30 ethnic groups – thereby extending the 2009 Nature ANI study through the inclusion of more European samples – Toomas Kivisild and co-workers discovered that both components of Indian ancestry, ANI and ASI, predate the Aryan Migration event by at least 9000 years. This was because the so-called k5 component, that bestows ancestry to South Asians, was found to contain no regional diversity differences; its spread across the Indian subcontinent must have happened well before 12,500 years ago (the detection limit) and not through a recent gene-flow event.

 In 2013 Singh and co-workers extended the Kivisild study with some acute observations, namely that the ANI and ASI populations mixed robustly between 1900 to 4200 years ago and that these two groups didn’t mix either before or after this window. The authors, by analysing genomes of 571 individuals representing 73 ethno-linguistic groups, also ruled out Eurasian gene flow during this time period, concurring with the finding of another study that such an event could not have happened before 12,500 years. Moreover, argued the scientists, 3500 years ago India was a already a densely populated region with well-established agricultural practices and therefore the Eurasian migration would have had to be immense in order to explain the fact that half the Indian population is derived from ANI.

The Aryan Migration event of 1500 BCE has also been questioned based on an authoritative haplogroup U linkage study wherein scientists found an extensive and deep late-Pleistocene link between Indians and Europeans, suggesting a coalescence near the time when Asia was initially being peopled. The migration that led to the Indo-Eurasian stock, according to these scientists, happened not 3,500 years ago but rather 12,500 years or earlier.

Another study, this time involving Y-DNA haplotyping, rules out substantial gene-flow from Europe to Asia at least since the mid-Holocene period, i.e. the last 6,500 years. It has also been shown that the gateway to the subcontinent, the Hindu Kush – where the earliest archaeological evidence of human remains dates back to 26,500 years before the Rig Veda – was a confluence of gene-flows in the early Neolithic period as opposed to an indigenous population.

There is one other way to corroborate that Eurasian migration happened much before the time-point vouched for by AMT proponents – skin colour. It has long been known that a single mutation, rs1426654, in the human pigmentation gene SLC24A5 accounts for the lighter skin tone of Europeans. A year ago, scientists discovered that an allele of the rs1426654 mutation was shared among many South Asian and Western Eurasian populations. The coalescence was calculated to be 22000-28000 years ago, with the frequency of occurrence of this mutation – called the allele frequency – found to be significantly higher in the ANI compared to the ASI.

The verdict of population genetics is clear, and profound, as pointed out subsequently by the lead author of the Nature study Dr Lalji Singh himself: “There is no genetic evidence that Indo-Aryans invaded or migrated to India. It is high time we re-write India’s prehistory based on scientific evidence.”

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Morning Moon

Sunday, December 07, 2014


The transcript of the proceedings of the grand jury that examined the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson, on August 9, on the streets of Ferguson, MO, is interesting on many counts.  

Here is one excerpt that caught my eye.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Another Aatish Taseer Essay

Must-read: A Historical Sense: What Sanskrit has meant to me

Excerpt beneath the fold.

A telling Twitter exchange


On twitter, I followed Sonia Faleiro, who is an author, and writes commentary on India for the New York Times and such.

I was blocked after this exchange:

Sonia Faleiro:
"Lakhs of years ago Sage Kanad conducted a nuclear test" says BJP MP determined to take India back lakhs of years: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/ancient-india-conducted-nuke-tests-claims-former-uttarakhand-chief-minister-ramesh-pokhriyal-nishank/article1-1293029.aspx

@soniafaleiro LOL, back to the Sat-Yuga, I suppose!
@soniafaleiro Tho ancients having technology lost till modern times is a bit more rational than parting of Red Sea or man rising from dead

I wouldn't have mentioned it except that I noticed this morning that this "liberal" has blocked me.

That is, if the BJP MP said that "lakhs of years ago Sage Kanad conducted a nuclear test" is how he reads and interprets his "religious scriptures", and so is a part of his "religious belief", it is still irrational and inadmissible and wrong;  but God's parting of the Red Sea for Moses or the resurrection of Jesus, that is a legitimate matter of Christian belief and my saying it is less rational than the (non-supernatural) idea that the ancients had technology that was lost and that we again have only in modern times is bad manners.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Prof. Shivaramakrishnan discusses Dharampal

One must absolutely listen to these.

Part 1/3:

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The k-th digit of Pi

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Old Article on Old India


Thursday November 16 2006 09:31 IST
S Gurumurthy

"What is it that keeps the country down", asked the speaker. A young man in the audience replied unhesitatingly: "Undoubtedly the institution of caste that kept the majority low castes and the society backward" and added "it continues".

The speaker replied, "May be". But, pausing for a moment, he added, "May not be". Shocked, the young man angrily asked him to explain his "may-not-be" theory.

The speaker calmly mentioned just one fact that clinched the debate. He said, "Before the British rule in India, over two-thirds - yes, two-thirds - of the Indian kings belonged to what is today known as the Other Backward Castes (OBCs).

"It is the British," he said, "who robbed the OBCs - the ruling class running all socio-economic institutions - of their power, wealth and status." So it was not the upper caste which usurped the OBCs of their due position in the society?

The speaker’s assertion that it was not so was founded on his study - unbelievably painstaking study for years and decades in the archives in India, England and Germany. He could not be maligned as a ‘saffron’ ideologue and what he said could not be dismissed thus. He was Dharampal, a Gandhian in ceaseless search of truth like his preceptor Gandhi himself was, but a Gandhian with a difference. He ran no ashram on state aid to do ‘Gandhigiri’.

Admitting that "he and those like him do not know much about our own society", the young man who questioned Dharampal - Banwari is his name - became his student. By meticulous research of the British sources over decades, Dharampal demolished the myth that India was backward educationally or economically when the British entered. Citing the Christian missionary William Adam’s report on indigenous education in Bengal and Bihar in 1835 and 1838, Dharampal established that at that time there were 100,000 schools in Bengal, one school for about 500 boys; that the indigenous medical system that included inoculation against small-pox.

He also proved by reference to other materials that Adam’s record was ‘no legend’. He relied on Sir Thomas Munroe’s report to the Governor at about the same time to prove similar statistics about schools in Madras. He also found that the education system in the Punjab during the Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule was equally extensive. He estimated that the literacy rate in India before the British was higher than that in England.

Citing British public records he established, on the contrary, that ‘British had no tradition of education or scholarship or philosophy from 16th to early 18th century, despite Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton, Newton, etc’. Till then education and scholarship in the UK was limited to select elite. He cited Alexander Walker’s Note on Indian education to assert that it was the monitorial system of education borrowed from India that helped Britain to improve, in later years, school attendance which was just 40, 000, yes just that, in 1792. He then compared the educated people’s levels in India and England around 1800. The population of Madras Presidency then was 125 lakhs and that of England in 1811 was 95 lakhs.  Dharampal found that during 1822-25 the number of those in ordinary schools in Madras Presidency was around 1.5 lakhs and this was after great decay under a century of British intervention.

As against this, the number attending schools in England was half - yes just half - of Madras Presidency’s, namely a mere 75,000. And here to with more than half of it attending only Sunday schools for 2-3 hours! Dharampal also established that in Britain ‘elementary system of education at people’s level remained unknown commodity’ till about 1800! Again he exploded the popularly held belief that most of those attending schools must have belonged to the upper castes particularly Brahmins and, again with reference to the British records, proved that the truth was the other way round.

During 1822-25 the share of the Brahmin students in the indigenous schools in Tamil-speaking areas accounted for 13 per cent in South Arcot to some 23 per cent in Madras while the backward castes accounted for 70 per cent in Salem and Tirunelveli and 84 per cent in South Arcot.

The situation was almost similar in Malayalam, Oriya and Kannada-speaking areas, with the backward castes dominating the schools in absolute numbers. Only in the Telugu-speaking areas the share of the Brahmins was higher and varied from 24 to 46 per cent.  Dharampal’s work proved Mahatma Gandhi’s statement at Chatham House in London on October 20, 1931 that "India today is more illiterate than it was fifty or hundred years ago" completely right.

Not many know of Dharampal or of his work because they have still not heard of the Indian past he had discovered. After, long after, Dharampal had established that pre-British India was not backward a Harvard University Research in the year 2005 (India’s Deindustrialisation in the 18th and 19th Centuries by David Clingingsmith and Jeffrey G Williamson) among others affirmed that "while India produced about 25 percent of world industrial output in 1750, this figure had fallen to only 2 percent by 1900." The Harvard University Economic Research also established that the Industrial employment in India also declined from about 30 to 8.5 per cent between 1809-13 and 1900, thus turning the Indian society backward.

PS: This great warrior who established the truth - the truth that was least known - that India was not backward when the British came, but became backward only after they came, is no more. He passed away two weeks ago on October 26, 2006, at Sevagram at Warda.

Sunday, November 02, 2014


Ajit Doval : Strategy without tactics is the noise before the defeat.  Tactics without strategy is the shortest way of committing suicide.

The Post-Alcoholic Culture?

An excerpt from a transcript of Krista Tippett's radio show, "On Being":

 Ms. Tippett: ......... Isn't it strange how, in Western culture in a field like psychotherapy or even I see this a lot in religion, in Western culture we turn these things into these chin-up experiences. We separated ourselves, we divided ourselves. I see this — I mean, yoga is everywhere now, right? And people are discovering all kinds of ways, as you say. There are all kinds of other ways to reunite ourselves, but …
Dr. van der Kolk: But it's true. Western culture is astoundingly disembodied and uniquely so. Because of my work, I've been to South Africa quite a few times and China and Japan and India. You see that we are much more disembodied. And the way I like to say is that we basically come from a post-alcoholic culture. People whose origins are in Northern Europe had only one way of treating distress: that's namely with a bottle of alcohol.
North American culture continues to continue that notion. If you feel bad, just take a swig or take a pill. And the notion that you can do things to change the harmony inside of yourself is just not something that we teach in schools and in our culture, in our churches, in our religious practices. And, of course, if you look at religions around the world, they always start with dancing, moving, singing …

Ms. Tippett: Yeah. Crying, laughing, yeah.

Dr. van der Kolk: Physical experiences. And then the more respectable people become, the more stiff they become somehow.

February  7, 2021 - the link above no longer works.  the program was likely was likely this.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

C.C. Fair gives a Track II Indian a lesson

Track II is this diplomacy some idiots from India are carrying out with Pakistan, not understanding the fundamental nature of Pakistan. Prof. C. Christine Fair gives one such idiot a 101 lesson.

This link will start the Youtube video at the right point:

(Can't embed the video and start at a given point, it would seem.)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A curious inversion

In the Bill Maher - Ben Affleck kerfuffle the other day, Affleck voiced a conventional opinion. e.g.,

Affleck said that a minority of radical Islamists shouldn’t give a bad name to the overwhelming majority of Muslims who do not share the same extreme views.

In this view, there are a small percentage of crazies, who give the rest of the community a bad name. I found a contrary view in a somewhat unusual place, below the fold.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rangoli 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life as a dhimmi - 14

(via Agnimitra on BRF).

Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi, per Wiki, 1564-1624,  "has been described as the Mujaddid Alf Thānī, meaning the "reviver of the second millennium", for his work in rejuvenating Islam and opposing the heterodoxies prevalent in the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar."  He stands prominently in the lineage of the Naqshbandi Sufi order.  The writing below explodes the idea that Sufis are "moderate".

 PS: if you're puzzled how Sirhindi jumps from Hindus to Jews, it is an artifact of the compiler of this, Andrew Bostom; Sirhindi has a letter on the killing of Jews.  It is strange only because Sirhindi likely never met a Jew.

PPS: The "accursed kafir of Gobindwal" I think is Guru Arjan the fifth Sikh Guru.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

A Climate Change Non-Event

Indian Prime Minister Modi in his visit to the US, at the event at Madison Square Garden, at the Council for Foreign Relations, at the United Nations General Assembly spoke repeatedly of the crisis that climate change is bringing upon the planet, and of his plans for clean energy for India.  He has the slogan "zero defect, zero effect" for manufacturing in India - i.e., Indian manufacturing will try to be world class and try to have zero net effect on the environment.

Strange that this has received next to zero coverage in the US media and blogs. 

If you estimate the sustainable rate of carbon dioxide emission (so that CO2 concentration remains constant) for the planet, and divide it by the world population, you get a per capita carbon budget (tons of CO2 per person per year).

Two important observations:
  1. Indians as of 2007 were well below this per capita limit.
  2. 1250 million Indians want to industrialize and fast (that is why they voted for Modi).
 So what India is able to do is crucial to the future of the planet's climate.

When the Indian Prime Minister Modi comes to the US and talks about climate change, and his aspiration to industrialize in a carbon-neutral way, and the US media collectively gives a yawn, it is infinitely and amply clear, that climate change is not taken seriously here, even in the liberal section of the media. When a key player in the world's carbon dioxide economy lands on their shores, and talks planet-friendly, it is a non-event.

Conclusion: Climate change doesn't exist for the Republicans; and for the Democrats, it is merely a way to bash Republicans as anti-science. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

From the Unreal Times

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Myths about Sanskrit

Indian buddhi-jivis, you are on notice!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Martian duet

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mars Orbiter Mission: Key events approaching

Pictures from ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission Facebook page.  After 10 months in interplanetary space, the following events are scheduled to take place.  Nail-biting times.

Exactly when:

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Forgotten(?) Battle Over the Infinitesimal

At the library, I picked up Amir Alexander's "Infinitesimal - How a dangerous mathematical theory shaped the modern world".  This was because the dust jacket began thusly:

"ON AUGUST 10, 1632, five men in flowing black robes convened in a somber Roman palazzo to pass judgment on a deceptively simple proposition: that a continuous line is composed of distinct and infinitely tiny parts.  With the stroke of a pen the Jesuit fathers banned the doctrine of infinitesimals, announcing that it could never be taught or even mentioned.   The concept was deemed dangerous and subversive,  a threat to the belief that the world was an orderly place, governed by a strict and unchanging set of rules.  If infinitesimals were ever accepted, the Jesuits feared, the entire world would be plunged into chaos".

I knew that it took a long time for mathematics to be able to deal with the infinitesimal and the infinite with any kind of rigor,  but that it invited religious opposition was something new to me.

Inside the book, I quickly come across that the Jesuits felt it necessary to "denounce indivisibles again in 1643 and 1649.  By 1651 they had had enough: determined to put an end to unauthorized opinions in their ranks, the leaders of the Society produced a permanent list of banned doctrines, that could never be taught or advocated by members of the order.  Among the forbidden teachings, featured repeatedly in various guises, was the doctrine of indivisibles."

A bit earlier in the book, the author tells us:

"Yet, useful as it was, and successful as it was, the concept of the infinitely small was challenged at every turn.  The Jesuits opposed it; Hobbes and his admirers opposed it; Anglican churchmen opposed it, as did many others.  What was it, then, about the infinitely small that inspired such fierce opposition from so many different quarters?  The answer is that the infinitely small was a simple idea that punctured a great and beautiful dream: that the world is a perfectly rational place, governed by strict mathematical rules.  In such a world, all things, natural and human, have their given and unchanging place in the grand universal order.  Everything from a grain of sand to the stars in the sky, from the humblest beggar to kings and emperors, is a part of a fixed, eternal hierarchy.  Any attempt to revise or topple it is a rebellion against the one unalterable order, a senseless disruption that in any case is doomed to failure."

"But if the paradoxes of Zeno and the problem of incommensurability prove anything, it is that the dream of a perfect fit between mathematics and the physical world is intenable.  On the scale of the infinitely small, numbers do not correspond to physical objects and any attempt to force the fit leads to paradoxes and contradictions.  Mathematical reasoning, however rigorous and true on its own terms, cannot tell us how the world actually must be.  At the heart of creation, it seems, lies a mystery that eludes the grasp of the most rigorous reasoning, and allows the world to diverge from our best mathematical deductions and go its own way -- we know not where."

---- The problem of the incommensurable is "no matter how many times you divide each of the lines {of the side of the square and its diagonal which are in the ratio of  1:sqrt(2)}, or how thinly you slice them, you will never arrive at a magnitude that is their common measure".  "Why are incommensurables a problem for indivisibles? Because if lines were composed of indivisibles, then the magnitudes of these mathematical atoms would be a common measure for any two lines.  But if two lines are incommensurable, then there is not common component that they both share, and hence there are no mathematical atoms; no indivisibles."

---- Zeno's paradoxes all also have to do with the infinite and the infinitesimal.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Sordid History of Humankind

Human unkind, really.  ISIS is nothing new - in the name of Allah, or in the name of God, it is all the same, just there was no youtube or twitter in those days.  From here:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Twitch TV

Until the news broke that Amazon had acquired Twitch for $970 million, I had had no idea that watching other people play video games was such a big business.

Twitch is a company that lets you watch video gaming as a spectator sport — it live-streams gamers gaming and allows viewers to interact during the games, to enormous success.

Twitch now boasts 55 million monthly active users, a count that's only growing. A recent graph of the peak Internet traffic in the U.S. puts Twitch ahead of Hulu, Valve and Amazon, behind just Netflix, Google and Apple.
The natural question :
Why would Amazon pay almost a billion dollars for a start-up that allows people to watch others play "Pokémon"? Johnson says the numbers explain it all.

"Twitch had 43 percent of the live video streaming traffic by volume in a given week," says Johnson. "That’s above ESPN’s website, MLB.com, CNN."

Last year during a championship for the game "League of Legends", 32 million people were reportedly watching live.

"That’s more than the audience for the finales of Breaking Bad, 24 and The Sopranos combined," adds Johnson.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Juice vendor cart using solar power

This picture is making the rounds, said to be one Mr. Ramados,  who came up with this solar power vendor cart.  I'm wondering how much power he averages.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Obama answers a question

(via dailykos.com)

This weekend a lazy, seemingly gullible reporter asked President Obama if he regretted not leaving troops in Iraq. That is a question based on Republican talking points and not journalistic inquiry. The reporter should have known that the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was signed by President Bush which specifically said all combat troops would leave Iraq in December of 2011. President Obama attempted to negotiate keeping more soldiers in Iraq but could not come to an agreement with the Iraqi government who wanted the soldiers out.
Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S. -- is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?
What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.

Retrospective: MJ Akbar

MJ Akbar (from before the Indian elections) on why he joined the BJP and endorses Modi.

Can somebody give the young a job, the child an education, the elderly peace? Vote for them.

The text is here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Arif Jamal: Call for Transnational Jihad - LeT 1985-2014

The book: (amazon.com)
The book discussion at the Hudson Institute, June 30, 2014, in Washington, DC.

The parent organization of the LeT has penetrated all sections of Pakistani government; and has cells all over the world. The author, Arif Jamal, believes that it is next to impossible to prevent these jihadis from taking over Pakistan and declaring another Caliphate.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Hummingbird Moth

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Last Rose of Summer

Wiki: The Last Rose of Summer is a poem by Irish poet Thomas Moore, who was a friend of Byron and Shelley. Moore wrote it in 1805 while at Jenkinstown Park in County Kilkenny, Ireland. It is set to a traditional tune called "Aislean an Oigfear" or "The Young Man's Dream",[1] which had been transcribed by Edward Bunting in 1792 based on a performance by harper Donnchadh Ó hÁmsaigh (Denis Hempson) at the Belfast Harp Festival.[2] The Poem and the tune together were published in December 1813 in volume 5 of a collection of Moore's work called A Section of Irish Melodies.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seen on the street

Seen at New Hope, PA. 

Only in Florida

The Court of Appeals reinstated Florida's law that makes it illegal for doctors to talk to their patients about guns (previously struck down by a lower court).

From an OpEd in today's NYT:
In Florida, in 2011, a law was signed that made it illegal for doctors to ask patients if they owned a gun. If doctors violate this law, they can be disciplined, leading to fines, citations and even a loss of their license.

A lower court struck down the law in 2012. But last week, a panel of judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld it. In their ruling, the judges declared that the law regulates physician conduct “to protect patient privacy and curtail abuses of the physician-patient relationship.” The clear assertion of the judges is that there is no legitimate health reason to be asking about gun ownership.

Almost 20,000 people committed suicide in the United States with firearms in 2011. More than 11,000 were killed by firearms that year, and more than 200 were killed in accidents with guns. In 2009, almost 7,400 children were hospitalized because of injuries related to guns.
Doctors who ask about guns aren’t doing so because they’re nosy. They’re doing so because the vast majority of those deaths and injuries are preventable.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Race or Class?

The NY Times has an article about Americans' poor math skills: "Why Do Americans Stink at Math?"

In the comments, Steve Sailer, a "conservative race demagogue" quotes essentially the upper half of the table here.  (The table is for Massachusetts, while Sailer quotes figures for the whole of the US.)

The figures are for the mathematics scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests.  PISA tests are conducted all around the world.  In 2012, students in Shanghai, China, topped the world with an average score of 613.   Singapore came in second at 573.   The United States scored an average of 481, way down on the list. 

Massachusetts average 514

U.S. average 481

OECD average 494

Female 509

Male 518

White 530

Black 458

Hispanic 446

Asian 569

Percentage of students in enrolled schools
    eligible for free or reduced-price lunch
Less than 10 percent 583

10 to 24.9 percent 514

25 to 49.9 percent 493

50 to 74.9 percent 465

75 percent or more 457

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Don't try to decipher the lyrics - they are nonsense words.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


Had circumstances been just a little bit different, Sarah Palin could have become an accidental president of these United States. We need to remember that. We can forget the Alamo, but that Sarah Palin was widely (?) considered presidential material by a sizable (?) chunk of the nation, and remains so to this day, needs to be tattooed on our national psyche from now until the distant day when the Yellowstone caldera ends all further need for writing stuff down. We need to remember it because, Christ Almighty, she is still around, and is still getting fawning attention, and there is still a large segment of one of the two dominant political parties in the United States that say golly gee, we wish we could be governed by someone the likes of that. She is the downright moron the prophet H.L. Mencken famously foretold, which given past White House residencies is saying something....... She represents the id that has overtaken the party and swallowed it up whole, the id that has given us the Scott Walkers and the Chris McDaniels and the All of Texas.  She is the painted clown at the entrance to the great conservative roller coaster, the one that grins and points out a finger and says you must be no smarter than this to enter. -- Hunter on dailykos.com
 (H.L. Mencken : “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”)

Sunday, July 06, 2014

With Supremes like this, who needs law school?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act 1993,  (RFRA) says the following (highlighting added)

(a) Findings
The Congress finds that—
(1) the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution;
(2) laws “neutral” toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise;
(3) governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification;
(4) in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion; and
(5) the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.
(b) Purposes
The purposes of this chapter are—
(1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and
(2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.
  Justice Alito, et. al.,  in Burwell v Hobby Lobby:

First, nothing in the text of RFRA as originally enacted suggested that the statutory phrase “exercise of religion under the First Amendment” was meant to be tied to this Court’s pre-Smith interpretation of that Amendment.
On this understanding of our pre-Smith cases, RFRA did more than merely restore the balancing test used in the Sherbert line of cases; it provided even broader protection for religious liberty than was available under those decisions.

The dissent notes:
Despite these authoritative indications, the Court sees RFRA as a bold initiative departing from, rather than restoring, pre-Smith jurisprudence.
The general worthlessness of Ivy League law degrees may be taken to have been demonstrated.  (John Yoo, of the torture memos fame, is Harvard/Yale.  David J. Barron of the execution without trial memos fame, is Harvard/Harvard.) 

The Indian Rupee Sign

For future reference:
₹ is the HTML code for the symbol for the Indian Rupee ₹.

From Vietnam, an artifact

Vishnu stone head from Oc Eo culture, dated back 4,000-3,500 years.  
The news-item is from the newspaper of the Vietnam Communist Party.
With those dates, this artifact would totally revolutionize history.  I have to assume it is mislabeled, and should be more like 2500-2000 years old.  

Secularism in these United States is a joke

I was unaware of these numbers, from 2012:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received $69,377,785 (a little over 31% of total revenues) from government contracts and grants in 2010, up from $58,327,207 (40% of revenues) in 2009, per their latest financial statement.

Also controlled by the bishops, Catholic Charities USA, the umbrella organization for all the diocesan Catholic Charities, received $2.90 billion (62% of revenues) from the government in 2010 and $2.64 billion (69%) in 2009; Catholic Relief Services received $517 million (56%) in 2010 from the government and $361 million (61%) in 2009, according to Forbes list of the 200 largest U.S. charities.
As the author of the dailykos.com diary points out:
The USCCB are busting their collective butts to elect plutocrats and their proxies this election year under the pretense of “religious liberty” while they use our money to proselytize and bring harm to women and the LGBT community. They wield their standard anti-abortion, anti-gay campaigns to energize the state-wide contests as well.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Religionists run amuck

Two things say it all, and what an auspicious day to note it.

Supreme Court splits on gender lines in first post-Hobby Lobby case on contraception

From Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent:
Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today. After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates RFRA as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, see ante, at 29–30 (GINSBURG, J., dissenting), retreats from that position. That action evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court’s precedents and undermines confidence in this institution.
A comment on dailykos.com:
This SCOTUS will rule any arbitrary way they 
want. They are voting as right wing Catholic moralists, not as the institution to protect the tradition and values of  American law.
 There's more, though.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Corporate Veil has been pierced.

As "Man from Wasichustan" points out on dailykos.com:

If Hobby Lobby's owners can give their Corporation religion, their religion gives Hobby Lobby's owners--and any other owner, shareholder, officer, whatever--liability for the actions of the corporation.  Mr. Papantonio, who happens to be one of America's preeminent trial lawyers, sees it as an opportunity to sue owners for the company's negligence.

Some other people, it turns out, agree with his assessment and expand on what it means....
 Quoting Alex Park at MotherJones.com (emphasis added):
Basically, what you need to know is that if you and some friends start a company that makes a lot of money, you'll be rich, but if it incurs a lot of debt and fails, you won't be left to pay its bills. The Supreme Court affirmed this arrangement in a 2001 case, Cedric Kushner Promotions vs. Don King:
linguistically speaking, the employee and the corporation are different “persons,” even where the employee is the corporation’s sole owner. After all, incorporation’s basic purpose is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.
That separation is what legal and business scholars call the "corporate veil," and it's fundamental to the entire operation. Now, thanks to the Hobby Lobby case, it's in question. By letting Hobby Lobby's owners assert their personal religious rights over an entire corporation, the Supreme Court has poked a major hole in the veil. In other words, if a company is not truly separate from its owners, the owners could be made responsible for its debts and other burdens.
Incidentally, this also holds for that falsehood taught in the MBA finance classes at the U. Maryland and other fine business schools - that dividends are "double-taxed".   They aren't - the corporation is a distinct legal entity from the owners. 

"If religious shareholders can do it, why can’t creditors and government regulators pierce the corporate veil in the other direction?" Burt Neuborne, a law professor at New York University, asked in an email.

That's a question raised by 44 other law professors, who filed a friends-of-the-court brief that implored the Court to reject Hobby Lobby's argument and hold the veil in place. Here's what they argued:
Allowing a corporation, through either shareholder vote or board resolution, to take on and assert the religious beliefs of its shareholders in order to avoid having to comply with a generally-applicable law with a secular purpose is fundamentally at odds with the entire concept of incorporation. Creating such an unprecedented and idiosyncratic tear in the corporate veil would also carry with it unintended consequences, many of which are not easily foreseen.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Hobby-Lobby, past public distrust of Catholics

If I remember history correctly, there was considerable distrust of Catholicism amongst the American public back in the 1950s and John F. Kennedy had to make a strong speech that he would not be bound by the Catholic Church's doctrines in his presidential decisions, before people would trust him.

Well, if the Detroit Free Press is to be believed, the Catholic Church is indeed worthy of distrust, they have smuggled their religious doctrine into public policy -- via the Supreme Court justices.

There is nothing particularly conservative about Monday’s Supreme Court ruling excusing closely held corporations from a federal mandate to provide female employees with insurance coverage for certain forms of contraception.

Flying under the false colors of religious liberty, the five Catholics in the majority insisted they were acting to protect the constitutional rights of two closely held corporations owned and operated by Christian families.
 I'll pose my thoughts as questions:

I'm curious as to what happens to a corporation's exemptions based on religious belief, when:
1. The corporation changes ownership, or

2. The owners convert to a different religious belief.

Also, suppose some of the owners of the corporation that have claimed an exemption from providing contraception coverage, are discovered to be using birth control. Are they merely sinning against their religious beliefs, and are accountable only to their God for their hypocrisy, or have they committed a public fraud?

I don't see, following the Supreme Court decision, how we can avoid having a periodic audit of corporate owners' religious beliefs by the government. And what is more offensive to the First Amendment - such audits, or everyone uniformly having to follow public policy?

Monday, June 30, 2014

De-Macaulayization - 7

Sankrant Sanu writes:
A few years ago I set off to villages in Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttarakhand to do a study. I carried with me non-verbal IQ tests normed on the US population. I administered these to children in the US, children in English-medium urban schools and children in village schools. In my sample, Indian village children outscored both Indian and US urban children in IQ. In a small village Khandodra in Haryana, 30 per cent of the children scored above the 90th percentile. I was stunned. When I spoke to the principal of the village, he spoke about how the English class system in India affected the children’s self esteem and their chances of future progress.

हमारा ग्रामीन क्षेत्र है। अगर हाईर ऐडूकेशन से टच में है तभी बच्चा सफल हो पाएगा। जब वो आठवीं क्लास पास करता है, दसवीं तक जाता है, उसमें इंगलिश की ऐसी हीन भावना आ जाती है, की ऊपर जाता है—काॅम्पिटिशन में भी इंगलिश-मीडियम है।
(Ours is a rural area. To succeed these children need to be in touch with higher education. However when the child passes 8th class, goes into 10th, he experiences a feeling of inferiority in dealing with English; to go higher the competition is in English).
This encounter created my passion to reverse this injustice. A child in Turkey, in Malaysia, in Korea or Japan, does not face the same discriminative glass ceiling as the child in a village in Khandodra. Some years ago, Malaysia made an explicit decision to change its highest court system to allow Bhasha, its native language (a word ironically derived from Sanskrit). Yet in this ancient land of scholarship of ours, which influenced other civilisations for centuries, we cannot plead our case in the Supreme Court in any Indian language.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A debate worth watching

Excerpts of a debate - via MEMRI - among Mussalmans, that is very important; which side prevails in practice will determine the fate of a large portion of humanity. And sorry, not watching, but reading the sub-titles for most of us.

The Paradox of The Veda

Sri Aurobindo wrote (PDF):

1. The difficulty of the language:

We have in the Rig Veda, — the true and only Veda in the estimation of European scholars, — a body of sacrificial hymns couched in a very ancient language which presents a number of almost insoluble difficulties. It is full of ancient forms and words which do not appear in later speech and have often to be fixed in some doubtful sense by intelligent conjecture; a mass even of the words that it has in common with classical Sanskrit seem to bear or at least to admit another significance than in the later literary tongue; and a multitude of its vocables, especially the most common, those which are most vital to the sense, are capable of a surprising number of unconnected significances which may give, according to our preference in selection, quite different complexions to whole passages, whole hymns and even to the whole thought of the Veda.
2. The existing commentaries and difficulty of interpretation:

In the course of several thousands of years there have been at least three considerable attempts, entirely differing from each other in their methods and results, to fix the sense of these ancient litanies. One of these is prehistoric in time and exists only by fragments in the Brahmanas and Upanishads; but we possess in its entirety the traditional interpretation of the Indian scholar Sayana and we have in our own day the interpretation constructed after an immense labour of comparison and conjecture by modern European scholarship. 

Both of them present one characteristic in common, the extraordinary incoherence and poverty of sense which their results stamp upon the ancient hymns. The separate lines can be given, whether naturally or by force of conjecture, a good sense or a sense that hangs together; the diction that results, if garish in style, if loaded with otiose and decorative epithets, if developing extraordinarily little of meaning in an amazing mass of gaudy figure and verbiage, can be made to run into intelligible sentences; but when we come to read the hymns as a whole we seem to be in the presence of men who, unlike the early writers of other races, were incapable of coherent and natural expression or of connected thought. Except in the briefer and simpler hymns, the language tends to be either obscure or artificial; the thoughts are either unconnected or have to be forced and beaten by the interpreter into a whole. The scholar in dealing with his text is obliged to substitute for interpretation a process almost of fabrication. We feel that he is not so much revealing the sense as hammering and forging rebellious material into some sort of shape and consistency.
3. The paradox

Yet these obscure and barbarous compositions have had the most splendid good fortune in all literary history. They have been the reputed source not only of some of the world’s richest and profoundest religions, but of some of its subtlest metaphysical philosophies. In the fixed tradition of thousands of years they have been revered as the origin and standard of all that can be held as authoritative and true in Brahmana and Upanishad, in Tantra and Purana, in the doctrines of great philosophical schools and in the teachings of famous saints and sages. The name borne by them was Veda, the knowledge, — the received name for the highest spiritual truth of which the human mind is capable. But if we accept the current interpretations, whether Sayana’s or the modern theory, the whole of this sublime and sacred reputation is a colossal fiction. The hymns are, on the contrary, nothing more than the naive superstitious fancies of untaught and materialistic barbarians concerned only with the most external gains and enjoyments and ignorant of all but the most elementary moral notions or religious aspirations.
Part of the "most splendid good fortune" is the civilizational effort to preserve these in the original sound.   In fact, an entire school of philosophy says that it is the sound that matters, not the meaning.

How far are we from the robots taking over?

The shipping time for container shipping from China to New York is between 20-30 days.   For a fashion-driven industry like textiles and garments, the advantage of cheaper labor in China would be offset by the extra month it takes to respond to the changing market.   If robots could reduce the human labor component of garment production to insignificance,  it would be advantageous to serve the US market with robotic factories located in the US.   It would seem then that robotic manufacturing is not yet ready to take over, at least from an economic feasibility perspective.

There are alternatives, of course, which could explain this.  For example, the garment industry could be still in a relatively slow supply chain model, so that the extra 3-4 weeks for shipping from China don't matter.  What I mean is that what you see in the store displays today might have been planned up to an year ago, rather than weeks ago.  If the business model is that slow-moving,  where manufacturing is located may not matter.  

Anyway, here is an article from 2012, from the Indian Textile Journal. 

Sri Aurobindo on the meaning of the Vedas

A passage from Sir Aurobindo's "Secrets of the Veda":

From this past history of language certain consequences derive which are of considerable importance in Vedic interpretation. In the first place by a knowledge of the laws under which the relations of sound and sense formed themselves in the Sanskrit tongue and by a careful and minute study of its word-families it is possible to a great extent to restore the past history of individual words. It is possible to account for the meanings actually possessed by them, to show how they were worked out
through the various stages of language-development, to establish the mutual relations of different significances and to explain how they came to be attached to the same word in spite of the wide
difference and sometimes even the direct contrariety of their sense-values. It is possible also to restore lost senses of words on a sure and scientific basis and to justify them by an appeal to the observed laws of association which governed the development of the old Aryan tongues, to the secret evidence of the word itself and to the corroborative evidence of its immediate kindred.

Thus instead of having a purely floating and conjectural basis for our dealings with the vocables of the Vedic language, we can work with confidence upon a solid and reliable foundation. Naturally, it does not follow that because a Vedic word may or must have had at one time a particular significance,
that significance can be safely applied to the actual text of the Veda. But we do establish a sound sense and a clear possibility of its being the right sense for the Veda. The rest is a matter of comparative study of the passages in which the word occurs and of constant fitness in the context. I have continually found that a sense thus restored illumines always the context wherever it is applied and on the other hand that a sense demanded always by the context is precisely that to which we are led by the history of the word. This is a sufficient basis for a moral, if not for an absolute certainty.

Secondly, one remarkable feature of language in its inception is the enormous number of different meanings of which a single word was capable and also the enormous number of words which could be used to represent a single idea. Afterwards this tropical luxuriance came to be cut down. The intellect intervened with its growing need of precision, its growing sense of economy. The bearing capacity of words progressively diminished; and it became less and less tolerable to be burdened with a superfluous number of words for the same idea, a redundant variety of ideas for the same word. A considerable, though not too rigid economy in these respects, modified by a demand for a temperate
richness of variation, became the final law of language.

But the Sanskrit tongue never quite reached the final stages of this development; it dissolved too early into the Prakrit dialects. Even in its latest and most literary form it is lavish of varieties of meanings for the same word; it overflows with a redundant wealth of synonyms. Hence its extraordinary capacity for rhetorical devices which in any other language would be difficult, forced and hopelessly artificial, and especially for the figure of double sense, of slesa.

The Vedic Sanskrit represents a still earlier stratum in the development of language. Even in its outward features it is less fixed than any classical tongue; it abounds in a variety of forms and inflexions; it is fluid and vague, yet richly subtle in its use of cases and tenses. And on its psychological side it has not yet crystallised, is not entirely hardened into the rigid forms
of intellectual precision. The word for the Vedic Rishi is still a living thing, a thing of power, creative, formative. It is not yet a conventional symbol for an idea, but itself the parent and former of ideas. It carries within it the memory of its roots, is still conscient of its own history.

The Rishis’ use of language was governed by this ancient psychology of the Word. When in English we use the word “wolf” or “cow”, we mean by it simply the animal designated; we are not conscious of any reason why we should use that particular sound for the idea except the immemorial custom of
the language; and we cannot use it for any other sense or purpose except by an artificial device of style. But for the Vedic Rishi “vrika” meant the tearer and therefore, among other applications of the sense, a wolf; “dhenu” meant the fosterer, nourisher, and therefore a cow. But the original and general sense predominates, the derived and particular is secondary. Therefore, it was possible for the fashioner of the hymn to use these common words with a great pliability, sometimes putting forward the image of the wolf or the cow, sometimes using it to colour the more general sense, sometimes keeping it merely as a conventional figure for the psychological conception on which his mind
was dwelling, sometimes losing sight of the image altogether. It is in the light of this psychology of the old language that we have to understand the peculiar figures of Vedic symbolism as handled by the Rishis, even to the most apparently common and concrete. It is so that words like “ghritam”, the clarified butter, “soma”, the sacred wine, and a host of others are used.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How to fold a fitted sheet

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bruce Reidel: An Impossible Partnership? Pakistan, America....

Bruce Reidel at the Dickey Center: May 13, 2014.

Riedel joined Brookings following a 30-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, a tenure which included multiple overseas postings. He served as a senior advisor to the last four U.S. presidents on South Asia and the Middle East, working as a senior member of the National Security Council. In the 1990s, Riedel also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Near East and South Asia at the Pentagon and a senior advisor at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels. A member of President Bill Clinton’s Middle East negotiating team, Riedel took part in the Camp David peace negotiations, as well as other Arab-Israeli summits. An adviser to President Clinton on South Asia, Riedel organized the president’s trip to India in 2000.
In January 2009, at the request of President Barack Obama, Riedel chaired a review of American policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Obama announced the results of that review in a speech to the nation in March 2009. In 2011, Riedel served as an expert advisor to the prosecution of al Qaeda terrorist Omar Farooq Abdulmutallab in Detroit. Later that same year, Prime Minister David Cameron requested that Riedel deliver a briefing on Pakistan to Britain’s National Security Council.

Transcript from around @17:56  "The third factor, after the state within a state, and the obsession with India is that Pakistan carries the very unique attribute of being both a patron state sponsor of terrorism -- I would argue probably the leading patron state sponsor of terrorism in the world -- and a victim of terror at the same time.   Pakistan supports groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that attacked Mumbai in November 2008.  It doesn't support groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba; as Dan knows better than almost anyone, it **runs** Lashkar-e-Taiba.   Or to put it more accurate, the Army,  the ISI, the Lashkar-e-Taiba are one entity, that is entwined, deeply.   We know that from the Mumbai attack.  We have the confession of the Pakistani-American David Headley, who was involved in all the planning of the attack, and he tells us in detail how the ISI, Lashkar-e-Taiba were working together. "

"But that's not the only group.  Jaish-e-Muhammad, Hizbul Mujahiddin,  the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network -- these are all instruments of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.  They control their safe havens,  they control their media outlets,  they provide them with assistance and funding, and assistance in getting weapons.  For example, the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a man who has a $10 million bounty on his head, isn't hiding in Pakistan; he is on Pakistani television once a week.   He routinely comes on Pakistani television and says, "Hey CIA, you looking for me? Channel 45, here I am!  And tomorrow I'll be live on channel -- whatever."

"And yet, at the same time,  somewhere around 50,000 Pakistanis have died in militant-related violence in Pakistan since 2001.  That is the Pakistani code word for terrorism."


Bruce Reidel noted earlier in his talk that the last two US Presidents - Bush and Obama - have given Pakistan $25 billion, mostly in arms, and continue to fund Pakistan.    So inconsequential are Indian (and Pakistani civilian) lives!  When Georgetown Prof. C. Christine Fair, speaking at the Heritage Foundation, suggested levying sanctions against specific Pakistani Army and ISI officials - for their involvement in the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan - just like has been done for some of Putin's associates during the recent kerfuffle in Ukraine -- the two ex-State Department men on the panel were dismissive of that idea.   So inconsequential are the lives of American servicemen!

PS: around 32:00, Reidel points out that the US Congress, which is on a budget-cutting spree, routinely passes aid for Pakistan without a debate.  As he put it, even the Tea Party votes for aid for Pakistan.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Then and Now

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Krugman reviews Geithner

Krugman's review of Geithner's book about the 2008 financial crisis, Stress Test in the New York Review of Books.

There’s a curious change in tone about two thirds of the way through Stress Test. Up to that point—basically, up to the stress test itself and its immediate aftermath—Geithner tells a tale of heroic activism, of good men and women pulling out all the stops to save the world. Thereafter, however, Geithner turns apologetic and self-exculpatory. He acknowledges that more stimulus and debt relief would have been good things; he claims that he wanted to do much more, but that practical difficulties and political opposition made stronger action impossible. The can-do hero of the financial crisis, endlessly creative in finding ways to bypass institutional and political obstacles to do what needs to be done, suddenly becomes a passive observer of events.

Is that really how it was? I’m sorry to say this, but Geithner doesn’t appear to be a reliable narrator here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blatant Hypocrisy

When something like this happens in India, we get thundering editorials from the New York Times, and a whole raft of OpEds about the lack of freedom of expression in India.

Or if that infamous video been withdrawn, the one that provoked riots in Libya and Egypt and that may have been part of  the motivation for the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans actually lost their lives --- the howls of "censorship" would have been deafening.

But the following, oh, it is business as usual:


The Metropolitan Opera announced on Tuesday that it was canceling plans to simulcast John Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer” this fall to cinemas around the world, drawing praise from some Jewish groups who object to the opera, but laments from the work’s fans and a warning from its composer that the decision promotes “intolerance.”

The opera, considered one of Mr. Adams’s masterpieces, depicts the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by members of the Palestine Liberation Front, and the killing of a disabled Jewish American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer. The work, which sought to give voice to Palestinians and Israelis, and hijackers as well as victims, has attracted controversy since its 1991 premiere. Some Jewish groups have questioned the Met’s plans to present it.

The Met decided to cancel its planned Nov. 15 Live in HD transmission of “Klinghoffer” to movie theaters and a radio broadcast after discussions with the Anti-Defamation League. The league praised the Met’s decision, saying that “while the opera itself is not anti-Semitic, there is a concern the opera could be used in foreign countries to stir up anti-Israel sentiments or as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cheney: December 2007

In an interview with Politico,  one of the architects of the Iraq mess, then Vice President Dick Cheney, December 2007:
Cheney, who has been widely criticized for overly optimistic — and sometime flat wrong — projections in the past, sounded as confident as ever that the Bush administration will achieve its objectives in Iraq.

“I am fairly confident we’ll have [Iraq] in a good place, where we’ll be able to look back on it and say, 'That was the right decision. It was a sound decision going into Iraq,'” Cheney told us in a 40-minute White House interview.

Sounding a note of caution, the vice president said: "We've got a lot of work to do. We're sort of halfway through the surge, in a sense. We'll be going back to pre-surge levels over the course of the next year."

But Cheney said that by the middle of January 2009, it will be clear that “we have in fact achieved our objective in terms of having a self-governing Iraq that’s capable for the most part of defending themselves, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a nation that will be a positive force in influencing the world around it in the future.”
All of that by 2009? “Yes, sir,” he replied.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Atif Mian on the Leonard Lopate Show


Economists Atif Mian explains his new book on the Leonard Lopate show. (House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi).

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bail out the banks, not the borrowers?

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a long essay "The Case for Reparations".  Here I just want to point out one passage:

In 2010, Jacob S. Rugh, then a doctoral candidate at Princeton, and the sociologist Douglas S. Massey published a study of the recent foreclosure crisis. Among its drivers, they found an old foe: segregation. Black home buyers—even after controlling for factors like creditworthiness—were still more likely than white home buyers to be steered toward subprime loans. Decades of racist housing policies by the American government, along with decades of racist housing practices by American businesses, had conspired to concentrate African Americans in the same neighborhoods. As in North Lawndale half a century earlier, these neighborhoods were filled with people who had been cut off from mainstream financial institutions. When subprime lenders went looking for prey, they found black people waiting like ducks in a pen.

“High levels of segregation create a natural market for subprime lending,” Rugh and Massey write, “and cause riskier mortgages, and thus foreclosures, to accumulate disproportionately in racially segregated cities’ minority neighborhoods.”

Plunder in the past made plunder in the present efficient. The banks of America understood this. In 2005, Wells Fargo promoted a series of Wealth Building Strategies seminars. Dubbing itself “the nation’s leading originator of home loans to ethnic minority customers,” the bank enrolled black public figures in an ostensible effort to educate blacks on building “generational wealth.” But the “wealth building” seminars were a front for wealth theft. In 2010, the Justice Department filed a discrimination suit against Wells Fargo alleging that the bank had shunted blacks into predatory loans regardless of their creditworthiness. This was not magic or coincidence or misfortune. It was racism reifying itself. According to The New York Times, affidavits found loan officers referring to their black customers as “mud people” and to their subprime products as “ghetto loans.”

“We just went right after them,” Beth Jacobson, a former Wells Fargo loan officer, told The Times. “Wells Fargo mortgage had an emerging-markets unit that specifically targeted black churches because it figured church leaders had a lot of influence and could convince congregants to take out subprime loans.”

In 2011, Bank of America agreed to pay $355 million to settle charges of discrimination against its Countrywide unit. The following year, Wells Fargo settled its discrimination suit for more than $175 million. But the damage had been done. In 2009, half the properties in Baltimore whose owners had been granted loans by Wells Fargo between 2005 and 2008 were vacant; 71 percent of these properties were in predominantly black neighborhoods.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Madhusree Mukerjee on Churchill

Rajan pointed me to Madhusree Mukerjee's 2010 book "Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II".   I found an interview with Mukerjee here.
My indictment is based on what Churchill did, not on what he said.
Of the six questions to Madhusree Mukerjee, I reproduce three here:

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Ian Jack's review of Madhusree Mukherjee's book on Churchill


Just occasionally, though, a book really does alter your view of the world, so much so that you insist others read it and sometimes foist it on them as a gift. This has just happened to me with Madhusree Mukerjee’s account of the Bengal Famine, titled Churchill’s Secret War. I’ve been absorbed and shaken by it. I don’t think anyone who reads Mukerjee can ever see Churchill in the same light again. This may scarcely matter in India, but Britain still sees him as its greatest-ever prime minister and the saviour in 1940 of the civilized world. That reputation, which is both grounded in fact and self-created, will probably survive; so much of Britain’s sense of itself still depends on ‘our finest hour’. But in Mukerjee’s book another kind of Churchill emerges to rival the war hero: obstructive, wilful, egocentric, foolish, and wickedly racist — ‘insane’, as more than one of his colleagues remarked, when it came to India.

On Churchill

Winston Churchill was about as imperialist and as racist as they come.  His good reputation comes from the fact that history is written by the victors.  Somewhere between 1.5 million and 4 million people died in Bengal just as surely as if they had been gassed by Hitler.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What Americans need to understand about Pakistan

There are a recent trio of books about Pakistan that should be required reading for Americans who want to understand that country and the Indian subcontinent.   These are:

1. "Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding" by Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US.

2. "The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014" by Carlotta Gall of the New York Times.

3. "Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War" by C. Christine Fair, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University.

The last book, by C. Christine Fair, was discussed at the Hudson Institute, the hour-and-a-half session should be watched.  Some C.C. Fair-isms:

1. "...I argue in the book that Pakistan's issues with India are ideological, they are philosophical, they are basically - its a civilizational conflict that Pakistan has set up, and therefore how can you resolve a civilizational conflict by resolving a contentious border?"

2. "I see the Pakistan Army more as international insurgents".

3. "To the Pakistan Army absolute acquiescence is real defeat".

4. "When the Indians think about taking on Pakistan, they think about defeating Pakistan. What Pakistan's military needs to survive an engagement is just the ability to mount another confrontation."

I think C.C. Fair has changed her views considerably in the last four years.  A welcome change.  As JE Menon on BRF commented:
C.Fair's interview is so refreshingly honest that given her background I suspect she is on some kind of medication. It is that blunt. Rare from an American.