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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The clematis puts on its annual spring show.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Second Amendment's origin in slavery

The constituent states of the United States of America were concerned backed in the 18th century, that if the state militias could be regulated, then if it so chose, only the Federal Government would be able to put down slave rebellions.  Read this, it is fairly convincing.
The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that ... and we all should be too.
If the anti-slavery folks in the North had figured out a way to disband - or even move out of the state - those southern militias, the police state of the South would collapse.  And, similarly, if the North were to invite into military service the slaves of the South, then they could be emancipated, which would collapse the institution of slavery, and the southern economic and social systems, altogether.

These two possibilities worried southerners like James Monroe, George Mason (who owned over 300 slaves) and the southern Christian evangelical, Patrick Henry (who opposed slavery on principle, but also opposed freeing slaves).
 So the Second Amendment came about.  The Second Amendment is now read to mean an unqualified right of individuals to bear arms.  And the result is periodic havoc.  So Americans needlessly die today because of their legacy of slavery.  Karma is a bitch.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunny Singh on NaMo

Lots of interesting things there, I'm focusing below on just one.  Do read the whole essay.

Varanasi is also in many ways a microcosm of India. It is one of the most sacred sites for Hindus and attracts millions of religious tourists. Just beyond the city limits, Sarnath continues to be a crucial Buddhist sacred site. It also boasts of the world-famous silk industry, now in an advanced state of decay, and almost entirely composed of Muslim weavers. The city also has neighbourhoods that have been historically dominated by communities from various parts of India, drawn there for its religious significance and settled within the city boundaries for centuries. It is worth noting that despite the platitudes about Varanasi's pluralism - and secularism - in much of Indian press, the communities do not always co-exist without tensions. Economic scarcity and political manipulation have in recent decades added to these inter-community tensions. 


 In Varanasi, Modi has made specific promises for development of the city. He has also reached out - not in the vote-bank way of Congress, SP and BSP - to the Muslim community. While he has refused the facile symbolic political gestures such as visiting the Gyan Vaapi mosque, he has promised 24-hour power supply to the weavers, as well as twinning them with the industry in Surat. As a sound-bite generator, this makes little news. But for those of us who know how desperately the weaving community needs assistance, this holds out a ray of hope. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Aatish Taseer on "A Hindu without vengeance, and without apology"

In case you didn't know, NaMo is Narendra Modi.  TsuNaMo is what swept India.

Aatish Taseer has written another thought-provoking essay about the recent elections,  "The Light of Benares".  Maybe I'm biased or pre-disposed to think in a certain way - but Taseer's words resonate with me.

Some excerpts:
And when Modi began to speak, after the interminable bugling of a conch and cries of ‘Bharat Mata ki…’, what he seemed really to catch was this feeling, at once full of sorrow and rage, of hopes betrayed, of a kind of wasted promise. It was as if he spoke directly to the crowd’s restlessness, and rather than making them feel ashamed of it, he endowed it with a kind of nobility. He made their restlessness and hunger and wish to make something of their lives seem like the noblest impulse a man could possess. He showed them their anger in the light of a government that held their talent and energy and potential in contempt. It was amazing: his belief in that vast crowd’s ability to empower itself was absolute.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Most Baffling Photography Patent

Here is the story. was granted a patent by the US Patent Office on photographing people or things against a white backdrop.  The patent was filed in 2011.

You don't believe it? Look up patent # 8676045.

The British and other European colonial powers started the Indian indenture system in 1838, as a cheap source of labour to their colonies after African slavery was abolished in 1833. Under this system some 1.2 million Indians were transported to the colonies between 1838 and 1916. Some 60,500 Indians were transported to Fiji between 1879 and 1916, when the transportation of indentured Indian laborers was stopped.

The indenture system itself was abolished in 1921. The contracts of the indentured labourers, which they called GIRMIT or agreements, required them to work in Fiji for a certain period of time as specified in their agreements.
Women were forced to work on farms just days after birth and they had to leave their crying babies at the fringes of farms, not allowed to feed them….Most suicides were by hanging, committed in early mornings. When the feet touched ground because the rope was too long, the victims folded their feet- so great was the desire to die and escape from a barbarous and inhumane system of girmit-the indenture.
That is the stolen history of girmit, the indenture system that was told by Rajendra Prasad, author of “Tears in Paradise -Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004.”

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Hidden Symbolism of Amar Akbar Anthony

That hit movie from 1977, Amar Akbar Anthony,  supposedly has deep ideological significance.   In Body & Society Vol. 15(2): 71–99  DOI: 10.1177/1357034X0910343,  Jacob Copeman in his paper "Gathering Points: Blood Donation and the Scenography of 'National Integration' in India" cites Cohen (2001)

Cohen (2001) has described the 1977 film Amar Akbar Anthony in which three brothers, separated at birth, have been brought up as Hindu, Muslim and Christian, respectively. 
A woman, unbeknownst to them their mother, requires a transfusion.
In the transfusion scene, three intravenous lines connect the men to the woman, Bharati, whose name ("Indian") and body figure the nation.  The camera pans showing the three young transfusers in turn with a temple, mosque or church respectively as backdrop.  (2001: 15).
India herself is the centre into which its constituent religious populations deliver themselves in an image of transfusion as national integration.

As Cohen (2001) points out, however, that the transfused woman is Hindu ensures that 'integration' takes place under a Hindu sign, thus suggesting a vertical interpretation of national integration, with Hinduism the overarching national schema into which 'minorities' must obligingly position themselves.  This, of course, can be read as a departure from the Nehruvian insistence on the equal status of all religions, and serves as a reminder that 'national integration' is a contested category, the egalitarian content of which cannot be taken for granted. (McKean, 1996; Sheth, 1996) 38.
One of the famous lines from the movie is this gibberish: "You see the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere, because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated with the exuberance of your own verbosity."

But the gibberish of the social "scientists" beats it hollow.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The election results in India

1. Narendra Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister born after Independence.  Modi was born in 1950.  (Rajiv Gandhi was born in 1944, and the power behind Manmohan Singh (1932), Sonia Gandhi was born in 1946.  The other Prime Ministers were born in  1889, 1898, 1904, 1917, 1896, 1902, 1931, 1927, 1924, 1933 ). 

2.  Modi makes 3 claims about the elections (the first two here):

1. This election has proved that polls can be won in the country on the issue of development alone. This verdict is a verdict for development, to take India forward and to work hard to fulfill people's dreams.
2. This is the second election after the Emergency where people voted for an agenda, rather than going by caste and religion. This result is the answer to those who attacked me fiercely. They did hard work and so much of research to attack me, but finally they lost.
 3. (here) During the victory rally, Mr. Modi referred to people born after British rule ended in 1947, saying they never had the “opportunity” to die or to go to jail to fight colonialism. “We did not die for independence, but we will live for good governance.” “This is the first time people who were born in independent India have played a decisive role in the election,” Mr. Modi said.

The agenda for the elections after the Emergency was the restoration of civil liberties; and the agenda for this election is development.   The poll results seem to show splits in the votes of  Muslims, and various caste groups including Dalits. (Excuse me for the old terminology - the political set up in India since Independence has featured politicians exploiting these divides to create "vote banks".  The terminology and the "vote bank" phenomena should hopefully fade away.)

It also appears that the youth vote went for Modi in a big way.  We shall know more as the analyses roll in.

All in all, a truly historic election.

PS: Pankaj Misra is upset. As a BRF-er put it: "Delicious whine from Pankaj Mishra. Just count each word as a drop of tear and enjoy. Don't try to read it."

De-Macaulayization - 6

Agnimitra on BRF:

1. Survey results of English Proficiency Index (EPI) in among non-native English speakers worldwide shows India slipping down the rankings fast (from 14 to 21 between 2012 and 2014), even as the number of "English-literate" Indians rises.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lobachevsky - Tom Lehrer

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Mewar Ramayana

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A troubling pattern

Friday, May 09, 2014

Malaysian airlines flight MH370 - Inmarsat calculations don't make sense
(via S.)

That the Doppler shift curve didn't make sense was clear when it was first published.  (e.g., me, here, see below.) But just exactly how has been worked out by Exner, Schulman, Steel and Farrar.

PS: is a good place to follow all of this.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Soil Biology Primer

A useful resource for the gardener: The Soil Biology Primer.

Sunday, May 04, 2014


IDRF is the Indian Development & Relief Fund, a charitable organization based in the US, run by Dr Vinod and Sarla Prakash, that raises funds for good works in India. 

Back in 2002, the professional leftist brigade in the US, including such people as Dr. Angana Chatterji and Prof. Vinay Lal,  and organizations like SAJA (South Asian Journalists Association) and FOIL (Forum of Indian Leftists) undertook a campaign against "the funding of hatred in India", and their main target was IDRF.

That was the first I heard of IDRF; and at that time, I had considerable sympathy for leftists.

The leftists managed to get the US Department of Justice to investigate IDRF, and to get US corporations, whose Indian employees make donations to IDRF through paycheck deductions, to withhold payments to IDRF.

I did my own finding-out, and IDRF was nothing at all like what the leftists had represented.   That finding marked my break with the leftists. I was also determined that IDRF should not be hurt by the vile campaign against it; and I started making regular contributions, which I have been doing ever since.

IDRF continues, and is featured in a Sunday Magazine article in the Chennai-based "The Hindu" newspaper.   Don't be fooled by the name "The Hindu", it is a leftist publication, and has an editorial policy that seems to emanate from Beijing.   People on Bharat-Rakshak fondly call it "The Chindu".  So while the title of the article in the Hindu is "Payback Time" where the payback is as in people contributing to society,  it is a sweet payback to IDRF, too, that it now features positively in a leftist publication.

Saturday, May 03, 2014


A Rose-breasted Grosbeak showed up this afternoon, too. So I dusted off the camera and lay in wait.  Couldn't catch a Grosbeak, but there were other familiar friends and a surprise.

This fellow on the left is a white-throated sparrow, that yellow spot I think makes it Zonotrichia albicollis, per the Peterson Field Guide.

All the photos here are with the 400mm f/5.6 with a 12mm tube. The tube reduces the minimum focus distance.  Even so, everything here is a major crop of the original frame.

New birds at the feeder

I don't have photographs, but a new species visited the bird feeders this morning - the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  There were a pair of them.  This is what they look like:
This is my first sighting of these birds.  (Though I feed the birds, I'm not much of a bird-watcher.)

Friday, May 02, 2014


Ahistorical liberals—like most Americans—still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true.
That is Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic, on Oafish and Graceful Racism.

If the above is incomprehensible, here is a longer quote, with the important part highlighted:
"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," {Supreme Court Chief Justice}  John Roberts elegantly wrote. Liberals have yet to come up with a credible retort. That is because the theories of John Roberts are prettier than the theories of most liberals. But more, it is because liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)
"Races don't exist?", someone expostulates.  Without going into biology, let's just consider the fact that President Obama with one parent from the "white" race and one parent from the "black" race is black per American racial classification.  This is just as arbitrary as saying the son of a German and a Swede is always Swede.

A person with one "black" grandparent, or one "black" great-grandparent is also black.  "Passing"  is the phenomenon where someone of mixed race who looks "white" enough, passes themselves off as "white".

And yes, I've encountered enough liberals who don't understand that race as used in America is a social construct.  They go ballistic over this, and invoke biology and DNA and whatever; or else they seemingly concede the point, but at the first opportunity continue their talk about the genetics of  black vs. white IQs and such.   (I've decided to boycott such people.)

Anyway, please read the whole of Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

CUNY: Capital in the 21st century

One and a half hours long:
Panel discussion led by Thomas Piketty, author, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," who discusses economic growth, returns on capital, and inequality with four economists: Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University; Paul Krugman, Princeton University; Steven Durlauf, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Branko Milanovic, CUNY Graduate Center. Introductions by Chase Robinson, CUNY Graduate Center, and Janet Gornick, Luxembourg Income Study Center. Taped April 16, 2014 at the CUNY Graduate Center.