Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Casualty of the Tolerance Stampede

In India, there was a recent movement of intellectuals to return their awards to protest the supposed rising tide of intolerance.  (This movement seems to have receded after the Bihar elections were completed, but that is another matter.) This tolerance herd caused the withdrawal of Vikram Sampath from the Bengaluru Literary Festival that he co-founded, because he didn't join their stampede.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

India: The Rising Tide of Intolerance???

In the past four months, the country witnessed 300 incidents of communal violence, 75 every month, where 35 people were killed, according to Home Ministry data accessed by The Hindu. In the entire year till October, 630 incidents were reported and 86 persons lost their lives.

The data do not show any spike in incidents under the NDA government. In 2013, when the UPA was in power, 823 such incidents were reported and in 2014 the figure stood at 644, the NDA came to power on May 26, 2014.

Till June this year, 330 incidents of communal violence were reported and 51 people were killed in these incidents. As many as 1,899 people were injured in 2015.

The report said that in 2015, there were “no major communal incidents” but “two important communal incidents” took place — at Atali in Faridabad, Haryana (feud over construction of a place of worship) and Bisahda, Dadri, Uttar Pradesh (when 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaque was killed by a mob over rumours that beef was stored in his fridge).

The report said there were “disputes pertaining to religious issues including processions and over alleged objectionable portrayal of religion/religious symbol on social media; gender related issues; land and property disputes; political rivalry and miscellaneous issues like road rage, personal enmity and financial disputes.”

CPI MP D. Raja who was present at Standing Committee meeting, which was supposed to be addressed by Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, said “the Union Home Secretary did not find it important to come and address the MPs on an issue as important as communal violence. The meeting took place but the committee members were anguished at his absence. The Home Ministry also came up with a report where it said that no major incident took place in 2015.” A senior Home Ministry official said Mr. Mehrishi could not attend the meeting as he had to attend the Union Cabinet meeting.
The committee is headed by P. Bhattacharya (Cong.) and comprises 10 Rajya Sabha MPs and 21 Lok Sabha MPs.

The Home Ministry report also said the onus on containing such incidents lay primarily on the State governments which were responsible for maintaining law and order.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Hierarchy of Arguments

Friday, November 20, 2015

The rules at daily kos

Apparently, this item is "outside of site rules" of

PS: I learned of this article from this interview of Sarah Haider on The Rubin Report. ("The Regressive Left is our Tea Party.").

PPS: Shadi Hamid has an analytical take here:


"In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, Iraqi-born writer and human rights activist Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar posted a friend’s scathing satire on Facebook aimed directly at liberals who “shift blame inwardly on themselves, denying the terrorists even the satisfaction of claiming responsibility.”

“It must be incredibly frustrating as an Islamic terrorist not to have your views and motives taken seriously by the societies you terrorize, even after you have explicitly and repeatedly stated them,” the author began.

The author then launched into a mock Monty Python-type exchange between a “self-loathing” liberal and an Islamic terrorist about exactly who is responsible for Islamic acts of terror — and what the motivations are.

It began with the Islamic terrorist’s declaration that “we did this because our holy texts exhort us to …”

The liberal is having none of that: “No, you didn’t.”

And then things get really interesting:
“Wait, what? Yes we did…”
“No, this has nothing to do with religion. You guys are just using religion as a front for social and geopolitical reasons.”

“WHAT!? Did you even read our official statement? We give explicit Quranic justification. This is jihad, a holy crusade against pagans, blasphemers, and disbelievers.”

“No, this is definitely not a Muslim thing. You guys are not true Muslims, and you defame a great religion by saying so.”

“Huh!? Who are you to tell us we’re not true Muslims!? Islam is literally at the core of everything we do, and we have implemented the truest most literal and honest interpretation of its founding texts. It is our very reason for being.”

“Nope. We created you. We installed a social and economic system that alienates and disenfranchises you, and that’s why you did this. We’re sorry.”

“What? Why are you apologizing? We just slaughtered you mercilessly in the streets. We targeted unwitting civilians — disenfranchisement doesn’t even enter into it!”

“Listen, it’s our fault. We don’t blame you for feeling unwelcome and lashing out.”

“Seriously, stop taking credit for this! We worked really hard to pull this off, and we’re not going to let you take it away from us.”

“No, we nourished your extremism. We accept full blame.”

“OMG, how many people do we have to kill around here to finally get our message across?”
Since the Paris terror attacks, a Minnesota Democrat said “ISIS isn’t necessarily evil,” Hillary Clinton refused to use the term “radical Islam” and Bernie Sanders reiterated that climate change is our greatest threat at Saturday’s Democratic debate, an anti-gun group blamed the attacks on “gun violence” and liberal website Salon tweeted: “Real terror unfolds in Paris. Perhaps this will convince the right to done down their incessant violent rhetoric.”
The satire on Al-Mutar’s page has received nearly 20,000 likes since Sunday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On Niall Ferguson

Need to save this comment.

Empire Guy said...
I was once having a discussion with a friend and colleague (both of us do, or have done, academic work on empires) about Ferguson's "American Empire" stuff, and he pointed out that Ferguson's an interesting scholar. Why? Well, if you ask British imperial historians about his work, they'll say its rubbish but they hear his stuff on economic history is pretty good. When you ask economic historians about Ferguson's work in their area, they'll say its not so good but they've heard positive things about his World War I book. If you ask military historians about his World War I book, they dismiss it but mention that people seem to like his book on the Rothschilds. Not sure if all of these criticisms are right (his stuff on American Empire is rubbish, though), but I think it might capture an essential truth about Ferguson's ability to maintain his reputation despite mostly contributing shoddy arguments to the public sphere.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


A diary on dailykos has the bright idea "#CallThemDaesh". One of the reasons not to call ISIS ISIL or ISIS is because of the word "Islamic". " blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists".
Then, in the comments, when someone posts "we should bomb those animals", there is a conversation about how we should never forget that Daesh is made of human beings too.

My response (with minor corrections)

There is this thread down there in which they try to argue that we must never forget that Daesh is made up of humans.  But the whole “call them Daesh” movement is to make us forget that they are Islamic.  It is very hard to know what liberals want one to remember and what they want one to forget.

I’ll also note that Daily Kos liberals have no problem in calling the Indian RSS Hindu, instead of just using the name “RSS”.  They’re welcome to dislike the Indian Prime Minister Modi and his political party, the BJP; but would they show the same consideration in not terming them “Hindu” as they are trying to not term ISIS “Muslim” or “Islamic”?

For that matter, would they stop talking about the “Christian Right” in America? After all, they are not Christian, right, right?

Of course not, they’d never do so.  They’re Daily Kos Liberals, a mirror reflection of the brain-dead Tea Party.  Sunday morning we’re going to hear from Egberto Willies about whether liberals live in a bubble.  The answer is a resounding Yes!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rangoli 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The meaning of "smart"

neuroguy on dailykos, in an article that argues that Dr. Ben Carson is not smart, gives this description of  smart that I want to preserve:

“Smart” is a multifaceted cognitive feature composed of excellent analytical skills, possession of an extensive knowledge base that is easily and frequently augmented, possession of a good memory, and being readily curious about the world and willing, even eager, to reject previously accepted notions in the face of new data. Being smart includes having the ability to analyze new data for validity and, thinking creatively, draw new insights from existing common knowledge.

Monday, November 09, 2015

November 10, 2015 - likely a big day for computer science

As R.J. Lipton narrates:

László Babai is one of the world experts on complexity theory, especially related to groups and graphs. He also recently won the 2015 ACM Knuth Prize, for which we congratulate him.
Today we wish to discuss a new result that he has announced that will place graph isomorphism almost in polynomial time.

More exactly László shows that Graph Isomorphism is in Quasipolynomial Time: that is time of the form

\displaystyle  2^{O(\log(n))^{c}},
for some constant {c}. Polynomial time is the case when {c=1}, but any {c} is a huge improvement over the previous best result.

Luca Trevisan already has made a post on this result, and Scott Aaronson likewise. Luca further promises to be in Chicago next Tuesday when László gives his talk on the result......

Friday, November 06, 2015

Ben Carson's pyramids

Prof. Paul Krugman has a post on his blog about Ben Carson's idea that the ancient Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain.

My couple of comments:
In this era, as a practical matter, no one can be elected to President of the United States without giving public allegiance to some of these ideas: that the Red Sea parted to let people through, that a virgin birth occurred, that a dead man was resurrected - none of these events comply with the laws of nature as we understand them.

Yet, only the idea that may violate engineering sense, architectural sense, even common sense, but NOT the laws of nature, that the pyramids might have been used for grain storage, is held up for criticism and ridicule.

That is the true absurdity.
Someone asked:
One day we'll elect a fundamentalist atheist to office. Will you be happy then?
My reply:
Well, when does a belief go from being religious, and so beyond most criticism, and into being absurd or superstitious?

Ms Sonia Faleiro, who writes columns for the New York Times, on twitter was ridiculing an Indian leader who believes that the ancients had high technology, since lost, and rediscovered only in modern times. I agree that such a belief is not supportable by any evidence, and is thus rendered absurd; but I wondered what the basis for ridiculing this religious belief was. I realized, the only reason was that it is not a Christian belief.
When I pointed out to Ms Faleiro: "Tho ancients having technology lost till modern times is a bit more rational than parting of Red Sea or man rising from dead", she promptly blocked me from following her tweets.

Why is Christian or Jewish superstition privileged over every other superstition? I have a much higher regard for Professor Krugman and want to alert him to the absurdity that he is participating in.
 You see, there is this touchstone (perhaps it is - is it mentioned in the Bible?) that makes an idea "religious" and so beyond scrutiny in a political campaign, or else something that deals with reality, and so it is supposed to be handled with normal logic, science and commonsense.   So, for example, that old Hindu stories mention flying machines and weapons that seem like nuclear weapons cannot be the basis for someone's religious belief that these things existed - it is not mentioned in the Bible, and so it must be deemed absurd.  Likewise with Ben Carson's theory about the pyramids. 

This is what "secularism" means in practice, whatever the pious words are about separation of Church and State and so on.  The underlying social contract in America is that certain beliefs are not to be held up to scrutiny.  The conflict with Islam is because Islam has a different set of beliefs that are not be held up to scrutiny, and there is no agreement on that.  Hindus are a dismissable minority in the US; and the secularization project proceeds apace in India, courtesy the Cambridge-Oxford set, the Marxists and the other Leftists, and the worldwide evangelist movements. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

De-Macaulayization - 9

Mani Shankar Aiyar is a politician of the Indian National Congress.  He is a bit in the news these days for hobnobbing with Pervez Musharraf, even just after Musharraf has admitted to sponsoring terrorism in IndiaJournalist Dhiren Bhagat, in his book "The Contemporary Conservative" (1990) claimed that in 1962, when India was in a war with China, Aiyar, then at Cambridge in the UK, and the secretary of the Cambridge unit of the Communist Party, collected funds for the Chinese soldiers.  Supposedly Aiyar's influential family intervened to not let this anti-national activity interfere with his career.  Aiyar is a Sonia Gandhi loyalist, and in 2000 got into a drunken altercation with a Samajwadi Party leader, Amar Singh, for his successful opposition to Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister of India.

This above is relevant because that is where the disgusting Macaulayite attitude comes through.
Reproducing some of the interview here, and highlighting the relevant portion.

What was the provocation for the brawl at Satish Gujral's party?

In spite of being greatly provoked, I kept my cool for a very long time. The party was in honour of H.K. Dua, press advisor to the Prime Minister and a good friend of mine, who'd recently got married. Practically everybody who matters was there. Mani came up to me absolutely drunk and charged: `You are a racist. You prevented Sonia Gandhi from becoming the Prime Minister only because she's a foreigner.' I kept quiet.

Did you think it wasn't worth countering? Or was it because you did stall her premiership?

I did not prevent her from becoming the PM. It was the collective decision of Samajwadi Party MPs and MLAs under Mulayam Singh's leadership. As a spokesperson it was my duty to articulate the party's view.

Surely that wasn't provocation enough?

Mani didn't stop at that. He called me an opportunist, a political weather cock. I countered: I was with Mulayam and I'm still with him. It's you who, when denied a Congress seat, went over to Mamata and when she spurned you, you came back, calling her names. Mani shot back: `You are a broker of industrialists, you are Ambani's dog.' Without losing my shirt, I replied: Fine, as far as the Ambanis are concerned you people are virgins. Your party has not taken a single penny from them. As for proximity with industrialists the Congress has been in close touch with many of them. I told him: Yeh tu nahi, sharaab bol raha hai. To which Mani replied: `Mera dil aur dimaag bol raha hai'. Continuing in the same vein I said: Mote Mani Shankar, sharaab ke nashe mein dhhut tera sara shareer dol raha hai.

He was not offended?

He just wanted to provoke me, and when I didn't get provoked, he said, `What sort of a Thakur are you?' He just wanted to pick up a fight.

Why would he do that?

So that he could go back and tell Soniaji, I fixed Amar Singh, I'm the only one who could do it, and thus ensure a berth in the Congress Working Committee. I told Mani, I know your gameplan. I'm not going to help you get into Soniaji's charmed circle. To which he said, `You are under-estimating my clout with her, I write all her speeches. I did it for Rajiv.' Sure, how can anybody forget those infamous lines, `Mein VP Singh ki naani yaad karadoonga. God help the leader and the party which has a speech writer like you, I replied. He gave a maa ki gali. I said politely, but firmly, I can also abuse your mother, but I won't stoop so low. For god's sake don't provoke the beast in me.

But he did? 
He was irrepressible... He said, `We belong to the Oxford and Cambridge set... your leader can't even articulate himself in English... Oh that bloody Mulayam -- he looks just like me. It could be because my father visited UP at some point. Why don't you check with Mulayam's mother'. This was crossing all limits. I grabbed him by the neck and did what I had to do.

You beat him up?

I did much less than what he deserved.

You said that knowing his gameplan you refused to get provoked. Why did you get provoked?

Mulayam Singh is very close to my heart. He is my leader. I'm sorry about what I did. I don't think it was right.

So you regret what you did?
I don't. I'm human, I'm not an angel. I got provoked when he talked about my leader's mother in such a derogatory manner. As a member of civil society I'm ashamed.

Mani Shankar Aiyar also termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi a chaiwala (tea vendor) not deserving to be Prime Minister.   Whenever the era of elitists like Aiyar is over will not be too soon.

PS: Perhaps I should point out that the stuff about English came fairly late in Aiyar's escalating insults.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

India's new metros

Metropolitan railway is undergoing a bit of a building boom in India, and you can follow it from The Metro Rail Guy's blog.

E.g., Kochi.

A sample photograph:
A view of Muttom station’s concourse level – Photo Copyright: Kochi Metro Rail

Monday, November 02, 2015


Sunday, November 01, 2015

Balu makes Derrida intelligible

The fate of the Bison?

Aravindan Neelakandan has a long essay from which I excerpt this:
For Native Americans the buffalo was a sacred resource to be utilized according to human need. For many tribes, the animal is sacred because in their sacred lore the buffalo and humans share a common mythological origin. The nomadic lives of the Native American tribes centered round the sacred bison. Though they did consume the meat of the bison they never slaughtered them wanton and venerated it as a ‘sacred animal’.
If in India cow veneration was deemed uneconomical burden for the Indian farmer, in United States extermination of the sacred bison, was essential for the agricultural settling of native Indians. United States Interior Secretary Columbus Delano wrote in 1872 that he would not be sad for the ‘disappearance’ of the bison as he regarded it as a means of ‘hastening their (Native Americans’) sense of dependence upon the products of the soil and their own labors’. But the real reason was no civilizational altruism but aim for political subjugation as US Representative James Throckmorton would reveal in 1876:
There is no question that, so long as there are millions of buffaloes in the West, the Indians cannot be controlled, even by the strong arm of the Government. I believe it would be a great step forward in the civilization of the Indians and the preservation of peace on the border if there was not a buffalo in existence.