Sunday, December 31, 2017

Grunwald on Trump

Michael Grunwald in Politico: a must-read for any concerned parties.

The most consequential aspect of President Trump—like the most consequential aspect of Candidate Trump—has been his relentless shattering of norms: norms of honesty, decency, diversity, strategy, diplomacy and democracy, norms of what presidents are supposed to say and do when the world is and isn’t watching. As I keep arguing in these periodic Trump reviews, it’s a mistake to describe his all-caps rage-tweeting or his endorsement of an accused child molester or his threats to wipe out “Little Rocket Man” as unpresidential, because he’s the president. He’s by definition presidential. The norms he’s shattered are by definition no longer norms. His erratic behavior isn’t normal, but it’s inevitably becoming normalized, a predictably unpredictable feature of our political landscape. It’s how we live now, checking our phones in the morning to get a read on the president’s mood. The American economy is still strong, and he hasn’t started any new wars, so pundits have focused a lot of their hand-wringing on the effect his norm-shattering will have on future leaders, who will be able to cite the Trump precedent if they want to hide their tax returns or use their office to promote their businesses or fire FBI directors who investigate them. But Trump still has three years left in his term. And the norms he’s shattered can’t constrain his behavior now that he’s shattered them.
Trump’s job security depends on support from GOP legislators. Their job security depends on Trump’s base showing up to support them in 2018, and on Trump improving his approval ratings enough to avert a Democratic wave that would bounce them out even if his base does show up to support them in 2018. So after campaigning as an anti-establishment populist, Trump has mostly governed as a partisan corporatist, earning loyalty points from congressional Republicans by stocking his administration with movement conservatives and embracing their unpopular agenda, ditching his promises to protect Medicaid and close tax loopholes for hedge funds while consistently siding with business owners and investors over workers and consumers. Congressional Republicans, even those who once called him unfit to serve, have mostly ignored his antics and even his sporadic attacks on them, kissing his ring in public even as they roll their eyes in private. They’d prefer their tax cuts without the white nationalist retweets, but it’s a package deal.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

How the Aryan nonsense infects Persia

The past few days have seen protests in Iran.

@Ghasseminejad tweeted:  "Protestors in Iran: "We are Aryans! We don't worship the Arab [God]"
This is not the first time people have used this anti-Islam slogan. The Islamist regime has given birth to strong anti-Islam sentiments in Iran."
Where does this come from? Does it come from a historical consciousness of many centuries?

Simple answer: No!

Help: some aDNA stuff

Need help interpreting this (note this is a 2014 paper, and already could be out-of-date, so fast are the developments in the field of aDNA)
Human paleogenetics of Europe
The known knowns and the known unknowns
Guido Brandt, Anna Szecs-enyi-Nagy, Christina Roth, Kurt Werner Alt, Wolfgang Haak
While the presence of haplogroup I in Neolithic contexts could be interpreted as a signal of hunter-gatherer introgression in farming communities, and therefore represents a Paleolithic legacy, the precise way in which modern-day European Y-chromosome diversity was formed remains elusive. To date, the only other Y-haplogroups observed in early farming sites are haplogroup F in Germany and Hungary (Haak et al., 2010; Szecsenyi-Nagy et al., 2014), and E1b in one individual in Spain ( Lacan et al., 2011b).  The presence of haplogroup F is very surprising, as it is very rare in modern-day European populations and therefore not well studied.  It has been reported at a low frequency in Southeast Europe and the Near East (Underhill and Kivisild, 2007), whereas subgroups of F have been primarily found in India (Kivisild et al., 2003).
 PS: per Wiki, if one sorts the first table by the F haplogroup, the highest frequency of the F haplogroup in the populations of the Indian subcontinent are the Koya (26.8%), the Sinhalese (20.7%), unspecified South Indian tribals (18.1%), Himachal Brahmins (15.8%) and so on.  The Koya speak a Dravidian language, the Sinhalese speak an Indo-European language, the South Indian tribals speak Dravidian languages, the Himachal Brahmins speak an Indo-European language.  

Monday, December 25, 2017

USA: Is a Bachelor's degree the new IQ test?

People like to point to IQ as a predictor of success (often based on studies done in the US military)  often failing to note that the IQ test serves as the filter at the very entry into the career.

Now, it seems that the Bachelor's Degree is serving a similar role, per my reading of this article in The Atlantic.

The employers who can’t seem to fill the United States’s roughly 6 million vacant jobs are at a loss for what to do. Qualified candidates are seemingly nowhere to be found.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Rakhigarhi news

Tony Joseph in the Hindu writes: (highlights added)
(PS: for a take on the non-news content of Tony Joseph's article, see this.)
The site was excavated and the skeletons were recovered in the beginning of 2014 by a team of archaeologists led by Vasant Shinde, Vice Chancellor of Deccan College, Pune. For the 61-year-old Shinde, this project is the culmination of a long and distinguished career in archaeology that has seen him lead excavations at important Harappan and other sites across the country. But Rakhigarhi is a project with a difference.

In the three-and-a-half years since its excavation, Professor Shinde has brought together scientists from Indian and international institutions like the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad (CCMB), Harvard Medical School, Seoul National University, and the University of Cambridge to work on different parts of the project, including extracting and analysing DNA from these ancient people, reconstructing their faces, and studying the remains of their habitation to understand their daily habits and ways of life.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What David Frum wrote

"Conservatism is what conservatives think, say, and do. As conservatives change ... so does what it means to be a conservative." @DavidFrum on what's at stake in @CharlesWCooke's critique of @JRubinBlogger:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

IBM's predictions from December 2012

IBM's predictions for today from five years ago:

ARMONK, N.Y.     - 17 Dec 2012: Today IBM (NYSE: IBM) unveiled the seventh annual  "IBM 5 in 5" (#ibm5in5) – a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.
  • Touch: You will be able to touch through your phone
  • Sight: A pixel will be worth a thousands words
  • Hearing: Computers will hear what matters
  • Taste: Digital taste buds will help you to eat smarter
  • Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell

Saturday, December 16, 2017

On Petersen's nomination

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate explains it:
Trump’s Nominees Think Life Tenure on the Federal Bench Should Be Handed Out Like a Participation Trophy

Petersen drew widespread criticism for his legal ignorance, and rightly so—most second-year law students could easily identify the terms Kennedy tossed out. The best defense of Petersen is that he once held this knowledge but let it atrophy due to his current job duties: He has served on the Federal Election Commission since 2008, joining with his fellow conservative commissioners to consistently block enforcement of federal election law, particularly campaign finance restrictions. In this capacity, Petersen has not often had occasion to revisit the rules of evidence or civil procedure.

But as National Review’s David French points out, Petersen’s rustiness hardly absolves him; it merely reveals his arrogance. If Petersen had spent a single day preparing for Wednesday’s hearing, he probably could’ve knocked a majority of Kennedy’s questions out of the park. A quick review of law school study guides or bar prep material likely would’ve refreshed his memory. Petersen may not be experienced—he has spent only three years working on litigation—but he has good credentials. He graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law (a terrific school) and secured a job at the prestigious firm Wiley Rein. The problem isn’t just that he didn’t know what Kennedy was talking about. It’s that he didn’t care enough to read up on the law beforehand.

Petersen, it seems, operated under the presumption that a Republican-controlled committee would throw him softballs and rubber stamp his nomination. Kennedy helped sink the nomination of judicial nominee Brett Talley in large part because he showed a similar imperiousness, failing to disclose controversial writings and a conflict of interest to the committee and assuming he could get away with it. He did not, thanks to Kennedy. And as Wednesday’s hearing showed, the senator is now screening Trump’s nominees to ensure they take the process seriously, reportedly to the chagrin of other Republicans.

Lifetime tenure in the federal judiciary should not be handed out like a participation trophy. Thanks to Kennedy—one of just a few Republican senators who cares that the Trump administration is funneling unqualified and unprepared individuals onto the bench for life—it won’t be.

The Newest Banana Republic

The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases —  “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

The type of person Trump is trying to turn into federal judges:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A British argument for Indian Unity

This is from the Times of London, November 16, 1855:

...A dominion of this sort, in which so many squares of the chessboard were British possessions, so many under British protection and so many others nominally independent, never yet preserved long its checkered character, and the influences tending to political unity are certainly not fewer or less powerful in India than elsewhere.   A community of religions, of commerce, and of arms, pervades and continually assimilates all India.  The sacred shrines of either faith are visited by pilgrims from all parts; the population follows trade wherever it goes, and our armies are recruited indifferently from all the three classes of States we have enumerated.   When this is the case it is quite impossible that any disorder should continue to be local.  There are no "party walls" between the States, and a conflagration, once lit, is sure to spread from one to another.   Hence there must be a unity either of order or of disorder.

{Subsequently, the case for the annexation of Oude is made.}

Police, crime statistics from India

In 2014 in India, 560,000  out of 2,260,000 sanctioned police positions were vacant. At about 138 policemen per 100,000 population, India was the fifth lowest policed country out of 71 for which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime had compiled statistics.  (from the Economic Times).  (For comparison purposes, per Wiki,  the US has 284 policemen per 100,000 population,  and Canada has 185.)

The Indian Supreme Court took note of this in April 2017 (but using 2013 data and responding to a 2013 petition), and issued further orders in July 2017.

Per the Indian National Crimes Record Bureau report of 2016, India had

Year : Number of cases
2014 : 33,981
2015 : 32,127
2016 : 30,450

Also see missing persons statistics below.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Rakhigarhi DNA commentary

It is true that the Government of India can keep a scientific finding from being published.  But keep the finding secret?   The more upsetting it is to the ruling party, the less likely it is to be kept secret. It is difficult to keep secrets in India.  The only possible way is if a very tiny number of people knew about it in the first place - in which case it can't be a Government of India policy, it is someone acting entirely on their own.

As to the alleged fear of nasty Hindu nationalists - there is a constant low level background of nasty crimes going on in India, as with any other nation.  Marxists, Maoists,  Hindu extremists, Muslim extremists, Christian extremists, cow smugglers, self-proclaimed cow protectors, gangs of criminals commit heinous crimes, often with impunity.  So there is a problem that people do not fear the law enough; the law and order apparatus is ineffective.  A huge number of police posts are unfilled, and even with them filled, India would be one of the least policed nations on earth.  Likewise, the judiciary was always very slow, and it has not expanded to keep up with the population, nor fixed its procedures to give timely justice.   This clearly needs an urgent national effort to fix.

But if the media just picks one set of these crimes and publicizes just them, then a very mistaken impression is created.  It can't happen, you say?  Just think of Hillary Clinton's emails, and the finding that
In just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.
 and (emphasis added)
Even more striking, the various Clinton-related email scandals—her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks—accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions.

To reiterate, these 65,000 sentences were written not by Russian hackers, but overwhelmingly by professional journalists employed at mainstream news organizations, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. To the extent that voters mistrusted Hillary Clinton, or considered her conduct as secretary of state to have been negligent or even potentially criminal, or were generally unaware of what her policies contained or how they may have differed from Donald Trump’s, these numbers suggest their views were influenced more by mainstream news sources than by fake news.
This distortion is by the mainstream media, including the "newspaper of record" in its own country, where it is the most accountable to the extent that the public can hold the media accountable, about a pivotal election on which so much of its country's future depends - judiciary, trade deals, climate, immigration, racism, safety net, wall between church and state, etc. etc. 

You think these media organizations get foreign countries correct?  You think the media in India is somehow better than the media in the USA?

So what commentators on India are doing who rely on **just** the NY Times or the Times of India or so on, are doing, are perpetuating the same kind of information bias.  The problem is that to know something is hard.  In my opinion, if it matters enough to you to stand by your opinion,  then do the research, get the full context and complete information.  If it doesn't matter that much, then recognize what you have is only a personal opinion and don't fool yourself that it is true or objective; it is just as likely to be as stinky as that other thing everyone has, like opinions.


If you thought you've seen all of the possible theories about Aryans in India, you're wrong.  After Aryan Invasion Theory, and Aryan Migration Theory, now there is AOT:  Aryan Outsourcing Theory! 
In the latter days of the Indus civilization, the townspeople may have hired Indo-Aryan charioteers to fight their wars. After the eventual demise of the Indus civilization pulled these Indo-Aryan warriors with their families and their livestock through to the Indus-Ganga plains, where they are of different kingdoms founded. They brought Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1a with them, today one of the biggest haplogroups in India. The customs of these Indo-Arian migrants would form the basis for the Vedic religion.

From here, with google translate:

Friday, December 08, 2017

Oude, 1855

Long ago, at one of the peak times of controversy over the Ramjanmabhoomi/Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, I discovered one of the joys of the full-fledged American university libraries, and found there news-reports from a previous flare-up.

This battle was over the Hanumangarhi site. The news reports are from the Times of London, and are in the order of publication (remember, news and correspondence traveled much slower in those days.)

One should note that the British were eyeing the province Awadh or Oude as they spelled it,  which included Ayodhya and its sister town Faizabad for annexation, and they did annex it in 1856. 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Two different trajectories - India, Korea

Gross Domestic Savings and Gross Capital Formation as a fraction of GDP.
India, Korea 1960-2017.
World Bank Data.
India's growth has been largely financed by domestic savings.
Korea early on had a lot more foreign investment.



Sunday, December 03, 2017

The fallacy in comparing men to chimpanzees

Bonobos and chimpanzees are equally related to humans evolutionarily speaking, yet everyone links human societies to chimpanzees only.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The History of Fingerprinting

Anand Ranganath and Sheetal Ranganathan have a great essay, "The Forgotten Indian Wizards And The Birth Of Modern Forensics", the heroes of which are Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose.  These two made most of the innovations in making fingerprints into a means for identifying criminal suspects.

Book memo - more Reacher

Without Fail & Persuader.  Fictional world full of nasty people, but the good guy always wins.