Saturday, November 01, 2014

Some S.D. Burman songs

From The Outlook and Songs of Yore. Several more S.D. Burman posts in Songs of Yore. The story of one of my favourite Hindi film songs here.

Interesting book by Youseff Courbage and Emmanuel Todd

Just finished first reading Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd book on "A convergence of civilizations: The transformation of Muslim societies around the world".
 From one of the reviews "—make an important point. Birth rates in many Muslim-majority societies are indeed higher than in many Western countries, but they are not static and the authors suggest a significant convergence is in the making. ..... the other significant theme of the book is the role played by religion in bringing about either high or low birth rates. Here too their conclusion is clear: “emphasis on Islam as a causative factor is primarily a symptom of intellectual myopia.Literacy, patrilinealism, reactions of minority groups, and oil wealth all reduce the idea of Muslim demographic specificity to the level of a residual variable”"
Other reviews here and here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The way of all flesh

Patrick Cockburn in  LRB Whose side is Turkey on?  "Syria and Iraq are full of armies and militias that don’t fight anybody who can shoot back, but the PKK and its Syrian affiliates, the PYD and YPG, are different. Often criticised by other Kurds as Stalinist and undemocratic, they at least have the capacity to fight for their own communities....The Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga – literally ‘those who confront death’ – aren’t immensely effective either. They are often regarded as better soldiers than the soldiers in the Iraqi army, but their reputation was won thirty years ago when they were fighting Saddam; they have not done much fighting since, except in the Kurdish civil wars."
 It seems that there is some PKK presence in Iraq "Ethnically Kurdish but with their own non-Islamic religion, the Yazidis had fled their towns and cities to escape massacre and enslavement by Isis. The US soldiers arrived by helicopter and were efficiently guarded and shown around by uniformed Kurdish militiamen. But soon afterwards the Yazidis – who had been hoping to be rescued or at least helped by the Americans – were horrified to see the US soldiers hurriedly climb back into their helicopter and fly away. The reason for their swift departure, it was revealed later in Washington, was that the officer in charge of the US detachment had spoken to his Kurdish guards and discovered that they weren’t the US-friendly peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government but PKK fighters – still listed as ‘terrorists’ by the US, despite the central role they have played in helping the Yazidis and driving back Isis. It was only when Kobani was on the verge of falling that Washington accepted it had no choice but to co-operate with the PYD: it was, after all, practically the only effective force still fighting Isis on the ground."
It is not clear whether the Iraqi Peshmarga going to Kobani will be of great help except for the equipment. Patrick Cockburn concludes "Whatever happens at Kobani, Isis is not going to implode. Foreign intervention will only increase the level of violence and the Sunni-Shia civil war will gather force, with no end in sight."
Dexter Filkes has more about Iraqi Kurdistan and its relations with Turkey in NewYorker article 'The fight of their lives'. He also describes the current corruption "A wealthy Kurdish businessman with ties to both parties [K.D.P. of Barzani and P.U.K of  Talabani] explained that they began as guerrilla armies and changed gradually into giant family businesses, gathering power and wealth and shunning anyone who tried to change the system. In private conversation, tales of bribery and retribution abound. “All these buildings you see around you,” the businessman told me, gesturing to the high-rises that punctuate Erbil’s skyline. “They are owned by a hundred people. Those hundred people work for ten people. The ten people work for three.”"

Kurdish decumentry film Kulajo My Heart is Darkened Witness Al Jazeera English YouTube

Modern police

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Two on life and death

"“When I got here”, he explained to them, “I was thermodynamically unstable but now I think I’m in a state of quasi-stability. It looks like I have achieved thermal equilibrium but actually I’m steadily losing energy.”
“I’m not sure”, I said afterwards, “that explaining your health in terms of thermodynamics is exactly what they’re after.”
“They’ll have to learn,” he said, “you can’t beat entropy.”" from MindHacks
“Every living thing is a complex thermodynamic pocket of reduced entropy through which matter and energy flow continuously.”  
 say recent Nobel prize winner Eric Betzig and colleaues via New Microscope Puts the  Life Back in Biology by Virinia Hughes

Kothapalli Baburao RIP

Kothapalli Babu Rao from Repalle, a relative, childhood friend and a benefactor to our family passed away on Tuesday in Maryland, USA. It is a second generation friendship. His father Dr. Krishnamurthy was from Nagayatippa in Krishna District and went to school in Avanigadda with my father. We visited them requently during my childhood. Baburao did a Ph.D in Chemical enineering, went to USA on a post-doctoral fellowship and lated shifted to business.

In 1970, I was in USA on a short teaching assignment. My brother suddenly landed in USA after getting admission to some crappy college but without any scholarship or funds. I was due to leave in a few weeks and managed to get him admission in a better institution but I never saved any money and did not have funds for his stay. I tried to raise funds with some close friends saying that I would come back if necessary to return the loans if my brother could not manage it. But I failed. I did not ask Baburao since he was known to be frugal. But he himself came forward and funded my brother's education. He must have helped many more. Because he was shy, self effacing and frugal, his good deeds are probably not known. My brother went on to follow his example and helped many with their education. I am sure that Baburao will be remembered by many.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Taleb and others on Precautionary Principle and GM organisms

Genetically modified organisms risk global ruin from Physics ArXive Blog. The full paper The Precautionary Principle (with applications to genetically modified organisms)
"We present a non-naive version of the Precautionary (PP) that allows us to avoid paranoia and paralysis by confining precaution to specific domains and problems. PP is intended to deal with uncertainty and risk in cases where the absence of evidence and the incompleteness of scientific knowledge carries profound implications and in the presence of risks of "black swans", unforeseen and unforeseable events of extreme consequence. We formalize PP, placing it within the statistical and probabilistic structure of ruin problems, in which a system is at risk of total failure, and in place of risk we use a formal fragility based approach. We make a central distinction between 1) thin and fat tails, 2) Local and systemic risks and place PP in the joint Fat Tails and systemic cases. We discuss the implications for GMOs (compared to Nuclear energy) and show that GMOs represent a public risk of global harm (while harm from nuclear energy is comparatively limited and better characterized). PP should be used to prescribe severe limits on GMOs."
Another summary here.
There will be lots of discussions on the paper. One here already.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Two and half centimeters of rain and Melbourne trains fail
The sort of infrastructure projects that the local government is interested in Vic East West Link contract signed:
"The $5.3 billion contract for the first stage of Melbourne's controversial East West Link project has been signed, but the deal could be torn up in just two months.
The Victorian government and the East West Connect consortium signed the contract immediately after a resident failed to get a High Court injunction to stop the deal on Monday.
Premier Denis Napthine refused to say how much Victorian taxpayers would contribute to the 25-year deal, a public private partnership the consortium said was worth $5.3 billion.
He would also not reveal if there was a penalty clause in the deal - reportedly $500 million - if Labor won the November 29 election and tore up the contract."
"Napthine signed away his right to make laws that tackled gambling and smoking in an extraordinary deal waved through Parliament days before the election campaign. The law not only restricts the actions of the Napthine government should it get back, but the actions of every future Victorian government for the next 36 years.
Should a future government decide to impose a $1 betting limit on poker machines (as recommended by the Productivity Commission); should it decide to enforce the use of precommitment technology on poker machines; or should it require automatic teller machines to be further away from poker machines, it'll be up for a $200 million payment to Crown. The size of the penalty will climb with inflation. By the time the provision expires in 2050 the penalty will be $480 million."

and Occupy Democracy and media by David Graeber "We need to ask ourselves what it means that police suppression of democratic assemblies is no longer considered news."

From Al Jazeera
"Al Jazeera English was awarded the prize for news teams in developing countries and Indian Sainath Palagummi from The Hindu won the award for news professionals in developing countries." from

Monday, October 27, 2014

From 'Boot Polish' 1954

A new universal law

At the far ends of a new universal law (via 3quraksdaily). The evolution of the law starts with a seemingly simple study published in 1972:
"Imagine an archipelago where each island hosts a single tortoise species and all the islands are connected — say by rafts of flotsam. As the tortoises interact by dipping into one another’s food supplies, their populations fluctuate.
In 1972, the biologist Robert May devised a simple mathematical model that worked much like the archipelago. He wanted to figure out whether a complex ecosystem can ever be stable or whether interactions between species inevitably lead some to wipe out others. By indexing chance interactions between species as random numbers in a matrix, he calculated the critical “interaction strength” — a measure of the number of flotsam rafts, for example — needed to destabilize the ecosystem. Below this critical point, all species maintained steady populations. Above it, the populations shot toward zero or infinity.
Little did May know, the tipping point he discovered was one of the first glimpses of a curiously pervasive statistical law.
The law appeared in full form two decades later, when the mathematiciansCraig Tracy and Harold Widom proved that the critical point in the kind of model May used was the peak of a statistical distribution."

Keynes  said in 1933 "Ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel – these are the things which should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible, and, above all, let finance be primarily national."
I wonder whether the above sort of models can be developed to give some idea of how much globalization is too much.


(via Doug Henwood) where Ken Silverstein explains the background to the following photographs:

Ken Silverstein says "For the sake of historical accuracy, the pix appeared on the front page of Jornal do Brasil, a Rio daily, on November 13, 1992 with this caption: "Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1973, the ex-all powerful secretary of state Henry Kissinger said yesterday that Brazil will be able to enter the NAFTA agreement only in two to three years. At the invitation of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, he participated yesterday in a meeting on Latin America and the new world order at the Sheraton Hotel and later lunched at Saint Honore restaurant in the Meridien Hotel." I lived in Rio at the time and distinctly remember picking up Jornal do Brasil at a newsstand in front of my apartment on my way to get coffee and almost throwing up on the street after seeing those awful images. Kissinger later threatened to sue Jornal do Brasil, and us, but neither of us caved. I also remember well that the Washington Post's Reliable Source column picked up on the CounterPunch story and did an item about it. It was co-authored by two reporters relatively new to the column and within a week they ran a very flattering item about Kissinger. Clearly someone at the paper had informed them that they had gone way too far and better atone for their mistake. So there you have it, the full story of Boogergate."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some Emmanuel Todd links

Once in 2006 and again a few days ago, I linked to Emmanuel Todd. Recently I found some introductory material about his ideas which seem to complement more abstract theories. From On anthropological roots of modern conflicts, (Message 391, third from the top)  "We are in the habit of thinking of the various contemporary conflicts in ideological, economic or linguistic terms. According to historian Emmanuel Todd there is also an anthropological aspect to the problem.
His book, The Explanation of Ideology came out in the late eighties and discusses, in an amazing way, the anthropological base, or bases, of culture. The author, like, anthropologists in general, is interested in (or focused on) the 3 categories, (perhaps it is better to say 3 sets of rules) that generate the several possible human families and how these families underlay our sophisticated ideologies......
In this book Todd was trying to argue that ideological formations are (partially?) determined by family structure—not (only?) economics or linguistics So, for instance, by looking at the Authoritarian family we see people that are not easily assimilated because they have no sense of equality thanks to the favoring of the chosen son and inegalitarian inheritance rules. Therefore they do not become (fanatical) devotees of universal movements like communism and resist assimilation into other groups."
A longer introduction, including biographical details, in America, England, Europe-Why do we differ via Brian Micklethwait.
Brian Micklethwait has several posts on Emmanuel Todd. In this post. he links to some of his introductory posts about Todd:

Check also Craig Willy: Emmanuel Todd’s L’invention de l’Europe: A critical summary
Many other links in Brian Micklethwait's blog.
A recent interview relating to Ukraine.
All seem worth looking.