Monday, March 30, 2015

Links March 30, 2015

Robert .McNamara and the evolution of modern management:"In filmmaker Errol Morris’s Academy Award–winning documentary The Fog of War, McNamara summarized his approach with two principles: “Maximize efficiency” and “Get the data.”
Yet McNamara’s great strength had a dark side, which was exposed when the American involvement in Vietnam escalated. The single-minded emphasis on rational analysis based on quantifiable data led to grave errors. The problem was, data that were hard to quantify tended to be overlooked, and there was no way to measure intangibles like motivation, hope, resentment, or courage. ....Equally serious was a failure to insist that data be impartial. "
Distorting Putin's favorite philosophers:"For all the United States’ vaunted freedom, it exhibits surprisingly little freedom of maneuver when it comes to its foreign policy. Far from taking into consideration Russia’s vital security needs, to say nothing of Russia’s identity, U.S. ideologues have behaved as if both are either non-existent or fundamentally illegitimate. Such compulsive political behavior is the sure sign of ideological infection.
Brooks, Snegovaya and Galeotti apparently have all made use of the same basic logic when they examined the philosophical sources of Putin’s thinking. That logic went something like this: a) Washington considers Russia a problem, therefore, b) Vladimir Putin is a thug; and therefore, c) the Nineteen Century philosopher Vladimir Solovyov dreamed of restoring the Soviet Union to its former Christian glory and might.
Such sloppy thinking would not have happened were these three otherwise intelligent people not (one hopes temporarily) previously incapacitated by ideological blinders. Unfortunately, the same ideological thinking dominates nearly all of U.S. discourse vis-à-vis Russia, making a political settlement impossible."

My meeting with a dalit boy

from my Facebook wall :
"About two years ago, I visited a few villages in Guntur area (Veluru, Palaparru?, and along the way, we saw from a distance the famous Sowpadu) on a motorcycle. The final lap was a nearly 70 kilometre journey to Pedavadlapudi.One dalit boy rode a borrowed vehicle and after a while, the travel was tough for me and I started asking for rest breaks. During the breaks, we would chat. He just finished his B.Tech. He was looking for jobs and meanwhile doing day labor in the fields along with his parents. I suggested that it would not be so easy to find jobs and that he should inquire about specializations where the jobs are and take some coaching classes and courses in a place like Hyderabad. At another stop, he took me to a leafy campus where he studied and started telling me about the best time of his life there where he could study peacefully , learn and develop some interests. Then he suddenly told me about a brahmin girl that he met at the end of his studies. She said that she observed him during those four years, liked his ways and was wanted to marry him. But he felt that he should first alleviate the poverty of his parents before he settled down. She was one of the top students in the class and got a job immediately whereas he got the admission through reservations, struggled, just made it and found it hard to find a job. I tried to tell him that such girls are hard to find and he should keep in touch with her. He did not seem averse to the idea but seemed more concerned about his parents who were still laborers. I am still in touch with him, talk to him once in a while on the phone. He finally got a small job and now wants to pursue in spare time some of the topics he found interesting during his student days. I hope that there are relatively cheap information and advisory sites for such youngsters."

P.S. I contacted three face book friends with contacts in Bangalore where the boy is going to work from April 6. There were also enquiries about his skills. My response " His English is poor. He mumbles etc. and does not express himself very clearly. But he is sincere and will work hard. Probably too nice. He comes from a group of dalits I have been funding a bit. If he comes up he is likely to help others."
P.P.S. "I had a rural background, I lacked English communication skills (I could not speak one full sentence in English properly when I joined college) and I was a‘reservation candidate’.” 

Two pieces from Keynes

Saturday, March 28, 2015

From 'Broadway melody of 1940'

And news from an empire that decined

How corrupt is Britain? by George Monbiot: " The UK, Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg and Germany are all ranked by Transparency International as among the least corrupt nations on earth. They are also listed by the Tax Justice Network as among the worst secrecy regimes and tax havens8. For some reason though, that doesn't count."
And may be some positive news: "Comedian Russell Brand has revealed his plans for a new chain of non-profit businesses which would boast their own currency."

There seem to have been some encouraging efforts in Marinaleda in Spain and Anarva in Greece.

Final stand of a declining Empire?

From Financial Times (some internet search if one does not have a subscription): "The participation of countries in the TPP has less to do with enthusiasm for importing the US economic model than a grudging acceptance that yet more tribute has to be paid in order to retain access to the US market. "
"Australia, for example, seems to have been rather bruised by its experience during the negotiation of the US-Australia trade deal. It conceded a fair amount and was asked to give up more – witness the pressure to rewrite the country’s public healthdrugs purchasing scheme at the behest of American Big Pharma. But it had few of its own demands met, including more access to the ludicrously-rigged US sugar and dairy markets. Australia has been surly about the TPP from the beginning, owing something to its previous experience."
(via Lambert Strether who has more links)
More by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism

Monday, March 23, 2015

Links, 23 March 2015

Shakespeare in Teheran by Stephen Greenblatt: "He seems to have folded his most subversive perceptions about his particular time and place into a much larger vision of what his characters repeatedly and urgently term their life stories. We are assigned the task of keeping these stories alive, and in doing so we might a find a way, even in difficult circumstances, to be free, honest, and open in talking about our own lives."
Israel: The Stark Truth by David Shulman
Ahmedabad lesson for: RTE success story city at IIM resource cetnre (via Madhukar Shkla)
Philip Holden on Lee Kuan Yew "There is a sense of history about his passing. He was one of the last of the generation of political leaders at the time of decolonization. People are comparing him to Mandela, Nehru, and Nkrumah. In terms of experience, if not of age, he is of the same generation as them, part of a turning point in history.
But in another sense he was not like them at all...............
Paradoxically, LKY and his team delivered the goods of development as none of the other leaders were able to. For me, this is the paradox that we live with in Singapore: we, and others throughout the "developed" world, are variously privileged by a model of economic development that has succeeded through an almost willed inhumanity, lack of humility, and lack of empathy for others."

Extraordinary stuff

according to Rahul Siddharthan.
Biologists devise invasion plan for mutations:
"In the study, published online this week (, Gantz and Bier report that the introduced mutation disabled both normal copies of a pigmentation gene on the fruit fly chromosomes, transmitting itself to the next generation with 97% efficiency—a near-complete invasion of the genome. The secret of its success: an increasingly popular gene-editing toolkit called CRISPR (Science, 23 August 2013, p.833), which Gantz and Bier adapted to give the mutation an overwhelming advantage. The technique is the latest—and some say, most impressive—example of gene drive: biasing inheritance to spread a gene rapidly through a population, or even an entire species. At this level of efficiency, a single mosquito equipped with a parasite-blocking gene could in theory spread malaria resistance through an entire breeding population in a single season "
More at ScinceDaily "The two biologists note in their paper that while applications of MCR offer potential solutions to important problems in health and human welfare, it could also pose serious potential risks in the wrong hands."

Jogan 1950

A review of the film: "The film's aesthetics, as we said, were hard to pin down. There were some cute, blunt symbols: such as when Nargis, after first meeting her admirer, escapes to her room and the picture of a fluttering, caged bird is superimposed over her. The director also favored incredibly tight close-ups coupled with minimalist composition, all contributing to the Zen look. Another really interesting thing: this might be the shortest Hindi film ever, clocking in at a mere 1hr 45min! Canst it be POSSible?! Just another thing to add to the list of Why Jogan Is So Unique."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lecture by Henrietta Moore

The end of development The lecture lasts about 22 minutes.

A quote

from "The superiority of economists" by Marion Fourcade, Etienne Ollion and Yann Algan:
" First, the theory of action that comes with economists’ analytical style is hardly compatible with the basic premise of much of the human sciences, namely that social processes shape individual preferences (rather than the other way round). In economics, by contrast, “degustibus non est disputandum” (Stigler/Becker 1977): the action begins mainly when preferences are set.
Second, the qualitative methods that underpin the work of many interpretive social scientists often do not square well with the formal aspirations of the vast majority of economists, with their views on causality and their predilection for methodological and theoretical precision over a search for real-world accuracy." 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stifling RTI?

(via Madhukar Shukla) When the haze takes over: "The NDA seems bent on subverting the RTI Act. Is the slow dismembering of the CIC part of the plan?"
"A far more sinister plot, however, is now unravelling. Through a March 11, 2015 letter, the PMO has for the first time seized control over the administration of the Central Information Commission (CIC)—delivering a decisive, fatal blow to the RTI Act. The damning letter sent by the department of personnel and training (DoPT)—which works directly under Prime Minister Narendra Modi—to the CIC, in three short paragraphs, delegates the financial powers of the commission, so far vested in its chief, to a government-app­ointed secretary of the CIC, a bureaucrat on a leash.
“The secretary is not a legal authority and finds no mention in the RTI Act. All financial and administrative powers of the CIC are by law vested only in the chief information commissioner,” says Wajahat Habibullah, who was the first ever chief information commissioner of the country. “This decision can be challenged in any court as there is no law allo­wing the government to take into its hands the functioning of the commission in the absence of the chief.
With the CIC being headless for seven months, for the first time in a decade, the delegation of the chief’s financial powers to the secretary is being read as a ploy to indefinitely defer the appointment.”

More on China Infrastructure Bank (AIIT) from Michael Hudson

interview posted in Naked Capitalism:
"The World Bank, under U.S. congressional pressure, has said, look, we’re not going to finance countries becoming independent of the United States; our function is to make them export more to the United States and to buy from the United States. So the funding of the World Bank has mainly been to fund infrastructure developments, vastly overpriced, to Third World countries to create money for American engineering firms; also to lend out dollars and to indebt countries to it; and worst of all, to promote privatization. And that’s really the big difference between the Chinese Development Bank’s philosophy and the World Bank."
"PERIES: Now, I have actually seen and witnessed what China’s impact has been in some of the Latin American countries where they have huge investments in infrastructure development projects, which often isn’t in the best interests of those countries. For example, China brings in a number of their labor, thousands of Chinese workers, to those sites to work, and they’re basically importing labor, not hiring the local labor for these projects. Now, that’s what I witnessed. How do we know that China is really going to be different, apart from the discussions they’re having with you? Is that reflected in any policy? Or are they trying to have these conversations in a more collaborative way with the southern countries?
HUDSON: Well, for almost any countries for the last few hundred years that has been putting it in infrastructure, it’s pretty much used its own labor and management. Certainly the World Bank has always promoted very expensive American management and American workers for this. Britain did in its countries. I think China wants to make sure that it has control. And, after all, it’s trying to do–it’s already trained its labor specifically for these projects. And the World Bank has been and the IMF have been very careful to prevent other countries from developing the kind of labor and developing the skills that would lead them to create this infrastructure, precisely in order to make them dependent on World Bank and U.S. leadership. And of course China is going to be using its own labor, but in principle, obviously, these countries need to develop the skills so that they can say, look, we have to have our own labor work here too."