Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Murray Bookchin, Abdullah Ocalan and Social Ecology

From Bookchin, Ocalan, and the dialectics of democracy by Janet Biehl:
"But Öcalan, in the same 2004 work (In Defense of the People), also sends a contradictory message about the state: “It is not true, in my opinion, that the state needs to be broken up and replaced by something else.” It is “illusionary to reach for democracy by crushing the state.”  Rather, the state can and must become smaller, more limited in scope. Some of its functions are necessary: for example, public security, social security and national defense. The confederal democracy’s congresses should solve problems “that the state cannot solve single-handedly.”  A limited state can coexist with the democracy “in parallel.”[32]

This contradiction seems to have bedeviled Öcalan himself, who admits in seeming exasperation, “The state remains a Janus-faced phenomenon.”  I sense that the issue remains ambiguous for him, and understandably so.  Insightfully, he observes that “our present time is an era of transition from state to democracy. In times of transition, the old and the new often exist side by side.”[33]

Bookchin’s communalist movement never got as far, in practical terms, as Öcalan’s has, but if it had, he would surely have faced the same problem.  The concept of a transitional program, which Bookchin invoked in such occasions, may be useful here.  He used to distinguish between the minimum program (reforms on specific issues), the transitional program (like Öcalan’s), and the maximum program (socialism, a stateless assembly democracy). That distinction has a revolutionary pedigree—Murray used to credit it to Trotsky. It’s a way to retain a commitment to your long-term goals and principles while dealing in the real, nonrevolutionary world."
See also Biehl breaks with social ecology

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Timothy Gowers on Field Medal winners

Official accounts here. Here is the one on Manjul Bhargava. He has so far written also about Avila and Hairer. I like the way Gowers writes. Even for a mathematician of his calibre, the view of other areas is impressionastic. From the one on Hairer:
"...Hairer studied stochastic PDEs. As I understand it, an important class of stochastic PDEs is conventional PDEs with a noise term added, which is often some kind of Brownian motion term.
Unfortunately, Brownian motion can’t be differentiated, but that isn’t by itself a huge problem because it can be differentiated if you allow yourself to work with distributions. However, while distributions are great for many purposes, there are certain things you can’t do with them — notably multiply them together.
Hairer looked at a stochastic PDE that modelled a physical situation that gives rise to a complicated fractal boundary between two regions. I think the phrase “interface dynamics” may have been one of the buzz phrases here. The naive approach to this stochastic PDE led quickly to the need to multiply two distributions together, so it didn’t work. So Hairer added a “mollifier” — that is, he smoothed the noise slightly. Associated with this mollifier was a parameter \epsilon: the smaller \epsilon was, the less smoothing took place. So he then solved the smoothed system, let \epsilon tend to zero, showed that the smoothed solutions tended to a limit, and defined that limit to be the solution of the original equation.
The way I’ve described it, that sounds like a fairly obvious thing to do, so what was so good about it?"
One of the comments "I am not an expert on this, but I’ve heard that the renormalization procedure using mollifiers results in some limit which is actually not a solution of the original equation (otherwise, it sounds too easy). It is a solution of some modified equation. Then you repeat this procedure and miraculously the process stabilizes after a finite number of steps (five, six?), and that is when you get the solution of the original equation. The fact that the process terminates in finitely many steps is a miracle that has something to do (philosophically, or technically?) with wavelets, since something of this sort happens in wavelets. "

Mathematicians do not seem to think that diferently from others.

Interesting discussion on Krugman's 'Why we fight'

in Economist's View , lot of it about Ukraine.  Krugman's post itself seemed a bit silly to me but some of the comments in the discussion are interesting.  Bakho at 7.02 AM:

"The West wants to always blame Putin and Russia. The Neocons who helped engineer the overthrow and the Intolerant Ukrainian nationalists deserve most of the blame. Their attempts at ethnic and economic domination of East Ukraine by the West is the catalyst for the unrest. You would never know it if you only listen to the Necon controlled US media. Putin is no Saint, but he could not cause trouble if there were not real fear of the Ukrainian nationalists by ethnic Russian. They are willing to bomb ethnic Russian civilians there own people that they want to govern. That says what kind of government they are."

Bakho at 7.11 AM:
"A big problem with political analysis is its narrow focus on the big powers Putin and his Russian Mafia Vs the US and its Neocons. No one is focused on the people who live in the region and just want to live in peace and desire a government committed to justice.
Our media dismisses the ethnic tensions altogether so there is no context for understanding the situation.
What do the residents of East Ukraine want? Why is the government bombing them to get at the rebels rather than negotiating?"
And more comments about China, Argentina,  apparent intent of Krugman's article, ....

Some of the oldest Ajanta murals revealed

writes William Dalrymple in The Guardian " [Manager]Singh has uncovered the oldest paintings of Indian faces – with the exception of a few prehistorical pictograms of stick men and animals left by paleolithic hunters in the wilds of Madhya Pradesh. They are also the oldest Buddhist paintings in existence, dating from only 300 years after the death of the Buddha.
More exciting still, this earliest phase of work is not just very old, but very fine indeed and painted in a quite different style, and using markedly different techniques to that used in the rest of Ajanta. The murals of caves nine and 10 represent nothing less than the birth of Indian painting......
Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the people in these murals is that they appear so familiar. Two thousand years after they were painted these faces convey with penetrating immediacy the character of the different sitters: the alert guard, the king caught in the excitement of the hunt, the obedient son fetching water. Indeed, so contemporary are the features that you have to keep reminding yourself that these sitters are not from our world, they are depictions of a court that vanished from these now bare hills more than two millennia ago. 
Yet these are self-evidently the same people who inhabit western India today: looking at these images you cannot help but feel the great distance of time separating them from us; and yet we find in their eyes an emotional immediacy that is at once comprehensible. While the glass coverings were being removed to allow the photography for this piece, the guards joked among themselves about which painted figure looked most like which guard. "
More in the articles by Manager Singh and Balasahrb Arbad Chemistry of preservation of Ajanta Murals
and Conservation and restoration research on 2nd BCE murals of Ajanta. The second article has a couple of before and after restoration pictures. The first article has some photos of 1919 paintings of the muralsw.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Amitav Kumar in two Musahars

"If India breaks your heart with untold inequalities, it also surprises you with the unheralded achievements of its most humble citizensOne such man was Dashrath Manjhi, from a village close to the chief minister’sHe died in 2007. This other Manjhi, who was also a Musahar, was an ordinary villager who accomplished an extraordinary feat: over the course of twenty-two years, Dashrath Manjhi carved a road through a stone mountain, a distance about 360 feet long and 30 feet wide.Manjhi told me that when others assumed the office of the chief minister in Bihar, they went to temples and thanked GodBut in his own case, he had gone to Dashrath Manjhi’s village and garlanded his statue." from The story of Jitan Ram Manjhi, from rat-eater to Bihar chief minister (via Chapati Mystery timeline)

Jashua Gans on responses to automation

Script here
Check also Jashua Gans response ""There are, however, two important differences. First, unlike the horses, the humans are also useful as consumers....But there is another mechanism which goes back to the title of this post. The presumption is always that the bourgeoisie rather than the proletariat owns the machines." 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Marikana anniversary

Glenn Greenwald's handling of Snowden files

From an article by James Bamford "Last year, Greenwald found himself unable to open the encryption on a large trove of secrets from GCHQ—the British counterpart of the NSA—that Snowden had passed to him. So he sent his longtime partner, David Miranda, from their home in Rio to Berlin to get another set from Poitras. But in making the arrangements, The Guardian booked a transfer through London. Tipped off, probably as a result of GCHQ surveillance, British authorities detained Miranda as soon as he arrived and questioned him for nine hours. In addition, an external hard drive containing 60 gigabits of data—about 58,000 pages of documents—was seized. Although the documents had been encrypted using a sophisticated program known as True Crypt, the British authorities discovered a paper of Miranda’s with the password for one of the files, and they were able to decrypt about 75 pages. (Greenwald has still not gained access to the complete GCHQ documents.)"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A comment from my timeline

Actually my studies are sort of coming to an end. About ten years ago, I retired early to understand some thing about poverty and development. I have (or imagine that I have) some hints and am beginning to feel that, given human nature, it will never go away. I have been repeating myself without getting any further. May be time to go back to mathematics. Rao gave me a cap once with the message "Don't follow me; I am lost too."

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Russia and sanctions

Illargi writes "The EU and US instigated, financed and supporetd the Maidan movement, installed their very own handpicked government in Kiev, established an army aimed at eradicating all signs of discontent among Russian speaking Ukrainians in east Ukraine, with crucial parts played by CIA, Blackwater and various other mercenaries, blamed Putin for the downing of a plane without providing any evidence whatsoever of his involvement, announced a second series of economic sanctions on Russia, and then claim Russia has no reasons at all to announce its own set of counter sanctions.
It would be funny if it weren’t so out there."
The Saker writes "... Russia used these sanctions to do something vital for the Russian economy.  Let me explain: after the collapse of the USSR the Russian agriculture was in disarray, and the Eltsin only made things worse.  Russian farmers simply could not compete against advanced western agro-industrial concerns which benefited from huge economies of scale, from expensive and high-tech chemical and biological research, which had a full chain of production (often through large holdings), and a top quality marketing capability.  The Russian agricultural sector badly, desperately, needed barriers and tariffs to be protected form the western capitalist giants and, instead, Russia voluntarily abided by the terms of the WTO and then eventually became member.  Now Russia is using this total embargo to provide a crucially needed time for the Russian agriculture to invest and take up a much bigger share on the Russian market.  Also, keep in mind that Russian products are GMO-free, and that they have much less preservatives, antibiotics, colors, taste enhancers, or pesticides.  And since they are local, they don't need to be brought in by using the kind of refrigeration/preservation techniques which typically make products taste like cardboard.  In other words, Russian agricultural products taste much better, but that is not enough to complete.  This embargo now gives them a powerful boost to invest, develop and conquer market shares."
As Keynes said long ago  in Globalization and Self-Sufficiency "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.
For these strong reasons, therefore, I am inclined to the belief that a greater measure of national self-sufficiency and economic isolation among countries may tend to serve the cause of peace, rather than otherwise."