Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jatropha-fuelled flight

From Jatropha-fuelled plane touches down after successful test flight :
"An Air New Zealand jumbo jet left Auckland just before midnight GMT with a 50-50 mix of jet fuel and oil from jatropha trees in one of its four engines. The two-hour test flight, which took the Boeing 747 over the Hauraki Gulf, showed that the jatropha biofuel was suitable for use in airplanes without the need for any modifications of the engines. It forms part of the airline's plan to source 10% of its fuel from sustainable sources by 2013.
Air New Zealand's biofuel was made from jatropha nuts, which are up to 40% oil, harvested from trees grown on marginal land in India, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. The fuel was pre-tested to show that it was suitable for airplanes, freezing at -47C and burning at 38C.
"One of the reasons we chose algae and jatropha is that both are not food sources and can be grown in arid regions and virtually anywhere," said Leah Rayne, managing director of global affairs at Continental. "So they do not compete with food crops for water.""

After seeing Gaza pictures

of children, I am reminded of these lines from Arudra
"చిట్టీ పొట్టీ వరాల మూట గుమ్మడిపండు గో గి పూవు
నీకూ నాకూ ఏవేళైనా ఎడబాటే లేదమ్మా
ఏమంటావే బొమ్మా
ఊసులన్నీ నీతోనే ఆశలన్నీ నీ మీదే
నీవే దగ్గర లేకపొతే ఏమోతానోనమ్మా
నే నేమౌతానే బొమ్మా "

Monday, December 29, 2008

Native Place

Mark Tully in Rooting for Home from the series My Native Placein Outlook:
"But from my earliest childhood, although I was living in Calcutta, I was left under no illusions about where I ought to locate my native place. I was consistently reminded by my European nanny that I was a little English boy. She had been employed to ensure I didn’t come under the influence of "the servants".
But when I returned to India at the age of 30, more by chance than by intention, I soon discovered that my native place was in doubt. India came back from my subconscious with a bang. The very first day I returned, after being away for 20 of the most influential years of my life, I had a startling experience. When I smelt the smoke from malis cooking their lunch in the garden of my Delhi hotel, the whole of my childhood charged through my mind like a train rushing through a station at full speed. From that day I felt, like Hardy and Nehru, that my native place, the place I was born, was at least as important as any place I might have lived thereafter."
For me, it is also the sounds of Telugu which bring a rush of such memories.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Start growing your own food

From Food needs 'fundamental rethink' :
"Mr Blanc warned that food prices were likely to continue to rise in the future, which was likely to prompt more people to start growing their own food."
I have been haphazardly trying to do this more out of enthusiam for gardening than anything else. One problem is by the time you grow them, they seem cheaper in the market. Other is lack of expertise; the crops seem to depend more on the weather than any thing I do. Thirdly they need constant attention and water. Water is getting scarce and because they need almost daily attention, one cannot leave home for extended periods. But there are some successes so far. I have several varieties of chillies and they seem to go on for a few years. Some of the leafy vegetables loke silverbeet, spinach are easy to grow and do not need much attention. Many can be grown in the pots too and one can keep changing the position of the pots to suit their growth. One problem is glut. Possibly one has to make arrangements with neighbours or friends to share. Otherwise, it seems to be silverbeet every day for the present, the birds are getting the tomatoes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Do policies matter?

From the summary of a recent paper in the post It's the policies that matter?:
"Since their property rights and legal systems are virtually identical, recent theories of development cannot explain the divergence between Barbados and Jamaica. Differences in macroeconomic policy choices, not differences in institutions, account for the heterogeneous growth experiences of these two Caribbean nations."

Favourite Story of 2008?

Yves Smith has an open thread Favorite Story of 2008.
3quarksdaily links to 50 Things We Know Now (We Didn't Know This Time Last Year): 2008 Edition.
One of the comments in the first post links to Top 100 Stories of 2008 from Discover magazine.
An interesting remark that I came across today. From an economist's response to CAN SCIENCE HELP SOLVE THE ECONOMIC CRISIS?:
"Imagine that fires were devastating the world's forests and you came across this manifesto:

The forest crisis has to be stabilized immediately. This has to be carried out pragmatically, without undue ideology, and without reliance on the failed ideas and assumptions that led to the crisis. Complexity science can help here. For example, it is wrong to speak of "restoring the forests to equilibrium," because forests have never been in equilibrium. We are way ahead if we speak of "restoring forests to a stable, self-organizing critical state."

Would this convince you that only complexity science can prevent forest fires?

With one tweak, this is the first paragraph from the pull-quote for this piece. All I've done is change "market" to "forest." "

My favourite story (which developed over several years but I came to know about it this year)Can kids teach themselves?


Interview with Veeven of Lekhini fame తెలుగురత్నం వీవెన్‌ తో ముఖాముఖి (via Vizag Daily). It is a Telugu script generator which is making it possible to write in Telugu even for people like me who did not write Telugu for nearly forty years. Instructions on YouTube Telugu Lekhini. This may be more useful for the development of Telugu than many of the govt. commisions.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

David Brin on net effects

One of the smarter guys out there in Is the Web helping us evolve?:
"So, is the Google era empowering us to be better, smarter, more agile thinkers? Or devolving us into distracted, manic scatterbrains? Is technology-improved discourse going to turn us all into avid, participatory problem solvers? Or will the Web's centrifugal effects spin us all into little islands of shared conviction -- midget Nuremberg rallies -- where facts become irrelevant and any opinion can be a memic god?

Alas, both sides are right."
As they say, read the whole piece.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some articles on microfinance

India Development Blog has links and discussion about several articles on microfinance and has a post about CMF E-library and recommended articles. There are a couple of posts on a readable overall view by Tim HarfodThe battle for the soul of microfinance. One excerpt from Tim Harford's article:
"Microfinance is a way of harnessing market forces to bring basic financial services to the poor, but many microfinance institutions do much more than that. Using donor funds or reinvested profits, coupled with their reach into remote villages, they provide subsidised education, healthcare and business advice. There is a risk that commercial logic could threaten these subsidised services by repelling donors or poaching the best customers. There is also the risk that competition misfires, leaving the poor paying higher interest rates, rather than lower ones."
He also that there is lack of serious research in to what works and lack of tranparency about interest rates. However even APRs (annual percentage rates) as high as 200 perecent proved successful with some classes of customers. There is much more in the article. In another post Microfinance Must Reads there is link to a surveyHow Do Microfinance Clients Understand Their Loans?. Finally, the postOne Argument Against Microfinance discusses a follow up to Tim Harford's article by another economics professor Milford BatemanMicrofinance’s ‘iron law’ – local economies reduced to poverty which concludes "Economics 101 shows conclusively how critical savings are to development, but only if intermediated into growth- and productivity-enhancing projects. If it all goes into rickshaws, kiosks, 30 chicken farms, traders, and so on, then that country simply will not develop and sustainably reduce poverty." The post in 'India Development Blog' has also a response from Prfessor Bateman.
P.S. More discussion of bateman's remarks in The Problem With Microfinanceby Niranjan Rajadhyaksha and Lessons from Micro-finance II by Glulzar Natarajan.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A terrific project

says Jo about Inventor's 2020 vision: to help 1bn of the world's poorest see better:
"Silver has devised a pair of glasses which rely on the principle that the fatter a lens the more powerful it becomes. Inside the device's tough plastic lenses are two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe attached to either arm of the spectacles.

The wearer adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce amount of fluid in the membrane, thus changing the power of the lens. When the wearer is happy with the strength of each lens the membrane is sealed by twisting a small screw, and the syringes removed. The principle is so simple, the team has discovered, that with very little guidance people are perfectly capable of creating glasses to their own prescription.
For the Indian project he has joined forces with Mehmood Khan, a businessman whose family trust runs a humanitarian programme based in 500 villages in the northern state of Haryana, from where he originates.

There will be no shortage of takers in the region, Khan says. "One million in one year is straightaway peanuts for me. In the districts where we are working, one district alone will have half a million people [who need the technology]." Khan's day job is as Global Leader of Innovation for Unilever, and though his employer will have no direct connection with the scheme, having contact with 150m consumers a day, as he points out, means he is used to dealing with large numbers.

But surely finding funding on this scale will be impossible? "I share a vision with Josh," says Khan. "A thing like this, once it works, you create awareness, you enrol governments and the UN, and the model becomes scaleable. People begin to believe." And from a business point of view, he notes wryly, when poor people become more economically developed they also become potential customers."
Wikipedia article on Joshua Silverandadaptive-eyecare site/.


Gulzar Natarajan summarizes in Oportunidades and the role of CCTs Tina Rosenberg's NYT article A Payoff Out of Poverty?. From Natarajan's summary:
"The program gives the poor cash, but unlike traditional welfare programs, it conditions the receipt of that cash on activities designed to break the culture of poverty and keep the poor from transmitting that culture to their children. Its success has catapulted Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) schemes to the forefront of poverty fighting strategies throughout the world.

Oportunidades focuses on providing cash grant to parents for sending children to school (and maintaining good attendance); basic food grant if children and ante-natal women attend regular health checkups, take nutrition supplements, besides attending a monthly workshop on a health topic, like purifying drinking water. The cash payments are made to the women, ... It forces the poor to imbibe many of the structural and behavioural traits that the middle class takes for granted. It seeks to offer the "new paternalism" of the State in the form of "tough love", instead of unconditional love of the old nanny state. It enforces outcomes and dispenses off with targets and impersonal subsidies. "
The original article says that "At least 30 countries have now adopted Oportunidades, most of them in Latin America, but not all: countries now using or experimenting with some form of conditional payments include Turkey, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Last year, officials from Indonesia, South Africa, Ethiopia and China contacted or visited Mexico to investigate. Perhaps the most startling iteration is in New York City. Opportunity NYC, a pilot program begun last year after Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Mexico, will test whether the Oportunidades model can help the New York neighborhoods where poverty is passed down from parent to child."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pedda cheruvu

A while ago, I posted about Dr. Prakasam Tata's efforts of water purification with Pedda cheruvu near Vizianagaram. The link to his article 'Dreaming in color' is no longer working but the article can be found in found in other places, for example,
here, on pages 6 onwards and and a few other places by googling 'Dreaming in Color- Dr. Prakasam Tata'.A felicitation for Dr. Tatarao and views of pedda cheruvu here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Popularity of Bollywood outside India

I have not seen many Bollywood movies after the fifties. Around 1988, I went to buy a second hand sofa from an old Greek lady who migrated to Melbourne and she started talking about Nargis and Raj Kapoor. Slowly, it became clear that Bollywood movies have been popular in many countries ouside India. It was not clear to me why since I did not like the few I saw that were made after the fifties. Amitav Ghosh met many Egptians who were familiar with Hindi movies and songs around 1980 and wonders whether this is due to non aligned movement.In Confessions Of A Xenophile he says "But it needs to be acknowledged here that neither I nor any of the other elements of India that were present in rural Beheira – the pumps and the Hindi film songs – would have been able to find a place there if not for the existence of the Non-aligned Movement." While not taking any thing away from the general thrust of Ghosh's essay, popularity of Bollywood films and songs in many countries seem to be due to other reasons. Brian Larkin says in Bollywood Comes To Nigeria "Ever since Lebanese distributors began importing Indian movies in the 1950s, though, Hausa viewers have recognized the strong visual, social and even political similarities between the two cultures. By the early 1960s, when television was first introduced, Hausa fans were already demanding (over British objections) that Indian movies be shown on TV." Apparently, this medium was first introduced by the British in Nigeria for 'propoganda' purposes : to show the supriority of their various projects for progress and thus partly justifying their rule. The introduction by Lebanese traders was a commercial move and Larkin sees the popularity of Bollywood as an unintended consequence which opened up space for many younger Husa. The corresponding transformations are described in much detail and depth in his recent book 'Signal and Noise'. Some pages of the book are available here. In Itineraries of Indian Cinema: African Videos,Bollywood and Global Media Larkin discusses the popularity of Bollywood in other countries (but mainly in Nigeria), but the paper was written in 2003 and the picture might have changed. I wonder whether one approach toPakistan is through films, cricket and more contacts.


I finally acquired from an internet acquintance a copy of 'Saraswatalokam'( సారస్వతా లోకము) by Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sarma, published by Triveni Publications in 1966. In the very first article 'Rayalanati rasikata'(రాయలనాటి రసికత) Rallapalli mentions 'gojjangi neeru' and 'gojjangi' on pages 6 and 12, (pages 4,5 are missing in the copy). On page 12, he says that it is not known what these flowers are and that some speculate that these may be roses. A quick google search shows that this may be 'mogali poovu' ketak:


• SANSKRIT • Ketak, Suchipushp, Ketaki
• HINDI • Kevda, Kewra
• BENGALI • Ketaki, Keya
• ENGLISH • Screw pine
• MALYALAM • Kaida-taddi, Pukkaita
• KANNADA • Kaida, Katthaale, Kedage, Kedige, Ketike, Mandige, Thaale, Kadige
• MARATHI • Kaeoda, Kaeora, Kaethaki, Kaevada, Paandar kaevda
• TAMIL • Thazhai, Tazhai
• TELGU • Gaajangi, Gedaji, Gedangimogali, Gojjangi, Kaethaki, Mogli chettu, Mugali"
From Ketaki’ — a cursed but useful flower by H.C. Gera:
"The male fluorscence's are valued for the fragrance emitted by the tender white spates covering the flowers. Valuable attar is obtained from them. The flowers are also used for hair decoration. The commercial use of this plant is mainly centered mostly around Kollapali, Meghra and Agrraran in Ganjam district of Orissa. Flowers are used for extraction of "kweda attar" and "kewra water" and kewda oil. It is estimated that there are 300 to 400 thousands trees in Ganjam district.

"Kewda attar" is one of the most popular perfumes extracted and used in India since ancient times. It blends well with almost all types of fancy perfumes and is used for scenting clothes, bouquets, lotions, cosmetics, soaps, hair oils, tobacco and agarbati. Kewda water is used for flavouring various foods, sweets syrups and soft drinks. The use of kewda water is very common on festival occasion, weddings and other social functions in North India."
Brown's dictionary says that gojjangi is the female version of ketaki but whether this distinction in names is maintained is not clear.
The google search lso led to some pleasant surprises:
kshetryya padaalu and nice Hindi songs like this and thenthis. These last ones may be due to an advertisement on the pages.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Can one trust proofs by mathematicians?

"Gonthier believes that ordinary mathematicians may start formally verifying their proofs within the decade" according to Julie Rehmeyer in How to (really) trust a mathematical proof .
I have given several false proofs myself. Here is a nice article by my guru John Stallings HOW NOT TO PROVE THE POINCARE CONJECTURE . Excerpts:
"I have committed the sin of falsely proving Poincare's Conjecture. But that was in another country; and besides, until now no one has known about it. Now, in hope of deterring others from making similar mistakes, I shall describe my mistaken proof....

There are two points about this incorrect proof worthy of note.

The first is that when we try to prove Theorem 0 in dimension two, we always run up against the problem of trying to simplify, by some geometric trick, the situation. But any little homotopy that would simplify the picture always in fact, greatly complicates it. This phenomenon has characterized every attempt that I have made or heard of to prove Poincare's Conjecture. This is the place to look for flaws in any asserted "proof".
The second point is that I was unable to find flaws in my 'proof" for quite a while, even though the error is very obvious. It was a psychological problem, a blindness, an excitement, an inhibition of reasoning by an underlying fear of being wrong. Techniques leading to the abandonment of such inhibitions should be
cultivated by every honest mathematician."
The first two sentences in the quote are a take off on lines from "The Jew of Malta" by Christopher Marlowe quoted by T.S. Eliot. Stallings originally wanted to be a poet but took some aptitude tests in school which suggested that he would do well in mathematics or physics.

Contagious research

From The happiness virus :
"It’s too good an idea to resist: Happiness is contagious. A new study published online Dec. 4 in the British Medical Journal shows it.

Maybe you’d be more inclined to resist these ideas, though: Headaches are contagious. Acne is contagious. Height is contagious.

According to another study published the same day in the same journal, by Ethan Cohen-Cole of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Jason Fletcher of Yale University, these latter claims are nearly as likely as the first. The researchers “proved” them using the same methodology."

Steven Shapin on today's scientists

From a long and thoughtful essay Who are the scientists of today? Where do they work? What motivates them? As science increasingly shapes our cultural moment, the identity of its practitioners is also evolving by Steven Shapin, some excerpts:
"The transformation of science from a calling to a job happened largely during the course of the past century.
Science is now widely understood as an engine of economic growth, so it is remarkable that there are still many who associate the scientific life with institutions of higher education conceived on the model of the Ivory Tower. This was not the case in the early part of the previous century, nor is it the case now. Today almost two-thirds of all American science and engineering degree-holders are working either in the forprofit sector or are self-employed; only 9 percent work for colleges or universities. Even pure science has long had a significant presence outside academia.
The dissolution of boundaries between academia and industry has given enormous strength to modern American science: resources to do what scientists want to do, time (substantially freed from academic teaching and administration) to do it, and the reputation that comes from aligning science with the concrete goods — better communications, better health, more energy-efficient products, and enhanced national security —  so evidently valued by citizens who may have little or no concern for the pursuit of knowledge "for its own sake." But two problems seem to flow from this success story.........
The second problem concerns the integrity associated with the scientific life and the authority of scientists. The increasing alignment of science with commercial institutions carries a risk: the loss in the public mind of the idea of an independent scientific voice — not truth speaking to power but power shaping what counts as truth. Thus, we have the Bush administration's attempt to muzzle one of its leading climate scientists, reports of routine political interference in the scientific work of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Big Pharma ghostwriting papers supporting the efficacy of new drugs. Yet the enfolding of science into institutions of wealth generation and power projection makes independence that much harder to recognize and to acknowledge. And when scientific knowledge becomes patentable property, a state secret, or a plaything of political ideology, then science loses its independence from civic institutions. We're still a long way from the general "corruption" of science —  witness the moral outrage attending stories about commercial or political incursions into science. But if it came to pass that these associations count as normal, then the scientific voice would no longer sound independent. The material utility of science that is a substantial basis for its success would then undermine itself. To be a modern scientist is to be an employee, but the job must have a degree of autonomy or scientists will be of no use — to the institutions that engage their services or to the public.
As we enter the 21st century, new institutional configurations for doing science emerge, together with new scientific agendas and new conceptions of what it is to be a scientist. Some participants and observers of the scene celebrate these changes; others are seriously worried about them. We can be sure of only one thing: The identity of the modern scientist is, in every possible sense, a work in progress."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From Telugu blogs-2

I just started growing a type of beans common in A.P. Just in time there is a recipe from a Telugu blog Nala Bheema Pakam సిక్కుడుకాయ కూర ఇదానంబెట్టిదనగా . The recipe may be from a different region than the one I come from; still trying to find what వెళ్లి రెబ్బలు means.

Even Sehwag needs some space

After India's remarkable cricket win over in Chennai(two of several reports:'People are enjoying cricket again' - Tendulkar and England's critics should hold their ire and hail India's triumph in a Test to celebrate ), Man of the Match, Verender Sehwag in an interview Just cannot keep Sehwag down :
"In this hour of glory, Sehwag pays glowing tribute to coach Gary Kirsten. “He is one of the best I have seen. He has supported me hugely and helped me raise my self-belief.

He helped me change my mindset. He told me he can’t teach me how to bat but can assure me my place in the side. He gave me space to shine and made sure that I did not feel insecure. Thanks Gary,” acknowledges Sehwag."
P.S. A collection of articles on the Sehwag special:Sehwag changes the course. A couple of previous posts on Sehwag :hereand here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Population movements and inequality

Two papers in VoxEU by Louis Putterman and David N. Weil. The first Post-Columbian population movements and the roots of world inequality has abstract:
"This column introduces a five century migration matrix indicating the 1500 countries of residence of ancestors of each country’s current population. The power of regional origins is illustrated by the fact that 44% of the variance in 2000 per capita GDPs is accounted for by the share of the population’s ancestors that lived in Europe in 1500."

The second Ancestors and incomes: More on the roots of world inequality has abstract:
"Inequality within countries is explained by the past history of populations more than by ethno-linguistic differences and linguistic distance. This column suggests what matters is the history of the people who live in a country today, more than the history of the country itself."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Opprtunity for developing countries

says Dani Rodrik in Let developing nations rule . Excerpts:
"First, they should push for new rules that make financial crises less likely and their consequences less severe. Left to their own devices, global financial markets provide too much credit at too cheap a price in good times, and too little credit in bad times. The only effective response is counter-cyclical capital-account management: discouraging foreign borrowing during economic upswings and preventing capital flight during downswings.

So, instead of frowning on capital controls and pushing for financial openness, the International Monetary Fund should be in the business of actively helping countries implement such policies. It should also enlarge its emergency credit lines to act more as a lender of last resort to developing nations hit by financial whiplash.

The crisis is an opportunity to achieve greater transparency on all fronts, including banking practices in rich countries that facilitate tax evasion in developing nations. Wealthy citizens in the developing world evade more than $100 billion worth of taxes in their home countries each year, thanks to bank accounts in Zurich, Miami, London, and elsewhere. Developing countries’ governments should request and be given information about their nationals’ accounts.

Developing nations should also push for a Tobin tax – a tax on global foreign currency transactions. Set at a low enough level – say, 0.25% – such a tax would have little adverse effect on the global economy while raising considerable revenue. At worst, the efficiency costs would be minor; at best, the tax would discourage excessive short-term speculation.

Developing nations also need to enshrine the notion of “policy space” in the World Trade Organization. The goal would be to ensure that developing countries can employ the kind of trade and industrial policies needed to restructure and diversify their economies and set the stage for economic growth. All countries that have successfully globalized have used such policies, many of which (e.g., subsidies, domestic-content rules, reverse engineering of patented products) are currently not allowed under WTO rules.

Policy space is also required to ensure that important social and political ends — such as food security — are compatible with international trade rules. Developing nations should argue that recognizing these economic and political realities makes the global trade regime not weaker and more susceptible to protectionism, but healthier and more sustainable.

....Developing countries should say no to obvious trade protectionism, but they should be willing to negotiate to avoid regulatory races to the bottom in such areas as labor standards or corporate taxation. This is in their long-term self-interest. Without support from the middle classes of rich nations, it will be difficult to maintain a global trade regime as open as the one we have had in recent years."

Keynes and stimilus packages

From ROBERT SKIDELSKY's The Remedist (via Steven Hsu's postKeynes):
"Keynes created an economics whose starting point was that not all future events could be reduced to measurable risk. There was a residue of genuine uncertainty, and this made disaster an ever-present possibility, not a once-in-a-lifetime “shock.” Investment was more an act of faith than a scientific calculation of probabilities. And in this fact lay the possibility of huge systemic mistakes.

The basic question Keynes asked was: How do rational people behave under conditions of uncertainty? The answer he gave was profound and extends far beyond economics. People fall back on “conventions,” which give them the assurance that they are doing the right thing. The chief of these are the assumptions that the future will be like the past (witness all the financial models that assumed housing prices wouldn’t fall) and that current prices correctly sum up “future prospects.” Above all, we run with the crowd. A master of aphorism, Keynes wrote that a “sound banker” is one who, “when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way.” (Today, you might add a further convention — the belief that mathematics can conjure certainty out of uncertainty.)

But any view of the future based on what Keynes called “so flimsy a foundation” is liable to “sudden and violent changes” when the news changes. Investors do not process new information efficiently because they don’t know which information is relevant. Conventional behavior easily turns into herd behavior. Financial markets are punctuated by alternating currents of euphoria and panic.

Keynes’s prescriptions were guided by his conception of money, which plays a disturbing role in his economics. Most economists have seen money simply as a means of payment, an improvement on barter. Keynes emphasized its role as a “store of value.” Why, he asked, should anyone outside a lunatic asylum wish to “hold” money? The answer he gave was that “holding” money was a way of postponing transactions. The “desire to hold money as a store of wealth is a barometer of the degree of our distrust of our own calculations and conventions concerning the future. . . . The possession of actual money lulls our disquietude; and the premium we require to make us part with money is a measure of the degree of our disquietude.” The same reliance on “conventional” thinking that leads investors to spend profligately at certain times leads them to be highly cautious at others. Even a relatively weak dollar may, at moments of high uncertainty, seem more “secure” than any other asset, as we are currently seeing.

It is this flight into cash that makes interest-rate policy such an uncertain agent of recovery. If the managers of banks and companies hold pessimistic views about the future, they will raise the price they charge for “giving up liquidity,” even though the central bank might be flooding the economy with cash. That is why Keynes did not think that cutting the central bank’s interest rate would necessarily — and certainly not quickly — lower the interest rates charged on different types of loans. This was his main argument for the use of government stimulus to fight a depression. There was only one sure way to get an increase in spending in the face of an extreme private-sector reluctance to spend, and that was for the government to spend the money itself. Spend on pyramids, spend on hospitals, but spend it must.

This, in a nutshell, was Keynes’s economics."

There is a discussion in Economist's View Which is Best, Monetary Policy, Government Spending, or Tax Cuts?

Several economists including Raj Chetty on The Ideal Stimulus Package for US (via V.K. Chetty).

Friday, December 12, 2008

The next US Secretary of Energy?

From the Cosmic Variance post Steven Chu Nominated to be Secretary of Energy :
" This is fantastic news. Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics for his work in laser cooling of atoms, has been nominated to be the next Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration. This post is enormously important for science in general and physics in particular, as the DOE is responsible for much of the funding in physics and a lot of other R&D work. It’s also, needless to say, a crucial position for determining the country’s energy policy at a time when strong and imaginative leadership in this area is crucial."

From an article in in WattHead :Energy News and Commentary. A sustainable, just, and prosperous energy future is possible. We can make it happen.

"Last year, Chu was the co-chair of an InterAcademic Council Paper entitled Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future. The report proposes "best practices for a global transition to a clean, affordable and sustainable energy supply in both developing and developed countries," focusing on policies to support the development and deployment of technologies "that can transform the landscape of energy supply and demand around the globe." If Lighting the Way is reflective of Chu's understanding of the energy challenge, he clearly sees it as a technology-driven global development challenge, a good sign that Chu is the right pick to head up DOE and it's many energy RD&D programs.

Speaking at this summer's National Clean Energy Summit convened by Senator Harry Reid, Dr. Chu also evidences a keen understanding of the potentials of energy efficiency and the need for breakthrough renewable energy technologies. "Another myth is [that] we have all the technologies we need to solve the energy challenge. It's only a matter of political will," he says. "I think political will is absolutely necessary... but we need new technologies to transform the [energy] landscape." "
The comments in The Oil Drum are also enthusiastic.

Mumbai 26/11 related articles

Juan Cole Does Obama understand his biggest foreign-policy challenge?
"A consensus is emerging among intelligence analysts and pundits that Pakistan may be President-elect Barack Obama's greatest policy challenge. A base for terrorist groups, the country has a fragile new civilian government and a long history of military coups. The dramatic attack on Mumbai by members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Tayiba, the continued Taliban insurgency on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the frailty of the new civilian government, and the country's status as a nuclear-armed state have all put Islamabad on the incoming administration's front burner.

But does Obama understand what he's getting into? In his "Meet the Press" interview with Tom Brokaw on Sunday, Obama said, "We need a strategic partnership with all the parties in the region -- Pakistan and India and the Afghan government -- to stamp out the kind of militant, violent, terrorist extremists that have set up base camps and that are operating in ways that threaten the security of everybody in the international community." Obama's scenario assumes that the Pakistani government is a single, undifferentiated thing, and that all parts of the government would be willing to "stamp out" terrorists. Both of those assumptions are incorrect."

Ramachandra Guhs's India's Dangerous Divide has this Nehru quote:
"a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want, go anywhere else. That is a basic fact about which there can be no argument. Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilized manner. We must give them security and the rights of citizens in a democratic State."

The Immanent Frame has several articles in Mumbai 11/26 by Dipesh Chakraaorty, Arjun Appadurai and others.
The links are through 3quarksdaily, Anti-History / In Another Life and Chapati Mystery which have several links to articles on the topic. Suketu Mehta's "The Maximum City" also has much information.
P.S. Arundhati Roy: Mumbai was not our 9/11 (via Crazyfinger)

Nimble feet

Rajanala (Kalliah Naidu or Kaleswara Rao) as katikapari (also here )in Satya harischandra. For a heavy man, he seems quite nimble. See the feet movements around thirty seconds in to the video. I remember the screen lighting up when he entered but that is not too clear in this video. A Kannada version here (different actor).A few more songs from the Telugu version here .

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Indian edition of Rahul Banerjee's book

Recovering the Lost Tongue: Memoirs of a Romantic among the Bhils is now published by
Joshi PPC,
Prachee Publications,
3-3-859/1/A, lane opp. Arya samaj,
Kachiguda,Hyderabad 500 027
Phone:(O)040-2460 2009 (11:00 5:00 p.m.)
mobile 093466 89306

Monday, December 08, 2008

John Robert Stallings (1935-2008)

John R.Stallings passed away on november 24, 2008. He visited the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in 1967 and I was asked to wrote his lecture notes on 'Polyhedral Toplogy'. By that time my interests were established and I was planning to work in Algebraic Topology and Dufferential Toplogy. Before he came, I read many of his papers and during the two months of his stay, I was in contact with him almost daily discussing his lectures. Towards the end of his stay, he mentioned that Papakyriokopoulos did some great work in 3-dimensional topology, a topic which I never looked at before. After he left, I read half dozen papers in the topic and suddenly started working in that area. Working in relative isolation, I did not know what was relevant and just went on with problems that bugged me. Then over years, I found that whatever I did had some connection to Stallings' work. Perhaps, coming in to contact with a first rate mind early in my career unknowingly influenced me and I do not think that there is a single paper of mine not influenced by Stallings. Appropriately I am listed among his Ph.D. Students in the Mathematics Geneology project though I was never officially his student. My official guide was another wonderful mathematician M.S. Narasimhan who let me do whatever I liked and often entertained me with beer and insights about mathematics.
P.S. Photo here and more
My only published paper with a dedication (so far) here


Dude transports 22 bricks on his head via Accidental Blogger Brick by Brick

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Sukeu Mehta's Maximum City. The first few chapters seem to give a preview of what can happen in Mumbai(sample pages 154-170. Some excerpts from later pages are here). Here is a review by Amitava Kumar and here is Suketu Mehta's site. There is an interesting review by Panjaj Mishra Bombay: The Lower Depths but it needs subscription.
P.S. Another review and an interview
P.P.S. (December 6th) Completed the first reading. I think that it is a wonderful book. Though I spent 15 years in Bombay until 1979, I saw very little of what was in this book. I guess that my interests were well determined by that time and I was not too open to much outside mathematics.

Monday, December 01, 2008

From 'The Big Picture'

T.T. RAM MOHAN has a thoughtful post on Mumbai attack Mumbai attack and its aftermath :
"Key institutions of the state, notably the police and the judiciary, suffer from both corruption and poor governance. Strong anti-terror laws, in such a situation, will simply become weapons for persecution and extortion.

Without an overhaul of governance, without greater accountability, it is hard to see how terrorism can be fought effectively. It is the democratic process and the rule of law that need to be strengthened for these to happen.

The gloomy conclusion that emerges is that India will try to emulate the tough methods adopted by countries such as the US and Israel without having the commensurate governance or enforcement capability. This can only lead on to a downward spiral where terrorism is concerned."
Jo from UK forwards this article This was not global jihad. Its roots are far closer to home:
"The Mumbai attacks were not about global jihad. The attacks on foreign tourists at the Taj and the Oberoi, and on the Lubavitch centre, were designed to secure maximum publicity - a strategy that worked splendidly. Yet the roots of this nightmarish event are to be found elsewhere: in the deterioration in relations between Hindus and Muslims in Mumbai and India since the late 1980s, and in regional relations between India and Pakistan.

The operational key to the Mumbai attacks, however, is almost certainly held by D-Company, the sprawling and hugely effective organised criminal syndicate that is steered from the Pakistani port city of Karachi by the most powerful figure in Mumbai's fabled underworld, Dawood Ibrahim. It is virtually impossible that Dawood was unaware of the preparation of the attack, given the D-Company's extensive intelligence network (which in several past instances has proved more effective than the Indian state's intelligence capacity).

India's security services have begun investigating Dawood's possible role in the attack because he controls most of the smuggling routes into India's great commercial centre. In 1993, he put his network at the disposal of the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, to let it smuggle in huge amounts of the explosive RDX. As the Mumbai author, Hussain Zaidi, demonstrates in his extraordinary book, Black Friday, the RDX was then used for the terrorist attacks in March 1993, in which 257 people died, still the single highest death toll in any of the atrocities visited upon Mumbai in recent years. Dozens of co-conspirators have been convicted, largely thanks to the evidence of some bombers who became state witnesses, revealing the terrorist plans in minute detail."
Misha Glenny is the author of McMafia: Crime Without Frontiers reviewd here and here. There is an excellent review The International Crooks Now in Power in New York Review of Books but it needs subscription.
P.S. Another thoughtful post Thanksgiving weekend from Nomolical Net.
P.P.S. Bruce Riedel, one of Obama's policy advisors, in Terrorism in India and the Global Jihadsays " In December 2001 JeM, possibly with help from LeT, was behind an attack on the Indian parliament. This attack was designed to create a crisis between India and Pakistan by killing the senior echelon of the Indian government and legislators. It succeeded in provoking a tense standoff that would last over a year and during which more than a million Indian and Pakistani soldiers were deployed in forward positions along their border. By focusing Pakistan’s army on its eastern border with India the attack also left the western border with Afghanistan open to the retreating al Qaeda and Taliban leadership including bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mullah Omar who were fleeing the American Operation Enduring Freedom forces in Afghanistan. This was undoubtedly not a coincidence. Like LeT, Jaish has been outlawed in Pakistan but continues to operate under various cover names. The extent of its existing ties to the ISI is also much debated..... ... Al Qaeda and its allies like LeT and JeM would see this easing of tensions as a threat to their interests. They want conflict between India and Pakistan today just as they did in 2001. They thrive on the hatred the Indo-Pakistan conflict produces. If they are involved in the Mumbai attacks it would be in part to disrupt any chance at easing tensions in the subcontinent and perhaps also to divert Pakistan’s army away from the badlands along the border with Afghanistan to the border with India, again as in 2001."

Pankaj Mishra disagrees

in Hindi or Hinglish with Sanjay Subrahmanyam take on Adiga's 'The White Tiger' :
"Literary criticism may not be Subrahmanyam’s thing. But the ethnographic authority he invokes while describing the ‘falsity’ of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger doesn’t persuade either. He seems to think it wholly implausible that Adiga’s ‘subaltern’ narrator Balram Halwai (I would rather call him a shrewd member of globalising India’s lumpen proletariat) should know of books by James Hadley Chase, Kahlil Gibran and Hitler. He has clearly not visited Indian mofussil bookstalls where No Orchids for Miss Blandish, The Prophet and, alas, Mein Kampf have long been ubiquitous in Hindi translation, or in cheap English editions (Hadley Chase in especially lurid covers).

Subrahmanyam mocks Halwai, who cannot read Urdu, for claiming Mirza Ghalib as his favourite poet. But North Indians who cannot read Urdu have long had access to the great writers of that language in Devanagari script. According to Subrahmanyam, the expression ‘“kissing some god’s arse” . . . doesn’t exist in any North Indian language.’ How does he know? In actuality, millions of speakers of Hindi, or Hinglish, improvise such commonplace idioms daily, too prodigiously, perhaps, to be archived at the American university where Subrahmanyam teaches history."

Literary criticism is not my thing either but I read and liked 'The White Tiger'. Among several wonderful passages from Vikram Chandra's The Cult of Authenticity, I recall "Be fearless, speak fearlessly to your readers, wherever they are, and be aware that as you speak, you will inevitably be attacked by some critics for being not Indian enough, for being too Indian, too Westernized, too exoticized, too rich, for being a foreigner, an agent of the CIA. This is also wholly irrelevant."

Amar Bhide's new book

The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World is drawing good reviews from some quarters The Austrian Economists:
"This is a brilliant work and some be on everyone's reading list for the holidays. Seriously. Bhide demonstrates through detailed examinaton of the facts how the mechanisms of innovation actually work to spread knowledged, realize the gains from trade and realize the gains from innovation throughout the globe. His work seriously challenges the policy consensus in Washington about technological innovation. To put it bluntly, economic progress is a function not of state funded basic research, but of the development of technological applications in commercial endeavors."
Here is a more critical review from The Economist A gathering storm?:
"So does the relative decline of America as a technology powerhouse really amount to a threat to its prosperity? Nonsense, insists Amar Bhidé of Columbia Business School. In “The Venturesome Economy”, a provocative new book, he explains why he thinks this gloomy thesis misunderstands innovation in several fundamental ways.

First, he argues that the obsession with the number of doctorates and technical graduates is misplaced because the “high-level” inventions and ideas such boffins come up with travel easily across national borders. Even if China spends a fortune to train more scientists, it cannot prevent America from capitalising on their inventions with better business models.

That points to his next insight, that the commercialisation, diffusion and use of inventions is of more value to companies and societies than the initial bright spark. America’s sophisticated marketing, distribution, sales and customer-service systems have long given it a decisive advantage over rivals, such as Japan in the 1980s, that began to catch up with its technological prowess. For America to retain this sort of edge, then, what the country needs is better MBAs, not more PhDs.

America also has another advantage: the extraordinary willingness of its consumers to try new things. Mr Bhidé insists that such “venturesome consumption” is a vital counterpart to the country’s entrepreneurial business culture.

Is he right? The lack of long-term data means this has become “a quasi-theological dispute”, says Robert Litan of the Kauffman Foundation, a charity that provided some funding for Mr Bhidé’s work. But the contrarian should not be dismissed out of hand. For a start, he is right to argue against making a fetish of invention. Edison did not invent the light bulb and Ford did not think up the motor car, but both came up with the business-model innovations required to profit from those marvels."

Here is Amar Bhide's webpage with more links and an interesting article by him on current financial crisis An Accident Waiting to Happen.
Yves Smith of 'Naked Capitalism' says "the author of the research, Amar Bhide, is a friend of mine, and also unfailingly smart and provocative"