Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Misc. links

Ed Yong on western cotton rootworm which adopted to crop rotation "Here is a lesson that we’re going to be taught again and again in the coming years: Most animals are not just animals. They’re also collections of microbes. If you really want to understand the animal, you’re also have to understand the world of microbes inside them. In other words, zoology is ecology."
Gary Yonge on whether Obama is worse than Bush "America did not come by that power through its own innate genius. It acquired it, as do all empires, in no small part through war, invasion, subterfuge and exploitation. Spying and lying about it comes with the job description for which Obama applied and was reappointed.
None of this is inevitable. But changing it cannot be entrusted to a single person at the top. It will change because there is a demand from Americans that is both large in number, deep in commitment and active in pursuit, to enable a fundamental change in America's role in the world. That does not exist yet."
Always wondered about wikileaks promised leaks about Bank of America. This article gives some hints.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Back to mathematics for a while

Revising a paper from 2007 which was postponed because of intersections with the next paper which is still under preparation. The relevant parts of the next paper are now ready and so it is clearer which portions can be modified. Moreover I am visioting India from August 17 to September 17 and old friends like M.S. Raghunathan are insisting that I should give talks. So posts will be rarer infrquent for a while (if anybody is looking at this stuff), though I post the links here mostly for myself. Meanwhile, I have read most of "The Flaming Feet" by D.R. Nagaraj and I think that it will help to 'understand' a bit about India. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

'The Flaming Feet' by D.R. Nagaraj

is now available on kindle. I am halfway through the book and I think that it is one of the best books hat I have (half)read about India. After Guru mentioned the book in his blog, I have been meaning to read it but could not get it. Suddenly, it was available on Kindle nd I bought it a couple of days ago. Here is a review which agrees with my reading so far:
"Let Poetry be a Sword" by Ananya Vajpeyi
There is also a review in The Middle Stage
Guru also mentions another book by Nagaraj which I have not seen so far.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Manufacturing reality

I once read in David Brin's site in 2005 (

Take this oft-quoted passage from Ron Suskind's N.Y. Times article "Without a Doubt" - interviewing a Bush White House aide:
"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.'"
There are stories for some time about this phenomenon. There is a recent article on NYTimes The Real War on Reality explains recent forms of it "What has received less attention is the fact that most intelligence work today is not carried out by government agencies but by private intelligence firms and that much of that work involves another common aspect of intelligence work: deception. That is, it is involved not just with the concealment of reality, but with the manufacture of it......Team Themis also developed a proposal for the Chamber of Commerce to undermine the credibility of one of its critics, a group called Chamber Watch. The proposal called for first creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” giving it to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then subsequently exposing the document as a fake to “prove that U.S. Chamber Watch cannot be trusted with information and/or tell the truth.”..
Stratfor was also involved inmonitoring activists who were seeking reparations for victims of a chemical plant disaster in Bhopal, India, including a group called Bophal Medical Appeal....." and there is this grim news  which sounds similar to the hounding of Aaron Swartz:
"On May 28 Jeremy Hammond pled guilty to the Stratfor hack, noting that even if he could successfully defend himself against the charges he was facing, the Department of Justice promised him that he would face the same charges in eight different districts and he would be shipped to all of them in turn.  He would become a defendant for life."
Check also US spy operation that manipulates social media "A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Looking for some Telugu books

by Sarada Natarajan (earlier post about him here, Bhradwaja, and Jashuva(Khandakavyamulu). I will be in Vijayawada area in a couple of months. does anybody know where to look for them? I was reminded of them after finally finding 'Flaming Feet' by D.R. Nagaraj on Kindle.
P.S. Just noticed this on Sarada, real name Subramaniyer Natarajan
From what I can gather from this and the earlier post, he was born in Pudukkotai around 1924. His father two wives.It is not clear to me what the total number of children was. His daughters from first marriage and a son lived in Madras. He moved tp Madras at some stage but could not get much help from his children. He had two more daughters in addition to Natarajan. It seems the two were married to two Telugu brothers Yarrapraggada Bhima Rao and Sundara Rama Rao in Tenali. Natarajan used to sell ground camphor near a temple and also beg but studied upto 7th grade. He seemed well versed in Tamil literature  and also learnt some English. His father found it difficult to make a living in Madras and finally moved to Tenali in the winter of 1937 when Natarajan was around 13. His son in law Bhima Rao was poor too but had a small restaurant in which Natarajan worked as a server. He started learning Telugu from the customers and also from a teacher who was teaching his sister's son until grade three. He listened to film songs and used to ask others including hotel customers for their meaning.When he was around fifteen, his father died and on the same day it was found that Natarajan had epilepsy. He soon learnt the language and developed a love for it and started interacting with literary persons (Tenali was a big centre for for writers in  politics, philosophy and literature) and by the age of 19 organized a handwritten Telugu magazine Prajawani with three copies. One copy was placed in the communist party office, another in local library and the thirs circulated among friends.When he was 21 or so he started writing stories and published his first story in 1948. All the while he worked in hotels as a server or had his own restaurant or dhaba which did not do well and sold home made snacks and also old magazines.He died in 1955 and during the few years wrote 6 novels, 70-80 stories, some plays. Some were published after his death with help from his friend Aluri Bhujanga Rao who alos published a biography of Natarajan. Some time during the period he married and had two children whose whereabouts are known. before his death, his sister came to help his wife who was pregant. Apparently, he went to Tenali station to see off a friend, came back home had dinner and said he was feeling tired. His sister asked him to take rest. He went to put his shirt on a peg, collapsed and died. His last words seem to be in Tamil to his sister and wife 'jagratai, jagratai'. I only rember reading a bit of his s work in the fifties. There are some appraisals in the first link. Since he did not belong to any particular group or had strong sponsors, his work seems forgotten but some have started remembering him. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

More on cyber wars

James Bamford gives some details of how Iran's centrifugres were knocked out, Iran's later retaliations and General Keith Alexander, director of NSA in The Secret War.

From Bloomberg U.S. Agencies said to swap dats with thousands of firms:
"Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world’s largest software company, provides intelligence agencies with information about bugs in its popular software before it publicly releases a fix, according to two people familiar with the process. That information can be used to protect government computers and to access the computers of terrorists or military foes.,,,n exchange, leaders of companies are showered with attention and information by the agencies to help maintain the relationship, the person said.
In other cases, companies are given quick warnings about threats that could affect their bottom line, including serious Internet attacks and who is behind them.

China’s Military

Following an attack on his company by Chinese hackers in 2010, Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, was provided with highly sensitive government intelligence linking the attack to a specific unit of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s military, according to one of the people, who is familiar with the government’s investigation. Brin was given a temporary classified clearance to sit in on the briefing, the person said.
According to information provided by Snowden, Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, had at that point been a Prism participant for more than a year.
Google CEO Larry Page said in a blog posting June 7 that he hadn’t heard of a program called Prism until after Snowden’s disclosures."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Suburban racism

From 'The Age' How subarban racism destroyed a love of the game "Srinand Yalamanchili's first memory of racism coincides with his first memory of football, playing kick-to-kick in the school yard. He was in prep, and another boy told him he wasn't allowed to play because he wasn't white. He remembers it as a bewildering experience."
I hope that this kind of experiences may make Indians more aware the problems of dalits back home. But it does not seem to be usual. Recently, there are reports of APSWREI schools doing well in A.P. I wonder whether this is due to some isolation from the daily grind of descrimination.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Links, June 13

Pranab Bardhan's autobiographical sketch
Pranab Bardhan reviews various books on poverty and development (via 3quarksdaily). There is some discussion of India too. A sample passage "Intense pluralism, participatory politics, political fragmentation, and what V. S. Naipaul has called “a million mutinies” have made collective action on long-term decisions immensely difficult in India."
Apparently Lahore was originally Lavapura, the only thing I could understand in this discussion of various divisions in the subcontinent.
The Snowden effect: Sales of 1984 are up in US
Why did Snowden choose Hongkong
Dean Baker about fighting big pharma: Start 'Independent Drug Information Service'.
Azuri, one of the first 'item dancers' in Hindi films was well versed in classical dances and had a serious career after migrating to Pakistan. Possibly Richar Singer and Minai will have detailed posts about her.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tyler Cowen recommends "How Asia Works"

by Jo Studwell, about Southeast Asia and the Asian tigers. There is more comprehensive review at Reap what you sow. From the FT review:
"The measures taken by Japan, then South Korea, Taiwan and, after 30 years of Maoist missteps, communist China were, argues Studwell, threefold. They involved land redistribution, the development of an export-oriented manufacturing policy, and the formation of a closely controlled finance system. The three important development insights, he argues, are that “a country’s agricultural potential is most quickly released when its farming is transformed into large-scale gardening supported by agricultural extension services; that the technological upgrading of manufacturing is the natural vehicle for swift economic transformation ... and that finance must be harnessed to both these ends”. Only the small city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore have successfully taken a different path.

The most original part of the book deals with farming. Studwell, whose Asian Godfathers (2007) dissected the failures of crony capitalism, argues convincingly that successful Asian nations were built on radical land reform.....

Of India’s attempt to build wealth through IT services, which employ only a few million people, he says: “Punditry that likens India’s economic development to that of the more northerly countries is fatuous.” 

The implication of Studwell’s analysis is that talk of globally converging living standards is overdone. Those countries that do not begin with comprehensive land reform or bully their entrepreneurs into nation-building – as opposed to rent-seeking – are bound to fail."

The whole review is interesting and I plan to peruse the book which I just bought (kindle edition). He also has a blog

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Indu Mitha's vision of dance in Pakistan

From "Choreographing [in] Pakistan: Indu Mitha, Dancing Occluded histories in “The Land of the Pure”" by Feriyal Amal Islam (page 246, )
"My “jihad” in the promotion and acceptance of dance in Pakistan is based on my belief that no art form worth its name is narrowly confined to any religion, faith, historical time or lifestyle. Art evolves like language. For example, Britons today do not easily understand the King James Bible, once considered a literary standard, or even speak “the King’s English” which was dinned into me in my school days.
Dance in Pakistan needs to be understood by people of our time; hence it must have understandable lyrics, gestures and costumes that hold meaning for us."

The woman behind the NSA scoops

(the title a biographical sketch in Slate)seems to be Laura Poitras, a 2012 MacArtur fellow.; Salon interview with her. Glenn Greenwald story from April 2012 about her experiences with NSA  U.S. filmmaker repeatedly detained at border:
"Poitras is now forced to take extreme steps — ones that hamper her ability to do her work — to ensure that she can engage in her journalism and produce her films without the U.S. Government intruding into everything she is doing. She now avoids traveling with any electronic devices. She uses alternative methods to deliver the most sensitive parts of her work — raw film and interview notes — to secure locations. She spends substantial time and resources protecting her computers with encryption and password defenses. Especially when she is in the U.S., she avoids talking on the phone about her work, particularly to sources. And she simply will not edit her films at her home out of fear — obviously well-grounded — that government agents will attempt to search and seize the raw footage."

Why worry about surveillance

Discussed in Naked Capitalism and Yves Smith links to this video Dont Talk to Police. Kieren Healy has a short primer Using Metadata to find Paul Revere and a related discussion in Crooked Timber.
P.S. Check also

Monday, June 10, 2013

Advice from Anil Biswas to Lata Mangeshkar

From a post of Shri Arunkumar Deshmukh ( I am surprised that most of this was not a part of standard training):
“I have learnt many things from Anil Biswas. In Maharashtra, it is generally found that singers neglect the words and concentrate on the taan. At one time, I too did this. But Anil taught me how to concentrate on a clear enunciation of the bol for clarity on the microphone. For many months, I studied voice modulation with Anil.
Another ability I acquired through Anil’s training is to inhale while singing without in the least interrupting the song. I worked at this until I reached the stage when it was not possible to tell when I took a breath. Yet another invaluable lesson I learnt from Anil was to avoid any change in voice, whether I was taking the highest note or the lowest. “Your voice must remain the voice of Lata Mangeshkar, no matter at which pitch you are singing,” Anil told me. This is very difficult to do.”
The post links to a nice song based on Bengali folk music in which Anil Biswas also sings

Sunday, June 09, 2013

An 'arangetram' in Pakistan

From pages 120-122 of "Choreographing [in] Pakistan:Indu Mitha, Dancing Occluded histories in “The Land of the Pure”" by Feriyal Amal Islam(
"Islamabad 1986—the era of martial law. The chief administrator, Zia-ul-Haq, has implemented the “Islamization” policy, which amongst other restrictive policies, bars women from appearing on television without their heads covered. Zia has also banned kathak dancer Naheed Siddiqi’s television program, paayal (Dancing Bells), the only classical dance program on national television at the time. This is the first time dance is officially banned in Pakistan; but inside the walls of the German Embassy an arangetram (a debut performance for a dancer) is about to start. It is Indu
Mitha’s daughter Tehreema’s arangetram. This is Tehreema’s “coming out” in the dance world, andwhat a dramatic way to do so, in a decade when no one is allowed to dance. This start will set thetone for the young dancer’s work in the future, as not only will she go on dancing throughout theremaining two years of martial law, but in 1992 she will raise the bold and taboo topic of women’s sexuality in a dance that depicts a conversation between mother and daughter, both moves radical for traditions of classical dance repertoire and post-colonial South Asian culture."

About the origins of 'erii maaM', the mother-daughter dance in one of the videos in an earlier post:
"Indu’s earlier dances up to this point like dukhii (Sad/Melancholy) which she learned from her first bharata natyam teacher Sri[mati] Lalita Shastri, repeat the themes of a woman’s anxiety of waiting for her beloved and helplessness in the separation and abandonment from her beloved, themes which both Indu and Tehreema say they were tired of."
About the dance:
"Unlike traditional stories where the woman in love confides to her female friend or sekhee about her heartbreak, the heroin in erii maaM confides in her mother. Together they raise the topic of sexuality, traditionally considered taboo for a mother and daughter to share. More important, for the questions that I want to explore in this chapter, is the strength of the female character, as the
woman in erii maaM, who is otherwise a modern day respectable woman, shows that she not only
moves on from her loss, but also breaks societal norms with her decision to raise her child out of
wedlock. While staying within the tame, traditional, domestic setting of the mother-daughter bonding scene, Indu and Tehreema (a mother and daughter both on stage and in life) choreograph:
1. Acceptance for non-domestic sexuality in a “domestic” context, and, 2. Scenario of strength and
agency for a woman to chart her own destiny despite such adverse circumstances."

About a Bharatanatyam teacher in Pakistan

From the 2012 doctoral thesis of Feriyal Amal Aslam about Indu Mitha. Indu Mitha seems to have slowly transformed a Radha krishna story to one of eve-teasing and more. Below is the beginning:
"Today Indu continues to present this work to select audiences in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, where she has been teaching it for more than a decade at her institute Mazmun-e-Shauq. Indu is of Bengali lineage and, like many other of her generation, had been an “Indian” for the first fifteen or more years of her life before deciding to join the Muslim army captain with whom she fell in love in 1947 to relocate to the newly born nation state of Pakistan. In India she came from a highly educated and connected Christian family. Her father was a philosopher with close links to Gandhi and Rudrah, and her mother was from a Singhas family. But as a young woman she chose Hindu temple dance as her preoccupation. She learned this dance in Delhi and Madras, but being more secular and culturally oriented; she translated the Sanskrit content into Urdu and also took the Hindu God stories and choreographed them as stories of everyday life of people regardless of their religious belief. Indu learned the dance titled sareega tunguu in Telegu from her dance teacher Lalita Shastri in South India. Later she translated it into Urdu for her new Pakistani context changing the content accordingly to saaRii sunaihrii (golden sari). Like most of Indu’s repertoire, saaRii sunaihrii interrogates changes and continuities in the dance form and the body as it moves across the borders of time from pre-Partition to present day Pakistan. Bharata natyam was implicated in the Indian nationalist movement of the 1920s and ‘30s as a consequence of a myriad of identity, nationalist, and religious politics, which has been well written about in its Indian context. saaRii sunaihrii helps ask the unheard question firstly of the current place of bharata natyam in Pakistan and the meaning of the dance in its present context, and on the broader societal level raises questions of continuity of Pakistan’s occluded Indic past and the tough cultural policy question of its place in the “Islamic” Pakistani nation."
There is also another teacher activist who taught bharatanatyam and Odissi, Sheema Kermani who figured in earlier posts.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The kind of Bharatanatyam that I can watch

The role of academics in poverty programs

Apparently there is a new organization Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) discussed in Crooked Timber. I do not know any thing about the organization. From the comment number 7 in CT,
"I am sort of mystified by this. As I’m understanding it — which could be very poorly — it seems we have a group of academics who are exploiting and profiting from poverty in terms of status, prospects, and probably remuneration. We have ‘professors and graduate students, … philosophers, economists, political scientists, and others from around the world’ making use of the poor and their various predicaments as a career."
I share the sceptism.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Chris Blattmam wonders

how culturally specific this statement is 
"there is only one way in this world to achieve true happiness, and that is to express yourself with all your skill and enthusiasm in a career that appeals to you more than any other. In such a career, you feel a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement. You feel you are making a contribution. It is not work."

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Daisy Rockwell on translation and Manto

From an interview published in The Hindu: "Sometimes, when I am feeling down about translating, I think of it as slave and master (where I’m the slave). Sometimes it’s more like heckled, but slightly conniving wife and domineering but gullible husband (in that one, the translator is the wife). When I’m feeling grandiose, then I’m a psychic medium channelling the spirit of the author. "
From a recent review of a book on Manto: :Early in the book, she observes in reference to Manto’s Partition stories that, “Manto turns short story writing into a testament of his belief that human depravity, though real and pervasive, can never succeed in killing all sense of humanity.” When one thinks about the stories in question, one can easily recall many instances of the said human depravity: rape, necrophilia, looting and violent mayhem of all kinds. What is harder to perceive is the supposed underlying humanity that Jalal sees Manto as optimistically championing through it all. Such atrocities are indeed uniquely human; most of these behaviours would never be found among animals. But the humanity that Manto holds up for us to see could hardly be called uplifting. In fact, it reveals something much darker: that depravity itself is an essential component of humanity. Therein lies Manto’s genius, and the pity of Partition."
From an earlier article: "He is the gold standard of South Asian fiction. "

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Cosma Shalizi's Homework assignment

Renihart-Rogof spinoff about which researchers are still struggling with seems to have become a homework assignment in a Cosma Shalizi course.

Still reading Michael Mann

So far I have read the first four chapters of the third volume of Michael Mann's 'The Sources of Social Power'. It is more interesting than the fouth volume. Hard data is not presented as well as in the first two volumes. References are often given a bit less so in the fourth volume, where sometimes, it is not clear to which periods he is refering to. From the third volume, it seems that the japanese empire in Asia was different from other empires and Taiwan and Korea owe their modernity to the Japanese. An overall short review here

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

LinksJune 4th

(mostly via Economist's View)
Unrepentant economists (This was posted earlier and seems relevant regarding austerity and microloan discussions)
Paul Krugman quotes Ben Benanke "We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, ...."
Building Infrastructure: China's Global Reach

Monday, June 03, 2013

Mandawuy Yunupingu RIP

Obituary from The Age. Lyrics of his famous song Treaty and a recent up;oad of the song

On Facebook

I have been active on Facebook for a few months. I find it useful. Various things one wondered about, some thing new triggers off one of those themes. There are some immediate responses or links which form a basis for further exploring the topic. Then I post some of it in this blog and try to find similar things posted months or years ago and try to connect the dots. Sometimes slightly better informed, well rounded views are formed though circimscribed by one's earlier views, temperament, prejudices etc. I thought that it was working reasonably well. But today I saw this

Sunday, June 02, 2013

How to help the poor? Give them cash

says Chris Blattman. This is well known says Jennifer Lentfer. Blattman mostly agrees. After a experimenting with microloans for a few years, I too am shifting to this.

On charity

Marginal Revolution links to the article Join Wall Street. Save the World. which raises some uncomfotable questions
 "While some of his peers have shunned Wall Street as the land of the morally bankrupt, Trigg’s moral code steered him there. And he’s not alone."
For example, there may be lot of money in smuggling (though I think there are times when smuggling can be considered good like saving dissidents during war and from corrupt regimes) or working for arms manufacturers when one knows arms going to repressive regimes. Often we do not know the roles of the organizations for which we work, though the recent history of Wall Street or various corporations has not been that great. How do we know what we save and contribute to charities compensates the damage done by these entities. One can go on with other institutions like research institutions mentioned in the previous post. It is not clear to me where and how one draws the line though some charity is probably better than nothing.

No talk of GDP or growth in this

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Patent regime going too far

From Why a Saudi Virus is Spreading Alarm (via Naked Capitalism):
"But impeding an effective response is a dispute over rights to develop a treatment for the virus. The case brings to the fore a growing debate over International Health Regulations, interpretations of patent rights, and the free exchange of scientific samples and information. Meanwhile, the epidemic has already caused forty-nine cases in seven countries, killing twenty-seven of them.
At the center of the dispute is a Dutch laboratory that claims all rights to the genetic sequence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus [MERS-CoV]. Saudi Arabia's deputy health minister, Ziad Memish, told the WHO meeting that "someone"--a reference to Egyptian virologist Ali Zaki--mailed a sample of the new SARS-like virus out of his country without government consent in June 2012, giving it to Dutch virologist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.
"The virus was sent out of the country and it was patented, contracts were signed with vaccine companies and anti-viral drug companies, and that's why they have a MTA [Material Transfer Agreement] to be signed by anybody who can utilize that virus, and that should not happen," Memish said."
P.S. "Though Memish referred to a "patent," the Dutch team has not patented the viral genetic sequence but has placed it under an MTA, which requires sample recipients to contractually agree not to develop products or share the sample without the permission of Erasmus and the Fouchier laboratory. "