Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Two on cultural differences

Eurekalert report of recent research on 'endowment effect' (via Economist's View)
Ethan Watters, the author of 'Crazy Like Us' writes of some recent research about the (lack of) universals of human mind (via Mindhacks)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More on leaks

From a fascinating article published in FP "The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.
Few U.S. officials think of their ability to act hypocritically as a key strategic resource. Indeed, one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices -- and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches."
From another artcle an US official It will be very difficult for the US to dig out of this, although we will over time. The short term costs in credibility and trust are enormous.”
Glen Greenwald wonders " First, note how leaders such as Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted with basic indifference when it was revealed months ago that the NSA was bulk-spying on all German citizens, but suddenly found her indignation only when it turned out that she personally was also targeted. That reaction gives potent insight into the true mindset of many western leaders."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tristes Tropiques

A pdf file of the the book is available online (check also this). I read the book a few years ago mainly focussing on his Indian travels. A recent review Suggests that there are interesting speculations in the book. A longer review here and some quotes from the book here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Variations on the AIR signature tune

The AIR signature tune is usually attributed to Walter Kaufmann and is now confirmed by Zubin Mehta (see the interview from 30 minutes onwards). Apparently, it is based on raga Shivaranjani, possibly with some east European influences. It is recently discussed in tajmahalfoxtrot. In a follow-up Amit Chaudhuri Responds to the Kaufmann story “Now the tune makes a lot of sense, and why, when I would hear East European buskers play in Berlin, I would often want to have them play with me in my version of AIR. The subterranean, tremulous East European, slightly folksy sound of the theme now becomes clearer to my ear.” 
For other interpretations and variations, see Naresh Fernandez post Still in the AIR.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Manna Dey RIP

Manna Dey passed away today. A short write up about him with a link to his autobiography, with the first few chapters on line. One of my favourite Manna Dey songs

Monday, October 21, 2013

A glimpse of the future

I thought that I got glimpses of this kind of future among the children of some Indian colleagues here and in India. Apparently, it is more pronounced in Japan :"A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 "were not interested in or despised sexual contact". More than a quarter of men felt the same way.....A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 "were not interested in or despised sexual contact". More than a quarter of men felt the same way............... Is Japan providing a glimpse of all our futures? Many of the shifts there are occurring in other advanced nations, too. Across urban Asia, Europe and America, people are marrying later or not at all, birth rates are falling, single-occupant households are on the rise and, in countries where economic recession is worst, young people are living at home."
P.S. A list of fertility rates. All the developed countries are below 2.8 and all except five below 2. May be the current poor will inherit the earth.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Shaxson's new book on finance curse

(coauthored with John Christrnsen) is available at a nominal price and is also available for free download at some places. More about the book in opendemocracy.
P.S. An index in which Cuba leads the world

Friday, October 18, 2013

About the aid business

Angus Deaton has a new book 'The Great Escape:Health, Wealth and the  origins of Inequality", kindle edition here. An excerpt. Chris Blattman's review here. From NY Times review 'A Surprising Case Against Foreign Aid' "In his considered judgment, global poverty today is no longer a result of lack of resources or opportunity, but of poor institutions, poor government and toxic politics. Though about $134 billion in official aid still flows from donor governments to recipient governments, there is no mystery, he says, as to why foreign aid fails to erase poverty. That is not its mission, he asserts: typically it serves commercial interests at home or buys political allies abroad, too often unsavory ones."
William Easterley tweeted that this review by Clive Crook is a  "Brilliant review of a brilliant book on development: ‘The Great Escape’ " Excerpt "Above all, Deaton argues, rich countries should stop putting obstacles in the path of the development of poor countries. Rich-country trade restrictions and farm subsidies put poor countries at a disadvantage. Rules on intellectual property rights need to be reformed so that they don’t unfairly discriminate against the poor.
Freer immigration may be the best aid policy of all. Migrants from poor to rich countries are better off than before, and their remittances make their families back home better off as well. These flows, which are almost three times bigger than flows of aid, “can empower recipients to demand more from their government, improving governance rather than undermining it.”
“The Great Escape” combines, to a rare degree, technical sophistication, moral urgency, the wisdom of experience, and an engaging and accessible style. It will deepen both your appreciation of the miracle of modern economic growth and your conviction that the benefits can and should be much more widely enjoyed."

On Dulles brothers

From an interview with Stephen Kinzer author of a new book on Dulles brothers: "On the Dulles' ability to overthrow regimes in Iran and Guatemala but not in Cuba or Vietnam
They were able to succeed [at regime change] in Iran and Guatemala because those were democratic societies, they were open societies. They had free press; there were all kinds of independent organizations; there were professional groups; there were labor unions; there were student groups; there were religious organizations. When you have an open society, it's very easy for covert operatives to penetrate that society and corrupt it."
From another part of the interview:
On what's changed in the American mindset since the Dulles era
"Particularly in the reaction to the Syria bombing, I'm beginning to wonder if something profound isn't changing in the minds of at least some Americans.
"People are looking at each other and saying, 'I can't get a job and my leaders are telling me I should be focusing on fixing Syria.' I think the disconnect that that represents is slowly dawning on some Americans. Maybe we finally are burying John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles."
One reader comments "I wish the last statement of the story resonated with me as there would be nothing better than for the American public to wake up in such a way.. Unfortunately it looks like the main reason for such an aversion to the Syrian bombing was that old "black man in the White House" story. The progressive people are against the war an mass while the war hungry found themselves in a conundrum: they would habitually embrace the war but their main tactic is to oppose ANYTHING Obama does. If the next President is another Republican we will likely see the reverse course of this trend, I am sorry to say."

Bt brinjal coming back?

There was a report from GM watch "Angered by the banning of Bt brinjal, AR Reddy, co-chair of India’s Genetic Engineering Approval/Appraisal Committee that granted commercial approval, let the cat out of the bag saying it was only a matter of time before it reached the Philippines and Bangladesh, after which it would be difficult for governments to control its spread."
Now, we have a report from Bangla Desh and also from India.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

As jobs disappear

new possibilities described in When Jobs Disappear and also the wikipedia article on hakerspace (also called makerspace). May be organizations will appear to utilize the talents of the precariat like those described in
written by Mary, homeless in New York.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Links, October 15, 2013

On precarity: "Once a French neologism, precarity is now a household name describing in equal measure the fate of low-wage, part-time holders of bullshit jobs, seasonal and migrant workers, creative entrepreneurs of the self, “graduates with no future,” foreclosed homeowners, debtors and increasingly even segments of the salaried bourgeoisie. At its most basic, a term for the economic uncertainty and existential angst associated with the dissolution of fixed employment, precarity also suggests the disintegration of stable societal bonds, occupational identities, social protections and a sense of entitlement and belonging characteristic of the old proletariat. In short, then, precarity is the experiential dimension of the crisis of the society of work dating back to the 70s and 80s." At the root seems to the massive raise in production potential, a problem discussed by Chris Dillow.
Dani Rodrik on the perils of premature deindustrialization, Gavin Kennedy's response. There is also a discussion in Marginal Revolution: one comment "Employment in manufacturing may be low in Brazil but manufacturing still contributes ~30% of their GDP.
Ergo manufacturing hasn’t declined; manufacturing just needs fewer people these days. That’s a global trend."

Commonwealth Bank of Australia sends executives to an Indian village.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Monsanto bad for scientists?

Recent World Food Prize, where one of the winners is Robert Farley, chief technology officer at Monsanto is drawing protests. From my reaction in Faceook : 
 I think that Monsanto's aggressive marketing brought bad name to the science part. Probably we have to consider case by case where these worked and did not work. Glenn Davis Stone has written about BT cotton with reference to India. The final conclusions in his blog Field Questions seem to be that there may be benefits but they are overblown In the blog, if you go to 'About the author', it has links to Stone's papers which also have links to some basic information on GM technology.  
About BT brinjal, so far the reports that I found convincing are negative.
I started feeling that finally it is politics and money and it is difficult to stop these things ( I think Monsanto is in some some advisory committe to Indian government on agriculture), and am not following the news as much as before. I think that GM food merchants found it difficult to penetrate Europe and have been focussing on the third world. Some of the powerful politicians in India are pro GM. In spite of Jairam stalling BT brinjal, probably there will be a comeback of GM foods without adequate research.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Interview with Maurice Bloch

(via Chapati Mystery) The Reluctant Anthropologist  "But I think we should engage with the general questions that people are ask, rather than spending our time navel gazing. .....Well, I'm very old, I should be shutting up, but I can't stop myself getting interested in questions. I'm very interested in, let's say, the frontiers of consciousness.....Since Chomsky, one of the things we're sure about is that most speakers are unaware of the grammar that they use, and therefore how it works below the level of consciousness." 

Thursday, October 10, 2013


K.Balagopal Relections on violence...
Brad DeLong discusses an address of Paul Krugman
CT on status problems in American universities
Duping by middle classes
A diplomatic exchange
A Namit Arora review
A recent article says "The greater a population’s genetic distance to the population on the technological frontier, the lower its relative income will be." Omar says "Pakistani Punjab could turn out to be an interesting little experiment in this regard. The genetic distance from the technological frontier is practically the same for Indian and Pakistani Punjab ..."
Why does so much of the academic writing on international affairs seem to be of little practical value, mired in a "cult of irrelevance"?
 Khursheed Bano revives Saigal after he exhausts himself reviving somebody else


I always wondered about how we can be sure that we mean exactly the same thing when different people use a word. Or whether it is with in some band width? Now I see to have some experience of that in my own case. The cataract in my left eye is removed but not yet the one in the right eye. Now I see slightly different, sometimes strikingly different varying from pink to red, with the different eyes.

Friday, October 04, 2013

An early Azurie dance

Azuri (Anna Marie Gueizelor) is considered the first 'item dancer' in Indian films. A quick biography of her by Arunkumar Deshmukh here. Her first dance according to Cineplot is in the 1934 film Nadira. 
This seems to be a 1935 Azuri dance though in silhoutte according to AK of Songs of Yore in the discussion here 
The dance is also discussed in a very interesting post by Minai
Some information about her life in Pakistan is on pages 39 andf 99-100 0f this thesis

Shutdown links

What it means
It's going to get much worse than a shutdown by Matt Yglesias
The perils of presidentialism by Juan Linz.
January 2013 Interview with Juan Linz
Along the way, he says "But China doesn’t have any channels for the discontent which the changes are causing and it’s causing anger that’s unbelievable, and the disconnect between the rhetoric and the realities might explode in time. It’s less of a stable system than some people think. I don’t think it’ll evolve that easily into a liberal system, in the political sphere.
India will have more trouble here or there, but is an infinitely more flexible system that can channel or respond to crises in a way that is less dangerous for the system than in China. I don’t know if I would bet on India so much on the economy, but I would bet more on the political system of India than the political system of China."
Views from the left:Three cheers for the Shutdown from CounterpunchA bipartisan war against the working class from the World Socialist Website

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Limits to export competitiveness?

On contract teachers in primary education; evidence from A.P.

(Via Chris Blattman) Contract Teachers:Expermental Evodence fro India
Abstract: The large-scale expansion of primary education in developing countries has led to the
increasing use of locally-hired teachers on fixed-term renewable contracts who are not professionally trained and who are paid much lower salaries than regular civil service teachers. This has been a very controversial policy, and there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of such contract teachers. We present experimental evidence from a program that provided an extra contract teacher to 100 randomly-chosen government-run rural primary schools in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. At the end of two years, students in schools with an extra contract teacher performed significantly better than those in comparison schools by 0.15 and 0.13 standard deviations, in math and language tests respectively. While all students gain from the program, the extra contract teacher was particularly beneficial for students in their first year of school and students in remote schools.Contract teachers were significantly less likely to be absent from school than civil-service teachers (16% vs. 27%). We also find using four different non-experimental estimation procedures that contract teachers are no less effective in improving student learning than regular civil-service teachers who are more qualified, better trained, and paid five times higher salaries.