Friday, October 31, 2014

The way of all flesh

Patrick Cockburn in  LRB Whose side is Turkey on?  "Syria and Iraq are full of armies and militias that don’t fight anybody who can shoot back, but the PKK and its Syrian affiliates, the PYD and YPG, are different. Often criticised by other Kurds as Stalinist and undemocratic, they at least have the capacity to fight for their own communities....The Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga – literally ‘those who confront death’ – aren’t immensely effective either. They are often regarded as better soldiers than the soldiers in the Iraqi army, but their reputation was won thirty years ago when they were fighting Saddam; they have not done much fighting since, except in the Kurdish civil wars."
 It seems that there is some PKK presence in Iraq "Ethnically Kurdish but with their own non-Islamic religion, the Yazidis had fled their towns and cities to escape massacre and enslavement by Isis. The US soldiers arrived by helicopter and were efficiently guarded and shown around by uniformed Kurdish militiamen. But soon afterwards the Yazidis – who had been hoping to be rescued or at least helped by the Americans – were horrified to see the US soldiers hurriedly climb back into their helicopter and fly away. The reason for their swift departure, it was revealed later in Washington, was that the officer in charge of the US detachment had spoken to his Kurdish guards and discovered that they weren’t the US-friendly peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government but PKK fighters – still listed as ‘terrorists’ by the US, despite the central role they have played in helping the Yazidis and driving back Isis. It was only when Kobani was on the verge of falling that Washington accepted it had no choice but to co-operate with the PYD: it was, after all, practically the only effective force still fighting Isis on the ground."
It is not clear whether the Iraqi Peshmarga going to Kobani will be of great help except for the equipment. Patrick Cockburn concludes "Whatever happens at Kobani, Isis is not going to implode. Foreign intervention will only increase the level of violence and the Sunni-Shia civil war will gather force, with no end in sight."
Dexter Filkes has more about Iraqi Kurdistan and its relations with Turkey in NewYorker article 'The fight of their lives'. He also describes the current corruption "A wealthy Kurdish businessman with ties to both parties [K.D.P. of Barzani and P.U.K of  Talabani] explained that they began as guerrilla armies and changed gradually into giant family businesses, gathering power and wealth and shunning anyone who tried to change the system. In private conversation, tales of bribery and retribution abound. “All these buildings you see around you,” the businessman told me, gesturing to the high-rises that punctuate Erbil’s skyline. “They are owned by a hundred people. Those hundred people work for ten people. The ten people work for three.”"

Kurdish decumentry film Kulajo My Heart is Darkened Witness Al Jazeera English YouTube

Modern police

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Two on life and death

"“When I got here”, he explained to them, “I was thermodynamically unstable but now I think I’m in a state of quasi-stability. It looks like I have achieved thermal equilibrium but actually I’m steadily losing energy.”
“I’m not sure”, I said afterwards, “that explaining your health in terms of thermodynamics is exactly what they’re after.”
“They’ll have to learn,” he said, “you can’t beat entropy.”" from MindHacks
“Every living thing is a complex thermodynamic pocket of reduced entropy through which matter and energy flow continuously.”  
 say recent Nobel prize winner Eric Betzig and colleaues via New Microscope Puts the  Life Back in Biology by Virinia Hughes

Kothapalli Baburao RIP

Kothapalli Babu Rao from Repalle, a relative, childhood friend and a benefactor to our family passed away on Tuesday in Maryland, USA. It is a second generation friendship. His father Dr. Krishnamurthy was from Nagayatippa in Krishna District and went to school in Avanigadda with my father. We visited them requently during my childhood. Baburao did a Ph.D in Chemical enineering, went to USA on a post-doctoral fellowship and lated shifted to business.

In 1970, I was in USA on a short teaching assignment. My brother suddenly landed in USA after getting admission to some crappy college but without any scholarship or funds. I was due to leave in a few weeks and managed to get him admission in a better institution but I never saved any money and did not have funds for his stay. I tried to raise funds with some close friends saying that I would come back if necessary to return the loans if my brother could not manage it. But I failed. I did not ask Baburao since he was known to be frugal. But he himself came forward and funded my brother's education. He must have helped many more. Because he was shy, self effacing and frugal, his good deeds are probably not known. My brother went on to follow his example and helped many with their education. I am sure that Baburao will be remembered by many.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Taleb and others on Precautionary Principle and GM organisms

Genetically modified organisms risk global ruin from Physics ArXive Blog. The full paper The Precautionary Principle (with applications to genetically modified organisms)
"We present a non-naive version of the Precautionary (PP) that allows us to avoid paranoia and paralysis by confining precaution to specific domains and problems. PP is intended to deal with uncertainty and risk in cases where the absence of evidence and the incompleteness of scientific knowledge carries profound implications and in the presence of risks of "black swans", unforeseen and unforeseable events of extreme consequence. We formalize PP, placing it within the statistical and probabilistic structure of ruin problems, in which a system is at risk of total failure, and in place of risk we use a formal fragility based approach. We make a central distinction between 1) thin and fat tails, 2) Local and systemic risks and place PP in the joint Fat Tails and systemic cases. We discuss the implications for GMOs (compared to Nuclear energy) and show that GMOs represent a public risk of global harm (while harm from nuclear energy is comparatively limited and better characterized). PP should be used to prescribe severe limits on GMOs."
Another summary here.
There will be lots of discussions on the paper. One here already.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Two and half centimeters of rain and Melbourne trains fail
The sort of infrastructure projects that the local government is interested in Vic East West Link contract signed:
"The $5.3 billion contract for the first stage of Melbourne's controversial East West Link project has been signed, but the deal could be torn up in just two months.
The Victorian government and the East West Connect consortium signed the contract immediately after a resident failed to get a High Court injunction to stop the deal on Monday.
Premier Denis Napthine refused to say how much Victorian taxpayers would contribute to the 25-year deal, a public private partnership the consortium said was worth $5.3 billion.
He would also not reveal if there was a penalty clause in the deal - reportedly $500 million - if Labor won the November 29 election and tore up the contract."
"Napthine signed away his right to make laws that tackled gambling and smoking in an extraordinary deal waved through Parliament days before the election campaign. The law not only restricts the actions of the Napthine government should it get back, but the actions of every future Victorian government for the next 36 years.
Should a future government decide to impose a $1 betting limit on poker machines (as recommended by the Productivity Commission); should it decide to enforce the use of precommitment technology on poker machines; or should it require automatic teller machines to be further away from poker machines, it'll be up for a $200 million payment to Crown. The size of the penalty will climb with inflation. By the time the provision expires in 2050 the penalty will be $480 million."

and Occupy Democracy and media by David Graeber "We need to ask ourselves what it means that police suppression of democratic assemblies is no longer considered news."

From Al Jazeera
"Al Jazeera English was awarded the prize for news teams in developing countries and Indian Sainath Palagummi from The Hindu won the award for news professionals in developing countries." from

Monday, October 27, 2014

From 'Boot Polish' 1954

A new universal law

At the far ends of a new universal law (via 3quraksdaily). The evolution of the law starts with a seemingly simple study published in 1972:
"Imagine an archipelago where each island hosts a single tortoise species and all the islands are connected — say by rafts of flotsam. As the tortoises interact by dipping into one another’s food supplies, their populations fluctuate.
In 1972, the biologist Robert May devised a simple mathematical model that worked much like the archipelago. He wanted to figure out whether a complex ecosystem can ever be stable or whether interactions between species inevitably lead some to wipe out others. By indexing chance interactions between species as random numbers in a matrix, he calculated the critical “interaction strength” — a measure of the number of flotsam rafts, for example — needed to destabilize the ecosystem. Below this critical point, all species maintained steady populations. Above it, the populations shot toward zero or infinity.
Little did May know, the tipping point he discovered was one of the first glimpses of a curiously pervasive statistical law.
The law appeared in full form two decades later, when the mathematiciansCraig Tracy and Harold Widom proved that the critical point in the kind of model May used was the peak of a statistical distribution."

Keynes  said in 1933 "Ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel – these are the things which should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible, and, above all, let finance be primarily national."
I wonder whether the above sort of models can be developed to give some idea of how much globalization is too much.


(via Doug Henwood) where Ken Silverstein explains the background to the following photographs:

Ken Silverstein says "For the sake of historical accuracy, the pix appeared on the front page of Jornal do Brasil, a Rio daily, on November 13, 1992 with this caption: "Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1973, the ex-all powerful secretary of state Henry Kissinger said yesterday that Brazil will be able to enter the NAFTA agreement only in two to three years. At the invitation of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, he participated yesterday in a meeting on Latin America and the new world order at the Sheraton Hotel and later lunched at Saint Honore restaurant in the Meridien Hotel." I lived in Rio at the time and distinctly remember picking up Jornal do Brasil at a newsstand in front of my apartment on my way to get coffee and almost throwing up on the street after seeing those awful images. Kissinger later threatened to sue Jornal do Brasil, and us, but neither of us caved. I also remember well that the Washington Post's Reliable Source column picked up on the CounterPunch story and did an item about it. It was co-authored by two reporters relatively new to the column and within a week they ran a very flattering item about Kissinger. Clearly someone at the paper had informed them that they had gone way too far and better atone for their mistake. So there you have it, the full story of Boogergate."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some Emmanuel Todd links

Once in 2006 and again a few days ago, I linked to Emmanuel Todd. Recently I found some introductory material about his ideas which seem to complement more abstract theories. From On anthropological roots of modern conflicts, (Message 391, third from the top)  "We are in the habit of thinking of the various contemporary conflicts in ideological, economic or linguistic terms. According to historian Emmanuel Todd there is also an anthropological aspect to the problem.
His book, The Explanation of Ideology came out in the late eighties and discusses, in an amazing way, the anthropological base, or bases, of culture. The author, like, anthropologists in general, is interested in (or focused on) the 3 categories, (perhaps it is better to say 3 sets of rules) that generate the several possible human families and how these families underlay our sophisticated ideologies......
In this book Todd was trying to argue that ideological formations are (partially?) determined by family structure—not (only?) economics or linguistics So, for instance, by looking at the Authoritarian family we see people that are not easily assimilated because they have no sense of equality thanks to the favoring of the chosen son and inegalitarian inheritance rules. Therefore they do not become (fanatical) devotees of universal movements like communism and resist assimilation into other groups."
A longer introduction, including biographical details, in America, England, Europe-Why do we differ via Brian Micklethwait.
Brian Micklethwait has several posts on Emmanuel Todd. In this post. he links to some of his introductory posts about Todd:

Check also Craig Willy: Emmanuel Todd’s L’invention de l’Europe: A critical summary
Many other links in Brian Micklethwait's blog.
A recent interview relating to Ukraine.
All seem worth looking.


Saturday, October 25, 2014


Putin's advisor and experts discuss economy,sanctions & central bank
via a comment by 'stevifinn' in
The comment: "If you can spend 1hr & 20 minutes watching this video it might help to explain things. It features 3 top Putin economic advisers – it gave me the impression of me being on the outside looking in. They talk about how Russia should protect itself from financial warfare – sanctions etc, & how to stop the leakage of tax revenues offshore. It appears that their central bank needs to be reformed & that they are still suffering from the Neoliberal policies & privatisations from the 90′s.
In terms of Europe they believe that the US has them by the balls due to the former’s reliance on the petrodollar system, from which it would be almost impossible for them to extricate themselves. They also state that the West’s financial system is terminally broke & that this is known by those in charge & is leading to US efforts to loot the rest of the planet with the trade agreements being a big part of this effort. They also believe that TTIP will de-industialise Europe & in my opinion they are being ably assisted by a European elite, particularly the un-elected Brussels grandees.
Perhaps it’s just me. but when they talk about the difficult measures they need to take in order to extricate themselves from the petrodollar system – they seem to be planning in a common sense sort of way which contrasts favourably with the members of our current Western economist priesthood.They also hint that internal political problems could prevent a successful conclusion to the fulfillment of their ideas."

Links, 25th October 2014

Youssef Courbage on 'Religion, Dermography and conflicts in Muslim countries". Seems to be a summary of 'A convergence of civilizations: Transformation of Muslim societies around the world' by Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd, 2011. Interesting article but the book, which is translated, reads better (I just started on the book) may be because of the author's French background. A review of the book

Chris Blattman on Julian Assange's recent article on google The dangers of google idealism " It is interesting reading, if only to hear a skeptical outsider’s perspective of the web of Washington intrigue." Aside:Julian Assange took some mathematics courses from me and we got along well. Once I gave him about 5 out of 10 in an assignment in 'Complex Analysis'. He came to discuss the assignment and the mistakes but did not argue for more points and that continued through out the course.

Discussion in Economist's View Paul Krugman: Plutocrats against democracy

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The National Interest on Putin Peace Plan

From Why the Putin Peace Plan is Working :
"Finally, there is the obvious reluctance of many in the West to countenance a peace that “rewards Putin.” Influential media outlets such as The Economist, Maclean’s, Financial Times, Washington Post and theNew York Times routinely highlight the danger of allowing Putin any semblance of “victory.” To paraphrase British journalist Angus Roxburgh, they see that Putin is part of the problem, but “refuse to concede that he might also be part of the solution.”
But just because some elements of the current peace plan are indeed Putin’s initiative, we should not make the mistake of failing to consider whether it is also in Ukraine’s best interests. If, in the final analysis, the Minsk accords lead to stronger and more respected government institutions, won’t this help to stabilize and unify Ukraine? Is such an outcome not as much in the interests of Ukraine and Europe as it is of Russia?"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two Meena Kapoor songs from Pardesi 1957

Ragothaman on Indrani Rahman

in his new series Know thy dancer ( the following photo from his blog)

Newsweek on beheadings

When it comes to beheadings, ISIS has nothing over Saudi Arabia
"It’s a mystery why the U.S. and the European Union, which strongly support the regime in Saudi Arabia, with its vast oil wealth and strategic and military importance, do not publicly condemn the country for its grisly, medieval public executions. In September, Secretary of State John F. Kerry was in Saudi Arabia, meeting with Arab diplomats when setting up the coalition again the Islamic State, commonly called ISIS. Human rights violations were not mentioned.
But there is a clear double standard. Iran, for example—Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical rival in the Middle East—is often cited by politicians such as Senator John McCain for gross human rights violations. But Iran, part of what President George W. Bush called “an axis of evil,” has, in fact, a far more democratic political process than Saudi Arabia.
So why the blind eye when it comes to Saudi Arabia? ISIS beheadings are repugnant, but the Saudis’ beheadings are ignored. "
"“Riyadh issues statements against violence of the Islamic State while sentencing prisoners to death, which indicates that the condemnation is not about the violence itself but about its lack of legitimacy,” she says. “Violence by the state is permissible, while violence by non-state actors is not.”"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Remembering Whitlam in the days of Abbott

Cuba fighting Ebola

Cuba's war on Ebola from Al Zajeera
"Cuba's response to the Ebola crisis is in keeping with its tradition of accruing international brownie points via contributions to global health. Back in 2009, the New York Times mentioned that, over the past 50 years, Cuba had "sent more than 185,000 health professionals on medical missions to at least 103 countries"."

Dexter Filkins on Kurds, Iraq, ISIS...

A comprehensive article in The NewYorker 'The fight of their lives' (via
Some points new to me ;
"Al Qaeda in Iraq was run largely by foreigners; ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi generals, according to Hisham Alhashimi, an adviser to the Iraqi government and an expert on ISIS. Many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Baath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons. "
"The Obama Administration says that it is neutral in its policy toward Kurdish oil. But analysts say that the U.S. government warnings about buying Kurdish oil have chilled the market."
"With so much oil still to be tapped, many Kurds fear that the country will devolve into a kleptocracy. Hiwa Osman, who owns a communications firm in Erbil, told me, “The choice is between Norway and Nigeria”—that is, between a country where the oil wealth is managed conscientiously and one where it is largely stolen or misappropriated. Osman spent five years in Baghdad during the American war, overseeing a program to train local journalists to cover the government responsibly and aggressively; many of those journalists were murdered while pursuing stories. The problem in the Kurdish region, he told me, is not just that the government is corrupt but that its operations are opaque, and that the press is mostly complacent. "

Jeevan ki rail

salt-tolerant potatos

Dutch team pioneering development of crops fed by sea water "But where does all that salt go? Aren’t we in danger of overdosing on salt if we eat the Salt Farm Texel crops? “What we find is that, if you tease a plant with salt, it compensates with more sugar,” said de Vos. “The strawberries we grow, for example, are very sweet. So nine times out of ten the salt is retained in the leaves of the plant, so you’d have to eat many many kilos of potatoes before you’d exceed your recommended salt intake. But some of the salads are heavy with salt, you wouldn’t eat them by the bucketful." and
"But thanks to a partnership with Dutch development consultants MetaMeta, several tonnes of the Texel seed potatoes are now on their way to Pakistan where thousands of hectares of what until now had been unproductive land because of sea water encroachment have been set aside for them.
If the experiment works and the potatoes adapt to the Asian climate, it could transform the lives of not only small farmers in Pakistan and Bangladesh,, where floods and sea water intrusion wipe out crops with increasing regularity, but also worldwide the 250 million people who live on salt-afflicted soil."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

India blocks Satyardhi

From The Hindu article Hero or persona non grata?  (via Rahul Siddharthan)"Not long ago, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) considered him persona non grata even though he was the first chair of the newly formed alliance for promoting Education for All (EFA), namely the Global Campaign for Education (GCE). In that capacity, we at UNESCO regularly invited him to high-level meetings on EFA to represent civil society. We valued his contributions, which consistently brought to light the educational neglect of working children and called upon developing countries and the international community to fulfil the pledges and promises made at the World Education Forum at Dakar in April 2000.
Hence we were aghast when the leader of the Indian delegation to the Working Group on EFA, a Secretary-level officer in the MHRD, made an informal request to exclude him from future meetings convened by UNESCO on EFA for reasons which were not specified. Despite our politely declining the request on the grounds that Mr. Satyarthi was invited in his capacity as chair of the GCE and that his nationality was merely coincidental, the Indian side persisted and had its way."

Catabolic capitalism

Craig Collins writes "But capitalism’s prime directive is profit, not growth.  If growth turns to contraction and collapse, capitalism won’t evaporate.  Capitalist elites will extract profits from hoarding, corruption, crisis, and conflict.  In a growth-less economy, the profit motive can have a devastating catabolic impact on society.  The word “catabolism” comes from the Greek and is used in biology to refer to the condition whereby a living thing feeds on itself.  Catabolic capitalism is a self-cannibalizing economic system.  Unless we free ourselves from its grip, catabolic capitalism becomes our future.
Capitalism’s catabolic implosion raises important predicaments that climate activists and the Left must consider.  Instead of relentless growth, what if the future becomes a series of energy-induced economic breakdowns–a bumpy, uneven, stair-step tumble off the peak oil plateau?  How will a climate movement respond if credit freezes, financial assets vaporize, currency values fluctuate wildly, trade shuts down, and governments impose draconian measures to maintain their authority?  If Americans can’t find food in the supermarkets, money in the ATMs, gas in the pumps, and electricity in the power lines, will climate be their central concern?"
His solution: "If green community organizers and social movements initiate nonprofit forms of socially responsible banking, production, and exchange that help people survive systemic breakdowns, they will earn valuable public approval and respect.  If they help organize community farms, kitchens, health clinics and neighborhood security, they will gain further cooperation and support.  And if they can rally people to protect their savings and pensions and prevent foreclosures, evictions, layoffs, and workplace shutdowns, then popular resistance to catabolic capitalism will grow dramatically.  To nurture the transition toward a thriving, just, ecologically stable society, all of these struggles must be interwoven and infused with an inspirational vision of how much better life could be if we freed ourselves from this dysfunctional, profit-obsessed, petroleum-addicted system once and for all."

Unread books

My wife Jhansi wanted to throw away my books, half of which are unread, since these days I am mostly reading on kindle. But then my granddaughter Ava started playing with the books and they are saved. One of the books she often picks up is 'Why is sex fun?' by Jarred Diamond. I did not read that book yet but started looking at the third chapter 'Why don't men breast-feed their babies? The non-evolution of male lactation.'
Yesterday's dream. I was walking along with a street with some unknown friend and see some people at a roadside cafe probably in a western country. Suddenly I sort of recognize somebody and say 'He seems to be Robert Trivers' and the friend says that he is. Though I read about his work, I never read any of his books though I have two of them including 'Genes in conflict'. I did not realize that I admired Robert Trivers so much that I wanted a glimpse of him.

Friday, October 17, 2014


'A nation deep in debt; the financial roots of democracy' by James Macdonald. It is turning out to be harder than I expected going back and forth. May take a few more weeks. Two reviews here and here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

From Shair 1949


Most people with addiction simply grow out of it: Why is this widely denied? asks an ex-addict (via MindHacks). Lot of comments. I do not know much about this. I was addicted to mathematics from the ae of 16 and I think that I grew out of it around the age of 65 or so.

Oil weapon?

It was thought that with fracking, USA may be lessening its dependence on middle east and use oil, together with food and of course finance and military as a weapon.It seems that Saudi Arabia has other ideas (all the links from Naked Capitalism). The last linked article talks of worries about deflation News Week writes about deflation problems in Europe.

Magic Number?

Another universal constant? Seth Ackerman in his Jacobin review of Piketty calls r ‘raw’ rate of return and says that it has been steady for centuries. Browsing through ‘A nation deep in debt: the financial roots of democracy’ by James Macdonald I find on page 93 ‘Then in 1482, Venice attempted to revive the old idea on a clean state,… Interest rate was again set at the magic rate of 5%…”. Can somebody comment on this 5%?
P.S. Another recent study of Venice which strangely does not refer to James Macdonald

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hum Ek Hain 1946

Hum Ek Hain 1946, Dev Anand's first film uploaded again. The quality seems better than in some of the videos I have seen before. A dance choreographed by Guru Dutt appears around 28 minutes. 
Nivedita Ramakrishnan has written about the film

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Two chief ministers in India

Manik Sarkar of Tripura,the poorest chief minister in India, a write up before the elections which he won.
Manohar Parikkar of Goa, the first IIT graduate to be a chief minister. A  write up from Niti Central, a self proclaimed centre-right news portal. Another from The Hindu from 2012

Friday, October 10, 2014

On the occasion of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

David Graeber asks

Why is the world ignoring revolutionary Kurds in Syria? "If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but Isis? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world – and this time most scandalously of all, the international left – really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?"


Two part interview with Cornel West, author 'Black Prophetic Fire' "The renowned scholar, author and activist Dr. Cornel West, joins us to discuss his latest book, "Black Prophetic Fire." West engages in conversation with the German scholar and thinker Christa Buschendorf about six revolutionary African-American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X and Ida B. Wells. Even as the United States is led by its first black president, West says he is fearful that we may be "witnessing the death of black prophetic fire in our time."" Lots of comments about Obama, Holder and quoted from W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King:
W. E. B. DU BOIS: Because most American Negroes of education and property have long since oversimplified their problem and tried to separate it from all other social problems, they conceive that their fight is simply to have the same rights and privileges as other American citizens. They do not for a moment stop to question how far the organization of work and distribution of wealth in America is perfect, nor do they for a moment conceive that the economic organization of America may have fundamental injustices and shortcomings which seriously affect not only Negroes, but the whole world.
It seems that there is a Rich Richman  'Obama slams GOP as a party of billonaires then attends a party...hosted by Rich Richman'
Rebecca Diamond: What is the relationship between economics and georaphy? About divergence in American cities. Related article. Not clear about the relevance to other countries.
Discussion on economic inequality and growth at Economist's View Check the comments. The first comment links to this.
Ebola is eminently stoppable says Atul awande

Disussion on the light bulb cartel

in Economist's View 'The Light Bulb Cartel and Planned Obsolescence'. More examples in the comments.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

polyphonic singing and chants

(via Rao Nagisetty) from

A comment gives this link on the music of Tibet
"The style of chanting heard on this tape was introduced into Tibet from India (where the art has long been lost) by Marpa in the eleventh century. In 1474, Gyuto was founded (along with Gyume) as one of the two Tibetan monasteries that were dedicated to using this mode of chanting for the ritualistic transmission of the most ancient, sacred, and esoteric teachings of the Buddha. The extraordinary vocal abilities this chanting requires first came to the West’s attention in 1968 through Huston Smith’s The Music of Tibet (Anthology Records), and it is from the masters for that disc that this CD was recorded. "

Atul Gawande on old age

Interview in Mother Jones (via Ramarao Kanneanti)
At Democracy Now
A 2007 article The way we age now
A 2010 article Letting go
Coming Reith Lecures in November 2014 The Future of Medicine

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A special issue on Piketty21

{via Lambert Strether of Naked Capitalism real-world economics review, issue number 69, 7th October 2014
So far, I read only Michael Hudson's article which discusses the merits and limitations of Piketty's book.
There is a discussion of the Hudson article in

Forced labour in supply chains

Time to get serious about forced labour in supply chains. My guess: is not a bug but a feature. This is how 80 to 90 percent of the people may end up if the current form of capitalism continues.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Corn economics

From A hard look at corn economics-and world hunger 
"We plant more than 90 million acres of corn, and it’s in huge surplus. And it’s not even food. What if we planted actual food instead?
"Our ability to supply the world with vegetables is practically unlimited," Babcock said.
Take corn, and add in other giant crops that basically just feed animals—crops like soybeans, barley, hay, sorghum—and two-thirds of U.S. farmland goes to animal feed.
"Such a small portion of our land goes to grow actual food that people consume," said Babcock, "that if we really wanted to increase that supply, it would be pretty easy."
The trick would be convincing the country—and other countries that import animal feed from the U.S.—to go vegan.
"There would be such a surplus of farmland to grow kumquats and pecans that we would be awash in those, in a heartbeat," says Babcock.
"We would have more land available for the 10 billion than they would know what to do with," says Babcock.  
But we don’t. Thank markets."

On aggregate production functions

This reference Aggregate production functions-a pervasive but unpursuasive fairy tale appears in another interesting discussion of Piketty at Crooked Timber. In the comments Bruce Wilder refers to a new review by J.W. Mason and comments on the reasons for popularity of the book "Piketty does not take a heterodox theoretical view — though he’s highly critical of the scholarly habits of the mainstream — and takes care to respect the conservative conventions regarding the marginalist analysis of the returns to capital, and the correspondence of financial “capital” claims to physical capital resources. JW Mason notes how this gives the book’s narrative something of a split-mind quality, with a lightly-committed theoretical frame at unremarked odds with the descriptive summary of painstakingly established facts.
I think the book’s enthusiastic reception by the mainstream rests on this odd split. Paul Krugman would never have reviewed it so favorably, if Piketty had challenged the textbooks. Jamie Galbraith, by telling contrast, took a more critical view of Piketty’s conservative conceptualizations of “capital”."
There is a discussion of average  production functions in my favourite review by Seth Ackerman who recommends this book 'The agregate production function and the measurement of change 'Not Even Wrong'".

Recent efforts at water conservation

From  About Anupam Mishra's Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab (The Lakes Are Still Alive) "Twenty years after it was published, the slim copyright-free volume, written in lucid Hindi, has inspired scores of farmers, government officials and activists across the country to use a variety of simple methods to make their communities self-reliant in water."
A 2005 story about similar efforts in Karnataka based on a book written 170 years ago  Drought-proofed by traditional wisdom
"This book, Krushi Jnana Pradeepike (KJP), now available in print, is unique. It was written based on the time-tested practical knowledge of farming. Ghanamatha Nagabhushan Shivayogi Swamiji, the author of this book, hailed from Daroor, in Andhra Pradesh. He had spent a good part of his life in northern Karnataka. The 350-page text is full of practical information to help farmers grow a variety of crops, to prepare manure and to conserve soil and water. Ten pages are allotted for soil and water conservation and drought-proofing."
Some more links in
For links to approaches using modern technology check

P.S. More about Anupam Mishra in

Sunday, October 05, 2014

On 'suhana safar'

"Suhana safar, the signature tune of Madhumati was sung by the golden-voiced Mukesh. It is believed that the singer originally intended for this iconic song was Talat Mehmood. Mukeshji, it seems, was going through a financial crunch. His situation prompted Talat Mehmood to suggest that the song be given to Mukesh. I have heard this story twice to be convinced about its authenticity—first from Mrs Talat Mehmood, later an independent confirmation by Sanjoy Chowdhury. Nitin Mukesh once announced that his father’s comeback song was Yeh mera diwanapan hai from a lesser known Bimal Roy film, Yahudi, starring Dilip Kumar. The 1950s period in the Indian film industry was marked by a generosity of spirit and well-being among fellow artists. The cut-throat competition of today was relatively unknown." from'Madhumati'
Link to the son in the article. Another from the film 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Jeff Madrick on free trade in NY Times

Our misplaced faith in free trade Seems sensible but the author does not seem to consider the hidden agendas except very briefly "Any trans-Pacific agreement, its terms still a secret, should be discussed in the open with ample protection of worker rights and healthy debate over regulatory changes requested by developing countries or big business. A trade agreement with the European Union makes more sense, but the danger is that environmental, financial and product-safety regulations will be watered down to meet the demands of corporate interests."

Sweden to recognize Palestine

Sweden to recognize the state of Palestine from The Guardian "Sweden’s new centre-left government has indicated that it intends to formally recognise the state of Palestine – making it the first major European country to do so."

Some background information on ‘Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le’

The man who set a ghazal to a western jazzy tune: "Burman is given the entire history of the ghazal in brief. A ghazal has a certain metre, a definite structure. And most important, a mood. It is strict in the way it follows all this. A ghazal is a series of couplets, and the couplets always rhyme. And there is a constant refrain that recurs in the second couplet. The mood is romantic, sometimes full of pain. And the song therefore must be also slow and beautiful. Perhaps indicative of pain...................Whatever the discussion between Guru Dutt, the director of Baazi, and its music director touched upon, the fact remains that on the day of the recording, the song that was presented had the girl strumming a guitar and singing, not a soulful ditty, but a Western jazzy tune..... But when faced with the strange interpretation of his ghazal, Sahir’s angst was unbearable. He did not care that he was still making his mark, that S.D. Burman was a name of some repute. Upset and beside himself, he decided to walk out of the film. His temper would always be his companion, it had always been his undoing. This time too it almost was.
As K.K. Paul reports in the Hindustan Times of 8 March 2012, Sahir’s ninetieth birth anniversary, if Geeta Dutt had not taken him aside and spoken to him, and smoothed his ego and his temper, filmic history might have taken quite a different turn."