Saturday, September 30, 2017

Long read on Kazhakistan oligarchs

The battle over fugitive billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov stretches from Kazakhstan to Knightsbridge
Spies, lies and the oligarch: inside London’s booming secrets industry

On Kurdish independence but sometimes gives information not usually available in main stream media.

By The Grace Of Israel - The Barzani Clan And Kurdish "Independence" from MoA, a site generally critical of Americans. I visit it regularly and do not know what to make of it. But it gives information not usually available in main stream media.

On Zika virus

Once harmless, the Zika virus became lethal after a single genetic mutation
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences tested a collection of Zika virus samples taken over time to see how their genetic structure had changed. Comparing strains harvested in 2015 with one collected in Cambodia in 2010, they identified seven sites where the virus's RNA had changed. Each change altered Zika's surface protein by just one feature: a single amino acid.
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has supported much of the research that has characterised the Zika virus, though not the genetic research out this week. NIAID's director, Dr Anthony Fauci, called the new report a "very elegant molecular study".
The findings from China underscore the importance of tracking not just a virus' journey across a human landscape, but also the molecular changes it undergoes along the way, he said.
"This adds insight into our understanding of the world of viruses," Fauci said.“

Some recent books about India

Sense and solidarity: jholawala economics for everyone by Jean Dreze, a review in BBC news.
Anexcerpt from the above book
For want of a better phrase, the essays in this book can be said to deal with various aspects of India's "social development" in the broadest sense. Social development is often reduced to specific matters on which quantitative indicators happen to be available, such as child health, elementary education, and gender inequality. These matters are undoubtedly important, and figure prominently in the essays. However, there is a great deal more to social development, seen as the endeavour to create a good society.

The abolition of caste, for instance, can be regarded as a critical aspect of social development in this large sense. Quantitative indicators on the abominations of the caste system are scarce (perhaps no accident), yet leaving out this issue from the ambit of social development would be like ignoring "the monster that crosses our path", as Ambedkar described the caste system. Similar remarks apply to patriarchy and other forms of arbitrary power. The expansion of democracy - still very limited in India, as elsewhere - is another natural concern here. ”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Developments in addiction research

Beginnings of urbanization

Urbanization and Land Ownership in the Ancient Near East – Summary
This is a review of the second volume of the series edited by Michael Hudson and others. I do not know the name of the author. There are more by the same author in the blog and can be found by searching for Michael Hudson. I found this blog while revisiting these volumes after two years, unfortunately the first volume disappeared from our library. I stated revisiting these volume while reading ‘Against the grain’ by James C. Scott since I felt that he missed parts of the early history, particularly Göbekli Tepe. There are overall summaries and interviews with Michael Hudson in a few places. Here are two from 2014 and 2015.
How the organisation of labor shaped civilization’s takeoff
And this one posted before
Sovereignty in the Ancient Near East

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Privatization: beginnings

i have been plannining to revisit these symposia proceedings organised by Michael Hudson and others starting around 1994. I find that there is a recent review of the first volume:
Privatization in the Ancient World – Summary
I planned to borrow it from the library next week since it is a bit expensive to buy ( but I did buy the fifth of the series) Privatization in the Ancient Near East and Classical World Paperback – 1996

Saturday, September 23, 2017

On co-ops in Italy and USA

How ommunists and Catholics built a commonwealth
"If Italy’s Catholics and Communists could unite around the practical work of building a commonwealth, perhaps Democrats and Republicans can, too.
Now, co-ops in Italy have to reach across an even wider gulf than simple political divisions. Social co-ops have taken a lead in employing and integrating new migrants from Africa and the Middle East, who have transformed the demographics of the country within a decade. As many as 100,000 migrants are now applying for asylum each year. The newcomers do not claim the same medieval inheritances that the native-born Catholics and Communists had in common. Migrants are creating co-ops of their own now in Italy, bringing their cultures and habits with them. People seeking an inclusive, responsive economy must continually relearn the lessons of commonwealths past—to work with what they have and seek out the fullness of what they might share with one another."
A general link but there is usually not much news here History of the co-operative movement

Trotsky and Frida

Michael Hudson quotes from a 1994 telephone conversation with his father:
"I phoned Dad from their Moscow house. Dad got worried that the phones were being tapped and that I’d get in trouble, but I said that all the Russians really cared about those days was money, not old politics. So he laughed and laughed and said that, yes, he used to drive Trotsky back and forth to see Frieda." in Dad's many proverbs

Friday, September 22, 2017

My experience with Indian toilets

Last four days, I spent a few hours a day tending to the garden doing weeding, pruning, mowing etc. in the process I did not go for my usual walks. Today, I went for my usual 30 minute morning walk and it was not that easy. The imagined benefits of reduction in smoking are not apparent. But I did manage to finish the walk rather slowly without a break. The prospect of the Indian trip is beginning to look more daunting. I have been planning to spend time in small places visiting villages and possibly without western type toilets, generally avoiding the affluent and the elite. May be old age is irreversible.
P.S. From 2008.
This episode and "He'd had to keep getting up to go to the restroom" reminded me a recent trip of mine inside India. I wanted to travel from Hyderabad to Vijayawada by bus; it was a trip that I used to make about twice year when I lived in Bombay enjoying Andhra pachadis along the way. I booked at a local RTC outlet and was told that it was a nice air-conditioned bus and would take only six and half hours with a couple of stops. My cousin in Vijayawada told me that after the main stop in Vijayawada, it would travel along Eluru road and if I requested, they would stop at a place ten minutes from his house. I should be there by 6:30 PM and he would be waiting at the bus stop.
When I got in to the bus in Hyderabad, they said it would be more like seven and half to eight hours. The bus stopped at several places in Hyderabad to take passengers and took two hours to get out of the city. I was already feeling the ned to visit a restroom (not unusual when one is nearly 67) but the next regular stop came after 2-3 hours. When I got down there was no regular restroom I could see and many including some women were using the open space with a few bushes. I could not see myself holding my own in that surroundings and tried a squatting position which I had not used for several years. The bones must have got stiff because of old age and I kept falling back. Finally with the help of one hand on the ground behind me, I finished the job and got back to the bus. At that stop or next stop we were delayed for half an hour because some passenger went for a drink and came late staggering. Finally when we reached the outskirts of Vijaayawada, there were traffic jams. We were told that there was a big bandh and they would try to get us to the main bus stop some how or other. It was time to enquire about my cousin's bus stop but the driver told me that he was from Telangana and did not know the local stops. After another hour so, the driver said that we wold not be able to reach the main bus stop that day and would leave us at the City Bus stop. By this time it was about 9 PM. I decided to stay in a hotel for the night and was told that the hotels were full because of the bandh. I was resigning myself to staying in the bus stop for the night (which had restrooms). Luckily an auto driver said that even though he could not drive me to my cousin's place because of the bandh crowd, he could take me around in the neighbourhood to look for a hotel room. Finally I found a hotel room by about 10 PM and phoned my cousin on my first borrowed cell phone and found that he was still waiting at his bus stop. Thanks to another cell phone, his wife sent him the message and I met him the next morning. I came back to Hyderabad by train but that is another story. 

From a comment in Small world

Best male solos of 1948

"The SoY Award for the Best Male Playback Singer of 1948 goes to Mukesh. And the best song is Gaaye ja geet milan ke or Kabhi dil dil se takarata to hoga." says Songs of Yore

Thursday, September 21, 2017

From the preface of James C. Scott's new book

He started on this project in 2011 at the age of 75.
"Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States" by James C. Scott :

"Was I ever in for a surprise! The preparation for the lecture upset a great deal of what I thought I knew and exposed me to a host of new debates and findings that I realized I would have to put under my belt to do justice to the topic. The actual lectures, therefore, served more to register my astonishment at the amount of received wisdom that had to be thoroughly reexamined than to attempt that reexamination itself. Homi Bhabha, my host, selected three astute commentators—Arthur Kleinman, Partha Chatterjee, and Veena Das—who, in a seminar following the lectures, convinced me that my arguments were not remotely ready for prime time. Only five years later did I emerge with a draft that I thought was well founded and provocative."
Next paragraph:
"This book thus reflects my effort to dig deeper. It is still very much the work of an amateur. Though I am a card-carrying political scientist and an anthropologist and environmentalist by courtesy, this endeavor has required working at the junction of prehistory, archaeology, ancient history, and anthropology. Not having any particular expertise in any of these fields, I can justly be accused of hubris. My excuse—which may not amount to a justification—for trespassing is threefold. First, there is the advantage of the naïveté I bring to the enterprise! Unlike a specialist immersed in the closely argued debates in their fields, I began with most of the same unexamined assumptions about the domestication of plants and animals, of sedentism, of early population centers, and of the first states that those of us who have not been paying much attention to new knowledge of the past two decades or so are apt to have taken for granted. In this respect, my ignorance and subsequent wide-eyed surprise at how much of what I thought I knew was wrong might be an advantage in writing for an audience that starts out with the same misconceptions. Second, I have made a conscientious effort, as a consumer, to understand the recent knowledge and debates in biology, epidemiology, archaeology, ancient history, demography, and environmental history that bear on these issues. And finally, I bring a background of two decades trying to understand the logic of modern state power (Seeing Like a State) as well as the practices of nonstate peoples, especially in Southeast Asia, who have, until recently, evaded absorption by states (The Art of Not Being Governed)."

Noah Smith on why workers are loosing

Why workers are loosing to capitalists:
"In other words, the two most conventional explanations for rising inequality and falling wages might both be correct. A perfect storm of robots and free trade -- and some monopoly power to boot -- could be shifting power from the proletariat to the capitalists. With all these factors at work, maybe the real puzzle is why workers aren’t doing even worse than they are."

Education and poverty

Education Can't Solve Poverty—So Why Do We Keep Insisting That It Can? By Jennifer Berkshire ( via Chaitanya Diwadkar). Certiainly not overall but at an indicdual leve. As Kenneth Arrow said long ago : "In a system where virtually all resources are available for a price, economic power can be translated into political power by channels too obvious for mention. In a capitalist society, economic power is very unequally distributed, and hence democratic government is inevitably something of a sham.” 

An old interview Zbigniew Brzezinski

An old interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski
"Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [From the Shadows], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention." ( via Chaitanya Diwadkar's wall)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Michael Pettis on Chinese economy

"In fact, I would argue that “the end of China’s stellar growth story” has already occurred, and occurred quite a long time ago. Growth in the Chinese economy has collapsed, but growth in economic activity has not collapsed (let us assume, with Grenville, that somehow the reduction in GDP growth from over 10 percent to 6.5 percent does not represent a slowdown in economic activity). The growth in economic activity has instead been propped up by the acceleration in credit growth and by the failure to write down investments that have created economic activity without having created economic value. In that case, high GDP growth levels simply disguise the seeming collapse of underlying economic growth in a way that has happened many times before—always in the late stages of similar apparent investment-driven growth miracles." says Michael Pettis in Is China’s Economy Growing as Fast as China’s GDP? P.S. Michael Pettis mentions a book by Diane Coyle on GDP. Here is a Discussion With her about the book.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Before Piketty

Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson. From. Review by David Ruciman in 2011:
"The real beneficiaries of the explosion in income for top earners since the 1970s has been not the top 1 per cent but the top 0.1 per cent of the general population. Since 1974, the share of national income of the top 0.1 per cent of Americans has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 per cent of the total, a truly mind-boggling level of redistribution from the have-nots to the haves. Who are these people? As Hacker and Pierson note, they are ‘not, for the most part, superstars and celebrities in the arts, entertainment and sports. Nor are they rentiers, living off their accumulated wealth, as was true in the early part of the last century. A substantial majority are company executives and managers, and a growing share of these are financial company executives and managers.’"
The review is a review of two books, the other being 'Tax Havens' by Nicholas Shaxson and was posted before. Somehow this book did not draw much attention outside America.

Two new books reviewed by John Lanchester

How civilisation started by John Lanchester in The Newyorker
The two books are Against the grain:A deep history of the earliest states by James C. Scott, and
Affluence I thought abundance:The disappearing world of thebushmen by James Suzman
An excerpt
"When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease."

Monday, September 18, 2017

a longish article on chronic back pain

‘We always thought of it as acute pain that just goes on and on – and if chronic pain is just a continuation of acute pain, let’s fix the thing that caused the acute, and the chronic should go away,’ she said. ‘That has spectacularly failed. Now we think of chronic pain as a shift to another place, with different mechanisms, such as changes in genetic expression, chemical release, neurophysiology and wiring. We’ve got all these completely new ways of thinking about chronic pain. That’s the paradigm shift in the pain field.’ From 
Where pain lives :Fixing chronic back pain is possible only when patients understand how much it is produced by the brain, not the spine by Cathryn Ramon

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tariq Thachil on the rise of BJP in India

The social service wings of RSS played a big role in BJP's rise to power: Yale professor:
"Tariq Thachil, assistant professor of political science at Yale University, has the rare quality of making dry theory come alive with living, breathing examples from the always rich treasury of Indian politics. His first book, Elite Parties, Poor Voters: How Social Services Win Votes in India, explores the reasons for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s success among marginalised Indians. Thachil backs his research with empirical data to show how and why the BJP’s strategy worked. And perhaps because he grew up in India, his feel for the subject is natural and instinctive."

Pentagon spending on Syrian rebels

Revealed: The Pentagon Is Spending Up To $2.2 Billion on Soviet-Style Arms for Syrian Rebels
"[Patrick] Wilcken said that such a vast inflow of weaponry raised fears about the future of the Middle East.
“Given the very complex, fluid situation in Syria … and the existence of many armed groups accused of serious abuses,” he said, “it is difficult to see how the US could ensure arms sent to the region would not be misused.”"

Gulzar Natarajan revisits Piketty

Piketty, Price markups, and Houston floods:
"There are two ways to critique something which questions strongly held conventional wisdom. The honourable way is to question the core of the argument, and a less honourable way is to detract attention from the core issue by picking holes on incidentals. 

Consider three examples - Thomas Piketty's book highlighting the issue of rising incomes at the top of the ladder and widening inequality, a recent paper on rising markups in US businesses, and the Houston floods and the debate on zoning regulations in urban areas.

Take Piketty. Never mind that the primary takeaway from the book was the fact that inequality is  increasing alarmingly across the world, the right-wing critique of the book was focused on picking holes at Piketty's argument that the returns to capital was higher than economic growth, thereby increasing the incomes of the rich and widening inequality. No, they argued, capital, especially the modern information technology based ones, depreciates fast enough to offset any high returns. Or, that among all returns to capital, it is increases in property prices that forms the vast majority of wealth creation.

Sure, there are some policy implications based on what are drivers of widening inequality, but is it a necessity for taking action on the first order issue that incomes at the top of the ladder are rocketing up even as those of the overwhelming majority are stagnating or declining?

As to the debate about whether r > g, the recent work of Alan Taylor, Oscar Jorda, and Co, on the returns to property, equity, bond, and government bills for 16 countries for the 1870-2015 period is only a confirmation of Piketty's argument. I have not seen too many blogposts in Marginal Revolution on this or their extended work! "

Two Telugu film directors

Friday, September 15, 2017

On the nutrient decline in our vegetables

"In 2004, a landmark study of fruits and vegetables found that everything from protein to calcium, iron and vitamin C had declined significantly across most garden crops since 1950. The researchers concluded this could mostly be explained by the varieties we were choosing to grow.
Loladze and a handful of other scientists have come to suspect that’s not the whole story and that the atmosphere itself may be changing the food we eat.
What he found is that his 2002 theory—or, rather, the strong suspicion he had articulated back then—appeared to be borne out [Loladze in 2014 paper] Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average. The ratio of carbohydrates to minerals was going up. The plants, like the algae, were becoming junk food."
From The great nutrient collapse

Public choice theory

trying to find a bit about 'public choice theory', I came across this short article from The Ecomist
The voice of public choice :
"Public-choice economics assumes that government figures are merely human. They should be expected to look out for themselves rather than to act as saintly public stewards. It is a cynical (and, some might say, obvious) approach but a useful one. John Maynard Keynes may have been spot-on in concluding that big government deficits could boost a sagging economy. But Mr Buchanan reckoned such arguments led to a slow erosion of the “old-time fiscal religion” that taxes should be raised to meet government obligations. This made spending less politically costly, because politicians no longer felt under pressure to pair new spending with higher taxes. That, he rightly predicted, would lead to an era of persistent, big fiscal deficits and growing debt.
Public-choice analysis quickly provided the lens through which government action is now viewed. Legislators may “logroll”, for instance, striking deals with colleagues to pass measures that benefit small groups but are of dubious value to the general public. Governments are racked by “rent-seeking”, whereby firms aim to capture financial returns through special government privileges or monopoly rights. A construction company may spend its time lobbying for government contracts rather than courting private business, for example. That absorbs not only the resources of the firm eventually granted the privilege but also those of other firms competing for the same entitlement. As opportunities for rent-seeking expand, they siphon off resources from productive activities in the private sector and towards competition for government largesse. Public-choice theory counsels caution and care in expanding the role of the state."
From the Wikipedia article Public Choice:
"Buchanan and Tullock themselves outline methodological qualifications of the approach developed in their work The Calculus of Consent (1962), p. 30:
[E]ven if the model [with its rational self-interest assumptions] proves to be useful in explaining an important element of politics, it does not imply that all individuals act in accordance with the behavioral assumption made or that any one individual acts in this way at all times… the theory of collective choice can explain only some undetermined fraction of collective action. However, so long as some part of all individual behavior…is, in fact, motivated by utility maximization, and so long as the identification of the individual with the group does not extend to the point of making all individual utility functions identical, an economic-individualist model of political activity should be of some positive worth."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How to help Rohingya muslims

Another Snowden interview

There are different threads like this in the interview:
Snowden: I don't think a president alone has the capability to meaningfully damage the intelligence services. These groups are so well represented in Congress, in the media, in culture, in Hollywood. Some call it the deep state, but this is very much a pre-Trump thing. Donald Trump has nothing to do with the deep state. Donald Trump doesn't even know what the deep state is. The deep state is this class of career government officials that survive beyond administrations.
DER SPIEGEL: Isn't that just another conspiracy theory?
Snowden: I wish it was. Look at the election of Barack Obama, who by any measure at the time, people saw as a genuine man who wanted to pursue a reform to close Guantanamo, to end the mass surveillance of the time, to investigate Bush-era crimes and to do many other things. And within 100 days of taking office, he pivoted entirely on that promise and said, we are going to look forward not backward. The deep state realizes that while it may not elect the president, it can shape them very quickly -- and this is through the same means with which they shape us.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Vivekananda speech?

Narendra Modi and other stalwarts recommended this. I tried several times to read it. It does not matter where I start, it seems the same. A few times I started at the beginning. The only thing I could gather was that at one stage, he wanted to stop but the audience wanted more.
Swami Vivekananda’s speech at the Parliament of Religion, Chicago in 1893: Full text
I suspect that this is not one speech but various speeches at the conference put together. From the Wikipedia article Swami Vivekananda:in the section on the 'Parliament of world's religions',
 "According to Sailendra Nath Dhar, "[i]t was only a short speech, but it voiced the spirit of the Parliament."[104][105]
He spoke several more times "at receptions, the scientific section, and private homes"[101]on topics related to Hinduism, Buddhism and harmony among religions until the parliament ended on 27 September 1893. Vivekananda's speeches at the Parliament had the common theme of universality, emphasising religious tolerance.[109] He soon became known as a "handsome oriental" and made a huge impression as an orator.[110]"

A friend who is a monk in RK Mission confirms:
"yes of course i have read and am familiar with Vivekananda's speeches at Chicago. Actually it is as you suspect-- this is the collection of 6
separate speeches he delivered at Chicago in 1893 (starting 11 september). they are marked as 1, 2,...
their themes are different but have some overlap."
P.S. A comment from me Om Namit Arora's wall:
Anandaswarup Gadde I write this with some hesitation since I am an atheist and what little I read of SV writings, I could not understand and he seemed to be saying contradictory things. But I generally felt that he felt deeply about the misery in India and his main interest might have been service to Indians. I spent some time in Belur Math, one month each time, visiting the mathematics department of Vivekananda University. I stayed in the same building as some of the monks and interacted with them daily. There were some Moslem, Jewish, Christian monks but the majority were Hindu some of Hindutva type. I also visited their centre in Narendrapur and talked to some people who visited their other centres. It seemed to me that their mission was and is service and this goes back to SV. Though he was charismatic, it seems that he was not a great organiser and from the beginning left the organisational matters to others. My impression is that they are doing tremendous service, lot of which the government should be doing. I think RK Mission once went to court claiming they were not a Hindu organisation but lost the case. There are politics and Hindutva elements but overall, it seemed to have good and long track record of service to the country and the influence comes from SV.From another comment from the same wall "Seriously, if you are looking for role model in a religious figure then you get what you seek for."

A conversation with Gidla Sujatha

After a Facebook post of mine:
Gidla Sujatha Anandaswarup Gadde With the particular worldview I have it is evident. I am sure it would be easy to find proof.
Anandaswarup Gadde Having been wrong so many times, I still look for evidence.
Moreover, I distrust worldviews apart from very simple ones like 'Do unto others...'. I do not mind being in a minority even if it is a 'minority of one'.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I do not know the name of this flower

Image may contain: plant, flower, tree, outdoor and nature

Two to ponder about

The meaning of work in a sustainable society
The finacialization of life
But neither discusses education or how to prepare children for these futures. Or whether one likes some work after doing it for a while.

On maximising optionality

The trouble with optionality by Mihir Desai via Rohan Pavuluri
"The shortest distance between two points is reliably a straight line. If your dreams are apparent to you, pursue them. Creating optionality and buying lottery tickets are not way stations on the road to pursuing your dreamy outcomes. They are dangerous diversions that will change you."

Monday, September 11, 2017

Donkey milk

From the Wikipedia article:
"Published data on donkey milk gross composition confirm the closer resemblance to breast milk for lactose, protein and ash levels when compared with cow, sheep and goat milk.[11] Despite the high lactose content of donkey milk the average fat content is lower for this purpose, when used in infant nutrition, donkey milk is usually supplemented with vegetal oil (4 mL 100 mL−1 milk) to conform to human milk energy[12"

Sunday, September 10, 2017

More on Gauri Lankesh

Who is afraid of Gauri Lankesh?:
"But even her closest friends and family worry that she may have pushed the limits – in hindsight, somewhat dangerously. “I always tried telling her you cannot be a liberal reactionary. It is an oxymoron. She would shout at everything. I would tell her, shouting and not building an alternative narrative is walking into a trap,” says Srinivasaraju. In turn, Gauri would say there were already others taking nuanced positions and that she had to take the strident ones. “I said you can do it, but use a language that will not rile people. Talk a different language,” says Sugata. Gauri’s sister Kavitha says, “We tried to hold her back. Don’t go overboard, we told her. But we had seen our father, who was such a firebrand, who could make/break governments by what he wrote. He never faced any violence. He had his critics but no one could think of coming up to him and shooting him down. This is how intolerant we have become.”
Virago, not martyr - The importance of Gauri Lankesh by Mukul Kesavan:
"In death, Gauri Lankesh has become a lightning rod for the anxiety that this violence induces. We don't know why some people become causes and not others. Anti-semitism was rife in France's civil and military establishments well before the Dreyfus affair and yet it was Captain Alfred Dreyfus's wrongful conviction and Émile Zola's famous indictment that made it a cause célèbre. There is no bias or injustice to this; history is a contingent business, not an equal opportunity tribunal. It helps the cause if the person being memorialized is as brave and true as Gauri Lankesh but even if it had been someone less worthy, his death or hers would still have borne witness to an existential menace that threatens the Republic and could consume us all."
More links to other recent writings about her 

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Tim Taylor on MENA countries

Why it won't go away soon

Manual scavenging:The struggle to stay out of pits
"In the longer run, activists fear, India might witness an increase rather than a decrease in the number of manual scavengers. Under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has talked about building over 100 million new toilets in rural areas alone by 2019. “In the absence of sanitation facilities for these toilets, who do you think will end up cleaning these?” Wilson asks."

The latest from Andrew Korybko on Rohingya crisis

The Rohingya Crisis: Conflict Scenarios And Reconciliation Proposals by Andrew Korybko
Check also his general pro Russian views, he sees some hope in Russia for a multipolar world, from this interview

A Gauri Lankesh story

Rationalist with a cause, rebel without a pause
 "When it became known three weeks ago that K. Ramdas had been stricken by cancer, Gauri Lankesh wrote a warm piece in her weekly tabloid newspaper Lankesh wishing him well. Through three simple anecdotes, Gauri captured the inherent rebeliousness of the man which did not spare his guru, his friend, or his disciple."

Friday, September 08, 2017

A new introductory economics course

A new paradigm for the introductory course in economics
Links to a downloadable version of the text posted before

Interviews with Barry Lynn and Andrew Korybko

“A Slow, Creeping Consolidation of Power by Big Money Over Think Tanks in the United States”
Are there any alternatives?
Interview with Andrew Korybko :"I’m attracted to Russia not only because of my familial connection with the country, but actually mostly because it’s the only state that has the capability of firmly standing up to the US and supporting the ideas that I believe in, particularly multipolarity."

Balaknama, street children newspaper from Delhi

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Rohingya problems

A long report rom December 2016 Munamar: A new Muslim insurgency in Rakhine State from
"The insurgent group, which refers to itself as Harakah al-Yaqin (Faith Movement, HaY), is led by a committee of Rohingya émigrés in Saudi Arabia and is commanded on the ground by Rohingya with international training and experience in modern guerrilla war tactics. It benefits from the legitimacy provided by local and international fatwas (religious judicial opinions) in support of its cause and enjoys considerable sympathy and backing from Muslims in northern Rakhine State, including several hundred locally trained recruits.
The emergence of this well-organised, apparently well-funded group is a game-changer in the Myanmar government’s efforts to address the complex challenges in Rakhine State, which include longstanding discrimination against its Muslim population, denial of rights and lack of citizenship. The current use of disproportionate military force in response to the attacks, which fails to adequately distinguish militants from civilians, together with denial of humanitarian assistance to an extremely vulnerable population and the lack of an overarching political strategy that would offer them some hope for the future, is unlikely to dislodge the group and risks generating a spiral of violence and potential mass displacement."
Report from Moon of Alabama which suggests stronger relations to international conflicts.
From the moments, there are several reports like this American plan for a South Asian “Kosovo” in Rohingyaland (II) Third part in a four part series by the same author From Part 4 of the series:
"The “Rohingya” Run-Up
To summarize, the gist of the matter is that the reemergence of Bengali “Rohingya”-related violence (whether perpetrated by and/or against this group) could be used as the grounds for staging a multilateral international invasion of Rakhine State for the purpose of carving out a “Kosovo”-like ‘protectorate’. There are a variety of ways in which the international (Western) media could manipulate any forthcoming violence there as a means of painting the Muslim Bengali “Rohingyas” as innocent ‘sacrificial lambs’ that are facing ‘genocide’ at the hands of out-of-control Buddhist Rakhine mobs (whether in fact, perception, or a blend thereof). Complementary to that, they could also overemphasize any economically motivated large-scale human flows from the area as a “refugee crisis” in order to ‘prove’ their assertion and precondition the global public into accepting their narrative, which appears to be what they tried to do with the “Rohingya refugee crisis” of summer 2015 and the one that they’re hintingcould also happen (likely on command) later this year as well."
Check also Kofi Annan recommendations 

Two about Gauri Lankesh

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Long read on neoliberalism

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world by Stephen Metcalf:
"What can’t be quantified must not be real, says the economist [Hayek], and how do you measure the benefits of the core faiths of the enlightenment – namely, critical reasoning, personal autonomy and democratic self-government? When we abandoned, for its embarrassing residue of subjectivity, reason as a form of truth, and made science the sole arbiter of both the real and the true, we created a void that pseudo-science was happy to fill."

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

What is education for ?

Madhukar Shukla posted this article from around 1970 What is education for? And a quote from it :
"The plain fact is that the planet does not need more "successful" people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it..."
Unfortunately, we are caught up in a system of measurable outcomes. Towards the end of her book 'Cleverlands', Lucy Crehan says while discussing the Canadian system of education:
"It is a sad but unavoidable truth in most developed systems (though Finland seems to be an exception) that unless desired outcomes are measured in some way, they are not prioritised by governments. There are logical reasons for this (I hesitate to use the word ‘good’): that when taxpayers’ money is spent on public education, they have a right to see that their money is being used effectively. But when important things are left out, we either need to move away from such an audited system, or embrace the attempt to measure these skills so that they don’t get sidelined."
One system which has to some extent escaped this criterion is some of the religious Deras which unfortunately have been exploited for the personal gains of the religious teachers ( always disputed by their followers) like Satya Saibaba, and used by politicians. May be one answer is to debpvelop mote Deras of a good kind.

Alternatives to dollar

BRICS countries considering own cryptocurrency as settlement mechanism :
While there is a focus on settlements in national currencies, cryptocurrencies are also being discussed as one of the possible settlement mechanisms," Dmitriev explained.

A different take on Rohingya problems

Monday, September 04, 2017

Stickiness of cities

“RESETTING THE URBAN NETWORK,” G. MICHAELS & F. RAUCH (2017) and discussion in MR French cities are Roman sites rather than by the sea Some quotes:
"Here is the amazing fact: today, 16 of France’s 20 largest cities are located on or near a Roman town, while only 2 of Britain’s 20 largest are. This difference existed even back in the Middle Ages. So who cares? Well, Britain’s cities in the middle ages are two and a half times more likely to have coastal access than France’s cities, so that in 1700, when sea trade was hugely important, 56% of urban French lived in towns with sea access while 87% of urban Brits did. This is even though, in both countries, cities with sea access grew faster and huge sums of money were put into building artificial canals. Even at a very local level, the France/Britain distinction holds: when Roman cities were within 25km of the ocean or a navigable river, they tended not to move in France, while in Britain they tended to reappear nearer to the water. The fundamental factor for the shift in both places was that developments in shipbuilding in the early middle ages made the sea much more suitable for trade and military transport than the famous Roman Roads which previously played that role.
With cities, coordinating on the new productive location is harder. In France, Michaels and Rauch suggest that bishops and the church began playing the role of a provider of public goods, and that the continued provision of public goods in certain formerly-Roman cities led them to grow faster than they otherwise would have. Indeed, Roman cities in France with no bishop show a very similar pattern to Roman cities in Britain: general decline. "
The thrust of the article seems to be:
"I loved this case study, and appreciate the deep dive into history that collecting data on urban locations over this period required. But the implications of this literature broadly are very worrying. Much of the developed world has, over the past forty years, pursued development policies that are very favorable to existing landowners. This has led to stickiness which makes path dependence more important, and reallocation toward more productive uses less likely, both because cities cannot shift their geographic nature and because people can’t move to cities that become more productive. We ought not artificially wind up like Dijon and Chartres in the middle ages, locking our population into locations better suited for the economy of the distant past."

A suicide foretold?

""The appointment of Nirmala Sitharaman as defence minister need not also be confused with the issue of women's empowerment where so much more needs to be done in India, especially at the grassroots. Take the tragic suicide of 17-year-old Anitha, a coolie's daughter who topped from Trichinopoly district the Tamil Nadu state school board exams, scoring 1,176 out of a maximum of 1,200 marks, maxing her physics and maths papers. However, despite achieving a cut-off of 196 out of 200, she could not get admission to a medical college because she did not do well in the Supreme Court-mandated NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test).. 
Politicians of all parties have mourned Anitha's death. While noting that students who have passed the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) exam have an advantage when it comes to NEET since it is more aligned with their syllabus, some politicians have made the obvious point that it is difficult for a coolie's daughter who always wanted to be a daughter (doctor?) to pay for coaching classes to crack NEET.  
Surely, the Tamil Nadu government, which has a plethora of social-welfare schemes (Amma canteens, Amma pharmacies, et al), could have set up at least one coaching centre in each district to help toppers from poor families crack exams like NEET for medical colleges, JEE for the IITs and CAT for the IIMs, not to mention the annual UPSC exams for the civil services.  "
From View: Nirmala Sitharaman as defence minister is neither best choice nor women's empowerment
Background of Anitha: "Medical college admissions in Tamil Nadu were conducted solely based on the Plus Two examination marks until last year. Though the Central government introduced NEET last year, Tamil Nadu was exempted from it. This year too, the State government sought exemption and the Legislative Assembly passed amendments to continue the existing practice in medical college admissions.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier said the Central government would support Tamil Nadu's ordinance, but in the Supreme Court the Centre changed its stand. The Supreme Court on August 22 directed the Tamil Nadu government to complete counselling process for medical admissions in the State on the basis of the NEET merit list by September 4."
A story from ten years ago 'Chronicle of a suicide foretold' my Mrinal Pande in her collection of articles The other country :Dispatches from Moffusil by Mrinal Pande:
"On 22 October 2007, a twenty-two-year-old second-year B.Tech student of the IEC Engineering College, NOIDA, hanged himself. The suicide note Brijesh Kumar left behind in the room he shared with another student in Tughlakpur village said that he was doing this because he could not cope with the courses being taught in English and did not want to burden his family with paying another hefty amount towards special coaching classes in English. Social and educational aspirations which had brought this young man from Jaunpur to the national capital region are very much a part of middle-class life everywhere in India today. But the inequalities within our education system, between the private, English-medium schools on the one hand and the Hindi (or vernacular-medium) state-run schools on the other, mean that although all parents want the best for their children—as no doubt Brajesh Kumar’s parents did—the children, when they enter the campus, find that some ‘bests’ will remain better and less accessible to them only for the lack of required linguistic skills."
P.S. Ckeck also Imposing NEET on Tamil Nadu Could Damage the State’s Model Education System

Even remote corners affected by global economy

Odisha villagers grow back their forest:
"Women of this western Odisha district have traditionally forayed into forests nearby for harvesting leaves of the creeper called siali to augment a much-needed income. But now that the demand for siali leaves, biodegradable plates made of which are replacing plastic, has grown rapidly in international markets, especially in Europe, villagers here have begun growing siali and other produce with a longer-term view of harnessing dividends from their sale."

Growth states in India

A tale two Indias "One part of that effort was visible on August 28th when the NITI Aayog—in collaboration with the IDFC Institute, a private think-tank based in Mumbai—released Ease of Business: An Enterprise Survey of Indian States. The report plumbs the responses of companies—3,326 manufacturing enterprises spread across all states and UTs (except Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands). The picture that emerges is of ‘two Indias’, one a high-growth part of the country in the western region and a sprinkling of states here and there (Bihar is one example), and the other, a low-growth zone that lags in terms of economic output, productivity and, crucially, in fixing the policy environment needed to attract investment."
From the NITI referred to the growth states are Tsmil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat with old Andhra Pradesh a distant second.

More than twenty scholars involved in a new economics book

Innovation in economics pedagogy and publishing by Rajiv Sethi: "It's the culmination of an extraordinary journey that began almost five years ago, when Wendy Carlin of UCL contacted me about joining an initiative that eventually led to the CORE Project. Our first major accomplishment is a new book, The Economy, produced simultaneously for digital and print:"

Friday, September 01, 2017

Table tennis and walking for old people

Old friends Andrew Ranicki and Jo Marks in 1977

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor
I met both in 1968, Jo in Liverpool and Andrew in Cambridge. They were classmates earlier. For some reason both had unjustified confidence in me.
Jo Marks on the right, friend and more like a younger brother since 1968. He paid the deposit for my current house and refused to take it back. I am still trying and he is not broke yet. Jo was ph.d. Student in mathematics when I landed in Liverpool in 1968 and helped me understand the work of CT.C. Wall, his advisor, when I was struggling to understand. Soon it was used to settle some famous conjectures bu R.Kirby and L.Siebenmann. Jo shifted to publishing and later computers and started a company called Harlequin over his garage. It grew and in a few years he employed over 400 people around the world. But he was spending more than half the earnings in research and development and the company became easy pickings for a take over. Their products are still used around the world. He is back to meditating about mathematics and politics.
 Andrew was partly responsible for my going to IAS, Princeton. I applied in a very haphazard way. Apparently Andrew saw it and wrote a letter on my behalf without asking and probably helped in other ways. His wife Ida helped us in learning driving. I did not do much else in Princeton or for a few years later. My most satisfactory work has been in Melbourne after the age of 55 mainly with another Liverpool contact Peter Scott.