Sunday, August 31, 2014

Daniel Little on incareceration in America

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the criminal justice system is an important component of the system of race in the United States today." says Dan Little.
At one time, there were profit aspects too "The end of the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment threatened to undo Texas’s sugarcane industry.
Foreign sugar imports were still subject to a steep duty, and American growers sometimes enjoyed subsidies. But profits would be severely diminished by the abolition of cheap forced labor. The problem was solved, though, during the early days of Reconstruction.
First, the Texas legislature introduced laws aimed at incarcerating freed slaves and their early descendants. Vagrancy laws were a favorite, but black men could be imprisoned for a host of frivolous reasons. You could do a nickel for stealing blackberries off a bush. The first series of laws—known as the Black Codes—was overturned by the federal government, but the practice of mass incarceration continued by a more localized, less visible, fiat.
Once incarcerated, the prisoners were leased to large agricultural corporations, which put them to work in the cane. " from Ground down to molasses: The Making of an American folk song.
To some extent that continued with the privitization of the prison system "The federal indictment says the two judges accepted $2.8 million in kickbacks from the owner and builder of two privately-run juvenile detention facilities. In exchange, the judges agreed to close down the county’s own juvenile detention center, which would have competed with the new, privately-run facilities. In addition they guaranteed that juvenile offenders from their court would be directed to the privately-run facilities." from an article in The Christian Science Monitor

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lisa Mitchell on mother tongue

Just finished reading 'Language, emotion and politics in South India: The making of a mother tonuge' by Lisa Mitchell (suggested by Paruchuri Sreenivas). In the middle I was turned off since some of the statements seemed to be over the top and some based on scant single author evidence. But now I think that it is a very interesting book with a number of ideas new to me and worth investgating more thorouhly. A review of the book by Rama Sundari Mantena here. Here is an interesting video about Telugu of a particular caste group kammas in Tamilnadu (via J.K.Mohana Rao):

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A dance inspired by an FDR speech

'The Forgotten man' speech trancript The dance from The Gold Diggers 1933
Two write ups about the dance and speech from The Sheila Variations and

Buddy Bradley remembered

A short biography"Buddy Bradley was one of the great, unsung geniuses of stage and screen choreography in America and England. He was recognized throughout the entertainment community in New York during the late ’20s and early ’30s, but — because he was black — was never acknowledged in public for any of his work in the United States, even though he trained and devised dances for a generation of screen legends.......... his other clients in the late ’20s included Eleanor Powell, Ruby Keeler, Fred Astaire, and Adele Astaire, who danced a Bradley-choreographed number in the 1929 Ziegfeld Follies. He also revised and re-staged all of the dances used in the Greenwich Village Follies of 1928, but he got no public credit for his work — the man who did take the creative bows was the original choreographer Busby Berkeley, who parlayed the recognition that he received in this and other theatrical productions into a renowned Hollywood career."
and a video

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


My vague memory of Bhairavi is a wake up god song ( from Vipranarayana (1954); but it seems that it is Bhupali. It is also supposed to be the favourite raga of Shanker-Jaikishen and used by them in several songs. Here is a video about their adoption of the raga but it starts with an Egyptian song by Asmahan which is close to 'ghar aya mera pardesi' from Awara
A list of Hindi film sons based on Bhairavi here and a Telugu article on Bhairavi by Kodavatianti Rohiniprsad

Zach Stafford's story

I am black, my brother is white...and he's a cop who shot a black man on duty "My white brother isn’t a racist – and he didn’t intentionally kill that man because he was black – but that’s not the point. In his case – in Ferguson and in so many other cases – we see the deaths of unarmed black men as “accidents”. And until the day we all recognize them as casualties of something much bigger, we will continue to see black men dead on the news.
We will continue to see brothers killing brothers."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

GMO research on food

Recently there is a put down of Vandana Siva in New Yorker by Michael Specter and a defence in Counterpunch. I have not read any thing by Vandana Shiva though I heard that she won some biopiracy battles. I usually read Glenn Davis Stone and Sunita Narain on GM foods and sustainable development issues. These are very technical matters and perhaps take long term trials on efficency as well as their side effects. Generally those who object to quick introduction of these technoloies are being termed anti-science. Stone has written about the battles on GM cotton in India "The NGO reciprocal authentication system, with its sometimes dubious claims and disregard for peer review, irritates many scholars and policymakers and leads to a fetishising of journal standards that have their own flaws. The industry-journal authentication system, with its myopic view of Bt as a readily isolatable technological tweak and its cosy alliance between GM manufacturers and ostensibly independent researchers,encourages many to seek out the more critical perspectives offered by NGOs. Therefore demand for both narratives will persist and both authentication systems will continue to entitle both sides in the GM debates to “their own facts”"
GM corn and soybeans are supposed to be the most successful versions of GM technology and have been widely planted. Now even these have proved problematic and there are some bans in Mexico and Europe, here, here and here. I am sure that science research including GMO research is important and will play a part in future food security but introducing them in a hurry does not seem to address the concern of many.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Links, Auuat 25, 2014

 NY Review of Books The Hi-Tech Mess of Higher EducationI doubt whether there is one university system to fit all, possibly different systems where a student can choose one or a comination will come about.
The usual problems with institutionalization "“Getting funding is a game. To play the game you need to have a good track record of publications and to do that you need to publish pretty safe stuff that isn’t controversial,” says Professor Graves.
Dr Fahrer agrees. “The people you’re dealing with are extremely bright and their careers depend on it so of course they’ll game it.
“A hundred years ago, you only published if you had something spectacular. Now, most of the research is incremental. Instead of publishing one huge story, you slice it up and publish it in bits. Obviously each bit isn’t as interesting as the whole story put together.”
It’s a practice known as breaking one’s research into the ‘‘lowest publishable unit’’. To counter it, research bodies evaluate performance in part by the number of times papers are cited in other journal articles, but this too can be gamed, says Professor Clark.
“If you’re in a big [research] institute, you can pee in each other’s pockets. You can have an arrangement whereby you cite each other in each other’s research publications.”
In recent years, both the NHMRC and the ARC have moved away from assessing researchers based on publication volume. But incentives to churn out low impact papers remain in the system." from 'Publish or Perish' diminishing scientific returns in Sydney Mornibg Harold
Lesbians know the secret of best orgasms from an American survey.  Abstract of the paper on which the article is based. I could not find a similar survey about India but a book review from 2006 says 'In India there is virtually no lesbian theorisin'
Richard Attenborough obituary from BBC News "His greatest achievement was his 1982 epic Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley as the outsider hero whose moral courage and sense of purpose enabled him to change the world.....Gandhi won eight Oscars, including best actor and best director. But it took Attenborough 20 years to raise the money to make it.
He mortgaged his house, sold possessions and took roles in films he described as "terrible crap" to help pay for what became an obsession."Possibly from those twenty years, he makes a brief appearence in 'The 'Cent per Cent' Gandhian' by Sheila Dhar (in Raga'n Josh).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Murray Bookchin, Abdullah Ocalan and Social Ecology

From Bookchin, Ocalan, and the dialectics of democracy by Janet Biehl:
"But Öcalan, in the same 2004 work (In Defense of the People), also sends a contradictory message about the state: “It is not true, in my opinion, that the state needs to be broken up and replaced by something else.” It is “illusionary to reach for democracy by crushing the state.”  Rather, the state can and must become smaller, more limited in scope. Some of its functions are necessary: for example, public security, social security and national defense. The confederal democracy’s congresses should solve problems “that the state cannot solve single-handedly.”  A limited state can coexist with the democracy “in parallel.”[32]

This contradiction seems to have bedeviled Öcalan himself, who admits in seeming exasperation, “The state remains a Janus-faced phenomenon.”  I sense that the issue remains ambiguous for him, and understandably so.  Insightfully, he observes that “our present time is an era of transition from state to democracy. In times of transition, the old and the new often exist side by side.”[33]

Bookchin’s communalist movement never got as far, in practical terms, as Öcalan’s has, but if it had, he would surely have faced the same problem.  The concept of a transitional program, which Bookchin invoked in such occasions, may be useful here.  He used to distinguish between the minimum program (reforms on specific issues), the transitional program (like Öcalan’s), and the maximum program (socialism, a stateless assembly democracy). That distinction has a revolutionary pedigree—Murray used to credit it to Trotsky. It’s a way to retain a commitment to your long-term goals and principles while dealing in the real, nonrevolutionary world."
See also Biehl breaks with social ecology

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Timothy Gowers on Field Medal winners

Official accounts here. Here is the one on Manjul Bhargava. He has so far written also about Avila and Hairer. I like the way Gowers writes. Even for a mathematician of his calibre, the view of other areas is impressionastic. From the one on Hairer:
"...Hairer studied stochastic PDEs. As I understand it, an important class of stochastic PDEs is conventional PDEs with a noise term added, which is often some kind of Brownian motion term.
Unfortunately, Brownian motion can’t be differentiated, but that isn’t by itself a huge problem because it can be differentiated if you allow yourself to work with distributions. However, while distributions are great for many purposes, there are certain things you can’t do with them — notably multiply them together.
Hairer looked at a stochastic PDE that modelled a physical situation that gives rise to a complicated fractal boundary between two regions. I think the phrase “interface dynamics” may have been one of the buzz phrases here. The naive approach to this stochastic PDE led quickly to the need to multiply two distributions together, so it didn’t work. So Hairer added a “mollifier” — that is, he smoothed the noise slightly. Associated with this mollifier was a parameter \epsilon: the smaller \epsilon was, the less smoothing took place. So he then solved the smoothed system, let \epsilon tend to zero, showed that the smoothed solutions tended to a limit, and defined that limit to be the solution of the original equation.
The way I’ve described it, that sounds like a fairly obvious thing to do, so what was so good about it?"
One of the comments "I am not an expert on this, but I’ve heard that the renormalization procedure using mollifiers results in some limit which is actually not a solution of the original equation (otherwise, it sounds too easy). It is a solution of some modified equation. Then you repeat this procedure and miraculously the process stabilizes after a finite number of steps (five, six?), and that is when you get the solution of the original equation. The fact that the process terminates in finitely many steps is a miracle that has something to do (philosophically, or technically?) with wavelets, since something of this sort happens in wavelets. "

Mathematicians do not seem to think that diferently from others.

Interesting discussion on Krugman's 'Why we fight'

in Economist's View , lot of it about Ukraine.  Krugman's post itself seemed a bit silly to me but some of the comments in the discussion are interesting.  Bakho at 7.02 AM:

"The West wants to always blame Putin and Russia. The Neocons who helped engineer the overthrow and the Intolerant Ukrainian nationalists deserve most of the blame. Their attempts at ethnic and economic domination of East Ukraine by the West is the catalyst for the unrest. You would never know it if you only listen to the Necon controlled US media. Putin is no Saint, but he could not cause trouble if there were not real fear of the Ukrainian nationalists by ethnic Russian. They are willing to bomb ethnic Russian civilians there own people that they want to govern. That says what kind of government they are."

Bakho at 7.11 AM:
"A big problem with political analysis is its narrow focus on the big powers Putin and his Russian Mafia Vs the US and its Neocons. No one is focused on the people who live in the region and just want to live in peace and desire a government committed to justice.
Our media dismisses the ethnic tensions altogether so there is no context for understanding the situation.
What do the residents of East Ukraine want? Why is the government bombing them to get at the rebels rather than negotiating?"
And more comments about China, Argentina,  apparent intent of Krugman's article, ....

Some of the oldest Ajanta murals revealed

writes William Dalrymple in The Guardian " [Manager]Singh has uncovered the oldest paintings of Indian faces – with the exception of a few prehistorical pictograms of stick men and animals left by paleolithic hunters in the wilds of Madhya Pradesh. They are also the oldest Buddhist paintings in existence, dating from only 300 years after the death of the Buddha.
More exciting still, this earliest phase of work is not just very old, but very fine indeed and painted in a quite different style, and using markedly different techniques to that used in the rest of Ajanta. The murals of caves nine and 10 represent nothing less than the birth of Indian painting......
Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the people in these murals is that they appear so familiar. Two thousand years after they were painted these faces convey with penetrating immediacy the character of the different sitters: the alert guard, the king caught in the excitement of the hunt, the obedient son fetching water. Indeed, so contemporary are the features that you have to keep reminding yourself that these sitters are not from our world, they are depictions of a court that vanished from these now bare hills more than two millennia ago. 
Yet these are self-evidently the same people who inhabit western India today: looking at these images you cannot help but feel the great distance of time separating them from us; and yet we find in their eyes an emotional immediacy that is at once comprehensible. While the glass coverings were being removed to allow the photography for this piece, the guards joked among themselves about which painted figure looked most like which guard. "
More in the articles by Manager Singh and Balasahrb Arbad Chemistry of preservation of Ajanta Murals
and Conservation and restoration research on 2nd BCE murals of Ajanta. The second article has a couple of before and after restoration pictures. The first article has some photos of 1919 paintings of the muralsw.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Amitav Kumar in two Musahars

"If India breaks your heart with untold inequalities, it also surprises you with the unheralded achievements of its most humble citizensOne such man was Dashrath Manjhi, from a village close to the chief minister’sHe died in 2007. This other Manjhi, who was also a Musahar, was an ordinary villager who accomplished an extraordinary feat: over the course of twenty-two years, Dashrath Manjhi carved a road through a stone mountain, a distance about 360 feet long and 30 feet wide.Manjhi told me that when others assumed the office of the chief minister in Bihar, they went to temples and thanked GodBut in his own case, he had gone to Dashrath Manjhi’s village and garlanded his statue." from The story of Jitan Ram Manjhi, from rat-eater to Bihar chief minister (via Chapati Mystery timeline)

Jashua Gans on responses to automation

Script here
Check also Jashua Gans response ""There are, however, two important differences. First, unlike the horses, the humans are also useful as consumers....But there is another mechanism which goes back to the title of this post. The presumption is always that the bourgeoisie rather than the proletariat owns the machines." 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Marikana anniversary

Glenn Greenwald's handling of Snowden files

From an article by James Bamford "Last year, Greenwald found himself unable to open the encryption on a large trove of secrets from GCHQ—the British counterpart of the NSA—that Snowden had passed to him. So he sent his longtime partner, David Miranda, from their home in Rio to Berlin to get another set from Poitras. But in making the arrangements, The Guardian booked a transfer through London. Tipped off, probably as a result of GCHQ surveillance, British authorities detained Miranda as soon as he arrived and questioned him for nine hours. In addition, an external hard drive containing 60 gigabits of data—about 58,000 pages of documents—was seized. Although the documents had been encrypted using a sophisticated program known as True Crypt, the British authorities discovered a paper of Miranda’s with the password for one of the files, and they were able to decrypt about 75 pages. (Greenwald has still not gained access to the complete GCHQ documents.)"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A comment from my timeline

Actually my studies are sort of coming to an end. About ten years ago, I retired early to understand some thing about poverty and development. I have (or imagine that I have) some hints and am beginning to feel that, given human nature, it will never go away. I have been repeating myself without getting any further. May be time to go back to mathematics. Rao gave me a cap once with the message "Don't follow me; I am lost too."

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Russia and sanctions

Illargi writes "The EU and US instigated, financed and supporetd the Maidan movement, installed their very own handpicked government in Kiev, established an army aimed at eradicating all signs of discontent among Russian speaking Ukrainians in east Ukraine, with crucial parts played by CIA, Blackwater and various other mercenaries, blamed Putin for the downing of a plane without providing any evidence whatsoever of his involvement, announced a second series of economic sanctions on Russia, and then claim Russia has no reasons at all to announce its own set of counter sanctions.
It would be funny if it weren’t so out there."
The Saker writes "... Russia used these sanctions to do something vital for the Russian economy.  Let me explain: after the collapse of the USSR the Russian agriculture was in disarray, and the Eltsin only made things worse.  Russian farmers simply could not compete against advanced western agro-industrial concerns which benefited from huge economies of scale, from expensive and high-tech chemical and biological research, which had a full chain of production (often through large holdings), and a top quality marketing capability.  The Russian agricultural sector badly, desperately, needed barriers and tariffs to be protected form the western capitalist giants and, instead, Russia voluntarily abided by the terms of the WTO and then eventually became member.  Now Russia is using this total embargo to provide a crucially needed time for the Russian agriculture to invest and take up a much bigger share on the Russian market.  Also, keep in mind that Russian products are GMO-free, and that they have much less preservatives, antibiotics, colors, taste enhancers, or pesticides.  And since they are local, they don't need to be brought in by using the kind of refrigeration/preservation techniques which typically make products taste like cardboard.  In other words, Russian agricultural products taste much better, but that is not enough to complete.  This embargo now gives them a powerful boost to invest, develop and conquer market shares."
As Keynes said long ago  in Globalization and Self-Sufficiency "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.
For these strong reasons, therefore, I am inclined to the belief that a greater measure of national self-sufficiency and economic isolation among countries may tend to serve the cause of peace, rather than otherwise."

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Two songs Suraiya Multanikar

More on Water management

One of the best parts of Rana Dasgupta's 'Capital' is the last chapter 'Abstract' where durin walk Anupam Mishra explains the ancient water management practices in Delhi and how the whole sysyem was subverted unconsciously by the British when they started the new systen of water supply through the pipe and tap system lot of the rest of the book was rubbing shoulders with the rich of neoliberal persuasion tryin to build their empires). Unfortunately this part does not seem available online but there are some interviews with Anupam Mishra and his study of water manaement in Rajasthan. Here is one interview Rural distress, urban greed: Interview with Anupam Mishra and a short write up about him. There are many more in Hindi on YouTube and some via India Waterportal. Here is a Ted talk by Anupam Mishra:

Water and sewage

"The way suburban development usually works is that a town lays the pipes, plumbing, and infrastructure for housing development—often getting big loans from the government to do so—and soon after a developer appears and offers to build homes on it. Developers usually fund most of the cost of the infrastructure because they make their money back from the sale of the homes. The short-term cost to the city or town, therefore, is very low: it gets a cash infusion from whichever entity fronted the costs, and the city gets to keep all the revenue from property taxes. The thinking is that either taxes will cover the maintenance costs, or the city will keep growing and generate enough future cash flow to cover the obligations. But the tax revenue at low suburban densities isn’t nearly enough to pay the bills; in Marohn’s estimation, property taxes at suburban densities bring in anywhere from 4 cents to 65 cents for every dollar of liability. Most suburban municipalities, he says, are therefore unable to pay the maintenance costs of their infrastructure, let alone replace things when they inevitably wear out after twenty to twenty-five years. The only way to survive is to keep growing or take on more debt, or both. “It is a ridiculously unproductive system,” he says." from an article in Time by Lee Gallagher (via Ramarao Kanneganti).
 Sunita Narain writes about similar problems with cities: "Take water, sewage, mobility or air pollution. The current model of resource management, developed in rich Western cities, is costly. It cannot be afforded by all. Even these cities cannot rebuild the paraphernalia for providing services to their people. This system was built years ago, when the city had funds and grew gradually with recurring, high investment. Even if we were to build greenfield cities, we cannot wish for such investment. We need a new approach to humane urban growth.

The first principle in this is to accept that we have to renew what already exists. Take water, for example. Our cities have been built to optimise on the available resources. They were smart in building lakes and ponds to harvest every drop of rain. This ensured that the city recharged its water table and did not face floods every time it rained. We need to revive that system. It may not be adequate to meet the growing needs of the city, but will cut costs by reducing the length of the pipeline and bring down distribution losses."
Rahul Banerjee's ideas and work in this direction:
That was from a few years ago ( a link was posted in 2007). A more recent one from India Waterportal
Here is a long manuscript by Rahul Banerjee about water and sewagw management in Indore.

Gaza tunnels

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Doubtful assertion

I have only read bits and pieces of Marx and about him but this does not seem right to me "I take Karl Marx's Guiding Idea to be this: One of the strangest features of human existence is that we are oppressed by things that we have created; but anything that is created by humans can ultimately be transformed by us, once we see through its apparently alien character and recognize it as a human creation, so as to be liberating rather than oppressive."  from Karl Marx's Guiding Idea

Monday, August 04, 2014

Travels of a Telugu folk song

From M.L.Narasimham in The Hindu "The tune for ‘Yeruvaaka saagaaro ranno chinnanna’ was inspired by the folk song ‘Ayyo Koyyoda…’ popularised by singer-lyricist Valluri Jagannatha Rao. It was first used in Sri Lakshmamma Katha (1950) for ‘Ayyo pilloda cheetiki maatiki chittemmantav’ sung by Jikki. Tamil music director G. Ramanathan borrowed the ‘Yeruvaka saagaaro…’ tune for ‘Summa kidantha sothuku nashtam’ rendered by Jikki and P. Leela in Madurai Veeran. For the film’s Telugu dubbed version,Sahasaveerudu, Jikki and P. Susheela sang the song, ‘Somarulaithe thindiki nashtam.’ Interestingly,Madurai Veeran was released on April 13, 1956, and three weeks later, Saradhi’s Kaalam Maaripochi, the Tamil version of Rojulu Maaraayi, starring Gemini Ganesh and Anjali Devi, was released. The Tamil audience were under the mistaken impression that ‘Yerupooti povaye anne sinnanne’ shot on Waheeda Rehman had been lifted from Madurai Veeran!"
Early Telugu versions here, this site has also links to other interestin Telugu songs.
The Two Hindi versions Rang dil ki Dhadkan from Patang 1960, Dekhne Mein Bhola Hai from Bambay Ki Babu 1960. The popular version from Rojulu Marayi, Telugu lyrics here.


From The Island It seems partly about oil.
From The Washinton Post Paying for Israel's Wars "An increasingly violent relationship in which one side lavishly spends some of its constituents’ (and the United States’) money, and the other expends its subjects’ lives, seems all too likely."
Uri Avnery Meeting in a Tunnel "So now the war aim is to discover and destroy as many tunnels as possible. No one dreamed of this aim before it all started.
If political expedience demands it, there may be another war aim tomorrow. It will be accepted in Israel by unanimous acclaim."
(Added on 5th August)
Modi and WTO Why is the left not applauding Modi for this?
The hidden hands behind East-West tug of war on Ukraine I thought that this was well-known.
Bangladesh strawberry pickers in Greece "A Greek court's decision to acquit farmers who admitted shooting 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers when they asked for months of back pay has sparked outrage in the country."

Friday, August 01, 2014

Some recent facts about Gaza

from VoxEu: 11 crucial facts to understand the Israel-Gaza crisis. Some new to me like "Hamas is, according to its charter, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood — an Islamist group that operates around the Muslim world, and one that nominally ran the Egyptian government for about a year recently. Hamas isn't controlled by the Egypt-based brotherhood leadership, but they have close ties. Unlike many Brotherhood branches, though, Hamas also has a militant wing: the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades."