Friday, April 29, 2016

A few more links

My laptap is not charging. I mainly use this blog for links and future reference. But links disappear and it is easier track if there is a passage from the article together with the link. Until things improve, which may take a couple of months, I have to with perfunctory posts.
The Guardian on Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses
Rahila Gupta on Syrian Kurds and women's role
Less is more: What does mindfulness mean in economics? by Dan Nixon
The mirage of a return to manufacturing greatness
Japanese government weighs shopping vouchers, promotions to boost spending
Why are we all eating too much?Two on Wikipedia, One recent and an old one from Aaron Swartz
Why digital money has not killed cash?

Two lectures by David Allis

Long read on Srinivasan Ramanujan

Monday, April 25, 2016

Long read about medicine
"Literature about medicine may be all that can save us."

Literature about medicine may be all that can save us’

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Old age

Getting older and older. But parts of the brain still seem to be working in relation to mathematics. Once I started again, it has become difficult to stop.

Songs of Yore writes about Kanan Devi

The Swar Kokila Kanan Devi
Richard Singer has several posts on Kanan Devi

From a review of a recent book of Dan Ariely

"The experiment that crops up again and again through the book is a task to find numbers in a series of matrices. People then shred the answers before collecting payment based on how many the completed. Most people cheat a little, possibly because they can rationalise that they could have solved more, or had almost completed the next one. Few cheat to the maximum, even when it is clear they have the opportunity to do so......
One of the more interesting parts of the book concerned how increasing the degrees of separation from the monetary outcome increases cheating. Having people collect tokens, which could be later exchanged for cash, increased cheating. In that light, a decision to cheat in an area such as financial services, where the ultimate cost is cash but there are many degrees of separation (e.g. manipulating an interest rate benchmark which changes the price I get on a trade which affects my profit and loss which affects the size of my bonus), might not feel like cheating at all.....
As is the case when I read any behavioural science book, the part that leaves me slightly cold is that I’m not sure I can trust some of the results." From

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince RIP
Dan Kervick on his Facebook wall says "Prince was like Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, Frank Zappa, Michael Jackson all rolled into one guy."

Peter Turchin invites comments on his book Ultrasociety

Science versus Ideology:Readers Comments on Ultrasociety. I commented on it earlier here and reserved it for rereading but got caught up in mathematics. I will come back to it as well as 'The secret of our success", two interesting books I read last year at some stage

Dani Rodrik plays sleuth

A Harvard ecomomist, A coup plot, A career forever changed by Marc Parry in The Chronicle of Hiher Education: "It began with unexpected news from home. In January 2010, Dani Rodrik and Pinar Dogan, married Turkish economists at Harvard University, got word of a dramatic story hitting newsstands in Istanbul. There had been a plot to topple the government. It involved terrorism. And its ringleader was a retired general named Cetin Dogan — Pinar’s father.....
 In 2014 the Turkish constitutional court, finding that the defendants’ rights had been violated, ordered a retrial in the Sledgehammer case. Cetin Dogan was released from jail. When The Economist wrote up the news, its article began, "That long-awaited ‘we told you so’ moment arrived on June 18 for Dani Rodrik … and his wife Pinar Dogan." The retrial resulted in the acquittal, on March 31, of all the defendants.........
"How could this have happened?" Rodrik asks later, after his wife has left. "How could such a massive undermining of the rule of law have taken place in the name of building the rule of law for so many years," all while "people were looking and applauding? That’s the massive paradox that I’m trying to understand."
. In practice, though, most of those democracies "fail to provide equal protection under thel aw," according to a recent essay that Rodrik published with another economist, Sharun Mukand. To understand why, they examine three kinds of rights. Political rights rest on the strength of numbers. Property rights have the wealth of elites behind them. But civil rights typically benefit a relatively powerless minority, who lack wealth or numbers. For that reason, "a truly functioning liberal democracy that provides civil rights is going to be a very, very rare phenomenon," Rodrik says. The question isn’t why democracies slide into illiberalism. That’s what you should expect. The interesting question — and one of the key puzzles that his new work tries to solve — is why some democracies manage to remain liberal. What makes the emergence of civil rights possible in societies where, on the face of it, those rights don’t have a strong constituency? "
Finally, the article oes on to discuss the role of liberals:
"On a less abstract level, Sledgehammer changed another aspect of Rodrik’s thinking. He no longer trusts much of what he reads in the newspaper. The professor had long been skeptical of economics stories. He now feels similarly wary about coverage of political developments in foreign countries. The reason: If you hadn’t known the reality in Turkey, he says, it was simple to accept the usual liberal explanations of what was happening.
"It’s very easy to read these stories, and they resonate with your own worldview as a liberal," Rodrik says. "And you’re likely to believe it. I wouldn’t say that it turned me into a conservative. But it made me much more skeptical and much more cautious about what one might say is the standard Northeastern-Ivy League-elite-liberal-establishment narrative about how the world works. It’s made me extremely skeptical of what I read in The New York Times, and The New York Times’s take on what’s happening in different countries. In a way, I should have known."
Another conviction of 275 people convicted in the Ergenkon case was recently overturned.

Links 22 April 2016

Computer charging problems. It chared aain unexpctedly. Some of the article, a fe lon reads, that I found interestin in the recent psat. These appeared on my Facebook wall where it is easier to post links with the iPad.
When Bitcoin Grows Up:What is Money? by John Lanchester
An old article by Christopher Hitchens on 'The Waste Land' A handful of dust:
"He[T.S.Eliot] was to tell the Paris Review that in the composition of the closing sections "I wasn't even bothering whether I understood what I was saying." There seems no reason at all why we should not take him at his word....It is not disputable that by publishing The Waste Land when he did, Eliot caught something of the zeitgeist and enthralled those who needed borrowed words and concepts to capture or re-express the desolation of Europe after 1918."
A learning secret:Don't take notes with a laptop:
 "Students who used longhand remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material"
The first draft of history: dispatches from the frontline of war by Patrick Cockburn:
"This is one of the striking features of the present era: wars turn into bloody stalemates with no outright winners or losers, aside from the millions of civilians who are the victims. Political systems decay or are overthrown but nobody is strong enough to replace them."
Science explains why it's so easy to get sucked into fights on the internet by Brian Resnick:
"New research finds evidence for a different hypothesis: "The basic idea is that people are punishing selfishness to convey to other people that they are trustworthy," Jillian Jordan, a psychology researcher at Yale, tells me."
Why John J. Mearsheimer is right (about some things) by Robert D. Kaplan from three years ago: "Indeed, if you put Lobby together with Tragedy, you have the beginnings of a prudent grand strategy for America: invest less in one part of the world and more in another, events permitting. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently proposed that the United States should attempt to pivot away from the Middle East toward the Asia.....And it is likely to be China’s future, rather than Israel’s, that will ultimately determine Mearsheimer’s reputation. If China implodes from a socioeconomic crisis, or evolves in some other way that eliminates its potential as a threat, Mearsheimer’s theory will be in serious trouble because of its dismissal of domestic politics. But if China goes on to become a great military power, reshaping the balance of forces in Asia, then Mearsheimer’s Tragedy will live on as a classic."
The woman who saved economics from disaster an article about Elinor Ostrom by David Sloan Wilson

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sugar or fat?

"A scientist is part of what the Polish philosopher of science Ludwik Fleck called a “thought collective”: a group of people exchanging ideas in a mutually comprehensible idiom. The group, suggested Fleck, inevitably develops a mind of its own, as the individuals in it converge on a way of communicating, thinking and feeling.
This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error. Of course, such tendencies are precisely what the scientific method was invented to correct for, and over the long run, it does a good job of it. In the long run, however, we’re all dead, quite possibly sooner than we would be if we hadn’t been following a diet based on poor advice." from

Spiegel on the comedy conundrum

A precursor to ' The Waste Land'?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A long read on Tom Lehrer

Lookin for Tom Lehrer, comedy's mysterious genius (via Rahul Siddharthan):
"In the recent history of American music, there’s no figure parallel to Lehrer in his effortless ascent to fame, his trajectory into the heart of the culture — and then his quiet, amiable, inexplicable departure. .........”The liberal consensus, which was the audience for this in my day, has splintered and fragmented in such a way that it’s hard to find an issue that would be comparable to, say, lynching,” he also told the New York Times in Purdum’s 2000 article, which was part of his last round of interviews to promote an anthology of his work. ”Everybody knows that lynching is bad. But affirmative action vs. quotas, feminism vs. pornography, Israel vs. the Arabs? I don’t know which side I’m on anymore. And you can’t write a funny song that uses, ‘On the other hand.”’

Friday, April 15, 2016

Artemisia Gentileschi

The recent discovery of a possible  Caravaggio painting in France is bringing more attention to Artemisia Gentileschi "Until Artemisia Gentileschi picked up a paintbrush to show her violence and power (and she would paint five versions in her lifetime, according to art expert Mary Garrard), Judith could never be a champion. It took a woman to paint a woman—and it took a female art historian to resurrect Artemisia Gentileschi." from
More at the Khanacademy

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Economics and Astrology

The new astrology by Alan Jay Levinovtz via Noah Smith who says:
"Levinovitz likens modern-day macroeconomics to mathematical astrology in the early Chinese empire. And in fact, the parallel sounds pretty accurate. The article is worth reading just to learn about classical Chinese astrology, actually.
Levinovitz, however, leaves out what I think is the most important development: theempirical revolution in econ. This has been most important in micro fields, since data is much more abundant, but it's also starting to influence macro.
I also think Levinovitz should have given a shout-out to the successes of applied micro theory - auction theory, matching theory, discrete choice models, and the rest. "

Obama's legacy

As far as I can see he is good intentioned had some successes but has been disappointment on the whole. Charlie Savage, in an interview here, focusses on a 'turning point'.There are many reviews of his book "Power Wars" includin one in The New York Review of Books (behind a firewall) which says ""Gradually, other points of continuity between the national security policies of Bush’s second term and the Obama administration became evident. Obama revived the military commissions charged with conducting trials of detainees. He continued to classify the struggle against al-Qaeda as a war to be fought under military rules. He also increased drone strikes, maintained the NSA’s secret surveillance programs, and prosecuted whistleblowers with greater zeal than any administration in history. What happened?

Savage offers an explanation. Obama’s supporters on the left thought he was a civil libertarian, but they were wrong. What Obama cares about, Savage argues, is not civil liberties, but the rule of law. Confusing the two is understandable, for both are central to American constitutionalism. But they are fundamentally different. Civil liberties are substantive rights; the rule of law is about legal legitimacy. What Obama’s team aimed to do was provide a firm legal foundation for his policies, including those that civil libertarians oppose—policies like preventive detention, targeted killings, and extensive surveillance."
These two indicate to me lack of strong convictions and fear of failure.


A few of the articles which appeared recently:
The fatal accident of birth by Sanjay Hegde
A dream of unsiled life by Anoo Bhuyan
Missin from the Indian news room by Robin Jeffrey (from 2012). Since then, there have been some sites like Round Table India
Many of Ambedkar's writins can be accessed from Click on the left at Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and then Writings & Speeches.
If Facebook feed is any indication Ambedkar consciousness is still weak amon the upper castes or but it is strong amon Dalits and keeps giving them hope. Here is an excerpt and photo from the first article:
"On Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary, look closely at this year’s defining image of Dalit struggle and aspiration. It is a photograph of the late Rohith Vemula, carrying Ambedkar’s portrait out of the Hyderabad Central University hostel. Rohith, who was evicted along with his friends, spent the next fortnight on the pavement outside the university, in a makeshift tent decorated with that portrait."

Story of struggle: “Rohith, like Ambedkar, was ousted from the only place that had afforded him shelter as a matter of right.” Rohith and his friends after being evicted from the Hyderabad Central University hostel.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

LBJ's great speech

"The American Promise".LBJ's Finest Hour:
“What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it’s not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”
He paused, and then, slowly, distinctly, the president uttered the words never before said by an American president: “And…we… shall… overcome.”
For a moment there was only stunned silence, as it dawned on all who listened that President Lyndon Johnson, a son of the South, had just evoked the anthem of the civil rights movement.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Bernie Sanders in October 2011

"It has been revealed Clinton pushed through the Panama Free Trade Deal at the same time that Sanders vocally opposed it, citing research warning that it would strictly limit the government’s ability to clamp down on questionable or even illegal activity. Even if the Clintons remain unmentioned in future tax bombshells, Sanders can continue to exploit the narrative that Clinton is part of the demographic responsible, and has assisted in flagrant abuses of the system through trade deals."
More quotes here"
"“Panama’s entire annual economic output is only $26.7 billion a year, or about two-tenths of one percent of the U.S. economy. No one can legitimately make the claim that approving this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs.” Sanders then asks the Senate, “why would we be considering a standalone free trade agreement with Panama?”
The agreement in question, which was ultimately passed despite Sanders’ objections, is called The United States—Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA).
Sanders then answerd his own question in a haunting premonition of things to come: “Well it turns out that Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in offshore tax havens; and the Panama free trade agreement will make this bad situation much worse. Each and every year, the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations evade about $100 billion in U.S. taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in Panama and other countries...”
Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ opponent in the Democratic primary, argued vehemently for the TPA in 2011.
"The Free Trade Agreements passed by Congress tonight will make it easier for American companies to sell their products to South Korea, Colombia and Panama, which will create jobs here at home,” part of Clinton’s 13 October, 2011statement read.
Strangely enough, her full statement no longer exists on the State Department’s website."

Two Timir Baran songs
Timir Baran with S.K. Paul from 1954 film Baadbaan. Singer Geeta Dutt. The videoo is from another film. The link has the lyrics as well as translation


A brief introduction here: "Bhungroo is a water management system that injects and stores excess rainfall underground and lifts it out for use in dry spells. Adoption of this technology has decreased salt deposits on soil and increased fresh water supply, saving farmers from drought."
A comprehensive video (2015) from IIT,Kanpur here and one from 2012 with some of the farmers.

Selective leaves from Panama Papers?

says Craig Murray:
"The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include
Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)
among many others. Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. "

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Corruption and tax havens in the news

Unaoil: The company that bribed the world
Panama papers from Wikipedia
Wikipedia on the European Commission PresidentJean-Claude Juncker
"In early November 2014, just days after becoming head of the commission, Juncker was hit by media disclosures—derived from a document leak known as LuxLeaks—that Luxembourg under his premiership had turned into a major European centre of corporate tax avoidance. With the aid of the Luxembourg government, companies transferred tax liability for many billions of euros to Luxembourg, where the income was taxed at a fraction of 1%. Juncker, who in a speech in Brussels in July 2014 promised to "try to put some morality, some ethics, into the European tax landscape", was sharply criticized following the leaks.[53] A subsequent motion of censure in the European parliament was brought against Juncker over his role in the tax avoidance schemes. The motion was defeated by a large majority.[54]"
About Jacob Zuma in 2005 who is again in the news Hard-Wired for Corruption
World's Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States from Bloomberg
Suzanne Sadedin surveys some academic studies in corruption in Natural Police. Among tham is the study Power and Corruption by Francisco Ubeda and Edgar A. Duenez-Guzman (behind a firewall):
Cooperation is ubiquitous in the natural world. What seems nonsensical is why natural selection favors a behavior whereby individuals would lose out by benefiting their competitor. This conundrum, for almost half a century, has puzzled scientists and remains a fundamental problem in biology, psychology, and economics. In recent years, the explanation that punishment can maintain cooperation has received much attention. Individuals who punish noncooperators thrive when punishment does not entail a cost to the punisher. However when punishment is costly, cooperation cannot be preserved. Most literature on punishment fails to consider that punishers may act corruptly by not cooperating when punishing noncooperators. No research has considered that there might be power asymmetries between punishers and nonpunishers that turn one of these type of individuals more or less susceptible to experiencing punishment. Here, we formulate a general game allowing corruption and power asymmetries between punishers and nonpunishers. We show that cooperation can persist if punishers possess power and use it to act corruptly. This result provides a new interpretation of recent data on corrupt policing in social insects and the psychology of power and hypocrisy in humans. These results suggest that corruption may play an important role in maintaining cooperation in insects and human societies. In contrast with previous research, we contend that costly punishment can be beneficial for social groups. This work allows us to identify ways in which corruption can be used to the advantage of a society.
P.S. From Where are all the Americans in the Panama Papers? "" But some names are coming out.
From The Washington Post blogs How U.S. became one of the biggest tax havens in the world?

Sunday, April 03, 2016


David Runciman in the review Delivorlogy of book on Blair:
"Deliverology is itself a false prospectus. It relies on the assumption that Blair gradually mastered these skills on the job and that he was forced out just when he had got on top of the government machine. Certainly that’s what he says in his memoirs, where he insists that he only worked out how to exercise power effectively towards the end of his time in office. Now he wants to help others start out with the wisdom he had to acquire through ‘bitter experience’. But political leaders always say this: that governing starts to make sense when time is running out. That’s why it’s so hard to persuade them to move on. Obama told Marc Maron earlier this year that he was finally getting the hang of it seven years in, just when he has one foot out of the door. For democratic leaders this is the tragedy of power: they only learn how to do their jobs once the public is sick of the sight of them, or the constitution is telling them they have reached their limit. But it’s an illusion: it just seems easier because the end is in sight and they have stopped worrying about what might come next. Blair felt he was really getting things done at the point when his struggle with Gordon Brown was over. But it wasn’t because he had worked out how to deal with an obstructive rival; it was because he had ultimately been defeated by him. He was liberated by having little left to lose. Obama has been increasingly willing to assert his executive authority because he no longer feels it’s worth trying to deal with Congress. Yet if his successor starts with that attitude he (or she) will be pilloried, just as any prime minister who caves before his chancellor from the outset won’t be in charge for long. Delivery depends much more on context than it does on technique. In that respect, it’s not a transferable skill."


And some thing to be cheerful about

'A year ago, I had no hands': an Afghan soldier's road to recovery after double hand transplant
"People have remarked to Dr Iyer, in the months following the transplant, about how this was a case in which a Hindu surgeon took a Christian man’s hands and put them on a Muslim man, he said.
“But religion, in this case, was so superficial,” Dr Iyer said. “When someone interprets it like that, you’re surprised. Of course it’s a good message. But I can tell you that, when it was all happening, no one gave it a thought. Everyone just did what they felt was right.”"Afghan national Abdul Rahim, who underwent a double hand transplant, greets the family of the donor at a hospital in Kochi. Photo: Special Arrangement

Long read on Libya

Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention by Richard Galustian in Moon of Alabama with lots of commnts. It is complicated

Bhagat Singh and Bose on Freedom

From an article by Anurag Bhaskar:
Like Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose was also very clear about his ideas and beliefs. While delivering the Presidential Address to the Student’s Conference held at Lahore on 19 October 1929, he clearly said“If we are to bring about a revolution of ideas we have first to hold up before us an ideal which will galvanise our whole life. That ideal is freedom. But freedom is a word which has varied connotations and, even in our country, the conception of freedom has undergone a process of evolution. By freedom, I mean all round freedom, i.e., freedom for the individual as well as for society; freedom for the rich as well as for the poor; freedom for men as well as for women; freedom for all individuals and for all classes. This freedom implies not only emancipation from political bondage but also equal distribution of wealth, abolition of caste barriers and social iniquities and destruction of communalism and religious intolerance. This is an ideal which may appear Utopian to hard-headed men and women, but this ideal alone can appease the hunger in the soul.”

Interview with Sarnath Mukherjee, graphic novelist

The full texture of the city, interview by Ratik Asokan:
Ratik Asokan:"Indeed, I never imagined the comics would be more than a fundamentally escapist medium for me.
That all changed in 2004 with the publication of Corridor, Sarnath Banerjee’s debut graphic novel. Rendered in a mixture of photographs, drawings, and text, Corridorfollowed the lives of three ordinary men who whiled away their time in a second-hand Delhi bookstore. The world it depicted—one of roadside hustlers and garish billboards, of liberated college students and their conservative landlords, of trendy parties and shady markets—was, for the first time, entirely familiar.
Though rooted in the local textures of Delhi street life, Corridor was driven by an assured, cosmopolitan sensibility. Banerjee made it his business to gleefully make collide east and west, culture and kitsch, high and low—to make Baudrillard wash himself with the local Liril soap. His early aesthetic, in which characters drawn in a sparse western comic style are often superimposed on billboards and street photographs of Delhi, brilliantly mimicked the mentality of post-colonial urbanites who straddled different cultures."
Sarnath Mukherjee: "I want to make sense of things, to understand the world, but my work is never really instructional. I have no wisdom to impart or give, so I think my dream readers would be people who just use the book as an excuse to get into their own cycle of thoughts. The book is just like a map. It’s just a jotting-down of things that you can interpret in your own ways......

Having said all that, I should acknowledge that the Vikaspuri book grows out of my obsession with our country’s obsession with development. I’ve told you a lot about love and empathy and liking people, but I find it very difficult to relate to India’s new middle class. This very patriotic and neoliberal group that mixes religion and economics together. I find them very irksome. Very difficult to like. They are privileged, but they don’t want to talk about their privilege. It’s difficult to find poetry amongst these people. Some sort of hidden spirit of beauty. But I tried with this book to mock the South Delhi people. They don’t just have a caste system: they have instilled a caste system amongst their staff, from the driver to the gardener they have a caste system. It’s almost as if whatever they touch they turn into a caste system."

Friday, April 01, 2016

Tools for Skype discussion

Had a mathematics discussion with Peter Scott this mornin using Ava's whiteboard and also pen and paper