Saturday, July 4

Raising Statues – the stupid option

Now we have Mayawati, a Dalit (lower class) woman in one of the poorest states of India, who is busy going around raising statues to herself and her allies. This is the lady concerned.



My in-laws stay in the capital of that state and her statues are an eyesore. Not only personally corrupt up the ying yang, she is useless as an administrator and she she got her backside handed to her in a sling in the recent elections. And typically, she doesnt help out her own caste, forget about the rest of the state. But she goes about raising her stature by putting up statues.

No self respect anyway, but then you wouldn't expect a corrupt person to worry about finer aspects of life like that. I do hope that this lawsuit goes and pokes her. I would like to show two historical statue related stories and a partial poem to her. First is this one:

If you are not content with this, remember what happened at Easter Island who went about raising Moai (statues) to their leaders. After cutting all those trees to use for quarrying and transportation, the culture basically went through severe ecological damage and died out.

Finally, you would know this poem as well.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Why can't an Arab be more like an Israeli?

Heh, for a weak moment, I thought my sister is actually pointing to an article which will not contain whining, a peculiarly distasteful quality that is seen far too often for my taste. But no, it contained whines galore. Anyway, very confused article here. Not very sure what the author is on about, but there you go.

America’s Place In The World

An excellent lecture on America’s place in the world from one of the world’s finest minds. Very nice.

Thursday, July 2

Facebook 'sparked white flight from MySpace'

This was WTF at so many levels.

A "WHITE flight" to Facebook has turned MySpace into a black ghetto, according to a social analyst in the US. anah Boyd said Facebook's arrival sparked a migration from MySpace of white users, the educated and the wealthy, while non-whites had stuck together on MySpace.

MySpace is owned by News Corp, the parent company of the publisher of "It wasn't just anyone who left MySpace to go to Facebook," Ms Boyd, who works with Microsoft Research New England, told a crowd at New York's Democracy Forum. "We might as well face an uncomfortable reality ... what happened was modern day 'white flight'." Ms Boyd said MySpace had become a digital "ghetto".
"The people there are more likely to be brown or black and to have a set of values that terrifies white society," she said. Her interviews with American teenagers since 2006 showed that online migration mimicked the patterns of class groups' movements across cities.

Farcebook of Perth

She found teens who preferred Facebook were far more likely to talk down to those who use MySpace than vice versa. Ms Boyd said her research showed high school students found Facebook "more cultured" and "less cheesy" than MySpace. "Any high school student who has a Facebook page will tell you MySpace users are more likely to be barely educated and obnoxious," she said.
Ms Boyd also warned that the class divisions on social sites will harden over time. "Their decision to (move to Facebook) was wrapped up in their connections to others, in their belief that a more peaceful, quiet, less-public space would be more idyllic."

Wednesday, July 1

Kudos to the Malaysian PM to knock the bhumiputra policy

The concept of sons-of-the-soil or Bhumiputra in Malaysia is something that i have written about before. Its a classic case of discrimination to push forward one part of the population compared to others. Obviously, when this is done on a race, religion or ethnicity, it causes major angst on part of the people who are not part of this equation. For example, in the USA, they decided to help out the black population by doing affirmative action, but this meant that the white, brown and Hispanic population complain that they have been unfairly targeted and discriminated against. You cannot win, can you? In this case in Malaysia, they discriminated for the Malays against the economically dominant Chinese, but in return, the ethnic Indians were really put upon. Result? Race riots, corruption and the like. Anyway, seems like there are signs of hope. I quote:

When he assumed power as Malaysian prime minister in April, Najib Razak was dismissed as a defender of the status quo. He was seen as a staunch supporter of the interests of the United Malays National Organisation, which has led the country’s coalition government since independence from Britain in 1957.

He was expected to continue the legacy of his father, who as prime minister in the late 1970s introduced the divisive policy of giving preferential treatment to the ethnic Malay majority in business and government jobs under what was known as the New Economic Policy.

The prime minister on Tuesday took a big step towards dismantling the pro-Malay economic policy by ending a long-standing rule that ethnic Malays must hold a 30 per cent stake in companies in most industries. The equity quota will be reduced to 12.5 per cent and new rules for additional rights issues will dilute it further.

Good step, it will make Malaysia a much fairer and just society. I have to congratulate the courage of the PM to take on the entrenched interests in the interests of all Malaysians. He has started to break the narrow domestic walls, which you can still see in so many different countries.

Tuesday, June 30

An interesting analogy in the discussion about the future of financial regulation

The hills are alive – and have been for many moons now - with the ideas on how to regulate financial products. The most recent were the proposals by President Obama. On the whole they were of interest because they recognise the fragmented nature of regulation and how systemic risk is important. So in fact they do not propose to reduce the regulators, but rather to adopt the overall ‘Department of Homeland Security Model’, or if you will, create a super regulator to oversee all the hodge podge of regulators in the US. Curiously nobody is touching the Basel 2 framework (but more about that later on). The FSA is pushing for a liquidity management framework which, while being - in my opinion - conceptually and intuitively appealing, is practically a nightmare to implement and execute. The EU is also going towards the super regulator direction, but I am still not convinced that a super regulator is the answer. It all boils down to giving regulators more data and more coverage and this kind of credit crisis will not happen again. But the regulators already had all this data, coverage and people. If banks are already being labelled as "if they are too big to fail, they are too big", then why isn't the same question being asked of the regulator? If the financial world thinks that banks are too big to manage, what makes them think that a vastly bigger overarching regulator can oversee an entire group of these giant banks?

The BIS is currently going to through some serious debates about the future of regulation. In yesterday's annual report, they threw a wide net across this issue, but in particular, page 126 uses a very curious analogy which I thought was interesting enough to share.

I quote:

Balancing innovation and safety in financial instruments requires providing scope for progress while limiting the capacity of any new instrument to weaken the system as a whole. Balance can be achieved by requiring some form of product registration that limits investor access to instruments according to their degree of safety. In a scheme analogous to the hierarchy controlling the availability of pharmaceuticals, the safest securities would, like non-prescription medicines, be available for purchase by everyone; next would be financial instruments available only to those with an authorisation, like prescription drugs; another level down would be securities available in only limited amounts to pre-screened individuals and institutions, like drugs in experimental trials; and, finally, at the lowest level would be securities that are deemed illegal. A new instrument would be rated or an existing one moved to a higher category of safety only after successful tests – the analogue of clinical trials. These would combine issuance in limited quantities in the real world with simulations of how the instrument would behave under severe stress. Such a registration and certification system creates transparency and enhances safety. But, as in the case of pharmaceutical manufacturers, there must be a mechanism for holding securities issuers accountable for the quality of what they sell. This will mean that issuers bear increased responsibility for the risk assessment of their products.

Regardless of how great an analogy this is, it still opens up questions. Four major questions emerge:

1. Who will be the FDA (USA), EMEA (Europe) or MHRA (UK) to judge the safety of these "drugs"? The point is that the problem with the rating agencies is well known already. (would be good to give an example here, such as …. Etc to drive home the point)

2. Do the regulators have the capacity and capability to really judge these financial products?

3. How will the Basel 2 process be modified to cater for this as this is taking risk rating down to a seriously detailed level and will require far more standardisation than before.

4.Given that the speed of introducing new products into the financial markets is measured in terms of days for example in the OTC derivatives market, this kind of product based regulation will be equivalent to dropping a JCB full of boulders into the world financial system.

Much to think about...

Help Pakistan’s Police instead of the Army

This report from Rand makes very good sense. Most terrorism is actually resolved by pretty much bog standard police work, counter terrorism is the same. Another benefit of better quality police work is to improve crime and reduce offshoots such as narco-terrorism etc. And frankly, pouring in money into the Pakistani Army hasnt helped much now, has it? More reasons here and I quote:

There are many reasons why the army can't fix what ails the nation. First, sustained use of the army against its own citizens goes against the grain. A number of Pakistani officers have told me that they did not join the army to kill Pakistanis; they joined to kill Indians. Officers themselves debate whether the army can successfully oust the militants, and even if it can, whether it could hold the area for long. The army's past and recent track record in clearing and holding territory is not encouraging.

Second, the army has resisted developing a counter-insurgency doctrine. It prefers to plan and train for conventional battles and views its struggle against insurgents as a "low-intensity" conventional conflict. Washington has been slow to understand that this is not a quibble over semantics but a serious difference in how the army intends to contend with the threat. The Pakistani army believes India is its principal nemesis, not the insurgents who have occupied the Swat valley and destabilized Pakistan and the region.

Third, the army's sledgehammer attempt to expel militants from their various redoubts has devastated much of Pakistan's Pashtun belt, flattening villages and forcing more than three million people to flee. The devastating blitzkrieg shows that the Pakistani army resists developing an effective counter-insurgency capability to secure, not dispossess, the local population.

A police force-led effort would be better than one led by the army, as the history of successful counterinsurgency movements in disparate theatres across the globe shows. Militants understand the potential power of the police even if Washington and Islamabad do not. Since 2005, insurgents and terrorists have killed about 400 police each year in suicide bombings, assassinations, and other heinous crimes, according to Hassan Abbas, a former police officer in Pakistan who is now a research fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The police make for easy targets because they are outgunned, under-resourced, inadequately equipped and poorly trained. Because most don't even have the same lucrative death benefits as army personnel, many have simply fled the fight to protect their families. Police officers in Swat have even taken out newspaper advertisements declaring that they have left the force in hopes that insurgents will spare them and their families. To take the lead in fighting the militants, Pakistan's police will need training, modern weaponry, personal-protection equipment, life insurance and access to civilian intelligence.

Police in Pakistan are admittedly widely reviled for being corrupt. However there are encouraging signs of change. Several policing organizations, such as the National Highways and Motorway Police, the Islamabad Police and the Lahore Traffic Police have all gained the trust of their citizenry through professional and courteous conduct. In these forces, police are paid a handsome salary and are subject to strict accountability for their performance. Their new salaries are too valuable to lose by taking small bribes.

Pakistan's police leadership seems up for the challenge. Since 2000, Pakistan's own police leadership has led the demand for police reform only to be stifled by military and civilian political leadership who benefit from a corrupt police force that does their bidding. It's time for the international community to support these unexpected reformers.

So far, only 2.2% of U.S. funding to Pakistan has gone to assisting the police — $268 million between 2002 and 2008 for narcotics control, law enforcement and border security. The U.S. has an enormous opportunity to help the one Pakistani institution that actually wants American help.
Should the Obama administration embrace this task, it will need to change its approach to police training, and it will need international partners. The State Department, which has traditional responsibility for this area, cannot do it alone. As the experience with police training in Afghanistan has shown, the Department of Defense has to step in to take the lead on police training. Unfortunately, the international community has resisted supplying trainers or resources to the Afghanistan effort and some contractors have not performed well.

Monday, June 29

Banned Pakistani groups 'expand'

Astonishing indeed and seriously bewildering. On one hand, the Pakistani Army is fighting what appears to be a pretty much full fledged war against Jihadi’s with gunships, armour and mechanised infantry in Swat. Just a few tens or hundred miles away, its encouraging the growth of these jihadi’s. Obviously, all jihadi’s are made equal but some are more equal than others. I quote:


Militant groups banned in Pakistan are expanding operations and recruitment in Pakistani-run Kashmir, according to a government report seen by the BBC. The observations are from a detailed secret report submitted to the region's government on the groups' activities in the city of Muzaffarabad and elsewhere.

And if you wanted more proof (dont know why, its pretty clear to everybody) that its the Pakistani Army and Intelligence Services who are in cahoots with them, here’s the kicker:

It then goes on to say that the authorities should take up the matter with the intelligence agency responsible for the militants. The report says officials from that agency should relocate the militants to some area near the border, otherwise clashes with locals could take place.

Lovely, solve the problem by shifting them to some other place. Which would either be in Afghanistan against the Americans, in Balochistan or in other places in Pakistan which means that poor state sinks further and further. Or best, why not in India? HA!

Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

And now a very good decision in the fight for colour blindness and anti-racism. Do people think that discriminating against whites is not racism? Sure it is racism. In this particular case, I think the judgement was very good. The basic issue?

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday, in a case with enormous implications for workplaces across the country, that white firefighters in New Haven suffered unfair discrimination because of their race when the city scrapped the results of a promotional exam. The case was rooted in tests given in 2003 for promotion to lieutenant and captain. The exams yielded no black firefighters eligible for advancement, prompting the city to throw out the results and promote no one. That move, in turn, triggered a lawsuit by 18 white firefighters, one of them Hispanic, who claimed racial discrimination, or what is often termed “reverse discrimination.”

This kind of stupid behaviour can be seen in almost every country, ranging from India to the UK and in the USA. Discrimination is discrimination. Now this is the situation. I am sitting in a burning house and how would I feel if the firefighters who are coming to save me are have been selected on the colour of their skin versus their qualification for their jobs? I know you can quibble about the tests but this is the basic issue. Similarly, would I want a race based qualified doctor to operate on my daughter? How about a race based qualified teacher? and and and? Surely in this time and day of liberalism, this is an anachronism?

Very good, we need more of this stuff and people in the United Kingdom and India should read this and listen. Discrimination, either positive or negative is frankly stupid and those who claim to do so are racists. Good intentions notwithstanding, that’s what you are. You cannot take the rights away from somebody to give somebody more rights. Public services mean that you need to be colour blind. Equality of opportunity is a good thing and that’s important. By all means, help them out, give all the students and people more assistance.

Now take a look at the other issue, of positive discrimination for women in say India.

A senior Indian official has indicated that in a bid to spruce up women power, the Congress government is mulling to introduce a legislation to provide 33 percent reservation for women in government jobs in the monsoon session of the Parliament to be opened next month, said Indian Home Ministry sources on Monday, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram told a meeting in Sivaganga in the southern state of Tamil Nadu that at present, there is no reservation for women in government jobs, so the government will bring forward a bill providing reservation for women in government jobs.

This obviously was objected by minorities who are now addicted to sucking from the tit of discrimination. I quote:

Seven Muslim and Dalit organisations are opposing reservation for women in Parliament and the State Assemblies in the present form, and are demanding separate sub-quotas for the Dalit, minority and other most backward communities.

The All India Milli Council, the Indian Association of Muslim Social Scientists, the Muslim Women’s Welfare Organisation, the Insan Dost Committee, the People’s Movement of India, the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Sewa Dal and the Samajic Niyay Morcha, at a joint meeting here on Saturday, welcomed reservation for women. But they feared that the Bill, in the present form, would be detrimental to the interests of Dalits, minorities especially Muslims, and the most backward women.

See? these people want to perpetuate these divisions so obviously they think that the female gender classification is going to take their power of casteism or religious discrimination away. But how do I explain this away? Very simple. We do have a case of gender discrimination in India but it will not be possible to even think that no women will be found at all. Not so in the case of the firefighters.

Here’s another example:

Every year, lakhs of students burn the midnight oil for months to get into the hallowed Indian Institutes of Technology. But as admissions closed on Wednesday, one startling fact emerged — there weren't enough qualified candidates to fill up the reserved seats on offer for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, or the physically challenged. IIT heads told TOI that over 1,100 seats will now be transferred to the preparatory course. This course, which is like a feeder class, trains quota students for a year to equip them to qualify for the IITs. Students for the preparatory course are selected by reducing cut-offs even further.
On the OBC (other backward classes) reservation front too, 53 seats were transferred to general category candidates, though the IITs are still only in the second year of the quotas (they are implementing 18% quota before moving to the total 27% reservation). The IITs, in fact, had made various concessions to ensure they could fill the SC/ST seats. They lowered entry levels for these categories and even went as low as 50% below the last general category student's marks to do justice to the quota. Even this did not help them get the required number of backward category students.

The sad thing is, that these quotas when not filled are actually hurting the nation by not allowing other qualified students to study. Everybody loses and nobody wins, but nobody cares, after all, its an opportunity cost and nobody is going to pay explicitly. And those who do not recognise the danger of this kind of positive or negative discrimination are frankly missing few firing neurons. See here for my previous essays on affirmative action and discrimination.

The British Government seems to have understood the huge distrust of the common populace which protests against the government providing housing and other benefits to immigrants and non British people over local British people. This was the source of much angst and this was a reason why the BNP won. It might be a myth, but its believed and you all know the result. This government is basically stupid anyway..

but overall, this decision by the US Supreme Court was very good indeed.

Goodbye London – great song and great animation

Frigate in the water

Peeked out of the window at the office and I could see a dinky little frigate at the docks. So I took a picture and facebooked as a joke that its sent over from the Government to kick the bankers, no more simple police for us lot then.


Then hared down to look at it closer. It seems to be an Aussie frigate called as HMAS Sydney. It did look a bit battered if you ask me. Here are some details from the local rag.


THE Aussies don’t go anywhere without their barbie. That goes for the Royal Australian Navy as well. The frigate HMAS Sydney arrived in the Thames for a goodwill Commonwealth visit to London equipped with its state-of-the-art air defence, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The 4,000-tonne frigate which has been deployed to the Middle East four times and seen action in both Gulf wars, had torpedos, missiles and two Seahawk helicopters on board. But she was also armed to the teeth with barbecue steak and sausages when it moored Canary Wharf. The crew didn’t waste time making themselves at home and throwing a few snags on the barbie and for a cocktail party serving up kangaroo skewers.
The crew were keen to enjoy a few days in London’s East End, while moored in the shadow of the O2 at West India Dock, before weighing anchor yesterday and setting sail for Labrador and Newfoundland on the next leg of their northern hemisphere tour—with their state-of-the art barbie equipment.

That name sounded vaguely familiar to me and I was staring at the damn ship racking my brains as to why on earth would I find it strangely unsettling? When I got back to the office, googled a bit and then it struck me. Here’s the strange story of the ship with the same name. The sheer amazing line of events, eh? Go figure.

The Blacks are being benefited at the expense of white workers

If you listen to the BNP talk today, this kind of behaviour would not seem amiss to people back from 1866. See this for example. Right now, the BNP is playing on fears that immigrants and non white people are taking housing and benefits which should basically go to the white race.

I quote:

The national debate over reconstruction, and in particular, the Freedman's Bureau, is evident in a campaign broadside from Pennsylvania's gubernatorial campaign of 1866. This cartoon's racist imagery played upon public fears that government assistance would benefit indolent freedmen at the expense of white workers.


Needless to say, it just shows the paucity of their thinking and how racism is still working its way through the world.