Friday, June 28

Birds of a feather flock together

This paper was a bit of a d’oh bit.

We examine the effects of subnational variations in corruption and democratization on the location decisions of foreign investors in Russian regions using firm-level panel data for the period 1996-2007. We link these effects to the level of corruption and type of political regime in the country of origin of a foreign investor. We find a relationship between attributes of foreign investors’ home countries and attributes of the regions in which investment takes place: foreign investors from less corrupt and democratic countries tend to invest in less corrupt and more democratic Russian regions, whereas those from more corrupt and non-democratic countries tend to invest in more corrupt and less democratic regions. An inference is that, in Russian regions with high corruption and with autocratic government, foreign direct investment appears driven by the personal interests of controlling regional political elites who collaborate for mutual gain with foreign investors from corrupt and autocratic countries. Our results suggest a general conclusion that origin and location of foreign investment are linked by common political culture.

well of course! Birds of a feather flock together..

Thursday, June 27

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize – Voltaire

Not much to say beyond saying that this is a great quote, cuts straight to the core of human behaviour and society. As a libertarian and freedom of speech absolutist, this is clearly very important.

Two US bloggers were banned from entering UK. This is clearly a failure of the Sharansky test. The book is very good, and the test is simple:

If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a "fear society" has finally won their freedom.

I saw so many people wittering on along two lines, “i support freedom of speech but…” that but means you are not a freedom of speech supporter.

Second was, what kind of a society are we producing if we allow people like these guys in? Well, as the Sharansky test says, we are living in a fear society. USA is happy to have freedom of speech, but here in the UK?

ESPHOKS on the Home Office Minister, bah

Wednesday, June 26

The Centroid


We like the idea of centres. Centres of gravity. Centres of concentration in yoga. Our human architectures look for centres. When we look at humans we seek the centre and people whose faces are symmetrical around the centre are considered better looking. Our home has its centre in the kitchen or living room. London's centre is measured from charing cross. Financial markets are mean reverting - an example of coming to the centre. People tend to congregate in crowds and centres. Recognise this tendency and therefore you can take advantage of it. Learn how to create your comfort spot. Learn how others come to the mean or centre. Learn why people are so attracted by the concept of centres. 

Fascinating to see the calculations so if you are interested in cartography or geography or economics or history or demographics or anthropology this article will be good to read. 



The  Centroid | Orion Magazine

On the road with the population of a restless nation

By Jeremy Miller

Published in the March/April 2013 issue of Orion magazine

ON A WARM DAY in March 2011, I find myself in the back seat of a white, government-issue Chevy Suburban, rolling over spongy pasturelands in the sparsely populated foothills of the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. The vehicle is being piloted by Brian Ward, a geodetic advisor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dave Doyle, the chief surveyor with NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey division, sits in the passenger seat, looking intently at a dashboard-mounted GPS screen. “Almost there. Just a little farther on,” Doyle mutters as Ward slaloms through an agitated herd of beef cattle.

We are aimed at the mean population center—or centroid—of the United States, a hypothetical and highly mathematical point calculated every ten years as part of the decennial census. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population center is “the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 308,745,538 residents counted in the 2010 Census were of identical weight.” Picture that if you can.

“Looks like we continue on and then veer left,” says Doyle, a gregarious man with a mane of salt-and-pepper hair, glasses resting precariously at the tip of his nose. The edge of the pasture gives way to a stand of leafless hickories and dogwoods covered in white blooms. Due to the unusually warm weather, the small, four-petaled flowers have emerged a few weeks earlier than usual.

Tuesday, June 25

After God: What can atheists learn from believers?


I have what can be called in Facebook speak as a complicated relationship with God throughout my life. I believed in him then became an atheist and then a firm believer when you two were born and have now settled into a situation which can politely be described as a secular spiritual humanist. 

Don't believe in religion. Hinduism is a good philosophy. It's great for historians and for people who want to exercise their mental muscles. All religions are powerful in terms of the hold they have on their worshippers. So whatever you decide to believe in, be careful of religions son. They are on the retreat and that's when they are the worst. 



After God: What can atheists learn from believers?

From the art series “A Place Beyond Belief, 2012” by Nathan Coley. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Jonathan Derbyshire writes: Jeremy Bentham, his disciple John Stuart Mill once wrote, would always ask of a proposition or belief, “Is it true?” By contrast, Bentham’s contemporary Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mill observed, thought “What is the meaning of it?” was a much more interesting question.

Today’s New Atheists –Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens principal among them – are the heirs of Bentham, rather than Coleridge. For them, religion – or the great monotheistic faiths, at any rate – are bundles of beliefs (about the existence of a supernatural being, the origins of the universe and so on) whose claims to truth don’t stand up to rational scrutiny. And once the falsity of those beliefs has been established, they imply, there is nothing much left to say.

The New Atheists remind one of Edward Gibbon, who said of a visit to the cathedral at Chartres: “I paused only to dart a look at the stately pile of superstition and passed on.” They glance at the stately pile of story and myth bequeathed to humanity by religion and quickly move on, pausing only to ask of the benighted millions who continue to profess one faith or another that they keep their beliefs to themselves and don’t demand that they be heard in the public square.

Monday, June 24

How to Be a Stuffed Animal


Your didu's father was a big game hunter. Like teddy Roosevelt. In our house in Allahabad we had variety of animals mounted and framed. Tigers leopards cheetah crocodile antelope bears. for a young child, entering the drawing room in the dark was scary with the glass eyes glinting at you. 

We got some back in Bhopal, bear skins, cheetah head deer skins etc. can't complain son. It was a different time and world. Your Didu went hunting and she was a crack shot as well. I've done my share of hunting as well but it's no longer considered 'good'. So I do my hunting with a camera. 

So why do people do it? Pretty much the same reason why people go on a roller coaster. For the thrill of it. 

So it goes. 



How to Be a Stuffed Animal - Lapham’s Quarterly


The fire that destroyed P. T. Barnum’s American Museum was the spectacle to end all spectacles. It started in a basement shortly after noon on July 13, 1865, and spread with an energy befitting the museum’s restive owner. By midafternoon it had attracted an audience of thirty thousand to the corner of Broadway and Ann Street in Lower Manhattan. As the Prince of Humbugs’ palace of wonders hissed and cracked and roared under the pressure of its own combustion, so the crowd responded to the conflagration with cheers and shrieks and “uncontrollable laughter,” reported the New York Times.

Gone were the flea circus, the loom run by a dog, the trunk of a tree under which the disciples of Jesus had sat, the hat worn by Ulysses S. Grant, the waxworks, the Feejee mermaid, the taxidermy displays of “monkeys in all imaginable attitudes, stuffed and waxed and furnished with curiously wrought glass eyes, sacred white cows filled with hay, monstrous turtles varnished and stuffed, camels with humps, zebras with the traditional 365 stripes, lions with shaggy manes, and tigers with beautiful skins.” These, and tens of thousands of other curiosities and collectibles, the entire contents of Barnum’s Wunderkammer, were all incinerated.