Saturday, July 26, 2008
Sharma follows it up with:
According to the report, out of the 1.2 billi on people who defecate in the open worldwide because they have no access to toilets, more than half are Indian. An astounding 667 million people in this country have no option but to defecate in the open, a country that would like people to believe that it is on the cusp of becoming a global economic giant.
Why then does sanitation remain a subject that is accorded a relatively low priority compared to many other needs, including water and energy?
Yes, I owe VS Naipaul an apology for misusing his book title.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Here is that Youtube clip, in his memory:
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Alan Abramowitz, a politics scholar at Emory University, has shown that summer head-to-head polls convey almost no information about the forthcoming election. (Subsequent head-to-head polls are not much better.) Instead, he has a simple “electoral barometer” that weighs together the approval rating of the incumbent president, the economy’s economic growth rate and whether the president’s party has controlled the White House for two terms (the “time for a change” factor). This laughably simple metric has correctly forecast the winner of the popular vote in 14 out of 15 postwar presidential elections.
... The barometer not only picks winners but pretty accurately points to winning margins, too. In 1980, Jimmy Carter had the biggest postwar negative reading (–66); Ronald Reagan beat him by nearly 10 percentage points.
President George W. Bush’s net approval rating (favourable minus unfavourable) is currently –40; the economy grew at a 1 per cent annual rate in the first quarter; and Republicans have had two terms in the White House. Plugging the numbers into Mr Abramowitz’s formula gives the Republican candidate a score of –60, about as bad as it gets: second only to Mr Carter’s in the annals of doomed postwar candidacies. The barometer says Mr Obama is going to waltz to victory.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
[As] more journal issues came online, few articles were cited, and the ones that were cited tended to be more recent publications. Scholars also seemed to concentrate their citations more on specific journals and articles. "More is available," Evans said, "but less is sampled, and what is sampled is more recent and located in the most prominent journals." ....
Does this phenomenon spell the end of the literature review? Evans doesn't think so, but he does believe that it makes scholars and scientists more likely to come to a consensus and establish a conventional wisdom on a given topic faster. "Online access facilitates a convergence on what science is picked up and built upon in subsequent research." The danger in this, he believes, is that if new productive ideas and theories aren't picked up quickly by the research community, they may fade before their useful impact is evaluated. "It's like new movies. If movies don't get watched the first weekend, they're dropped silently," Evans said.
Great, now some crazy economist will come up with a method equivalent to the box-office numbers for movies. As if the impact factor isn't enough already!
But when the British start complaining, particularly in formal reports, that they can't trust the US leaders, we are in for some serious trouble.
Here is an excerpt from the Guardian's report:
In a damning criticism of US integrity, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said ministers should no longer take at face value statements from senior politicians, including George Bush, that America does not resort to torture in the light of the CIA admitting it used 'waterboarding'. ....
Today's committee report said there were 'serious implications' of the striking inconsistencies between British ministers continuing to believe the Bush administration when it denies using torture. 'The UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assurances in the future,' said the committee. 'We also recommend that the government should immediately carry out an exhaustive analysis of current US interrogation techniques on the basis of such information as is publicly available or which can be supplied by the US.'
It also urges the government to press the US authorities for information on whether any American military flights landing in the UK were part of the 'rendition circuit', even if they did not have detainees on board at the time.
Additional links on this "old" topic:
a. Should old faculty retire when they are eligible for retirement so that the younger ones waiting for a (tenure-track) job can get one?
b. At what age--80+,90+, 100+--do advanced medical treatments for the old become wasteful expenditures?
As a society, we have no choice but to deal with these difficult questions. Uncomfortable questions, no doubt. But, .....
Which comes first: economic development or liberal democracy?
In recent years, China has been a poster-child for liberal democracy taking a back seat to rapid economic growth and development. China, which is home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, significantly opened up its economy when Deng Xiaoping launched the country on a path that is, thankfully, remarkably different from the one envisioned by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. But, Deng’s approach did not free up the country’s politics though.
South Korea and Singapore too, for instance, did not become affluent and democratic at the same time. These were countries where governments ruled with enormous control over their citizens, with a sharp focus on rapid economic development.
Unlike these examples, very few developing countries, like India, tried to advance economic growth and development within a liberal democratic context. The late Albert Hirschman, who was an eminent social scientist, commented that India’s economic transformation was slow because resources were being invested in building democratic institutions.
Offering a slightly different perspective, and projecting India as “the next Asian miracle”, Yasheng Huang writes in the latest issue of Foreign Policy that “the emerging Indian miracle should debunk—hopefully permanently—the entirely specious notion that democracy is bad for growth.” And, this Business Week essay contends that India will beat China.
Unless India can quickly debunk the “specious notion”, as Huang refers to it, there is a good chance that other developing countries will attempt to mimic what comes across as the only successful path towards rapid economic development—the East Asian, particularly Chinese, model. Of course, this would also then involve sacrificing liberal democracy.
In such a context, Nepal will be an interesting case study to track. The monarchy started unraveling in 2001 when the then king, queen, and many relatives were killed in a drunken shooting spree by none other than the crown prince, who later fatally shot himself. This made it even more possible for a radical leftist group, the Nepal Communist Party, to step up its activities, particularly through violence.
The radicals were modeled after the Shining Path, in Peru, and are referred to as Maoist rebels because of their advocacy of Mao’s communist ideas. In the years since 2001, Nepal’s Maoist rebels signed truce accords with the government only to abandon it later, and the government imposed curfews and suspended elections.
In 2007, the rebels made clear their demands for the abolition of the monarchy, which was approved later in December as a part of the peace agreement. In May 2008, Nepal shed its monarchic tradition and is now a republic. The former rebels now hold most seats in the parliament and if they lean heavily on Maoist teaching, there is a good possibility that the government will be tempted to sacrifice liberal democracy in its pursuit of economic and social development.
It is an irony, indeed, that the land of Mao Zedong—China—has long shed its Maoist ideals, and offers a fertile economic landscape for profiting through capitalist ideas. Yet, thirty years after Deng’s decision, we now have a democratically elected government in power in Nepal that sincerely believes in Maoist ideals.
Whether elected or otherwise, countries from Rwanda to Nepal will benefit from assistance from the West when it comes to creating and sustaining democratic institutions. I suspect that the growing uncertainty in global economic conditions—the recent increases in the price of food crops and petroleum, in particular—will further compel many African and Asian countries to do something, even if it means curtailing the freedom of individuals. India better do the right things, and fast.
Monday, July 21, 2008
More at the official website
Here is what an opinion in The Hindu says (it does not list the 35% stock market dive in two months, and the stone-throwing riots as a result!):
Pakistan’s nearly four-month-old government is struggling hard to dispel the impression that it is floundering, but it’s a losing battle so far. There is a crisis on almost every front — runaway prices, the rupee in free fall, food shortages, power outages, the tightening grip of the Taliban in the northwest, panic that the United States is about to invade the country, and a shadow on India-Pakistan relations following the Indian Embassy blast in Kabul.
And, if Pakistan descends into chaos? This is the scenario that is likely to unfold. Not pretty!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
California alone uses more gasoline than any country in the world (except the US as a whole, of course). That means California's 20 billion gallon gasoline and diesel habit is greater than China's! (Or Russia's. Or India's. Or Brazil's. Or Germany's.)
That's according to the California Energy Commission's State Alternative Fuels Plan, which was posted online last Christmas Eve (pdf). The whole report makes for some fascinating reading because it's a blueprint for a low-carbon and renewable transportation fuel future. The dominant takeaway: it ain't going to be easy.
One more choice statistic: gasoline usage in California has increased 50 percent, that's 10 6.7 billion gallons, since 1988. Has there been anything close to a commensurate increase in quality of life here to accompany that rise in energy use?
But China's oil thirst is growing -- to almost 20 billion gallons in 2007 -- and perhaps as early as this year, China's 1.3 billion people will overtake California's 37 million people in total gasoline and diesel usage.
It is crazier that this is listed in the magazine under "Intelligence Report". The best kept secret in the country that was uncovered by the reporter, eh!
Defending the gazillion dollar salaries, Jennifer Kearns of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) defends coaches’ high pay. She says that, unlike professors who have the protection of tenure, “coaches can be dismissed for lackluster records or the inappropriate behavior of 18- to 22-year-olds.”
Hey, pay me two million dollars and, heck, I will give up university teaching for the rest of my life. Try it.