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“Unstable and malfunctioning – pick two” December 27, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, history.
4 comments

Bhutto is gone. Sad and scary, not because she was a great leader of the peoples but given our reduced expectations of democracy from poor (and/or Islamic) countries, her absence is destabilizing for Pakistan and the region.

Thats one of those famous pictures (best size I could find 😦 ) from India-Pak history shot when Z. A. Bhutto was in Simla to negotiate the Simla agreement. (If Rajiv was in politics at the time (1972), he would have been in this picture too).

Read this interesting account of Benazir: the girl who mesmerised Shimla.

Much similarity there – I. Gandhi and Z. Bhutto on one hand and R. Gandhi and B. Bhutto on another. Father-Daughter/Mother-Son – all political assassinations [Details ]. In the latter case, both were assassinated during campaign rallies just days before the elections . Everybody in the picture faced unnatural and violent deaths.

picture-2.png

Just realized that Z. A. Bhutto without the somewhat prominent hair on the behind of his head bears some resemblance to Nehru !

And what a blessed neighborhood India once again finds itself in – Burma, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal – none of them even have a stable, functioning, democratic government. Sri Lanka is struggling big time. Is it just Maldives and Bhutan then ?

There is the popular CMU motto – work, sleep, social life – pick two.

Or as Dani talks of the impossibility theorem – “democracy/national sovereignty/global economic integration” – pick two.

Similarly, I think in much of the non-OECD world, you can’t have it all in one government- stable/democratic – pick one.

In South Asia, its more like “Unstable and malfunctioning – pick two”.

More Pakistani history pictures here.

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History quiz and Castro December 18, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, ideas, people.
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History is interesting. Time yourself as you figure out A through I.

A is ruling over B. C wages war on B and D. C and E occupy I. C occupies A. C wages war on E. F wages war on G. G, E and A beat the shit out of C. G beats the shit out of F. H and D occupy A. A teams up with B to drive out H. H and D leave on the condition that B will leave A. A does not leave B. B breaks into B1 and B2. A leaves B1 and B2. G and B2 team up against B1 (and H). G loses to B1. B1 occupies B2 and together becomes B. And today G is the largest trading partner of I, B, H and F. A is the largest and G the second largest partner of C.

I think most people would figure out A to I, its about how many seconds (minutes??) it takes. Since I made it up, I have no idea how long it would have taken me.

Continue reading this post if your head is not spinning yet.

P.S: Some sentences give more information than others, but then you don’t know that before hand. Do sentences that have more actors (letters) give most information ? At what point did you become fully confident of your answer ?

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My nomination for Foot in Mouth Award 2007.

“I promise that I will be with you, if you so wish, for as long as I feel that I can be useful — and if it is not decided by nature before — not a minute less and not a second more,” he said at the time. “Now I understand that it was not my destiny to rest at the end of my life.”

No, not quoting Joseph Heller. Thats Fidel Castro. Since 1959. ( Raymonds style 😉 )

Lets say you are in your early twenties, single and all that – now ask yourself which current head of state you think will remain head of state when your granddaughter is as old as you are now.

Some pattern there – Musharaff and Chavez seeking political immortality. (but where they have failed so far, Castro is going strong.) And why leave out LK Advani, MMS, and others except that people have a chance to vote them out through largely free and fair polls.

P.S: Oops, just as I wrote this I see it has already been awarded. Only if they waited a little longer.

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Darwin award, Child labor and Sweatshops November 28, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in economics, history, weird.
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Meet Toni Vernelli:

Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible “mistake” of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time. He refused, but Toni – who works for an environmental charity – “relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery.

And why ?

Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population.”

Linked from here. One of the comments on the post implies that she should next be aiming for the Darwin award.

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The sweatshop dilemma – this time in the Indian context – manhole covers headed for New York City made in India. Dani discusses discusses the implications of this article as a starting point. But we know that the debate is more general. A related article by Amit Varma on Child Labor is here. Usha has a few very interesting accounts and personal recollections pertaining to the dilemma.

Then there is Nicolas Kristof’s very controversial sweatshops column in the Times.

And Krugman’s article from 2001 where he said :

There is an old European saying: anyone who is not a socialist before he is 30 has no heart; anyone who is still a socialist after he is 30 has no head. Suitably updated, this applies perfectly to the movement against globalization — the movement that made its big splash in Seattle back in 1999 and is doing its best to disrupt the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City this weekend.

The facts of globalization are not always pretty. If you buy a product made in a third-world country, it was produced by workers who are paid incredibly little by Western standards and probably work under awful conditions. Anyone who is not bothered by those facts, at least some of the time, has no heart.

But that doesn’t mean the demonstrators are right. On the contrary: anyone who thinks that the answer to world poverty is simple outrage against global trade has no head — or chooses not to use it. The anti-globalization movement already has a remarkable track record of hurting the very people and causes it claims to champion.

 And thats enough material for a high-school debate on sweatshops. Of course, you will then be below 30 and with much of the above material open to criticism of having no heart.

War and South India November 17, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, india.
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Another excellent article by Rama Guha :

Malavalli has been untouched by war for the past 200 years; so, in fact, has the whole of South India. This fact needs to be more carefully pondered by professional historians as well as by ordinary citizens. For, of which other part of India, or indeed of the world, could one say that two centuries have passed since the cannons boomed and the tanks roared? In this respect we South Indians have been very fortunate indeed.

This is not a novel thought certainly – maybe Guha himself must have said it before. I remember reading something along these lines a few years ago in one of Naipaul’s essays. Naipaul’s writings of India don’t have too great a reputation, but could someone have got everything wrong ? 🙂 (especially if Naipaul and Guha agree on something 🙂 ).

I wanted to mention this while the North-South debate came up briefly – that the north has repeatedly borne the brunt of violence in the Indian sub-continent , especially external aggressions. But the relative disorder, the relatively large impoverished masses, the caste complexities, the relatively eroded human capital over decades – this is the price that part of India has had top pay. Not altruism but in self-defence one might argue, but I think this has been some sort of a positive externality for the South. This is not of course to defend any racial discrimination either way, but an acknowledgment that there are a few fundamental differences between South and parts of the North. Not all of these differences matter all the time, but some of them matter some of the time.

Military history September 28, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history.
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Like Calvin’s cartoon about how there is so much to do that you are always behind, I think there is so much out there to just read, know and watch, I would be dead before I do it all 😀 . Here is this amazing thing I read today – today being the Petrov Day. And why ? Because Mr. Petrov pretty much saved the world from extinction back in 1983.

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Meanwhile, military history is interesting, filled with things that would have had definite and significant impact on our lives. Yet, its so vast, I feel hopeless to even begin reading it up seriously. Of course, we mostly read not so become experts and have exhaustive knowledge, but to just enjoy the process and the momentary kicks and highs. Here is one from Wikipedia entry for Able archer.

Thus, on November 2, 1983, as Soviet intelligence services were attempting to detect the signs of a nuclear strike, NATO began to simulate one. The exercise, codenamed Able Archer, involved numerous NATO allies and simulated NATO’s Command, Control, and Communications (C³) procedures during a nuclear war. It probably emulated the Pentagon’s Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) which, at the time, named 25,000 military targets, 15,000 industrial targets, and 500 targets associated with Soviet leadership. Some Soviet leadership, because of the preceding world events and the exercise’s particularly realistic nature, believed — in accordance with Soviet military doctrine — that the exercise may have been a cover for an actual attack.

Those numbers I thought were mind-bogglingly insane – cataloging such a huge list of very specific places in a foreign country.

Indian Post, American marriages, history and the present September 20, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in assorted, history, india, people, politics, statistics.
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Some cool but not-so-well known (to me at least) facts about India :

With 1,55,618 post offices and over 5,66,000 employees, India has the largest postal network in the world. We can also boast of the world’s highest post office, Hikkim (pin code 172114). Located at 15,500 feet, Hikkim is part of the Lahaul and Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh. And, if you’d like to know about one more postal record, the world’s first official airmail flight took place right here in India, on February 18, 1911. It was a journey that spanned 18 kilometres and lasted 27 minutes. Henri Pequet, a French pilot, ferried around 15 kilos of mail (approximately 6,000 letters and cards) across the Ganga, from Allahabad to Naini.

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On the longevity (or the lack of it) of marriages in America.

More than half the Americans who might have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversaries since 2000 were divorced, separated or widowed before reaching that milestone, according to the latest census survey, released yesterday.

“We know that somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent of marriages dissolve,” said Barbara Risman, executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families, a research group. “Now, when people marry, everyone wonders, is this one of those marriages that will be around for awhile.”

That is down from 75% of marriages in the 50s lasting 25 years to about 46% for those married in the 70s.

Of course, one must remember that this has got not only with the fragility of marriage as an institution (though perhaps largely so), but also the fact that several marry very late in life, the above statistic also counts people’s second or later marriages, which more often (relative to first marriages) end with a death of one of the partners.

But yeah, think about it – when was the last time you were at a marriage in India and asking yourself about how long the marriage would last ? Or weirdly still, when was the last time you missed a marriage of one of your close friends and told yourself – “Its okay, there is always a next time.” 😀

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I wrote about the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C. in my previous post. And forgot to put their intriguing origins.

In 1826, James Smithson, a British scientist, drew up his last will and testament, naming his nephew as beneficiary. Smithson stipulated that, should the nephew die without heirs (as he would in 1835), the estate should go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

The motives behind Smithson’s bequest remain mysterious. He never traveled to the United States and seems to have had no correspondence with anyone here. Some have suggested that his bequest was motivated in part by revenge against the rigidities of British society, which had denied Smithson, who was illegitimate, the right to use his father’s name. Others have suggested it reflected his interest in the Enlightenment ideals of democracy and universal education.

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I like what this article says – on Sarkozy’s France – and the way it says it.

Mughals Vs. British in India August 31, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, india.
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As a sorta follow-up to the previous post, I was a part of the conversation last week where questions along the following lines arose –

a) Take 2 anchor points in India’s history – Babar’s victory in first battle of Panipat in 1526 when the ground was laid for the Mughal empire and the British in 1757 when, after victory in the Battle of Plassey, they really looked like they were taking over). Which of these are found morally reprehensible, worthy of criticism ?

b) How does that change, if at all, looking at India in 1857 when Mughal Empire was ‘officially’ dismantled and 1947 when the British empire in India came to an end ? This is sort of hindsight view since we saw how it all ended up.

Of course, with such charged questions one can guess another’s position on the topic just by knowing his/her positions on other seemingly unrelated topics. But one of the defenses of the Mughal Empire offered was that it is less reprehensible because –

– Babar was an individual unlike Britain which was a democracy.

– Babar and his descendants stayed back in India and assimilated while the British left. Hence, the Mughals did not channel money out of India like the colonists did.

– Indian Economy grew at an average of 0.1% (!!) between late 1700s and 1947. I have no similar numbers for the Mughal era, assuming such figures are available at all.

On the other hand, it was argued that the religious excesses that Mughals are to have indulged in weren’t seen in similar number during the British. Also economic decline may have had more to do with India missing the Industrial Revolution bus much like China, which, in spite of never being directly colonized during the period, went into decline.

What other points in either’s favor can you think of ?

Dividing Iraq August 31, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, history, india.
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If there was the internet, the online commentators/bloggers out in 1947, there would have been an endless stream of articles talking about the possible consequences (perils ??) of partitioning India, much like this article warns against dividing Iraq into 3 countries, or at least into a “federation of three ethno-religious regions is that it would provide a solution to the ongoing conflict between these groups.”

A final reason to be skeptical of plans to partition Iraq is that they suffer from the same fundamental issue that has plagued the broader Iraqi reconstruction effort—the inability of foreign occupiers to centrally plan liberal democratic, economic and social institutions. Historical efforts to partition countries and regions (e.g., Israel, Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and so on) have generated benefits, but they have also generated significant unintended consequences that could not have been foreseen at the time of the initial interventions. There is no reason to believe the partitioning of Iraq would be any different.

Weirdly, the writer does not mention the Indian subcontinent in that list.

We (rightly) talk of how the British may have played a role in the lingering Kashmir dispute, or even in the post-partition riots by hurrying through with the partition (with much help our own leaders who were increasingly getting impatient). Sometimes I think we still go away lightly, just wonder how much worse it could have been. (of course, this is just a thought, such lines of arguments can often cloud real issues)

My previous posts on the subject : Comtemplative in India in 1947 and Iraq in 2007 and quasi-speculative in Why partition may have been the best thing happened to South Asia.

 

Malthus in Africa August 30, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in economics, history, politics.
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Clark’s recent is getting many people debating his hypothesis that lower life expectancy of poor and higher of the rich caused downward mobility in pre-Industrial England and these genetic transmission of middle-class values laid ground for the industrial revolution. See some reviews/notes here (Dani Rodrik).

Now Clark has something to say about Africa in a rather presumptuously titled post :

Before the Industrial Revolution all societies were caught in the same Malthusian Trap that imprisons Africa today. Living standards stagnated because any improvement caused births to exceed deaths. The resulting population growth, pressing on fixed land resources, inevitably pushed incomes back down to subsistence.

But living conditions did vary across pre-industrial societies. Perversely, rich societies were those where nature or man created high death rates. In such settings living conditions could be good as long as the population did not grow. In the Malthusian era, what is now vice in economic policy — violence, poor public health, war, inequality — was virtue in terms of living standards. And what is now virtue, vice.

If this were true, what moral quandary it would be. Clark then elaborates with the Ugandan example. Now, I have read quite a few criticisms of Jeffrey sachs’ Africa plan but this has not been one of them.

If Mr. Sachs’ Millennium Project succeeds where most of its effort is concentrated, in reducing mortality, then it will further erode living standards. In Uganda, for example, at incomes that are the equivalent of $3 a person a day, the population is still growing at 3.5% per year. Given the heavy dependence of Uganda on agriculture and natural resources, population pressure has ensured that even with improved crop yields, incomes have stagnated over the past 40 years.

Fourteen percent of children born in Uganda die before the age of five. If the Millennium Project reduces such deaths to American levels, that alone will increase the population growth to 4.2% a year. Without sustained economic growth, this is just a recipe for more miserable living conditions.

Of course, lest Clark be misunderstood thanks to my selective quotations here, he does not advocate that we let people die. Instead he argues for more growth via services and industrialization. Of course, how do we achieve that is question that is still not certain.

Update : Here is an interesting finding attributed Clark.

I will add that Clark’s point that the typical humans of 1800 were poorer and less well off than those of 10,000 BCE is an important insight, and it is born out by decades of analysis of remains which show that farmers are on average underfed and nutrient deprived vis-a-vis hunter-gatherers.

And thats from here. Ten questions for Clark here.

Assorted stuff now June 30, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, assorted, economics, geo-politics, history, humor.
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Are you the first born in the family ? Find out. ( in a kinda round about way ofcourse 🙂 )

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About what it is like to be a baby. This simple extract itself is enlightening :

So what is it like to be a baby? According to Gopnik, it’s something like attending to everything at once: There’s much less of the reflexive and ignored, the non-conscious, the automatic and expert. She suggests that the closest approximation adults typically get to baby-like experience is when they are in completely novel environments, such as very different cultures, where everything is new. In four days in New Guinea we might have more consciousness and lay down more memories than in four months at home. Also, she suggests, it may be something like certain forms of meditation — those that involve dissolving one’s attentional focus and becoming aware of everything at once. In such states, consciousness becomes not like a spotlight focused on one or a few objects of attention, with all else dark, but more like a lantern, shining its light on many things at once.

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Problem from the 1920s : How do you get people to pay to listen for radio ? If you pay to listen to the radio, I can listen anyway. The classic free-rider problem. Today the solution is obvious, but it was not always so.

 

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The first sentence of this article. Its interesting how sentences like that have to read at least twice to make sense of them. I very often end up constructing, inadvertently sentences like them in my own writing. They don’t seem unusual until ofcourse you come across someone else’s prose.

 

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Rice questions the great Indian hypocrisy.

Remember MMS’s gem on NAM :

Non-alignment is a state of mind, to think independently about our options, to widen our developmental choices.

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Maps !! June 12, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, history.
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I wrote about my love for maps in an earlier post. Alas ! someone is actually concerned about it :-). Here is this amazing blog with some really imaginative…er.. imagery.

One of those interesting things you can do with maps ( and graphs ) is to leave stuff unlabelled and see if people get it. With maps at least its easier and the easier it is to get it, the better the map is.

Favorites :

– Sometimes you wish the world were like this. If you don’t get it, read more on that map here.

– So many folks in so many place would rather the world were like this. More on that one.

And if you don’t like these, there are a whole bunch here. Imagination rules !

Imagine what all these maps will do to our study of history and geography !! Even those never enjoyed in their present form ( and I am not one of them ) would probably jump ship.

And this indeed the “Oops, I did not know of the day.”

Nevertheless, at the Conference of the Western Occupying Powers of Germany in London (from January 14 to February 25, 1947), the Netherlands officially requested the annexation of 1.840 km² of German territory. …

The concluding statements of the Germany Conference in London on April 23, 1949, awarded only very small fragments of German territory to the Netherlands – about 20 fragments, typically smaller than 1km² and totalling no more than 69 km². Most of these were returned to Germany in 1963 and 2002. In fact, the ambitious Dutch annexation plans of 1945 have resulted in only one formerly German area now still under Dutch control: a small area called Wylerberg (in German; Duivelsberg in Dutch) close to the Dutch border city of Nijmegen, measuring no more than 125 hectares.

These Europeans are chilled out guys – been there, done that. They ain’t gonna go to war over such a tiny piece of land, uh 🙂

Caste and Indian politics May 12, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, india, media, politics.
2 comments

How ironic that on the very same day in two of India’s leading newspapers, two of India’s distinguished journalists of roughly very similar political persuasions ( slightly left of centre or liberal in the American sense) have almost diametrically things to say on the same topic !

Here is Vir Sanghvi of the Hindustan Times lamenting why we have almost never got our Presidents for the right reasons, that even when we got the ‘right’ people ( Kalam/KRN ), we got them entirely for the wrong reasons.

My concern, however, is that when it comes to the crunch, political parties will ignore the merit of individual candidates. Once again, we will look for vote-banks. We will dredge up backward and minority candidates from the mists of time. And as soon as the regional parties get involved, negotiation and wheeling and dealing will take over — specially now that Mayawati has emerged victorious in UP. In the process, the world’s largest democracy will end up with some politically correct monument to caste and communal tokenism at Rashtrapati Bhavan. And we will once again not have a President we can be proud of.

And then there is Shekhar Gupta of the Express about why caste is slowly ceasing to matter in Indian politics.

All three missed a central point, the pivot around which the new politics of India is being built. That the days of narrow, vote-bank politics are now over. You can no longer secure 25-27 per cent vote in a fractured polity and rule a state. You now need to broaden your agenda, invite, entice, and include others too. Because it is logical that a fast-developing, fast-urbanising society should also evolve a more cosmopolitan outlook. It is tired of divisive agendas, of being taken for granted.

Well, are we generalizing from very few cases here. Do people think in sync ? I don’t understand elections because I have never voted. While I can think of arguments now, I haven’t really had an opportunity to follow an election as a voter, weighing candidates and parties and issues. Its just been as an observer and an interested citizen. So maybe I am not never the right person to speak on this issue.

But when I see things being written, I am skeptical. When BJP lost in 2004, it was reasoned that their arrogance and ‘divise’ agendas lead to their loss. But then they came back in Punjab/Himachal, it was attributed to anti-incumbency rather than a vote for Hindutva. When non-congress, non-BJP parties lost in the states, it was explained as people being fed up of smaller parties with unclear agendas. When BSP and SP dominated the UP results, it is explained that India’s federal structure makes it harder to parties and leaders with national appeal. ( I wish I could provide references for these allegations I make, but if you have followed Indian politics and commentators, you know what I am talking about. )

In a country as diverse as India, it might require something dramatic ( war, emergency etc. ) to get voters to think in sync, to vote on the basis of limited set of issues. Just think of the past few general elections and ask yourself what the issues were. Its always something vague, anti-incumbent rhetoric, secular/communal bullshit or its about personalities. Its not about specific economic policies or foreign policy and even a larger vision for the country.

Its unfortunate but true – for a young democracy with a large illiterate socially, economically disempowered electorate in a land that is still trying define its identity as a nation, it might be decades before such a thing as caste ceases to matter in elections. Let us not forget that caste has been around much longer than India did, it ain’t going away any soon.

And if Bryan Caplan is right about such a thing as the rational voter myth, we might never get there. And those we think have gotten there, haven’t either.

P.S: But having said that I will any day live with this system than go down the way of some of our sub-continental neighbors.

The nation and the national festivals May 12, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, india, politics.
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Ram Guha talks about his latest book :

If there is a defining feature it is this: that Indian democracy, the Indian state, has gone from crisis to crisis and somehow we have been able to contain these crises. Since the 1950s there’s a kind of insurgency in Kashmir and then it stops. Then you have the whole linguistic movement, which is contained through the creation of linguistic states. Then you have the Dravidian movement but then the Tamils decide that they want to be a part of India. There is Naxalism, which gets contained. And then there is Punjab. It is a nation that lurches from crisis to crisis, but unlike any other nation in the Asian, African or ex-colonial world, it is not enough to (destroy) the democratic fabric of society except for that brief period of Emergency.

So, a sick man who refuses to die or an warrior who is always at war and each time just manages to scrape through ? But the British in 1947 must have thought ( like Bush does now ( and rightly so perhaps )) that if they leave the sub-continent, India will break up in pieces. Well, we did and we didn’t. Mostly latter. I wrote about this before.

Post-independence history hence is indeed interesting. I recently bought a book “Nehru” by Vincent Sheehan, an American journalist who knew Nehru personally. The first chapter of the book is ironically mostly about Gandhi. (Vincent was covering Gandhi’s prayer function when he ( Gandhi ) was assassinated.) If I get to the second chapter which I often don’t these days, I will write more.

Meanwhile, the Indian Express has something compelling on a related topic.

Without a doubt, 1857 is an important milestone in the evolution of modern India. But the lacklustre character of the celebrations surrounding the one hundred and fiftieth year of India’s First War of Independence raises some profound questions about the relationship between the nation and the important events that made it. The first is the striking contrast we still see between India’s religious celebrations and its civic ones. The former are colourful, spontaneous, diversely imagined and organised by the people. The latter remain for the most part dull, solemn, doled out in standardised formats and manufactured by state.

The question is: why aren’t citizens taking charge of their own history, commemorating them in their own way? The reasons are complex. Part of it has to do with the state constructing 1857 as an icon, rather than lively history. 1857 is also a touchy subject, because there many competing narratives about these events. And for all our talk about unity in diversity, these competing narratives can expose our faultlines. There is also something to the claim that the character of our patriotism may be changing: rousing narratives of sacrifice do not move us in the same way they used to.

True, isn’t it. I can through arguments perhaps talk about how 1857 meant a big deal, but I am not sure that would be too sincere in terms of what I feel. As for state sponsored celebrations like the Oct 2/Jan 26, somehow it feels distant compared to say, Holi.

T.D.I.H March 18, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, history.
2 comments

“K-9 corps” – what could be special about this US military unit ? Its workable if you think about it, not really a fact based question.

Slight digression now.

There are people out there who can’t start their day without their coffee, daily newspaper ( and maybe a cigarette or two in some cases ). “This Day In History” – a website from the History channel is something I imagine can sort of substitute or perhaps add to the proverbial morning coffee.

Imagine waking up every morning logging in to see what else happened that day going hundreds of years into the past. I sometimes visit this site and send a link to that day’s TDIH to people who I would otherwise send a birthday wish.

For the answer to the question – look at this lovely video about the K-9 corps. The best part of the video is the first sentence – “On this day, the US Army went to the dogs” !

A somewhat related post about America being a nation of fund-raisers 🙂 – where people won’t wait forever for the government to allocate money ( and consequently taxing you more ) but rather raise the money from volunteers. Quite a feel good thing here.

And a previous post about my dog there.

Assorted links today March 17, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in assorted, history, india, weird.
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Imagine your brother at your door, with half of his house with him.

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An exciting video about the Nazi attempt to steal art worth millions and how museums at Paris, Rome, St. Petersburgh moved around/hidden from the Nazis. Also where was the Mona Lisa during the war ?

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An evidence of what is nuts about our education system. Blame is to be shared by people who do stupid things and those that incentivise stupidity.

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Mint has started a series called Sixty at Sixty.

Sixty in Sixty is a special series that we plan to run through 2007, the 60th anniversary of India’s independence. We will introduce you to sixty Indians—both here and abroad—who are not rich or famous. These are people who are making quiet, but important, contributions without seeking headlines, to help make India and, in some cases, the world a better place.

Good idea I think.

420 February 6, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, india.
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One of the most informative articles of its kind in a while.

Still, Macaulay might have been amused by the fact that of his vast and complex Code, perhaps only two sections are known to most Indians. These are Section 144, which prohibits gatherings of more than five people whenever the Government perceives a threat to “law and order”; and Section 420, which defines what is counterfeiting. Indeed, the latter section, rendered in the vernacular, has even become a verb: so that we can now call a trickster of our acquaintance a “char sau bis”.

No, I confess, I really didnt know that Section 420 part. Embarassing, I know. ( On second thoughts, maybe because I am not one 😉 ).

Heroes and heroics of WW II February 3, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, life.
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A new book about the diplomatic heroes of the holocaust. Here is one example of what they did. Touching indeed.

But the diplomat hero that Mr. Holbrooke highlighted in his remarks was Aristides de Sousa Mendes, an aristocratic Portuguese consul general in Bordeaux, France, from 1938 to July 1940. In May 1940, he faced pitiable crowds of refugees from the German invasion of France, many of them Jews camped in the streets and parks and desperate for visas allowing escape into Spain and Portugal.

He also faced an absolute prohibition by Portugal’s dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar, against issuing transit visas to refugees and especially to Jews. In mid-June, the consul general agonized for several days, cut himself off from the world, at one moment agitated, at the next despondent. Suddenly he proceeded to his office and announced: “I’m giving everyone visas. There will be no more nationalities, races or religions.”

The next days were frenzied. All day and into the night, visas were issued. Fees were waived. No one filled in names. Sousa Mendes traveled to the Spanish border to make certain that refugees were able to cross. He confronted Spanish border guards when needed — and continued to sign visas.

Lisbon was upset and on June 23 stripped him of his authority. Returning to his property in Portugal the next month, he only disturbed the authorities more by acknowledging his deeds and defending them straightforwardly on humanitarian and religious grounds. Dismissed from the diplomatic service and with 12 children to support, he had to sell his family estate and eventually died in poverty, supported by an allowance from Lisbon’s Jewish community, where he ate at a soup kitchen.

Talks and Graphs February 3, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in CMU, history, science, statistics.
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Folks over at TED continue to put up some really cool talks on their site. The latest one is on London in the mid-19th century. I wonder if thats how London was in the colonial era and the British in India still grumbled about India, either they were plain lying or it must have been so much worse.

“Nice guys finish last” – an extremely engaging video on game theory, how we think and strategize and some commentary on the prisoners’ dilemmas. Narrator : Richard Dawkins, from somewhere in the 1980s.

Data and Visualization technologies now : I talked about Swivel some time back.
IBM now has an application up here – Many Eyes they call it. And yeah, 2 of the 6 people at IBM who built this are CMU grads !

(Still), I don’t understand why this graph has to look the way it does. 🙂

India in 1947 and Iraq in 2007 January 7, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, history, india, politics.
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To say I am not impressed by the TOI would be an understatement after having started an Orkut community that goes by the name TOI sucks. But lets give credit where its due. This is quite a cool collection. [ although their choice of Sushmita Sen, Jessica Lal case etc. is debatable ]

This collection infact is better.

India in 1947 reminds me of Iraq of today – centuries of being ruled by minority rulers ( Muslims ) that were intermittently despotic and reasonable, when India finally won independence, the only reasonable solution seemed to be the partition. Over 1 million died and another million went missing and a short war ensued in 1947. Iraq faces the same situation, only this time the minorities are the Sunni sect within Islam.

Carry this comparison a little farther, the prospects that you see for Iraq today – violence, bloodshed, civil war – are exactly what was predicted for India then. [ Read this excellent article about how even in 1967 the West didn’t give India a chance for survival ] Considering it all, India hasnt done all that bad a job maybe. **Unsure**. There is already a talk to ‘India-Pakistan-Bangladesh’ style partition of Iraq into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish Iraq.

Here is what I wrote on this topic on Jan 30th, 2005.

Was reading this blog by an Iraqi about the elections. Am sometimes wondering how it might have been in India around 1947. The partition brought so much of pain, blood, chaos and it really wasnt unthinkable that we get into some real mess that has since befallen colonies that suddenly found themselves having to manage and learn democratic norms and institution building.

What prevented India from slipping into the abyss ? That too an India whose political unity came only as an inadvertent consequence of British consolidation and the independence movement that ensued, even though cultural and economic unity had always existed. Is it due to the political class of those years which was largely virtuous and incorruptible ? Is it that they were really careful about how they should handle things in the light of new found independence compared to those of today who have made democracy their greatest weapon ? Is it that the nationalism that the Independence movement generated hadnt yet become more of a token as it seems today ? Infact why didnt the death of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 ( infact 57 years to this very day ! ) barely months after Independence further lead us into chaos ?

Our first elections were in 1952. How would things have changed if we had elections soon after the partition in 1947 or the British insisted on conducting elections before packing off – this is something that seems to be happening in Iraq at the moment. If the US forces walked out today, a civil war is only a formality. But we managed to have a smooth transition from 1948-1952 ( ofcourse noting that the partition was in 1947 ). I am ofcourse NOT at all a supporter of US occupation but now that they made the mess, they own it !

How could India – a country of 250 million with diversity larger than anything that Iraq comes close to keep itself together as a pseudo democracy until 1952 without a constitution until 1950 ( ofcourse we did have an interim constitution I guess ) ? And how did we imbibe democracy in what was essentially a feudal society even after 1952 ? Was it Nehru and his charisma and his incontestible integrity ? When you look at the Iraq today with its fledgling democracy, that or perhaps something much more complicated India was around 1947.

Before we get too involved in similarities between Iraq of today and India of the yesteryears, we must realize the big difference here. Iraq wasnt liberated by an indegenous independence movement unlike India – the process of liberation didnt unite the country, only divided it. It didnt even throw up any leaders with a nation-wide appeal.

All said and done, in retrospect you feel good about India and how it handled it all. We owe a lot to our political class of that age – Nehru, Patel, Rajagopalchari, Maulana Azad, Shastri, Rajendra Prasad.

Ofcourse today, we live inspite of our political class, not because of them.

Food for thought – WW II November 18, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, history.
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So its about the food too !

The Wages of Destruction
, by Adam Tooze is really fresh look at Nazi Germany. In an interview with Adam, he says :

However, there is no doubt that when the Third Reich invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 it did so in pursuit of not one, but three loosely coordinated programmes of mass murder: a mission to destroy the politically dangerous Jews of the Soviet Union; a long-term programme of colonization accompanied by the “removal” of virtually the entire native population – the so-called Generalplan Ost; thirdly, an immediate programme for death through starvation of the entire urban population of the Soviet Union, numbering approximately 30 million people, to release food for German use.

Meanwhile, in early 1942 the food supply had emerged as an overriding preoccupation. The Hunger Plan of 1941, intended to remove the urban population of the Soviet Union from the food chain had been only a partial success. Germany now faced a severe shortage of grain and was forced to impose deep ration cuts even on the Wehrmacht. It was in this context that plan 1 (Judeocide) and plan 3 (general genocide through redistribution of food) converged. Goering and the Agricultural Ministry, now led by the sinister Herbert Backe, demanded a dramatic reallocation of grain and meat within the Nazi Empire, towards Germany. And it was in this context in the early summer of 1942 that Himmler happily agreed to accelerate the killing of the 2 million strong Jewish population of occupied Poland as a vital contribution to freeing up food for use by the Wehrmacht.

Those who still believed in the 1930s in a prosperous and secure future for Germany under an Anglo-American umbrella were simply naïve. Conquest and racial struggle were the only true routes to prosperity and security. Armaments were the means to that end. Hitler chose war in the autumn of 1939 because in light of renewed economic difficulties, he no longer believed that he could win the arms race with Britain and France. It was now or never. And he chose to escalate the war in 1941 with the invasion of the Soviet Union for the same reason. In the end of course the balance of force prevailed and Germany went down to defeat. But the remarkable thing surely is how close to success Hitler came.

Quite amazing, there is stuff about the WW II that is still coming out into the open, over 60 years after the last shot was fired/ first atom bomb was dropped.

Jawaharlal !! November 5, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, india.
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Here is an article that gives an account of the bravery of India’s first Param Veer Chakra awardee. Interesting as it is, this exchange is something I have come across before.

A young army colonel named Sam Manekshaw, who attended the meeting, recalled: ‘As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God Almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, ‘Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away?’ He [Nehru] said, ‘Of course, I want Kashmir.’ Then he [Patel] said: ‘Please give your orders.’

For the generations who have been brought up to venerate Nehru, its amusing to note that somebody knew him on first name terms.

Oh Stalingrad ! August 5, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, history.
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Wars make our history books bloody, but bloody interesting. We have always heard of the Battle of Stalingrad. Today somehow I read much of its detailed description and would definitely rank as one of the most interesting reads of recent weeks. Its ironic that stories of death and destruction make interesting reading and become unputdownables or in the internet world – unscrolldownable/un-Alt-F4-able/un-back-buttonable !

On a somewhat related note, I feel the most exciting region of the world since the 1500s has been Europe – voyages of discovery, renaissance, music, art, science, mathematics, industrial revolution, war, destruction – everything that mattered happened in Europe !

Read the detailed account of the war here.

Or some excerpts :

Amid the debris of the wrecked city, the Soviet 62nd Army anchored their defense lines with strongpoints in houses and factories. Fighting was fierce and desperate. The life expectancy of a newly-arrived Soviet private in the city dropped to less than twenty-four hours. Stalin’s Order No. 227 of July 27, 1942 decreed that all those who retreated or otherwise left their positions without orders could be summarily shot. “Not a step back!” was the slogan. The Germans pushing forward into Stalingrad suffered heavy casualties.

German military doctrine was based on the principle of combined-arms teams and close co-operation by tanks, infantry, engineers, artillery; and ground-attack aircraft. To counter this, Soviet commanders adopted the simple expedient of always keeping the front lines as close together as physically possible. Chuikov called this tactic “hugging” the Germans. This forced the German infantrymen to either fight on their own or risk taking casualties from their own supporting fire; it neutralized German close air support and weakened their artillery support. Bitter fighting raged for every street, every factory, every house, basement and staircase. The Germans, calling this unseen urban warfare Rattenkrieg (“rat-war”), bitterly joked about capturing the kitchen but still fighting for the living-room.

..

Fighting on Mamayev Kurgan, a prominent, blood-soaked hill above the city, was particularly merciless. The height changed hands many times. During one Soviet counter-attack, they lost an entire division of 10,000 men in one day.

..

Nevertheless the fighting, especially on the slopes of Mamayev Kurgan and inside the factory area in the northern part of the city, continued as fiercely as ever. The battles for the Red October steel factory, the Dzerzhinsky tractor factory and the Barrikady gun factory became world famous. While Soviet soldiers defended their positions and took the Germans under fire, factory workers repaired damaged Soviet tanks and other weapons close to the battlefield, sometimes on the battlefield itself.

..

The encircling Red Army units immediately formed two defensive fronts: one facing ‘inward’ to defend against breakout attempt by the surrounded Germans, the other facing ‘outward’ to defend against any relief attempt.

..

Hitler promoted Paulus to Generalfeldmarschall on January 30, 1943 (the 10th anniversary of Hitler coming to power). Since no German field marshal had ever been taken prisoner, Hitler assumed that Paulus would fight on or take his own life. Nevertheless, when Soviet forces closed in on Paulus’ headquarters in the ruined GUM department store, Paulus surrendered.

..

Only 6,000 of the 91,000 German prisoners of war survived their captivity and returned home. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent to labour camps all over the Soviet Union, where most of them died of overwork and malnutrition. A handful of senior officers were taken to Moscow and used for propaganda purposes. Some, including Paulus, signed anti-Hitler statements which were broadcast to German troops. General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach offered to raise an anti-Hitler army from the Stalingrad survivors, but the Soviets did not accept this offer. It was not until 1955 that the last of the handful of survivors were repatriated.

..

The battle of Stalingrad was the largest single battle in human history. It raged for 199 days. Various scholars have estimated the Axis suffered 850,000 casualties of all types among all branches of the German armed forces and its allies: 400,000 Germans, 200,000 Romanians, 130,000 Italians, 120,000 Hungarians were killed, wounded or captured. In addition, and as many as 50,000 turncoat Soviets were killed or captured by the Red Army. According to archival figures, the Red Army suffered 478,741 men killed and 650,878 wounded (for a total of 1,129,619). These numbers; however, include a wide scope of operations.

..

In all, a total of anywhere from 1.7 million to 2 million Axis and Soviet casualties resulted from the battle, making it by far the largest in human history.

Oh Stalingrad !

Curzon and Indian history June 22, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, india.
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On a topic I have never really blogged before – Indian history ! Inspired from an article I read about the ten things he hates about India – here.

This is by a Frenchman who has been in India for the last 30 years – yeah, 5 years older than I am ! So I guess its worth a read – not that there is much substantially new. Only one point really caught my attention –

Though a better understanding of the history of the subcontinent could be one of the keys to disentangle difficult problems such as the Kashmir issue, today nobody can access primary sources. They are locked away in the vaults of the Nehru Memorial Library or the almirahs of South Block.All those who have tried to access historical documents since India’s independence will tell you that till the end of babudom, one bureaucrat or another will ensure that you do not access the dusty files. Without fail, you will be courteously informed that India’s security and integrity will be endangered if these precious documents are opened to the public. It is sad that Indians are not entitled to study their past (though they can always visit archives in the West to know more about India!)

I agree with both the points –

(a) It is perhaps 300 years of colonialism which means we are really paranoid about losing it ! ( I dont know what ‘it’ means )

(b) The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston that I visited last May just before I left Boston has an unbelievable collection of Indian art – a 40 feet long corridor with Indian paintings on both sides and about a 1500 sq. feet size room with life size stone statues from another era.

A few of pictures here.

The five-headed Shiva A wardrobe from the Mughal Era

Its interesting how half-way across the globe one would find symbols and relics of my country’s heritage. Did my blood boil ? Was I enraged at the Kohinoor diamond not being returned and such like ? Not at all – what a misplaced sense of patriotism that would be ! Going by our own sense of history and record of preserving it, we would have done a really bad job at preserving many of these. With a little exaggeration, heritage preservation – thats one thing that we should be outsourcing to more responsible pair of hands wherever they are.

The defence to this I oft hear is that India is a poor country and has more things to worry about like feeding its own people. Reasonable or not, to which I say, very well, so lets not be in a hurry to have all our treasures back to restore our misplaced sense of pride. Lets get to a point where we start caring about these things. Afterall no matter which museum in the world the Kohinoor is exhibited, it will always an Indian diamond.

Think about it – one man who arguably did the most towards preserving India’s past was not an Indian – Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India in the beginning of the last century. ( its a different thing that he presided over the division of Bengal along religious lines – might as well be the grandfather of the Bangladeshi nation ).

Here is an extract from an Indian government website.

Lord Curzon, who was then the Viceroy of India, placed the question of setting up a ‘stately’ memorial for Queen Victoria, on her death in January 1901 to the public. The princes and people of India responded generously to his appeal for funds and Lord Curzon derived the total cost of construction of this monument amounting to one crore, five lakhs of rupees (Rs. 1,05,00,000) from their voluntary subscriptions. The Prince of Wales, King George V, laid the foundation stone on January 4, 1906 and it was formally opened to the public in 1921.

I had no idea about the context in which the Victoria Memorial was built. More on Curzon from an independent source here.

Interestingly, but for Lord Curzon’s insistence on marrying European traditions with Indian, Edwin Lutyens’ pigheadedness would have meant that New Delhi would have been dotted with European architecture style buildings ( its debatable if that would have been bad ). Lutyens, for all his brilliance, had no respect for ancient or medieval Indian architecture and called Fatehpur Sikri “the work of monkeys” !

But for having born a few 100 years too late, Akhbar or Shahjahan would have had him beheaded !

How did this happen ? June 3, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in economics, geo-politics, history.
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“In 1450 A.D., India and China together accounted for 75% of the World GDP. America wasnt discovered and Europe was primitive. In 1950, Europe and the US accounted for 75% of World GDP and India and China made for a paltry 7%. In 500 years, the tables had turned. And now, its turning again…”

Exciting lecture by Clyde V. Prestowitz, Jr., President, Economic Strategy Institute (ESI), Washington D.C. – you can listen to it here.

Also perhaps read this article here – by Clyde again.

United States and Europe. Rosenthal and me May 11, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, history, media.
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I linked to this article about A.M.Rosenthal, the NYTimes Editor who died today. I had heard of him in an Indian context but I wasn’t aware of the many aspects of his life and times at The Times.

 

I managed to read the whole 7 page article about him. Its quite interesting that this is an article as much about him as it is about the Times during the 55 years he served there and as many as 23 as editor. The one thing that stood out ( apart from his love for India ) was that pattern I am coming across so often.

 

He is a European of Jewish descent ( Belarus ) whose ancestors migrated in the early 20th century. How often have I come across this – East European Jews, Russian Jews, German, Hungarian, Austrian Jews who escaped persecution only to come to the United States/Canada to make it big here. Its not the physicists, mathematicians and a disproportionate share of the Manhattan project members but just even performers, artists and people in art and humanities. This is one list to savor.

 

This is probably what makes this such a great country. Its easy to immediately turn to Bush or even earlier US governments who have condoned deaths and ravaged societies in pure national interests. That though is not the issue here – I am talking about the common people – the man on the street who basically is a hard-working immigrant or a descendent of one, who loves this country because it gave him a honest chance. And there are so many of these. What more can a conscientious person ask for other than an honest chance and opportunity at a decent standard of living and the “pursuit of happiness”.

 

Yes I know that in the last few years, inequality has risen here too. People talk of how the US has one of the lesser intergenerational mobilities compared to the rest of the developed world ( would love to have statistics for India ). But Europe and Japan have the luxury of not having to do with poor immigrants – unskilled immigrants from Central and Latin America and a legacy of centuries on slavery on their land ( European Colonialists did employ slaves on colonial lands but not in Europe – they were bloody smart! ). Interestingly though, Europe and Japan also don’t have the benefit of skilled professionals from China, India, Taiwan, Korea and the like.

 

This is why I think the US has less of a sharp distribution of a quality I cannot exactly describe – huge variance – we have people at both ends of the spectrum and a sizeable number at that. On the other hand distributions are shaper in Europe – a huge number of them have an excellent standard of living – there is lesser variance. Higher taxes have meant slightly more egalitarian and less ruthless societies than in the United States. But is inequality bad in itself ? Two excellent posts by Nobel Laureate Gary Becker and Judge Posner have this to say. Please do read it !

 

Europe is more pacifist today than ever – have learnt and over-learnt the lessons of the war. I remember reading somewhere that there is a major war every 80-100 years because that is what it takes to forget the lessons of a last war ! These two cultures with a history of civilizational bonding have been moving apart from each other in every conceivable way – military intervention wise, taxes and fiscal policy wise and lives of people itself with respect to how they react to a globalizing world.

 

[ At this point I just went back to read what I wrote above – and was shocked to find this – “I think the US has less of a sharp distribution of a quality I cannot exactly describe – huge variance – we have people at both ends of the spectrum and a sizeable number at that.” – Note the pronoun – probably the for the first time ever I have used “we” in referring to the US. Its obviously because the context is a comparison to Europe ( not India ) but interesting nevertheless. I leave it this way anyway. ]

 

So coming back to Rosenthal, its his last paragraph in the last column he wrote for the Times he wrote on Nov 5, 1999 that set off the tone for this post.

“I cannot promise to change all that. But I can say that I will keep trying and that I thank God for (a) making me an American citizen, (b) giving me that college-boy job on The Times, and (c) handing me the opportunity to make other columnists kick themselves when they see what I am writing, in this fresh start of my life.”

 

As I read that I asked myself – now which other country can you find a few tens of millions who ( or whose fathers/grandfathers ) will have this to say about their citizenship. Now I am talking about the country that one was born to, but an adopted country. For most of the people in the United States, they are glad they were born here. For the rest, they are glad they got here.

 

And what about me ? While I may never end up writing a blog entry that says something on the lines of what Rosenthal said, I am glad as hell I got to spend time in this part of the world – there has not been a greater learning experience and I will make the most of this time.

How the internet continues to ruin my life ! March 29, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in history, ideas, technology.
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This is what happened to me yesterday that not only left me shocked, but also answers a few questions, namely :

  1. How I spend much of weekdays and most of my weekends
  2. What I mean when I say “I am mostly reading stuff online” and what “stuff” means.
  3. “Hey, where did you get that piece of fact/rumor from ?”

 

Stop 1 :

 

I took a break from my reading of the EM algorithm (actually the break came soon after I downloaded the study material and before I even started reading it 😉 ) and started read this article from the NYTimes. It talked about how search engines are making us dumb !

 

Stop 2 :

At some point in the article I came across this word called “satisficing” – a word that suggests that human beings are not perfectionists – that we aren’t looking for perfection most of the time – only for workable, satisfying solutions. This word is coined by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon from my institution ( Carnegie Mellon University) so I got interested in that – typed satisficing in google – took me to the wikipedia link for satisficing. Read that page.

 

Stop 3 : On the wikipedia link for satisficing, I again came across a link on Herbert Simon and decided to read that. On this page, it said he consulted for RAND corporation – a name I came across several times before but never cared to look it up. I linked to RAND.

 

Stop 4: Linked to main RAND corp. page – read their history – what an amazing institution – its high time India had something like that. I would love to conduct multi-disciplinary work there – the range of things they work on and the impact is not too well known really.

 

Stop 5: On the RAND Corp. page on wikipedia, a number of names that worked for RAND were listed. Two names got me interested – Condi Rice and John Von Neumann.

 

Stop 6: Linked to Condi Rice – about how she overcame segregation – also learnt that the person who inspired her to political science was her professor who happened to Madeline Albright’s father !! Looking at the condition of blacks in the US, I really admire the lady – never mind her politics ( but hey, she is Pro-India – so double wow for her – I back for 2008 🙂 ). Came back and linked next to John Von Neumann.

 

Stop 6: John Von Neumann is one exciting person to read about. I never knew that there was so much about him I didn’t know – all I knew was that he was the inventor of the John Von Neumann architecture and of Game theory ( from a lecture on John Nash, again a Carnegie Mellon alumnus ). Here is a sampling about John Von Neumann –

– Choose the targets for the atomic bombing of Japan. Initially choose Kyoto, but it was rejected by Secretary of War ( got to find out why !! )

 

on Neumann worked out key steps in the nuclear physics involved in thermonuclear reactions and the hydrogen bomb.

He was a profoundly committed hedonist who liked to eat and drink heavily

insistently gaze at the legs of young women

He also favored a preventive nuclear attack on the USSR, believing that doing so could prevent it from obtaining the atomic bomb.

precise altitude at which the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs should be detonated in order that they would produce the most extensive damage possible was calculated by von Neumann himself !!

– He was also the inventor of the MAD theory ! This was just too interesting to resist delving deeper into. Its hard to believe that we lived in times when we were actually preparing our own annihilation – it was one of the ‘acceptable situations’ of day-to-day life ! Here is more on MAD –

“In the event of a Soviet conventional attack on Western Europe, NATO planned to use tactical nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union countered this threat by issuing a statement that any use of nuclear weapons against Soviet forces, tactical or otherwise, was grounds for a full-scale Soviet retaliatory strike. In effect, if the Soviet Union invaded Europe, the United States would stop the offensive with tactical nuclear weapons. Then, the Soviet Union would respond with a full-scale nuclear strike on the United States. The United States would respond with a full scale nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. As such, it was generally assumed that any combat in Europe would end with apocalyptic conclusions.”

Stop 6 : That page linked me to Robert McNamara’s speech where he proposed this strategy. A must read.

 

Stop 7 : One of Neumann’s collaborator in the A-bomb work was a Klaus Fuchs – who turns out to be a Russian Spy !!!

 

Stop 8 : Linked to Klaus Fuchs. Worked on the A-bomb at Los Alamos – a friend of Feynman !

 

This interesting bit about him – “The information Fuchs gave Soviet intelligence in 1948 coincided with Donald Maclean’s ( another spy) reports from Washington. The Soviet Union knew the United States did not have enough nuclear weapons to deal with both the Berlin blockade and the victory of the Communists in China at the same time.” Linked to the other spy Donald Maclean !!

 

Stop 9: Read about his partner in crime Donald Maclean ( a bisexual ) and the story of his escape.

 

This took about 2.5 hours. Insane isn’t it !