Sunday, 30 November 2014

50 shades of John Gray

Are you a Liberal? If so, you're probably cruising the web looking for rough trade. What's more, you want your intellect  hog-tied and your conscience given a darn good whipping coz that's what gets your rocks off.
Well, you are in luck today, coz this is a link to an essay by John Gray in which he argues that 'AIMING TO EXORCISE EVIL FROM THE MODERN MIND, LIBERALS HAVE CONSTRUCTED ANOTHER VERSION OF DEMONOLOGY, IN WHICH ANYTHING THAT RUNS COUNTER TO THE RATIONAL COURSE OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IS ANATHEMATISED.
Is Prof. Gray correct? Suppose the population of Mosul decide to put their underwear on their heads and their shoes on their hands. This would not be a rational thing to do. The productivity of Mosul's economy is likely to fall and its people are likely to suffer various inconveniences more or less grave.
Would Liberalism anathematize Mosul? Would their people be demonized? Would our leaders, or leader-writers, demand that we bomb Mosul till the 'rational course of Human Development' is once more seen to prevail in that ancient City?

Clearly not.

What then is Gray's point?

He says- 'When Barack Obama vows to destroy Islamic State's "brand of evil" and David Cameron declares that Islamic State (ISIS) is an "evil organisation" that must be obliterated, they are echoing Tony Blair's judgment of Saddam Hussein: "But the man's uniquely evil, isn't he?"

'Blair made this observation in November 2002, four months before the invasion of Iraq, when he invited six experts to Downing Street to brief him on the likely consequences of the war. The experts warned that Iraq was a complicated place, riven by deep communal enmities, which Saddam had dominated for over thirty-five years. Destroying the regime would leave a vacuum; the country could be shaken by Sunni rebellion and might well descend into civil war.
'These dangers left the Prime Minister unmoved. What mattered was Saddam's moral iniquity. The divided society over which he ruled was irrelevant. Get rid of the tyrant and his regime, and the forces of good would prevail.'
What did Blair mean by saying 'Saddam is uniquely evil'? Let us recall the facts. Saddam had launched two wars against bigger countries and also attacked his own people. He was uniquely stupid. The strong likelihood existed that a conventional war of the sort NATO is good at would cause his regime to fall. A process similar to De-Nazification could have been speedily implemented such that competent people had a role in preserving Law and Order and getting the Nation back on its feet. Unfortunately, Bush's cronies were uniquely greedy. They disintermediated the Iraqi Governing Class so as to enrich favored contractors and to create 'jobs for the boys' in the 'Emerald City'.
Blair himself, greatly to the embarrassment of his Party, has enriched himself in an unconscionable manner. The Vicar of St. Albion is now on a par with the Rector of Stiffkey.
Surely no great 'Truth about Evil', as opposed to news about Greed, insight into self-serving moral stupidity, can be gained in this context?
Gray makes an astonishing claim- 'Too morally stunted to be capable of the mendacity of which he is often accused, Blair thinks and acts on the premise that whatever furthers the triumph of what he believes to be good must be true. Imagining that he can deliver the Middle East and the world from evil, he cannot help having a delusional view of the impact of his policies.
Blair was and is a liar by profession. Everybody knows that. Why is Gray pretending otherwise? 
Here Blair is at one with most Western leaders. It's not that they are obsessed with evil. Rather, they don't really believe in evil as an enduring reality in human life. If their feverish rhetoric means anything, it is that evil can be vanquished. In believing this, those who govern us at the present time reject a central insight of Western religion, which is found also in Greek tragic drama and the work of the Roman historians: destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings themselves. In this old-fashioned understanding, evil is a propensity to destructive and self-destructive behaviour that is humanly universal. The restraints of morality exist to curb this innate human frailty; but morality is a fragile artifice that regularly breaks down. Dealing with evil requires an acceptance that it never goes away.
So, let me see whether I've got this straight. Evil will always be around but it tends to destroy itself. But that means it can too be vanquished. Not eradicated, vanquished. Nothing easier. Just as it may be impossible to destroy a particular virus completely yet ensure that no one dies from it, so too with Evil. There is no 'central insight' of Western Religion which says otherwise. In a Greek Tragedy, the land may suffer dearth for a crime of the King. But that dearth we will not have with us always. Something can be done about it and, sooner or later, something is done, some horrific act of purgation, and then foul Erinyes turn to benign Eumenides. No heteroclite Lovecraftian horror remains to overthrow Apollo and mark the return of those Elder and Insane Gods.
But, wait! What if those Gods already possess us? Gray suggests that something of that sort has in fact happened, not to us, the wife would have noticed, but to our leaders.
No view of things could be more alien at the present time. Whatever their position on the political spectrum, almost all of those who govern us hold to some version of the melioristic liberalism that is the West's default creed, which teaches that human civilisation is advancing - however falteringly - to a point at which the worst forms of human destructiveness can be left behind. According to this view, evil, if any such thing exists, is not an inbuilt human flaw, but a product of defective social institutions, which can over time be permanently improved.
If Gray is right, our leaders would set targets to reduce the number of people being incarcerated (since criminal behavior can be cured) while greatly increasing spending on rehabilitation and also 'breaking the chain of deprivation', ending child poverty etc. Nothing of the sort can be observed at home, why should something different obtain in foreign policy? Does Gray live in a parallel universe where it is still the Sixties and LBJ has just announced a new set of Great Society Programs? 
One might think such experiences would be enough to deter governments from further exercises in regime change. But our leaders cannot admit the narrow limits of their power. They cannot accept that by removing one kind of evil they may succeed only in bringing about another - anarchy instead of tyranny, Islamist popular theocracy instead of secular dictatorship. They need a narrative of continuing advance if they are to preserve their sense of being able to act meaningfully in the world, so they are driven again and again to re-enact their past failures.
Many view these Western interventions as no more than exercises in geopolitics. But a type of moral infantilism is no less important in explaining the persisting folly of Western governments. Though it is clear that ISIS cannot be permanently weakened as long as the war against Assad continues, this fact is ignored - and not only because a Western-brokered peace deal that left Assad in power would be opposed by the Gulf states that have sided with jihadist forces in Syria. More fundamentally, any such deal would mean giving legitimacy to a regime that Western governments have condemned as more evil than any conceivable alternative. In Syria, the actual alternatives are the survival in some form of Assad's secular despotism, a radical Islamist regime or continuing war and anarchy. In the liberal political culture that prevails in the West, a public choice among these options is impossible.
What Gray is describing is simply policy drift within a larger context of disengagement and withdrawal. America is at its most dangerous when it isn't actively loathed. Then, it says 'well, our current puppet belongs to the wrong sect or isn't photogenic enough, so let's ditch him and put in someone who tests better with our Madison Avenue Focus Group.' 
That's what happened in Vietnam. However, after the Tet offensive, once the Yanks understood that the locals thought they only looked good in body bags, America had no difficulty at all in doing a deal with 'evil' Commie scum. Obviously, NATO intervention in Muslim countries is going to get us loathed by everybody. We no longer greatly care who presides over which patch of desert because it's the Chinese, not Haliburton, who will get the contracts.
A Liberal Idea of Evil.
Mill recognized long ago that responsibility means punishability. Thus, that which should be punished is evil. Moreover, to sustain a contract, Social or otherwise, some culpa levis type actions are required the nature of which are inchoate. Hence no meliorism can exhaust punishability. Thus no grave scandal re. Evil arises for Liberalism.
Statistical and Evidentiary Decision Theory type problems however, as King Yuddhishtra learns, are the price of moral leadership based on that mutuality which is the essence of Liberalism.
But Gray isn't a Liberal anymore-
There are some who think the very idea of evil is an obsolete relic of religion. For most secular thinkers, what has been defined as evil in the past is the expression of social ills that can in principle be remedied. But these same thinkers very often invoke evil forces to account for humankind's failure to advance. The secularisation of the modern moral vocabulary that many believed was under way has not occurred: public discourse about good and evil continues to be rooted in religion. Yet the idea of evil that is invoked is not one that features in the central religious traditions of the West. The belief that evil can be finally overcome has more in common with the dualistic heresies of ancient and medieval times than it does with any Western religious orthodoxy.
Gray is an atheist. Why is he speaking of 'orthodoxy' and 'heresy'? Very very few people alive at any time understood the difference between orthodoxy and heresy. Indeed, denunciations of heresy often contained heretical material. It really didn't matter who got burnt. What did matter was who got the Abbey and the melted down its gold plate and lived large thereafter.
A radically dualistic view of the world, in which good and evil are separate forces that have coexisted since the beginning of time, was held by the ancient Zoroastrians and Manicheans. These religions did not face the problem with which Christian apologists have struggled so painfully and for so long - how to reconcile the existence of an all-powerful and wholly good God with the fact of evil in the world. The worldview of George W. Bush and Tony Blair is commonly described as Manichean, but this is unfair to the ancient religion. Mani, the third-century prophet who founded the faith, appears to have believed the outcome of the struggle was uncertain, whereas for Bush and Blair there could never be any doubt as to the ultimate triumph of good. In refusing to accept the permanency of evil they are no different from most Western leaders.
Gray isn't a scholar of Iranian Religion. What he says is simply false- the product of a stupid textual availability cascade. Does Gray really believe that for Bush and Blair ' there could never be any doubt as to the ultimate triumph of good?' Surely they believed they themselves were good? Why didn't Blair stand as an Independent for P.M? Ultimately, if Gray is right, he'd have expected to triumph. Why didn't Bush invade Iran and North Korea and so on? 
Politicians don't say things like 'I'm stupid' or 'I'm ignorant' or 'I'm sure we're gonna lose this Election' or 'As a country, we're fucked.' Salesmen don't say 'This car is shit'. Lawyers don't say 'this scumbag, my client, is as guilty as hell.'  However, these beliefs can be inferred from their actions.
Contra Gray, Britain and America didn't chose to ally with Stalin against Hitler because the latter was more evil. Hitler declared war of Stalin and then on America. What of Britain? Did it choose to go to war for some purely moral reason or did it do so because it believed its Security was based on fulfilling Treaty obligations entered into on the basis of a utilitarian calculus? 
In Gray's Universe, our foreign policy is decided solely by moral considerations. He doesn't understand that it makes sense to legitimate foreign policy by speaking of either morality or some even more visceral drive- so as to convince others that one is sincere rather than strategic in one's policy choice (i.e. you have 'bourgeois strategy' in the hawk/chicken game)- and also to pretend that the policy is bound to be successful because expectations can  create reality. Gray mentions Freud, that old fraud, and also speaks briefly of evolutionary psychology. The latter has developed notions like 'costly signals' and Zahavi handicap which, unlike, Gray's own theory, have a lot of predictive power in International Politics. Questions of Mechanism Design remain, but the wrong way to tackle them is by uttering the following lament-
The weakness of faith-based liberalism is that it contains nothing that helps in the choices that must be made between different kinds and degrees of evil. Given the West's role in bringing about the anarchy in which the Yazidis, the Kurds and other communities face a deadly threat, non-intervention is a morally compromised option. If sufficient resources are available - something that cannot be taken for granted - military action may be justified. But it is hard to see how there can be lasting peace in territories where there is no functioning state. Our leaders have helped create a situation that their view of the world claims cannot exist: an intractable conflict in which there are no good outcomes.
'Faith based Liberalism' isn't weak, it's unviable. It never existed. Gulf War One made a profit. Gulf War Two didn't. That's the bad outcome which underlies pi-jaw driven policy drift, within a context of disengagement and defeat.
Gray panders to a masochism of the Liberal Conscience which, alas!, has already been mugged and which thus has no money to pay for the service in question. Apocalyptic talk of galloping meliorism but flogs a dead horse.


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Wisdom of Vivekananda- Sushupti & Amrita

' Awake! Awake! all ye who would drink of the divine nectar!'

Commentary- It is not advisable to drink something while sleeping. Better to wake up and then drink it. 
Objection- Divine nectar does not exist.  It can not be drunk by anybody. However, while you are sleeping you may dream you are drinking divine nectar. 
Counter-objection- If you are asleep and you wish to drink some divine nectar or alternatively take a dump in the ear of God or some such stupidity then why not wake up? 

Siddhanta,- Sushupti dreamless sleep, is the highest state. Hence, by 'Awake' , Swamiji means your sleep should become dreamless, not that you should wake up.


Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ghalib 13.1


Neath thy eyebrow's Islamic arch, for wine's fountain we prayed
& brothels yet nestle in the Mosque's hoary shade
Proving that, in no wise prodigal, Abounding Grace
So all things perish, saves a single face.
Notes-

{131,1}

مسجد کے زیرِ سایہ خرابات چاہیے
بھوں پاس آنکھ قبلۂ حاجات چاہیے

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Deconstructing Doniger on the Gita

'How did Indian tradition transform the Bhagavad Gita (the “Song of God”) into a bible for pacifism, when it began life, sometime between the third century BC and the third century CE, as an epic argument persuading a warrior to engage in a battle, indeed, a particularly brutal, lawless, internecine war?'
Doniger says Indian Tradition transformed something. What was that something? Was it already a part of Indian tradition or did it come from somewhere else? If it was part of Indian tradition then why speak of Indian tradition transforming it? If it wasn't part of Indian tradition, where did it come from?
Doinger is saying something was turned into 'a Bible for pacifism'. But the Bible for pacifism- as in 'Resist not Evil' & 'turn the other cheek'- is the Christian Bible, at least for people whose first language is English. Doniger is saying that 'Indian Tradition took 'an argument persuading a warrior to engage in battle' and turned it into a homologue of the Christian Bible. 
As a matter of fact, that is certainly one way to interpret the Gita- indeed, it is my interpretation. Krishna's visvarupa is a sort of condign self-praise which, as he later tells Arjuna, is equivalent to self-slaying so the Gita depicts Krishna suffering himself to be slain, like the scapegoat or pharmakos, so as to take on the sins of his devotees and deliver them to salvation. However, this interpretation of mine is not found in the Indian tradition precisely because animal sacrifice had already lost salience and the concept of the pharmakos was, in any case, either absent or minimal in Vedic, as opposed to Greek or Semitic thought. Thus, whereas the sacrifice of a heifer is necessary to purge a community of blood guilt in the Hebrew and Quranic tradition,  Smarta Hinduism holds the killing of a cow to be the moral equivalent of killing a Brahmin.
Wendy, however, is not concerned with Soteriology which, if its subject matter is not empty, is more likely than not to display cohomology. Instead, she is interested in...wait for it... magic!
It has taken a true gift for magic—or, if you prefer, religion, particularly the sort of religion in the thrall of politics that has inspired Hindu nationalism from the time of the British Raj to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today.
So Magic can also be termed 'Religion in the thrall of politics' and it has the power of transforming 'an argument persuading a warrior to engage in battle' into 'a Pacifist Bible.' The  good news is that Narendra Modi possesses this Magic. Is Wendy saying Modi will use this Magic power to turn other Scriptures 'persuading warriors to engage in battle' - including the good folk at ISIL- into Pacifist Bibles?
Has Wendy succumbed to NaMo mania? Is she going to start poring over his speeches seeking for sexual innuendo? Is she going to explain to us that the slogan 'Make in India' means 'Make transgressive gender bending Love in India?' No. At least not immediately. First, seeing as she is a Professor, she has to tell us some stupid lies about Indian history.
The Gita’s philosophy is basically a compendium of the prevalent philosophical theories of the time, a kind of Cliff’s Notes for Indian Philosophy 101.
Wendy says the Gita dates between the 3rd Century BC and the 3rd Century AD. Buddhist, Jain and Ajivika philosophy flourished at that time. Yet the Gita makes no mention of any of them. So it is false to say that it is a compendium or a 'Cliff Notes Indian Philosophy 101'. Lord Krishna only mentions those Philosophical Schools which don't a priori exclude his thesis. As a matter of fact, his way of reconciling Samkhya and Chandogya type uttara mimamsa is pretty darn brilliant. 
Wendy, on the other hand, thinks there are 2 Gitas- one which tells warriors they need to go to war, d'uh, and another, which is philosophical, and which says killing everybody is like so not cool.  
Drawing upon the Upanishads, mystical Sanskrit texts from as early as the fifth century BC, the Gita tells of the immortal, transmigrating soul, and the brahman, or godhead, that pervades the universe and is identical with the individual soul. But the Gita also introduces two strikingly original new ideas that were to have a deep impact on the subsequent history of Hinduism. First, it offers a corrective to the older belief that the transmigrating soul is stained by a force called karma, consisting of the residues of actions committed within the past life and influencing the subsequent life. The Gita qualifies this belief by asserting that action without desire for the fruits of action (nishkama karma) leaves the soul unstained by such karmic residues.
The idea that sin or karmic bondage can be burnt up by a transfer of merit or gift of Grace is present in the most ancient texts. To argue otherwise is foolish.
 Wendy thinks that if I butcher your babies in a dispassionate or absent minded manner then you are obliged to believe that, according to the Gita, I escape any evil consequence. This is not true. Only if I have joined with other genuine Yogis and performed an action required by a divine duty of care, that too in a dispassionate manner, is the 'soul unstained by karmic residue'. Don't forget, Arjuna is just fulfilling God's plan at Kurukshetra. Thus contra Doniger, there is no 'warrior Gita'- what Krishna says to Arjuna can't be said to any warrior facing any war. Krishna himself is known as Ranchod- the one who flees the battlefield. Only that battle must not be fled which it is part of the Divine Plan for you to fight- for weal or woe. This is pure Occassionalism, that too expressed as cogently and comprehensively as by Ghazzali or Liebniz. Since the Gita is authored and intended by an Agent for an Agent, not a Principal for a Principal- unlike the Vyadha Gita- its hermeneutics is empty save for the bhakta, i.e. dependent shown here the path to becoming an Agent.
Wendy goes on to talk shite about how cowherds were low caste- which wasn't and isn't true . Yadavs are 'Educationally Backward' in some parts of India, but they are also ruling dynasts in others. There isn't a low caste Krishna who has sex and a high caste Krishna who talks Philosophy but, even if that were true, the theologians were also poets who celebrated the cowherd in order to make philosophical breakthroughs.
Wendy believes North Indian theologians turned the Gita into the Hindu Bible- with help from the British. As an Iyer, I point the finger at Sankara's Bhaja Govindam but obviously this is a discussion only very very stupid shitheads would want to have. 
Since people like Vivekananda, Gandhi, Tilak, Bhave, Amartya Sen etc thought they were smarter than the average India they quite naturally said and wrote very stupid and worthless things about the Gita because the average Indian, till recently, has been held in contempt by those who wish to lead the country. This is why it is now urgent that Doniger's book on Hinduism be made a compulsory subject of study in Indian Schools and Colleges and places of work. Until Hindus see Hinduism through Doniger's eyes they won't be worthy of contempt and thus the hoary old tradition of gobshites talking down to us will cease to be maintained from the ramparts of Red Fort.



Friday, 21 November 2014

Nehru's legacy

George Harrison wasn't particularly good at playing the sitar but it was great that he did because he was, after all, George Harrison, and sitars sound shite no matter who plays them which is why God invented bongs- not Ravi Shankar type bongs obviously though maybe George Harrison didn't know that.
Something similar can be said about Nehru's legacy. He was a shit P.M, but it was great he got to be P.M coz he looked and sounded like Alaistair Sim and being Head Mistress of St. Trinians is, obviously, pretty much the same job as being Prime Minister of India.
Pandit Nehru presiding over the Cabinet.
Alastair Sim contemplating his legacy- corrupt Congress kleptocrats running amok.

D.G Saari dethroning Dictators & diminishing Dark Matter

 This is a Video where D.G Saari shows that assertions about 'missing' dark matter arise from bad maths. He tells us that his paper, though accepted as mathematically correct, was nevertheless rejected by a peer reviewed journal because the referee was professionally invested in MACHOs! However, one implication of his work is that the Universe might be infinite.

Saari ought to be a thorn in the side of lazy Social Choice type theorists who rely on bad maths to throw away information and conjure meaningless impossibility results out of thin air. In particular, Saari showed that Arrow's result arises by forbidding using information arising from the assumption of transitivity of agent preferences as a global constraint.

This paper of his shows the following-
Economic models as well as aggregation and decision problems with “holes” in the domain can be difficult to analyze because, unexpectedly, they are related to Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem: embedded within the model may be “topological dictators.” But, just as it is possible to remove the negative impact of Arrow’s dictator by recognizing that the problem is caused by not using crucial, available information (about voter preferences), the obstacles confronting these economic decision problems can be removed by identifying what kind of available information is not being used.

The problem here is that using information available from the assumption of transitivity of preferences means that the set of Choices can become infinite.

This is Arrow on the genesis of his General Possibility theorem-

Suppose only three equally qualified and capable people exist. A teaches Econ at a State School and earns 20,000. B, who has identical preferences to A, teaches Econ at a Private School and earns 18,000. A and B agree that B is worse off. C teaches at a worse Private School than B and earns 10,000. But, he is a snob. He thinks he is better off than A because he doesn't have to deal with proletarian scum. Arrow would say this puts paid to Hick's desire for 'interpersonal comparisons' based on purely ordinal considerations.
However, it seems there is some information available, from the assumption that agents are rational and have transitive preferences, which appears to be unused.
Consider the following. We decide to try to capture C's 'psychic benefit' by speaking of it as his Preference to have his own Preferences rather than someone else's. In this case, we know it is at least 10,000. Similarly A benefits by at least 10,000 by having his own preferences rather than being cursed with C's snobbish attitude.
Suppose B decides to have a meta-preference to be a snob like C. Then, suddenly, he is better off than A by at least 10,000.
A could turn the tables on B by explicitly embracing egalitarianism. He could say, 'the fact that I don't mind working in a State School is so valuable to me that it is worth twice whatever psychic gain B gets by his new meta-preference.'
Agent rationality, or preference transitivity, if considered as a global constraint, plausibly involves impredicativity of this type. But this means Saari's 'Intensity of Binary Independence' Decision rule can't gain purchase because the number of alternatives has become infinite.
But, maybe, that was always in the Math.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Felix culpa

Since a Prayer for Bread breeds but Adultery's shower of stones
& Pilgrimage, like a vulture, feeds on Heaven's shattered bones
My succour I seek in Sin's Sericulture- that more spreading Estate
Not of God's Servant, but the Beggar at His Gate.



Friday, 14 November 2014

Taqdim-o-takhir-o-mutawaffika-e-Isa


Finding, on Ebay, today, a match for a much missed gravy boat
I  phoned her at the Home, alas!, for the Old now so far
From an Ithaca of xenial Turkey & thimblefuls of Port
She asked- 'have they Christmas where you are?'






Wednesday, 12 November 2014

2 quatrains from Ghalib's 164


Notoriously, eyes devil, notarising deals in pupillage to such imps
The heart is the sole bidder on what, heartless, it yet pimps
& for veiled by but worship are yearning's futile arrows
 See, Abraha's elephants scattered again by sparrows

As before, at its own ease, an eternal heart is ill
Having no wound to tease more mortal till
Nails itch to pluck out like a tick
Bach's vernal pump of the tulip's ilk

Envoi-                                            
Sardar! Selflessness, to Synteresis, is never naked because
Like V.P, Hypokiemenon too deserves applause.

Notes-
1) The relevant couplets, extracted in reverse order out of Ghalib's ghazal, which underlie the translation given above are-
chashm dallāl-e jins-e rusvāʾī
dil ḳharīdār-e żauq-e ḳhvārī hai
qiblah-e maqṣad-e nigāh-e niyāz
phir vuhī pardah-e ʿamārī hai

phir kuchh ik dil ko beqarārī hai
sīnah jūyā-e zaḳhm-e kārī hai
phir jigar khodne lagā nāḳhun
āmad-e faṣl-e lālah-kārī hai

be-ḳhvudī be-sabab nahīñ ġhālib
kuchh to hai jis kī pardah-dārī hai
See Prof. Frances Pritchett's divine 'desertful of roses' website for Urdu text and expert commentary.

2) TULIP is an acronym for the following doctrines: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.
J.S Bach, 'the fifth Evangelist', gives us, in his 1725 Spring cantatas, an auditory homology of pre-Lutheran synteresis (or Luther's own notion of it as not intrinsic but an adornment), thus re-establishing Music's ongoing descent from David as a fractal tropological prefiguring of its own otherwise teratological performance of John 21-25,  such that, of those unwritten volumes too vast for the Universe, we too can affirm what Neitzche said of the St. Matthew's Passion- '"One who has completely forgotten Christianity truly hears it here as gospel."

3) Abraha, a Christian Ethiopian, came to conquer the Ka'aba, during the time of idolatry, with an army of elephants. This invasion was repelled by little birds which flung clods of earth from their beaks.

4) V.P Menon was a humbly born bureaucrat who laid the ground-work for the great Sardar Vallabhai Patel's successful integration of the Princely States into the Indian Union.

Inscription on a Sogdian Wine cup



'Drink! for who discerns not damage shall never know Wealth!'
Writ on a wine cup's lip to toast some dead King's health
And though my own ruins I grave-robbed long ago
I yet feel richer for knowing it was so.
'

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Alan Kirman & the Impossibility of a Paretian Illiberal

This has been edited in the light of a comment.

It isn't possible to believe Pareto improvements- i.e situations where a guy can report being made better off without anyone else reporting being made worse off- are desirable without also believing all agents are sovereign over at least one choice affecting themselves- i.e. a Paretian Illiberal, of the Amartya Sen type, is impossible. Assuming unrestricted domain, this becomes trivially true by introducing a notion of doxastic self-ownership- for e.g. by valorising the preference to have one's own preferences.

Suppose a Paretian Liberal is impossible- in other words, Amartya Sen isn't a shithead- then it would be the case that a particular sort of rational being would
1) not prefer to have his own preferences and, worse still,
2) voluntarily subscribe to his own logical impossibility.
However, to do so isn't a Pareto improvement because the said Liberal could always chose to believe Sen is a shithead and thus be rescued from the fate of being logically impossible in a manner that makes no one else worse off- provided Sen is either himself a Paretian Liberal (in which case he either disproves his own existence or, and this result holds even if he isn't a Paretian Liberal, that he has hit upon an Acceptation for 'Paretian Liberal' which is wholly meaningless and thus he is talking shit and has shit for brains- which is why he is a shit-head) or else has a meta-preference not to be a shithead (in which case he can mend his ways) or else is too fucking stupid to ever grasp that he's a total shithead, in which case his feelings in this regard can't be hurt.

Truly unrestricted domain with 'nosey preferences' (i.e. which feature impredicativity) means we have an uncountable infinity of pair-wise choices which can't be well founded and so Sen's proof fails immediately. But this is scarcely a surprise. Impredicativity will do that to you.
Suppose I have a choice to either eat or not eat this biscuit. Permit me to have  meta-preferences- i.e. introduce impredicativity. I now can prefer to eat but prefer to prefer not to eat this biscuit (i.e. prefer to have ascetic preferences) or prefer to prefer to prefer to eat this biscuit (i.e. prefer to depass my ascetic preferences by reason of its sublation by a more refined notion of atraraxia) and so on and so fort. What is the upshot? Unrestricted domain with impredicativity of the type Sen stupidly imports (being insensitive to Arrow's Tarskian training) gives us something immediately bigger by a Godelian argument than its own acceptation (i.e. Unrestricted Domain can't mean whatever it was supposed to, thus no modal fixed points are available) and so, by Ackermann's Reflection principle, everything just got apophatic and nothing is well founded. But this isn't some wonderful new insight. It is simply childish.

A more serious reason to spurn Sen-tentious shitheadedness arises out of the manner in which 'Just So' representative individual type theories are wholly misleading.
Alan Kirman, explaining why mainstream Econ has fucked up so badly in recent years, explodes 'representative agent' models and asks us to shift our attention to Organisation, as opposed to Efficiency, as central to Social Science.
Kirman- a good guy who was once a Geography teacher- explains what is salient for Significs is that Impredicativity or Reflexivity does arise in Econ- which is why we can meaningfully speak of a Paretian Liberal- but this notion is only captured by interactions of an Organizational, i.e. second order, not Transactional, type. As a matter of fact, not theory, the Paretian Liberal does exist in all countries with the Rule of Law. Sen may say- boo to the Rule of Law, boo to Organization, boo to 'Niti'- but he can't deny that Paretian Liberalism is a better description of what obtains in Rule of Law, Democracies than his own Entitlement theory or Capabilities approach. The fact is, 'territoriality' or the 'bourgeois strategy in the hawk dove game' is evolutionarily stable and eusocial (vide Zahavi on the handicap principle) which is why it is the basis of Paretian Liberalism. True, this is not indefeasibly so but defeasibility is a good thing because, if Darwin not Dueteronomy is right, the future must always be, at least retrospectively as Popper and Dunnent and Huw Price have, albeit inadvertently, argued, not just unknown but radically unknowable. That last being, as Collingwood posthumously proves to his ageing Oakshotteian self, a distinction without a difference.

Thomas Sowell- 'Black rednecks & White Liberals'

In the 1830's William Gladstone opposed free education for the children of recently enfranchised West Indian slaves. Meanwhile, his father was scheming to bring in Indian and Chinese 'coolies' to man the plantations. Gladstone's objection arose out of a Religious scruple- it wasn't politically practical for the Anglican Church to monopolize education for ex-slaves and thus it was better for their souls for them to have no education at all.
Had Gladstone not been such an almighty fuckwit the British Empire would have been increasingly staffed at it's factory-floor, so to speak, by educated West Indian blacks.
Incidentally, it is worth speculating as to whether the Islamic Caste system would have been ameliorated had a 'Hashbi' dynasty succeeded in holding onto power. I may mention, it was an American black who gave Gandhi his first break in Pretoria- he got him into a perfectly respectable 'white' rooming house and thus secured him a racial laissez passer in that tiny town which his Gujerati hosts couldn't have procured for him.
A British Empire manned by educated Blacks would have been a great boon for India. For one thing, this 'Aryan' nonsense would have been knocked on the head.
For another- and here I'm making a generalization from my own fond memories of my Nairobi primary School- blacks just out perform Whites and Asians. Moreover, older kids look after younger ones, smarter kids help their slower class-mates- education ceases to be about cut-throat competition and consists in fostering esprit de corps and the ability to work together.
How is it that a lot of people nowadays think Black males are less rather than more likely to do well at School?
The Economist, Thomas Sowell, who had to struggle out of poverty same as Milton Friedman and Ken Arrow and so on, has answered this question in his book 'Black rednecks & White Liberals'.

Here are a couple of extracts-
High-Performance Schools
In 1899, there were four academic public high schools in Washington, D.C.—one black and
three white. In standardized test given that year, students in the black high school averaged
higher test scores than students in two of the three white high schools. Today, more than a
century later, it would be considered Utopian even to set that as a goal, much less expect it to
actually happen. Yet what happened back in 1899 was no isolated fluke. That same school
repeatedly equaled or exceeded national norms on standardized tests in the 1930s, 1940s, and
early 1950s. Back in the 1890s, it was called the M Street School and in 1916 it was renamed
Dunbar High School.
When this information on Dunbar High School was first published in the 1970s, those few
educators who responded at all dismissed the relevance of these findings by saying that these
were "middle class" children and therefore their experience was not "relevant" to the
education of low-income minority children. Those who said this had no factual data on the
incomes or occupations of the parents of these children—and the data that existed said just the
opposite. The problem, however, was not that these dismissive educators did not have
evidence. The more fundamental problem was that they saw no need for evidence. According
to their doctrines, children who did well on standardized tests were middle class. These
children did well on such tests, so therefore they must be middle class.
It so happens that there was evidence on the occupations of the parents of the children at
this school as far back as the early 1890s. As of academic year 1892-93, of the known
occupations of these parents, there were 51 laborers, 25 messengers, 12 janitors, and one
doctor. That hardly seems middle class. Over the years, a significant black middle class did
develop in Washington and most of them may well have sent their children to the M Street
School or to Dunbar High School, as it was later called. But that is wholly different from saying
that most of the children at that school came from middle-class homes.

Why did Dunbar High School do so well?
The kids were poor. Black kids got a worse return on an Academic qualification. Economic theory says they should have had high absenteeism and dropout rates. No doubt they did. But there was another factor in play. Good teaching can itself reduce absenteeism. But good teaching is correlated to commitment and high academic standards. It appears that low returns on Black education trapped highly educated blacks in teaching- a typical 're-switching' type phenomena which confounds expectations and has revolutionary potential-
'Among those early principals (of Dunbar High School) was the first black woman to receive a college degree in the
United States—Mary Jane Patterson from Oberlin College, class of 1862. At that time, Oberlin
had different academic curriculum requirements for women and men. Latin, Greek and
mathematics were required in the "the gentlemen's course," as it was called, but not in the
curriculum for ladies. Miss Patterson, however, insisted on taking Latin, Greek, and
mathematics anyway. We can only imagine what fortitude and sense of purpose that must have
taken, at a time when no black woman had ever gotten a college degree in the entire history of
the country, and when most members of her race were still slaves in the South. Not
surprisingly, in her later 12 years as principal of the black high school in Washington during its
formative period, Mary Jane Patterson was noted for "a strong forceful personality," for
thoroughness, and for being an "indefatigable worker." Having this kind of person shaping the
standards and traditions of the school in its early years undoubtedly had something to do with
its later success. Other early principals included the first black man to graduate from Harvard,
class of 1870. Three of the school's first ten principals had graduated for Oberlin, two from
Harvard, and one each from Amherst and Dartmouth. Because of restricted academic
opportunities for blacks, Dunbar could get teachers with very high qualifications, and even had
Ph.D.s among its teachers in the 1920s. Mary Gibson Hundley pointed out, in her history of
Dunbar High School: "Federal standards providing equal salaries for all teachers, regardless of
sex or race, attracted to Washington the best trained colored college graduates from Northern
and Western colleges in the early days, and later from local colleges as well."
By the early years of the Twentieth Century, top Colleges stopped asking Dunbar students to take entrance exams. Half of all Black PhD holders, in 1970, were Dunbar alumni.
'The first black man to graduate from Annapolis came from Dunbar. The first black enlisted 
man in the army to rise to become a commissioned officer also came from this same institution. 
So did the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from an American university. So did the first 
black full professor at a major American university (Allison Davis at the University of Chicago). 
So did the first black federal judge, the first black general, the first black Cabinet member, the 
first black senator elected since Reconstruction and, among other notables, the doctor who 
pioneered the use of blood plasma, historian Carter G. Woodson, author and poet Sterling 
Brown, and Duke Ellington, who studied music at Dunbar. During World War II, when black 
military officers were rare, there were among this school's graduates "many captains and 
lieutenants, nearly a score of majors, nine colonels and lieutenant colonels, and one brigadier 
general."

What happened to Dunbar? 
'The landmark racial desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education initially led to a 
strong resistance to school desegregation in many white communities, including that in 
Washington, D.C. Ultimately a political compromise was worked out in the District of Columbia: 
In order to comply with the Supreme Court decision, without having a massive shift of students, 
the D.C. school officials decided to turn all public schools into neighborhood schools. By this 
time, the neighborhood around Dunbar High School was rundown and there was a local saying 
that children who lived near Dunbar didn't go to Dunbar. This had not affected the school's 
academic standards, however, because black students from all the rest of the city went to 
Dunbar.
'When Dunbar became a neighborhood school, however, the whole character of its student 
body changed radically—as did the character of its teaching staff. In the past, many Dunbar 
teachers continued to teach for years after they were eligible for retirement because it was 
such a fulfilling experience. Now, as inadequately educated, inadequately motivated, and 
disruptive students flooded into the school, teachers began retiring, some as early as 55 years 
of age. Dunbar quickly became just another failing ghetto school, with all the problems that 
such schools have, all across the country. Eighty-five years of achievement simply vanished into 
thin air.'

By 1993, a smaller proportion of Blacks at Dunbar went to College than in 1933- at the height of the Depression.
A great victory for White Liberals indeed because, after all, only Black 'elitism' had been crushed.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Why Will Self stopped being Jewish

He stopped being clever.
He stopped being funny.
But that's not the reason he gives for his own 'resiling'  from Judaism.
In 2006, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were undertaking their second major incursion into Lebanon, I resigned as a Jew. I did it publicly in an article for the London Evening Standard. My resignation wasn’t a protest against Israeli aggression – why would they care about such a gesture? – but aimed, I believed, against prominent leftwing English Jews, who, despite the complete contradiction between their espoused values and the undemocratic, apartheid and territorially expansionist policies of the so-called Jewish homeland, continued vociferously to support Israel. A couple of years earlier, on Question Time, I had also challengedMelanie Phillips over her campaign to force British Muslims to take a loyalty oath, saying: if British Muslims, why not British Jews? But on that occasion, when she had accused me of being an antisemite, I was still able to play my trump card: I’m Jewish.

So, Will Self wants to get labelled an anti-semite without having the 'self hating' thing thrown into the mix. 
That's really going to happen.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Ghalib's 81.12

This is a good example of a couplet which is meaningful in Urdu because we unconsciously read things like Sachal Sarmast and Suhuni Mahiwal into its mise en scene, even though this isn't warranted by elite literary taste.
In English, however, the 'melting of the gemis not a cliche at all but transports us to back to cold class-rooms and swotting for a Scholarship.
 
kishtī-e ʿālam bah t̤ūfān-e taġhāful de kih haiñ
ʿālam-e āb-e gudāz-e jauhar-e afsānah ham

The World as Suhuni's Ark, to Abandonment we hurl
To at Arafat melt into the Gawain poet's pearl


Ninomiya Golden path general equilibria

Wikipedia says 'In economics, the Golden Rule savings rate is the rate of savings which maximizes steady state level or growth of consumption,[1] as for example in the Solow growth model. Although the concept can be found earlier in John von Neumann and Maurice Allais's works, the term is generally attributed to Edmund Phelps who wrote in 1961 that the Golden Rule "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" could be applied inter-generationally inside the model to arrive at some form of "optimum", or put simply "do unto future generations as we hope previous generations did unto us."[2]

However, by the Kirman & Koch refinement of the Sonnenschein Mantel Debreu result we know that no unique method of discriminating savings and consumption can exist except if there is
1) Rational Expectations
2) Aumann agreement based Hannan Consistency
in which case unique, but not neccessarily effectively computable equilibria exist. Call this the golden path general equilibrium. There may be a golden rule- but it is that of the Japanese Peasant Sage Ninomiya, not to mention a certain Jewish Carpenter who globalized the simple Mussar message- my spiritual needs require the satisfaction of the material needs of the other.
However, this can't be done by splitting populations into 'poor' and 'non poor'. On the contrary, it was because Ninomiya, not to mention Nund Reshi or the Nazarene, was himself poor that progress could be made.
Pity, but there it is.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Was Jean Paul Sartre guilty of killing Black Americans?

'A leftist intellectual is one who realizes that being an intellectual exempts him from nothing. He forsakes his privileges, or tries to, in actions. It is similar, I think, to what in the us you would call white-skin privileges. A white leftist intellectual, in America, I presume, understands that because he is white he has certain privileges which he must smash through direct action. Not to do so is to be guilty of murder of the blacks – just as much as if he actually pulled the triggers that killed, for example, Bobby Hutton, Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, and all the other Black Panthers murdered by the police, by the system.'34'
Sartre could have gone to America to deliver some lectures. Thus he could have been 'a white leftist intellectual in America' and 'smashed his privileges' through direct action. He failed to do so even though he himself admits that this made him guilty of shooting Black Panthers. But what motivated his crime? He said his refusal to go to America was a protest against the Vietnam War which was actually started by the French (though they soon upped and ran away as is their habit) for no good reason. But a direct result of this refusal was that he himself incurred guilt for the murder of Black American activists. What then is a suitable punishment for this crazy racist killer? Should we beat him to death with baguettes?
No, sayeth your modern Mahatma. Fucker was simply lying.  Drama fucking Queen behaviour.
Concentrate on pissing upon Bernard Henri Levy. Botulism alone is philosophy.

Kalabhara Sangam


Just as the inrushing sea can but drown, not dim
The rut of his chariot wheels, her last path to him
& butter is the theft, their butter-thief steals
Churning alone our charnel anneals.