Archive for August, 2010

New fools for old wine in old bottles

August 31, 2010 2 comments

Using GDP numbers you can prove a lot of things. Using history, you can disprove the same economics. Duh!

PT Barnum’s maxim

There is a sucker born ever minute – (more on PT Barnum and on this quote.)

A significant number of Indians are fooled by the ‘achievement’ the West – especially those who are ‘educated’ in English. A few days ago, Mint, a business newspaper carried a post by Manas Chakravarty, who was using an old report by Angus Maddison to support absurd conclusions.

Transatlantic Slave Trade (Table Courtesy -

Transatlantic Slave Trade (Table Courtesy -

Writes Manas Chakravarty,

By 1600, the centre of Europe had shifted northwards and the golden age of Holland had begun. Dutch per capita income was $1,381 in 1600, while Britain in Shakespeare’s time had a per capita income of $974.Recall that 1600 was the year the East India Company was founded. In contrast, India’s per capita income continued to be $550, while China’s was $600. Note that even Ireland, one of the poorest of Western Europe’s countries, had a per capita income of $615, higher than India’s and China’s. In short, the per capita GDP numbers mirror the changes in power, prosperity and cultural and scientific achievement.It wasn’t till 1981 that India had a per capita income of $977, beating that of Britain in 1600. And it wasn’t until 1993 that India’s per capita income of $1,399 surpassed what the Dutch had achieved in 1600. Maddison’s calculations show that in 2008, India’s per capita GDP in 1990 dollars, PPP terms was $2,975, slightly more than one-third of the world average of $7,614. We have a long way to go. (via World history by per capita GDP – Columns –

Basically, Indians are such rotters! That is what Shri Manasbhai Chakravarty is saying, in simple English.

I know a little English, Shri Manasji!

In the light of day

Any reading of history will show how hollow and risible Manasbhai‘s conclusions are.

One problem with economics is the complete lack of ethics. Economists (like Manasji Chakravarty) cannot be bothered with ‘facts’. For them numbers must do the talking and walking. Some ‘good’ economists like Angus Maddisson can even put up a good strip-tease show with numbers. Admirers can view these ‘assets’ admiringly.

Like Manasji Chakravarty seems to be enjoying Angus Maddison’s strip-tease show.

Poster annoucing sale of slaves in the USA.

Poster annoucing sale of slaves in the USA.

General Julius and the Gauls

Take Italian GDP, of which Bhai Manas has a high opinion.

Sum and substance of the Italian Job? Julius Caesar, (he would be an Italian now), loots the Gauls.

What happens?

Economics (and Shri Manasji Chakravarty) will tell us that Italian GDP goes up. What great history and important economic conclusions can we draw from this loot?

Nothing, except that Romans were good at looting others. Let us forget, for now, that after Roman loot, French GDP goes down.

Cynical economists like Angus Maddisson  could point out that Julius Caesar also massacred hundreds of thousands of Gauls. Loss of lives and wealth will have no effect on GDP as both cancel each other out. Since fewer Gauls now have lesser wealth, per-capita GDP will remain static.

Right, Manasji?

The other thing that the Italians (called Romans then) did well, was kill slaves.

After using them.

Rome, the city alone, had a million slaves. Crassus, (full name Marcus Licinius Crassus) a Roman general, was very good at killing slaves. Crassus was himself, finally, killed at Indian borders – when he made the mistake of thinking that Indians would be easy targets for loot and enslavement.

Crassus, Julius Caesar’s patron-in-chief,  lined Rome’s highway, Via Appia with the bodies of 6,000 slaves. A lesson for revolting slaves. The French, Spanish and the Brits also learned their Roman lessons well, history tells us.

Too well, I say!

Learn your lessons

Soon, it was the turn of the French. The Spanish and the British also. To start the killing.

Increase productivity in Manasbhai’s words.

And time for Native Americans and Australian aborigines to die.

The West (the French, Spanish and the British were very good at this) ‘imported’ at least 10 million, maybe even 20 million slaves, from Africa into West-controlled territories. Economic output of the West goes up! (What else did you expect.).

The output of these slaves is included in Western GDP calculations. But slaves are excluded from census calculation! The lives of African slaves and the deaths of Native Americans are excluded from this economics. But Western GDP goes up. That is what the ‘numbers’ tell.

And good job says, Shri Manasji Chakravarty.

What can I say! Apart from pointing out that Manasji Chakravarty is wasting a lot of wood-pulp.

Most probably from modern Norway.

You can always get slaves! Why bother about people?

You can always get slaves! Why bother about people?

Optical illusion in economics

Norway! My favorite ‘case’ study in modern economics.

Modern Norway does two things very well.

One – they exploit nature very well. Dig up the earth to extract aluminum, cut down forests, and suck oil from the North Sea.

Two – all  Norwegians over-pay each other.

Over-paid taxi-drivers pay huge amounts for a haircut. Over-paid waiters fork out fancy amounts for a car-wash. And so on. Compared to, say Indians, Norwegians are paid some 10-20 times more.

A waiter in Mumbai earns between 125-200 dollars. A Norwegian waiter earns closer to US$1500-2000 per month. Both do the same job and the net economic output should not change. But it does. What Norway does is overstate Norwegian economic output – by over-paying everybody.

Democracy, you see!

This economic ‘trick’ creates a brilliant optical illusion. Of higher wages, profits, turnover, prices – and GDP. Now replace Norway, with any Western economy.

Same story and the plot does not change.

Old wine, old bottle … new fools

This great science of economics has another trick up its sleeve. Norway’s manufacturing out-put is a gargantuan, awesome, jaw-dropping 1 percent of Norway’s annual GDP.

So, Shri Manasji Chakravarty, before you massage numbers and get an ‘erection’ of fancy conclusions, like your ‘guru’ Angus Maddisson does, look behind those numbers.

Take a 2ndlook.

Reinvented narrative

After WWII (1939-1945), using favorable US-dollar  exchange rates, Europe climbed out of rubble and destruction. Recovering from 50 years of bloodshed, faced with the rise of USA and a certain liquidation of their colonial empires, Europe needed to reinvent their history.

One task for this new narrative was to explain the rise of the West. A plausible econo-metric modelling effort from the 1970’s was led by a British economist, Angus Maddison. This model explained away Europe’s economic growth to increased ‘productivity.’

Eyes closed, mouths agape

This study gained some following in India also. India, this analysis estimated, for the last 1000 years, accounted for 50% of the world economy and a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900. The real problem with this study was the trojans that came with this model.

40 years after this report first came out, Indians still cannot use this report critically.

Can Rahul Gandhi deliver for the Congress?

August 30, 2010 13 comments

The Nehru-Gandhi ‘dynasty’ has not connected to India in the last 40 years after India Gandhi – and it is not for lack of trying.

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan;

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan;

Does nurture work?

For a few years now, Rahul Gandhi’s political persona is being crafted in New Delhi. There is clear and conscious design behind this.

The trips to UP, a politically important state, the selective engagement with the Government, the complete lack of involvement with the Government are new ideas in political nurturing.

This लोक सेवा ‘lok seva’ and ‘power I dont want’ stance is being projected extensively.

Rules of the game

MJ Akbar captures this surreal political atmosphere in his recent post

Rahul Gandhi in the Hindi heart-belt. Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; cartoon courtesy

Rahul Gandhi in the Hindi heart-belt. Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; cartoon courtesy

It is axiomatic that a largely impoverished nation needs a political party that the poor can identify with. The Congress has set out to be the party of the poor in daytime, and of the rich at night. Its sunlight politics will fetch votes, its twilight policies will enable it to govern. This is an extremely clever act whose opening scenes are being played out for a new generation that is vague about Indira Gandhi and amnesiac about Nehru. The hero of this drama must have the charisma to dazzle the poor and the flexibility to keep the rich onside. That is the challenge before Rahul Gandhi. His avowed role is to be the guardian of the poor in Delhi, which means that the poor need protection from Delhi. He is at home with the elite in the in the evening and is now making the effort to capture the sunshine hours. (via Crown prince Rahul cannily turns left : India : M J Akbar : TOI Blogs).

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; 2009 May 08	in The Times Of India Bengaluru  |  Click for larger image.

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; 2009 May 08 in The Times Of India Bengaluru | Click for larger image.

The political apprenticeship of Rajiv Gandhi needed Indira’s Gandhi’s assassination to win an election. After that one singular victory, Rajiv was electorally ineffective and politically insignificant. Before Rajiv, his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi could not take on the Nehru mantle as his mother had done. Priyanka Vadra’s attempts at politics did not get the electoral traction that the Congress needed to win an election.

Rahul needs BJP’s help

If Rahul Gandhi succeeds, the single biggest reason may well be the BJP. Headless and clueless, BJP out of power, is a shell of BJP before coming into power.

Losing power can do some strange things to people.

India’s Election Commission gets techie arrested

August 22, 2010 7 comments
 S.Y. Quraishi  - India's Chief Election Commissioner.

S.Y. Quraishi - India's Chief Election Commissioner.

A city-based computer engineer who demonstrated the vulnerability of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to tampering was taken into custody by the Mumbai police from his residence in Madhapur locality here on Saturday morning.

The Mumbai police was investigating the case of a ‘missing EVM’ from the Mumbai collectorate and the same machine was reportedly used for the ‘vulnerability demonstration’ by the technologist, Hari K. Prasad, in April last.

Mr. Prasad, managing director of a Hyderabad-based technology firm NetIndia, had taken the help of two other researchers – a Michigan University professor J. Alex Halderman and a Holland-based technology activist Rop Gonggrijp, to demonstrate that EVMs used in India could be tampered by altering small components of the machine.

The researchers had used a genuine EVM in their ‘vulnerability demonstration’ on April 28 and the Election Commission of India had then rejected the claim outright. After video footage of the demonstration showed the serial number of the EVM, authorities found that one of the EVMs in Mumbai collectorate was ‘stolen’ and a case registered in MRA Marg station on May 13. (via The Hindu : Today’s Paper News : Missing EVM: techie arrested).

Hari K. Prasad - The techie who was picked upf ro exposing the EVM vulnerability.

Hari K. Prasad - The techie who was picked up for exposing the EVM vulnerability.

This is strange

The Indian Election Commission should have invited these people for pointing out the fallibility of these machines and collaborated to find ways to ensure that election rigging does not happen.

It must be pointed out that that Mumbai police had earlier served a notice on him on August 6 asking him to appear before them. He could have easily applied for an anticipatory bail and appeared before the police. Seems like a case bad legal advice!

Indian oligarchy takes over

For the last 1 year, there has been a rising chorus that India is a becoming a police state and power is being handed over to an oligarchy. India seemed so unlike the US with a prison population of 20 lakh people. With harmless people like Vikram Buddhi languishing in US prison for the last few years.

Instead of public sector, a new oligarchy is taking over India. It is an unholy collusion between the rich and the powerful. What seemed like a retreat of the State seems to be now simply a privatization of power. What was earlier being managed by the ‘inefficient’ public sector has now been rented out to the ‘effective’ private sector.

India has to be ‘modern’ ‘efficient’ – and vindictive

The Electronic Voting Machines were a movement towards this ‘efficiency’.All that is needed is a printer attachment which will give a paper-printout of the ballot. This printout must also be put in a ballot box. A random audit in case of a suspected fraud will become fool-proof.

Is this a simple case of a few days of custodial interrogation to put the fear of the State into such ‘loose cannons’ or a vindictive State? We will know in a few days.

The Vindictive State, Mian Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi, (our esteemed Chief  Election Commissioner) is not something that Indians will tolerate. I hope you have your history lessons right. If you have been a student of colonial history, which talks of a mythical, supine, Indian population that believes in non-violence, you may get an unpleasant surprise.

And soon!

Hitler’s secret friend: Sayajirao Gaekwad

August 20, 2010 11 comments
Hitler's friend Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad (TOI Photo)

Hitler's friend Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad (TOI Photo)

Gaekwad even signed a secret pact with Hitler to get his support for India’s freedom. It was known as the Baroda-Berlin Pact.

Gaekwad’s personal assistant Vishnu Nene was sent to Germany to arrange the meeting. “Gaekwad believed an enemy’s enemy is a friend. So, he decided to join hands with Hitler,” says Dr Damodar Nene, who has written a new biography of Gaekwad and gives details of the pact. He is Vishnu Nene’s son. The book, ‘Sayajirao Gaekwad Chi Biography’ has been published by Ved Gandharva publishers of Pune. (via Hitler’s secret friend: Sayajirao Gaekwad – Vadodara – City – The Times of India).

Wishful thinking

For the past few days, after reading this post, I have been trying to corroborate this story. Apart from one small stray reference, there was nothing that I could find. This one reference was a a few lines from a 1972 biography which is linked here.

The fact that the good doctors, father Dr.Vishnu Nene and son Dr.Damodar Nene said nothing from 1936 upto 2010 makes this possibly only a claim. Or after August 15th, 1947 when the raj-gharana of Baroda had lost their kingdom and the threat of British reprisals was gone.

And they had everything to gain by making this claim.

Sayaji Rao Gaekwad, III By V. K. Chavda |National Book Trust, India| sole distributors, Thomson Press (India), 1972 - Baroda - 147 pages

From Sayaji Rao Gaekwad, III By V. K. Chavda |National Book Trust, India| sole distributors, Thomson Press (India), 1972 - Baroda - 147 pages. Click for a larger image.

Baroda has very little ice

A claim that may be based on thin ice. What little ice, one get can in Vadodara.

The fact that this claim coincides with a book publication, (books have to be sold, you see) and from the Vadodara edition of TOI (newspapers also have to be sold) makes this story, again, a candidate for collusion. What could I find about the Baroda-Berlin Pact?

Nothing. Yes. That is right. Nil. Zero. Zilch. 零. Nul. Null. μηδέν. ゼロ. нул. cero.

Foresighted Sayaji Rao Gaekwad knew there would be WWII

The other thing.

Apart from a paranoid Churchill, who would have imagined in 1936, that Britain would actually fight a war with Germany. In 1936, as the Berlin Olympics progressed, even Britain did not know there would be a WWII. Remember even the USA, joined the war against Germany and Japan, only after it was forced to. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941.

Forget Britain!

Even Hitler did not know there would be WWII. Or even a war with Britain. Hitler’s entire calculation after his successful campaign in Czechoslovakia (March 1939) was that Britain (under Chamberlain) would not go to war with Germany. While attacking Poland (September 1939) and other countries Hitler gambled that Britain would not declare war. Does it seem likely that Hitler would reveal his deepest, darkest plans to an ‘irrelevant’ Indian king? In 1936!

When neither Britain nor Germany knew there would be WWII.

Did Netaji Bose deserve this? Click for larger image.

Did Netaji Bose deserve this? Click for larger image.

Did the poor king deserve such a biography

Sayaji Rao Gaekwad is respected by many for many reasons. I would not like to assess him in any way, for sheer lack of material with me. Assuming he is respect-worthy, he does not deserve a biographer like the good doctor Nene.

Neither does Subhash Chandra Bose deserve this. A great leader, obfuscated in his own country, his legacy is now being plagiarized by incompetent hacks.

Between historians who hide real history, and ‘writers’ who proclaim history, without a base, Indian history, not surprisingly, has not got out of the sorry Colonial-Congress rut.

What a shame!

‘Strong’ cultures go weak in their knees

August 19, 2010 2 comments
Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Lingua Franca

Soon after the French Revolution (1789-1799), the new republic of France decided that it needed to stamp out all the local languages – and have One language – lingua franca. At the time of the French Revolution in France,

regional languages such as Provençal, Breton, and Basque were still strong competitors against standard French, the French of the Ile de France. As late as 1789, when the Revolution began, half the population of the south of France, which spoke Provençal, did not understand French. A century earlier the playwright Racine said that he had had to resort to Spanish and Italian to make himself understood in the southern French town of Uzès. After the Revolution nationhood itself became aligned with language.

Adds another writer

at the time of the French Revolution, only 10-12 % of France spoke French. Over the next 100 years, public schools and conscription armies turned “peasants into Frenchmen”. France simply did not allow diversities to flourish. Everyone came to speak French.

Look Again (While the British were busy in India, America's Founding Father's stole America from Britain - and the Native Americans.).

Look Again (While the British were busy in India, America's Founding Father's stole America from Britain - and the Native Americans.).

In the land of the Free

Americans were not allowed to learn or teach non-English languages for the best part of 200 years. All other language groups had to become American by giving up their own languages – and adopt the language of the land of the free.

By 1923, thirty-four states had laws that declared English the language of school instruction.  Since then, most states have enacted laws that require the use of English in specific situations, such as in testing for occupational licenses.

During the 1980s, resurgent xenophobia, directed this time toward Latino/a and Asian immigrants, revived interest in and support for comprehensive English language laws.  Organizations, such as U.S. English, formed to urge states and Congress to enact Official English and English-Only laws that encompass all aspects of government. (from Impact of English Language Movement on Consumer Protection Regulation By Steven W.  Bender Excerpted from Consumer Protection for Latinos: Overcoming Language Fraud and English-Only in the Marketplace, 45 American. University Law Review – 1027-348, 1047-1054 (1996).)

Various US state governments outlawed all languages – except English. It was only in 1923, was this was finally set aside after the matter reached the US Supreme Court (read Meyer vs Nebraska). The USA gathered some courage to start timidly with more than English only after seeing India’s success with 15 languages.

Why are these countries so ‘protective’ about their language? Why do they then want to ‘spread’ their language (English or French) to others?

Coming to India

In India, from a Western stand-point

Contrary to public perception (in the West), India gets along pretty well with a host of different languages. The Indian constitution officially recognizes nineteen languages, English among them.

Why is it that India preserves its unity with not just two languages to contend with, as Belgium, Canada, and Sri Lanka have, but nineteen? The answer is that India, like Switzerland, has a strong national identity.

As for India, what Vincent Smith, in the Oxford History of India, calls its “deep underlying fundamental unity” resides in institutions and beliefs such as caste, cow worship, sacred places, and much more. Consider dharma, karma, and maya, the three root convictions of Hinduism; India’s historical epics; Gandhi; ahimsa (nonviolence); vegetarianism; a distinctive cuisine and way of eating; marriage customs; a shared past; and what the Indologist Ainslie Embree calls “Brahmanical ideology.” In other words, “We are Indian; we are different.” (via Should English Be the Law? underlined text supplied for clarity).

How can we ever credit this poor, vernacular, dhoti-wearing man with such 'liberalism'? (Cartoon character - RK Laxman's Common Man).

How can we ever credit this poor, vernacular, dhoti-wearing man with such 'liberalism'? (Cartoon character - RK Laxman's Common Man).

Credit Gandhi or Nehru

Robert D.King (quoted above) after a fair amount of research makes a few missteps. He writes how in India

Hindi absolutists wanted to force Hindi on the entire country, which would have split India between north and south and opened up other fracture lines as well. For as long as possible Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first Prime Minister, resisted nationalist demands to redraw the capricious state boundaries of British India according to language.

How long would Nehru have lasted if really tried imposing Hindi? In this Hindi-imposition charade, some read a ruse by Nehru to actually impose English on the Indian population. His ‘tryst with destiny speech gives the game away completely – as his many other statements on English.

Similarly, Ashutosh Varshney (quoted above) makes a fine distinction between Indian‘mosaic’ and  the Western ‘melting pot’ models. He goes then and he misses the beat, completely, by crediting Gandhiji for this Indic construct!

He says, “Under Gandhi, India consciously embraced diversities” is he implying that before Gandhiji, India was a mono-bloc society. Was it under the thrall of ‘One’? Would Gandhiji have become a Mahatma in India, if tried the ‘melting pot’ strategy?

I think not!

Gandhiji would have been rejected, rubbished and trashed before he could have said M – of mosaic, melting pot or Mahatma. The only people who cannot be credited are the nearly 120 crore Indians who get by using each others languages! What role did they play in this?

Strange logic, this!

Chinese ambassador assured full support to Pakistan

August 12, 2010 2 comments
 Zhaohui assured that the people of Pakistan would never be left alone. — File Photo; (Courtesy -

Zhaohui assured that the people of Pakistan would never be left alone. — File Photo; (Courtesy -

Chinese ambassador assured his every possible assistance. He also handed over Rs.15 Lacs to Qureshi which were collected from Chinese traders and business people.

Zhaohui assured that the people of Pakistan would never be left alone. China is devising a comprehensive plan to help floods victims, in which chine will help in food, shelters and to retain basic infrastructure in the flood affected areas. (via DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Chinese ambassador assured full support to Pakistan).

To say anything more, would be in bad taste.

No comments! None at all.

India’s media boom – The worm inside the apple

One assumes that media know media and propaganda better! We are wrong ... (Cartoonist -  Matt Wuerker).

One assumes that media knows media and propaganda better! We are wrong ... (Cartoonist - Matt Wuerker).

Money alone is not enough

Indian media is seen as a sunshine sector. Foreign investors have invested a few US$ billion for minority stakes in various media companies. TV viewership is exploding. Newspaper circulation, advertising is climbing. Internet media is getting sophisticated.

Therefore, one would assume that better funding would remove all existential reasons for unethical behaviour. Given this, it is  disturbing to see media companies, resort to unethical behaviour.

Are we over-reacting

As a recent report suggests,

While talking about newspapers publishing paid news, either for politicians or for corporate entities, is one thing, proving it is quite another. Many have suspected, for instance, that the “private treaties” publishers like the Times of India group have are nothing but paid news — the newspaper gets equity in your company in return for free ad space; but since the value of the newspapers’ investment goes up only when your company does well, the allegation is various newspapers tend to publish only good news about their “private treaty” companies. But how do you prove it?

It’s much the same in the case of politicians. Saying they’re all corrupt is easy. (via Sunil Jain: No one published paid news).

Slanted news … anyone?

A year ago, during a Chief Minister’s conference on terrorism, there were blatant efforts to ‘take down’ BJP Chief Ministers with unflattering photographs. We now have another example.

I wonder why Outlook, a respected magazine and Vinod Mehta, a respected editor, carried this not-so-humourous post on the CWG-Corruption scandal and the BJP President Nitin Gadkari? Was this another piece of ‘paid journalism’. This was supposed to be part of humour series where ‘even’ Manmohan Singh was targeted.

What would people do in a pig’s heaven?

I wonder why this kind of journalism reminds me of people in a pig’s heaven!

Advertiser-paid media seems to be the same everywhere (Cartoonist -  Berkeley Breathed).

Advertiser-paid media seems to be the same everywhere (Cartoonist - Berkeley Breathed). Click for larger image in another window

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