Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February 10, 2015

This is about the upper middle class in America, but the argument applies equally to their Indian counterparts. From tax deductions for home loans to subsidized cooking gas, it's "you'll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers" all the way. Not to mention that they've thrown their weight behind promises of more shiny new things they can buy (Ultra HD TV, anyone?) as the economy is being unshackled by the latest saviour (the AAP has basically wiped the floor with their opponents in Delhi as I type this, so maybe there is some hope left).

Wiser words have never been spoken (via xymphora):
Instead, in every domain, over and over, the policies that prevail are those with business-models. Policies that create a large pool of wealth for a small number of players, enough money in few enough hands that there’s some left over to lobby for the continuation of that policy.
I think that we’ve tacitly acknowledged this in policy circles for years – if you have something you think would be good for society, you need to figure out how it will make a small group of people rich, so they will fight to keep it going. It’s how we got carbon trading! And carbon trading is a great cautionary tale for activists thinking of harnessing policy business models to attain their objectives: the people you make rich will fight for a version of your policy that makes them as rich as possible, even if it means subverting the underlying social good that your policy is supposed to attain.
From yesterday's The Hindu, about three Indian cities being chosen for the 100 Resilient Cities project:
The financial commitment for the project is $100 million. This doesn’t mean each city gets $1 million. What the cities would get are funds to recruit the chief resilience officer. Other than that, support would be in the form of tools, people and the network.
One million dollars at current exchange rates translates to a salary of about Rs 50-60 lacs per year for two years (leaving the rest for administrative expenses), about enough time to attend about five to ten local and international soirees and hobnob with the movers and shakers, give an equal number of interviews to magazines and newspapers (whose editors you met during said soirees), and utilize the time in-between to type up a 500-page report (double-spaced, naturally), and still be left with a couple of months in which to polish your resume for your next gig. The word you're looking for is 'sinecure'. 'Bribery' if you don't want to mince words.

Staying with The Hindu, their International page devotes more column inches to cover the International Film Festival in Berlin than to report on the much more important happenings in Ukraine.

#9 and #10 in the list of Indian names released as part of the HSBC leak are the Ambani brothers. What lends credence to this, despite the protestations of innocence, is that the balances against their respective names are identical ($26, 654, 991). Indian Express is the Indian partner of the consortium who took part in this expose, so there is always the lingering doubt that it's a copy/paste error, but an equally plausible reason is that the amount probably works out to a nice round figure when converted to rupees. I'm too lazy to do the math, but this looks to be in the ballpark of Rs 100 crores at the time in question (2007).
Must-read articles about the recent AI-Skynet brouhaha (I discovered Wait But Why only recently, via RI; some seriously good brain food there). I have been fully inoculated by John Michael Greer against the whole "Rapture of the nerds" thing, so I'm compelled to ask: would an Artificial Super Intelligence be able to defy the laws of thermodynamics? Even so, some good stuff there.