Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wikileaks, Julian Assange, etc.

ClimateGate and Clinton's emailGate are parts of one pattern

T.R. Ramachandran (@yottapoint) writes:
"To understand Wikileaks you need to understand ClimateGate".

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Failure of Conventional Journalistic Ethics

Margaret Sullivan has an article in the Washington Post: How BuzzFeed crossed the line in publishing salacious ‘dossier’ on Trump.  In it she makes the points:
But at many other news organizations, the rule is caution: “When in doubt, leave it out.”
It’s a bad idea, and always has been, to publish unverified smears.
It’s never been acceptable to publish rumor and innuendo. 
 Let's see how that works in practice.   When Donald J. Trump went on with his birther allegations that Obama was not born in the United States, he repeated rumors and innuendo, and added some of his own unverified smears.

If the rules are as Margaret Sullivan says, why did major news organizations publish what Trump said?

The answer would likely be - the newsworthiness lies in the fact that a celebrity spokesperson is saying something (whatever it is) and not in the fact that what the person is saying is rumors, innuendo and unverified smears.

That puts the news organization in the position that once a celebrity says something, no matter how false, it is newsworthy.  Newsworthiness has been conferred on something by the celebrity uttering it.  If Joe Shmoe has assembled a dossier of unverified allegations, it is not news unless it is verified, and should not be published.

What Margaret Sullivan is arguing has this effect: the news organization ought to be a fact-checker and filter for Joe Shmoe; but is not for the celebrity.

We see the implicit assumption of conventional journalistic ethics here - that we all have a common interest in the truth, and that though what the celebrity is saying is merely rumors, innuendo and unverified smears, the resulting backlash and public disapproval will punish the celebrity.  Therefore, the news organization doesn't need to act as a filter on publishing what a celebrity says.

Well, Trump and his supporters defy this ethical standard.   Trump has zero interest in the truth - he denies saying things that he said that are recorded on video; and his public has zero interest in censuring Trump for lying, repeating rumors, innuendo and unverified smears.

Thus we end up with the 2016 US Presidential campaign.  Trump would have mostly been blacked out of the news had news organizations applied the same rules to what he said to the dossier compiled by the ex-MI6 agent (does knowing that he is Christopher Steele of Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd. change the newsworthiness of what he wrote?  Or does he have to have a TV reality show in order to have whatever he says published by news organizations?)

Monday, January 09, 2017

UN World Population Projections

This is from 2015: (PDF file)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Kazanas on the fallacies of Proto-Indo-European

The article is here:, please leave comments there, not here.

A sample:

10. The biggest fallacy and central to any discussion regarding the Protolanguage in IE studies is exposed by the presence of roots or more correctly dhātus ‘lexical seed-forms’ in Sanskrit. When all the paraphernalia of PIE reconstructions are laid aside the investigator finds that, in plain fact, only Sanskrit and Avestan (to a much lesser degree) have roots! The other IE languages have verbs and nouns etc. but not roots, as such, from which verbs and nouns etc. are derived. Even Sanskrit has many words that cannot be analysed or traced back to a dhātu (apart from borrowed words): e.g. kakud ‘peak’, nṛ/nara ‘man’, putra ‘child/son’, balakṣa ‘white’, śūdra ‘servile’ etc. But it has 2000 dhātus all told and about 700 fully active in the early language.

In his Dictionary, Walkins gives 5 roots ser, and of these he connects number 2 with S ̦√sṛ > sarati/sisarti ‘moves/flows/runs’ and then gets lost in the labyrinth of IE complexities. This |sṛ| is not found as an independent word noun or adjective, but is found in S as stem in sṛ-t ‘running’, sṛ-ta ‘having gone/passed’, sṛti ‘way’ etc. Then there are sara saraṇa, sarit, sāra, sārin etc. This is found also in a cognate form in Tocharian salate, in Gk hallomai and L salio, all meaning ‘leap/rush’, but only as verbs, not as roots and with very few derivatives. The most curious fact is that it’s derivative saras ‘eddy, whirl, wave, lake’ is in the name of the ancient river saras-vatī. This is cognate with Avestan haraxvaiti, also a river’s name; but there is no root nor other word connected with this harah in Iranian, so it stands alone!

The mainstream theory, that wants the common Indo-Iranian tongue and culture in Iran, says that the Indoaryans went to Saptasindhu and there gave their version of the name to a river to remind them of their former country. This of course is utter, wilful nonsense, because saras has a rich family of lexemes and a dhātu, but the Iranian haraḥ is a lonely orphan! So the movement must have been the other way round and the Iranians just lost dhātu and derivatives retaining only the name and memory of the river in Saptasindhu. (See§7-8.) Otherwise, it is impossible that the Indoaryans left Iran with only harah/saras and once in their new habitat started developing other lexemes and the dhātu √sṛ.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What is the economic value of having jobs?

This article from 2009, by Alan Viard, is relevant today because of the Trump/GOP's proposal for "border adjustment taxes".

But there is something else, which I think is important.  Take this idea:
Furthermore, if a border adjustment did somehow yield a permanent reduction in the trade deficit, such a reduction would lower rather than raise American living standards; we would forever send more goods and services to foreigners while receiving fewer goods and services from them in return.
Here "living standards" is implicitly defined to be the amount of goods and services we consume.  But suppose our exporting a bit more meant some more good, stable jobs in the US.  What is the economic value of that?  how is my quality of life affected by having close to full employment in my neighborhood and having a political environment that cannot be Trumpified?

The free market is an optimization mechanism, but what it ought to optimize is not clear.  To take extreme examples, the free market will likely more efficiently allocate slave labor than any other system -  if slave trade is permitted.   Add to it the fact that the free market cannot optimize everything, there are some conditions that must be satisfied (e.g., about the availability of information to both sides of economic transactions) for the market to work, and it is clear that there needs to be a framework in which we can talk about what type of results we want from our economic system, how to quantify those results so that trade-offs can be evaluated, and then what mechanisms to use to optimize those results (achieve the best results possible, achieve results most efficiently).

It seems to me that a good many economists spend too much of their time studying the optimization mechanisms of the economy, and not enough on what we ought to optimize.  Having fewer families facing economic stress versus having more goods and services to consume is not a trade-off discussed in the article mentioned above, and not in most articles on economics that I see.  Only the things that the economists know how to quantify are supposed to prescribe the limits of what we can or ought to value.  That is, "is it good for business?" is the metric in most discussions, and rarely is asked "what is business good for?".

Bhagwati-Dehejia-Krishna on Indian demonetization

Article here.

More than a month has passed since the 8 November announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that high-denomination currency notes would be scrapped and remonetisation would occur through replacement of new notes and deposits of old notes in bank accounts. Often termed “demonetisation”, this policy has created considerable confusion among commentators, some ill-informed, some politically motivated. A number of fallacies continue to persist—concerning the value of “unreturned” versus “returned” money, the existing “stocks” versus future “flows” of black and counterfeit money, the short- versus the long-term impact on black money, and the expansionary versus contractionary effects of the policy reform—allowing opponents of the policy to claim, prematurely, and without evidence, that it is a failure. We clarify in what follows.

The changing shape of the US income distribution

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

IBM's predictions from December 2011

Am posting this on December 20, 2011, but it is scheduled to appear only 5 years from now.  (The number of assumptions involved in posting this on future date is quite large!).

IBM Reveals Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives within Five Years - IBM Press Release (e)
IBM unveiled the sixth annual “IBM 5 in 5" – a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years: The next IBM 5 in 5 is based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s research labs around the world that can make these transformations possible. Here are how five technologies will define the future:
People power will come to life -- Anything that moves or produces heat has the potential to create energy that can be captured. Walking. Jogging. Bicycling. The heat from your computer. Even the water flowing through your pipes. Advances in renewable energy technology will allow individuals to collect this kinetic energy, which now goes to waste, and use it to help power our homes, offices and cities.
You will never need a password again -- You will no longer need to create, track or remember multiple passwords for various log-ins. Imagine you will be able to walk up to an ATM machine to securely withdraw money by simply speaking your name or looking into a tiny sensor that can recognize the unique patterns in the retina of your eye. Or by doing the same, you can check your account balance on your mobile phone or tablet. Referred to as multi-factor biometrics, smarter systems will be able to use this information in real-time to make sure whenever someone is attempting to access your information, it matches your unique biometric profile and the attempt is authorized.
Mind reading is no longer science fiction -- IBM scientists are among those researching how to link your brain to your devices, such as a computer or a smartphone. If you just need to think about calling someone, it happens. Or you can control the cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about where you want to move it. Within 5 years, we will begin to see early applications of this technology in the gaming and entertainment industry. Furthermore, doctors could use the technology to test brain patterns, possibly even assist in rehabilitation from strokes and to help in understanding brain disorders, such as autism. .
The digital divide will cease to exist -- As it becomes cheaper to own a mobile phone, people without a lot of spending power will be able to do much more than they can today. Growing communities will be able to use mobile technology to provide access to essential information and better serve people with new solutions and business models such as mobile commerce and remote healthcare.
Junk mail will become priority mail -- In five years, unsolicited advertisements may feel so personalized and relevant it may seem spam is dead. At the same time, spam filters will be so precise you’ll never be bothered by unwanted sales pitches again.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Demonetization in India reportedly curbs human trafficking

See this news-report.

A 10-12 year old girl costs Rs5 lakh, while girls between the groups of 13 and 15 cost Rs4 lakh. These transactions are all done in cash, in black money. The brothel owners are now caught in a bind because they can’t convert this cash at the banks. Because the new currency is not readily available, clients have stopped going to brothels and the brothel owners have no money to pay the traffickers,” Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi said.

Senior Delhi Police officers said, on condition of anonymity, random checks on trains bound for Delhi from Bengal, Assam and Bihar, failed to unearth trafficked girls.
“Black money is the backbone of the trafficking industry in India. At the moment that structure has been fractured by demonetisation. It is a matter of time before the new currency is back in the system and the trade picks up. We have approached the PM and informed him of this situation as well,” Satyarthi added.
 If human trafficking has been dealt a blow, and it can be continued to be hit, that will be a net positive of demonetization.