Blog Archives

Startup Pimp

Serious question, has Tom Friedman become a venture capitalist or a marketing person for a venture capitalist firm? He is pimping another startup this time, an online consignment shop called Tradesy.   An idea that is neither innovative nor particularly visionary.  Even the name rhymes with Etsy, an online marketplace for goods, handmade and vintage. The person behind the last start-up column was his daughter’s roommate, I wonder how he is related to the woman behind Tradesy.   First unless you have the closet of a Daphne Guinness, you can’t make your living selling last year’s fashions in your closet.  We all know that Guinness doesn’t need a hi-tech garage sale to either make a living or be a fashion plate, for that matter. 

In corporate speak which MoU loves, liquidating your inventory is not a viable source of generating steady income.  It is something you can do may be once a year.  Most of us don’t have enough high priced junk to sell that we can live an entire year off of.

Exasperated Kitteh

LoL by: two_kittehs

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Friedman Figures Out the Obvious

Finally! Tom Friedman of all people has figured out the obvious,

If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process.

President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him.

 

Plain unvarnished truth without any paeans to bipartisanship. I like it.  Is our Punditubbies learning? 

Good_Job_Human

LoL by: two_kittehs (Picture by: dorothyfrancesgoldstein)

No Newspaper for Math Whizzes

New York Times: EPIC FAIL

EPIC_FAIL NYT

Comic by: two_kittehs/Photo Credits New York Times

The other day I was lamenting about the lack of basic arithmetic skills among the reporters and pundits writing for the nation’s finest newspapers and other media outlets. Nate Silver and Paul Krugman at the New York Times were the two prominent exceptions to this sad state of affairs.  However their superior mathematical and analytical abilities have not made them many friends among their fellow media denizens. Vilifying Nate Silver was a favorite past time among many innumerate pundits last election season. Silver’s model predicted  an Obama win throughout the election season. A  fact disputed by the horse race loving Beltway media. Now we hear that he was none too popular at the offices of the Grey Lady herself.

So it should come as no surprise that Nate Silver has decided to pack up his 538 blog and go back to analyzing baseball.  He will still analyze politics during election season for ABC. Will be fun to see George BowTie Will’s head explode on live television. As for New York Times letting Silver go, and keeping on the likes of  Tom Friedman and David Brooks to continue their tortured fact-free blathering is why you are losing your readership. Paul Krugman, I hope you are not the next.

The Die is Caste

NYT is now  outsourcing their  vacuous analysis on the Opinion Pages to op-ed contributors from Bangalore, no less.  Tom Friedman beware, your competition has arrived. Ms Sankaran’s column in a nutshell, nobody I know of speaks of uncomfortable stuff like caste or caste discrimination, ergo its no longer a relevant factor.  Also, it makes me sad that others, not as enlightened as I am, are using caste when deciding who to vote for.

Lavanya_Sankar

In a country where everything from your name to what you eat, to whom you can marry, depends on caste, I would be extremely surprised if it was not a dominant factor in electoral politics.  Her personal experiences are hardly representative of all of urban India. Perhaps she should actually talk to the the cooks and  gardeners she  refers to in her column before she presumes to speak for them.

In today’s urban India, this land of possibility, separated from rural India by cultural and economic chasms, it seems reactionary even to speak of caste. Certainly it shouldn’t — and usually doesn’t — come up at work or at play or in the apartment elevator.

A quick Google search with the  word caste, came up with multiple stories from Indian newspapers  with caste in the head lines.  Even when it is not in the headlines, caste provides the subtext for almost everything in India.  So much for her claim that newspaper headlines don’t obsess over caste anymore.  Even if explicit mentions of caste had disappeared from headlines in the English language newspapers what exactly is that supposed to prove?  Does it mean, that if something is not in headlines, it does not happen? Caste-based discrimination is the reality of life for far too many Indians.    Although, truly reprehensible practices around who you can touch and share food with may be dying out in the urban areas out of sheer necessity.  The opportunities that are available to you depend to a great extent on your caste.   Since caste and class usually go together, abject poverty is the fate of many at the bottom of the caste ladder.

The reality of the caste system in India is many layered and greatly differs from her simplistic Cliff notes variety description,

Traditionally, Indian society was divided into four main castes. At the top, Brahmins, as priests and teachers; second came the Kshatriyas, the warriors and rulers; third, Vaishyas, who were merchants; last, Shudras, the laborers. And below them all, the Dalits, or untouchables, called Harijans, or “children of God,” by Mahatma Gandhi (for indeed, who isn’t?).

You have all kinds of flexibility the higher up in the caste ladder you are, for example any profession is open to you if you are Brahmin, but not so, the lower on the ladder you are.  In addition there is a lot of regional variation in the caste hierarchies.

When Ms Sankaran, or any other upper caste Indian has a priest who is a scholar of Hindu scriptures but is not a Brahmin  officiate at a religious ceremony, I will buy her tall claim, that caste is irrelevant.  Also, if caste is irrelevant, why is every mention of Mayawati followed by her caste descriptor?

Politics is where caste has gotten a surprising new lease on life. After money and education,
democracy is, of course, the third powerful force transforming Indian society. But Indians, it turns
out, are passionate about the caste of their politicians. Nearly half of the voting population of even
a highly educated city like Bangalore considers caste to be the No. 1 reason to vote for a candidate.

To get a new lease on life, you need to be dead or dying, caste and caste based discrimination is alive and well in India and twenty years of relatively weak economic reforms have not done much to change that dynamic.  Politics is one arena where lower castes  can affect the outcome  due to their sheer numbers.  Like many urban Indians of her class she is not happy with the results.   By the way how exactly can a city be educated? Does it go to college?

Democracy gives power to people who previously had none. But, like race, caste can shift political
discussions from present-day merit to payback for historical injustices.

Shorter Ms Sankaran, those uppity Dalits are making me uncomfortable. Caste based injustices are hardly in some distant past to be described as historical.  But no matter, the lower castes should just get over it, according to Ms. Sankaran. Also,  merit and privilege go hand in hand. It is hard to excel at school when you don’t know where your next meal will come from.   She makes her biases crystal clear in her next paragraph

Six decades of democratic statehood have attempted to correct the imbalances of the past through
“reservation” — job and education quotas for the so-called backward castes, like the Dalits. This
program has been effective, in a fairly hit-or-miss fashion. Some say that nearly all university seats
are reserved for lower castes, effectively blocking Brahmins from higher education.

She ends with this gem

So that is the fascinating conundrum of Indian society: on one hand, caste is losing its virility as
India opens up opportunities and mind-sets, while on the other, the forces of democratic politics
ensure that it will thrive and never be forgotten as a crucial social index.

Caste is a male? Who knew? In any case, this male does not require Viagra. Tough luck Ms Sankaran, you can be rest assured that people will continue exercising their franchise in a way that protects their interests whether or not it meets your approval or hurts your tender feelings.  Caste based politics is a reality in Indian politics and it is not going away, unless the underlying issues of caste discrimination are addressed.   Politics in India is dirty and messy and caste-driven,  and reflects the society.

P.S.  Why  is NYT publishing this drivel?

Me after reading a column by Tom Friedman

Superior cat is superior

LoL by: two_kittehs

If you must, here is the column in question.

This is just from the first paragraph, my eyes glazed over and I stopped reading.  Does Friedman have a built-in random sentence generator, like most calculators have a random number generator?

We now live in a 401(k) world — a world of defined contributions, not defined benefits — where everyone needs to pass the bar exam and no one can escape the most e-mailed list.

Its a Miracle

In days of yore, Friedman used to be the Middle East correspondent for NYT and was a good reporter or so I have heard. These days he spends his days evangelizing about globalization and meeting sundry taxi drivers from Tokyo to Mumbai. Then he pens them in columns full of buzz words and jargon using tortured metaphors.

India Ink, the NYT blog on India interviewed Tom Friedman recently. Mustache of Understanding manages to answer them without really answering them. Throws in a lots of buzz words. His favorite adjective seems to be hyper. The world is hyper flat, we are hyper connected, I counted at least five instances of hyper in the interview. Hyper use of hyper seems hyper. MoU speaks in a special dialect of English, MoU speak, it is like Lolspeak but less cute.

Some highlights

Is the world still flat?

Shorter Friedman: Flat and getting hyper flatter.

Translation from MoU speak : The trends he described in his book are accelerating.

The globalization of business is basically finding a way to justify exploitation of labor, resulting in an enormous concentration of wealth in fewer hands. The majority of labor working for low-end manufacturing work in pathetic conditions, while workers in the U.S. face layoffs, particularly the elderly. Who is paying for this social cost, and should globalization be regulated, somehow?

Shorter Friedman:Concerned MoU is concerned but Rah Rah Globalization and college education is a cure for unemployment. This is what it sounds like in original MoU speak.

The first thing you need to understand about globalization is that it is everything and its opposite. So it is take it with one hand and give it with another hand.

So, who is the exploiter and who is the exploitee in this system? If horses could vote, there never would have been cars.

I’m concerned about it too.

So what happens when the world gets this hyper-connected? Well, first of all, the returns to education grow enormously. To be able to use these new technologies properly, you need to be educated. In America today, unemployment for people with four-year college degrees is 3.6 percent, basically nothing. Unemployment for someone who dropped out of high school is now infinity. I exaggerate but you get the point.
It’s called skills-bias polarization.

roflbot

The devaluation of labor is not just due to technological change (or hyper connectivity in MoU speak) but because of the tax and other policies of the past few decades. Globalization has not been a win-win neither in US nor India. There have been winners and losers. What Friedman is doing is blaming the losers, saying that they are losers because they lack education. This is just another version of Romney’s 47% quote. Hey sucker if you are jobless it is because you have no education. I guess he has never spoken to a single post-doc who has spent years getting an education but still doesn’t have a job in his chosen field of expertise, that pays him well.

How would you rate India on governance and public institutional structures compared to other democratic countries?

MoU compares India, China and Egypt. That’s like comparing apples, to oranges and bananas. An exercise in futility. Why? Because he visited all three countries recently. Mysterious are the ways of the MoU. Bet he met cab drivers in all the three countries as well. He predicts that India’s governance will improve because 300 million people have access to cell phones. I have no idea where that number comes from. Earth to MoU, access to a cell-phone does not make you middle class.

India in my mind has relatively weak governance in terms of delivering services, but a very strong civil society

I think India’s governance will improve. The government here is not utterly ineffective. It does do some things very well, but clearly it has weaknesses around policing, infrastructure building and providing consistent education.

India today has, because of hyper-connection of the world, and diffusion of technology, experienced the pushing down to lower and lower income levels more technology empowerment and education. That’s why India today seems like it has a 300 million-person middle class and a 300 million-person virtual middle class.

Studies indicate that equal treatment between the sexes is important to slowing the birth rate. I don’t see that globalization is contributing significantly to that end in India. An argument can be made that globalization has made it possible for the people who are most likely to start egalitarian families to leave India for the West?

Again according to MoU, hyper connectivity solves the problem of female empowerment. How don’t ask.

Question Tom, China may not be loved in the West, but is respected and admired for its accomplishments. How do you think India ranks on the loved vs. respected and admired spectrum?

What an interesting question.

I find the premise of the question troublesome.  First of all MoU is not a stand in for the world, and he has zero insight into India and its problems. The only Indians he knows are imaginary taxi drivers and CEOs of outsourcing and tech companies. In an interview full of fail, this is the  stupidest comment in the entire exchange.

What if 1 billion 50 million Indians were living like Syria today? The whole world would be different. Literally, the whole world would feel different today.

Wouldn’t they be Syrians, then?  Does he mean Indian immigrants? This sentence makes no sense.

Then there is this:

So to me India is a miracle. One billion fifty million people holding free and fair elections, just about every day, in the country. We now take it for granted because it has gone on for so long. I think it’s amazing.

India holds elections everyday? That is some democracy, indeed.

He ends the interview by pimping Nasscom.