Open Thread – 08/22/2020 – Brown Pundits

By Razib Khan 200 Comments

The usual.

But I’ll make a comment here. I am of the school that thinks facts matter a lot. Many of you trade in standard Hindu nationalist tropes and generalities about Islam. As someone who told Shadi Hamid on our interview, I am not a big personal fan of Islam, I don’t really mind people fearing Islam. I have personal experience of the religion after all.

But, facts matter. And a lot of the “facts” that get bandied about here are false.  I won’t tolerate that. There are two general categories I will point to:

1. First, people take traditional Muslim historiography at face value. You shouldn’t. This is like taking Christians at face value when they talk about the Four Gospels are pure positive history, when they were finally compiled and redacted decades later. Whether Muhammad exists is an empirical question in the same way that whether Jesus exists is an empirical question. As it happens, I’m modestly confident both figures existed in some form but were quite different from what Christians and Muslims depict them as (I do suspect that Josephus was a later interpolation).

The broader issue here is that Muslims on the whole have not gone through the modernist transition in regards to a critical-rationalist take on their religion. In Christianity, traditionalist-fundamentalists exist, but they have to take dialogue with modernists as a given. They exist in large part as reactions to modernism. This is not the case with Islam. Muslims accept that non-Muslims reject their religion, but within Islam, there is not a strong rationalist engagement with their texts that applies the sort of criticism than the Germans pioneered within Protestantism in the 19th century. That means they present a “unified face” about their early history which too many non-Muslims take for granted. Islam with all of its constitutive elements is not truly recognizable to us until about 850 A.D.*

2. Because this is a blog with a South Asian focus a lot of Hindu nationalist tropes and facts get presented at face value. I don’t really mind them as mythologies that give people succor or create their identity, but a lot of them have as much factual basis as a pagan Mecca: not much.

Most of the Hindu nationalist commenters do reflect a reality of “lived experience.” As someone who grew up around South Asian Muslims, I can admit they have total contempt on the whole (there are exceptions) for Hindus and their “bizarre” beliefs. But, as someone who is personally anti-Islam and literally tolerant of diverse views, many people from Hindu backgrounds of all ideologies have told me what they really think of Muslims, and the contempt is returned.

My issue is always when people turn their personal experiences into deep historical insights. Do not do that if you don’t enjoy me jumping down your throat, because if I’m not busy, I will do so.

More broadly, lots of Indian readers would benefit from reading more history. Especially non-Indian history. A broad cross-cultural perspective is essential, so do more!

For the curious here are a few books:

China: A New History
History of Rome
A History of the Byzantine State and Society
A History of the Arab Peoples: Updated Edition

* The Shia-Sunni split starts to become discernible in a way we’d recognize, Hadith culture is already on track to marginalize the “philosophers” and Hellenists, and the ulema centered around madrassas spread from the east to the west.

4+

200 Replies to “Open Thread – 08/22/2020 – Brown Pundits”

  1. I agree. There is more nuance than often written about.

    I’ll ask this one more times in the hope of an actual answer. What do we think/know about the settlement pattern of the eastern Gangentic plains (W.Bengal, Bangladesh, and Assam). Also how does Meghalaya play into this? I always found it strange that it is surrounded by Indo-Aryan lands to the north (Assam) and south (Bangladesh).

  2. What do we think/know about the settlement pattern of the eastern Gangentic plains (W.Bengal, Bangladesh, and Assam). Also how does Meghalaya play into this? I always found it strange that it is surrounded by Indo-Aryan lands to the north (Assam) and south (Bangladesh).

    the hills generally are occupied by different people who practice a different lifestyle. we don’t know too much about assam of eastern bengal, but there were indo-aryans in the valley by the time tibeto-burman ahom showed up ~1200 AD. bengal on the east was not heavily developed until the past 1,000 years.

    1. Its still part of the Gangentic plains though? or are the plains of Assam and Bengal separated by the hills? I’m guessing either AASI or IVC type people were at least present. Or not?

      Austroasiatic are pretty recent. Not sure about those pesky Tibeto-Burmans.

  3. You are being kind. This site seems to be home to a casteist lot of Hindutvaists and fellow travellers. Islam is deprecated, which is alright, if a similar approach to other religions was also followed, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Groupthink prevails.

    1. Isn’t hindutva casteist a bit of an oxymoron?

      In any event feel free to make fun of the chubby, elephant headed Hindu god who rides around on a mouse and eats too many ladoos.

      Happy Ganesh Chathurthi. ??

      This site is very anti-Democrat tbh, so many mean comments about Kamala auntie.

        1. i know the history of hindutva. but that’s not relevant. if you read a lot of the hindu chauvinists who are *regulars* here they are quite butthurt that caste makes hindus weak vis a vis muslims. do you disagree? this may not be typical of most indians, but most indians were pro-congress until recently (their ideological preferences are malleable)

          1. Well, Congress used to be a big-tent party that represented a variety of interests, not the glorified NGO that it turned into.

            My parents say: “our families stood with INC when it was good [the early 20th century up to the 1980s]. Now it is useless.”

  4. I’ve heard that East Asian men are very well-behaved and polite. Is it true? What are the factors that cause them to have a nice personality?

    Then why do they have trouble in dating and marriage?
    And also why does the western media want to desexualize East Asian men?

  5. Islamic scholars agree that all hadiths are not true. Hadiths in books like “Sahih Bukhari” and “Sahih Muslim” are all authentic/Sahih and these Hadiths were collected through very very strict measures. So, most likely these Hadiths are very true.

    When the hadith scholars looked at the ruling on the hadith, and whether it was to be accepted or rejected – and perhaps this is the main point of the question – they divided them into the following categories:

    1. Maqbool (accepted): if the hadeeth fulfilled the conditions of acceptability and was fit to be quoted as evidence and acted upon.

    2. Mardood (rejected): if it did not fulfill the conditions of acceptability.

    Then they divided the accepted hadeeths into a number of categories:

    1. Saheeh(means Authentic): if it fulfilled the highest conditions of acceptability.

    2. Hasan(means fair): if it fulfilled the minimal conditions of acceptability.

    In many cases the hadeeth scholars used other terms in addition to the terms mentioned above. For example, they sometimes call a hasan isnaad “jayyid”; sometimes they describe a saheeh hadeeth as “in accordance with the conditions of the two scholars (al-Bukhaari and Muslim)”; and other similar phrases. Although there are sometimes subtle differences between these terms, our aim in this answer is to make these categories easy to understand in general terms.

    The hadeeth scholars divided the rejected hadeeths into several categories:

    1. Da‘eef (weak): if it failed to meet any of the conditions of acceptability.

    2. Mawdoo‘ (fabricated): if its isnaad includes anyone who was a liar or accused of lying.

    In many cases, they also used other terms in addition to these. They sometimes described a da‘eef hadeeth as baatil (false), especially if it was extremely da‘eef; or they described its isnaad as taalif (worthless); or they described a mawdoo‘ hadeeth as makdhoob (a lie), and so on.

    **”Isnaad” means “chain of narrators”

    Also,
    the largest “Islamic” empire i.e. the Umayyad empire was established by some of the worst enemies of Prophet Muhammad: Muhammad forgave them and later they “converted” to islam.
    So they will never try to glorify prophet Muhammad.
    I believe that this Umayyad dynasty hijacked islam for their political gains.

    1. It is possible that those who transmitted hadiths made some mistakes and slightly distorted the original words.

      It is possible that the person who is the 1st transmitter also made some mistake.

      Since the Sahih hadiths were collected following extremely strict measures, Sahih Hadiths(specially by Imam Bukhari and Muslim) have great historic value.

      If one wants to learn any religion, he should learn it from only the sources of the religion and definitely not from any source that is dedicated against the religion.

      And also yeah, Buddhism in its original form is a philosophy and not a religion no matter what people think.

      1. An example of a “Sahih” Hadith that contains a weird prophecy about the Endtimes by Muhammad:

        Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said:

        “By the One in Whose Hand is my soul! The Hour will not be established until predators speak to people and until the tip of a man’s whip and the straps on his sandal speak to him, and his thigh informs him of what occurred with his family after him.”

        Grade: Sahih (approved by the scholar Darussalam)
        Reference: Jami at-Tirmidhi 2181
        In-book reference: Book 33, Hadith 24

        ***
        Jami at-Tirmidhi also known as Sunan at-Tirmidhi, is one of “the 6 books” (Kutub al-Sittah – the six major hadith collections). It was collected by Al-Tirmidhi. He began compiling it after the year 250 A.H. (A.D. 864/5) and completed it on the 10 Dhu-al-Hijjah 270 A.H. (A.D. 884, June 9). This book was first published in 9th century CE.

        Not all the hadiths of these 6 most important Hadith books are true. They contain “Daif/weak hadiths” also which should be rejected.

    2. So they will never try to glorify prophet Muhammad.
      I believe that this Umayyad dynasty hijacked islam for their political gains.

      after the second fitna is when Muhammad comes front and center. the later umayyads totally embraced him

  6. **Weekly Indian fraud news** (note my use of Indian not ‘South Asians’, Groomers own your shit)

    ‘Karein woh kaam aisa jag mein apna naam ho jaaye!’

    I had heard about some Indian people who got jobs in ahem, ‘consultancy’ firms.

    https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/nri/us-canada-news/indian-national-arrested-in-21-million-h-1b-visa-fraud/articleshow/77688122.cms

    It seems overall we are at the top in petty frauds throughout the world. Have heard about people (mostly Gujjus do this) of illegally working at Motels/Taxi/Dollar-store etc on F-1, F-2 visas. Never could understand why would anyone do this?

  7. And also yeah, Buddhism in its original form is a philosophy and not a religion no matter what people think.

    Early Buddhism was praxis oriented (noble 8 fold path) towards attaining spiritual refinement culminating in nibbana.

    Discourages attachment to rituals and
    philosophy. It has a philosophy but that’s secondary, and not well developed till later on.

    Not really sure, but from what I gather this type of orientation is in common with other sramana traditions like Jainism. Micchami Dukkadam, to all the Jains btw, esp. if I am wrong haha. ??

    Btw early Buddhists would criticize Jainas for being too extreme in renouncing, fasting etc. and considered that unproductive towards spiritual development.

    They encouraged the “middle way” and freedom from extremes of indulgence and renunciation.

    I have also seen “middle way” used in Islam, in various contexts.

    Wonder if that was part of the Buddhist influence that Islam picked up in Central Asia?

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Way

    1. By original Buddhism, I mean the actual words/teachings of Buddha. AFAIK his teachings were philosophical and not religious.

      And yeah, Muhammad urged Muslims to follow the “middle way” instead of extremism and to not take religion so seriously that it becomes a burden.
      Many teachings of the Buddha do have similarities with the original Islam preached by Muhammad.

      My theory is that a lot of religions of the world are actually from the God which were later distorted by people. So, many religions have a lot of similarities with each other

      1. “Many teachings of the Buddha do have similarities with the original Islam preached by Muhammad.”

        This is new, while we are at it why not claim Islam = Jainism too. Religion of ‘peace’ and ‘nonviolence’. And why just Buddha? let us go ahead and say Muhammad = Lincoln, Muhammad = Gandhi, Muhammad = Einstein, Muhammad = Nelson Mandela.

        And this ‘original’, ‘quaranist’, ‘authentic’ blah blah blah should stop now, either do proper revisionism/reformation or don’t even bother, what is with this obsequious BS about Muhammad? Go big or don’t go at all, Hinduism doesn’t wither and die if anyone accepts that a bunch of stuff in Vedas is primitive BS. Similarly Islam won’t die if people acknowledge that Muhammad is no role-model and parts of Quran are retarded, not misquoted, not mis-translated just clearly and unequivocally retarded.

        Buddha was an ascetic who actually worked hard to get nibbana and went out of his way to be intellectually honest and rigorous, Muhammad was at best a schizophrenic and at worst a pedo-licentious-warlord. Let us not even get started on how these two guys actually conducted themselves in life. I consider this comparison blasphemy against Buddhism and gross insult of Buddha.

        Gustakh-e-buddh ki saza! Sar tan se juda! Sar tan se juda!

        These musings and fanciful retelling have no weight, non-retarded people who read the story ‘get it’, I could get caste-ism was oppression when i was four or five do you really think that you can repackage Muhammed enough, even more than he is already deified by Muslims, to brush aside his calls for muders of those who insulted him? or his sexual impropriety? or the beheadings he ordered? In brief Buddha != Muhammad.

      2. @Bhimrao, You are saying too much unnecessary emotional stuffs instead of factual and educational stuffs and I have no problem with that but that doesn’t help anyone or we can’t learn much from such sentences filled with negative emotions aimed at someone and so it is a complete waste of time.

        I am not judging you though…

        Btw, can you please tell me about your ancestral/caste/state/genetic background?
        How much steppe,Indus and AASI do you have? Any idea?

        1. ” You are saying too much unnecessary emotional stuffs instead of factual and educational stuffs and I have no problem with that but that doesn’t help anyone or we can’t learn much from such sentences filled with negative emotions aimed at someone and so it is a complete waste of time.”

          Emotional and non-educational rant : agree
          non factual : disagree, especially coming from you who compared Buddha’s teachings with Muhammad. Be a sport and try to be fair, what goes around comes around.

          “I am not judging you though…”

          I am forever indebted.

          “Btw, can you please tell me about your ancestral/caste/state/genetic background?
          How much steppe,Indus and AASI do you have? Any idea?”

          Never got a test, will have to look into it. Do you recommend 23andme?

        2. “Never got a test, will have to look into it. Do you recommend 23andme?”

          Or you can guess it by the caste+ethnic group you belong to? I think Razib has the records of ancestry percentages

          1. Not comfortable doing it like that. Don’t want to take that route, would look into a private test.

  8. StraightGuy you do realize that one of the core teachings of the Buddha is that God doesn’t exist. The denial of any kind of self, absolute, one, transcendent principle, God, or whatever the fuck people are calling it nowadays.

    Buddhism was philosophical in the way Neoplatonism and Stoicism were philosophical. The near complete merging of the public, cultic, and philosophical parts of religion doesn’t come about until the rise of Abrahamic religions like Islam, Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism.

    Religions all share common features, because human psychology shares common features. Reifying that into some kind of force or being just confuses and leads people to false conclusions.

    1. I thought that Buddha didn’t say anything about the God whether he exists or not. Correct me if I am wrong.

      Human psychology may vary a lot across cultures and ethnicities. For example, West Eurasian people(specially South Europeans) contain higher percentage of people who are sadist,bully,violent and cruel which might be due to genetics,climate,lifestyle etc.

      1. You must be joking? Which climate, which genetics, which lifestyle?

        All sadists, children molesters and killers, copycats, the rippers, excentrics are located in the Anglo-Saxon world, not in S. Europe. Alcohol and drugs are dominant in northern and AS world. S.Europeans drink wine slowly and spend the most of time socializing. There is no socializing among northerners and ASs. Northerners and Anglo-Saxons are aggressive, and they started hundreds of wars (inlcl. WW) not only in last 200 years than in last 2000 years.

        Hannibal Lecter and hundreds of similar characters are Anglo-Saxons, there are not such characters in SE. The key difference is ‘socializing’, family values, respect of parents, elders and children which exist in SE but not on the north and among AS. Mental illnesses, schizophrenia, depression and similar anti-social byproducts are located much more on the north. Ask someone and get real.

        1. Milan dont worry. By South Europeans, I meant Spaniards and Portuguese mainly who are part of the West. I definitely didn’t mean Slavs.

          Yeah, USA is one of the most evil things in the entire human history.

      2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

        The rejection of the soul or Atman and the idea of God or Brahman is foundational to Buddhism. I am not sure why you think you know anything about Buddhism at all if you don’t know that.

        I am talking about general religious ideas, like what Razib was talking about earlier in his post about religion and religious belief.

        I’m not sure why you are attacking West Eurasians. The Northern ones seem better than anyone else on those metrics you talk about. The Southern ones don’t seem worse than other peoples, South Asian, East Asian, Native American, African, whatever.

        1. I am always open to new suggestions and ideas. So always correct me if I am wrong by giving proper information and explanation.

          Arguing,debating and disproving each other will never solve anything.

          Did Buddha directly ever make any statement like “There is no god or there is no soul”?

          I am not attacking West Eurasians. In fact, I am myself most probably genetically more than 50-60% West Eurasian and I look more more West Eurasian than anything else.

          But if we look at the history of the world, we will see that West Eurasians are morally the worst kind of people and they did the worst things be it genocide,rape,torture,colonizing,wiping out natives,chattel slavery etc though most of the humanity are great fan of them because they look better,fight better and they are good at pretending,deception n conspiracy. I also personally see West Eurasian people being incredibly sadist,bully and indecent online be it in chatrooms,social media,discord or whatever.

          Non-west Eurasians can also do many similar evil things but the evils done by West Eurasians are incomparable.
          I wish truth was not so ugly and depressing.

          I am not saying that all west eurasian individuals are bad and i dont hate them either because this is the way they are born.
          I believe that certain genes may occur in higher frequency in these people what cause them to be exceptionally cruel and sadist. But all the individuals of such groups dont have those genes responsible for cruelty. So there can be many good West Eurasians also.

          1. Tell me the name of the SNP that causes people to be cruel.

            Also this West Eurasian dominance is recent. For most of European history it was East Eurasians being cruel to them not the other way around.

          2. Truth seeker, you are such disappointment. Let me guess what is your confession! So typical, simply there is no exception (at least I haven’t seen).

          3. West Eurasian dominance is not recent. It is ancient…just think about Aryan invasion.
            People from Europe,middle east,north africa,central asia with caucasoid face,sharper features and lighter skin are west eurasians.
            South Asians are also genetically more west Eurasian than east Eurasian.

            Mongols are an exception. But I dont think Mongol cruelty was even near the cruelty shown by West Eurasians.

            Genocide,wiping out natives,deception,treatment of chattel slaves(specially the Transatlantic slave trade) etc by West Eurasians were incomparable. But after all this, they succesfully portrayed themselves as the good guy and saviour of humanity.

            Killing someone is simply violence but how you kill defines the level of cruelty

        2. The rejection of the soul or Atman and the idea of God or Brahman is foundational to Buddhism. I am not sure why you think you know anything about Buddhism at all if you don’t know that.

          This is probably not correct. The original teachings of the Buddha were focused on practice and he didn’t create any philosophy which can be called Buddhism. Many scholars believe that the rejection of the Atman was a later philosophical development in Buddhism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatta#Anatta_in_Theravada_Buddhism

        3. “The rejection of the soul or Atman and the idea of God or Brahman is foundational to Buddhism. I am not sure why you think you know anything about Buddhism at all if you don’t know that.”

          I generally agree but it’s a lot blurrier than you’re making it out to be in some cases.

          Buddhists rejected Brahman but even from the start believed in a range of supernatural creatures belonging to a spiritual realm. Belief in this is not necessitated by the other aspects of Buddhism, just as theism is not necessitated by Advaita but has been intimately bound up with it from the time it was systemized and interpreted.

          Also, Advaita, which has been one of the more popular Hindu philosophies, defines Atman and Brahman in ways that are difficult to clearly distinguish from the Buddhist idea of Anatma and later ideas like Shunyata.

          It sounds like it should be easy to distinguish. Both agree that everything is transient, but one posits there is something eternal left over the other that there isn’t. But then when they talk about things like Shunyata it’s pretty hard to separate it from Advaita ideas of what Atman / Brahman actually is. The chief figure associated with Advaita (Shankara) was accused by other Hindu philosophers as being a crypto-Buddhist, presenting Buddhist philosophy in a Hindu guise.

      3. Hyperion is correct. The Buddha said there are no souls (atman) and by extension no God (paramatman).

        That’s the simple answer.

        —-

        Temporary and persistent spiritual transformative experiences are probably common across humans. (Just like how emotions, or mental verbalization of thought is common in different languages)

        And then aside from the spiritual experience people also build on the cultural framework they are familiar with.

        This is why Islam, Christianity and Judaism are similar.

        And why the Dharmic religions are similar. Some later Dharmic movements are influenced by Islam and Christianity as well.

        Also why Greek and pre Christian Roman religions were similar etc.

        The idea that God sent some special humans with a message but then it got corrupted etc. Doesn’t really pass the Occam’s razor. Imo.

        1. Can you give me any authentic source where Buddha says that “There is no god”?
          Or are you mistaking opinions of Buddhist personalities as the opinion of Buddha?

          I am a truth seeker and i am always ready to correct myself.

          I think Abrahamic religions have some/many noticable similarities with ancient Indian beliefs as well

          1. Can you give me any authentic source where Buddha says that “There is no god”?

            The Buddha refutes any sort permanent entity, and any true self as part of its 3 noble truths. (annica and annata)

            https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.059.nymo.html

            If you understand the basics of Dharmic thought this is already a complete refutation of God.

            But more explicitly Buddha refutes God-realization of ‘Brahman’ in one Sutta as being a trick of Mara (an evil trickster demon who confuses people on the path to nibbana, and tries to get them to settle for a lower lever realization).

            https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.049.than.html

            Then Mara, the Evil One, taking possession of an attendant of the Brahma assembly, said to me, ‘Monk! Monk! Don’t attack him! Don’t attack him! For this Brahma, monk, is the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be…

            So any sort of attachment to Brahma or God, no matter how ‘formless’ or ‘singular’, is maya, and it too must be overcome, per the Buddha. Rebirth in a Heaven realm is still rebirth.

            If we are talking about ‘gods’ or devas rather than ‘the God’ – parmatman / para brahman / brahman etc. Devas like Indra are basically seen as benevolent spirits, who are often deluded themselves.

            Buddhism is not materialistic and doesn’t refute supernatural stuff like ghosts, spirits, devas, asuras etc. Just doesn’t see them as too important. They are viewed either as fellow sentient beings in various stages of delusion or just archetypes of consciousness.

            I suspect if you look at it through a sort of Abrahamic framework or even a conceited Hindu framework it will be confusing (devas likely not associated with parmatman till long after buddhas time).

          1. AFAIK Buddha said nothing about God’s existence.
            Or did he ever say that “there is no god?”

  9. I quite agree with Razib’s take on Islam history . Facts are indeed important.

    On the other hand, I think history i.e. history feeling by man on the street , different from ‘history’ of hsitoriographers and university history departments , is subjective. That history has been subjective is true of all societies. For a Russian , history is a plot of western and/or Muslim societies to swallow them and Russia’s heroic efforts to overcome it. For that a Russian will present inavasion by Teutonic Knights or Napolean or Nazi invasion or Mongols. No amount of counter facts , of how Stalin’s double dealing resulted in Nazi invasion is going to change that conviction. So is the case with West asian Muslims or Iranians or Chinese. Each has a right to their version of history. That is why history – their own history as seen by a nation – is as important as objective historiographers.

    This I learnt in reading Toynbee’s History , which puts 19 human civilizations on an equal footing in terms of value. Universal histories by Toynbee or Spengler or Giambattista Vico are as important as histories of individual countries.

      1. someone already pointed out the atrocities committed by East Eurasians.

        Also they didn’t naturally have much West Eurasian ancestry. Guess how they gained most of their West Eurasian ancestry.

        1. Also don’t forget about the Austroasiatic rape of India. Their maternal DNA is mostly Indian for a reason.

  10. I have a couple of questions for the Pakistanis on this blog w.r.t. Imran Khan:

    1. How is his performance? He gives many speeches but that job normally falls on the government spokesman, it’s similar rhetorical stuff that comes from other politicians in the subcontinent. How does he/his party do when it comes to passing laws in parliament & enforcing them?

    2. Does he have an understanding of economic issues and legislative affairs? Or is it mostly the other technocrats who entered PTI that handle these things?

    3. Where does he fall on the religious pluralism – Islamism spectrum on a political compass? Not on symbolic stuff like ‘allowing’ a temple but actual legislation and policies, has he pioneered something the previous governments haven’t done? When he justifies the acts of the Taliban is it only for political calculus or does he really believe that stuff?

    4. What are his administrative capabilities compared to Nawaz Sharif / Zardari / Musharraf? better? worse? the same?

    5. What are his ‘personal’ foreign policy leanings? I ask for ‘personal’ as the policies for India/China/America is in the hands of the army and he can’t do much on it. Do his personal opinions differ from that of the army in any way?

    6. What is the likelihood of him getting reelected in the various ethnic areas (Punjab, Sindh, KP, Balochistan)?

    1. 1. His performance hasn’t been great. What helps him is the perception that he is personally not a corrupt person unlike the civilian governments run by his competition. And that the army and deep state is on his side which makes for more stable government.

      2. He doesn’t understand much of anything. He makes grand boasts and pronouncements of new schemes, does not have a clue of how to implement them and actually manage a government.

      3. His provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunwah gave a grant of 300 mln rupees to Darul Uloom Haqqania Nowshera, the madrassa which produced many of the leading lights of the Taliban. The new national educational curriculum being put together has more religious content than what is being taught in madrassas. Anyone studying for any degree in Punjab will be required to take courses in the Quran to have their degree awarded which didn’t even happen under Zia ul Haq.

      4. See above, not very good. He doesn’t really have administrative ability. Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shahbaz has been much missed by the Chinese for his ability to get things done.

      5. He and the deep state are aligned on foreign policy. It is not interested in peace with India and he was very happy to label Nawaz Sharif’s attempts at detente with Modi as the behaviour of a traitor.

      6. In KP great as he is a Pathan, Baluchistan not so great because of the ongoing violence and hatred of the Army, Sindh not great since the PTI is seen as the tool of the Punjabi\Pathan army, Punjab is up in the air. PTI only won Punjab due to the deep state going all in with destroying Nawaz Sharif’s party. The economy’s had a terrible time over the past two years. The deep state isn’t so wedded to Imran Khan that it won’t hesitate to scapegoat him and dump him if public anger grows.

    2. I heard a nice joke about IK on a Pakistani videolog.
      A sad old beggar approaches a car at a traffic stop for alms. On his shoulder is a happy jabbering monkey. After the beggar makes his pitch for aid the occupants of the car ask why he should look so sad when his monkey is so chuffed. I’m the one in distress says the beggar; ignore the monkey, he is a youthia.

  11. “I do suspect that Josephus was a later interpolation).”

    I assume you are referring to the paragraph in some texts that discusses Jesus. The rest of the “Bellum Judaicum” is very realistic.

    There is on the wall of my room an 18th century French lithograph of the Siege of Masada. The caption states that it was prepared on the basis of Bellum Judaicum Book 7 Chapter 31. It is a remarkably accurate portrayal of the scene, which can still be seen today. But, at the time it was published no European had seen Masada in more than a thousand years. And no European would see for another century.

  12. “First, people take traditional Muslim historiography at face value. You shouldn’t”

    obviously you are pointing towards me. ok, so i will stop acting as the world’s best non-muslim islamic scholar east of indus. however, a problem remains. in the absence of any alternate histories, what options do we have other than going by islam’s own version of its history?

    also, muhammd may be a reconstructed/re-imagined figure invented centuries later, but the impact he has on the thoughts and acts of present day muslims is real. obviously practicing muslims take him and the hadiths about him as 100% real. so casting doubts on islamic history doesn’t lead to any different outcome.

    1. obviously you are pointing towards me. ok, so i will stop acting as the world’s best non-muslim islamic scholar east of indus. however, a problem remains. in the absence of any alternate histories, what options do we have other than going by islam’s own version of its history?

      your option is to take a cross-cultural perspective and see how religions evolve and play out, and try to make inferences based on what we know. there are some alternate histories presented by revisionists. both these things take work and genuine interest, which most people do not have. which is fine, we all have priorities.

      also, muhammd may be a reconstructed/re-imagined figure invented centuries later, but the impact he has on the thoughts and acts of present day muslims is real. obviously practicing muslims take him and the hadiths about him as 100% real. so casting doubts on islamic history doesn’t lead to any different outcome.

      the argument is Islam is strongly constrained and fixed due to the facts of the prophet’s life. i hold a lot of those ‘facts’, like the facts of jesus’ life, are invented, borrowed, exaggerated, etc. how did those facts come out? due to particular exigencies of historical periods when the traditions Muslim take as determinative and factual came into being.

      so if Islam is ‘fixed’, it is due to events and conditions after the second fitness (after 680 AD when Muhammad becomes ‘a thing’ and the greco-byzantine administrative state is phased out). but, since those ‘fixed’ parameters emerged within particular historical conditions it opens up the option that those parameters are NOT fixed.

      i will give two examples that are relevant here

      – the druze clearly started as a shia group that eventually became ‘post-muslim’ (there are strong suggestions that groups like yezidis are synethic, with some Muslim input). this suggests that ‘islamic matrix’ is evolutionary just like all religions

      – the protestant fundamentalists operate as reactive to modernism. their ‘fundamentalism’ and claims of ‘primal christianity’ are pretty transparently false and new creations. they do sincerely believe their views, but the fact that their views were plastic in the first place (‘the rapture’ is a 19th century innovation) indicates that despite their sincerity their ‘fundamentals’ are ultimately subject to change given enough social pressure (racial segregation was actually ‘biblically’ justified at some point in the 20th century)

      going back to Islam,

      – in general i am in broad agreement with islam-skeptical thinkers and views that the religion and religionists as they are in many modern situations is aggressive and competitive, and causes problems. this is just plainly true

      – BUT, may islam-skeptical thinkers think that Islam is somehow fixed and eternal (a view of many muslims as well!). but in the 1960s and 1970s terrorism out of the middle east was not Islamic at all, but generally marxist-nationalist. hijacking was pioneered by PFLP and habash’s group, overstocked with atheists from Christian arab backgrounds. our contemporary Islamic fundamentalism problem is a feature after the Iranian revolution, and the crushing of the hama revolt in syrian in the early 1980s.

      for a long time religious Islamism was relatively quiescient. this was not always so, and in the early 20th century lothrop stoddard predicted that Islam would rise again. this was probably inevitable because religious revival happens. but it also abates. the broader point is that the parameters are not fixed.

      more generally to SE: you see smart enough, but don’ have the interest/bandwidth to dig into these topics. i can express some charity to you since i think our views would be isomorphic in 2003 or so (well, you in 2020 and me in 2003). but i was wrong then, even though i ‘meant well’, and my proximate prescriptive views haven’t changed. my main ‘update’ is that i expect that things may change in unpredictable ways (there are suggestions now looking at opinion data that after the arab spring there was a collapse of religious ferver in the arab world, and there has been a massive demographic transition so that the ‘baby/young adult bulge’ of around the year 2000 is fading)

      more broadly, i am very curious why most indians are not Muslim. that’s probably why i still contribute mostly to this weblog since i get ideas/lit references. i can’t figure this out if i have a improper view of ‘islam’ and ‘hinduism.’ (i have changed my views of Hinduism too as i have dug into the literature; i used to think perhaps it was ‘invented’ as reactive to Islam, though i was always skeptical of ‘the British invented it’. i now believe that even without Islam there was and is a there there)

  13. the most consistent type of commenter i’m having to ban are basically racist Pakistanis and indian punjabis. these are usually from what i can tell not super religious Pakistanis if they are religious.

    i rarely see see ‘trad’/caste concerned commenters.

    1. Why is it that so many of these guys who’re racist are based in the Anglosphere? One would think that all those years of western(-ized) education would make them more tolerant…

      1. re: western. a lot of it is personal psychology. dark skinned south asians are kind of put down in the west because they aren’t protected because they aren’t black, but they are also dark skinned and nerd/asian. some people who are lighter and less ‘indian’ looking want to distance. they are told they are lighter and less indian by white people, so they internalize. this is human nature to be ‘one of the cool kids.’ i think it’s understandable when you are a teenager, but by adult you should have values and an internal center and reject this bullshit.

        but some of these ppl are not western. some of my parents Pakistani friends expressed pretty casual racism against darker skinned south asians around them even though they we were bengali since we were close to them (and my mom is quite fair). again, this is common among the less religious. the more religious have values which mitigate against talking about this even if they believe it

  14. re: pakistanis and punjabis who believe they look totally different from ‘us’, i invite them to join the confederations of Iranian peoples and leave south asian identity behind 🙂 i’m sure your persian brothers and sisters will welcome you with open arms!

  15. looking at their bios and the fact that maya harris is obv the smart sister. even with aff action you don’t get into Stanford law easily. kamala needed aff action for hastings?

    sad

    1. Maya’s husband is Uber general counsel, she’s mostly worked in political advocacy and academia. Kamala may not have been as intelligent but was definitely more driven and ambitious.

  16. All religions are social products of their time. evangelical monotheism on the other hand keeps coming with revival movements of back to bible/koran ,mohammad etc. And there is no reason to believe it will stop doing so.

    It is true that one must differentiate between study of history of how things began which is careful study of texts and archaeology. But to somehow import that into how things will play out now. I consider the second part as insidious. To be a proper religion skeptic is to be a religion skeptic forever .That things change does not comfort, because things change back too in unexpected ways. Distrust and vigilance is paramount to me where my rights are on the line and I dont concede to anyone where that matters. History then can become a source of pseudo hope and its purpose disingenuous. If so, such Historical project itself will be questioned. And we in India have seen enough of such reputed historians. If we didnt see revival movements in Islam , not many would care about what we were taught in our history . We question what we are taught because it does not tally with what things are.

  17. So many discussions about the historical Jesus and Mohammed. It is important for a religious culture to develop and verbalize ontological assumptions about the relations between the narrator and narrative. In the absence of this, it becomes very easy for the profane to become sacred and vice versa. Hindu ontological frameworks define a very exact relationship –

    Smrti – Only that which is remembered and passed down. There is generally a belief that events occurred in the fashion so described. Example – Puranas

    Itihasa – a subset of Smrti, here there is a higher evidentiary requirement namely that the narrator must have seen the events with his own eyes. Only the Ramayana and Mahabharata are Itihasa (literal meaning: Thus it happened)

    Shruti – That which was heard only, no authorship. There is no weight upon the listener to look for placeholders and sheet anchors to determine author,time or place for them. They are divinely revealed. The Vedas are Shruti.

    Again we can contest the meanings of such compartments but the truth is that the philosophers had to come up with such categories points to epistemological analysis.

    Are there similar buckets for Islam or Christianity?

  18. This will be completely off topic from the Pakistani/Indian fights common to the open threads here, but one of my personal interests is East Asia, and especially Japan. I’m just barely old enough to remember the Japanese bubble in the 1980s. A lot of time has passed since then (although in the grand scheme of things it’s really not very long ago), and most people have completely forgotten, but I was reminded so to speak by this actually quite well researched blog post about Japan in the 1980s:

    https://allegrojapan.com/blogs/ayakas-tokyo-story/japan-in-the-1980s-seven-crazy-facts-about-the-bubble-period

    It’s relevant to South Asia in the sense that Japan and India have some history together as early 20th Century Western influenced civilizations, for example Tagore was well received in Japan, Bose during the war, and then the Indian judge at the Japanese war criminal trial after WW2.

    1. The Japanese asset bubble was really something else. 30 years later the Nikkei index has still not fully recovered.

      Has me worried about current “money printer go brrr” policy, p/e ratios, and how divorced the stock market seems from the real economy.

      Also wondering what do with extra cash position i feel hesitant to do my usual portfolio allocation in index funds ? Any ideas from big brained people here ?

      1. The stock market growth is mostly being driven by tech stocks whose performance reflects expectations of growth in global markets not the domestic US market.

        Japan’s performance is reflective of its inefficient corporate sector and domestic economy, lack of female employment and steadily declining population.

        I am getting interested in investing in industries which will be in demand (water, agriculture) due to global warming and countries (Canada, Iceland, the Nordics, Russia, Iceland, Mongolia) which benefit from the warming effect on agriculture, ice-free global shipping lanes, migration etc.
        https://www.technologyreview.com/2016/12/20/155045/hotter-days-will-drive-global-inequality/

        1. \I am getting interested in investing in industries \
          Wait for a few years before the dust settles down. The present tech driven stock market boom is surreal – mostly Fed is massaging the Wall Street to help the November re-election. Even in tech 5 stocks carry all the growth and the market valuation of 5 stock is more than the GDP of all but handful of countries.

      2. I get the sense that in the USA, stock prices have become decoupled from the real economy. I don’t mean under Trump, or in the past one year, but for a long time. It’s not about fundamental value, but about supply and demand for investment opportunities and the amount of money (often government created) sloshing around in the system. It will pop eventually, but I don’t see that happening especially soon. As long as America has the reserve currency, as long as there is a spell cast around the dollar, things will maintain. I guess this will continue for at least another decade, but if I really knew, I would be on a 200 ft yacht in the Caribbean right now, and not commenting here.

        As far as Japan goes, it’s fall from global domination was not only the result a bubble popping, but the connection between microeconomics and macroeconomics. Economics as a discipline is a little like physics. You have Newtonian physics that explains how large objects work (like a rock, or a planet), and you have quantum physics for really small things. And there is as of yet no connection between the two. Economics has macroeconomics, dealing with national and international economics, and microeconomics dealing with company and industry issues. With no real connection between the two. The thing with Japan is microeconomics leaked into the macro economy. The fact that Japan’s export sector (starting slowly in the 1990s) was picked apart by S Korea, Taiwan, the digital revolution, American software, the Internet, Apple, China, that leaked into the macroeconomic situation, into GDP growth etc. If there were no rest of East Asia, no Samsung, no Foxconn, no Chinese supply chain, I have a feeling Japan would still be riding almost as high as it was in the 1980s.

  19. https://twitter.com/nailainayat/status/1297207612514217985
    Musharraf smiling and joking about Dawood (not) being in Pakistan.

    Such are the leaders and ‘reporters’ we are dealing with, so much giggling and joking about a global crime don and terrorist.

    This asshole Kamran Shahid, that bald guy Wajahat, Imran Khan’s ballsack Kamran Khan etc and all the other terror sympathizers should never be allowed to speak with Indian legends like Lata Ji. No collaboration with snakes.

  20. I agree that Muslim historiography is not accurate, but isn’t there some value or insight to be gleaned from their promotion of one story of their history as opposed to another? Like perhaps a pagan Mecca is false, but maybe it says something about how they view paganism and pagans if the pagans were used (however falsely) as Islam’s foil.

    It’s like with Mughal literature that boasts about destroying temples and crushing infidels. It is definitely possible and perhaps likely that many of these claims were exaggerated and even outright false. But it says something about them and their context that these are the stories they thought fit to write down and promote. Not sure exactly what, though.

  21. yes. did i deny that? goes without saying.

    it seems quite likely that Christian martyrology highly exaggerated the roman persecutions. but the exaggerations 1) are based on some truths 2) illustrate another truth (e.g., the persecutions can serve as justification for ‘payback’)

  22. those of you who take islam too literally need to remember some basic things: according to ‘strict’ interpretations of Islam all the hindus in india should have been killed or converted. but they made room in their ‘interpretations’, just like they did earlier for the pagans of haran and the zoroastrians (using some reference to sabians?). islam encountered Zoroastrianism even before it was Islam (the 5 prayers one up 3 prayers of zoroastrians) so i assume that traditions of only xtians and jews and sabians being people of the book come from the levant, where there were no zoroastrians

    1. This nuance is definitely required. However, it must also be pointed out that factions of the Muslim clergy opposed this and they were overruled by the Sultans. Take for example the Qazi, Mughis-ud-din, of Ala-ud-din Khilji’s court. He writes “It was Hanifa alone that assented to the imposition of Jaziya on Hindus. Doctors of other schools allow no other alternative but death or Islam.” He also laments this attitude of the Sultan towards Hindus and as he writes “If Mahmud … had gone to India once more, he would have brought under his sword all the Brahmans of Hind, who in that vast land, are the cause of the continuance of the laws of infidelity … He would not have returned his Hindu slaughtering sword to its scabbard until the whole of Hind had accepted Islam … it is not lawful to accept Jaziya from Hindus as they have neither a prophet nor a revealed book … they should either be put to death or accept Islam.” Similar dialogues are recorded from the courts of the Tughlaq dynasty.

      It appears that the rulers were political savvy and realized that the policy of ‘death or Islam’ could not be implemented. Even so, the Muslims clerics were upset that the rulers allowed Hindus to get away with Jaziya and a low social status. The nuance is important to realize that Muslims don’t just operate according to the commandments of Islam and might be motivated by other factors. However, in so far as their actions towards Hindus are motivated by Islam and teachings of Mohammed, they are almost pure evil.

      1. It was Hanifa alone that assented to the imposition of Jaziya on Hindus. Doctors of other schools allow no other alternative but death or Islam

        the hanafi madhab is the largest in the sunni world and is dominant in most lands were ‘turkic’ and ‘persian’ sunni Islam occurred. this is not a marginal school, but the biggest one. it is also the school that is common in most lands with lots of nonabrahamic people (in India the mapilla are shafi). did you know this? if so, why not bring it up, as you might mislead people in terms of how relevant shafi, mailik hanbali views are?

        do you think it’s a coincidence that the harshest madhab, hanbali, is found in lands where everyone is a Muslim?

        the Muslims clerics were upset that the rulers allowed Hindus to get away with Jaziya and a low social status.

        you seem to think that one can separate Muslim clerics and what they think from the rulers. it’s really hard, and the latter can really push on the former. i can give you examples but i’m not sure you care.

        However, in so far as their actions towards Hindus are motivated by Islam and teachings of Mohammed, they are almost pure evil.

        i don’t know if i really get what you are saying. i think the difference is you think there is some ‘essence’ to Islam, the ‘real islam.’ i don’t think that’s true. so, for example, i can explain to American muslims that FGM is normative in many Islamic schools. do you think it’s a coincidence they say that’s not the ‘real islam’ and even reinterpret the least FGM friendly schools as normative when they aren’t?

        also, i don’t know your background, but you seem to have a lot of anger and hate toward islam. which is fine considering the events you are noting. but not sure it’s super useful when trying to think about stuff analytically.

        1. the hanafi madhab is the largest in the sunni world and is dominant in most lands were ‘turkic’ and ‘persian’ sunni Islam occurred… why not bring it up, as you might mislead people in terms of how relevant shafi, mailik hanbali views are?

          Fair point.

          you seem to think that one can separate Muslim clerics and what they think from the rulers. it’s really hard, and the latter can really push on the former. i can give you examples but i’m not sure you care.

          My understanding would be that the clerics care much more piety whereas the rulers would care more about the practicalities on the ground. I’d love to know some of the examples you’re talking about.

          i don’t know if i really get what you are saying. i think the difference is you think there is some ‘essence’ to Islam, the ‘real islam.’

          While there can be a lot of argumentation around this, I would suggest that a survey of the broad teachings of the Muslim clerics and the commonalities in their understanding of the Quran and Hadith is Islam. The actions of Muslims or the culture in Muslim dominated lands would also be influenced by other factors, and that has to be separated from Islam. Do you believe that it is largely the contemporary actions of Muslims that define Islam?

          also, i don’t know your background, but you seem to have a lot of anger and hate toward islam. which is fine considering the events you are noting. but not sure it’s super useful when trying to think about stuff analytically.

          Not sure about anger, but definitely hate it. Perhaps there’s some anger as well although I try to avoid that. Kind of like my views towards Nazism. I do view Mohammed in a similar bracket as Hitler since he was a very totalitarian figure and his ideology is even more enduring than Hitler’s. Probably not correct while analyzing something but after a point you get a broad idea of a man and of an ideology. Invariably, some amount of judgement seeps in while evaluating it further.

          1. My understanding would be that the clerics care much more piety whereas the rulers would care more about the practicalities on the ground. I’d love to know some of the examples you’re talking about.

            here is one. during the period of the sokoto caliphate (or a bit earlier, i forget, but that’s rough/time place) a ruler wanted to raise money. easiest way is to sell slaves. in Islam you can’t enslave someone who is a Muslim and all subject were Muslim. so the ruler got the ulema to declare those who disobeyed the ruler apostates from Islam. the ruler imposed unrealistic taxes. when subjects didn’t pay (they couldn’t), the ulema declared them apostates from Islam.

            officially in Islam apostates (which is a crime of treason) should be killed. but this ruler just declared them non-muslims, enslaved them and sold them, and made a nice profit.

            obviously this is not typical, but it illustrates the incredible flexibility in human minds. coming from a line of clerics myself, this is not surprising. causistry is a thing

          2. I would suggest that a survey of the broad teachings of the Muslim clerics and the commonalities in their understanding of the Quran and Hadith is Islam. The actions of Muslims or the culture in Muslim dominated lands would also be influenced by other factors, and that has to be separated from Islam. Do you believe that it is largely the contemporary actions of Muslims that define Islam?

            i would lean toward contemporary actions. at least for short-term events. the important point is that the koran and hadith influence society…but i think society influences them more. all texts are interpreted, but religious texts have a weird way of being used to justify everything. not everything is an equally easy lift, but where there is a will there is a way.

            i think the key aspect to remember is that rather than texts, i think influence from the ‘core Muslim lands’ is critical in enforcing normative behavior. so in china you have examples of Muslim communities which were isolated for a few centuries which begin to transform into something like pure land Buddhism. it was only in the 19th century with modern transport and china opening up more than ‘reform’ movements made these muslims like ‘arabs’ again (also, hajj).

            if all arab/turk/persian muslims disappeared, i predict asian and African Islam would diverge A LOT, cuze these core ethnicities have particular prestige for historical reasons, and their outlook pushes and nudges groups like south asians (who get treated like dirt in the middle east of course)

          3. Kind of like my views towards Nazism. I do view Mohammed in a similar bracket as Hitler since he was a very totalitarian figure and his ideology is even more enduring than Hitler’s.

            i think this is wrong in that ‘totalitarianism’ is really not possible or generally a thing before modern mass society.

            so, for example, the late abbassids and their retainers tolerated the offensive atheist al-ma’rri. why? because these premodern societies accepted some diversity of opinion and action because they really couldn’t enforce conformity.

            the perversion of the techno-salafi state, which does aspire toward greater totalitarianism, is due to oil money and modernity. and even here, the saudis are famous for leaving private life alone.

          4. i think this is wrong in that ‘totalitarianism’ is really not possible or generally a thing before modern mass society.
            the perversion of the techno-salafi state, which does aspire toward greater totalitarianism, is due to oil money and modernity. and even here, the saudis are famous for leaving private life alone.

            Oil money has made matters but I would argue that even before that Islam had great totalitarian tendencies. The obsession with destroying idols, that starts with Mohammed, and leads to the destruction of tens of thousands of temples and idols in the Indian subcontinent as well as central Asia reeks of totalitarianism. The huge problem that Islam has with a completely non-violent act which should be no business of Muslims whatsoever is astonishing. The obsession with converting people to Islam using violence and Jaziya, implies a deep seated discomfort in letting people have other opinions. The punishment for blasphemy that even today ensures that joking about Mohammed puts one’s life in danger is totalitarian. In the absence of modern machinery, Islam’s ability to enforce its lifestyle was definitely limited. But given the resources, it did a remarkable job. Those tendencies were definitely there since the very same ideas are now using the modern machinery that comes from oil money to become even more totalitarian.

            so, for example, the late abbassids and their retainers tolerated the offensive atheist al-ma’rri. why? because these premodern societies accepted some diversity of opinion and action because they really couldn’t enforce conformity.

            I must say that I’m not saying that all Muslim societies are inherently totalitarian. Only that there are totalitarian tendencies in Islam. While this is a good example to highlight that not all Muslims societies are totalitarian, there are also examples in medieval India of clerics who claimed that both Hinduism and Islam are true and were executed on charges of Blasphemy.

      2. to use another historical case. the way muslims from other lands, often arabs, talked about hindus and local Islamic accommodation is very similar to the way frankish xtians talked about near eastern Christians and their relationship with muslims (and jews) in their native lands. the franks simply couldn’t understand Christianity in a different historical context, though after a few generations most of the franks ended up with the same sort of relationship.

        this doesn’t lead us to the conclusion that frankish Christianity was somehow more ‘authentic’ than armenian Christianity or orthodox christianity

        1. Fair point. I should direct these criticisms more towards the individual schools of Islam than to the entirety of it.

  23. after blocking kabir and a few other trolls s/n really went up. so i’m aggressively now blocking/banning ppl who seem trolly/too dumb to comment. just an fyi

    1. Beware the Wrath of Khan!

      The gentleman is a veritable pugnacious pip-squeak.

      Scribimus indocti doctique poemata passim.

  24. @Razib
    My sincere advice: Don’t ban people. The people who take the time to comment are the most committed members; better to just remove offending comments.

    1. The people who take the time to comment are the most committed members

      actually, they should be committed, they’re not committed 😉

      I’ve been running blog comments for 20 years. I’ll keep my own counsel random 😉

    2. I’ve been running blog comments for 20 years. I’ll keep my own counsel random ?

      So awesome! I also wish to do the same; running a popular blog is much better than slogging in a job. As a start, I was thinking of documenting everything in my Masters (most prob. joining in December now due to covid). If you want, I can look into anything that suits your fancy at the University of Washington (I am planning to specialise in Computer Engineering). Also, any advice on blogs is much appreciated!

      1. @timepaas,

        Good luck with grad school. I wouldn’t plan anything other than getting to know your department, school of grad studies and research group in your first term. Planning other things will be a distraction that doesn’t help you in long term.

        Second year grad school is when starting/running blog would help. Although, it depends on your writing methods, I write better when I write more. When you focus on distillation of thought in your writing, those habits would carry over. However, I wouldn’t recommend this if you are publishing original research. Most of your energies should be on obtaining clarity for your results first than just writing unrelated topics.

        UW Seattle is a good school. Get out of it all it can offer.

      2. i would suggest you not do a blog if you are at an American grad school. at least if it’s in english.

        the env. is not healthy if you have any heterdox views. rather, focus, focus, focus, and don’t get distracted. take from someone who left grad school because he kept doing other things (consulting jobs 🙂

      3. @Violet @Razib
        Thanks for your advice! I suppose distraction is a huge problem; plus, I will have a huge financial burden; must perform well there. I will just put whatever I learn on the web so that I can revise the study material; won’t do other things. Do you all know what to ask an academic advisor? And how to find/join a promising research group? What to avoid/do in Seattle as an international student? Housing, jobs, etc.?

        1. do you all know what to ask an academic advisor?

          ask the former students. that is how you will be a good fit.

          master’s is somewhat different, but on the whole advisors are trying to sell you on them initially if they want you. it’s different after.

          1. “it’s different after”
            +1

            btw Razib why didn’t you stay in academia? it would have suited you to have a bunch of your own grad students to look after.

            another question:

            In my field 3-5 year long post-docs (after graduating from a top 10 engineering program) is becoming common to be just competitive enough for even C/D-tier universities (think New Mexico State, Oklahoma State, Georgia Southern, U North Texas etc). Now of-course there are exceptions if there is a perfect storm i.e. a paper that aligns with the current-meta-current i.e. gets a bunch of citations, a famous/influential NAE-member advisor, contacts in destination department, person is a diversity hire (I swear I am not being misogynist/racist, but facts are facts about diversity hires in engineering and can be clearly seen in publication records), aligns with current buzzword (ex. ML/Image-processing in Civil/Petroleum Engineering is trending, Cyber-physical systems is trending in Electrical/CSE) etc, etc, etc.

            Now nothing can be better than a tenure track job and lab space in a public university but is it worth the effort to really fight it out for years to get a tenure track job in a no-name C-tier university vs just taking a tenure track position at a D tier university?

        2. @all
          Thank you for your responses. I will try to get in touch with former students, and ask them about the research vis-à-vis social atmosphere of a supervisor.

        3. For god’s sake don’t start a blog and put your opinions out there. It will only cause you ruin. A lot of Indians are fed the “blue-good-red-bad” and woke nonsense; so airing your hetrodox views is just painting a target on yourself.

          UW has amazing ML, AI, and NLP groups. Of course, they have a very good robotics, PL, and Systems group as well. Put your head down and learn all ML related courses very seriously. Especially in NLP and Computer Vision, the barrier for publication is still low (very new fields and you can do a lot of new experiments). It is not uncommon for MS and even undergrads to publish papers. Just slog for 2 years and get a good job. Once you are in a comfortable job, only then air your views (that too under a pseudonym).

          1. Thanks, your advice is really valuable! Furthermore, I won’t give my opinion until I have built my career.

  25. All undergraduate courses need Matlab
    All graduate courses need Python
    All robotics jobs ask for production-level C/C++

    When is someone supposed to pick it up? In first year of undergrad from ‘let us C’ textbook of Programming and Data Structures?

    Ditto for ML job profiles, how the hell is someone supposed to know so much? This promotes lying during interviews, so far I have had only one technical interview, every other interviewer just talked and talked and talked I suspect the interviewer didn’t know much either other than technical factoids and buzzwords.

    1. I had college friends who used to stop attending classes after fourth semester (Junior year, fall semester) and just competitively code for weeks and months without stopping. I have seen the same in US grad school with Indian guys going AWOL for a few months to brush up coding skills. The operative word is ‘brush up’ but what should someone who has no prior skill to ‘brush’ do?

    2. Till mid-nineties, one could obtain a bachelors degree in engineering with just a cursory knowledge of programming. programming was still seen as a niche skill. nice to have, but not critical to the job as an engineer.

      quarter century later, coding skills have come to the front and center of any engineering discipline. i would say, learn programming *before* you even start your undergrad program. any language will do. programming is an aptitude, not the syntactical knowledge of any particular language. so don’t get hung up on the language. my recommendation will be to start with java. it has syntactical familiarity with earlier generation languages like c/c++, is strongly typed, and much more forgiving to novices due to its safety features like garage collection and exceptions handling. but again..learn coding before you start engineering.

      1. Agreed. Java is forgiving but I recommend Python. It has a lot more help/resources and general utility.

          1. Yeah, I remember when you posted about Pandas in gnxp. I thought “sigh! Now I can’t get away with just R”
            Python faction seems to be winning, so far… ?

    3. Yeah?! Self-study and practice?
      C is a good foundation. Matlab at undergrad level isn’t hard to pick up. (Much better than tcl, Python, MathCad).

      Once you get Matlab, Python isn’t that hard (although I don’t say easy, it has a steep learning curve).

      As an interviewer, I am interviewing for a skill that my team may not have. If I knew already all ML packages available in Python, why do I need to hire someone? There is a train vs. hire trade off and if training/learning is effective then there is less of a reason to spend resources hiring.

      Also, most of the brilliant technical people can’t do anything efficiently because they are hampered by lack of programming skills. I had someone work 16 hours straight to summarize a data set as they were using excel (without Macros either!).
      This should take 2-4 hours using Python or R even as a novice. Of course, now I put them in training, but this is the reason people post for programming skills in job descriptions.

    4. I think I am approaching god tier in Python.

      But after years of scripting languages I just hate to put in the effort in programming languages like C/C++. The older I get the less I feel like learning ‘new tools’ just give me a real job already.

      The problem I think is that Python is so easy, forgiving and laden with ML libraries that it gives a false sense of competence at ‘real’ programming.

      Scripting != Programming

      1. Sane people don’t ask engineers to do full programming. Run away from engineering companies who has that job role. But engineers need to be competent enough to read source code written by programmers.

        I would have very little confidence in reliability of multi-user/commercial software products made by only engineer programmers, if their role is in engineering and not programming/sw dev. However, you can’t communicate with programmers without knowing programming.

        Agreed on scripting != programming although I used it quite interchangeably earlier.

        1. To do R&D at Waymo (Google) they ask for a PhD specifically in SLAM/Machine-vision/Data-driven-controls. For the rest of us kam-buddhi (lesser) folks it is programming jobs only.

          Zoox(Amazon) is more lenient (there is greater diversity of available job profiles so I might slip through the cracks in requirements and get one) but C/C++ is almost a hard requirement.

          I have looked at a few others NIO, Ford, Tencent, Mitsubishi etc. Largely revolves around great coding skills. I can of-course always bluff and get in like so many others do.

          In all of this I was wondering why even bother with these guys? maybe just go and chill as a process control engineer at Intel. Not a lot of work, perpetual job-safety and reasonable amount of money while living in Portland.

          The only company that didn’t specifically look for production-level coding skills were Mathworks EDG people.

          Most likely I would just swallow my pride and laziness and put in 4 weeks to learn the damn thing.

          1. @timepass
            I think I did reply to a similar question from you earlier.

            In brief it boils down to securing an internship early on if you are in a MS program. Things can get very tricky for non-Americans (passport-holders) especially with this Corona situation. These guys (Americans) will land a job without all that much effort but not you.

          2. Yes, you had replied well back; however, I inferred from your reply that you are in a college in the US right now. Therefore, I was looking for college tips during covid; the circumstances there; and your experience, etc. For jobs, I guess there are 2 years; and I will master programming skills required there in the first year — is what I thought. I remember, you said to look for internship as soon as I join.

      2. There is no stable god tier in Python as it has moving goalposts every year!

        You are in grad school and tired of learning C++/C# ?! ?

        Let me put my old curmudgeon hat on …

  26. i might have to travel soon so been keeping a close eye on coronavirus related stuff.

    One thing I noticed is that Pakistan seems to have done a great job at dealing with it (new cases and deaths down drastically)

    India and Bangladesh not so much (both kind of plateaued in terms of deaths per day)

    What’s going on here? Was the Pakistani government response really that good? Lower density ? Massaged statistics ?

    1. The virus is done through its spread in many places. Its mostly following a Gompertz function (look analysis by Michael Lewitt). One thing to note is that even the situation in India in places like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad is the same as Pakistan. Its pretty much done its course. If you look at these cities in India, you will say “great job”. The situation was not the same a month ago.

      The difference as I see it is that, In India its now spreading to new urban centres. India has more centres with high population density than Pakistan.

      Remember the situation in Pakistan, even last month was bad with their hospital infra overwhelmed (one of my friend works in an org which has a Pak branch, he confirmed this). Pakistan has done 2,439,858 (2.4 million) tests so far. India is doing a million tests per day, and so far done 34 million tests.

      But overall the fatality rate in India, Pak, Bangladesh is lower than Europe, USA. Thank our immune systems, Turmeric, spices, or BCG.

      Ref:
      https://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2020/aug/23/pakistans-covid-19-cases-reach-292765-with-591-new-infections-2187183.html
      https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/india-tests-novel-coronavirus-numbers-uttar-prades-tamil-nadu-maharashtra-6565285/

      1. The virus is done through its spread in many places. Its mostly following a Gompertz function (look analysis by Michael Lewitt).

        I think this makes the most sense.

        I was looking at New York vs California graphs and its a drastic difference. It seems New York has some herd immunity at this point as it was hit earlier, where as it is running its course in California.

        From what I can tell it seem they have gotten better at treating it as well.

        Still too early to celebrate, but this is good news, as far as I am concerned.

  27. No one knows. Hard to see how policy or management had an impact. Even if the statistics were massaged people would be showing up at hospital. As far as I know (have a number of Pak doctor family and friends) the decline is genuine.

      1. 21 in Pakistan, 26 in Bangladesh, 29 in India. So younger but its not like under 40s have had much of a death toll.

        1. Not a stats guy but Maybe Razib can comment;
          But 21 vs 29 seems like a huge difference in reducing population prone to Covid out of million – could be significantly in my intuitive pov.
          Could also be down to other environmental/genetic conditions ;

          Razib any insight you can offer?

  28. The obsession with destroying idols, that starts with Mohammed, and leads to the destruction of tens of thousands of temples and idols in the Indian subcontinent as well as central Asia reeks of totalitarianism. The huge problem that Islam has with a completely non-violent act which should be no business of Muslims whatsoever is astonishing. The obsession with converting people to Islam using violence and Jaziya, implies a deep seated discomfort in letting people have other opinions.

    the idol destruction is an old tradition that comes out of paganism whereby gods were in lieu of national honor (see ancient Mesopotamia). the Israelites sacralized as part of their tribal religion, which eventually transmuted into something more universal. this is nothing special to Islam, though it takes iconoclasm very seriously (jews do as seriously, Christians less so, though there were idol burnings around 500 AD when Christians were the overwhelming majority).

    the destruction of idols has a clear political message. you see to just ignore the fact that premodern ppl don’t view public spaces a neutral. islam is a religion of dominance, and so that requires destruction of and marginalization of older structures/images/etc. this is the same reason that hindus tore down the babri masjid right?

    also, there wasn’t an obsession with converting people. we’ve talked about this extensively, so i don’t know why you take muslims at face value. it took centuries for Islam to become the majority in the near east. the jizya wasn’t about conversion, it just coopted earlier byzantine forms of generating rents out of subordinate peoples. it’s disappearance required different revenue extractions.

    I must say that I’m not saying that all Muslim societies are inherently totalitarian. Only that there are totalitarian tendencies in Islam. While this is a good example to highlight that not all Muslims societies are totalitarian, there are also examples in medieval India of clerics who claimed that both Hinduism and Islam are true and were executed on charges of Blasphemy.

    blasphemy is a crime of public disorder in Islam, not lack of orthodoxy (as in Christianity). so it “makes sense” when clerics and religious professionals of the sort whose job is to uphold conformity deviate that the punishment would be enforced.

    basically, i think you have a lot of understandable misunderstandings and may have become jaded by what were clearly propagandists (“real Islam is peaceful”).

    i think you view Islam as qualitatively different. i view it as quantitatively different. though at some point quantity has a quality all its own…

  29. With all this West Eurasian vs east eurasian nonsense I thought of something interesting.

    There was a paper which found a lineage called H0 which split off the rest of ydna H at 51,000 ybp. Given that it is likely the West Eurasian -east eurasian split had not happened could the earliest inhabitants of South Asia been either Basal Eurasian or Crown Eurasian like?

    Other early Indian lineages could be F, other subclades of H and mtdna R. Interesting that most West Eurasian mtdna variation is nested within the variety of mtdna R clades found from Iran to India.

    1. Absolutely zero, its nothing but a test of loyalty. Much like in the Godfather movie, the one who puts his hat in the ring for leadership is disloyal and is a marked man.

      This is very apparent from the speed at which “loyalists” are protecting the “Gandhi” family.

  30. Watching this live news of Congress Working Committee is like watching like a bunch of nawabs sitting around chewing pan in depilated house.

    1. Yeah, it was pretty much predictable once the chorus of support for the “Gandhis” started.
      Here is the playbook:
      1. Claim that the “Gandhis” have sacrificed a lot for the party

      2. Attack the dissidents

      3. Claim Rahul Gandhi is the only leader

      4. Then slowly make the dissidents irrelevant, or they move out.

      I predict the following:

      Rahul Gandhi to come back as president of INC. The ouster/rebellion of:

      Milind Deora, Raj Babbar, Jatin Prasada, Shashi Tharror, Kapil Sibal and a few more

  31. btw Razib why didn’t you stay in academia? it would have suited you to have a bunch of your own grad students to look after.

    academia in bio sci is ideologically conformist. i got physically attacked at a conference once. i just got tired of that and find private sector more open, tolerant, and collegial. glad to be avoiding struggle sessions right now

    1. “i got physically attacked at a conference once. ”

      This is new and shocking to me! wtf were the organizers/session-chair/moderators doing?

      Any opinions on the second question about long post doc vs just taking whatever offer one gets?

      1. it was at an after-hours event. guy got drunk and attacked me cuz i’m conservative.

        almost happened the next year. basically academics can’t handle ideological disagreement. at least a minority cannot. and the majority won’t stop them. so rather than lie and ‘go into the closet’ or get into fights and shouting matches i just realized life would be better if i left.

        basically most academics don’t know or care how intolerant their colleagues are. really no point arguing with them. just agree to go along

    2. What would you say about academia in other fields? Is this political and ideological stuff as common in physics and chemistry?

  32. “blasphemy is a crime of public disorder in Islam, not lack of orthodoxy (as in Christianity).”

    this is how they project it, but in reality there is an obvious theological angle to it. if it were simply a matter of public disorder, then the outcry against blasphemy should die down once the accused is taken into custody and processed thru the judicial system. instead, what usually happens is that blasphemy cases quickly gain national prominence, and bearded mullah throng the streets in thousands baying for the blood of the accused. in fact those protesting against the blasphemy cause the real public disorder.

    religious vigilantes hunt down the blasphemy accused with an eye on the front row seat in the paradise. so definitely much more than a matter of public disorder.

    in history, sufi mystics like al-hallaj were executed on theological grounds.

  33. this is how they project it, but in reality there is an obvious theological angle to it. if it were simply a matter of public disorder, then the outcry against blasphemy should die down once the accused is taken into custody and processed thru the judicial system.

    ah, i see, you take muslims at face value until you don’t!

    instead, what usually happens is that blasphemy cases quickly gain national prominence, and bearded mullah throng the streets in thousands baying for the blood of the accused.

    modern accusations are totally different. islam and muslim countries have not the same as in the premodern period. e.g., muslim and Islamic countries were famously more tolerant of homosexuality in the 19th century than europe or hindu indians (one reason for sex tourism to morocco by western European homosexuals).

    when i argue with you i feel like you’re not very clear on what the premises you are working with. in one moment you say made up stuff in the 7th century matters, and now you are saying that 1,000 years of Islamic jurisprudence (which occurred in the context of decentralized but authoritarian system, not nationalities) is made up and that what matters is the power plays that blasphemy gets caught up in in the 20th century (and actually the same principle re: blasphemy applies to homosexuality; gay orientation is taboo, but some homosexual sex is actually generally not a matter for public investigation so long as it doesn’t surface, even ibn wahhab held to this position)

    1. @razib – you are implying that 1000 years of islamic jurisdiction is silent on blasphemy. i didn’t say that. as far as i know, in all schools of islamic jurisprudence, blasphemy is a crime. the difference of onion is only in the prescribed punishment.

      though i concede the historically blasphemy was a much less of a deal in islam than Christianity, which took it to another level with its inquisitions and all. however, calling blasphemy merely a matter of public disorder in islam trivializes the problem.

      1. “you are implying that 1000 years of islamic jurisdiction is silent on blasphemy.”

        He did not imply this at all. He explicitly states (correctly) that 1000 years of Islamic jurisprudence justifies blasphemy punishments on the basis of “X”.

        You disagree with this, claiming to know what Muslims “really” are motivated by, arguing blasphemy is punished because of “Y”.

        Not only is this baseline dumb, but as Razib is pointing out, complete inconsistency on the part of Hindu Nationalists, who when convenient, will point to what Islamic texts/scholars say and discard lived Muslim experience, and at other times (depending on the axe they are grinding), will discard the texts/scholars and judge by what Muslims happen to be doing.

        These antics may help Hindus square their ideological circles, but prevents them from actually discussing these issues in a thoughtful way (and gives actual thoughtful people a headache when talking with them).

      2. you are implying that 1000 years of islamic jurisdiction is silent on blasphemy. i didn’t say that. as far as i know, in all schools of islamic jurisprudence, blasphemy is a crime. the difference of onion is only in the prescribed punishment.

        if i’m implying it means you read something into it that’s not there.

        blasphemy in shariah is a matter of public disorder and treason. ergo, private heresy is not good, but not the real grounds for punishment. it’s when sufis go around engaging in ‘shirk’ in public and leading people astray (ergo, ‘betraying the Muslim nation’).

        though i concede the historically blasphemy was a much less of a deal in islam than Christianity, which took it to another level with its inquisitions and all. however, calling blasphemy merely a matter of public disorder in islam trivializes the problem.

        the inquisition become ‘a thing’ because of what we would call taqiya. jews who professed Christianity in public and continued to be jews in private (to some extent muslims, the mujedars/moriscos, who also professed public Christianity but continued being Muslim). so the key issue isn’t the specific belief, but that people were lying about their religion. i’d say it’s a middle ground btwn Islamic rationale and classical blasphemy which is more of an individual thing (eg look up last guy killed in Scotland for blasphemy).

      3. The key issue is not the public/private divide on blasphemy: Its utility lies in being a tool of an Islamic state to marginalize the minority community. The main aim is to cow down dissidents and force the religious nonconformants into institutional slavery by systematically denying/downplaying their rights to cultural expression, i.e., converting them into just a resource for exploitation.

        The reason we see so much emphasis on blasphemy in recent times is because the paradigm of societal dominance has shifted from military to intellectual.

  34. as an outsider with no knowledge, my assumption is gandhi hegemony helps INC in short-term but hobbles it in long-term. if a coherent INC party is to exist it needs to get beyond a dynasty and be about ideas/interests.

    is this dumb?

    1. Its not. I think it is just a matter of habit. Post-independence India has been severely feudal owing to the nonsensical socialist policies and license-raj days. India had labor laws where it would require permission from the labor union and the government to fire an employee. The land reform got rid of people with really large swaths of land, but did not give land to a lot of farmers and agriculture laborers. So it created a lot more feudal lords. The industrial policy sucked big time. There was no “market” to improve the competition. Textbook case of how not to run a new independent nation.

      The only way to survive reasonably in India was to get a government job; which if you bribe the right people, can be given to your son (daughter in a few cases) after you retire. If the job was related to any industry, even better, you can squeeze out every possible penny from the private business. Notice how the nouveau riche have no love lost for INC. I would say India was just put in a freezer from 1950-1990 and so were a lot of Indian brains. Old habits die hard.

    2. @Razib

      You are absolutely right. They need to move on from the so called “Gandhis”. They have become a party without survival instinct. Rahul Gandhi is a part-time twitter politician. One of the criticisms of him in the letter that was signed by 23 senior congress members was that they need a full-time politico at the helm.

      Compare this to BJP. Modi’s leadership of BJP came after him struggling in the lower ranks for years. After he was elected, the old guard was promptly dispatched to “margdarshak mandal” (“guidance committee”) a term for retirement.

      BJP will continue to be a cadre based party where leaders like Modi will emerge, whereas INC will be hamstrung by the “Gandhis”

      This is a good piece: https://theprint.in/opinion/politically-correct/in-gandhi-family-win-congress-biggest-loser/488245/

      Another one : https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/if-congress-does-not-listen-sonia-gandhi-letter-6568336/

      and what went on the meeting: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/congress-crisis-cwc-meeting-letter-to-sonia-gandhi-6568304/

    3. True. INC has lost it’s way. the party which once had a galaxy of leaders and workshop for leaders is stuck under the feet of a dynasty.

      It is also a bad role model for other parties and politicians. With enemies like INC, BJP does not have to worry

  35. (Google translated) Official Washington is trying to force India to give up the purchase of the S-400, but the country’s ambassador to Moscow – Bala Venkates Varma – said:

    “The S-400 will be delivered on time. The coronavirus will not affect the agreed timing of deliveries of those Russian systems either. ”

    In October 2018, Russia and India signed an agreement on the delivery of five S-400 regimental sets.

    The value of the arrangement is 5.43 billion dollars.

    It is the largest single arms sale in the history of Rosoboronekport.

    It was announced in Moscow in February that the production of the S-400 for India had begun.

    The S-400 “Triumph” “catches” everything that flies within a radius of 600 kilometers, and shoots down planes and ballistic missiles at distances of up to 400 kilometers.

    1. The deal will happen definitely as India needs it to defend itself from Pakistan and China. However, what are you interested in it?

      1. This is one of the things which dictates the global power balance. This is also an excellent high-tech achievement. I did follow here this weapon deal since before your time and my expectation was exactly what is in the comment (I am good in anticipations not only in history) .

        In addition, I am interested because I have hundreds of million genetic cousins in India where, according to OGDT, my IE ancestors originated. Even if the opposite is right, that my ancestors originated in Vinca and came to India 4000 years ago, it does not change anything in the previous.

      2. I must say: You are very broad minded. Furthermore, isn’t Iranian closest to Slavic? Once upon a time Balto-Slavics lived side by side with them. Are you not worried about your Shia brothers suffering at the hands of western imperial powers? Or even worried regarding Pakistanis? They also speak an IE language.

    2. (Google translated) The hypersonic cruise missile “BrahMos” with a speed of Mach 6-7 will be made by 2028, the co-director of the Russian-Indian company “Brahmos”, Aleksandar Maksicev, told Sputnik.

      “The creation of the hypersonic rocket” Brahmos “is now divided into two phases: the first is the creation of a rocket with a speed of Mach 4-5 by 2024/25, and the second is the development of a rocket with a speed of 6-7 Mach by 2026/27,” said Maksicev.

      According to him, the experts of “Brahmos” have already tested some elements and parts of the rocket that enable it to develop at such speeds.

      The Russian-Indian joint venture “Brahmos” (Scientific and Production Company “Mashinostroenija” and the Organization for Defence Research and Development of India) was founded in 1998 and specializes in creating supersonic missiles of various bases: ship, underwater, coastal and air.

  36. INC cannot exist without the family. After Indira Gandhi’s “purge” of India’s GOP, INC mutated into an entirely different beast Congress(R) / Congress(I), which later conveniently adopted the old label of its predecessor. The party is structured to serve the family’s interests.

    wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_National_Congress_(R)

  37. INC apart from abdicating it’s historic role in India , has also been a ‘model’ for other partes. Now DMK has become a family fiefdom. How the mighty have fallen. INC had a chance after the death of Rajiv Gandhi to be free of dynastic rule , and some INC leadersv like Pawar opposed The Family taking over. But the INC party managers decisively brought in Sonia G
    Any rising politician has to play identity politics to the eyeballs, and establish a dynasty . That has become a norm

  38. Yes the party is structured to serve the family. But also I think it can still survive and evolve without the family at the helm. Both during PVNs and Kesari’s tenure the party survived (yes a few guys did exit, but it didn’t lead to a complete destruction of the party).

    Actually I am surprised that such a letter was even written. May be the right thing is for the party to split and evolve.

    Dynastic parties (NCP – Maharashtra, DMK, BSP, SP – UP) are on borrowed time.

  39. Nothing is gonna happen. Congress will remain the way it is. Indian folks have short memory. No one in 2004 would have predicted Modi being PM of India in a decade. Gandhis are the default option if and when Modi stumbles, and it need not have to do anything to do with their competency. Just like Modi doing pretty well currently need not have to do with his superb electoral acumen, but more to the faults of his opponents.

    A stumble from BJP, bit of public apathy, couple of good alliance, and some slice of luck, is what it will take for the Congress to come back to power, espcially given out of the 2 m the Congress is more amenable to alliances with other parties . And we can all marvel in the 2030s that did we really call it quits for the Congress in 2020s, and y didnt we discover PM Rahul Gandhi’s administrative efficiency early enough 😛

    1. Disagree. I was afraid of the same, but the Indian public now is smarter. There is 4G in even remote places and a lot more information is available to people now. Poor performing dynasts are facing tough times all over the country. For example: Stalin and Nara Lokesh from the south are performing very poorly. Jagan is also horrible, but his government is being run by socialist babus and church, so he has “popular” support. Well performing dynasts are doing fine on the other hand. Thackerays, Scindias, and Pilots want to move out of Congress because they still enjoy popular support. Except for liberal twitterverse and IYIs no one sees Rahul Gandhi as a leader.

    1. Haven’t read the book, just the blurbs, but would like to know what he sees as the advantage of continuing to “be on top”? Is it optimizing for share of global GDP? Are we toast if we slide to 3rd place while still maintaining among the highest per-capita incomes globally? How much of our current prosperity is due to leveraging our market size?
      Is this a strategic manual for the would be elites of this future country? All writers have an imagined audience, who is his?

    2. From what I understand, mass immigration is a key part of his plan.

      Does he not worry about how that could affect the social cohesion of an already-fraying country? The most obvious counterargument would be “what do we have to lose?”, but it can always get worse, and ignoring that fact has led to a lot of dumb decisions throughout history.

      The one thing that impressed me the most from Turchin’s Ages of Discord is how closely the graphs for measures of social dysfunction matched the graphs for immigration rates. It was almost perfect, except for a minor time lag. It’s hard not to assume some causation there, especially when it fits so well with Turchin’s general theories linking social dysfunction to mismatches between supply and demand for labor and elite positions.

      Then there’s the potential cultural conflicts, which depend heavily on where we get the immigrants from. The last thing we should want is to replicate Europe’s problem with Muslim minorities, but could we pass a bill that says “open borders except for Muslims?”. And then there’s the problem that a huge portion of our population are upset about immigration of any kind.

      I’m all for replacing our ruling class with Asian technocrats, but I don’t think that will be the chief effect of liberalizing our immigration regime.

    3. Havent read the book –
      Wouldn’t 1 Billion people with American consumerism just screw up the world – if yes – how would he propose drastically reducing consumerism / energy in United states if in reality he is for a larger population as a means of continued sustained growth ?

    4. With the large-scale increase in automation over the next couple of decades is this a viable strategy anymore? Historically, a good percentage of a country’s population not cut out for college would take up manufacturing and production jobs. A lot of those jobs won’t be around in the future, what would all the extra people do?

    5. Ask him about how he would encourage affordable family formation in urban areas to support natural increase, that is something that is of interest to him. He wrote a review of Elizabeth Warren’s book The Two Income Trap where he criticised her proposals for being too modest. Now much of say San Francisco’s urban space should be allocated to building high rises? And wouldn’t the issue of high rents be less important if more people moved to cheap urban areas like south-east DC, Oakland or south-central LA?

      https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/23/18183091/two-income-trap-elizabeth-warren-book

      For additional immigration to compete with China what filters if any would he apply to the incoming population? Would he weight this towards the top 5% of global talent as Edward Conard proposed, workers who could quickly adapt to working in a knowledge-centric economy or to those from poorer countries who would most benefit from immigrating but not be able to work in high-skilled, O-ring jobs?

      Also would welcoming additional immigrants not conflict with the goal of affordable family formation? The immigrants would want to compete with natives for prestige degrees, houses near good schools on the coasts, elite jobs etc. They wouldn’t be happy to be restricted to flyover country and with going to State U.

      Finally ask him if he has given any thought to weight lifting, the brother looks like he would benefit from it.

    6. Ask him his thoughts on the diversity visa lottery.

      Does it constitute a form of “disparate impact” ‘ethnic discrimination’ against immigrants from large nation states (India and China)?

      Would the law exist if Europe was a large nation state and India / China were more broken up?

  40. https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2020/08/22/indian-muslims-should-form-exclusive-party-consider-moving-to-kerala-zakir-naik.html

    Indian Muslims should form exclusive party, consider moving to Kerala: Zakir Naik

    “Referring to the splintering of Muslim votes, Zakir Naik repeated a controversial claim about the Muslim population he has made previously. Naik claimed while official estimates put the Muslim population in India around 200 million, he believes there are “actually 250 million to 300 million Muslims”, a figure that the “government supresses”. Naik declared India is the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

    Zakir Naik then declared, “Muslims should make another party, exclusively, only for Muslims”. “This political party should join hands with other political parties that are not Fascist and not communal,” he added. Zakir Naik opined that such a Muslim political party should join hands with dalits, adding “dalits are not Hindus”.

    Zakir Naik claimed “Babasaheb Ambedkar loved Islam, but unfortunately the Muslims didn’t welcome him, so he chose the second best… he chose Buddhism”. Zakir Naik argued such a political alliance of Muslims and dalits would represent nearly 600 million people and be a major force.

    “If you have the means to go to a Muslim-majority country, that should be the best,” Zakir Naik said, adding he did “not expect” all Muslims of India to leave the country. Zakir Naik said Muslims who could not move out of the country could go to another state, “which is more lenient towards Muslims”. Naik added that the “best state I can think of” is Kerala. Zakir Naik claimed that followers of all three major religions—Hindus, Muslims and Christians—each accounted for about one-third of the population of Kerala.”

  41. That’s a good point. More Muslims should consider moving to the South, where communal tensions tend to be lower.

    1. Yeah I liked that too. But for me the clincher was “Ambedkar loved Islam”. I read that in Trump”s voice.

    2. Thats because of the low percentage in the districts. 20 years back , yes, what you said was correct. These days, not much. Wahabi way of life has changed the ground for ever.

      In places where you Muslims beyond a threshold, you wouldn’t find other communities thriving. Muslims in the south are isolated and live in clusters. There are villages in the coast of TN where the non-Muslims are prohibited to enter.

  42. https://theprint.in/opinion/mourn-idea-of-india-but-dont-forget-idea-of-people/488884/

    Mourn idea of India, but don’t forget that the idea of people is changing too

    “Our public debates rest on a romantic view of the people. After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s stunning 2019 Lok Sabha election victory, liberals began accepting their limitations to evolve a people’s language and some intellectuals bemoaned how they may have lost the tools to understand the people. The unspoken idea is that the politicians and intellectuals do not dare question the people. It is from here that majoritarian politics emerges.

    The Nehruvian state introduced a series of radical social reforms in the 1950s through legal constitutional means. The people, in this framework, were to be educated and reformed by the State to make them fully democratic and adequately modern. The economic liberalisation in the 1990s, however, was a turning point. The idea of the people as an extremely rational collective began to take shape only in the 1990s around the time of economic reforms and the explosion of popular private entertainment.

    We must learn from Ambedkar: democratic politics won’t work if we do not question the foundational structures of our society.
    And now, as public intellectuals urge us to re-imagine our engagement with the people and restore what they consider the broken link, it can be a slippery slope towards imagining the people as the all-knowing and unquestionable monolith majority.”

    A good article

  43. (Google translated) Johnson urged the British not to be ashamed of their slave-owning and colonial past

    BORIS Johnson called on the British to stop being ashamed of their history and not to whip themselves because of the country’s slave-owning history.

    Johnson commented on media reports that the BBC was considering the possibility of excluding patriotic songs from the BBC Proms concert program, which could be related to colonialism and the slave-owning system.

    “The time has come to stop being ashamed of our history, our traditions and our culture, and to put an end to the attack of collective self-flagellation,” he said.

  44. Random change of topic.
    5 volunteers came forward in Pune for trial of Covaccine. Phase 2 trials r about to start.
    3 of the 5 had antibodies for SarsCov2. Only 2 remained eligible.

    1. It is mixture of all the three – anti-brahmin prejudice , better opps, and socialism (at least until 1990) which constrained oppurtinities.

      OTOH, Tamil brahmins have been seeking jobs at all India level for more than 100 years , so while anti-brahmin feelings are rabid , it is not the end of the world

  45. This may be of interest and the author featured could be a Browncast guest.

    https://newbooksnetwork.com/jeffery-d-long-hinduism-in-america-bloomsbury-academic-2020/

    In Hinduism in America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), Jeffrey D. Long traces two worlds that converge – that of Hindu immigrants to America who strive to preserve their traditions in a foreign land, and that of American spiritual seekers who turn to Hindu practices and ideas. Long explores the influence of concepts such karma, rebirth, meditation and yoga on the American consciousness, along with Hindu temples in America.

  46. On top of history books given y Razib, I would like to add
    AN HISTORICAL ATLAS OF CENTRAL ASIA by YURI BREGEL
    German publishers

    Fantastic maps of CA from Alexnader’s time to 1990.

    1. A research was conducted by Gleeden, the first extramarital dating app of India,

      Wouldn’t take it too seriously lol

  47. https://m.economictimes.com/news/economy/policy/ease-of-investment-one-stop-repository-of-indias-land-bank-launched/amp_articleshow/77783625.cms

    Ease of investment: One-stop repository of India’s land bank launched

    In a move to make it easy for investors to identify sites for setting up manufacturing units, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday launched a one-stop repository of the country’s land bank comprising information on available and vacant plots, satellite view of terrain and heat maps on the natural resources there.

    The National GIS-enabled Land Bank system- a database of industrial areas and clusters across states- has information on more than 3,300 industrial parks across 31 states and UTs covering about 4.75 lakh hectare land.

    The portal will also have information related to champion sectors and high priority sectors under “Make in India” such as state and district wise net industrial land available, relevant contact details, traces the land available for investment, current external infrastructure geo-tagged such as road, rail, airport and dry port connectivity to all industrial hotspots.

    “The minister said that states should identify products with a market potential for import substitution and export accentuation, and establish forward and backward market linkage channels,” the ministry said quoting Goyal after he had a virtual meeting with the industry ministers of states and UT administrators to promote industrial activity and investment

    It added that states will identify products unique to each district to develop districts as export hubs, and integrate with their district level exports strategies which would then feed into the state level export strategies.

    “District and cluster level export strategy will benefit artisans and small and micro scale producers thereby integrating them directly with global supply chains,” Goyal said.

    The exercise is part of India’s efforts to attract investments into the country. The government is already working on a one-stop digital platform to obtain all requisite central and state clearances required to start business operations in India.

    Goyal also said the concept of deemed approval can be adopted in the upcoming single window.

    On the issue of ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’, he said India may invoke the reciprocity clause with countries where Indian companies face restrictive trade practises. He said bidders with beneficial ownership /belonging to countries sharing land border with India, will be able to participate in government procurements only after a mandatory registration, based on clearances given by the government

  48. Alice Coltrane (née McLeod, August 27, 1937 – January 12, 2007) also known by her adopted Sanskrit name Turiyasangitananda or Turiya Alice Coltrane

    Alice and John’s growing involvement in spirituality influenced some of John’s compositions and projects, such as A Love Supreme.[6] In January 1966, Alice Coltrane replaced McCoy Tyner as pianist with John Coltrane’s group. She subsequently recorded with him and continued playing with the band until John’s death on July 17, 1967. After her husband’s death, she continued to forward the musical and spiritual vision.

    Led her to seek spiritual guidance from the guru Swami Satchidananda and later from Sathya Sai Baba.[7] By 1972, she abandoned her secular life, and moved to California, where she established the Vedantic Center in 1975.[8] By the late 1970s she had changed her name to Turiyasangitananda.[9] She was the spiritual director, or swamini, of Shanti Anantam Ashram (later renamed Sai Anantam Ashram in Chumash Pradesh) which the Vedantic Center established in 1983 near Malibu, California.[10] Alice would perform formal and informal devotional Vedic ceremonies at the ashram.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Coltrane

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUMuDWDVd20

    A Love Supreme John Coltrane.
    I Wonder if some of this part of Love Devotion .. by Mahavishnu Orchestra
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Love_Supreme

    1. Turiya is a city and river in Serbia. It is known by organizing annual sausage festival which attend many thousand of tourists.

  49. “The Trump administration asserts H-1Bs are making low wages, but a staggering number of Indian H-1B visa holders have enough money for a ‘millionaire visa ,’”

    “The statistics show a sharp increase in Indian nationals who have received immigrant investor visas. ”

    “It is not surprising many Indian H-1B visa holders have earned enough to accumulate a significant amount of capital.”

    These H1B guys are essentially buying their way into US. But US should be happy. After all, these guys are pumping their money back into US. But the rhetoric against immigrants never stops..

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2020/08/24/indian-h-1b-visa-holders-again-show-they-are-not-cheap-labor/#11f77f225c13

    1. I think the floodgates of H1B Indians moving to Canada+Australia will open pretty soon. Americans don’t give two fucks about us, it is us salivating and shamelessly lining up for visas, almost begging to be let in.

      They (American lawmakers) know that no one else is going to offer as much money as the American tech companies and almost dare us to get the fuck out of their country.

      The visa situation is genuinely depressing, what we need is starting our own companies in India. Its not that most people in tech do something spell-bounding anyways, I know hundreds of below average developers who manage to make $150K in the US because the ‘idea’ they work on is worthwhile, a developer with similar skills in Bangalore will make $30 K because their company’s ‘idea’ sucks. I know so many people (both H1B and Americans) who work at Adobe, Apple, MS, Intel who are dull as dirt but get by very comfortably.

      Indians in tech make around $200-250 K around age 35-40 in California, no wonder people will ‘buy’ a PR.

      1. Bhimrao
        I too was an H1B, three times by choice plus a 8 year stint as a grad student. Was not interested in Green Card, even thought Sri Lankans have short wait time, I think two to three years.

        You hear of immigrants being extolled and their success stories (eg Sundar Pitchai and Vinod Dhaham).

        Lets look at it the from the other side. Why is the US not nurturing its own. Getting best young adults from other countries is a cheap way of avoiding funding education and society to nurture ones own.

        It breeds resentment too. Imagine if many of the top paid employees in India are from Europe/US. It does happen in India and other third world countries. However the numbers are small and dont stay too long, i.e. Consultants.

        This whole immigration thing, specially at the upper end is a tinderbox and resentment is growing. Trump is an expression of that symptom. His policies reflect his supporters resentment.

        1. Sbarrkum:
          I agree that people don’t like foreigners taking ‘their’ jobs. If Marathis can’t cope with my people(UP+Bihar) taking menial jobs in Mumbai, anguish of Gora folks (who are unjustifiably put on a just-pedestal by brown people) is understandable. Any jobs/opportunities they give us are a favor and I duly thank them. But atleast be fair in saying ‘no’, say ‘fuck off’ to Iranians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans too like it is said to Indians. For all I know it seems (from limited interaction with Pakistanis) that proportionally India sends over much more competitive and competent people than Pakistanis, Arabs etc, who are usually children of the elites of their countries. Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis are all Indians would such a law have existed if Europe was one country?

          But then again the harder it is for Indians to immigrate the better it is for India. The ones who are willing to really go mad about just getting a foreign citizenship aren’t worth it anyways while the creative/entrepreunial ones will realize there are better things to do in India itself. I think the real clincher is children’s education and growth, it is so difficult to get into good schools in India and even then there is no guarantee of receiving good/relevant/engaging education. If somehow some really world beating universities for the rich could come up in India things might change.

      2. “it is us salivating and shamelessly lining up for visas, almost begging to be let in.”

        true. every time i meet yet another indian techie, waiting in green card queue for 10+ years, i feel like screaming…IT IS NOT WORTH IT !!!. but the craze just does not die. i have seen guys getting their GC after 20 years of wait, and still feel as if it was a small price for a permanent life in US.

  50. “This whole immigration thing, specially at the upper end is a tinderbox and resentment is growing.”

    the resentment is there, but it is completely unjustifiable. i am in some sort of semi-responsible position in my company in US, and I frequently get resumes for technical positions. i can personally vouch that most native born white americans are just not interested in coding. coding, especially of the low level type used in networking world is highly cerebral intensive, and not every one has an aptitude for it. moreover, indians or chinese slug it out in coding jobs because they have their eyes on the bigger prize of a GC at the end of the ordeal. for a white american it is not a factor.

    even the whites who work in managerial positions manage to do it without an mba degree. indian otoh will drop upwards of 100 K on an mba degree just to break into managerial positions.

    1. MBA (for Indians on h1b) is a very strange degree. I still do not understand what do they teach in B-schools that costs so much?

      A few years ago I knew this (h1b Indian) guy who tried and failed to get into UC Berkeley’s MBA program for about 4 years then attended another top-10 weekend MBA program(Northwestern). Commuted from SF to Chicago on weekends for 4 years! In total he spent $150 K + lost family and creative time.

      Maybe Indians go to business school to make up for lack of soft skills. idk.

      btw recently one of my younger acquaintances in B’lore was hired by Reliance Jio for a so far unheard of amount. They are handing out funded-startup like crazy salary to work on really promising projects (turning all local grocery stores into digitally enabled Reliance grocery outlets, with centralized warehousing, online ordering, optimized order distribution etc). Reliance is capable of hiring substantial number of people to work on smart ideas, it can be game changing. They have already fucked Zoom (launched an exact copy) and arm-twisted Google and FB to cough up billions, if someone can upgrade India from being an IT sweatshop it is Reliance Industries.

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