WEF, Institutions, Media and Credibility

Some time ago, I had run into some Internet coverage about some WEF (World Economic Forum) report about institutions and their credibility rankings. I no longer remember where I had seen it mentioned, but the fact that such an article had appeared, had somehow stayed in the mind.

Today, in order to locate the source, I googled using the strings “WEF”, “Credibility” and “Media”. The following are a few links I got as a result of these searches. In each case, I first give the source organization, then the title of the article they published, and finally, the URL. Please note, all cover essentially the same story.

  • Edelman, “2017 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER Reveals Global Implosion of Trust,” [^]
  • Quartz, “The results are in: Nobody trusts anyone anymore,” [^]
  • PostCard, “Must read! World Economic Forum releases survey on Indian media, the results are shameful!,” [^]
  • Financial Express, “WEF Report: ‘India most trusted nation in terms of institutions’,” [^]
  • Financial Times, “Public trust in media at all time low, research shows,” [^]
  • WEF, “Why credibility is the future of journalism,” [^]

“Same hotel, two different prices…” … [Sorry, just couldn’t resist it!]

Oh, BTW, I gather that the report says that institutions in India are more credible as compared to those in Singapore.

Do click the links if you haven’t yet done so, already. [No, I don’t get paid for the clicks on the outgoing links.]

Still getting settled in the new job and the city. Some stuff still is to be moved. But guess it was time to slip in at least a short post. So there. Take care and bye for now.



Dileep Padgaonkar, R.I.P.

Dileep Padagonkar, R.I.P.

… I came to know about him a bit lately—certainly not when he was the Editor of ToI (or earlier). … It was sometime during the mid-noughties; it was mostly through an occasional edit-page piece or some other piece that he would write here and there. …

… I knew him more or less purely through his writing, even though we did share the same home-town, Pune. [The only few exceptions were a few TV appearances of his which I watched, once in a while, a while ago. … He somehow always seemed to appear in those half-sleeved sleeveless sweaters or something like that…]

But, talking of his writings (and TV appearances), occasional as these may have been, it was impossible to miss the fact that if phrases such as “a man of culture” or “a gentleman” might have any meaning in reality, then it would mean those few [unfortunately so very few] people like him.

Upon reading the news this morning, I was so sorry that he left us so early. …

… May his soul find “sadgati.”

Today’s Pune—the supposed Oxford of the East, the supposed City of Culture—is such that it will not bereave his loss as much as it should. … Naturally! You have to first have a kind of a value-system, a “sense” of what terms like “culture” mean, before you can even register a loss like that!

… Anyway…

My writing, both about QM and on other topics, has been going on, off-and-on. I should be back with something or the other in a while. May be about QM. May be about something else. But no promises as to when.



Shaken, because of a stir

We have demonstrably been shaken here on earth, because of a stir in the cosmos.

The measured peak strain was 10^{-21} [^].

For comparison: In our college lab, we typically measure strains of magnitude like 10^{-3} or at the most 10^{-4}. (Google search on “yield strain of mild steel” does not throw up any directly relevant page, but it does tell you that the yield strength of mild steel is 450 MPa, and all mechanical (civil/metallurgical/aero/etc.) engineers know that Young’s modulus for mild steel is 210 GPa. … You get the idea. …)

Einstein got it wrong twice, but at least eventually, he did correct himself.

But other physicists (and popular science writers, and blog-writers), even after getting a full century to think over the issue, still continue to commit blunders. They continue using terms like “distortions of spacetime.” As if, space and time themselves repeatedly “bent” (or, to use a euphemism, got “distorted”) together, to convey the force through “vacuum.”

It’s not a waving of the “spacetime” through a vaccum, stupid! It’s just the splashing of the aether!!

The Indian credit is, at the most, 1.3%.

If it could be taken as 3.7%, then the number of India’s science Nobels would also have to increase dramatically. Har Gobind Singh Khorana, for instance, would have to be included. The IAS-/MPSC-/scientist-bureaucrats “serving” during my childhood-days had made sure to include Khorana’s name in our school-time science text-books, even though Khorana had been born only in (the latter-day) Pakistan, and even if he himself had publicly given up on both Pakistan and India—which, even as children, we knew! Further, from whatever I recall of me and all my classmates (from two different schools), we the (then) children (and, later, teen-agers) were neither inspired nor discouraged even just a tiny bit by either Khorana’s mention or his only too willing renunciation of the Indian citizenship. The whole thing seemed too remote to us. …

Overall, Khorana’s back-ground would be a matter of pride etc. only to those bureaucrats and possibly Delhi intellectuals (and also to politicians, of course, but to a far lesser extent than is routinely supposed). Not to others.

Something similar seems to be happening now. (Something very similar did happen with the moon orbiter; check out the page 1 headlines in the government gazettes like Times of India and Indian Express.)

Conclusion: Some nut-heads continue to run the show from Delhi even today—even under the BJP.

Anyway, the reason I said “at most” 1.3 % is because, even though I lack a knowledge of the field, I do know that there’s a difference between 1976, and, say, 1987. This fact by itself sets a natural upper bound on the strength of the Indian contribution.

BTW, I don’t want to take anything away from Prof. Dhurandhar (and from what I have informally gathered here in Pune, he is a respectable professor doing some good work), but reading through the media reports (about how he was discouraged 30 years ago, and how he has now been vindicated today etc.) made me wonder: Did Dhurandhar go without a job for years because of his intellectual convictions—the way I have been made to go, before, during and after my PhD?

As far as I am concerned, the matter ends there.

At least it should—I mean, this post should end right here. But, OK, let me make an exception, and note a bit about one more point.

The experimental result has thrown the Nobel bookies out of business for this year—at least to a great part.

It is certain that Kip Thorne will get the 2016 Physics Nobel. There is no uncertainty on that count.

It is also nearly as certain that he will only co-win the prize—there will be others to share the credit (and obviously deservingly so). The only question remaining is, will it be just one more person or will it be two more (Nobel rules allow only max 3, I suppose), what will be their prize proportions, and who those other person(s) will be (apart from Thorne). So, as far as the bettors and the bookies are concerned, they are not entirely out of the pleasure and the business, yet.

Anyway, my point here was twofold: (i) The 2016 Physics Nobel will not be given for any other discovery, and (ii) Kip Thorne will be one of the (richly deserving) recipients.



PM Rahul? A Comment on Singh and Sonia

The invisible hands of the market face of the PM became visible last week, a feast for only the second time in as many as six years!

Not much was expected regarding liberalization of economy from this (Indira Congress’) poster boy of economic reforms. Not especially after Barack had begun calling the White House his home. In fact, the press conference was expected to be monotonously boring. Though both of them do sound a lot similar, Manmohan Singh does beat Sri Sri Ravishankar on this count—inducing boredom. One wonders what our friends from the media did to stay awake throughout the conference; the remedies may come in handy to those who aspire to top the board exams/JEE.

But still, I am sure that the PM’s remark concerning The Great Dimpler i.e. Rahul Gandhi was not in a light humour. Obviously he meant it earnestly. So earnestly, in fact, that it is no longer possible to maintain the position that Dr. Man Mohan Singh is (predominantly) an honest man.

Of course the PM was not saying that Rahul should replace him. Not yet, anyway. The PM was only offering his support for a cabinet minister’s position to Rahul. Thereby making Rahul at par at least with Sharad Pawar and P. Chidambaram.


If the PM wanted—in view of his age, second bypass surgery, and consecutive six years in the office—to make public his thoughts regarding political transitioning, succession plans, etc., and if he were honest, he should have offered to resign his current post in the UPA-II government with immediate effect, and nominated Mr. Sharad Pawar in his place.

The suggestion is not as far-fetched as the Indira Congress, under Sonia and all, together with the NRIs (notably in the USA), the BJP, and the local (and to a much less extent the global) media have all together made it sound.

Consider these facts. Sharad Pawar was the youngest CM of Maharashtra. He had been a Defence Minister of India about two decades ago—years before Sonia had even entered politics or certain NRIs had de facto become IAS officers and ministers living abroad. Pawar, if I recall it right, has even been a President of the Congress party. He was like a son to the former Dy. Prime Minister, Yashwantrao Chavan.

Pawar’s only trouble is that he still remembers also Lal Bahadur Shastri, and, in this regard, even goes to the extent of allowing Shastri’s images in election posters. It makes matters difficult with the Indira Congress. Pawar hasn’t bothered to pick sandals after Sonia Gandhi. Indira Congress does remember such things. Both at institutional and personal levels.

But keeping aside the Indira Congress’ objections to Pawar, the fact of the matter is that about two decades ago, before 1990, the current PM, Dr. Singh was only a bureaucrat, one among many, and Pawar already was a responsible and promising politician who had made his way up the hard way, starting from the grassroots. Later on, in the early 1990s, despite the vagaries of the Indira Congress, under PV Narasimha Rao, both Singh and Pawar had almost equal power status. Pawar still being a dependable political ally and a senior colleague in UPA.

It’s remarkable that some 17/18 years later, it all counts nothing with Singh’s conscience—or Sonia’s.

Singh’s supporters (and they do come from all parties—just as is the case with Pawar or, for that matter, any senior political leader in India) don’t waste any chance to tout how he has this background of a doctorate from that birthplace of modern democracy, UK. Why don’t any one of them ever tell him that giving the PM-ship to Pawar by rotation would precisely confirm to the ideals of democracy!

But, of course, the Indira Congress cannot even think of seeing Pawar as a PM—wasn’t he the one who had said that Sonia cannot become a PM because she was not born in India?

Now this is only an outward reason that they would cite to Pawar: “you went against our party ‘high command’!” Indeed, they have made Pratibha Patil a President precisely out of a political calculation of keeping Maharashtrians quiet.

BTW, I have known about Pratibha Patil for 30+ years by now, right since early 1970s, when she was almost nobody—only an MLA or so I guess. I was a school-going kid then. My father was posted in a rural part of Jalgaon—her district. (An MLA of a nearby constituency was an acquaintance from my mother’s side, too.) From what I know, I think that Pratibha Patil happens to be an unusually good choice for the President’s post. Don’t rejoice so immediately, Indira Congress, because I also think that she never really deserved to be in the Indira Congress party. Though, of course, I also think that the only party she could have fit in was the Congress party—not the BJP. To conclude this paragraph: I have nothing against her, but much to say about her party colleagues and their “high command” i.e. the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Outwardly, the Indira Congress might show as if Pawar’s going against the current “high-command” Sonia was the main issue. … I don’t think so… It isn’t as simple as that.

In a mixed economy, there is this hidden ring of influence-peddlers, deal-makers, and what not. Read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for a wonderful story that has this kind of evil but polished gangsters as a part of the background. Given Rand’s penetration, one gains so many insights that it’s impossible to convey even a superficial sense of them. [A note to “Objectivists”: Right the first time that I wrote the preceding statement, I was aware of the epistemologically non-Objectivist terms being used in it.  I let it be—sometimes, the tone is better conveyed using Aristotelian terms.] It’s this ring which really forms the “establishment.” It’s this ring or clique that picks up issues, works the media, etc. It’s this ring which is worse than the leader, and yet, since it has made itself indispensable to the running of the party and the state, cannot be thrown out. It’s this ring that won’t tolerate in-party elections. When one fumes against Delhi-waalaahs, it’s mostly the intellectuals in the (mostly indirect) employ of this ring that one is directly referring it. (Indirectly, one refers to all of them.) It’s this ring that won’t have anyone other than the comfortable known ones occupy the real power. Pawar would have been an outsider to this ring.

If I say that this ring is as powerful as it is, then why do I still continue to place so much blame with Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi?

The point is this. Both were not powerful even in the early 1990s. Both are, today—Sonia of course being the master between the two. And, both have reached their respective positions (of the formal power and the real power) by consciously allowing themselves to be manipulated by the ring, by being projected as Mr. Clean and Mrs. Clean, respectively. Obviously, they know the game, at least enough rudiments of it that they can’t be spared—one cannot go by the images they project anyway! And, secondly, this all is still is in the recent past, and therefore, has a more immediate import. It all still is in fresh memory…

Nehru’s misuse of power was relatively minor (regardless of what the BJP, Atanu Dey and Vinod Khosla may believe.) Further, it is relatively a distant past—mostly not even a part of the living memory. The times in which Nehru and even Yashwantrao Chavan lived also were different. It would be easier to make an honest error about the nature of socialism and capitalism in those times; the Berlin wall had not yet fallen, the USSR had not yet broken up, a Margaret Thatcher had not yet become a PM in the UK, a new generation of intellectuals able to argue convincingly for capitalism had not arisen, even Ayn Rand’s works were still being formulated, published and circulated. Those clearly were different times. Not that I am sparing the politicians of those times, but one has to consider the broad context. And then, speaking of those times, one also remembers the appreciation that a Nehru could accord a Vajpayee; the treatment that a Chavan could accord to a JRD.

In contrast, the power maneuvers of the current Indira Congress (and BJP) politicians, here, particularly, Sonia and Man Mohan, are fresh. They are fresh enough to have happened in front all those “resurgent” Indians who even today are only in their mid-30s.

Of course, the establishment, once it gets entrenched, is not easy to throw out. But if either of them—Sonia or Man Mohan—had really wanted to clean up the system, the first thing they could have done, either at the beginning of UPA-II or at least after Man Mohan’s surgery, was to let him take a majestic exit, and invite Pawar to be the PM for the rest of the UPA-II term. The skills of Man Mohan could be utilized by making a sufficiently high-level special appointment for him spear-heading a consulting group for the government. But now consider what the act of making Pawar a PM would require.  It would irreversibly start changing the Indira Congress to the Congress by making it a bottom-to-top organization. This would pave the way to taking the in-party elections seriously, and would lead to a virtually inexhaustible supply of the right kind of political talent.

What the two idiots have instead done is to determinedly keep this entire scenario out the realm of possibility—by repeatedly citing the numbers game as would happen in an unlimited democracy. Further, they have consciously tried to strengthen the “ring” by allowing the latter polished gangsters to make Rahul a top-most party functionary, by the grace of Sonia. And now, they have even gone to the extent of suggesting in public that Rahul can be a cabinet minister, by the grace of Man Mohan.

If Rahul could come up via a bottom-to-top political process mentioned earlier, one wouldn’t have objected to it so firmly. Rahul could still be criticized, just as Pawar also could still be criticized if he were t become a PM. But think of the enormous nature of cleanliness the process would bring to Indian politics. Think of the nature of criticism in that kind of a context.

BTW, when Dilip Padgaonkar rued on the occasion of the golden jubilee of Maharashtra’s forming that current politicians have no stature comparable to those of the yester-years, though most (probably including “Objectivists”) seemed to agree, I didn’t. The statement is only partially true (and I don’t know the extent). You see, the judgment is being flatly passed on individuals—nay, only a class of individuals, namely, the politicians—-without a thought on the rest of the context. In particular, have intellectuals become worse or not? How about the media people? Why did a Nikhil Wagle sound so convincing when he was publicly worrying about the loss of the vigorous intellectual activity in Maharashtra in the recent decades? Nikhil referred to the 19th century greats, but one can also clearly see that his point remains valid to those from just one or two generations ago. Did Padgaonkar or anyone else (a pathetic example being Abhay Vaidya) even in the privacy of their own minds touch upon this aspect before opening their respective mouths in public? I, for one, don’t mind entertaining the thought that a Pawar may not be comparable to a Chavan, even that he could be worse. Why not? Thinking is thinking; it must cover all logical possibilities. But the important point is that I cannot permit myself to become so very “tunnel-visioned” that I also cease to think about how to place a Padgaonkar, or a Ketkar, or a Gupta, …. in comparison with, say, an Atre, an Agarkar, a Tilak, why, even a Talwalkar. (I would apply a similar procedure also to “Objectivists.”)

Just ask yourself: How easy it is to use one’s position of a public intellectual—no matter how obtained—and then pick out a man or the political class just because no one notices. And, how difficult is it, really, to place issues in proper contexts?

One writes in support of Pawar one day, and one finds “support” (always way way way indirect) ebbing from “Objectivist” circles.

On such occasions, one fondly turns to—who else but—Aristotle. Or rather, what one had read a professor say about Aristotle in a preface/forward to an Aristotle translation. I try to convey some sense of what that professor had said here. The words not at all exact, but the import is: The great master thought it important to make that distinction between a man of ideas on the one hand and a man of action on the other. He taught that we cannot expect the same precision from a rhetoric of a politician as we would from a geometer’s proof. The most organic of all philosophers in history once again hit the golden mean when he came to study both types of men as if they were specimens in his study of life; he put them in their respective natural settings just as easily as he would not have expected a horse’s gait from a lion and vice versa; trying to see the essence of each, and then, succeeding just as magnificently in the task as ever. [Aid to reading: Aristotle did not denounce politicians as inherently debase; indeed, to a certain extent, he accorded an exalted status to them. The passages of translators, put in my words above, mean that it would be wrong to pull down either Chavan or Pawar just because one didn’t like them. Organic connotes both “wholistic” and “living”, roughly, this in turn means: truely having the breadth of philosophic abstractions, inductively derived from actual observations of the concretes, and, integrated together.]

Coming back to our less exalted times, Man Mohan made his remarks about Rahul while being fully sensitive about the impact this statement would make. [Here, one faintly recalls the “balloon” metaphor that was once used by Ayn Rand—essentially, she said something like this. Sometimes, when modern intellectuals (probably, she was talking of socialists) say or write something, its real purpose is not that issue itself, but something else. Just the way the meteorological people send an atmospheric probe in a balloon to judge weather conditions, similarly, the modern intellectuals say something not out of conviction but only as a means to judge how the public might react.]

Atanu Dey has recently characterized Man Mohan as a despicably dishonest man. I am still not sure about the degree of Man Mohan’s dishonesty, and therefore of despicability. But, yes, now, I do agree that he is a dishonest man. Any one lamenting (in that Sri^2R tone) that a Sikh couldn’t possibly become a PM after the Indira Gandhi assassination just in a recent memory, and then, today, promptly forgetting Pawar but remembering only The Great Dimpler from The Family, just has to be plain dishonest.

Of course, it’s another matter why people still think that he is honest. The point is: he is a bureaucrat, and the middle-class (Brahmin etc.) men in BJP (together with India’s intellectuals and media men of the above-mentioned types), while trying to grab power in the last two decades, have made it look as if all the politicians are bad but that the bureaucrats are comparatively better. For example, an America-returned idiot by name Abhay Vaidya (together with that smoother Brahmin idiot going by the name Prakash Javadekar) never ever fails to attach the “Maratha strongman” adjective before Pawar’s name. Now, most of these Brahmins etc. have been only clerks, their highest aspiration being Principal/Chief Secretary. In fixing the blame on to the political caste, observe, how the media too exonerates itself. Ditto, here. Thus, bureaucrats cannot be bad. That’s an implicit premise, of course, but it’s there. It’s the background assumptions of this kind (Platonic and worse) which allow Singh to maintain the myth that he is a particularly honest man, a Mr. Clean. The perpetuation of the reputation happens rather by default than by positive canvassing about it. The last, being explicit, would be embarrassing, given the nature of the character. (The good stands to benefit if the terms are explicit and consistent but not the bad—and, BTW, this again is putting in my words a set of remarks by Rand, I guess concerning “compromise.”)

Another reason that Man Mohan’s Mr. Clean reputation perpetuates, of course, is that the globalizing idiots in black suits would love someone like Singh better, as compared to Pawar. And, here, by “globalizing idiots,” I mean the Western idiots (including Americans) as much as the Eastern idiots (by which I mean the ex-USSR types). All of them: “businessmen,” bureaucrats and politicians. According to this type of idiots (some of whose influence is clearly seen on also “Objectivists”), after all, Singh has spent time on Cambridge, hasn’t he? And, while Pawar was a protege of Chavan, who himself often espoused socialistic ideals, Singh had no political mentor, and therefore has to be better! Forget whether it’s Singh or Pawar who has been advocating more government spending. And, as to these globalizing idiots themselves, today, as Ayn Rand had noted, even the idiots running the Western institutions (governments, industry, business, universities, research, cultural institutions etc.) don’t know of capitalism as a moral ideal. Why would they take care to remember that the same Singh had argued for increased taxation even  during the BJP regime, in 1999/2000, right in Times of India? No matter how much of a hype rather than a real thing it was, the fact is, the term: “market economy” was in great currency in those times. And still, Singh was arguing for increased government expenditure, increased taxation. They wouldn’t remember this article or such convictions displayed by Singh time and again. Indeed, if you ask me who is safer to put in a position of real power: a bureaucrat intellectually convinced about higher government expenditure or a more practical (even pragmatic) kind of a politician who isn’t sure, says different things on different occasions, but when it comes to actual decision-making, one who is likely to consider the better among available minds, I would always say: pick up the politician. But of course, the Westerners need not think as much. To them, he is an “our kind of a guy,” a  Great Economy Reformer, etc.

To a certain theoretical extent, Nehru, and then practically to whatever extent that it was needed, Indira Gandhi, had reduced actual intellectual debates in India to next to nothing. Intellectual activity, to Indira, would have probably meant nothing more than reading either the government gazettes in the form newspapers censored by her cronies or the humanities books that were worse, and then regurgitating it all back. Naturally, our people have either forgotten or, given the demographics, have never been taught, what real intellectual activity is really like.

Naturally, without criticism from abroad—notably the West, notably the USA—and with the knowledge that the ability to criticize has already been crippled at home, Singh remains Mr. Clean, and Sonia remains in power.

And both help pave the way to Rahul as PM!

Before closing, a real quick one: Churumuri has recently wondered whether Rahul’s inner voice would tell him not to become a PM when in future the post comes walking to him. Two comments: (1) If only an inner voice stands between this incompetent guy (who hasn’t demonstrated any form of competence in any area of life except for the public life and politics arranged for him by the “ring”) and the top executive post of this country, what it tells about the state of politics here—the Indira Congress and the BJP included. (2) Let’s strengthen his inner voice: Let’s start telling him that he is too incompetent to be even an MLA or a party secretary let alone the PM of this great country. Yes, we can give him a chance but only if (i) his party begins to do the right kind of things: change the PM to Pawar, start the bottom-to-top approach within the party, expand the base, adopt the right kind of ideas (a small government limited by individual rights and free markets or at least definite progress towards this kind of a state), and (ii) he comes up through such a Congress, proving himself at every turn.

–  –  –  –  –

I think I am going to stop the practice of offering prayers via this blog. But for this last time, since it has happened in such a recent past, please offer prayers also to the victims of the accident to the “dnyaaneshwari” (also (incorrectly) spelt (in the North India) either as Gyaneshwari or Jnaneshwari) Express…. Since I don’t have enough money, I have yet to travel by plane in India (except for one small happy incident in 1983 that saw me and colleague trainee engineers take a Dakota aircraft flight from Pune to Mumbai—some 15 passengers, the co-passengers including Dharmendra, Hema, and Eesha, who was a kid in a frock back then.). Anyway, the point is: I always travel by train—have always taken trains to all my conferences including to those in Kharagpur and Ranchi. … It easily could have been me. … So, while saying that I am going to discontinue this practice of asking you to offer prayers, let me request you for one last time to offer your prayers. Thanks…

And, a related comment: Sonia Gandhi has reportedly said that the root cause of the Maoist terrorism is poverty and insufficient government expenditure on that region etc. Also, I need not comment about Arundhati Roy—every one knows that she has barely escaped “marrying” into a Maoist group, that’s all. My suggestion for all our safety is to put both these ladies into a normal train (so that the Maoists can’t tell trains apart) and let it roam all around the Naxalites-infested region continuously, until the time that peace is restored. If the Gandhi-cap-wearing Indira Congress idiots also want to join them, all the better for you and me. And while we are at it, also make sure to keep also Rahul on the same train. Not to be forgotten also are communists from Kerala and West Bengal. (BTW, I meant no disrespect to Mahatma Gandhi or to the cap; I primarily take it as a symbol of the Freedom Movement, though secondarily, I can also appreciate what Jabbar Patel popularized about it: “hyaa Topikhaali daDalay kaay” etc., but not as frequently as a BJP/RSS idiot, esp. the one serving with Sun Microsystems or any other IT company abroad, might imagine when I say that.)

–  –  –  –  –
A Song I Like:
(Hindi) “pari hoon main…”
Singer: Suneeta Rao

[PS: Update on June 3, 2010: Mostly done streamlining and adding. I have in fact added a lot of matter today. This has affected the flow of arguments—this is now almost completely lost! Doesn’t matter. This is not meant to be an article; just a blog post. I might use ideas and expressions here as raw material for better written articles/essays, later on. Forgive any typos, mistakes, and carry on—by which I mean, try to understand the ideas here: your understanding the post won’t harm me, and, I am confident, it would also be good for you. [This involves no arrogance; the process of understanding always is like that; and I am confident of having put in enough original, new, and good ideas.]]