Last SF Meetup – Sat Mar 31, 2:30pm-6:30pm (& thanks!)

Hello Mutineers. Long time no chat. ;-)

But before the sentimentality, some important business – the last ever San Francisco Bay Area Meetup is tomorrow

  • Where: UPDATED LOCATION: The Liberties in the Mission/Dolores area — 998 Guerrero & 22nd (we outgrew Udupi Palace)
  • When: UPDATED TIME – 2:30 – 6:30pm — we’ll be lounging for a while so feel free to drop in, share a pint or 2 and listen/tell stories
  • Who: friends past & present, old bloggers, current bloggers, guest bloggers, grizzled comments flame war vets, lurkers, and riff raff of various stripes

The Facebook event is here.

So what can I say that hasn’t already been (quite ably) said by my fellow bloggers? Continue reading

>1 Billion People…

… are hungry. So notes a widely cited piece by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo in Foreign Policy.

But is it really true? Are there really more than a billion people going to bed hungry each night? Our research on this question has taken us to rural villages and teeming urban slums around the world, collecting data and speaking with poor people about what they eat and what else they buy, from Morocco to Kenya, Indonesia to India.

Despite rising incomes & cheaper than ever food, for some reason, too many poor folk are simply choosing NOT to expend their $$ on nutrition –

Despite the country’s rapid economic growth, per capita calorie consumption in India has declined; moreover, the consumption of all other nutrients except fat also appears to have gone down among all groups, even the poorest. …at all levels of income, the share of the budget devoted to food has declined and people consume fewer calories.

[Indians] and their children are certainly not well nourished by any objective standard. Anemia is rampant; body-mass indices are some of the lowest in the world; almost half of children under 5 are much too short for their age, and one-fifth are so skinny that they are considered to be “wasted.”

So what’s going on? And what should “we” do about it?

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~1 in 5 Indian Families…

…receive some sort of state assistance / welfare today. That surprisingly high number (well, to me anyway) is from a recently published report by the Center for Immigration Studies that’s sure to generate some interesting (and perhaps heated) discussion.

Households with children with the highest welfare use rates are those headed by immigrants from the Dominican Republic (82 percent), Mexico and Guatemala (75 percent), and Ecuador (70 percent). Those with the lowest use rates are from the United Kingdom (7 percent), India (19 percent), Canada (23 percent), and Korea (25 percent).

While 19% “feels” higher than I’d expect, it’s still a little less than half the rate of “native households with children” (39%). And, the Indian number is positive relative to those hordes of poor, illiterate, malnourished, Americans-of-Canadian-descent (23%) and is the lowest rate of use of any of the Asian communities identified. A model minority?

Interestingly, I’ve always generally assumed that immigration patterns from India vs. Pakistan into the US were basically the same. However, the Pakistani-household rate of assistance – 32.8% – is substantially higher than the Indian one and on par with the rate for Chinese families – 32.7%.

CIS’s intro to their study notes the issues being raised and points out that the data collected is primarily self-reported (with all the issues/concerns entailed) –

Concern that immigrants may become a burden on society has been a long-standing issue in the United States. As far back as colonial times there were restrictions on the arrival of people who might become a burden on the community. This report analyzes survey data collected by the Census Bureau from 2002 to 2009 to examine use of welfare programs by immigrant and native households, particularly those with children. The Current Population Survey (CPS) asks respondents about their use of welfare programs in the year prior to the survey,1 so we are examining self-reported welfare use rates from 2001 to 2009.

Any mutineers have insight into these differences?

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“Bangalore instead of Burbank”

It’s an election year and it appears yet again that few things trigger the emotional tripwire faster than outsourcing. Out here in Cali, it’s apparently the ticket Barbara Boxer is banking on to preserve her Senate seat in the face of her challenger, former HP CEO, Carly Fiorina –

“I know precisely why those jobs go…Because Fiorina shipped them there….Bangalore instead of Burbank.”

Unfortunately, unlike Boxer, Fiorina has actually engaged in the difficult and often unpopular tradeoffs necessary to run a viable company and meet payroll. Boxer ought to instead put more effort into understanding why Fiorina and thousands of CEO’s like her consistently rate California the worst state in the country to do business. As a direct consequence, California jobs are far more at risk of being “outsourced” to other states than the comparatively few that are sent out of the country.

Of course, when you’re dealing with politics rather than economics, where a job was sent to matters far more than the sheer number lost – a fact Boxer’s ad exploits to the fullest.

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Outsourced…. It was OK

DVR’d Outsourced and watched it this afternoon and…. I guess I mostly agree with the New York Times. The show wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I was certainly expecting a much less flattering portrayal of desis, crude jokes about accents, and the like. Instead, most of the show was a traditional fish-out-of-water comedy with the joke often on the opey white guy.

The variety of supporting cast sorta intrinsicly ensure that desi portrayals aren’t unidimensional and at least a couple of the characters have room to emerge with some sophistication. Todd, the lead, has got potential white and desi love interests, a back stabbing nemesis, a project, and a budding protégé.

My main problem with the show….it just wasn’t that funny. Todd’s the most developed character and most of his jokes are just too cliché to really hit. The writers appear so eager to avoid simplistic desi characters that they make Todd the simplistic “fresh from Kansas” character instead (does he really expect everyone on the planet to understand a Packer Cheesehead?)

Still, you can see how it takes the Office formula, shakes it up a bit, and tries to create something new. But while so much of the Office is about capturing character nuance (we’ve all worked with or known someone like Dwight), it’s tough to do the same with comparatively alien characters. At least in an initial, 30 minute episode. So, I plan on DVR’ing the upcoming episodes and giving the show a chance to dig out of the laughter deficit it’s currently in.

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“Outsourced” – Something to Look Forward To?

After much fanfare, NBC debuts a new fall comedy tonight with a decidedly Desi theme – Outsourced. Here in the Bay Area, it’s on NBC @ 9:30pm. The show’s premise?

Now, for most mutineers who grew up in the post-Simpsons/Apu age, the idea of an entire comedy focused on Desi’s isn’t a theme we particularly look forward to. However, the NYT got a sneak-peak of the show and published a pretty complimentary and hopeful review –

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Suomi-Bhangra

Sometimes, you really do just have to watch the video.

Mutineers, I now present you… Finnish Bhangra –

My take? I love it. Like Absolut Mulit (full video here), it represents an incredibly perceptive outsider’s take on desi culture. The music, the singing, the imagery, the dancing, and the overall gestalt are both accurate and ironic. When “inside” and “outside” mesh so darn well, it transcends the usual boundaries and we’re forced to take a step back and recognize just how broad & progressively inviting the diaspora truly is.

The group, Shava, describes themselves and their mission well –

Welcome to the home page of Shava, which is guaranteed to be the world’s only Finnish bhangra group. Shava plays music which is meant for fun and dancing, and Shava’s gigs are a proof that their unique blend of Bollywood-bhangra dance beats with Finnish attitude and language works perfectly to free your mind and your pelvis and to make you get up and dance.

…The group’s name bears no complicated philosophical meaning. Shouting shava, shava>> is normal behaviour for Punjabis having a good time, and it is something the band is trying to teach to Finnish audiences.

Bravo. Continue reading

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India’s Ailing Manufacturing Sector & Unions

The WSJ has a sobering article on the state of the manufacturing & labor relations in India –

COIMBATORE, India — This ancient city has turned itself in recent years into a manufacturing dynamo emblematic of India’s economic rebirth. But a homicide case playing out in an auto-parts factory here is raising concerns about whether the Indian industrial miracle is hitting a wall of industrial unrest.

We can’t be a capitalist country that has socialist labor lawsPricol Ltd., which makes instrument panels for the likes of Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co., was rocked in late September when workers burst into the office of Roy George, its 46-year-old human-resources boss. Angry over a wage freeze, they carried iron rods, witnesses say, and left Mr. George in a pool of blood. Police arrested 50 union members in connection with his death, their lawyer says. Charges haven’t been filed.

The underlying question raised by this story is the size, shape & importance of the manufacturing sector for India’s long term economic development…

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When History Fell In India

While on the topic of why India didn’t liberalize sooner, an article posted to the SM’s News column points at one important factor. In his “Letter from India” column in the NYT, Akash Kapur reflects on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall the impact it had on India -

Most of the media coverage has, quite understandably, focused on Europe. But the tremors from Communism’s collapse were felt far beyond the immediate battlegrounds of the Cold War. The breakup of the Soviet Union had a profound impact on India. In many ways, it paved the way for a reinvention of the country

Akash Kapur

While an important socio-political milestone, Kapur notes the equally important intellectual milestone – an event Francis Fukuyama memorably christened The End of History. History in this sense didn’t mean an “end to events” but rather, the (potential) end of a type of dialectical debate about political systems. Continue reading

What if India had Liberalized Sooner?

Historical “what-if’s” are notoriously difficult to prove but also notoriously delicious to discuss. Would WWII have happened if Hitler had been killed in the trenches of WWI? [W]ith earlier reform, 14.5 million more children would have survived, 261 million more Indians would have become literate, and 109 million more people would have risen above the poverty line.Would there have been a WWI if Franz Ferdinand survived the assassination attempt? What if Al Gore got his Florida recount? What would have become of Sonam Kapoor’s career if she skipped the flop that was Saawariya?

Arguably, while many of the most famous what-if’s focus on chance events in history, prominent Indian econ journalist Swaminathan Aiyar, writing for the Cato Institute, decided to take on a far more considered, deliberate economic policy “what-if”. He asks “what if India liberalized its economy 10 yrs earlier?” Put differently, what if 1970s India followed the economic path pursued by Korea, Japan, and Taiwan?

Until the 80s/90s rounds of liberalization, India followed a Soviet-inspired economic model resulting in stuff like this –

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