Friday, 23 June 2017

Logos as Pneuma in Theotokos' ear

That the Big Bang be but our Clay's Anaximenean belch
Pray our Economy's Strato, such Ecclesia yet felch
That Logos as Pneuma in Theotokos' ear
Protrude a turd from Plato's rear

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Loan waivers keep people poor

Hori Lal is 70. He cultivates one acre of potatoes assisted by his three sons, their wives, and ten grandchildren. He took a loan of a little more than a thousand dollars in 2015.  According to calculations made by a Hindustan Times reporter, he loses about 300 dollars, not counting his family's own labour, each season. This, assumes that he has a good harvest and manages to sell it all at the high Government support price. In the past, there have been years when Hori Lal got nothing.

Why does Hori Lal cultivate potatoes when he knows he will lose money? He says 'What else can we do? This is what my family has always done. This is all we know. At least, it gets us some vegetables for the home.” Lal says sending his sons out to work is not a solution: they were unskilled and would get Rs 250 ($4) as labour charges for a day, which they could get in the village too. “At least we are together.”

. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

Should we believe Hori Lal is telling the truth? No. Of course not. Nobody can be that stupid. He must be borrowing as much money from the Government as he can, promising to grow an unprofitable crop, because he knows he won't have to pay it back. In his position, we would do the same.

Any elected Government is going to want to keep Hori Lal and his family on their acre and a half of land at the price of regular loan waivers. His family probably has ten voters at the moment and that number will only go up.  So writing off a thousand dollars of debt every couple of years is a pretty economical way of buying votes.

There is a twist to this story. It has to do with minimum support prices. People like Hori Lal do actually grow potatoes, not because they are dependent on selling them to cover their living expenses- they do that by availing of other Government schemes and also labouring for contractors- but because it can be an enticing speculation- potatoes can suddenly spike in price yielding them a windfall. However, this can only happen if there is no minimum support price and thus 'cowbeb' like price volatility. Notice that it is speculative behaviour, not adaptive expectations, which enables this volatility. Yet this speculation is of a peculiar sort- punters seem to be betting on the stupidity of their own class- Hori Lal's labour in his potato field is the moral equivalent of the West's urban poor spending a portion of their dole on scratchcards.
This is an example of Muth Rational Expectations creating a repugnant type of negative sum stochastic game absent moral viciousness. But why? There can be only one explanation. Hori Lal and his ilk are doing something extraordinarily eusocial. They are sacrificing a portion of their own number so at least a few can climb out of their common poverty trap over the corpses of their fellows. Needless to say, that trap was not dug by them but for them by bien pensant elites.

In this case, marginal producers like Hori Lal are squeezed out by support prices intended to shore up their miserable standard of living. The contract farmers benefit, agribusiness benefits, corporate supply chains are protected, everybody wins- except Hori Lal. Why? Well, his credit has been shot to pieces. Had he grown nothing on his land and sent his sons off to the City to work, he could have raised about 70,000 dollars on one acre, or more than 100,000 if he sold it outright. As things are, he is shut out of the relevant credit market.  This is a pity because a scarcely literate (and therefore trustworthy) yeoman who commands the labour power of three hard working sons and ten grandchildren should be able to raise 50,000 dollars with a low real interest rate 50 percent mortgage, and generate a gross contribution three times that in the far less inherently risky small scale tertiary sector.

This is a case where what is good for Hori Lal is also good for the Economy. He and his family- assuming they have the sort of work ethic common in the area- will be affluent in a decade and wealthy in two.  Instead of being a drain upon the exchequer, they will be paying more and more into it.

Why does the State not want this outcome for Hori Lal? The answer is that, at the moment, politicians giving Loan waivers believe they are purchasing votes cheaply. They dread the day when they have to deliver something more substantial. Since the Administration- from the 1890's onward- too dreads that day, both politicians and administrators have conspired to shut Hori Lal out of informationally efficient credit markets, preferring instead to corral them into an informationally inefficient, incentive incompatible, welfarist 'pooling equilibrium' such that the representative agent is forced to be either stupid or a liar or a particularly stupid liar. Indian Social Science is not similarly constrained but displays its empathy for the surd and subaltern masses by being nothing but a bunch of stupid lies.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Baby Jesus, Thou migrant born, under the Red Sun of doomed Krypton

I was so attentive a student in Catechism class
How did this cataclysm come to pass?
Baby Jesus, Thou migrant born
Under the Red Sun of doomed Krypton

Must those who, Thee in Me, yet surmise
Be galled to recall we were once the same size
& as the Selfish Giant of our Common Past
View me alone thus aghast?

I hid my heart's horcruxes in whom to hurt none need
I am that Goliath saved in David's seed
Who to ward myself, not a mutual wound bewail
Became the hammer of Thy every nail.


Peace's Prince! Eve's umbilical so tolerates torsion
Thy Iyer's birth is my Messiah's abortion. 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Ghalib's ghazal 126

My severed tongue had served to second hers berating my butchered heart as dross
In Hurt's howl, how assay the elegiac, or in Suicide, foul, Art as Loss?
That she heavier scowl, my head spins like an owl
Into fight's ring, flyte's towel to toss

To my despair divide, whomsoever I draw
So defamed for consuming it raw
 A tongue of fire, Grief must sire
 Or burn up Love in its craw!

Hearing the Heavens thunder over its natal heath
 Only the caged bird can attest
How, as forked as Fate's Lightning sheath
Longing obliterates its nest

See F.W. Pritchett's site for detailed commentary here.
kisī ko de ke dil koʾī navā-sanj-e fiġhāñ kyūñ ho
nah ho jab dil hī sīne meñ to phir muñh meñ zabāñ kyūñ ho

vuh apnī ḳhū nah chhoṛeñge ham apnī vaẓʿa kyūñ chhoṛeñ
subuk-sar ban ke kyā pūchheñ kih ham se sar-girāñ kyūñ ho

kiyā ġham-ḳhvārī ne rusvā lage āg is muḥabbat ko
nah lāve tāb jo ġham kī vuh merā rāz-dāñ kyūñ ho

qafas meñ mujh se rūdād-e chaman kahte nah ḍar hamdam
girī hai jis pah kal bijlī vuh merā āshiyāñ kyūñ ho

Friday, 16 June 2017

Grenfell Tower & Democracy's Inferno

The towering inferno in North Kensington which has so shocked this country was predicted almost exactly 6 months ago on the Grenfell Action Group's blog-

'It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.'

What is the KCTMO?
An evil Corporation, right?
Probably owned by a shady oligarch through a series of shell companies in the Caribbean.

Even if this 'mini-mafia' is convicted of 'corporate manslaughter' in the Courts, only James Bond will be able to penetrate the oligarch's secret lair atop some Swiss mountain, or deep inside a Japanese volcano, in order to deal out summary Justice.
But, it turns out, KCTMO aint some heartless Corporate behemoth.
The truth is stranger than fiction.

According to its website- 'In the early 1990s, the tenants and leaseholders of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea decided to pursue their legal right to manage their own homes. Following two separate ballots in 1994 and 1995, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) was established on 1 April 1996 and the responsibility for managing 9,760 properties passed from The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the Tenant Management Organisation.

In 2002 KCTMO took over the responsibility for major capital works from the Council to access extra resources and funding to enable KCTMO to bring the properties up to the Decent Homes Standard.

In other words, because a Labour Govt. refused to give money to elected Local Councils to spend on repairs, KCTMO, being an 'arms-length' organisation was able to use public funds to meet the Government's new energy efficiency target by installing external cladding which appears to have been highly flammable. Prior to 1986, the Law prevented them from doing anything so silly. External walls had to offer at least one hour's fire resistance. Then, under Mrs. Thatcher, this stipulation was dropped. External walls could be combustible but ought not- as happened here- contribute to flammability.

It has been suggested in the newspapers that they could have used a superior type of cladding for just a few thousand pounds more. No doubt, they'd have done so had the Residents wanted a change to the exterior- in which case they are scarcely likely to have sacrificed fire security for aesthetics when an extra spend of Five thousand pounds was all that was required. The truth is the Residents weren't initiating these renovations. KCTMO was only complying with the Blair Govt's target because public funds were available to do so and the Borough Council wanted to prettify this eyesore. The alternative was knocking the place down.

It is noteworthy that the residents don't appear to have fought hard for a sprinkler system- which might have cost a couple of hundred thousand pounds and added to the disruption caused by other up-grading work. With hindsight, this was a bad decision but, to be fair, the residents are mainly working people or retirees who are just managing to get by.
Thus, on the face of it, this is an example of poor people being economically constrained in the exercise of democratic control.
After all, their building sounds as if is run democratically.
KCTMO is managed by a Board of Directors comprising of eight elected tenant and leaseholder members, four appointed Councillor members and three independent appointed other members.

KCTMO is a company limited by guarantee with members whose main residence is in Council owned or leasehold accommodation. There are currently over 4,500 members of KCTMO, and we actively encourage residents to become members. If you are interested in becoming a member, please visit the KCTMO Membership section of this website.

The Board meets on a regular basis to monitor how well KCTMO is doing, agree plans for the future and decide on policies. Board members are also involved in committees, sub-committees, working groups and panels. Board members are elected for three years. They are not paid for their work and are not allowed to do paid professional work for KCTMO.

A Chief Executive, appointed by the Board, has overall responsibility for the successful operation of KCTMO, and for ensuring that the Board's decisions and policies are carried out.

At the time of the transfer of management responsibility to KCTMO, approximately 18% of the properties had been sold on long leases. Many of these had been bought under the Right to Buy legislation, first introduced in 1980, although for many years before the Royal Borough had been using its discretionary powers to sell property to its existing tenants. Many residents who purchased under the Right to Buy legislation have since sold on their properties and a large number of our leases are held by residents who have bought on the open market. These residents continue to be subject to the terms of the original lease.

What could be more democratic and decent than an organisation set up by residents to manage the properties they themselves live in?

A year ago, if anyone had drawn my attention to the Grenfell Action Group's blog, I'd have dismissed it as the work of a crank- perhaps someone who had lost an election to the Management Board or else someone with an eccentric or extremist political agenda. After all, KCTMO is a democratic set-up. Democracy is always a good thing- right?
The Grenfell Action Group explains why- 'Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation. We believe that the KCTMO have ensured their ongoing survival by the use of proxy votes at their Annual General Meeting that see them returned with a mandate of 98% in favour of the continuation of their inept and highly dangerous management of our homes. It is no coincidence that the 98% is the same figure that is returned by the infamous Kim Jong-un of North Korea who claims mass popularity while reputedly enslaving the general population and starving the majority of his people to death.

'It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice! The Grenfell Action Group believe that the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring. We believe that our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO with the help of the RBKC Scrutiny Committee who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.'

Why did Grenfell Tower Residents not use their voting power to effect change?
My guess is that many of them were sub-leasing and thus could not register to vote.
The original tenant's proxy vote remained with KCTMO who thus had less incentive to check this reflected actual occupation.
No doubt, there is a class angle to this as well. Those Council tenants who could exercise their right to buy probably sold up and took a windfall profit. Subsequent owners probably found it more remunerative to rent out units in decrepit high-rise buildings rather than live their themselves. Their proxy votes might well support an organisation which cuts corners when it comes to poorer people while delivering a good and cost effective service to better off members living in salubrious areas.

Reading the Grenfell Tower Action Group's blog shows that Local Councillors tend to be responsive to resident's concerns. However, they are a minority on the Board. Thus, though the normal Democratic check, via the intervention of elected local politicians, is in place, it has in fact been diluted- and, it may be, defeated- by the appearance of something more Democratic yet- vz. the fact that elected Residents formed the majority on the Board.

The Grenfell Towering Inferno has become a symbol of the failure of what appear to be Democratic Social Choice Mechanisms across the breadth of the land. Even the Daily Mail's front page is carrying stories trashing Conservatives- like the former Head of the Council who says the residents didn't want the disruption associated with putting in sprinklers, or Boris Johnson who, as Mayor, told a Labour colleague to 'get stuffed' when tackled over his swingeing cuts to the Fire Services. Amazingly, the Daily Mail appears to be praising Jeremy Corbyn for suggesting that the empty apartments of the ultra-rich in the Borough should be seized to re-house the victims. Theresa May, on the other hand, is disparaged for her cowardly refusal to meet the aggrieved local people. Grenfell is being called her Katrina movement. More than her political future is now in doubt. Even the Telegraph has a picture of Corbyn comforting a grieving young woman. His claim regarding the 'North South' divide in the Royal Borough is, rightly, being treated as a call, even by the die-hard Tory press, for root and branch reform within the party. Sadiq Khan, London's Mayor, is taking a beating for having been lukewarm to Corbyn. 

Emma Dent Coad, the new M.P for the area- elected with a margin of just 20 votes- sums up the anger we are all feeling. She claims that the work done on the Grenfell Tower- which turned it into a fire-trap- was a purely 'aesthetic re-fit' which the residents neither wanted nor benefited by. The Council's sole concern was to improve the optics of the area so as to attract yet more speculative development from which nobody really benefits.

Something similar happened to democratic politics when image won out over substance. There was a purely 'aesthetic re-fit' which ended up making the whole structure more flammable.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

zamin bhukh

Qazi, tho' upon thy shrunken shoulder, again & too briefly rests
The bier of thy son, the martyr, sole, our noble insurrection attests
A burden more unbearable yet is zamin bhukh- Love's love of Land
Which buries all no matter what the nonsense for which they stand.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Bacholan & Qarin.

When the grandmother, who brought you up, went to her eldest son's to die
You accepted the first  match the bacholan brought
Was it your qarin uttered qubool to the N.R.I?
Or was Bilayat your ziyarat to her burial plot?

Today, I wanted to say, trusting to a bacholan of another sort
To the girl crying in the Royal Marsden parking lot
That bit of Britain between the two of you en-stitched
Has, for us all, Jannath enriched.

Prince! Twixt the heart's insurrection & Islam's shaking fist
Tears are the shrapnel of thy true Terrorist