Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Big Apple

Off to New York this Sunday for a week. Its going to be my longest work trip since Kabeer (Hong Kong was 5 days, but for NY the long flights eat into the weekends on either side of the week). So while I'm excited prefessionally as well as personally, the thought of a week without K throws me into occassional bouts of depression. Besides, the time-zones are going to make it impossible to Skype very often.

On a less depressing note however, have a long list of shopping & restaurant to-do's from my New-Yorker-in-exile friend A; although every 3rd row in her list reads "I'm so jealous of you" or "I wish I could come along". Also excited to meet with friends & family there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An economist's take on Israel-Palestine

Read this paper by an economist on the Palestine-Israel conflict. Mahatma Gandhi would've said, "I told you so" (well, perhaps not); but politics and nationalistic fervour do not have the rational approach of an economist or a pacifist, I suppose.

Econometric techniques allow us to empirically test the degree to which violence on each side occurs in response to aggression by the other side. Prior studies using these methods have argued that Israel reacts strongly to attacks by Palestinians, whereas Palestinian violence is random (i.e., not predicted by prior Israeli attacks). Here we show that when nonlethal forms of violence are considered, and when a larger dataset is used, Palestinian violence also reveals a pattern of retaliation: (i) the firing of Palestinian rockets increases sharply after Israelis kill Palestinians, and (ii) the probability (although not the number) of killings of Israelis by Palestinians increases after killings of Palestinians by Israel. These findings suggest that Israeli military actions against Palestinians lead to escalation rather than incapacitation. Further, they refute the view that Palestinians are uncontingently violent, showing instead that a significant proportion of Palestinian violence occurs in response to Israeli behavior. Well-established cognitive biases may lead participants on each side of the conflict to underappreciate the degree to which the other side’s violence is retaliatory, and hence to systematically underestimate their own role in perpetuating the conflict.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Explosions in Mumbai. Again.

I can't say I'm particularly disappointed in the Intelligence folks. Anyone who has been at Kabutar-khana or Zaveri-bazaar can vouch that there's no way to spot that man with a bomb in those crowded markets.

They perhaps could've stopped the bombs from entering the country or city? But in a city where a fake passport comes so cheap and hundreds of shanty-boats offload tonnes of who-knows-what on its coasts illegally everyday, how could I expect them to spot three small packets with bombs in it?

Besides, how difficult is it to make those things onshore? They could've been made 3 miles from my home in Mumbai & I wouldn't be shocked.

I'm not sure I'm especially disappointed in the politicians & policy-makers either. I don't think the events on the day would've played out any differently if there was a different CM, PM or party. I'm not sure what I expect my leaders to do in the face of these temperamental outbursts of vain anger. For now, I would just like them to focus on not selling telecom rights for bribery.

Like everyone in Mumbai, I have learnt not to expect any different, I guess. The promise of change is jaded. All I've been able to do so far is 'like' a Facebook page called 'Terrorism sucks'.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Anniversary

It was our anniversary this week & because I often get paranoid about the death of romance in our marriage-after-kids, we did take a day off from work. But eventually spent it doing odd pending chores (there simply are so many things to do!).

I complain about it to H, but not whole-heartedly. There are different kinds of romances. There's the romance of the Paris-kind (which is most often referred to simply as 'romance') and there's the romance of the Mumbai-kind (best personified by those couples seen sitting at Juhu beach convinced that they're in an isolated romantic setting, despite the scary hijara-gang approaching them; the smell of human feaces & the muddy-brown sea water with plastic waste floating on it.)

Romantics are optimists (and perhaps all optimists are romantic?). Life is running our life at the moment, but we took the time; the day to feel. We still believe in the specialness of our togetherness. The phase of manicness will pass. Or so I hope!