Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Evangelists of Democracy : Karl Popper, George Soros, Francis Fukuyama

Evangelists of Democracy | The National Interest:

Liberal democrats are gloating over the triumph of liberalism and democracy everywhere. From Daniel Bell's End of Ideology to Francis Fukuyama's End of History it has been claimed that ideologies are no longer at war against one another and there is an ideological convergence in the world now. There is democratic triumphant today. But these liberal democrats forget the lessons of great liberal John Stuart Mill, who advocated the case of liberty against democracy. Democracy may well be majority tyranny having a disdain for liberalism. The irony is that sometimes liberals turn out to be greatest illiberals.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Two books, two consequences: Shashi Tharoor on Congress icons - The Hindu: Mobile Edition

Th Two books, two consequences: Shashi Tharoor on Congress icons - 

Shashi Tharoor has spoken about the Dynasty as any honest and intelligent would do. If Tharoor shows such candour in politics, many Indians would admire him.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

U.S. Signs Declaration Of Dependence On China - Bhartihari Comes True

U.S. Signs Declaration Of Dependence On China | The Onion - America's Finest News Source:

Bhartihari, the composer of Shatak Trayee, has been proved right even in foreign policy matters. India is dependent on the USA and the USA is dependent on the People's Republic of China.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Working the Room - The Science of Humour Studies

Working the Room - Lapham’s Quarterly

What makes a politician endearing? Do politicians who laugh at themselves and make the audience/viewer laugh create a stronger rapport with them? An academic field of humour studies, made up of scholars from across the arts & sciences, has arisen . The three theories dominating the fray and trying to answer what makes a statement/ situation funny are 1) superiority theory favoured by Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, 2) relief theory favoured by Sigmond Freud and 3) incongruity theory favored by Aristotle, Cicero, Immanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer ( Find about these theories in the text).
Mel Brooks' definition of tragedy and comedy is revealing. "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."
Politicians, with strong sense of humour, create an easy rapport with the people. We Indians feel sorry that we don't have in our midst politicians like Abraham Lincoln , John F. Kennedy and even George W Bush, Jr. At the time of unveiling  his portrait in the White House, Bush told Obama," When you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, What would George do?" :) Kennedy said that his father had advised him not to buy more votes than was absolutely necessary to win.:)
It is not enough for politicians to amuse, they must also persuade for their benefit and others. Gorgias, a 5th century BC Greek philosopher and rhetorician, urged orators to" destroy one's adversaries' seriousness with laughter, and their laughter with seriousness." Aristotle, distinguishing mockery from buffoonery,  said " mockery is more gentlemanly than buffoonery; for the mocker makes a joke for his own amusement, the buffoon for the amusement of others." Our Lalu Yadav indulges in buffoonery. Our leaders must be able to withstand ridicule and use it as a weapon and not try to censor internet and other media.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Rotten Parliament

18 October 2012

How Freedom of Information requests led to a Parliamentary scandal: Read an excerpt from Heather Brooke’s book

The British Parliament elected in 2005 has an unfortunate nickname  — the “Rotten Parliament.”
Journalist Heather Brooke had a lot to do with the uncovering of their rottenness. In 2004, just a few years after the passage of the UK’s Freedom of Information Act, Brooke began requesting documentation on members of Parliament’s expenses, from their travel to their incidentals to their second homes.
“I didn’t set out to revolutionize the British Parliament. That was not my intention. I was just making these requests as research for my first book,” says Brooke in this moving talk from TEDGlobal. (The book is called Your Right to Know: A Citizen’s Guide to the Freedom of Information Act.) “[But] the amount of resistance I got, you would have thought … I was asking for the code to a nuclear bunker.”
It took a multi-year legal battle for Brooke to get the information she requested. And not all of it came through the usual channels. A whistleblower inside Parliament copied much of expense report data onto a disk, and walked out of the building with it, leaking it to The Daily Telegraph. Slews of stories followed, detailing expense abuses from a £12,000 gardening bill to £18,000 bookshelves to payments on a third home. A full-blown scandal erupted.
In the end, six ministers would resign — the Speaker of the House of Commons stepping down for the first time in 300 years. A new government was elected, with 120 members of Parliament opting not to seek re-election. A few of the former members of Parliament even received jail time.
“Access to information used to be quite a niche interest, but it’s gone mainstream,” says Brooke in her talk. “Everyone around the world wants to know what people in power are doing. They want a say in decisions made in their name and with their money.”
In her talk, Brooke highlights a few new tools, which she hopes will make tracking information on those in power much easier. Alaveteli.org aims to take the hassle out of Freedom of Information requests while creating a public database of the information received. Brooke is also a fan ofInvestigativeDashboard.org, which streamlines the process of tracking of assets across borders.
To hear more about Brooke’s battle with Parliament, listen to her talk. And after the jump, read an excerpt from her new book, The Revolution Will Be Digitised, which not only tells her story but looks at others — from pro-democracy campaigners to hackers — fighting what she calls “the Information War.”
Brooke’s new book begins:
“We are at an extraordinary moment in human history: never before has the possibility of true democracy been so close to realisation. As the cost of publishing and duplication has dropped to near zero, a truly free press, and a truly informed public, becomes a reality. A new Information Enlightenment is dawning where knowledge flows freely, beyond national boundaries. Technology is breaking down traditional social barriers of status, class, power, wealth and geography, replacing them with an ethos of collaboration and transparency. In this new Enlightenment it isn’t just scientific truths that are the goal, but discovering truths about the way we live, about politics and power.
During the first Enlightenment the free flow of information was considered essential to understanding the natural world; without full disclosure we had no hope of overcoming our inherent human biases that occluded our vision of the truth. In England, scientists were careful to cordon off this questing curiosity to science but its revolutionary impact in politics led to the American and French revolutions. Thomas Jefferson said that America was an experiment that would ‘demonstrate to the world the falsehood that freedom of [speech and] the press are incompatible with orderly government’. America produced ‘the first legislature that had the courage to declare that its citizens may be trusted with the formation of their own opinions’.
This aspiration is not solely American. Citizens around the world have long declared a desire to be trusted with the formation of their own opinions, and that can only come when they have access to the facts. This is the essence of the information war. Do we trust citizens to communicate freely and come to their own conclusions, or do we believe those in authority have a right to restrict and manipulate what we know? Do we hold to Enlightenment ideals of reason and the pursuit of truth no matter where that takes us, or put our faith in authority to make certain an uncertain world?
The Internet is powerful because it allows people to organise around issues at unprecedented speed, broadcast their thoughts and challenge those in charge. A wave of such groups banded together in early 2011 to demand the removal of authoritarian leaders in the Middle East as one country after another rose up with varying degrees of success. But the Internet doesn’t cause revolution. It is a communications network. What people choose to do with technology – that is where we can make moral judgements. Some people will use it for ill, others for good. Security forces tend to focus on the ills, while the majority use it for good. In the name of protecting us from ‘bad things on the Internet’ there are increasing moves to suppress communications networks in both repressive and democratic countries. Demands to shut down, censor, filter or in other ways oversee and control the way people communicate are on the rise.”
To read the rest of this excerpt, head to TheRevolutionWillBeDigitised.com.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Massimo Pigliucci – On consilience

Massimo Pigliucci – On consilience:

Are sciences and humanities antagonistic? Is there a fight for supremacy between the two? Are they two cultures, as C P Snow wanted us to believe? Where do the social sciences and philosophy stand? Can/should knowledge be compartmentalised? Find answer to these questions in the present article.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Isaiah Berlin - Philosopher of Freedom

It's Complicated > Jewish Review of Books:

Isaiah Berlin, one of the most distinguished philosopher of right, among other things, will be remembered for his distinction between " Freedom from" and "Freedom to". He considered freedom from as the kernel of freedom.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Renata Salecl on Modern Misery | The Browser

Renata Salecl on Modern Misery | The Browser:

Renata Salecl has identified the " tyranny of choice" as the main reason behind our misery. We have many choices and we choose the best according to our judgment. But " good, better, best" depend on the context. Read these books or read about them to realize the great wisdom of Indian Rishis & Munis.

Beneath their judicial robes - Salon.com

Beneath their judicial robes - Salon.com:

Stephen Breyer on Intellectual Influences | FiveBooks | The Browser

Stephen Breyer on Intellectual Influences | FiveBooks | The Browser:

US Supreme Court Judge Justice Stephen Breyer has very thoughtfully said that on every constitutional issue there are two points of view from which the judges choose one. He says: " Our job, the nine of us, is basically to create a uniform rule of law by ironing out differences." The Indian judges should also try to have uniformity in our rule of law.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Experts call for amendments to prevent judges taking up jobs after retirement

 Experts call for amendments to prevent judges taking up jobs after retirement:

In our highly polarized polity even the acts and decisions of Constitutional Authorities are seen with suspicion by one or the other side. The decisions of the Governors have been controversial and partisan for a long time, especially since 1967 when in many states Congress failed to get a majority. The decisions of High Courts & the Supreme Court have also caused concern, particularly after the supersession of  3 SC judges by Mrs Indira Gandhi and the dubious decision of the Supreme Court that during Emergency under Art 352 of the Constitution right to life ceases to exist. From Golaknath case in 1967 to Keshavanand Bharati case in 1973 & Minerva Mills case in 1980, the Supreme Court questioned the authority of Parliament to amend the Constitution as it wished. In spite of several amendments of the Const to negate these judgments the SC refused to give in and declared that basic structure of the Constitution could not be violated. Even in regard to the appointment of SC & appointment and transfer of HC judges the Supreme court, first in 1983 and then in 1999 affirmed its primacy by interpreting " in consultation" in its own way. However, the decisions of the Supreme Court have not always been consistent. It is true that the lower judiciary is concerned with facts, the High Courts with deficiencies of facts and judgment, the SC is concerned with wisdom, yet the wisdom of the SC has to appear consistent and rational. Many decisions of the Supreme Court raise doubt over its wisdom. The SC feels that RTI Act is not applicable to judiciary; similarly in spite of historic Vishakha judgment the SC can't protect the honour and dignity of its female employees and lawyers. When the SC, due to its power of review has become so powerful, the Union Govt, more often than not, wants to keep it in good humour. And the judges are also human beings like us and the spectre of retirement stares in their face also. The prospect of getting post retirement appointment may colour their judgment. It is in this light that Arun Jaitley made a sensible suggestion that until two years after retirement, SC & HC judges should not be given any assignment.