Month: September 2016 (Page 2 of 3)

I came across an interesting research paper.

What do these facts say about Gender Wage Gap and Post Grad Job Stats in Political Science and IR?

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Download and Read the whole paper here.

Eric Trump mislabels Dallas Mavs arena as being in “Pensacola, Fla.”

In a failed attempt to prove that Donald Trump drew a huge crowd to Pensacola, Florida on September 9, Trump’s son Eric tweeted a photo of his father giving a speech at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, home of the NBA’s Mavericks.

Trump, still stewing over Hillary Clinton’s dig that half of Trump’s supporters belong to a “basket of deplorables,” which includes racists, sexists, anti-intellectuals, and the alt-right, tweeted this:

There’s just one problem. That’s not Pensacola, Fla.

It’s easy to see. Just take a look in the left corner. What is that flag? Hint: It’s not Florida’s flag.

In response, a number of Twitter users have pointed out Trump’s stupidity:

Even the owner of the Mavs, Mark Cuban, got in a dig:

This isn’t the first time that a part of the Trump campaign has tweeted the wrong photo for a supposed Trump speech. In August used a photo of a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA championship victory parade for an article about a Trump speech:

Where I was on 9/11

Originally published on September 10, 2014 at

I was in class in middle school when there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that airplanes had struck the World Trade Center towers in New York. The principal used delicate language when addressing the students, but I knew it was an attack. Commercial airline pilots don’t hit skyscrapers by accident. The rest of the day was surreal. Rumors circulated that a hijacked plane was heading towards my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Even after watching the images on TV when I got home from school, the magnitude of the attacks was hard to comprehend.

It was like life stood still for the next week. All news was 9/11 all the time. The National Football League and Major League Baseball canceled all sporting events that week. I went to the Cleveland Browns game the next weekend. I remember the patriotic songs they played all throughout the game. “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…” Lee Greenwood’s song became familiar at sporting events and was inserted into the seventh inning stretch at baseball games. Using the restroom, I could hear the guy next to me saying we were going to get bin Laden.

If seeing 3,000 of our fellow countrymen murdered in broad daylight and landmarks of New York City’s skyline disappeared from the sky wasn’t enough, the rest of the year featured anthrax letters and an attempted shoe bombing by Richard Reid. “Panic” might not be the right word — the threat posed by international terrorist organizations was real — but there were major changes made to people’s lives that seem unnecessary in today’s light. A school field trip to Washington, DC was canceled. Many Americans weren’t traveling anywhere, let alone to the capital.

Now, thirteen years after [now fifteen], the weight of the attacks has been fading for Americans. Much of the public is tired after years of war and tightened security procedures at airports. Yet the attacks left a lasting legacy on American politics and a feeling that will not soon leave. If we needed a reminder that radical theocratic terrorism remains a problem that can’t be ignored, ISIS provided it with their surge through Iraq and the murder of two American journalists and thousands of Syrians and Iraqis.

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My long essay reviewing “Against Democracy” in Quillette

If you haven’t read “Against Democracy” by Dr Jason Brennan, then you should. It’s provocative, and thought provoking, and raises some important point.

He also wrote an article about it here in National Interest.

I can see why he is nominally correct in diagnosing the problem of modern democracy. There’s some merit in Brennan’s argument. The comments under his essay are eye opening and somehow validate his thesis, in the sense, none of the commentators perhaps even read his entire essay but went on to opine anyway. To rephrase Churchill, a significant argument against democracy is a five minutes scroll through any online comment board.

Anyway, enough of it. Read my full review, here.

Defeating Trump won’t save the GOP

There’s a popular fantasy amongst rational Republicans that a good thumping of Donald Trump can cleanse the party of its toxins and set the GOP up for success in the future.

The scammers, entertainers, anti-intellectuals, and alt-right bigots who have “taken over” the party will be ushered out by the undeniable reality that their brand of “nationalist conservative populism” doesn’t work, and honest, principled conservatives will take over. It’s a nice vision. It reminds me of the idea (expressed more on the left) that Romney’s loss in 2012 would break the GOP’s “fever.” The problem is it won’t happen.

In the first place, the cancer of the Trumpist alt-right won’t be easily dislodged from the host. Voters have the freedom to choose, at the end of the day, and those voters who nominated Trump because they agreed with his proposals to build a wall, ban Muslims, and with his core nativism won’t be convinced to suddenly become tolerant just because Jeb Bush and members of the “Illuminati” tell them to. The entertainment faction, led by Sean Hannity, is already building the groundwork for the excuse that it is the “establishment,” not the Trumpists, who are to blame for not voting for Trump. Nevermind that Hannity’s critique is anti-democratic or that Jonah Goldberg has much less influence over the votes of the educated suburban whites who are abandoning Trump than Hannity gives him credit for; the fact that this argument is illogical will not prevent it from influencing the views and actions of a significant proportion of the GOP electorate going forward.

Even if Trumpism could somehow be successfully purged from the Republican Party, the Republicans and the conservative movement would still be far from solving their problems. Recall that the Republican Party faced major problems even before Trump came along. The Republicans had lost 5 of the last 6 presidential popular votes. Mitt Romney’s performance with minorities was abysmal even by GOP standards–so much so that Trump blamed Romney’s rhetoric on illegal immigration being too harsh. When four Republican Senators took Reince Priebus’s post-2012 advice and tried to pass an immigration reform bill, the bill didn’t get a vote in the House, and Marco Rubio was scared into apologizing to the Tea Party.

Shrek once said that ogres are like onions–they have layers. The GOP is a rotten onion. When you tear off one putrid layer you are confronted with another.

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Was Brock Turner a victim?

Ever since Brock Turner, a then-swimmer at Stanford University, was accused and convicted of the sexual assault and attempted rape of a woman at a Stanford University party and sentenced to six months in prison, the case has been one of the most discussed sexual assault cases in the U.S., inciting debates about rape, feminism, class privilege, and mandatory minimum sentences.

Now that Turner has been released from jail on September 2, after three months, these questions are being debated again. Feminists and black liberal activists think his sentence was too short because of bias in favor of his gender and race. Anti-feminists and MRAs think his sentence was too long. Some even think he was unjustly railroaded. Was Brock Turner a victim of a campus rape hysteria wherein he was accused of rape after having consensual sex?

The argument hinges of Turner’s version of events

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So, I started blogging for The National Interest

Here’s my first post

So, what an incredible week. To start with I got quoted by Financial Times on Chinese geostrategy, and to end it, I wrote my first blog for The National Interest.

It is a critique of Anne Applebaum’s latest in Washington Post on why we haven’t intervened the hell out of Syria. Because, clearly interventions historically solve all global problems.

Here’s my post, “Lament of the Liberal Interventionist Ideologues”.

Let me know what you guys think!

Burkini ban and an honest debate about the C word

Stop blaming Colonialism for every social ills. It’s frankly embarrassing. 

The terrible liberal secular tyranny that engulfed France leading to thousands of disillusioned, shocked and scared humans, crossing hundreds of miles to flee Europe and seek refuge in the bosom of distant cultures and faraway lands was finally overturned by the French supreme court. Yes, I am talking about the ill-defined, and frankly idiotic Burkini ban and the reaction to it. And no, of course no one fled Europe, or was even remotely planning to, as far as recorded knowledge goes, though no one will blame you if you felt the opposite from the social media reaction to this entire issue. One hypothesis, yet to be tested in a proper social science experiment, could be that most vicious protests against classical European liberalism comes from a section of the commentariat, who for all practical purposes would never live anywhere other than Western Europe if given a chance.

But that’s beyond the point of this post.

As a political scientist, this entire episode was a fascinating natural experiment to watch, one of social media confirmation bias and simplistic narrative causal generalisation in journalism and a certain section of academe. A single google search will result in dozens of articles, which analysed the Burkini ban from the binary of either feminism and women’s rights, or colonialism and racism inspired by colonialism. The first argument of feminism, comparatively makes a lot more sense, although it is prudent to add for the sake of academic balance, that it has been disputed by some. Notable Arab feminists, either supported the Burkini ban or were straightforward about the right “not to wear a Burkini”.

It is the colonial angle which was far more baffling.

Churning out anti-colonialism as a narrative is nothing new, obviously. And, honestly, there are ample reasons for it. Lamentably, however, it is a causal ascription, which is significantly on the rise, for issues which are far more complex and far beyond the explanatory prowess of such juvenile linear narrative. Examples range from Burkini ban, to devastating terror attacks in France. Team GB won Olympic medals and you’re celebrating? Must be deeply entrenched colonialism that we need to be joylessly vocal about. Black Lives Matter protests? Against colonialism. White actors playing in Asian films, characters which are White?! You guessed it. Western women wearing Bindis? My Ganesha, the savagery of the cultural appropriation. Gender abolition and homophobia? C…

This is beyond exasperating. 

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The politics of Sainthood

As someone born and brought up in Calcutta, take it from me, Mother Teresa is no Saint.

Why exactly is Mother Teresa a saint, or for that matter why is she actually even famous? As someone who was born and brought up in Calcutta, (or Kolkata, depending on how patriotic you feel) this is a baffling question. As the Catholic Church declares her a saint, it will bring forth this question again in public debates. It is difficult for someone to fathom her cult, without knowing how stagnating Calcutta was like in the late 80s and early 90s.

Calcutta, the erstwhile capital of the British Raj, the center and seat of liberal, enlightened and scientific knowledge of the Bengali renaissance which first influenced and then morphed into the epicenter of the Indian independence movement, was at that time during the 80s ruled by the Communist Party of India. While paying regular homage to dialectics, the CPI(M) were Marxists in name only. The dream of revolution was obviously long gone, even when the soaring rhetoric against American imperialism and computerisation of workplace remained, just as the Soviet Union disappeared in a final spate of disillusionment. Instead there were long waiting queue for ration shops, one had to wait to get a telephone connection for around two years, and the summer evenings were spent playing carrom outside, as bouts of power cuts made staying indoors insufferable in the humid heat.

Mother Teresa during those days were the only international object of fame the city had. When I went to school, I remember giving away my used clothes for charity annually, not because I felt particularly altruistic, but it was compulsory. I was indifferent to it, as were most of middle class Bengalis. We had no idea where it was going, or who were wearing those clothes. These charity donations were an escape route from our own guilt, or responsibility, an easy way out from changing the structural mismanagement of centralized command economy which made a once affluent city, a city of roadside beggars ripping of foreigners and jobless youths who moved to Bangalore or Mumbai for jobs after their college degrees. Most of them were possibly members of the Student Federation of India, the youth wing of the Communists. Again, none of them were particularly leftist, else they won’t run to look for jobs in capitalist Mumbai; the membership was sort of compulsory to get admission in a good college. It’s easier to look for jobs than change society, and middle class boys understood that pretty early in Calcutta.

The Communists had an uneasy relationship with Teresa. On one hand, by definition this was a reactionary, highly religious political operative and sermoniser, who had a sort of balancing relation with the anti-Soviet Pope, while simultaneously having an affable relationship with one of the worst dictators in the World Enver Hoxha. In Calcutta, it brought attention to the fact that the city was stagnating and full of destitutes, it brought hard cash from painfully benevolent and activist Hollywood celebs moved by poverty porn, and it enhanced a system and narrative of victimhood. Also, the fact the Mother Teresa set her shop in Calcutta was a propaganda victory of the Communists, as a protector of religious minorities from the evil Hindu right wing which was ascendant during the early nineties. Very few took notice on how shoddily Teresa’s institution was run, or how unhygienic it was. The Communists and the Mother both benefited from this system of poverty, no one genuinely wanted to change anything.

Which brings to the first question, why is she famous or saintly? She dedicated her life to serve poor, which was clearly done with political motivations (I hesitate to do a Chris Hitchens, I don’t have his oratorical mastery). By that logic, Bill Gates, Dhirubhai Ambani and Deng Xiaoping did much more to fight poverty and structurally change society that what Mother and her institution can ever achieve. She obviously didn’t perform any miracles, because miracles don’t exist by common understanding of science. What then? There is no logical answer. This sainthood will essentially reinforce the flawed idea of miracles, of everyone somehow being special and under protection of divinity, and reinforce the legitimacy of an institution which still opposes condoms, and abortions. And perhaps more destructively it will reinforce the notions that there is a divine alternative to scientific education, liberal ideas and structural economic change.

Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK. You can find him on twitter @MrMaitra.

I got quoted in FT

So, I got quoted in FT on On Chinese alliance formation and militarisation.


Read the whole thing HERE and let me know what you think?

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