Weekend Edition

June 2nd, 2023

Bipartisan buddies

June 2nd, 2023


The US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (left) with President Joe Biden IMAGE/Reuters/Duck Duck Go

completely clothed, fully fed, living luxurious lives

yet …

dreadfully dissatisfied

capitalist class craves colossal

how to get much more without being noticed and facing blame

government, official opposition, and capitalist-run news media

tread on egg shells and save them …

the common person doesn’t need a jacket;

… so it was taken away

the next item the person was to lose was the shirt

it was followed by the pants

the socks had to go to

then went the shoe laces

the underwear-elastic was snatched too

holding the underwear, wearing shoes,

the average person works for survival

why not the shoes?

laborers soles are important to reach the work place

why haven’t the capitalists stole the underwear yet?

don’t worry, they’ll get the underwear too …

US is run by …

criminal capitalists, corrupt conservatives, lying liberals

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

63 deaf Chinese dancers perform a beautiful dance Of a thousand hands

June 2nd, 2023


VIDEO/Jihn Lock/Youtube

As is tradition, during the 2004 closing ceremony of the Athens Summer Paralympic games, the next host Beijing had eight minutes to showcase China’s expansive culture. It was in that moment that The China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe (CDPPAT) made their international debut, performing the iconic, and now world recognised Thousand-hand Bodhisattva dance.

One year later the troupe delivered the most notable of the dances’ performances when they appeared on the 2005 Spring Festival Gala. The footage went viral across YouTube and Facebook, culminating millions of views.

The Thousand Hand Bodhisattva dance is a beautifully synchronised flow of movement. What is even more astounding is that the sixty-three strong group of dancers who take on this incredible dance, are all deaf or with a hearing impairment. The performers are supported by six directors of whom use sign language to help the dancers feel the rhythm and remain in perfect time.

The Music Man for more

John Oliver Officially Gets Out Of Hand In Amazing Takedown Of Chuck E. Cheese

June 2nd, 2023


VIDEO/Last Week Tonight/Youtube


The history of the chain is a lot weirder — and a lot darker — than you might think.

John Oliver warned his studio audience on Sunday night that what was supposed to be a short segment about Chuck E. Cheese took a turn ? and then it “officially got out of hand.”

It didn’t air on HBO, where the bulk of “Last Week Tonight” was devoted to homeowners associations and why they just might be the worst part of owning a home. Oliver said viewers under 35 would never own a home anyway and urged them to visit a special website ? Last Squeak Tonight ? for the segment about Chuck E. Cheese.

He said he initially figured it would run a few minutes.

Instead, he found “a rot at the heart of Chuck E. Cheese,” a franchise he said seemed to be inspired by a mix of “Disney, ‘Sesame Street’ and porn.”

The result is a masterpiece on the strange history of the much-maligned pizza, games and animatronics chain that runs nearly half an hour and ends with a very different mouse trying to “bring balance to the Chuck E. Cheese universe”

Huffington Post for more

A plea to my western progressive friends: Stop helping Putin with your conciliatory and ambiguous statements

June 1st, 2023


IMAGE/Sergei F – CC BY 2.0/Counterpunch

A long-retired Russian military man was discussing current events by phone with a former colleague living in Ukraine. Both resented the war between the two recently fraternal countries and expressed the hope that this madness would soon end. A few days later, representatives of the special services raided the Russian. He did not give out any military secrets, and no one accused him of this. He was charged, however, with publicly discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In turn, the former officer, who knew the laws, objected that the conversation had been a private one. And such a charge was meant to apply to public statements only. “But it was public,” objected the intelligence officers. “After all, we heard it!”

This is not a fragment from a story written by a modern imitator of Franz Kafka or George Orwell, but news that is now being discussed on Russian social networks. There you can also find numerous reports of fines imposed on people who had inadvertently painted their fence yellow and blue many years ago, now risking undesirable associations with the Ukrainian flag, or who thoughtlessly went out into the street in blue jeans and a yellow jacket. It got to the point that the police considered writing a denunciation on a box of apples. The fruits were guilty of the fact that the same “enemy colors” were present in the package.

Perhaps Western readers may find all these episodes ridiculous. But try to imagine what it is like to live in a state where you can be detained and prosecuted for wearing the wrong clothes, for liking a “seditious” post on social networks, or simply because the incoming police chief did not like your appearance. As a matter of principle, Russian courts do not pass down acquittals (in this regard, the situation is much worse than in Stalin’s time), so any accusation, even the most absurd, is considered proven as soon as it is brought. And this applies not only to political matters, which would be at least somewhat understandable in a war, but in general to any criminal or administrative case.

To my Western colleagues, who, after more than a year since the beginning of the war, continue to call for an understanding of Putin and his regime, I would like to ask a very simple question. Do you want to live in a country where there is no free press or independent courts? In a country where the police have the right to break into your house without a warrant? In a country where museum buildings and collections formed over decades are handed over to churches, heedless of the threat of losing unique artifacts? In a country where schools drift away from the study of science and plan to abolish the teaching of foreign languages, but conduct “lessons about the important,” during which children are taught to write denunciations and are taught to hate all other peoples? In a country which every day broadcasts appeals on TV to destroy Paris, London, Warsaw, with a nuclear strike?

I don’t think you really want to.

We in Russia also do not want to live like this.

We resist or at least try to preserve our beliefs and principles based on the humanistic tradition of Russian culture. And when we read on the Internet about another call to “understand Putin” or “to meet him halfway,” this is perceived inside Russia as complicity with criminals who oppress and ruin our own country.

Such appeals are based on a deep, almost racist contempt for the people of Russia, for whom, according to Western liberal pacifists, it is perfectly natural and acceptable to live under the rule of a corrupt dictatorship.

Of course, when someone tells you that the Putin regime is a threat to the West or to the whole of humanity, this is complete nonsense. The people to whom this regime poses the most terrible threat is (aside from the Ukrainians, who are bombarded daily by shells and missiles) the Russians themselves, their people and culture, their future.

It is clear that Putin and the system he leads have changed over the past few years; these same people in the mid-2010s could look quite decent compared to other world politicians. Certainly, they pursued the same antisocial policy, lied the same way, tried to manipulate public opinion just like their Western counterparts. But the crisis that has been going on for the past three years, the war and total corruption, have led to irreversible shifts, in which the preservation of the existing political regime turned out to be incompatible not only with human rights and democratic freedoms, but simply with the elementary preservation of the rules of modern civilized existence for the majority of the population.

We must deal with this problem ourselves. How quickly this will happen, how many trials will come along the way, how many more people will suffer, no one can know. But we know exactly what will occur. The decay of the regime will inevitably lead the country to revolutionary changes, which the supporters of the existing government will write about with horror.

Counterpunch for more

Quantum computers: What are they good for?

June 1st, 2023


Bavarian science minister Markus Blume views part of a quantum computer with Dieter Kranzlmüller (left) at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center. IMAGE/Sven Hoppe/dpa/Alamy

For now, absolutely nothing. But researchers and firms are optimistic about the applications.

Most researchers have never seen a quantum computer. Winfried Hensinger has five. “They’re all terrible,” he says. “They can’t do anything useful.”

In fact, all quantum computers could be described as terrible. Decades of research have yet to yield a machine that can kick off the promised revolution in computing. But enthusiasts aren’t concerned —and development is proceeding better than expected, researchers say.

“I’m not trying to take away from how much work there is to do, but we’re surprising ourselves about how much we’ve done,” says Jeannette Garcia, senior research manager for quantum applications and software at technology giant IBM in San Jose, California.

Hensinger, a physicist at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, published a proof of principle in February for a large-scale, modular quantum computer1. His start-up company, Universal Quantum in Haywards Heath, UK, is now working with engineering firm Rolls-Royce in London and others to begin the long and arduous process of building it.

If you believe the hype, computers that exploit the strange behaviours of the atomic realm could accelerate drug discovery, crack encryption, speed up decision-making in financial transactions, improve machine learning, develop revolutionary materials and even address climate change. The surprise is that those claims are now starting to seem a lot more plausible — and perhaps even too conservative.

According to computational mathematician Steve Brierley, whatever the quantum sweet spot turns out to be, it could be more spectacular than anything we can imagine today — if the field is given the time it needs. “The short-term hype is a bit high,” says Brierley, who is founder and chief executive of quantum-computing firm Riverlane in Cambridge, UK. “But the long-term hype is nowhere near enough.”

Justified scepticism

Until now, there has been good reason to be sceptical. Researchers have obtained only mathematical proofs that quantum computers will offer large gains over current, classical computers in simulating quantum physics and chemistry, and in breaking the public-key cryptosystems used to protect sensitive communications such as online financial transactions. “All of the other use cases that people talk about are either more marginal, more speculative, or both,” says Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin. Quantum specialists have yet to achieve anything truly useful that could not be done using classical computers.

The problem is compounded by the difficulty of building the hardware itself. Quantum computers store data in quantum binary digits called quantum bits, or qubits, that can be made using various technologies, including superconducting rings; optical traps; and photons of light. Some technologies require cooling to near absolute zero, others operate at room temperature. Hensinger’s blueprint is for a machine the size of a football pitch, but others could end up installed in cars. Researchers cannot even agree on how the performance of quantum computers should be measured.

Whatever the design, the clever stuff happens when qubits are carefully coaxed into ‘superposition’ states of indefinite character — essentially a mix of digital ones and zeroes, rather than definitely being one or the other. Running algorithms on a quantum computer involves directing the evolution of these superposition states. The quantum rules of this evolution allow the qubits to interact to perform computations that are, in practical terms, impossible using classical computers.

Nature for more

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar: Fountainhead of fundamentalism in India

June 1st, 2023


A statue of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar near Yediyur complex by BBMP in Bengaluru on 15 August 2020 PHOTO/Bhagya Prakash K

Popular discussions about Vinayak Damodar Savarkar tend to either be hagiographic or vilify, depending on the speaker’s political, religious, or caste affiliations. In contemporary political discourse, every argument is reduced to a one-line snippet, a monolithic stance, a catchy sound bite stripped of all nuance. The opponent’s side is painted as “all evil” while one’s own side is seen as the paragon of virtue; and this simplistic black-and-white worldview, in turn, forces others to play the same game. You do not need a writer to tell you that. I always try to present a comprehensive picture in the belief that every debate should be approached within a holistic frame of certain fundamental questions that underpin the subject.

Amid attempts to whitewash Savarkar’s image as an unsung hero, today we also see others belittling his role in the Indian freedom struggle, particularly ridiculing his clemency petitions to the British. To set the record straight, I wish to aver that Savarkar undoubtedly suffered torture and did so for the sake of Indian independence. He was neither cowardly nor selfish. Denying his sacrifice only exposes a mean-minded approach that favours a complete dismissal of, and contempt for, the other side. I shall try to approach Savarkar here within a wider historical context.

Violent rebels and democratic protesters

Those who defend Savarkar claim that Gandhi and Nehru received far better treatment in prison. This ridiculous comparison even extends to asking if Ambedkar ever went to jail. Before making such comparisons, it is important to grasp that historically, all governments make a clear distinction between armed insurgents and democratic protesters. Weapons communicate a very clear message: there is no room for any negotiation or compromise; the only possible outcome is the equilibrium that emerges in the aftermath of a violent clash of arms.

When you choose the path of violence, you provide the justification for any violence unleashed against your own side. After making such a choice, there is no use complaining about how violently the enemy retaliated. Nothing is more absurd than claiming one’s own violence as virtuous while the opponent’s as immoral.

Any government naturally tries to suppress armed insurgency against it—be it the British government or the present-day Indian government. To dress up one’s defeat in such an unequal struggle as a sacrifice is both logically fallacious and morally reprehensible. The first ethical question that arises is: “If you had won, would you not have done to them what they did to you?”

Savarkar called for an armed rebellion against the British and made preparations for it. He was not grounded by a sense of either reality or history. He had no understanding of the power of the great administrative machinery of the British or their massive army. Lacking a sense of history, he failed to see that the British government drew its power from the popular acceptance it had gained from the millions of Indian people it ruled over.

How the British came to rule India

For context, the British came to power in India after the fall of the Mughal empire in an environment of utter chaos and anarchy. When they arrived, India was perishing in hundreds of petty wars. Armies had been disbanded and turned into bandit groups. The British brought about civil peace, created an orderly administration, and established a common law; therefore, the people of India accepted their rule. The situation at Savarkar’s time was that if a movement opposed the British without neutralising the popular acceptance the latter enjoyed, it would never gain mass appeal. Unfortunately, Savarkar did not grasp any of this.

The evil of the British rule lay in its ruthless economic exploitation of the country, which they unleashed through the local zamindars. In fact, the great famines that resulted from this exploitation caused a hundred times more deaths, destruction, and displacements than had occurred during the anarchic phase in India’s history. It was Gandhi, who, by highlighting this economic exploitation and demonstrating its practical effects on the nation, put forward a serious critique of the British regime among the Indian populace. Only after Gandhi’s intervention did the Indian freedom struggle become a people’s movement.

Violence versus democratic resistance

Before the advent of Gandhi, during Savarkar’s era, some “intellectuals” believed that the British could be driven out using violent means. Once a violent struggle was initiated, they thought people would join in the riots to destroy the British. Fifty years later, tragically, the naxalites too shared the same belief and modus operandi. Savarkar, Bhagat Singh, and Subhash Chandra Bose were all people with a similar misapprehension of history. Their rebellion was a childish effort completely based on their belief in violence and a misbegotten sense of personal adventure. Their misplaced confidence came from imagining themselves to be extraordinary men capable of determining history. Essentially, it stemmed from a lack of faith in the great power of the people.

Frontline for more

Kshama Sawant on why she pushed for a caste ban in Seattle

May 31st, 2023


As more and more Indians travel abroad, casteism has been increasingly subjected to public condemnation in other countries. Seattle recently became the first city in the US and outside South Asia to ban caste discrimination. And at the helm of this historic legislation was city council member Kshama Sawant. 

In this conversation with Newslaundry’s Sumedha Mittal, the India-born engineer, economist and politician details the intricacies of caste in the US, and the struggle for the law.

Baffled by black holes? Confused by quantum theory? Explaining the universe one small step at a time

May 31st, 2023


Everything you ever wanted to know about the universe – in bite-sized pieces. ILLUSTRATION/Martin O’Neill/The Observer


Traits which enable organisms to compete successfully for scarce food resources and so survive to reproduce become more common with each successive generation

Why are race horses so suited to running fast? Because horse breeders selected the fastest horses from a population and bred them together. And repeated the process. Over and over. Why are living things so suited to surviving in their environment? Charles Darwin’s genius was to realise the answer is similar. Just as humans artificially select horses for speed, something naturally selects wild creatures for compatibility with their environment.

The “something” is deceptively simple. Creatures produce far too many offspring to be supported by the available food. Only those with the traits required to outcompete others for food will survive to reproduce and pass on those traits to the next generation. This straightforward idea came to Charles Darwin after his five-year stint as ship’s naturalist on board HMS Beagle. “How extremely stupid not to have thought of that,” said Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s friend and champion, when he heard the idea.

Darwin’s courage was in proposing his theory knowing it was missing two key ingredients. The first was the mechanism of variation. What creates the array of new traits from which natural selection then selects? The second was the mechanism of inheritance.

Now we know that both missing ingredients are related. The building block of all life – the atom of biology – is the cell, a tiny bag of gloop packed with molecular machines. At the heart of each cell is a mini cell or nucleus, containing chromosomes made of a giant molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. The traits we inherit from our parents are associated with stretches of the DNA known as genes. And, for those traits to be inherited, their DNA must be copied. In the case of human DNA, this requires the faithful

Special relativity

Light is uncatchable

Light is a wave like a ripple on a pond, a fact which is not obvious because the ripples are far smaller than the width of a human hair. At 16, Albert Einstein wondered what it would be like to ride alongside such a light wave. He realised it would appear not to be moving, just as a car travelling at 70mph would appear stationary if you drove alongside it at 70mph. But – this is the point – the Scots physicist James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of light said there was no such thing as a stationary light wave. Einstein, therefore, concluded that if catching a light wave would allow you to see something impossible, it too must be impossible. Light is uncatchable. In our universe, it plays the role of infinite speed, a speed that can never be reached.

Something travelling infinitely fast seems infinitely fast no matter how rapidly you are travelling because, compared with infinite speed, any other speed is so negligible it might as well be zero. Since light plays the role of infinite speed, everyone must, therefore, measure the same speed for a light beam. Now, speed is defined as the distance something travels in a given time – the car just mentioned, for instance, was travelling 70 miles in an hour. So, if everyone is to measure the same speed for light, no matter how fast they are moving, something odd must happen to their measurements of distance and time. There must be some huge cosmic conspiracy.

The conspiracy is noticeable only at speeds approaching that of light’s 300,000 kilometres a second, which is why we never notice it in daily life and it took the genius of Einstein to recognise it. But if someone were to fly past you at close to the speed of light, you would see their time slow so that they appeared to be wading through treacle and their space compress in the direction of their motion so they appeared flat as a pancake. “Moving clocks run slow,” goes the mantra, and “moving rulers shrink”. This, in a nutshell, is Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

Global warming

Molecules like carbon dioxide absorb heat radiated by the Earth’s surface and trap it in the atmosphere

Several kinds of molecules floating in the Earth’s atmosphere have the property of trapping heat given off from the surface. Between them, the molecules keep the planet from freezing solid and make life possible. In fact, without the most important of all the heat-trapping molecules – water vapour – the planet would be a giant ball of ice with an average temperature of -18C.

The fact that the air warms in the presence of sunlight was discovered in 1856 by the little-known American scientist Eunice Foote. She inserted thermometers into long glass tubes that she filled with gases such as oxygen and hydrogen. When she exposed the tubes to sunlight she discovered that, of all the gases, water vapour and carbon dioxide warmed the most. If the amount of these two gases in the atmosphere varied, she speculated, it might change the climate, making her the first person in history to make this connection.

Unaware of Foote’s work, the Irish physicist John Tyndall confirmed her discovery three years later. Tyndall determined that water vapour and carbon dioxide are not heated directly by visible light from the sun but by heat in the form of invisible infrared light, radiated by the surface of the Earth after it has been heated by the sun. “The atmosphere admits the entrance of the solar heat, but checks its exit and the result is a tendency to accumulate heat at the surface of the planet,” wrote Tyndall. This is the famous “greenhouse effect”.

In general, infrared light is absorbed by simple molecules made of two or more atoms because the energy of such light is just right to set the molecules vibrating. Naively, you can think of the atoms inside a molecule such as water (H20) or carbon dioxide (CO2) as connected by springs that can alternately compress and expand. The most abundant molecules in the atmosphere are nitrogen (N2), which accounts for 78.08% of air, and oxygen (O2), which makes up 21.95%. If they acted as greenhouse gases, however, the Earth would be as hot as an oven. Fortunately, they lack a crucial property known as a dipole moment, and so do not absorb infrared light.

Foote and Tyndall’s discovery was surprising because it showed that molecules with concentrations as tiny as carbon dioxide, which makes up a mere 0.04% of the atmosphere, have a huge effect. Although both scientists suspected a link between carbon dioxide and climate, it was the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius who in 1896 suggested that, at the end of ice ages, an increase in carbon dioxide had helped warm the Earth. He also demonstrated that burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, could create large enough quantities of carbon dioxide and a “hot-house effect”, a phrase that did not catch on, but which today we would recognise as the greenhouse effect. Arrhenius was the first to show that human activity could change the climate.

Quantum theory

Particles can behave as waves and waves can behave as particles

The Guardian for more

Israel plunders its own treasury to prepare for a far-right future

May 31st, 2023


Israeli soldiers secure the construction site as Jewish settlers work at a seminary that was built overnight in the West Bank outpost of Homesh, on 29 May PHOTO/AP

New budget boosts ultra-Orthodox schooling, projects promoting ‘Jewish identity’ and settlements at expense of most vulnerable sections of society

A few minutes after the Israeli parliament approved the budget for the next two years, a triumphant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to announce: “It’s a great day for the people of Israel.”

It is not. It might be a great day for Netanyahu himself; it’s certainly a very bad day for most Israelis. The money allocations  – 484bn shekels ($130.4bn), in 2023, 514bn shekels in 2024) solidify an ultra-nationalistic, orthodox Israel, forsaking even the appearance of social justice. Unless, of course, you consider food stamps for members of the ultra-orthodox Shas party social justice in 2023.

About 300 top economists, among them former senior Bank of Israel and Treasury officials, warned in a letter that this kind of budget poses an “existential threat to Israel’s future”.

As Arie Krampf, political economist at the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo, notes, the parties within Netanyahu’s government gave themselves more money for political pursuits “at the expense of the weaker sections of Israeli society”.

“Civil expenditure in Israel is lower compared to other OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries. The new budget is a combination of neoliberalism and designated payments to coalition parties, with no growth mechanisms, which is bad news for the Israeli economy,” he told Middle East Eye

A short illustration: money allocated to political parties for their own projects reached 14bn shekels. In comparison, Israel’s collapsing public hospitals got just 12.4bn.

However, the budget is not only bad; it is also anti-democratic. Even before the government has managed to achieve its goal of fundamentally changing the Israeli political system through its controversial judicial reforms, the budget has already done it.

The new budget is today widely described as “looting the public treasury”. That is what headlines in Israel say, that is what all opposition leaders call it. Avigdor Lieberman, head of the opposition Yisrael Beiteinu party, defined it “a black stain in the history of Israel”.

This is only one way to look at it. In fact, the new budget is a more sophisticated way to secure long-term, far-right nationalistic education to future generations, maintaining conservative and reclusive orthodox communities and creating future voters infused with a hardline notion of the Jewish state.

Middle East Eye for more