Welcome to Saturday's Potluck - 5-28-2022
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Today is an odd collection of bits of information crossing my path this week. May not completely agree with every viewpoint of the authors, but did create deeper understanding of the subjects.
Lets start with high tech and computer chips.
Tech firms using brain cells in neural-silicon computer chips Asia Times may 25, 2022
In December 2021, Melbourne-based Cortical Labs grew groups of neurons (brain cells) that were incorporated into a computer chip. The resulting hybrid chip works because both brains and neurons share a common language: electricity.
In silicon computers, electrical signals travel along metal wires that link different components together. In brains, neurons communicate with each other using electric signals across synapses (junctions between nerve cells).
In Cortical Labs’ Dishbrain system, neurons are grown on silicon chips. These neurons act like the wires in the system, connecting different components. The major advantage of this approach is that the neurons can change their shape, grow, replicate, or die in response to the demands of the system.
Western diet can be riskier than sticking with a traditional diet for bears.
The 5-year-old bear was captured in the Squak Mountain area, where he was spotted raiding garbage, bird feeders and fruit trees dozens of times over nearly three years, according to the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The capture was a sad conclusion to the search for the bear that had taken on greater urgency because he was frequently seen in residential areas and was wearing a collar that had grown too tight. Wildlife officials spent significant time and resources trying to trap him, catching five other bears during the process.
WDFW made the decision to “lethally remove” the bear because he was seriously overweight — he weighed 352 pounds, and the normal weight for a bear that age is about 200 pounds — and because of his habit of getting into human-provided food sources.
A little day to day technology.
Chinese and American Mobile Phone Systems Larry Romanoff, May 21, 2022
I’m uncertain about the US but, so far as I am aware, in Canada and many European countries, mobile phones can be purchased only from a telecom company, one of the more clever but clearly anti-social provisions in Western communications legislation. This gives the phone companies a truly ‘captive market’ in that, if you want a particular phone, you have no choice but to submit to all that company’s policies and to pay their demanded prices. A major difference in the communications landscape is that Chinese phone companies do not have a monopoly on the sale of mobile phones and are in fact minority sellers.
To buy a mobile phone in China, you go to any one of thousands of shops in your city, each selling hundreds of different brands and models of mobile phones, and negotiate the best price you can get for the phone you want.
After you buy the phone, you buy a SIM card (about $3.00), which contains your phone number, network connection authorisation, and some free air time. You insert the SIM card, turn on the phone, and begin making calls while still in the shop. That’s the whole process. Except for the SIM card, it’s the same as buying a toaster.
Phone calls in China cost maybe $0.01 per minute, and SMS messages are the same for sending; receiving is free. The typical monthly cost for a smart phone in China, including typical internet usage, is maybe $15.00, compared to around $100.00 in the US or Canada, and sometimes as much as $200.00. Many young kids in China stream movies on their phones and can run up higher bills, but the $15.00 cost is probably typical and maybe even high. I should add that in China the ‘basic phone bill’ includes all the ancillaries which are usually sold at extra cost in the West: caller ID, call-holding, and many others.
International calls have a special provision: I first dial a 5-digit number before the phone number I’m calling and that automatically places me on some kind of heavy discount basis. Perhaps other countries have this feature now, but I can speak to a friend halfway around the world for less than $1.00 per hour.
China seems to have taken the lead in rolling out the new generation of mobile networks with about 2 million 5G base stations operating now, and covering 60 or 70 major urban centers, essentially all those with a population of one million or more. The country installed more than 650,000 of them in 2021 alone, and the pace is increasing if anything. The number of 5G subscribers is over 500 million and climbing quickly. Also, in 2021 5G smartphones accounted for more than 80% of all handset shipments with nearly 300 new models released. (3) (4) (5) Not only that, but China is already heavily into research for 6G, the next much-faster generation of mobile communications.
According to a recent article in the WSJ, (6) “At this point, football fans have seen so many ads from AT&T and Verizon claiming to have the fastest and most reliable 5G service on the planet that those without a 5G smartphone might think they are really missing something. Don’t be misled. Unless you are traveling internationally, you won’t enjoy faster speeds with a new 5G-enabled smartphone than you’d get on a 4G phone streaming games from New York, Los Angeles or many other U.S. cities.
AT&T’s and Verizon’s new 5G networks are often significantly slower than the 4G networks they replace. America is far behind in almost every dimension of 5G while other nations – including China – race ahead. America’s average 5G mobile internet speed is roughly 75 megabits per second, which is abysmal. In China’s urban centers 5G phones get average speeds of 300 megabits per second. . . fast enough to download a high-definition movie in two minutes.”
Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, wrote in a recent WSJ article (7) that “The U.S. government’s “dithering” has left the country “well behind” China in the race to build out 5G technology.”, but that’s a dishonest presentation. The US is indeed far behind China, but “dithering” was not the cause. I will try to explain.
Huawei was suddenly promoted as unreliable and a grave threat to US national security, and the US telecoms thus became one of the innocent victims of the trade war with China. But what was behind this? Huawei had already been in all the Western countries during 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G, and there had never been a whisper of technical issues nor any concern with data security or espionage, so what suddenly changed with 5G? As it happened, Huawei’s ‘lunch menu’ was the smallest part of the problem.
The real issue was espionage, and not by China. It is so widely-known and accepted that there is no practical value in disputing the assertion that Cisco and other American hardware and software firms install back doors to all their equipment for the convenience of CIA and NSA access. There is a video on YouTube where a Microsoft executive is challenged during a speech to explain why Windows had a built-in back door specifically identified in the program code as “NSA Back Door”. The Microsoft executive did not deny the existence of this feature, nor could he have done because he knew that the man asking the question was the person who discovered it. In the event, he refused to respond and changed the subject. And it’s widely-known that as far back as 30 and 40 years ago all Xerox machines and fax machines delivered to foreign embassies and consulates in the US were “espionage-ready”.
All of Cisco’s equipment, and that of most other American manufacturers, were designed to accommodate wide-spread NSA information-gathering on Americans, as evidenced by Edward Snowden, but even this was the smaller part of the problem. The real issue was the US’ creation of the “Five Eyes” espionage network that included Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Briefly, this was set up to break every law in the book while pretending no laws were being broken. It is generally against the law for a government to spy on its own citizens, but that law doesn’t apply to a foreign government. So, Canada spies on Australian citizens and sends the information to the Australian spooks who can claim they did nothing wrong. Rinse and repeat.
The history of Russia has always been a little confusing to me. Why the name Russia? Knowledge jumped from time periods of Peter the Great (Russian prince) to Catherine the Great (German princess) to those commies who were intent to destroy America. Typical American education thinking using the terms USSR and Russia interchangeably.
This article provides a pretty concise history of the area currently called Ukraine. (edit - Also read comment below by enhydra lutris for additional insight on the history of the area.) We may be living in one of those moments where the names change again.
Egor Kholmogorov: The intertwined roots of history explain why Russia can't let go of Ukraine Russia Times May 27, 2022
Centuries of shared history mean that the fate of Kiev will always remain Moscow's core interest
In August 1948, the US National Security Council issued memorandum (NSC 20/1 1948), requested by then Defense Secretary James Forrestal. The document described American objectives with respect to the Soviet Union.
A significant part of the memorandum focused on Ukraine. American analysts were convinced that the territory was an integral part of greater Russia, and it was highly unlikely that Ukrainians could exist as an independent nation. Most importantly, it noted, any support given to separatists would be met with a strong negative reaction by Russians.
“The economy of the Ukraine is inextricably intertwined with that of Russia as a whole … To attempt to carve it out of the Russian economy and to set it up as something separate would be as artificial and as destructive as an attempt to separate the Corn Belt, including the Great Lakes industrial area, from the economy of the United States…
Finally, we cannot be indifferent to the feelings of the Great Russians themselves … They will continue to be the strongest national element in that general area, under any status … The Ukrainian territory is as much a part of their national heritage as the Middle West is of ours, and they are conscious of that fact. A solution which attempts to separate the Ukraine entirely from the rest of Russia is bound to incur their resentment and opposition, and can be maintained, in the last analysis, only by force,”
It seems like today’s American establishment and media have forgotten something that was obvious to US analysts and politicians at a time when America was the only superpower with nuclear weapons.
Do the Russians have historical grounds for considering this land their own, and for seeing the Kiev regime and NATO as the actual occupiers of this land? Definitely, in my view.
Kiev in modern Ukraine, Polatsk in contemporary Belarus, and Novgorod, Smolensk, and Rostov in today's Russia were one state in ancient times – Rus.
Though Kiev, the ‘Mother of Russian cities,’ was the capital of this state, Novgorod, which is now part of Russia, played no lesser a role. Amazingly, anthropologists in northern Russia’s Arkhangelsk Region have recorded epic ballads about Prince Vladimir and his warriors, who baptized Rus, which are similar in many ways to legends about King Arthur and the knights of the round table. It is therefore obvious that the local population retained a direct cultural connection with the population of ancient Kiev and Russia. At the same time, no similar ballads have been preserved in modern Ukraine.
Kiev was almost destroyed as the result of the Mongol invasion by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Batu Khan, in 1240, and the fate of the inhabitants in different parts of Rus was divided after that. The eastern regions became vassals of the Mongols (Tatars) but continued to be ruled by direct male descendants of Prince Vladimir. The city of Moscow, with princes from this house, gradually gained hegemony and created a state that managed to gain independence.
A different fate awaited the inhabitants of Western Russia. The cities there lost the power of Prince Vladimir’s descendants, as well as their historical connection to ancient Kiev. They were conquered by Lithuania, which soon merged with Poland to form a single state – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Since these lands were cut in half by the practically impassable Polesie Marshes, two different groups of Russian origin emerged there during the Middle Ages: Belarusians to the north of the marshes, and ‘Little Russians’ to the south.
The Muscovite princes, who became tsars in 1549, always proclaimed their right to these lands and demanded their return from Poland, leading a slow kind of ‘Reconquista’. Poland lost the support of its Little Russian and Belarusian subjects in this struggle after it announced the religious Union of Brest in 1596 and began persecuting the Orthodox Church and its adherents. An Orthodox resistance movement emerged in the territories of Little Russia shortly thereafter.
The resistance’s strike force was the Cossacks – a community of free warriors that assembled in the steppe for battles with the Tatars and Turks. A Cossack could be a native of any country who professed Orthodox Christianity and was ready to fight for it. As Poland progressively persecuted the Orthodox religion, the Cossacks increasingly raised their sabers against it.
Covers rich history of the area between mid 1600's to present NATO expansion efforts.
Several waves of forced Ukrainization in the 20th century have convinced Russians that Ukrainian identity is not something stemming from ancient history and culture, but something that is instilled by propaganda. Like it or not, Russians in Russia see modern Ukraine’s hostility towards the Russian part of its population not as a free choice of ethnic identity, but as a disease that has arisen under the influence of propaganda that must be cured. The more assertively some Ukrainians declare that they are not brothers to Russians, but enemies, that they want to be with NATO, and not Russia, the greater the desire on the other side is to save and cure them, whatever that means.
To sum up: Russians have many vital and historical reasons to consider Ukraine their land, and to see Ukrainians, even those most hostile to Russia, as their own people, who are in need of protection (including from brainwashing). The West’s claims that it has a right to exercise hegemony over Ukraine because ‘Ukraine is not Russia’ is seen by Russians in Russia as false and predatory.
Moreover, they consider this attitude a land grab directed at territory Russians consider their own. One of the decisive factors in Russians’ ethnic awakening during the Putin era has been the resistance to this attempt to tear Ukraine away. The president himself was not the initiator of this process but reflects the national mood.
There is no way to get Russians to accept that Ukraine is somehow separate, except by brutal force. Russians will always see any world order that involves the separation of Ukraine from Russia as hostile. By supporting an ‘independent Ukraine’, the West will always have a tireless and relentless enemy in Russia and the Russians.
The question is why does it need this, and who benefits?
Fictional ghost of Cardinal Richelieu visits an Asia Time opinion writer today about Ukraine.
“What will happen if the Russians succeed?” I demanded.
He was prepared for that question and answered immediately:
Every country in the world will call to mind Kissinger’s bon mot that it is dangerous to be an enemy of the United States – but to be its friend is fatal. America is generous with other people’s blood: Hungarians in 1956, Czechs in 1968, the Kurds in Syria and today the Ukrainians. American pundits say that from Ukraine, Taiwan should draw the lesson that it must prepare to defend itself now, like a porcupine. But it is quite a different lesson that the Taiwanese have learned – namely that it doesn’t pay to fight as an American proxy.
The Germans will have the choice of rearming, and in particular restoring conscription, or accommodating Putin. Which do you think they will do? The Hungarians will congratulate themselves for refusing to join the sanctions against Moscow. The French will remember that Marine Le Pen came within a cannon-shot of beating Macron in the last elections by proposing to remove France from NATO command, and Macron will carefully distance himself from Washington. The Poles will make a terrible noise, but to no avail; the difference between the Hungarians and the Poles is that the Hungarians do not make the mistake of thinking that they matter. And India will continue to buy Russian oil and sell consumer goods to the Russian market.
“And China, Eminence? What will China do?” I asked.
“China will eat melons, to use their idiom; they will stand on the sidelines, watch and do nothing at all except enjoy the misery of the United States. They will show the instruments of torture to Taiwan in the expectation that their actual application will not be necessary. They will build more hypersonic weapons and other nasty devices that make the American navy rather unwelcome in their part of the world. And they will quietly tell countries of interest to them that the United States failed once again in Ukraine as it failed in Afghanistan, and that China will have to be reckoned with as a new pole of global power.
What is on your mind today?
edited 5-28-2022 additional reference for Russian history