What America is capable of doing, but isn't!

The whole BCA (nee AHCA) discussion and coverage sickens me. The most powerful, richest country on Earth right now is making decisions that go against the very basic tenets of humanity.

Gah!

And the current media coverage about how CBO is once again turning the healthcare coverage into a drama that's playing into the GOP hands. Apparently the CBO stated the exact same thing as it did for the House bill because it's not changed a bit.

And GOP Senators are only now beginning to reconsider if they will be voting for the bill. Not a single one of them has said they will vote against the bill. Worse, all of this is just posturing for bargaining. The larger theme of reducing spending on the sick and the needy (not to mention ripping apart education for the needy) to fund tax cuts for the 1% and the military force of USA continues under the GOP.

It's frustrating!

Source // edits obviously mine!

Chat with Rammy Narula on Platform 10

I discovered Rammy Narula because I've been researching photographers of Indian origin across the world and stumbled on his flickr profile.

His seminal work is a project called Platform 10. It's a series of pictures shot in the Hua Lamphong - Bangkok's Central Railway Station of one particular train that visits daily for 20 minutes. It's mesmerizing.

Takei's interview sheds some light into Rammy's work and it's only made it even more fascinating - the passion, the effort and the result are truly unique and mesmerizing.

NASA finds evidence of diverse environments in Curiosity sample

The minerals found in the four samples drilled near the base of Mount Sharp suggest several different environments were present in ancient Gale Crater. There is evidence for waters with different pH and variably oxidizing conditions. The minerals also show that there were multiple source regions for the rocks in "Pahrump Hills" and "Marias Pass."

JPL blog

Fascinating news.

Why are the "developed" nations so regressed in their thinking?

That statement – one of few policy proposals in the speech – seems to be a reference to new powers to regulate what is said and read on the internet, as set out in the Conservative manifesto.

The Independent

I don't understand this move by the UK (and US Governments). They are looking for easy political wins to curb a made up existential threat and using that to justify passing one of the most regressive mechanisms.

To be clear, it is not about privacy. However, it is about being wrong and attempting to look for a simple answer to a complex problem.

Ugh!

Trump’s withdrawal from Paris is a major blow to the American-led global order - Vox

Paris isn’t a treaty, or formal international law. It’s a non-binding agreement, one that commits countries to taking a set of unspecified steps to keep global warming below 2°C. Actually meeting that goal is nigh impossible, but Paris is essentially designed to shame and prod countries into at least making a good-faith effort to seriously reduce their CO2 emissions and build up their green energy capabilities.

 

Today, the Donnie kakistocracy does one over for the world. US already should get a lower rating for its future thanks to Davos as the Education Secretary. Now, with this decision, Donnie has ensured that the US led global order is on its way down.

This news is sad and we should all mourn. So, go ahead. Come back when you're ready to read the silver lining.

The Silver Lining

The world goes through cycles. Most of us were not here during the heydays of the British Raj. The US hegemony was not the world order until 1945 and the end of World War II.

This is a unique opportunity in the world for a new world order. Heck, if the rest of the world can come together, they really don't need the United States.

And that, my friends, is an exciting thing. USA represents ~6% of the world's population but commands the world's currency? Holds control over the security council and actually manages to "lead" the rest of the world. Kudos to the previous Government and administration right. However, that was all respect earned and provided by the rest of the world.

It's very easy to get away from it too. I am positive that Europe and Asian nations are currently making plans to take their new place right this very minute. In fact, what makes this an incredibly interesting thing is that this will actually benefit the rest of the world. You know the rest of the 6.6B people out there.

I, for one, am looking forward to this. A reset seems like the best thing for the world. Now, if we can only navigate this without a war, we will all come out of this happier.

Oh and for Donnie and Davos and the rest of them, .|.

The Place Where Letters To Hillary Clinton Go

He could show you, for instance, any one of the 110,000 letters he has drafted since 2008, because he keeps them scanned and alphabetized in a folder on his computer. He could tell you that Clinton’s personal stationery was once cream-colored, with her name at the top in blue, but that now the paper is white with a blue border. He could tell you that for most of her life, she signed her name without looping the “y” in “Hillary,” but that after her first presidential campaign eight years ago, a small almond-shaped sliver suddenly appeared at the base of the “y.” (He would also note, however, that in letters from the ’70s and ’80s, “every once and awhile she does loop the ‘y.’”) And he could tell you that, for about nine years, every letter has been written in Poor Richard, a squat typeface with tiny curled serifs, originally used in Poor Richard’s Almanac, because at some point in 2008, a letter from a friend arrived and Clinton exclaimed, “I love that font,” sending her executive assistant on a hunt to identify it.

 

Since Election Day, about 100,000 letters have arrived — two times the amount that Clinton received during the 18-month campaign, according to Russo. People send art. Kids send drawings. One person sent a Thanksgiving turkey, which was thrown away upon discovery. (“I don’t know if it was cooked,” Russo notes.) About a month after the election, Russo had to rent a U-Haul to pick up 50 boxes from the post office. “We’re still digging through stuff from December and January.”

“And then there are other people who say ‘I miss you.’ That’s pretty common. ‘I miss you. You were a part of my life for two years, and now you’re gone. You were on my TV every night. You were in my news every day. And I miss you, and I want you to be back.’ You know?” Those letters take two forms. The first, infused with the same shock that sent Russo to the floor on the night of Nov. 8, demand that Clinton come back. “Where are you?” they ask. “You need to be giving speeches. You need to be standing up to Donald Trump. You need to be in the news every day. You need to be out there.” The second form: “We’re here for you whenever your time is ready…” “You’ve earned the right to do whatever you want.” If there is a third strain, it’s the people who simply encourage her: “Don’t think that it wasn’t worth it, that it didn’t mean anything to people.”

Russo, meanwhile, describes his work as a practice in “the discipline of gratitude.” The phrase is one of Clinton’s favorites from the early ’90s, borrowed from the Jesuit priest Henri Nouwen. It’s the idea that gratitude should be practiced almost like an exercise or academic pursuit, something you commit to and work at. “That’s sort of her whole mantra in terms of her correspondence,” he says.

One afternoon in the fall of 2014, on the cusp of his second presidential campaign with his boss, Russo described the project in straightforward terms, saying that Clinton wanted to (a) take the time to thank the people who helped her campaign and (b) give them something to remember it by — a letter to keep or frame or pass down in the family. “A piece of history,” he said back then. “It was about creating something tangible. A campaign is intangible. It’s a memory, it’s fleeting, it’s ephemeral.” When it ends, “you don’t have anything to latch onto.”

I almost always deride Buzzfeed. However, amidst the crap they produce are gems like this. Putting aside political preferences, there are things to appreciate here

  • Thoughtfulness
  • The ability to relate and connect with people
  • The ability to encourage and drive passions

These are qualities that I personally admire in a leader and America really did miss out on this.

Well narrated profile of Hillary Clinton's letter writer. That people still write letters (even if most are printed), still boggles my mind and in a way puts a smile on my face.

Mozilla's headline doesn't do its stance justice

Mozilla has penned a thoughtful article on Aadhaar and a need for strong, simple policy for India around security and privacy. I wholeheartedly agree around the need for it.

However, there are 2 mistakes in this article that I believe they must acknowledge and hopefully correct. The first one comes from a place of blindness to the cause and the second is more semantic in nature.

The Indian Supreme Court has directed that Aadhaar is only legal if it’s voluntary and restricted to a limited number of schemes. Seemingly disregarding this directive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has made verification through Aadhaar mandatory for a wide range of government services, including vital subsidies that some of India’s poorest citizens rely on to survive. Vital subsidies aren’t voluntary.

I agree that vital subsidies aren't voluntary. One of the primary reasons to require Aadhar for these subsidies is to ensure safe receipt of said subsidies. Mozilla has seemingly turned a blind eye towards the rampant corruption that exists in the distribution of vital subsidies to Indians across the nation. Aadhar is currently the only scalable and accountable mechanism that enables transparency through this massive system.

I don't believe this comes from a place of malice in Mozilla. And as I mentioned earlier, I do agree that Aadhaar and India needs a much stronger security and privacy policy along with true development in the open for Aadhar, UPI and the rest of the technologies of the India stack.

The second mistake (at least in my eye) is the misleading headline.

Aadhaar isn’t progress — it’s dystopian and dangerous

The goals of Aadhar is progress. The implementation of Aadhar along with strong security and privacy policies is critical to India's future as a nation with strong accountability and true ability to ensure that progress and growth is available across every Indian.

Let me restate: Aadhaar and UPI and the rest of the Indian stack should be developed in the open. India needs a strong, simple security and privacy policy. And I sincerely hope that Mozilla isn't caught up in its rhetoric and will hopefully be a partner to India in developing said practices not just write bombastic headlines.

Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria - The Atlantic

“The greatest tragedy is we are still exactly where we were on the orphan works question. That stuff is just sitting out there gathering dust and decaying in physical libraries, and with very limited exceptions,” Mtima said, “nobody can use them. So everybody has lost and no one has won.”
It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It’s like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It’s there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages—to do so, they’ve said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time—and here we’ve done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it’s 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they’re the ones responsible for locking it up.

I asked someone who used to have that job, what would it take to make the books viewable in full to everybody? I wanted to know how hard it would have been to unlock them. What’s standing between us and a digital public library of 25 million volumes?

You’d get in a lot of trouble, they said, but all you’d have to do, more or less, is write a single database query. You’d flip some access control bits from off to on. It might take a few minutes for the command to propagate.
— https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/04/the-tragedy-of-google-books/523320/

For those who subscribe to the theory that Google has a go-to-market problem, this has the hallmark of the quintessential example.

  • A fantastic problem of scale
  • An almost altruistic mission
  • A phenomenally complex solution that's elegant in abstract
  • A true focus on win-win-win for all parties
  • A terrible job at convincing people to do the right thing
  • Pulling back a potentially life changing product

I highly recommend reading this long superbly written article on how the ambition was curtailed because of a combination of greed, dog headedness, stupidity, miscommunication, brilliance, and the American legal system.

The Miseducation of Betsy DeVos (Apologies, Lauryn Hill) | American Civil Liberties Union

Voucher programs drain public schools of desperately needed resources and divert them to private and religious schools. Taxpayer dollars are then, often times, used to fund the religious education of students. In addition, students who attend private and religious schools through vouchers are deprived of critical civil rights protections that would otherwise be afforded to them in the public system, including students with disabilities.

More than anything in this kakistocracy, the education secretary is the first person I'd like to see relieve her position asap. Betsy Davos is forcing a critical change to the American education system removing the only true path of social change from millions of poor Americans in the short and medium term and dramatically shifting the balance of power towards the rich for the long term as a result.

Literacy, education is an investment that a Government must be making for all its citizens. Under the aegis of creative reform and "freedom," Davos is ruining America's future for its majority of people.

You don't have to look much towards other nations. Germany, France and the rest of Europe built itself back up by improving investments into its education system.

Singapore is currently leading the world when it comes to education and thereby securing its future because of its steadfast investment in its education system.

That said, this is something that the American people should have prevented and I will never ever forgive this Congress and Senate to confirm Ms Davos as the education secretary. And I sincerely hope American people will too!!

As an aside, I am really digging Google's selected image for what a kakistocracy is. 

As an aside, I am really digging Google's selected image for what a kakistocracy is. 

On repeat right now... Bandish Projekt / Last Mango in Paris and Swadesi

I've been a fan of Bandish Projekt for a while. However, their last two albums:

are raw, powerful and incredibly rich in their musical and lyrical explorations! Highly recommended listening! I also hope you follow the other music by both Last Mango in Paris and Swadesi.

I would start at Alchemy for Last Mango in Paris and Hip Hop Seekha for the lovely duo of MC Tod Fod and Mawali

How '90s Rocker Chris Ballew Became Kindie Star Caspar Babypants | Fatherly

Since 2008, Ballew has self-released 12 bright, poppy albums, including More Please!, This Is Fun! and Hot Dog!, while building a new career entertaining toddlers and appreciative parents. It might seem odd that a man who fronted a band that once turned down playing Saturday Night Live now regularly gigs at libraries, daycares, and doughnut shops, but Chris couldn’t be happier. This, as he sees it, is his calling.

In case you have not checked out Caspar Babypants for your kid (even for yourself) yet, it's hilarious.

My personal favourite is I'm a nut.

These Democrats in Congress Refuse to Attend Trump's Inauguration - The Atlantic

Democratic congresswoman Pramila Jayapal from Washington decided not to attend the inauguration because she wants to spend time with her constituents, many of whom she says are “truly terrified” of what Trump’s presidency might bring. She does not consider her decision a boycott, but argued that Democrats cannot back down from the potential threat of a Trump presidency. “He can’t expect everybody else to play by the rules, if he himself is not playing by the rules,” she said.

 

Ugh!

How Becoming A Dad Has Completely Destroyed My Understanding Of Time

Time gets weird during the first 2 years of a baby’s life. It’s like watching a monkey evolve into a homosapien in a sped-up time lapse. It’s like life with the fast forward button stuck down. Part of me can’t remember what the passage of time was like before Lev, but I don’t think I spent so much of it yearning for a nap. And yet as he gurgles out what sounds like a mix of Dutch, Ukrainian and Arab curse words, I remember he has no sense of time at all. He is swimming in the present moment. And we’re both having the time of our life.