BIDI [Pronounced: bee-dee]
[From Hindi; sometimes spelled “beedi” in English.] A (usually hand made) thin cigarette filled with tobacco and wrapped in a tendu leaf, commonly tied at one end with a string. This is a very popular form of tobacco use in South Asia and the Middle East, especially among the poor.
BIG BANG THEORY (Cosmology)
The incredible cosmological theory that the entire universe “originated” some 13.8 billion years ago in a colossal explosion of a virtually infinitely dense point much smaller than a single proton, which then expanded a trillion-trillionfold in less than a trillion-trillionth of the second, and has continued to expand since then at a much slower speed, to create all the matter and energy that now make up all the planets, stars, and galaxies that exist and even the space between them. According to most versions of this theory, even time itself did not exist before the Big Bang!
Although this theory sounds totally absurd on the face of it, there is some evidence to support it, though whether that evidence is sufficient to actually accept the theory (at least in its complete form) is subject to serious debate. The theory has been constructed so that it does predict a cosmic background radiation of around the temperature (2.7° Kelvin) actually found. “Hubble’s Law”, that galaxies very far away from our own have higher red-shifts in their spectrums than near-by galaxies, is also interpreted as showing a Doppler shift in the light indicating that the entire universe is expanding. And apparently the theory does predict (actually retrodict) the relative amounts of hydrogen and helium found in the universe. However, there may be other theories which can explain these facts as well or better, such as the “tired-light” theory to explain red-shifts.
The original motivation in the development of this Big Bang Theory by the Belgian priest and physicist Georges-Henri Lemaître was apparently to provide “scientific proof” for the origin of the universe at some definite time in the past (presumably at the hand of “God”). But this is the weakest part of the entire Big Bang Theory; even if there was some sort of colossal explosion of space-time and matter some billions of years ago, there must have been some physical conditions and processes which led to it. And therefore the claim that this “Big Bang” marked the actual “beginning” of everything (including time) cannot possibly be correct.
There have been serious problems with the Big Bang Theory ever since it was created, and it has therefore had to be patched several times to keep it alive. What’s more, the patches have themselves sometimes been quite bizarrely far-fetched. The period of “cosmic inflation”, the practically instantaneous and incomprehensibly vast increase in size, had to be added as one ad hoc patch. And, even so, the theory still has major problems. (For example, while the theory has been constructed to explain the relative proportions of hydrogen and helium it apparently cannot correctly explain the proportion of lithium in the universe.)
Although the Big Bang Theory has near universal acceptance by contemporary cosmologists, in my view materialists should use extreme caution before accepting the theory. And the part about the Big Bang marking the “beginning” of the universe and the beginning of time—and “explaining this” as the work of God!—is clearly complete religious foolishness. —S.H.
See also the book The Big Bang Never Happened, by Eric Lerner (1991), and “MULTIVERSE”, PHLOGISTON THEORY
BIG CHARACTER POSTER
A poster containing large Chinese characters which made them easy to read from a distance. They played an important role during the Chinese revolution, especially during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Although predating the GPCR, upon their first appearence during that great mass upsurge the revisionist leaning high Party members tried to prohibit big character posters, but Mao’s support for them and their authors, and his general support for the masses speaking out and mass democracy, forced the revisionists to slink away and keep quiet.
See also: “BOMBARD THE HEADQUARTERS”
“The big-character poster is an extremely useful new type of weapon. It can be used in cities and the countryside, in factories, co-operatives, shops, government and other organizations, schools, army units and streets, in short, wherever the masses are. Now that it has been used widely, people should go on using it constantly.” —Mao, “Introducing a Co-operative” (April 15, 1958).
A term recently introduced in the computer sphere for huge amounts of data (or “large data sets”) which are so big or disorganized that traditional data processing applications such as standard data base software are unable to adequately process them and extract useful information.
The National Security Agency (NSA) of the U.S. government, for example, seeks to capture and record every single communication in the world (including all telephone calls, all emails, and all other communications of any kind)—and is steadily more closely approaching that insidious police-state goal. The difficulty for them then, is how to extract the really useful information they seek from all that enormous mass of information which will allow them to attack and suppress their class and national enemies. This is well illustrated by the fact that the NSA and FBI had actually gathered considerable information about the activities of the Al Qaida hijackers involved in the “9/11” attacks before those attacks occurred in 2001, but were unable to extract it from the vast mass of irrelevant data about completely innocent people and make use of it to prevent those attacks.
There are methods which have been developed in order to extract more useful information from “big data”, including arrays of thousands of computers running in parallel to seek out key words, and the use of artificial intelligence programs. Techniques such as these mean that data sets which were once too big to deal with can become more tractable. The problem for governments and businesses, however, is that the quantities of data created in the world are growing exponentially and it is proving extremely difficult for them, even with all their vast resources, to keep up with it. IBM estimated that every single day in 2012 an additional 2.5 exabytes (2.5×1018 bytes) of data were created!
A unit of area measurement for land used in Nepal, Bangladesh and parts of India. The size varies considerably from region to region. In Nepal the bigha equals about 1.67 acres (0.677 hectares). In Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, the bigha equals 0.3306 acres or roughly 1/3 of an acre (0.1338 hectares). In central India it usually equals 5/8 of an acre (0.2529 hectares).
In the chart at the right we see that as of 2015 just 62 billionaires have as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, half of all the people in the entire world! And this statistic continues to change for the worse as the polarization of wealth continues to widen; as recently as 2010 it was “just” the 388 richest individuals who equalled the wealth of the bottom half of humanity.
The wealth of these richest 62 people has risen by 44% in the five years since 2010–in other words by more than half a trillion dollars ($542 billion), to a total of $1,760,000,000,000. Meanwhile the wealth of the bottom half of humanity fell by just over one trillion dollars in the same period, a drop of 41%. [Chart and figures from the Oxfam briefing paper, “An Economy for the 1%” (Jan. 18, 2016)].
Every year millions of people in the world, many of them children, die of hunger or malnutrition, and billions more live their whole lives in utter destitution. This could be ended over night through the confiscation of all the stolen wealth of a miniscule number of billionaires and the rest of the bourgeoisie and the reorganization of society in the interests of the people. Of course it would take a social revolution to do this.
“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire friendly Congress.” —Warren Buffet, billionaire capitalist investor, and the third richest person in the world, proposing that there be a (somewhat) higher income tax rate for the rich, quoted in Time magazine, 2011. [Of course Buffet doesn’t go so far as to admit that the bourgeoisie actually runs the U.S. and the world in its own interests, let alone admit that it would take a proletarian revolution to change this. —Ed.]
“China, including Hong Kong, has surpassed America as the country with the most billionaires, according to Hurun, a publication, and is home to 568 billionaires compared with America’s 535. The figures for China were based on share prices in January , and take account of tumbling stockmarkets. India came in third on the list with 111 billionaires. Britain and Germany were joint fourth with 82 each, followed by Russia [with] 80.” —The Economist, Feb. 27, 2016, p. 6.
Bin LADEN, Osama (1957-2011)
The founder of al-Qaeda, the anti-imperialist terrorist group responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. and numerous other terrorist attacks around the world. Osama bin Laden was born into the family of billionaire Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden in Saudi Arabia. In 1979 he joined the Mujahideen in their struggle against the social-imperialist Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He used his family’s wealth and connections to help expand that struggle, and in doing so won the support and admiration of many in the Arab world. In this guerrilla war, he and his associates were given enormous military aid and other support by the United States CIA, which in effect helped him found his al-Qaeda organization in 1988. The CIA arranged for the purchase of millions of dollars of arms from revisionist China to help arm bin Laden’s group and the Mujahideen. (See: AFGHANISTAN—Soviet War In—U.S. Covert Activity)
After the defeat of Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1989, bin Laden and his al-Qaeda group began to turn their attention toward trying to force out the much bigger imperialist presence in the Arab and Muslim world, the United States. He was banished from Saudi Arabia in 1992, and then moved his operational base first to Sudan, and then back to Afghanistan in 1996. From Afghanistan bin Laden declared war on the United States and demanded that all U.S. military forces be removed from the Muslim areas of the world.
After bin Laden’s involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, he was placed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list. And after the 9/11 attacks he was clearly at the top of that list, and the FBI put a bounty of $25 million on his head. On May 2, 2011, the U.S. sent a covert military team into Pakistan, and after surrounding bin Laden’s unprotected home confronted and killed him. While he could have been easily captured and brought to trial, he was instead assassinated on the direct orders of President Barack Obama.
“‘Of course the guys [in the U.S. Seal commando team] knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,’ the retired official said. ‘Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive – to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.”’ The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.” —Seymour M. Hersh, “The Killing of Osama bin Laden”, London Review of Books, Vol. 37, No. 10, May 21, 2015, online at: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n10/seymour-m-hersh/the-killing-of-osama-bin-laden Hersh provides extensive evidence that there was nobody defending bin Laden in his house, that in fact he had been under secret house arrest for years by the ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency), that he was in ill health and did not resist, and that he was simply outright murdered in cold blood by the U.S. Navy Seal commandos. —Ed.]
“A number of analysts have observed that bin Laden won major
successes in his war against the United States. ‘He repeatedly asserted that the
only way to drive the US from the Muslim world and defeat its satraps was by drawing
Americans into a series of small but expensive wars that would ultimately bankrupt
them,’ the journalist Eric Margolis writes. ‘The United States, first under George
W. Bush and then Barack Obama, rushed right into bin Laden’s trap.... Grotesquely
over-blown military outlays and debt addiction ... may be the most pernicious legacy
of the man who thought he could defeat the United States.’ A report from the Costs
of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public
Affairs estimates that the final bill will be $3.2 to $4 trillion. Quite an
impressive achievement by bin Laden.
“That Washinton was intent on rushing into bin Laden’s trap was evident at once. Michael Scheuer, the senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking bin Laden from 1996 to 1999, wrote, ‘Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us.’ The al-Qaeda leader, Scheuer continued, was ‘out to drastically alter US and Western policies toward the Islamic world.’
“And, as Scheuer explains, bin Laden largely succeeded. ‘US forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.’ Arguably, it remains so even after his death.”
—Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? (2016), p. 18. [One thing Chomsky doesn’t consider here, however, is that the U.S.—like any capitalist government—needs deficit-based government expenditures to keep the economy functioning. Therefore, this business about “bankrupting” the U.S. through its “War on Terror” is more complicated than might originally appear. Massive military expenses which cause budget deficits (“Military Keynesianism”) actually are important props for American imperialism for a long period, though it is also true that this speeds up the eventual day of reckoning when a severe financial crisis will bring the American (and world) capitalist economy crashing down. —S.H.]
The application of ethics and morality to the biological and medical sciences. Although the origin of this term is recent (c. 1971), the necessity for moral principles to be considered and applied in this sphere was recognized even in ancient times, as with the Hypocratic Oath, and his admonition to all physicians to “first do no harm” to their patients. However, the great expansion of biological and medical research in the 20th century included the horrible and inhuman examples of this done in the service of their ruling classes by Nazi doctors in Europe and Japanese doctors in China (as well as by doctors and researchers in other imperialist countries including the U.S.). [See the entries for BIOLOGICAL WARFARE EXPERIMENTS below, for just a few examples of this.] Mass murders and other outrages such as these, which led to an explosion of criticism directed at such immoral behavior, forced the biological research and medical fields to try to regulate themselves (with only very limited success).
Ethics is actually a fairly simple subject, and its central principle is just that what is good and right is that which is in the interests of the people. (In class society, however, this must be modified; there are different and conflicting class moralities since different classes do not share the same basic collective interests. Thus for the revolutionary proletariat the central ethical principle is that what is good and right is that which is in the interests of the working class and its allies. See: CLASS INTEREST THEORY OF ETHICS ) So, in principle, the application of ethics to biological research and medicine, or to any other sphere, ought to be an easy and straightforward matter, which anybody from the enlightened and revolutionary working class should be able to do.
But, unfortunately, present day society is not run or controlled by the revolutionary working class. This means that bioethics in contemporary society is dominated by bourgeois and non-proletarian interests and by a variety of ethical theories which reflect those bourgeois conceptions and interests. Moreover, the “need” for the special professional field of “bioethics” in the first place arises out of a combination of these obfuscating bourgeois ethical theories together with the desire of researchers and doctors in bourgeois society to themselves dominate the discussion about what is right and proper to do in their sphere. It is quite similar to capitalist society also having the absurd subject of “business ethics” (which takes for granted the right of capitalists to exploit workers) so that the capitalists themselves (or their prostitute philosopher hirelings) can say what is moral or not. —S.H.
The erroneous bourgeois theory that human beings, and their individual and social behavior, are entirely (or at least overwhelmingly) determined by their biological makeup. The most common specific form of this nonsense is genetic determinism.
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE EXPERIMENTS — By Japan in the 1930s-1940s
“The Nazis were not the only nation to build death camps in the
period leading up to World War II. The Japanese, too, had their concentration camps.
The object was not, as with the Germans, the extermination of a people, but instead
was to use incarcerated common criminals and prisoners of war as guinea pigs in
biological and, to a lesser extent, chemical warfare experiments.
“The rationale was simple. The fanatical, right-wing militarists who dominated Japanese society from the late 1920s to the end of World War II believed that in order to achieve their goal of Japanese domination of East Asia, they would have to rely upon exotic weapons of war such as pathogenic and chemical arms. That was horrible enough. But those who originated the program did not believe that these weapons could simply be developed in laboratories and let loose against enemies on the battlefield. They had to be tried out on human subjects.
“And so a vast network of death factories was constructed that, by the time World War II had begun, stretched from the remote steppes of Inner Mongolia to Singapore, and from Bangkok to Manila. The center of this empire of death was Ping Fan, a suburb of the city of Harbin in north China, where the architect of Japan’s chemical and biological warfare program, Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii, had his headquarters.
“Each factory employed at least two thousand people, including (apart from the ordinary soldiers used to guard the facilities) some twenty thousand physicians, microbiologists, veterinarians, zoologists, and plant biologists.
“At a conservative estimate, their diabolical research project of testing prospective pathogens and biological weapons on the camps’ inmates involved between twelve and fifteen thousand men, women and children.
“Tens of thousands of others were killed in field tests that consisted of distributing food tainted with deadly pathogens; lacing water wells, streams, and reservoirs with other pathogens; creating cholera epidemics by injecting cholera into the veins of unsuspecting peasants, who were told they were being inoculated against the disease; and spraying or dropping various biological weapons on villages, towns, and cities from the air.
“With the exception of [a] few lesser participants, who were brought before a show trial by the Soviet authorities, most of the architects of Japan’s biological warfare programs were never prosecuted for their crimes. The reason for this was that after the U.S. occupation of Japan, American scientists eager to acquire the experimental data garnered from these biological experiments argued successfully that their Japanese colleagues had gained invaluable insights into how the human body reacted to certain pathogens—information that would greatly assist American biological weapons programs. The result was that the U.S. occupation authorities colluded in a cover-up of what had taken place....
“But leaving aside [the lack of] prosecutions, the truth is hard enough to come by. Until the 1980s, the Japanese government denied the crimes committed by its doctors and scientists had even taken place. When the overwhelming weight of the evidence forced it to concede something had indeed occurred, the Japanese authorities insisted the program had been the work of renegade militarists. The government neither apologized nor offered compensation to those still alive who had been exposed to the germ warfare experiments, or to the families and heirs of those who had not survived them.”
—Sheldon H. Harris, in Crimes of War, 2.0, ed. by Roy Gutman, et al., (NY: W.W. Norton, 2007), pp. 59-61.
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE EXPERIMENTS — By the United States
See also part of the discussion of Japanese experiments in the entry above.
“Japanese microbiologists from the notorious Unit 731, which had been responsible for horrendous experiments with biological weapons, first infecting hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians of all ages, including infants, then vivisecting them without anaesthesia during their occupation in the 1940s were not tried like the Nazi doctors [in the Nuremberg Trials] but were recruited into the US biological warfare research establishment at Fort Detrick in Maryland; it was not until many years later that their crimes became public knowledge in the West. (Some documents were released by the US government only in 2000.)” —Hilary & Steven Rose, Genes, Cells and Brains (2014), p. 94.
BISMARCK, Otto Edward Leopold von (1815-98)
“Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Prussia (1862-1871). He was Chancellor of the Empire and concurrently Prime Minister of Prussia when the German Empire was founded in 1871. He fell from power in 1890. Representing the interests of the big bourgeoisie and big landlords and carrying out a militarist ‘blood and iron’ policy, he ruthlessly suppressed the workers’ movement at home and engaged in aggression and expansion abroad in an effort to establish German hegemony on the continent of Europe.” —Explanatory note accompanying an article on the Paris Commune, Peking Review, vol. 14, #13, March 26, 1971.
See: BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY, and HINDUTVA
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