Butt Out: May 31st is World No Tobacco Day

Wednesday, May 31st is World No Tobacco Day.  The World Health Organization, the US’s Centre for Disease Control, the American Cancer Society and many other groups interested in public health are promoting the day.

Cigarettes and tobacco are a public health issue.

It goes without saying that cigarette companies know and have always known that their product is toxic and unethical to sell.  It is only through the cowardice and malleability of politicians for tax dollars and bribes that cigarettes have not been banned worldwide.

Tobacco is directly related to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clotting, emphysema, high blood pressure and many other conditions.  If the republicans in the US were so concerned about health care, why didn’t they just label smoking a “pre-existing condition” and not any of the other things they named?  It would have deprived many of the same people of healthy care that they targeted with all their other exemptions.

“E-cigarettes” are no safer than boxed cancer sticks, just as likely to cause cancer.  The fluid in “e-cigarettes” is toxic and has killed at least one young child.  The product is marketed with “flavours” which young children recognize without comprehending the risks of touching nicotine with their skin.

The CDC, the National Institute of Health, the American Cancer Society and many other reputable agencies and organizations all agree on the facts: second hand smoke causes harm to non-smokers forced to breath the pollution.  Smoking in the presence of children is and should be classified as a form of child abuse.

In 2015 during the holi festival celebrations in Taiwan, a fire broke out, killing one young woman and injuring nearly 500 people.  The public and the media have blamed the organizers of the event for using flammable powder, but the fire, the injuries and death would likely not have happened if a smoker had not selfishly lit a cigarette.

Cigarettes and tobacco are a social issue.

Children are the primary targets of tobacco advertising.  It has always been that way, is even moreso with “e-cigarettes” being directly targeted at teens.  The drug peddlars know that if someone isn’t addicted by age twenty, chances are they will likely never start.

The poor have always been targets of tobacco companies, lured into use with lies of “social acceptance”, as if something which steals money from you will make you richer.  That’s on par with the “prosperity gospel” in its inanity.

Cigarettes and tobacco are an political issue.

As industrialized countries ban smoking , tobacco companies are seeking out new markets to peddle their filth.  India large population and Africa’s burgeoning economy are being targeted with the burden of tobacco addiction, just at the point where they are trying to end poverty.   This is going on despite a worldwide treaty banning it, likely because of “political donations” (read: bribes) and the lack of concern by G20 countries for the poorest people. Even Russia and China, which have long been heavy consumers of tobacco, are taking an enlightened stance on this issue.

Cigarettes and tobacco are an environmental issue.

It is estimated that 30% of litter in the US is cigarette butts, making it the single largest form of litter in the country.  Combine that with an estimated 30% of human-made garbage in US waterways(I read unconfirmed claims of 20% of ocean garbage including cigarette butts.  It’s unproven, but very likely.)  It is estimated that 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts are discarded worldwide each year.

The filters in cigarettes are not cotton, as many mistakenly believe.  95% of a cigarette filter is cellulose acetate (plastic), combined with paper and rayon.    It does not degrade and, discarded butts will remain in the environment as long as a styrofoam cup.


Smoking is not a right, it is a drug addiction.  It is a major source of environmental pollution, a health hazard, and another trap aimed at the poorest in society.  It is contradictory to claim one stands for social justice and environmentalism while excusing the use of tobacco.

Let’s Drink: Taiwan’s court endorses marriage equality

Breathtaking humanity.  That is how I would describe the decision by Taiwan’s Constitutional Court in approving same-sex marriage in Taiwan.  To no surprise, the bigots are crying foul, but they were equating LGBTQIA people to pedophiles.  The only thing foul is their ignorance and hate.

Constitutional Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage

Taipei, May 24 (CNA) In a landmark ruling, Taiwan’s Council of Grand Justices stated on Wednesday that the Civil Code provisions that does not ensure same-sex marriage rights is unconstitutional and asked the Legislature to amend relevant laws within two years to protect the interests of gay couples.

The historic constitutional interpretation makes Taiwan the first country in Asia to effectively legalize same-sex marriage. While the ruling was hailed by those in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, protesters voiced their discontent outside the court.

The council made the ruling after it received two requests for a constitutional interpretation on the issue.

One of those requests was filed by veteran gay rights advocate Chi Chia-wei in 2015 after his attempt to register his marriage with his male partner was rejected by the household registration office in Wanhua District in Taipei in 2013 and subsequent court appeals failed.

The other request was filed by Taipei City government’s Department of Civil Affairs in 2015 after three same-sex couples filed an administrative lawsuit against the government after their marriage registrations were rejected by the department.

Taiwan’s court deemed this so important for Asia, not just Taiwan, that the decision was published both in Mandarin and English.  People who follow legal issues tell me publication in English is exceedingly rare.

Full text of Constitutional Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage

I would say more, but I got home from work just now.  I’m changing and going out to the most popular LGBTQIA club in Taipei to dance until 4AM and get drunk.  They’re offering free shots for same sex kisses. I’ll worry about work and the hangover in the morning.

Intentionally Deliberate: Marriage equality in Taiwan

On Wendesday, May 24, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court will rule on the legality of marriage equality in Taiwan.  There have been no rumours about which way they will rule, but given the arguments (pro: the benefits, anti: “think of the children!”) and the Taiwanese public’s acceptance of LGBTQIA people, it’s very likely to pass.

In the event that it doesn’t, it is not a total defeat.  Putting the decision in the hands of the court was political manoeuvring by President Tsai Ing-Wen, rather than requiring the DPP passing new legislation themselves.  A bill has been written and could be pushed through if necessary.

I expect within a year some of my friends will start getting married.  I will seriously have to start shopping for formal dresses.

Constitutional Court to rule on gay marriage case Wednesday

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) Taiwan’s Council of Grand Justices is set to release its interpretation on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage on May 24.

The council will make the ruling after it received two requests for a constitutional interpretation on the issue.

[…]

Taiwan was the first Asian country to allow a constitutional interpretation on the issue.

If the judges rule that Taiwan’s current ban is constitutional, same-sex marriage will not have legal protection. If it rules that the ban is unconstitutional, then the Legislative Yuan will be forced to amend the law to legalize same-sex marriage.

Desperate Measures: The new back alley abortion

In Colorado, James Pennington has been arrested for “assault” upon Jane Doe.  Pennington is a former army medic, not a doctor, and surgically removed Ms. Doe’s testicles.

Pennington performed the equivalent of a back alley abortion. 

Transgender people constantly endure roadblocks to transition – denied changes in documentation, denied recognition, denied medical care.  If Ms. Doe had been able to attain all those things, she would not have resorted to having surgery done in her apartment, bleeding and risking death.

How does Ms. Doe feel about James Pennington?  She wrote a lengthy letter in his defence, pleading for him not to be charged or treated leniently.  She criticizes the bigoted medical industry, policitians and society that drove her to this decision.

I am not in her position, not desperate as she was, but I understand and empathize.

Transgender woman pens letter about testicle removal case

DENVER – A transgender woman has penned a letter explaining why she chose to ask an unlicensed Colorado man to remove her testicles in what she called a “back-alley” procedure.

James Lowell Pennington, 57, is accused of operating on the transgender woman and is now in a Denver jail facing charges of aggravated assault.

[Read more…]

Music Rules: What’s new, Pussycat

It’s not a question.  Pussycat is Juliana Hatfield’s latest album, released this month (May 2017).  It was written after the farcical election of Annoying Orange and recorded in less than two weeks.  It is her first overtly political album full of songs like “Short Fingered Man” and “KellyAnne”.

I have been a fan of Hatfield since 1992, primarily because of her consistency in song quality, and the fact that she plays much of it herself.  I haven’t heard the new album yet, but for me this could be her defining statement.

Yes, she is a descendant of the Hatfield and McCoy feud.

Cars Kill: Traffic terrorism needs to end

Nicky Hayden, the “Kentucky Kid”, was the 2006 MotoGP World Champion.  He died Monday at age 35. He was hit by a car five days ago while he was riding a bicycle during training for the 2017 World Superbikes season.  Hayden was hit by a careless driver five days ago, suffered massive internal and brain injuries, and succumbed to them on Monday, May 22.

Already the victim blaming and factless speculation has started, spewing tripe like “maybe he ran a stop sign”.  Photos from the accident scene show it was a long, straight road, no corners or traffic signs in sight.  And no skid marks from the car tires, either.  Unfortunately, as with most cyclist deaths, the assumption is that the cyclist is at fault.  The tone is very similar to the way women are blamed for being raped (i.e. “how was he riding?” = “what was she wearing?”).

It shouldn’t require the death of someone famous for people to realize that drivers do not respect cyclists and do not obey the law.  Cyclists have as much a legal right to the road as car drivers do, and drivers are legally required to leave space for cyclists to ride safely.  If you don’t want cyclists in car lanes, petition for one car lane to be blocked off with concrete Jersey barriers to provide a cycling lane.  Cars and drivers are the problem and danger, not cyclists.

The behaviour and actions of car drivers towards cyclists and pedestrians is Traffic Terrorism, and it needs to end.

Criticism of how cyclists ride is not relevant, unwanted and will be silenced.

Wrong Headed: Ignorance from the past

Outdated “thinking” never goes away, it just changes the target of its ignorance.

I recently ran across three items from the past in separate places on uninformed attitudes about and biases against left handedness.  Dressing up opinions and labelling them “facts” happened as often 150 years ago as it does today.

In 1850, a poorly written story called Left-Handed Billy was published in a children’s book called “Robert Merry’s Museum”.  It made farcical claims of left handedness, equating it with ineptitude, and stupidity.  The last paragraph of the story reads:

Thus he grew up, and, when he was a man, he received the title of Left-handed Billy. If he drove a team of cattle, he was sure to be on the wrong side, as you see him in the picture at the head of this article. He never succeeded in anything, but became what is called an unlucky fellow. The people used to say, if there was a wrong side, Bill was sure to take it. Such were the evils of growing up in habits of carelessness.

Publishing Andrew Wakefield wasn’t the only time The Lancet screwed up and published pseudo-science gobbledygook.  In 1924, a questionable “paper” entitled The Mental Sorrows of Left-Handedness (William. S. Inman) was published.  It made risible claims about the causes of left-handedness, stammers, and squinting based on no facts whatsoever, only biases of the time and the author’s.  The “conclusion” was that emotional stress from “too severe parenting” caused them, that left-handed was “an unconscious revolt against authority”.

In 1935, J.W. Conway wrote (and I use that word loosely) a horrendously awful pamphlet entitled The Prevention And Correction of Left-Handedness In Children.  His pamphlet was the “homosexual aversion therapy” of its day, advocating physical and mental abuse upon children to “correct” them out of something perfectly natural.

Strangers Estrange: Happy Freedom Day, to some

For those reading who love their mothers and grew up in a great home, call her and tell her you love her if you haven’t already.  Time is short.  For those who had a great mom who died, my condolences to you.  I have a couple of friends who lost their moms this year and I wish I could have done more than be supportive and a friend.

But the day is not a celebration for everyone.  “Mother’s day” can be as hurtful a reminder to some as “valentine’s day”, “christmas” or other commercialized events.  The world tells us only one form of expression is allowed that those who don’t share it must be silent.

That’s unacceptable. [Read more…]

Music Rules: The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy was an industrial/hip-hop band which sadly produced only one album on their own, 1992’s “Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury”(A second effort “Spare Ass Annie And Other Tales” was a collaboration with William S. Burroughs).

Oh, what an album it was.  It was more landslide than a landmark, its political and social messages on par with Gil Scott Heron and other activists.  The album still stands up today, worth listening to for its message an its music.

There are a couple of weak moments on the album, but most of its themes and messages stand the test of time and are still relevant today.  The standout tracks:

  • Television, the Drug of the Nation
  • Language of Violence
  • The Winter of the Long Hot Summer
  • INS Greencard A-19 191 500
  • California Über Alles

“California” is a cover, updated to talk about then-governor Pete Wilson.

Math Rules: Happy 400th to Napier’s Bones

In 1617, mathematician John Napier produced his bones, or rods, as a means of accurate multiplication and division.  These were improvements on earlier work by by Matrakci Nasuh and Fibonacci.  It was a huge step forward in accuracy and speed of computation for mathematicians and all scientists.  It allowed a simple, visual way to add numbers with single digit multiplication removed to prevent errors.

In the example below, to multiply 8 times 6785, you simply line up four bones on the board and read across at the 8. The product 54,280 is the result of adding the numbers (8+5 and 6+6 both carry).

William Oughtred is credited for producing the first slide rule in 1622, as well as coining sine and cosine and “x” for multiplication.  The slide rule did not allow for as many digits of precision as Napier’s bones, but certainly increased the speed of mathematical calculation.  One can compute two 2-digit numbers faster with a slide rule than with a calculator.

 

Visit the Virtual Slide Rule for a testable example of how the slide rule works.  First, slide the centre bar to until the 1 on the B scale is under the 2 on the A scale.  Now look to the right at the 3 on the B scale, which is now under the 6 on the A scale.  2×3=6.  Look also at the K scale which is used for cubing numbers.  2 on the B scale is under the 8, so 2^3=8.  The numbers between the integers can be used as decimals or smaller numbers (e.g. 1.5 in place of 15).  You only need to keep track of the powers of 10.

Later, in 1891, French railway engineer Henri Genaille improved upon Napier’s work with the
Genaille–Lucas rulers.  The rulers removed the additions necessary in Napier’s bones, increasing speed and accuracy.  The pointing lines on Genaille’s rulers removed the need for addition, greatly reducing errors in multiplying large numbers.

In the image below, multiplying 3 by 52,749 (158,247) requires only noting the digits from right to left.  Start with the 7 (3×9), then move left where the lines point.

The images are taken from wikipedia.  The virtual slide rule is from Antiquark.

Finally Allowed: Dual citizenship for foreigners in Taiwan

In the past, Taiwan laws required a foreigner renounce native citizenship before being approved for Taiwanese citizenship.  However, this left people at the risk of being “stateless persons” if Taiwan rejected their application.  In 2016, the law was amended to require renouncement of citizenship within a year after attaining Taiwanese citizenship.

Now, in March 2017, Taiwan has enacted new rules allowing foreigners with certain skills to keep their birth citizenship and obtain a Taiwanese passport as well.  I may apply for one myself, after I complete my permanent residency application.  While this is a good decision, it is still hypocritical because it does not apply to all naturalized citizens.  Taiwanese-born people are not required to renounce Taiwanese citizenship if they become dual citizens of another country, regardless of their education or skills.

There is no word on whether third gender recognition is included in this legislation.

Some immigrants no longer need to give up citizenship

The regulation concerning the criteria for foreigners with professional skills to obtain Republic of China citizenship, without being required to renounce their original citizenship, is to be promulgated today, the Ministry of the Interior announced.

The ministry is to promulgate today the regulation, which is in accordance with and supplementing an amendment to the Nationality Act (???) passed by the legislature in December last year that states foreign nationals may be exempted from submitting a certificate of loss of original nationality if “they are high-level professionals in the technological, economic, educational, cultural, art, sports, or other domains who have been recommended by the central competent authority.”

Foreigners with five years of residency and specific professional qualifications in six specified categories can be granted citizenship without renouncing their prior citizenship, it said.

Arguments Made: Taiwan court hears arguments on same sex marriage

On March 24, Taiwan’s constitutional court heard arguments for and against equal marriage in the country.  The judges are currently debating the case but there is no fixed time for rendering a decision.  Some have speculated that Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen is letting the courts to decide rather than trying to push legislation through.  Reasons range from lack of supporting votes to pass the law, a race against time before the next term of elections, or (unlikely) an unwillingness to force it through and let the courts face the backlash.

I have not heard news of judgement from the courts yet, but the arguments for equal marriage have been compelling and emotional, while arguments against have been the usual retreaded lies – “kids are in danger”, “freedom of religion to persecute”, “equal marriage will force heterosexuals to participate”.  I have a good feeling the court will rule in favour of equal marriage.

Taiwan constitutional court hears debate on same-sex marriage

Taipei, March 24 (CNA) Taiwan’s Constitutional Court on Friday heard arguments over whether the country’s marriage law is unconstitutional because it does not legally recognize same-sex marriages.

Fourteen grand justices heard the debate, which focused on whether Taiwan’s Civil Code should allow same-sex marriage and if not, whether that violates articles under the Constitution of the Republic of China pertaining to equality and marriage freedom.

It also addressed whether setting up a separate system, such as a same-sex partnership system, instead of treating same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples under the current law, violates the Constitution.

“I have waited for this day for 41 years, six months and 24 days,” gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei, who is one of the petitioners requesting the constitutional interpretation, told the court.

Oh, Shoot: American learns Taiwan has no right to possess guns

I say an American has no right to possess guns, because in Taiwan, her US police badge doesn’t mean squat.  Here, she’s under arrest for the crime of illegally importing a firearm.

I’m laughing my head off.  Meanwhile, the gun fetishists here are whining about “freedumb” and the “right to arm bears”.

My response to them has been, if you don’t like Taiwan’s gun laws, go home.  And if you think Taiwan is less free and democratic than the US, well….

U.S. police officer discovers pistol in bag on arrival in Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A policewoman from California has been stranded in Taiwan since she reported that she had inadvertently brought a firearm and some ammunition in her bag on a flight that landed at Taoyuan International Airport on Thursday, authorities said.

The Aviation Police Bureau said the American police officer reported the matter to members of the airport’s ground staff after discovering the handgun and six rounds of ammunition in her carry-on bag.

The policewoman, identified as Nell Grant, handed over the pistol and ammunition and showed her badge as proof of her identity as a member of the California State Police, the authorities said.

How incompetent is she to put a gun in her bag – or not remove it – before travelling?  If you don’t know where your gun is, you shouldn’t have one. And how incompetent is the US’s “homeland security” if she could get through airport security and get on an airplane with a weapon?

I hope she gets the maximum sentence, two years in prison, and make an example of her the way they do with drug dealers.  Unfortunately, it’s more likely politicians will appease Washington and let her go.  I just hope they destroy the gun.

Wheels Turn: Bicycles, the past and future of transportation

March 2017 marked the 200th anniversary of the Velocipede (aka Dandy Horse), the first bicycle.  While it was a simple construction (two wheels with a connecting bar to sit on and push the ground with your feet), it was the first non-motorized transport that didn’t involve animals.

Bicycles played a huge role in the emancipation of women, allowing them to wear more functional clothing.  Bicycles allowed women to travel, but Victorian era clothing would be impossible on a bicycle.  Shorter skirts and pants for women were necessary and became socially acceptable clothing in the 20th century.

One hundred years ago, Alice Hawkins, a suffragette, cycled around Leicester promoting the women’s rights movement, causing outrage by being one of the first ladies to wear pantaloons in the city. During the fight to win the vote the bicycle became not only a tool but also a symbol for the emancipation of women.

The American civil rights leader, Susan B Anthony, wrote in 1896:

“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.”

Bicycles have also played a huge part in warfare.  Forget the Swiss, think Britain, Nazi Germany, Japan (some called it “bicycle blitzkrieg”), Vietnam in its defence of the country, and the US during its illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.  They have long been used as fast transport for ground troops, messengers, and silent assaults upon enemy positions.

On October 13, 1967, Jack Salisbury, a New York Times reporter, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying, I literally believe that without bikes theyd have to get out of the war. He had seen first hand in North Vietnam how both the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army relied upon the bicycle to supply their troops. Senator Fulbright responded, Why dont we concentrate on bombing their bicycles instead of the bridges? Does the Pentagon know about this? According to reports, the room erupted in laughter at the idea of American bombers hunting bicycles.

US politicians may have been laughing, but the generals weren’t.  They knew.

It wasn’t just in the 20th century.  In the late 19th century, the US’s 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps performed a 1900 mile test to prove the viability of the bicycle for troop movement in warfare.  This test also played a role in acceptance of black soldiers in the US military.

In June of 1897, the all-black company of the 25th Mobile Infantry, under command of a white lieutenant and accompanied by a medic and a journalist, embarked on a journey across America’s heartland — from Fort Missoula, Montana, to St. Louis, Missouri — to “test most thoroughly the bicycle as a means of transportation for troops.”

Their trek would span 41 days and 1,900 miles and pit the men against sandhills, the Rocky Mountains, rain, snow, poison, and more. Decades before Dr. King had his famous dream, these men were sweating together, bleeding together, and biking together as a team.

Their trip proved two truths that we should hold self-evident today: 1) All men are created equal; 2) All men are nowhere near as tough as they were in 1897.

Two-Wheeled Warriors – A Brief History of Bicycles on the Battlefield

Bicycles are the transportation of the future, not the past.  Environmental issues are forcing cities and countries to seriously rethink personal automotive transportation and put the focus on mass transit.  The “last mile problem” (i.e. not everyone lives or works next to transit) is why the car mentality persists.  But with problems like pollution and climate change, rail becoming more accomodating to bicycles, cities building more bike lanes, and folding bicycles becoming more reliable and cheaper, the days of the car may be numbered.

Electric bicycles are as viable as electric cars.  As battery power storage improves and batteries shrink in size, why move a one ton car when you can move a 30kg bicycle with a far smaller battery?  For those with limited endurance or physical mobility but can still walk, an electric bicycle is more than sufficient for travelling locally without reliance on vehicles or public transit.  Electric bicycles offer speed and distance (up to 24kmh and ranges up to 50km) without requiring licenses or registration. For those who lose (or should lose) their licenses due to an inability to drive safely anymore, it is a viable alternative transporation.

There is a lot of snobbery towards bicycles and cyclists, plenty of unthinking people with anti-bicycle attitudes who should never be allowed to drive.   The reality is, bicycles aren’t “outdated technology”, they are not a “hindrance to traffic”.  Bicycles are the most efficient mode of transportation in terms of power to distance travelled.  They aren’t just here to stay, they are on the rise.

And if you still don’t agree or like bicycles, I say on yer bike.