Don’t Steal: The Indian government hates competition

The Indian government of prime minister Narendra Modi is currently engaged in imposing a half-truth upon the country and betraying those who voted for him.  He is stealing and destroying the savings of the working people for the benefit of the banks and government, under the false claim of “clamping down on tax fraud”.

The government has claimed that people are “avoiding taxes”, so what is Modi’s solution?  To immediately declare all 1000 and 500 rupee notes as “invalid” and no longer currency.  The now defunct bills can no longer be used in stores nor to make payments, and can only be exchanged at banks for smaller denominations.  Panic has set in and massive lines have appeared at banks.  Most people do not have the time to stand in line for days and change their money, but risk losing all of their savings if they don’t.

This borders on a deliberate act of violence against the working class and the poor.  It will, of course, have absolutely no effect on the wealthiest tax dodgers whose money is already in the bank.  It will only affect those living day-to-day on cash.

This wouldn’t be a problem if this were a gradual currency change, such as in the Philippines which gave citizens more than two years’ notice.  But the Indian government gave the country’s citizens four hours’ notice, a move of such incompetence that one would expect it from the Zimbabwean government.

Why India wiped out 86% of its cash overnight

On 8 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave only four hours’ notice that virtually all the cash in the world’s seventh-largest economy would be effectively worthless.

The Indian government likes to use the technical term “demonetisation” to describe the move, which makes it sound rather dull. It isn’t. This is the economic equivalent of “shock and awe”.

Mr Modi’s “shock and awe” declaration meant that 1,000 and 500 rupee notes would no longer be valid.

These may be the largest denomination Indian notes but they are not high value by international standards – 1,000 rupees is only £12. But together the two notes represent 86% of the currency in circulation.

In response, many Indian people have resorted to and started a barter economy.  Vendors (who do have time to go to banks and exchange larger bills) are accepting them and giving out cash, or even loaning money in some cases.  This sort of private economy (which the government is trying to stifle) is saving people’s life savings.

Cartoons of how ‘cashless’ Indians are coping

A tweet by a journalist that she had managed to buy vegetables after topping up her local vendor’s phone went viral over the weekend, with many extolling the virtues of good old-fashioned bartering.

India is a largely cash driven economy and many cities still rely on notes for essential transactions such as transport, buying fruit and vegetables from neighbourhood vendors and employing the services of plumbers, carpenters and electricians.


Many people are functioning on what some pundits are calling an “economy of trust” – that is they are providing goods and services and telling people to pay them later.

This is reminiscent of 1988 when the US tried to destroy Panama’s economy, an attempt to destablize Manuel Noriega’s hold on power.  People resorted to bartering and honouring cheques as a short term means of economic flow when there was little or no physical cash to be had.  (Panama has its own official currency, but the US dollar is the day-to-day cash used in the country.)

Cash Crisis Shuts Banks in Panama : Financial Dilemma Blamed on U.S Economic Pressure

PANAMA CITY, Panama — International banks fearing a run on deposits closed their doors Friday and anxious customers lined up outside, demanding their money. The National Bank accused the United States of crippling Panama’s banking.

“No one, not even in his blackest nightmare, could have imagined we’d be in such a state: The banks closed, no money. People are getting desperate,” said national assemblyman Mario de Obaldia. “We can’t go on like this.”

A general strike ended Friday, with opposition leaders saying the financial crisis would continue the pressure on the regime of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.


The National Bank of Panama issued a communique advising local banks that it could not meet their requests for money because U.S. authorities had prevented the shipment of $10 million from the Republic National Bank in New York.

Facts Abandoned: Corporate journalism fails again

Quickly and predictably, Justin Harris of Atlanta, Georgia, has been convicted of murdering his two year old in 2014.  Harris intentionally left his son Cooper inside a car for hours on a day where temperatures were 30-35°C.  He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Before and during the trial is came out that Harris was “sexting” during the hours he waited for his son to die, that he had been divorcing his wife and communicating with numerous teenagers and women from age 16-30.  He was found to be researching how to survive in prison and how long it would take to kill his son, among other topics.

One thing that has bothered me is the media’s obsession and repetition of “Harris’s interest in the child free lifestyle”. [Read more…]

Flounderers Field: Another year of poppy fascism

The US has flag fascists, and Canada (and other countries like England) has poppy fascists who say, “Participation is NOT optional.”  If you exercise your right not to wear a poppy, you’re “an enemy of freedom”…never mind the fact that the poppy is as much a symbol of colonialism, racism and christian ideology.

From blogger Yves Engler:

A day to remember

While there’s some criticism of the nationalism and militarism driving Remembrance Day, the organization sponsoring the red poppy campaign receives little critical attention. Incorporated by an act of Parliament, the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League was formed in 1926. Renamed the Royal Canadian Legion in 1960, from the get-go it was designed to counter more critical veteran organizations. In The Vimy Trap: or, How We Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Great War, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift write, “benefiting from government recognition, the Legion slowly supplanted its rivals. It was consciously designed as [a] body that would soothe the veterans temper and moderate their demands.”


The Legion has also espoused a racist, paranoid and pro-Empire worldview. In the years after World War II it called for the expulsion of Canadians of Japanese origin and ideological screening for German immigrants.

[Read more…]

Voting List: The US is now so tilted, reality is sideways

I am infuriated beyond words at the ignorance and incompetence of US voters more than I am towards the fact that Trump, like Shrub, got less than 50% of the vote.  This was preventable, and the DNC actively did things that caused it to happen.

What could have been, and now will never be.  Sorry, Bernie.

A few months ago, PZ Myers asked everyone to hold their nose and support Clinton because not doing so or criticizing her helped Trump.  While I agreed with that assessment, I chose silence.  (I’m Canadian, so I’m not a voter.)  But now that the election is over, it’s time and important to talk about how things came to be and what needs to be done.

The democratic party “leadership” needs to be held accountable, and probably removed.  Bernie Sanders’s candidacy was a protest against the establishment, against Clinton who was the choice of the 1%ers and Wall Street.  The DNC “leaders” actively acted against him in favour of Clinton, perhaps engaging in actual sabotage of his campaign (financing, publicity, support, etc.).

How many millions of protest votes went to Trump because Clinton was forced upon the populace?  How many might have voted for Clinton if she had won legitimately over Sanders and the DNC had not shown deliberate bias?  We will never know, but we do know that the DNC’s decision to foist Clinton on US voters and prevent any other candidates from winning is likely what killed any chance for her to win, not her scandals.  As some republicans openly stated early this year, the democrats had an open door to the White House and threw it away by choosing Clinton, the least viable candidate.

One of my biggest fears is that Trump will quickly realize how overwhelmed and incompetent he is for the job and quit, handing the presidency to Pence.  That would mean three or seven years of extremism that makes Shrub look like a moderate.  Or worse, if Trump quits after two years, Pence could be elected twice, meaning as much as ten years of his “leadership” if the US swings that far right.

In the 1990s, common rightwing rhetoric said, “Communism was the 20th century experiment that failed”.  One could now say that the US is the two century experiment that failed.  Like the Soviet Union, the US may soon be wiped from the page of time and have to start over again.

Music Rules: Because enlightenment no longer does

As a way to vent my frustration at the US debacle…I mean, election, here are five Canadian political songs from the past for your commiseration, since we can’t say enjoyment.  Lyrics (with selected highlights) and links to youtube videos can be found under the fold.

Rush, “Beneath, Between And Behind” (1975)

Rough Trade, “What’s the Furor About the Fuhrer?” (1981)

Bruce Cockburn, “The Trouble With Normal” (1983)

Bruce Cockburn, “Call It Democracy” (1983)

Red Rider, “Lunatic Fringe” (1981)

No, posting Cockburn’s lyrics doesn’t violate of my “no profanities” rule.  I’m quoting him, not saying it myself.

[Read more…]

Ballots Cast: Republican voting fraud (a redundancy)

A woman in New York has been receiving absentee ballots for five years.  For her dead father.  The story is only now making the news because she brought it to their attention.

Queens Woman Receives Deceased Father’s Absentee Ballot

This election cycle is dredging up the pain of the past for one Queens woman.

Michelle Dimino’s father, Anthony Baldomir, passed away in October 2012. Since then, she’s been receiving his absentee ballots for the primaries and general elections.

Dimino has made several calls to the board of elections, even sending her father’s death certificate on more than one occasion, but said he is still on the registration list.

[Read more…]

Blissfully Wed: Taiwan may soon have same sex marriage

Asia is home to four of the seven billion human beings in the world, and not one of the countries in the continent protects the right to same sex marriage.  (We should not say “give”, but protect.  It should have always been there.) In some less than enlightened countries, being LGBTQIA is still deemed a criminal act. Malaysia continues to enforce Victorian era British laws against “sodomy”.  Few Asian countries have pride parades like Taiwan did last weekend.

That may be about to change.  Taiwan’s ruling DPP government is proposing a bill to protect the right to same sex marriage.  This won’t affect me (I’m not the marrying kind) but for many others I know, it’s great news. [Read more…]

Music Rules: Suzi Quatro, still rocking after 40 years

In October 2016, Suzi Quatro was awarded an honourary doctoral degree from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England.  This goes along with her 2011 induction into Michigan’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

If you knew Suzi, like I know Suzi, you’d know how important she is to women in the music business. She was the first woman to front a hard rock band as the primary instrumentalist and songwriter.  She has sold over 50 million records worldwide, yet to most Americans, she is a one-hit wonder (“Stumblin’ In”) or a part time actress (Leather Tuscadero from “Happy Days”).  Her influence on other women to play is beyond measure – Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Tina Weymouth to name but a few.

Lens Flashes: LGBT Taiwan Parade pics, part 1

As promised, here are the first batch of photos from Taiwan’s LGBT Pride Parade of October 29th.  It’s the second one I’ve been to, and much larger than the 2015 parade.

My apologies in advace for the lousy photo quality.  I’m a terrible photographer with a mediocre camera.  They are also reduced in size (1/4 or 1/8th of the originals, now 130kb to 180kb) to make it easier on the FtB servers.


[Read more…]

October, March: Taiwan’s LGBT Pride Parade

Taiwan’s LGBT Pride Parade took place on Saturday, October 29th in Taipei with the theme of Equal Marriage.  It was massive, and probably not an exaggeration to say there were hundreds of thousands of people involved.  Media estimates say 80,000+ people, but I think that’s a lowball number – I know, I was there. There were enough people that it required splitting into a north route and south route, both of which took hours to pass.  (The 2015 parade was also split in two.) [Read more…]

Dress Up Or Dress Down: Hallowe’en costumes

Hallowe’en is and has always been my favourite holiday.  Prior to transitioning, Hallowe’en was one of the few times (if not the only time) of the year when I could let loose and show my real self in a non-judgemental atmosphere.  I suspect the same is true for many other people, for the LGBTQIA community and others.

That said, tasteless costumes were never on my list.  I only time I ever considered a potentially offensive costume, I never went through with it (think “Blazing Saddles”).  One would think that as society becomes more enlightened, offensive costumes would become less popular.

Instead, the bigots of all stripes and stenches see Hallowe’en as an excuse to deliberately insult and be confrontational, to say others “can’t take a joke”, are “over-sensitive SJWs”.  As Niki Massey noted in her final blog post, some people have the gall to publicly and intentionally mock serious issues.  They are only “edgy” if that mean they stuck in a knife and twisted it.

It wouldn’t surprise me if those who defend and excuse racist, ableist and other offensive costumes turn out to be hypocrites, that they call it “inappropriate” to mock military or other uniforms (e.g. a male “sexy firefighter” costume consisting of tight pants, fire coat and helmet; or pink camo print army fatigues).  Odds are, they also defend the policy at conventions like GenCon which say “No military uniforms unless you are in active service”, rules which often don’t allow military cosplay by those not in the military.

If mocking a military uniform is “offensive”, how is mocking people’s lives “not offensive”?  It is a choice to become a cop or a soldier.  A person’s skin colour, disability, sexual identity, sexual orientation or visible appearance are not choices and should not be mocked.

Stealing ideas others write recently, this is a last minute, cobbled together view/thought on which costumes are off limits:

  1. Anything that is part of others’ daily lives or ancestry (i.e. cultural appropriation, racism, stereotyping, ableism).
  2. Anything that celebrates or makes light of crimes past or present (i.e. Nazi uniforms, cops murdering black people).
  3. Anything that intentionally pushes others’ buttons (i.e. topical or political events – no Trump “rape jokes”, no Kim Kardashian robbery references).

I wouldn’t claim this to be all people, it’s an idea that needs improvement and then fine tuning.  But a costume policy for parties and events is as important as an anti-harassment policy.  Or have cosplay conventions already put together good policies through years of experience?

The impetus for this post was a recent Buzzfeed item about a woman with body scarring after an assault by an ex-boyfriend.  She made the valid point that even mocked up bodily injuries or scarring (both a common Hallowe’en makeup effect) can be offensive to some people.  Now I see Freddy Kruger as a questionable costume.

I Spy: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 1632-1723

Monday is the birthday of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, known as the forbearer of microbiology, and for his work in improving Zacharias Janssen’s microscope.  Leeuwenhoek deserves as much credit as anyone for our long lives and health.

Antonie worked like a maven; took
Great care, but left no graven book;
But wrote letters on animalcules
In Royal Society periodicals
So let us raise a glass to Leeuwenhoek


Text Write Off: Information wants to be free

Is this a blatantly obvious solution for college students’ problem?  Or are most colleges blatantly oblivious to the problems they cause their students?

The state of Rhode Island has acted in the best interests of students over the profitability of book publishers by having its colleges use free and open source text books, which include other materials such as video and results of others’ work.  The estimated savings is predicted to be about US$900 per student and US$5 million in total.   [Read more…]

Pipe Dreams: A cheap solution to greenhouse gases or just blowing smoke

Whenever a new story like this appears it’s justified to be sceptical, but there’s nothing wrong with hoping stories like this are true.  Nobody thought ceramics were the solution to high temperature superconductors until they worked.

Scientists Accidentally Discover Efficient Process to Turn CO2 Into Ethanol

Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles.

The tech involves a new combination of copper and carbon arranged into nanospikes on a silicon surface. The nanotechnology allows the reactions to be very precise, with very few contaminants.