Monday, August 03, 2015

More Zinnias

Sunday, August 02, 2015

White Zinnia

Shaking the dust off camera equipment.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Wild Bergamot

The bees, wasps, moths, butterflies all go wild over wild bergamot, I've never seen anything like it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bonya Ahmed: Fighting machetes with pens

Avijit Roy (Bengali: অভিজিৎ রায়; 12 September 1972 – 26 February 2015) was a Bangladeshi American online activist, writer, blogger known for pioneering Bengali freethinkers’ weblog-forum, Mukto-Mona. Roy was a prominent advocate of free expression in Bangladesh, coordinating international protests against government censorship and imprisonment of bloggers. He founded Mukto-Mona, an Internet community for freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists, and humanists of mainly Bengali and other South Asian descent. He was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 26 February 2015; Islamic militant organization Ansarullah Bangla Team claimed responsibility for the attack.
Avijit Roy's wife, Bangladeshi American Rafida Bonya Ahmed gave a talk to the British Humanist Association, "Fighting Machetes with Pens". Here is the 2015 Voltaire Lecture by Rafida Bonya Ahmed hosted by the British Humanist Association. It is a must-listen.  If you can't watch, then a full transcript is available on the British Humanist organization's website.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tarek Fatah: Why Balochistan needs the attention of the USA

Tarek Fatah: Why Balochistan needs the attention of the USA
Speech at a discussion on The Hill in Washington DC on the conflict on Balochistan hosted by congressman Chris Smith on July 22, 2015.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

More on the Bengal famine of 1770

The East India Company took over the taxation of Bengal in 1765.  There ensued the great famine of 1770.  10 million people -- one-third of the population -- is estimated to have perished.

Here is what Wiki says about the contributing factors:
  • the widespread forced cultivation of opium (forced upon local farmers by the British East India Company as part of its strategy to export it to China) in place of local food crops
  • as lands came under company control, the land tax was typically raised fivefold what it had been – from 10% to up to 50% of the value of the agricultural produce
  • ordering the farmers to plant indigo instead of rice, as well as forbidding the "hoarding" of rice. {In Madhusree Mukherjee's talk she says that the custom at that time was for farmers to stock two years worth of their food consumption of grain.}
How were the British any different from Stalin or Mao, under whom enormous numbers of people starved to death?  Stalin's famine in the Ukraine killed 7 million people.  That was a quarter of the population.  Mao's great famine killed somewhere between 30 million and 45 million in China.

Ah, but Stalin forcibly collectivized the Ukrainian farms, you say.  But the East India Company extracted the Bengali farmers' entire surplus by raising taxes fivefold.   Is there a difference?  I can't really see one.

And let us remember, the era of Victorian holocausts was yet to come.  I mean, you could possibly argue that once is an accident.  But almost two hundred years of repeated such "accidents"? 

The kindest thing that can happen to the world is that Scotland breaks away from the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom thereafter fades away into history just as the Soviet Union did.

After listening to Madhusree Mukherjee's talk, I tweeted to her (with no reply) about how could she know what she knows without becoming a revolutionary?

PS: as large portions of Bengal returned to the jungle and as labor productivity in Bengal plummeted, the British Parliament, to help alleviate the East India Company's troubles, raised the taxes on tea in America....

Friday, July 24, 2015

India: more news of renewable energy investments

Solar and wind energy are crucial components of the electrification of India without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.   There is some encouraging news of possible investments.

Japan's foreign aid arm, the Japan International Cooperation Agency plans to fund solar parks in India.  CRISIL, an analytics and ratings company, majority owned by Standard & Poor's, estimates that conditions are favorable for the Indian wind energy sector to add 4 GW of capacity each year over the next five years.