Monday, 16 July 2018

Trump trip... so far...

Germany: lecture on how bad the gas deal with Russia is. True but undiplomatic.
NATO summit: undiplomatic tough talk but effective: other NATO members agree increased defence spending. NATO SG acknowledges this.
Brexit: True but undiplomatic. Risk: emboldens Corbyn supporters and we don't want this crypto Marxist in power.

So, overall: truth spoken. Feathers ruffled. Some points could have been made better. NATO strengthened. Brexit talks (trade deal with U.K.) a wash.

Still to come: HELSINKI

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How will Hong Kong be affected by the US-China trade war? | SCMP

Based on the list of the US$34 billion worth of Chinese products, the Hong Kong government said about 17 per cent – or HK$60 billion (US$7.6 billion) worth – of Chinese exports in question passed through the city to the US, and about 9 per cent – HK$6 billion – of US exports came via the city on the way to mainland China. The exports in question accounted for 1.4 per cent of Hong Kong's overall trade.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said the city's traders would be "the first to bear the brunt" of the trade war, and the latest round of tariffs that the US imposed on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods would "hit Hong Kong harder".

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Saturday, 14 July 2018

America needs the WTO — WSJ

According to the Wall Street Journal Trump is indeed considering pulling out of the WTO. 
This would be an even more catastrophic mistake than the clear and egregious error of pulling out of the TPP. Major own goal. Not just shooting oneself in the foot but shooting it right off with an assault weapon. 
James Bacchus' op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. 
But let's say Mr. Trump managed to get his way and pull the U.S. out of the WTO. The consequences for the world and U.S. economies would be immense. Among them: diminished trade growth, costly market and supply-chain disruptions, and the destruction of jobs and profits, especially in import- and export-dependent U.S. industries. The resulting trade barriers would compel some American companies either to downsize or move offshore. The global economic spiral set in motion by Mr. Trump's reckless trade actions on steel, aluminum, Canada, Mexico, China, and Europe would accelerate.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Time for a reality check for China’s wishful US trade war thinkers, Chinese professor warns | South China Morning Post

Passing on, cause it’s interesting.

How about this?
By the way doesn't it annoy you that the government in the motherland treats its residents like children?

Time for a reality check for China's wishful US trade war thinkers, Chinese professor warns

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Free Speech Now! | The European assault on freedom of speech | Spiked

This I did not know: legislation in the works that will severely restrict free speech rights in Europe.
And scary stuff that may just sneak up on Europeans without it's being noticed until too late.

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Sunday, 8 July 2018

US and China: who tried to avert a trade war and who forced it? | SCMP


In a nutshell, the Xi government proceeded with sincerity to fulfil its side of the May 19 bargain.

The same cannot be said of the Trump administration. Barely 10 days after the ink had dried – and with no perceptible negative shift at the Chinese end – Trump reversed course and announced the US would go ahead and impose the Section 301 tariffs on China. A final list of covered imports was announced on June 15 with tariffs set to go into effect three weeks later.
So what to make of this article by Sourabh Gupta in today's South China Morning Post?

Trump flip flops, inconsistency and bad faith? (the Left) Or some form of "master manipulation"? (Scott Adams)

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Saturday, 7 July 2018

Donald Trump is a master manipulator of bias. The trouble is, we go along with it | SCMP

David Dodwell writes about Trump's manipulation of bias. (Going with the bias, SCMP, 7 July).
Ironically, Dodwell appears oblivious to his own bias.
He quotes Daniel Kahneman "We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness." And so it is that Dodwell is blind to his own blindness.
Consider the media he quotes: The Financial Times, the Washington Post, the Scientific American. Each is left of centre and each avowedly anti-Trump. Nothing from the conservative side. That's bias, right there. In all major democracies the split between Left and Right is around 50:50. By ignoring conservative media Dodwell ignores half of these electorates. Surely this biases his own comments on bias. Or is it only Hillary's "deplorables" who are "blind to their own blindness"?
Dodwell claims "The howler from the "Leave" campaigners in the UK's Brexit campaign that Britain sent the EU £350 million (US$409 million) a week ... was manifestly false." [my emphasis]
But it was not manifestly false. The UK Treasury reports that £17 billion year is sent to the EU, about £327 million each week. This makes the Brexiteers' figure of £350 million a rounding up rather than a "manifest" lie.
Dodwell calls Trump's policies "venal". Really? When writing about bias you use a word like "venal"? Trump made his policy intentions clear in the election campaign and is now in the process of implementing them. It seems the Left hates that Trump is implementing his stated policies. [Even the New York Times admits Trump won against ISIS]
To be clear, I'm no Trump supporter and never was. I would have voted Hillary, if I were American. But I'm tired of Trump Derangement Syndrome, as manifested by Dodwell.
Moreover, Dodwell is late to the "Trump as master manipulator" trope. Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) identified it way back in 2011 and predicted Trump's victory early 2016, precisely because of Trump's manipulation skills.
Dodwell would do well to heed Matthew 7:5 :
First remove the beam out of your own eye,
and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Homicide, Happiness and Equality

For a counter argument to my discussion below, see Equality Trust.
I don't buy their line, because the stats I've looked at don't support it 
A few days ago someone on BBC radio claimed that there's an inverse relationship between Homicide rates and Equality in any given society. The more Equality, the lower the Homicide rate. The BBC did not challenge this assertion.
But it reminded me that I'd heard something similar about "Happiness" some time ago. "Studies showed", we were told, that the more Equality in society the greater the Happiness in that society.
Sounds right, right?  Well, no; it's not so right. At least according to me...
I did my own study of that proposition a while back and found it wanting.
These days, with the wonder of Mr Google and Excel spreadsheets, one can do one's own fact-checking of such studies. Rough and ready perhaps, but studies which purport to show a correlation ought to be borne out by readily available and authoritative statistics.
In both these cases, Happiness and Homicide as functions of Equality, that's not the case.  At least according to the stats I found....

Is there a relationship between Happiness and Equality?  

NO, not really.
Here is the PDF of my own results.
The Correlation between "Happiness" and "Equality" is 0.419, which is "not significant", but "weak" to "moderate".
The "coefficient of determination" -- the percent of the variation in Happiness that can be explained by variation in Equality -- is 17.5%.  So equality determines happiness a bit, but not much.  Money really doesn't buy happiness.
For "Happiness" -- a pretty slippery concept -- I use as a proxy the Legatum index, which considers a range of factors to come up with an overall "happiness" score per country: economic performance; entrepreneurship & opportunity; governance; education; health; security; personal freedom; and social capital.  One might argue these don't comprise, or necessarily make for, "Happiness", but I can't find a better proxy and would be happy to hear of suggestions if there is one. Meantime, Legatum seems pretty comprehensive to me.
For "Equality": I use the widely accepted and widely used GINI index. This is an index from 0 (best) to 1 (worst).  Good, ie very equal, countries are around 0.25.  Bad, very unequal countries, are around 0.5 to 0.6.

Is there a relationship between Homicide rates and Equality?

NO, not really.
Here is the PDF of my own results.
The Correlation between Homicide and Equality is 0.532.  A bit more than for Happiness, but still "not significant".
The "coefficient of determination", the percent of the variation in Homicides that can be explained by a variation in Equality is 28.3%.  More than for Happiness, but still not significant.  This makes sense as we know there's been a major drop in homicides, in, for example, the United States in recent decades, while inequality has become (slightly) worse.
For" Homicide rates", I use the statistics of the United Nations Global Study on Homicide, collated in Wikipedia.
For "Equality": I use the widely accepted and widely used GINI index. This is an index from 0 (best) to 1 (worst).  Good, ie very equal, countries are around 0.25.  Bad, very unequal countries, are around 0.5 to 0.6.

Something else about GINI (the equality index)

A couple of things come out of the GINI figures (PDF which is sorted by GINI, best to worst):
Overall, equality worldwide has improved slightly in the recent decades (that's the "Previous" column in the PDF).
That corresponds to Stephen Pinker's observation (and YouTube) that country-vs-country equality (wealth and income) around the globe has improved. That is, poorer countries have become richer, in income and wealth more quickly than rich countries have become richer.
Indeed if you look at the "top 50" and "bottom 50" (in my PDF) you see that the top (ie the most equal) countries have become very slightly less equal, while the bottom 50 (the least equal) have become more equal.

So, there we have it: Equality (or lack thereof) doesn't seem to have (much of) a direct impact on either Homicide rates or Happiness, despite what those (mainly on the Left) would have one believe.
AND... equality overall has improved in the world, despite what those (mainly on the Left) would have you believe.
The Left doesn't like this, because it pulls the rug from under one of its main tenets: we must have more equality, no matter what the costs. And the costs of that shibboleth can be high: witness every country from Albania to Venezuela which has tried out socialism, the main route to equality, or so Marxists think.

Final disclaimer: I wouldn't want my comments to be seen as suggesting that there's something wrong with Equality or striving for Equality. I mean, it's a good thing if a society can be more equal in income and wealth.  But being obsessed with it doesn't do us any good in working out how to improve our lives (Happiness) or how to avoid its downsides (Murder).
There are other factors at work here that make us happier or make us kill people less.  Capitalism and freedom, perhaps?
I'm all for Equality, and the figures do show that there is "some" correlation between it and the Happiness/Homicides.  So, for sure, let's strive for it.  But let's not be obsessed by it.  Especially not if it involves socialist redistribution, because I've lived in such a society (China of the seventies) and there's no way it was either happy or safe.

Trump’s War on the WTO - WSJ

Trump's War on the WTO - WSJ

Re our discussions on this. 

Now, I've seen with mine own eyes the benefits of WTO and GATT before it. To claim, as Trump does, that WTO has been "a disaster"for the US, is complete, absolute and dangerous nonsense.

What Trump Doesn’t Get About Conservatism| Roger Scruton| The New York Times

I think you'll find this article interesting. 
Headline aside, the Roger Scruton does acknowledge that there are some things Trump does get. 
And then some he doesn't. 
Like trade. It's not zero-sum ($US500 billion deficit with China is not a "loss"to America), protectionism is not "good", as Trump claims, and trade wars are not "easy to win". Free trade used to be a key Republican plank. 
Pulling out of TPP remains, in my view, a major strategic mistake by Trump and if he goes after WTO, heaven help us....
Specifically, quoting Adam Smith, Scruton notes:

In another of conservatism's founding documents, "The Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith argued that trade barriers and protections offered to dying industries will not, in the long run, serve the interests of the people. On the contrary, they will lead to an ossified economy that will splinter in the face of competition. President Trump seems not to have grasped this point. His protectionist policies resemble those of postwar socialist governments in Europe, which insulated dysfunctional industries from competition and led not merely to economic stagnation but also to a kind of cultural pessimism that surely goes entirely against the American grain.

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From Singapore to the US, overseas Chinese are increasingly fearful of criticising Beijing. Is this what China wants? | SCMP

From Singapore to the US, overseas Chinese are increasingly fearful of criticising Beijing. Is this what China wants? | South China Morning Post

But what is more intimidating now is that, even overseas, no matter how far away, you feel you are still being watched. Educators and speakers in the West have been confronted by a growing number of Chinese students over discussions on China-related topics that do not fit China's official narrative.

To avoid upsetting the nationalistic sentiments of some in their Chinese audience, more and more foreign schools, publishers and commercial companies are choosing to self-censor.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Will New York’s Mayor Erase Real Diversity? - WSJ

Above: the Bronx High School of Science

A good article on Bill De Blasio's inane moves to lower academic standards at some elite public schools in New York. 
Fareed Zakaria's also did a great take on the meritocracy for CNN. Now on YouTube. Zakaria being for the meritocracy, unlike many on the Left who see it as a path for white supremacism. 

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You Graduated Cum Laude? So Did Everyone Else - WSJ

Grade inflation in the US...

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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Anti-Islam statements should disqualify Trump’s pick for U.N. migration post - The Washington Post

Quote, from The Washington Post:
Ken Isaacs, has an unfortunate record of bigoted statements against Islam.
Really?  Let's see
Isaacs has in recent years repeatedly posted statements online reflecting the view that Islam is a religion that is inherently violent and inextricably linked to terrorism.
Well, yes it is.  Read the Islamic Trinity of Koran, Hadith and Sirah (Life of Muhammad).  There's no need to cherry-pick, because it's pretty much all "cherries", steeped in violence towards and hatred of the kuffar (non-believer). The Hadiths reinforce the Koran, and the Sirah is a litany of Muhammad's 27 battles, including his personal beheading of enemies. Its links to terrorism are surely too obvious to be denied.  Of the terrorist organisations in the world, 94% are Islamic.
In September of that year [2016], he tweeted that "Islam is 7th Century violence and bullying." 
Well again, that's all true.  Muslims are enjoined to take Muhammad as their role model of the "perfect man", and Muhammad is a person of the 7th Century.  Pious Muslims across the world — Salafis, Wahabbis, for example — call on Muslims to study the "rightly guided Caliphs' of the 7th century and to go back to the beginning of the religion for inspirations. "Bullying"? Muhammad was himself a bully, as attested to repeatedly in the Hadith and his Sirah.  One example: his persecution of poets who had made fun of him. For his treatment of some of them, "bullying" is hardly the word: torture and killing are the more accurate
In a June 2017 tweet, he commented on a CNN International report quoting the bishop of Southwark Cathedral in London after terrorists killed eight people in that city. According to CNN, the bishop stated that the attack and the killings were "not what the Muslim faith asks people to do." Isaacs responded, "Bishop, if you read the Quran you will know 'this' is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do."
Isaacs is correct and the Bishop is wrong.  That's just plain fact.  The Washington Post is also wrong. Because it posts the above clearly thinking that it’s the Bishop who’s right. Yet he’s not. Again, see the Islamic Trinity.  The Bishop and the Post are ignorant and wishful thinking.
And in Twitter replies to expressions of sorrow about the 2016 Orlando nightclub terrorist attack, he simply tweetedthe hashtag #Islam.
The Left and Islamopologists try to paint this attack as an anti-LGBTQ+ attack.  It was not, as proven by statements from the perpetrator himself.  It was done in the name of Islam.

What's happened here is a surfeit of honesty from Ken Isaacs. Perhaps ill-advised honesty, given his public profile and what he must know of what happens to critics of the ideology of Islam — smeared as  "Islamophobes" -- in today's perfervid climate.  But his statements, honest as they are, are certainly not bigoted. Nor are they "...appalling by themselves."

What is "appalling" is how a quality newspaper such as the Post can allow itself to run such specious and politically correct nonsense.

HARDTALK with Ben Rhodes

1.  He has admitted to manipulation of the press and the public in getting the Iran nuclear deal through. 
2.  He claims Trump supporters are all racists, mainly from the US South.  But many were from the North and had been Obama voters.

And no questions to him about these??

What sort of "Hardtalk"??

Peter Forsythe
Hong Kong
+852 9308 0799

Time for a reality check for China’s wishful US trade war thinkers, Chinese professor warns | SCMP

Time for a reality check for China's wishful US trade war thinkers, Chinese professor warns | South China Morning Post
Interesting bit of heterodoxy going on in China. One wonders if it's approved by Xi Jinping and co, for some obscure reason. Maybe a return to Deng's dictum to hide China's light under a bushel?
This also follows a recent article in the SCMP by the reliable Tom Holland which threw doubt on China's ability to tit-for-tat with the US, which article I think I posted recently.  
It would be good if these assessments were true, for only they give some hope of a more reciprocal outcome (China being fairer!) vs two nearly equal giants duking it out and like two fighting elephants, trampling the grass and any onlookers. 

From China trade to North Korea and immigration, Trump’s poker player diplomacy leaves the US with many aces up its sleeve | South China Morning Post

From China trade to North Korea and immigration, Trump's poker player diplomacy leaves the US with many aces up its sleeve | South China Morning Post
I'm sure you'll like this. Chugani is usually somewhat to the left and a bit anti American. So this take is surprising. 
Comments interesting. Mostly anti Chugani's view, but mostly ad. hominem. 
By the way I'm not sure I buy Scott's take on NOK that it's all just part of negotiations. Maybe just more of the same old same old. 
And Bolton appears in cloud cuckoo land...

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Confession of An Anti-GMO Activist - The Wall Street Journal - Blendle

Confession of An Anti-GMO Activist - The Wall Street Journal - Blendle

I know these arguments well because, in those early years of GMO development, I was also an outspoken activist against the new technology. Along with greenminded British colleagues, I trespassed to destroy test fields of GMO crops, lobbied to have foods containing genetically modified ingredients banned in supermarkets, helped to organize the world's first campaign targeting Monsanto, and even participated in an unsuccessful attempt to steal the world's first cloned farm animal, Dolly the Sheep.

I have since reversed my views on GMOs, as the evidence debunking almost all of these claims has accumulated over the years, but there's no denying the remarkable world-wide success of our campaign. Numerous countries, from Peru to Russia, now entirely ban genetically modified crops from being cultivated. Only one GMO food crop, an insect-resistant corn, has ever been approved for use in Europe, and most European countries ban it anyway.

Monday, 25 June 2018

China and Trump’s Tariffis: Stop, or I’ll Shoot Myself Too

Tom Holland is a spot-on commenter on regional issues, especially China.
In this article he shows how difficult it will be for China to retaliate to the Trump tariffs without also hurting itself.
Good corrrective to all those simply reporting that China will go tit-for-tat.
I noted the other day that one of the ways China is thinking of retaliating is restricting Chinese tourists and students going to America. That's only going to hurt -- maybe infuriate -- individual Chinese.
When last week US President Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on an additional US$200 billion of imports from China, on top of the US$50 billion already targeted, the Chinese government immediately promised to retaliate in full proportion. The trouble is that retaliating will be a lot more difficult and painful than Beijing’s counter-threats make it sound.
So far, responding to the US trade actions hasn’t been a great problem. The first round of US tariffs targeted specifically at China is due to go into effect on July 6. On that day, the US will begin to levy a 25 per cent tariff on 818 imports from China, worth US$34 billion annually. When it does, Beijing will immediately impose equivalent tariffs on US$34 billion of goods imported from the US.
And when the US follows up with tariffs on another US$16 billion of imports from China, Beijing will again respond in kind.
If link doesn't work, a pdf file here.