Monday, 17 May 2021

What’s happening with COVID-19 in China? Are they getting vaccinated? Why do we never hear about cases in China on the news?

From here
It's a question occurs to me too from time to time. And when it does, I ring a friend or colleague living in China -- we can't go there in person as the borders remain closed. 

These living-in-China folks confirm what's said by Hua Liu at Quora. Things are back to normal in China, have been for some time. Even better than "normal": pent up demand for buying and travel has led to splurges jumps in both -- May Day holiday travel this year was 120% of last year's and retail sales are also sharply up.

And yet we hear nothing of it in the west -- at least not in the MSM, the likes of CNN, BBC, DW, NYT, WaPo. Perhaps Hua Liu is right: it's down to China doing so well that other governments are embarrassed. I

Certainly if the situation is indeed as it appears to be, China has handled the virus better than any other country, full stop.

We can continue to hate on China for good reasons: their treatment of the Uygurs (and I've been banging on about that here for years), for censorship, for lack of speech, Xi Jinping the dictator, no democracy and so on. But credit where it's due: having mishandled the virus in the early days (who didn't?) and criminally hidden data and info (right up to today, restricting international investigations into the origin of the virus), it has since hardly put a foot wrong, at least in terms of control and prevent. Extensive testing in the early days, and now rapid deployment of vaccines, with continued testing and tracing, have had remarkable effects. 

The pictures at Hua Liu's post tell the story.

Bias disclosure: Quora tends to be rather pro-China. So bear that in mind. That said, most of the contributors have deep experience and knowledge of China. And there are those, especially in the comments, who are critical of China. Given the amount of negative news on China in the MSM -- almost all anti-China these day, even post-Trump -- it's useful, surely, to have something on the other side of the story, especially if it's well informed. 

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Japanese director went deep into one of the poorest area in China丨Beyond the Mountain

Click above to go to video
Into south-western Sichuan. A province of over 80 million. Check out the steps, at 70-degree angle, and heaven help if you slip, it's all the way to the bottom....

An interesting doco. This, mind, is one of the poorest areas of China. Watch through at least to the part where we see the new apartments of the villagers, at a cost of $450 per family member. They're not too bad! Especially versus the awful climb up the hill that they used to have to do a couple of times a day -- and some oldies still do. The climb, the steps, are frightening. 

I've been to Sichuan several times, mainly to the big cities, Chengdu the capital and Chongqing when it was still part of Sichuan -- it's now a municipality reporting direct to Beijing, a bit like Washington DC, or Canberra. My first trip was in 1976 and I remember to this day my first taste, in Chengdu, of Dandan Mian 担担面 (aka Dan Dan Noodles) from a street stall. They were and remain... magic. I have a secret recipe for the soupy sauce, which makes the best DanDanMian in Southern China, or at least the best in Hong Kong. 

I've always enjoyed trips to Sichuan. It's quite a place, and out west gets very wild and mountainous, explorers’ country. 

I've always thought "Sichuan" (四川) meant "four rivers", since, well, "si" (四) means "four" and "chuan" (川) means "river" (you can even see the rivers in the ideograph 川). And it's what I was taught when I went there as a student in 1976. Silly me: going back to refresh my memory on the names of the four rivers, I find that there's an alternative explanation about the origin of the name "Sichuan". This alternative has a much more complex origin and is made up of multiple sources. 

But I don't know. To assume the much more complex etymology on the basis of one book by one scholar seems to be stretching it a bit. I'm going to use Occam's Razor here and go with the simpler explanation being the one. So, for me at least, it continues to be "Four Rivers". The rivers, btw, are Jialing, Jinsha, Min and Tuo.

‘ We really need an inquiry into how Sage forced Britain into lockdown’ | Fraser Nelson

As I’ve been saying for over a year now. The data show no correlation between the stringency of lockdown (as measured worldwide by an Oxford university tracker) and Covid outcomes, whether total cases or deaths per million. Similarly in the United States where the 50:states are run almost half half by Republican and Democratic governors, where the former tended to less stringent and the latter to more stringent measures (aka NPIs or Non Pharmaceutical Interventions), there are no correlations. In the UK, as Nelson points our, three studies have shown that cases had peaked before lockdown measures (NPIs) were introduced.  

This most certainly needs an enquiry. And soon  

The article is here, but as it’s of public interest, I copy it below the fold with thanks to the Telegraph:

Saturday, 15 May 2021

The Case Against Bitcoin

This week's cyberattack on Colonial Mutual demanded ransom
payment in Bitcoin
Michael W. Green, Peter Thiel’s former portfolio manager, says that the crypto narrative is built on half-truths and a nonchalance about the security provided by the nation-state

I've never quite got Bitcoin and I doubt J does, so we don't have any investment in it. Are we the silly ones for missing out, or the wise ones for not buying today’s tulips

The other day I took notice when Charlie Munger said Bitcoin is a "threat to our civilisation". Charley is one half of Charlie and Warren, as in Warren Buffet, my long-time hero, guiding hands of the behemoth Berkshire Hathaway and so I paid attention. 

Then just a few days ago, Elon Musk stopped Tesla taking Bitcoin as payment, mainly because of its environmental damage -- apparently it takes a huge amount of electricity to create, which I did not know.

So, here is, courtesy Bari Weiss and her Substack, giving Michael Green space to argue the anti-Bitcoin argument. Peter Thiel, by they way, was the co-founder of PayPal with Musk, another fascinating story. 

I found this piece by Green interesting and powerful. Very much worth a read. [Here is the Wayback link]

Points 2 and 3 struck a chord with me. The US is rightly excoriated for its international misadventures, many illegal, many of which have killed thousands. Thinking Vietnam, South America, Iraq, Afghanistan. But, as Green says "imagine the counterfactual" (his emphasis). Without America, the world would be poorer. And Russia, Iran and China are not replacements we should want. /Snip:

2. I am not an apologist for American hegemony and all the behaviors it has enabled. But imagine the counterfactual. Over the course of the 20th century, the relative standard of living of those who lived under the protective umbrella of Pax Americana exploded relative to those living under the competing Soviet or Chinese systems. While techno-optimists will suggest that the counterfactual is utopian, the evidence on the ground is far darker. I would encourage a read of the work of Radigan Carter, a pseudonymous (and disenchanted) U.S. special forces operative who has written eloquently on the subject, and has argued that a world without U.S. leadership is a world even he would be afraid of. (Radigan is uncertain about crypto and holds a small allocation.)

3. China, Iran and Russia are playing the dominant role in the world of cryptocurrency. In the last week of April, mining pools based in China accounted for roughly 90% of the processing power (“hash rate”) in the Bitcoin network. Roughly three weeks ago, a power outage in the Xinjiang region of China resulted in a plunge in global Bitcoin processing. Bitcoin mining — the process of record keeping for the “immutable” chain of record on which the Bitcoin network depends — is dominated by entities in countries with the stated objective to harm the interests of the United States. Bitcoin proponents continuously assure us that this is “just about to change,” but the data has not shifted in a meaningful manner in the last five years. This is not a decentralized system. It is centralized in the countries that seek our destruction. [Read on...]

‘Another Group of Scientists Calls for Further Inquiry Into Origins of the Coronavirus’ | NYT

Me, imagining how it went at the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the WHO mission to find out the source of the Coronavirus. 
WHO team (to Wuhan Lab rep): We're not here to investigate your laboratory, but just to ask you a question: did you have a leak of any virus from here?
Wuhan Lab rep: No. 
WHO: Sure?
Wuhan Lab rep: Yes. We checked and we found no evidence of a leak.
WHO: Oh, that's okay then. Lunch, anyone? 

Many many science type folks remain unconvinced by the Chinese denials. Why wouldn't they be, when China has hidden information from the beginning and took so long to prepare for the WHO mission. Doing a bang-up cleaning job, making sure you've cleared out all the evidence can be so very time consuming. 
Perhaps the biggest red flag is that the WHO Mission report, which has to be cleared by China, was so adamant to say a leak was "extremely unlikely", when they didn't even investigate the Wuhan Lab! Or any others.
Finding the source of the virus remains important, if only to direct future research into coronaviruses.
Snip, with my highlighting:
Proponents of the idea that the virus may have leaked from a lab, especially the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China where SARS viruses were studied, have been active this year since a World Health Organization team issued a report claiming that such a leak was extremely unlikely, even though the mission never investigated any Chinese labs. The team did visit the Wuhan lab, but did not investigate it. A lab investigation was never part of their mandate. The report, produced in a mission with Chinese scientists, drew extensive criticism from the U.S. government and others that the Chinese government had not cooperated fully and had limited the international scientists' access to information. [Read on...]

NYTimes: The Spike in Shootings During the Pandemic May Outlast the Virus

But, not a word about BLM, riots, or demands to "Defund the Police"…
A mystery, really.…

Friday, 14 May 2021

China Census data coming in: biggest problem is ageing.

Population increase - another Australia every two years,  
but also ten times Australia’s population are elderly
Map at the link is interactive 
China’s population is ageing at an alarming rate. In 2010 there were ten workers for every retired person. In 2020 there were only five. And in a few decades it will be down to 2-1. That’s a massive projected burden on the economy, a huge headache for the government expected to cost in trillions in elderly support. 

Another headache is the move,met of people from the north east and central China to the eastern and southern provinces. That’d be right in our doorstep here in Hong Kong. 

For those projecting a clear run for China’s booming economy and its influence in world affairs, these trends are going to be potholes on the road, at the very least..They are hugely important macro trends. 

Story at SCMP

Avant le déluge

North Paza, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong just now
before a much-needed deluge

Thursday, 13 May 2021

I stand with Israel


Israel’s defensive Iron Dome missiles kill Hamas rockets 
NYC Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang said it, “I stand with Israel” and got hammered by the likes of AOC, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the Squad.

Bari Weis picks apart the issues in her The Bad Optics of Fighting for Your Life

Needs repeating: Hamas are the terrorists here. They have no interest in a two-state solution. None. Zero. Nada. אף אחד. They want to destroy Israel. They want One State. Palestine  “from the River to the Sea”. That would be the Jordan river and the sea is the Med. There is no ambiguity here. No mystery. No confusion.  Hamas want to murder all Jews and destroy the only Jewish state in the world (there are 57 Islamic ones) and the only true democracy in the Middle East. The Hamas Charter (Art 7) urges its followers to kill all Jews, “wherever they are”. Hyperbole? No:  watch a senior Hamas figure urge beheadimg Jews. Today. Everywhere. He even tells you where to get a cheap and sharp knife. No, no. Hamas is not a good outfit.

Here’s Weiss:

In the past 48 hours, according to the Israel Defense Forces, more than 1,500 rockets have rained down on Israeli cities. Those rockets are being launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and by Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since Israel unilaterally withdrew from it and forcibly evacuated every last Jewish resident from  the territory in 2005.

Israelis have gotten used to living life in a kind of perpetual war. On Tuesday, Nellie was on a call with a journalist in Tel Aviv who abruptly hung up because the sirens started wailing. A friend sent a photo of his mother crouched in a bomb shelter. All ok, he said. Friends across the country told me about huddling with their crying children in safe rooms. It’s fine, they insisted.

But living like this is not fine: [Read on…]

Decadent US vs. Virtuous China?

I was startled to come across the following tweet my Sohrab Ahmari, someone I'd not heard of, but turns out he's the editor of the op-ed page at the New York Post

click to go to tweet

He deleted it the same day, with the comment:

Taking these point by point: 

(1)  "I'm at peace with a Chinese-led 21st century". 

This begs two questions: 

(i) will it in fact be a "Chinese-led 21st century"? and 

(ii) if it is, could I (could we) be at peace with it?

Niall Ferguson writes this week in Why is the west imitating Beijing? that the west may, kind of inadvertently, stumble into letting China become the world leader, by copying what they're doing. That may be one path to a "China-led 21st Century". 

Mark Tooley is not so sure. He concludes his Decadent US vs Virtuous China? with this observation:

All nations have some natural virtue, including of course China.  But the coercive machinery of dictatorship corrupts national character.  In democracies, there is at least the opportunity for virtue to thrive.  May America amid its sins seek virtue and justice.  And may America never be at peace with a world led by tyrants.

One senses that the world -- China apart -- very much wants the US to retain its preeminent role in international affairs. Remember, the US has many allies. China has none but the maverick and crooked North Korea. No other countries are rushing to be allies. In our region, here in East Asia and down to SE Asia, countries are wary of rather than welcoming to China's new aggression. 

I recall something I heard so many years ago: that American has one word to define it: "Freedom". China has no such single word definition. "Xi's Dream" doesn't cut it. 

A lot of the gloom about America may be precisely because it is so open. Precisely because it allows Freedom of the press. China, by stark contrast, allows no such openness and anyone who tries is soon dealt with.

Tooley notes

America’s warts are always displayed, examined, spotlighted, debated and often exaggerated.  But in this furious self-critique it has a ceaseless energy and dynamism that never quits and ultimately strives for better.  Competing dictatorships, by contrast, hide their faults, fabricate their successes, and silence any truth tellers.

So, I don't buy that it's going to be a "Chinese-led 21st Century". 

But if it were? Would I be "at peace" with it? I may be reconciled. I'm not sure about "at peace". In a sense I'm reconciled already, living as I do in a part of China known as the "Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong". 

But I will only remain reconciled as long as we keep our openness to the international media and international connections to the internet. I know that whenever I visit the mainland I miss terribly those connections, even as I know I can set up a VPN, which is just a hassle. That's the main thing for me. For others, there are different hurdle points. Just today was news that 40% of companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce are planning to move out of Hong Kong "sometime" in the next year, due mainly to the implementation of the National Security Legislation. 

And in any case, I've lived in the actual China. China-China as it were. I've lived in Beijing and Shanghai. And visited nearly all the provinces. And I've had wonderful times there. So that's a bottom line. I could easily be reconciled. Not too sure about "at peace" though. 

(2) "Chinese civilisation, especially if it recovers its Confucian roots, will contain a great deal of natural virtue". I'd say "yes, I agree". But also "that's a pretty big 'if'".  

I've studied the Confucian Analects, in the original classical Chinese, an enormously rewarding and enriching experience, which has one marvelling at its wisdom. But whether China can "recover" these roots is at the very least very doubtful. 

Still, it reminds me -- and us -- that there's much to admire in Chinese culture, and that one can admire this without admiring the current dictatorship in Beijing, under the rule of Xi Jinping. We can most certainly separate out the Chinese people from the leadership in Beijing. Separate out Chinese culture from Beijing autarky.

(3) "My wife is Chinese-born so I don't need lectures on the horrors of the CCP". I don't quite get this. Does he mean that his wife constantly reminds him of the horrors of the CCP? If that's his point, it's not at all universal amongst the "Chinese-born".  I also have a wife who is Chinese-born. But whereas I tend to bang on about the horrors of the CCP, she most certainly does not. There's are range of views out there amongst these "Chinese-born" folks, Sohrab!

But for those -- like me -- who don't like the CCP, even perhaps actively loathe it, or are activists in fighting it, from a distance, they need to bear in mind confirmation bias, especially bias along the lines of "I don't like xxx, therefore xxx will/must fail". That's rather the line of the likes of Gordon Chang et. al. whose loathing of the CCP blinds them, who keep predicting its downfall. This is an inherently unfalsifiable prediction and when it doesn't happen they say "it hasn't collapsed yet". 

Oh dear. I've made no prediction, so I guess it's time to make one. China, under the CCP, will outlast all the current crop of prognosticators, and most certainly me. It may not "lead" the 21st Century, but will continue to grow its economic and military clout. And so will the US. We may yet have to choose sides, as John Mearsheimer powerfully argues. And if that time comes, I'd have no hesitation in choosing -- for all its warts and foibles -- those United States of America.

Coronavirus: ‘vaccine bubble’ incentives aren’t enough, Hong Kong must get creative to dispel rumours, share facts about jabs, experts say

Today’s SCMP
Richard Dawkins the other day put vaccine hesitancy down to Trump. Those terrible Orange Man supporters didn’t know what was good for them, the bigots. But it’s wider than that. Across Europe, the United Staes, and here in Hong Kong large chunks of folks are hesitant to take their jabs.

I put it down to governments themselves.  Early on Macron threw shade on AstraZeneca’s  effectiveness — or lack thereof, according to him. Germany and other European countries halted distribution of vaccines out of an “abundance of caution” when some were connected with blood clots at the rate of under one in a million. No concept of balance of risks — the risk for older folks of getting and dying of Covid is orders of magnitude greater than that of getting a blood clot.

Here in Hong Kong we stopped the rollout of the BionTech vaccine for a while because of some packaging concerns.

In America the robust vaccine jabbing rate — up to 3 million a day — plummeted 75% after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was “paused” because of concerns — again — of blood clots.

When you’ve got governments doing all these pauses and cancellations, even if they then restart, the message people take away is “vaccines not safe”. 

Add to that there seems to be no other benefit to getting vaccinated, benefits like travel without quarantine, of foregoing a mask if you want. Joe Biden and VP Harris continue to wear masks. As do influencers in the likes of CNN, even wearing two masks outside when they are fully vaccinated.  

I get why they do that — to keep the message of masking, as most people are still not vaccinated -- but the message is negative, and a disincentive for people to get the jab. Here in HK, even if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re still out in quarantine if you happen to be unlucky enough to live in an apartment block where just one person tests positive. Sure there’s a bit more flexibility in bars for vaccinated people, but it’s so complex bar owners are not bothering. 

The message out by governments needs to be clear and twofold:  

1. The vaccines are incredibly effective and safe. And 

2. When you get it you can go about your life as you used to. (Even if the latter means perhaps a few fewer people mask up. Balance of risks again).

Here’s a list of the reasons people have here in HK for why they’re hesitant (click to enlarge):

From here

The top reason is concerns about safety and side effects. The main cause of that is governments. Not stuff floating around on social media. By governments. By their actions and attitudes. 

By the way: this household is not vaccine hesitant. We're all fully vaccinated (two jabs) with BionTech. We feel fine. But would like more people to get vaccinated, so we can all get closer to moving on. So far, only 15% are single jabbed, to date (14 May)

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Remembering professor Daniel Kane

Danny's lecture on the Kitan language, ANU 2017
Click screenshot to go to video
I knew Danny when he was in the Australian Embassy in Beijing in 1976.

He died recently. There was a memorial service, which I couldn't attend as I'm stuck here in Hong Kong/

Here's part of the wikipedia entry on Danny:

Daniel Kane (Kāng Dān: 康丹) was born in 1948 in Melbourne. Bereaved of his father when young, circumstances constrained him to cut his education short and enter the work force at 15. He left school and joined a bank, working as a teller. There he discovered that he had a talent for languages. Melbourne was a magnet for immigrants from over the world and he found that when they came into the bank, with little effort he could communicate with them. He undertook further education in his spare time and matriculated to Melbourne University with high honours in several languages.

He took a First Class Honours degree there in 1971, majoring in Chinese and was granted a Ph.D. scholarship to the ANU. His Ph.D. was conferred in 1975 with a thesis on the Jurchen language a Tungusic language related to Manchu spoken during the Jin dynasty in North China. He received an M.A. in Asian Studies from the Australian National University in 1976.

Parallel to his academic career, Kane has also had a career in diplomacy. He joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in 1976 and was posted to Beijing during the early part of the reform period and particularly the period of the Democracy Wall. He was also Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Beijing during the 1990s.

Academically he was lecturer in Chinese at the University of Melbourne in 1981 and visiting scholar at the Department of Chinese at Peking University in 1988 and 1993. Since 1997 he has been Professor of Chinese at Macquarie University in Sydney.

He was widowed in 2010 when his wife, the Shanghai scholar of Qing history[1] and Chinese modernization, Yè Xiǎoqīng (葉曉青), died of cancer, after risking her initial recovery from an early diagnosis of cancer to bear their son Ian (易安 (Yìān).[2]

Danny suffered for several years from Parkinson's disease.

I remember meeting Danny in 1976. I quickly discovered that he was a preternaturally gifted linguist. Discovered not from him -- he was a modest man -- but from all others who knew him. One said he was a "genius at languages". I agree.

I found out that he knew, to more than conversational level, not just all the major European languages, French, German, Italian and Spanish -- mere snacks before a main meal  -- but more obscure languages like Mongolian, Chinese from the Tang dynasty, Turkish and Russian He told he he'd learnt Turkish on a holiday there. In a month. And not just a few words, but the language. 

I found later that he knew not only Mongolian, but ancient Mongolian. And he became a scholar of the forgotten language of Khitan, a dead an now "undecipherable" language, which he managed, in part, to decipher. 

His Chinese calligraphy was beautiful. I remember he used to doodle Chinese characters in meetings. Lovely, distinguished characters. Indistinguishable from those of an educated and literate Chinese, better maybe. He was today's Edmund Backhouse, who lived in Beijing in the waning days of the Qing dynasty, and whose Chinese was so good he forged a "diary" of a Qing Dynasty official, all in classical Chinese, a forgery that was not uncovered until the 1970s. It makes a fascinating story, told in "The Hermit of Peking', by Hugh Trevor-Roper.

Danny was a one-off. In the Embassy in 1976 - 80, when I was there, in the political section, Danny went against the consensus when he thought the consensus was wrong. The Embassy in those days, and probably up until today, was not exactly pro-China, but tended to buy into the line of the Chinese government. It's called "going native" and it's a tendency of every Embassy of every country. I'm sure the Embassy folks of those days wouldn't agree -- they were professional diplomats, after all, and there to reflect their professional evaluation of Chinese politics. But Chinese politics was not easy to read in the aftermath of Mao's death in September 1976. And it was all too easy to mis-read it. And to buy into what was being said in the local media. Danny was able to see through that because he was so gifted linguistically that he made connections outside the norm and read more widely in the local media.

I remember that Danny went against the consensus about Hua Guofeng. Hua who? Hua was chairman of China from 1976 to the end of 1978 -- the same title as Mao Tse-tung! -- when he was ousted to make way for Deng Xiaoping. But, according to the Chinese government at the time -- in turmoil to be sure -- Hua was the man who Mao had trusted. "With you in charge, I'm at ease" said a quasi recumbent Mao in posters around Tian'anmen, Mao reclining in a divan, Hua reaching forward, taking the metaphorical torch from the old tyrant. Our Embassy bought that line. Danny did not. He got stick for that -- was mocked as "Genghis Kane" by some -- today you'd call him a "Nazi" because he doesn't agree with you. But Danny was right, about Hua, at least. And I think that was so for a lot about China. He was sceptical about all the CCP said. In that way he's similar to the other great Australian scholar of Chinese from that time -- Geremie Barmé, who I've written about here. (and earlier here).

I'm told that a previous Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Lin Ping, also remembers Danny "Genghis Kane". That'd be -- I'm thinking -- because Lin thought Danny knew too much about China, though of course he didn't give that away. But if there's one thing that makes the Chinese leadership furious it's barbarians know too much. 

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Richard Dawkins and the Incoherence of the Philosophers II

Click screenshot to go to tweet

My comments:

1. Vaccine hesitancy: is not a US-based Trump thing. We have it here in Hong Kong. Most of Europe, especially France, Italy and Germany, are "vaccine hesitant" to the tune of over 50%. Not even the exemplary Australia escapes.

2. Hesitancy is one thing. Actually getting the jab is another. In practice US states with Republican governors have achieved higher rates of vaccination than Democrat-led states. The highest in the land is Republican led. (Just as Republican governors did better in terms of deaths per million than did Democratic governors. See here)

In this, as in others areas, the otherwise genius of Dawkins -- a man I've read and followed for decades, whose achievements are so vastly more than this humble writer's -- is betrayed by his visceral hatred of Republicans.  A failure which leads to the likes of tweets above. And when he's attacked -- from the LEFT, for a question about trans-race vs trans-gender, who does he counter-attack? No the far leftists, but "Republican bigots". Ouch! and wrong, Richard....

In Islamic history, the "incoherence of the philosophers" led to the closing of the Muslim mind. Being stuck in one's own bubble as too many on the Left are -- and more than on the Right, because their reading habits are broader -- could lead to the closing of the Western mind. Some would argue that closing is well on the way.

Incoherence Part I

Snitchers are repulsive. Police encourage them. Shame on both

Today’s South China Morning Post 
Imagine. The police thanking snitchers. I find it repulsive. That people, my fellow citizens, should think it their duty — and no doubt feel virtuous— to report neighbours and colleagues to the police. For allegedly breaking a law — a hastily-drafted and swingeing National Security Law,  promulgated by our masters in Beijing and foisted on us here in Hong Kong. That people should do this at the rate of over 500 a day. That’s shocking and repulsive. Shame on them. Shame on every one of them.

And the police say: “Thanks you for making the reports…and contributing to safeguarding national security”, they intone.  Shame on the police.

Think of other countries that encouraged the snitching culture. Most awfully during China’s Cultural Revolution when children were encouraged to snitch in their parents if they slipped wrong word about Emperor Mao. Then there’s the Soviet Union, East Germany, Albania. And today, North Korea. All horrid snitching cultures. Do we really want to be in that baleful company?

We’ve not been averse to a bit of snitching in the west. It happened in the UK during lockdown where people told in neighboris for going out for an unapproved illegal walk.

I say enough of snitching. Mind your own business. 

ADDED: One of the worst aspects of the snitching culture is that it quickly becomes a way for people to settle scores. Don’t like your neighbour? Snitch to the police, for some “crime” you can easily dream up under the broad NSL. Bimgo! The police will thank you!

Article's Wayback Link

Monday, 10 May 2021

Hong Kong in the sixties


The Star Ferry is still going, looking just like this 
Just before I arrived first time. More photos …

“ Knuckles, ruffles, flesh-bags and fences: the story of Australia's first dictionary”

On ABC Canberra Radio: I’ve just heard Richard Fidler interviewing Kel Richards about Richards’ new book “Flash Jim; the story of James Hardy Vaux and his Dictionary of Flash Language”.


Will “shortly” be on the ABC Radio website and I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

Richards tells the story of a James Vaux, a right scoundrel who was transported to Australia a record three times, getting rearrested each time back in England for yet another variation of his many cons. In Australia he tried — successfully— to mitigate a Hard Labour sentence by writing what turned out to be Australia’s first dictionary - “Dictionary of the Flash Language”. 

From the ABC Website:

Australia's first dictionary was authored by a convict named James Hardy Vaux.

When researching the life of James Vaux, author Kel Richards discovered the story of a fraudster and gentleman thief transported to New South Wales three times for his crimes.

In order to avoid hard labour, Vaux wrote a dictionary of convict slang, known as the 'Flash Language', so magistrates could understand what prisoners were saying.

Over time, many words and phrases from the Flash Language became a part of Australian English, and words like 'pinch', 'yarn', 'togs', and 'snitch' entered everyday life.

Further information: Flash Jim is published by HarperCollins. 

ADDED: Vaux is pronounced “vox”; at least by Kel Richards and I guess he knows. I would have assumed it rhymed with “faux” as in faux pas. Which in turn reminds me of an old school friend Barry Faux, pronounced “foe”, though occasionally we teased his as “Barry Fox”. He later set up his own company calling it, to this day, Fox Furniture.  I’m wondering, was “Vaux” always pronounced “vox” or did it just become that way in Oz?

By the way, Fidler is pronounced “fie-dler”. (Not, as I would have assumed, “fiddler”…).

Sunday, 9 May 2021

The Office of Oppression

Out local government just handed over 124,000 sq ft of prime waterfront land to the Housing Authority to build medium-rise apartments for 12,000 of our poorest residents.  

Just kidding! I wish. Instead…

 Out local government just handed over 124,000 sq ft of prime waterfront land for the Beijing-backed Office of National Security. You’d not be the only one to find that name Orwellian. 

By my reckoning that office will fit about 400 bureaucrats. Their sole aim will be to find threats to “national security”. It doesn’t matter if you’re Left, Right or indifferent — the incentive for government officials is always the same: to find work.  Mission creep is inevitable. How long before in Hong Kong the bureaucrats, the "officials", become apparatchiks servants not just of a government, but a communist government, and we have corridors like the one above, the one in KGBs “House of Horrors”? 

I do worry about this Office. Nothing good can come out of it. Peace and stability? Maybe. But at what cost? 

A few years ago there was an uproar from the pan-Dem camp when the local government agreed to Beijing stationing some ticket collectors and customs agents at the Kowloon side of the Fast Train station. (To me, at the time, it sounded fine, as it made things simpler, quicker and more efficient). Now, a fully-fledged office of Oppression National Security in the heart of Central, and barely a peep. I’m sure they wish now that the “problems” they had were only a few ticket collectors at Kowloon Station.  The unintended— but clearly foreseeable — outcome of trashing the city and calling for independence during our 2019 “troubles”.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

All hail King Boris, scourge of the Frenchies | The Times

Giles Coren at his flippant, cheery, irreverent best.  
I've always liked Boris, admired his wit, his style, his erudition. Phenomenally well-read with a retentive memory. Charming to boot. 
Like  many Boris fans, I was disappointed in how he handled most of the pandemic. But he's having a good vaccination drive. And now a good mini war — a "warlet"? — with Britain's favourite nemesis, les frogs over fisheries around the island of Jersey. 
Coren covers all the important stuff. Not sure if it needs a sub…

Friday, 7 May 2021

Poinciana Pruned and Pimped

I've very envious. We have a poinciana, but not nearly
as extravagant. It's the pruning wot dun it, I presume
At North Plaza, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong

China-Australia relations: Beijing ‘indefinitely suspends’ high-level economic dialogue with Canberra | SCMP

Scomo and Winnie, G20 Tokyo, October 2020
China deploys the "you-made-me-do-it" argument. You know, the one the husband chants as he beats his wife. The kidnapper's reason for killing the hostage. Australia calls for an independent investigation into the source of SARS Cov-2. How dare you?! Obey and Tremble, ye barbarians! Ye fan kuei, ye foreign devils, ye second-class vassals, desperate for our huge market. Screw you. You made me do it.
The bully excuse:
China's top economic planner said on Thursday that it had "indefinitely suspended" its high-level economic dialogue with Australia, amid escalating tensions between the two nations.

A short statement by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said all activities under the framework of the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue had been "indefinitely suspended".

"Recently, some Australian Commonwealth government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of cold war mindset and ideological discrimination," the statement said. [Link]
PS: all time record number of comments for the SCMP, on this article. Including hundreds of the "Fifty Cent Army", mainland Chinese paid to do Beijing's dirty work, in this case trashing Australia. 
Trashing it, amongst other things, for being a purely white country. Put aside the racism, it's also not true. 30% of its population is outside-born, large numbers from Asia. Australia is vastly more ethnically diverse than China, the Han-dominant behemoth. Hypocrisy, folks, thy name is "Beijing".

Thursday, 6 May 2021

“Creativity in Protesting Islamic Fundamentalism” | TEDx

Maryam Namazie
I’ve known the work of Marysm Namazie for many years, especially when I was interested in her One Law for All movement, which was fighting intrusion of Islamic Sharia law into the UK.

She’s still at it. Give her full marks for consistency and perseverance. 

She recently gave a TEDx talk in which her slides were censored from the YouTube record of the talk. Her talk remains, just not the slides. Pusillanimity abides. By TEDx, apparently, not YouTube. At least according to Dawkins where I came across this news. And who helpfully provides link to the censored slides. Dawkins’ tweet:

Thinking about it again, I wonder was it Ted or YouTube that censored? After all, there are naked photos of Namazie, and that’s not allowed on YouTube.. I mean the nakedness, not the Namazie-ness…

"Figuring things out on the spot"

Julia Galef on Richard Dawkins in 2015
Richard Dawkins (a hero of mine) had his recent "transphobe" imbroglio. He tweeted the above yesterday (click screenshot to go to vid as something of what he was trying to do. Fair enough. And good, too. Hos tweet.
Dear Richard, how about figuring out also why it is the "one divides into two", that democratic nations have electorates that divide into two, almost equal blocks? Can one side be fully virtuous and the other side fully wicked? 
Discuss. …
(Dawkins seems to have a blind eye when it comes to Republicans. To him, as far as his tweets attest, they are nothing but "deplorables", pig-ignorant troglodytes only to be despised. I say that's a blind spot in this otherwise spotless mind).

China's Golden Week


From SCMP photos. China pretty much back to normal, huge crowds....

Californication, twenty-twenties style

"For me, it's pretty simple", says Adam Carolla.  “Carroll Shelby came here in the early sixties so he could build cars and Elon Musk left ten minutes ago so he could build rocket ships. That's the transition that California undertook…” Carolla at 46:30

He and Gina and "Bald" Brian are discussing a the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom and the candidacy of Caitlyn Jenner, campaigning as a Republican “compassionate distractor”. And, by the way, transgender. That begins about a minute before the above.

And much more, from the beginning.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

'SARS-CoV-2 elimination, not mitigation, creates best outcomes for health, the economy, and civil liberties' | The Lancet


An Occasional Reader (OR) sent me a link to this article in the Lancet magazine [WebArchive]. It purports to show that OECD countries that opted for elimination of the virus (ie, "Zero Covid") did better than those that opted for mitigation (ie, Control aka "Flatten the Curve").  And indeed that's the case if we look at the chart above, of deaths per million.

My comments:

1. The countries in the "elimination" category are: Australia,  New Zealand, Iceland, South Korea, Japan. Note:

a. They are all islands. Well, ok, Korea isn't quite an island, but its only land border has been closed since 1950 so it's effectively an island. Islands are obviously far easier to shut off from the rest of the world, as all these "eliminationists" did.

b.  They are relatively remote, especially the first three. Iceland? New Zealand? Seriously? And also tiny populations: NZ and Iceland together fewer people than in our Kowloon here in Hong Kong.

Taking these countries as exemplars is like giving a step ladder to a basketball player and then marvelling at how well he dunks the ball. 

2.  By contrast, the "mitigation" category countries all have land borders and much higher population densities than the "elimination" countries. Their GNP's also dwarf those of the "elimination" category (85:15).  So any comparative measures of how their economies have performed (chart below) are rather dubious. Your classic apples and oranges. 

3.  At the time all this was kicking off -- in Feb/March 2020 -- the talk was all of "flattening the curve" labelled here as "mitigation". I remember! That was believed to be the best strategy. The only strategy as I recall, the only one, "based on the science"!

4. I've said various times: there's many a PhD to be earned by analysing the connections between various levels of lockdown and the outcomes for this pandemic. This Lancet study is surely a contribution, but just that: a contribution. I don't buy its conclusion. Not quite yet, anyway. 

From the Lancet article

A better study would be the 50 states of the United States. They all handled the pandemic differently, depending on the Governor. Have a look at the difference between how each handled it and the outcome. That would be a more interesting study than the comparison of apples and oranges in the Lancet article. (Spoiler alert: Republican-run states did better than Dem-run ones). 

Who would have believed the perfect Wikipedia caption could be improved upon?


An oldie reheated, courtesy Jerry Coyne at WEIT
ADDED: What else I like about this caption? The description of the penguin as "indifferent". I mean... how do we know the penguin is "indifferent"??  It brings a smile to my face.  
And reminds me of of my favourite animal, the penguin. Having seen so many on my two trips to Antarctica. They are loyal, hardworking, tough, lean and fast in the water. They're a super cool animal.  As I said here.
Gary Larsen, 1982

Monday, 3 May 2021

Mr and Mrs Mouse


Richard Dawkins and the Incoherence of the Philosphers

That tweet above by Richard Dawkins is the one that got him into trouble. The huge Twittermob pile on was just one thing; another was that his award from the Humanist Association, given him 25 years (!) ago, was rescinded. Ouch! Dawkins didn't quite apologise, but he did "kind of" apologise, in the "sorry-if-I-upset-people" mode.  (Jerry Coyne covers the case in detail here).
But what really caught my attention is in his second tweet, the almost-apology one above: |It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue". 
Two thoughts here: 
(1) It is not "Republican bigots" who have gone after him, for a perfectly reasonable question in his first tweet: why do we treat trans-race so differently from trans-sex. It was the Left, especially the far Left bigots wot got him. It was not Republicans, but the Humanist Association that snatched back their quarter century-old award, the exquisitely Left Humanist Association. And Dawkins is a founder of that movement! So that's bitter. And they are the ones that -- against all their values that they held up to five minutes ago -- have attacked him. For his views.  (Added: not even views, tbf, but a question, which I believe was posed in good faith)
Recall: "bigot" = "A person who is intolerant to those holding different opinions". Perfectly apt for those piling on against Dawkins.
(2) Is it not those on the Left who are "exploiting the issue"? I think so. Consider that the Left has taken over the "transgender issue" as the latest victim class, so that they, the Democratic Party, can come to their rescue, just as they have done -- in their minds at least -- with other minorities, Black, LGPBT, etc... 
This led me to consider this a part of the "Incoherence of the Philosophers". That's a reference to the arcane battles within Islam back in the day. It's what led to the Closing of the Muslim Mind (a book I read some years ago which I found gave a compelling explanation of why Islam declined from its middle age glories into the ossified and anti-modern belief system we see today).
Today, it's the incoherence of the philosophers like even the wonderful Dawkins. That he cannot see, such as he is in a bubble, that his opponents are as much -- maybe more -- on the Left as the Right. 
There are others: Sam Harris disappointed when he came out against the Kavanaugh Supreme Court appointment, by giving credence to his accusers, the three women. The first of whom gave "evidence" of sexual misconduct that was backed up neither by her family, nor her friends, nor any other contemporary students; and the other two of whom were quickly revealed as out and out liers. Their lawyer, Avenatti -- at the time touted as a potential for the Presidency (!!) -- is now in jail for fraud. All that has come out since then, since the time that Sam Harris gave up his featly to "the truth" and came out as as partisan a pundit as all the others he'd so despised to that date. That was disappointing. 
And then there's Jerry Coyne over "Why Evolution is True", who wonders why African Americans would vote for Trump in greater numbers than in 2016. For me it was wondering why more had not. Given that Trump held out school choice, a really big deal for Black American families, against the Dems who are in hock to the Teachers Unions and so against choice. And given that the Republicans are generally more in sync with Black Americans more conservative views on things like religion and culture. But to Coyne, to wonder about why? is to show the extent that he is in his own bubble. 
ADDED: James Carville is also in his own balloon....

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Billionaire CEOs, glamour stocks diverting money from essential public projects | SCMP

My comment at the site, on what strikes me as a rather sophomoric article from Aussie hack Philip Rowling:
These billionaires are *not* sitting on piles of cash like Scrooge McDuck. They are invested in hundreds of companies that employ millions of people and develop thousands of innovations, including in climate change mitigation. In many cases (eg Gates and Buffet) they have pledged all of their personal wealth to go to philanthropic causes. 
I'd trust their judgment over the government judgement as to what these causes might be.  Or trust their judgement over that of naive journalists. 
The government is NOT the solution.

Friday, 30 April 2021

What the Left and Right look at and read | “The left as a rule doesn’t want to hear thoughtful disagreement"


The masthead at the Blendle online site
I had a chat recently with an Occasional Reader (OR) who said she read widely. "I get Blendle as well, which gets me access to articles across the board", she (kind-of) boasted. Happens I've subscribed to Blendle for some years. 

It's not quite an aggregating site. It's a place where you can read one or two articles and just pay for them one at at time, like 25 or 50 cents per. I'd thought of this business model myself, a way long time ago, and thought it a great business potential. Others thought so too, and created Blendle. How many folks would be happy to pay a quarter or up to a buck to read a single article, but don't want the hassle of a monthly sub to the paper? Many, I'd bet. And here's Blendle to do it for you. (My twist on it, which I think is better is: pay for each article by mobile phone number, each of which is unique and has the capacity for small individual payments. But that's another thing...).

Well, above is the masthead of Blendle, proclaiming that "Blendle is the biggest platform of premium journalism in the country."

But it's clear that to Blendle "premium" means Left of centre. Every single one of those sources of "premium journalism" is Left to Far Left of centre. There's not a single respectable conservative voice there amongst those fourteen: not a Nation Review, not a New York Post, not even a Wall Street Journal.  How can this be the "biggest platform"? And if it is, shame on us.

In all democracies in the world, the electorates are divided pretty much 50/50. One Divides into Two. 

So, by taking only the Left as "premium journalism", Blendle are ignoring the thoughts, values and ideals of at around half the human population. Are they all "deplorables"? (Sadly, many Democrats, including ones I admire, really seem to think so).

Thing is: polls tell us this skewed media access is common: The Left reads and watches almost exclusively media on the left. The Right reads and watches mostly on the right, but also watches and reads media on the Left. Conservatives watch about six times more liberal media than liberal watch conservative media. Look at this Gallup poll:

From "Bubbles and Vortexes"

Partly, I guess, that's because they have to, since lefty media is so dominant. But partly too it's surely down to a curiosity about what drives that much maligned "other", their political opponents. Whereas liberals see conservatives as "racist/bigoted/sexist" twice as much as the other way around, and we have the Editor of the New York Times, Dean Baquet, admitting, in an unguarded moment "the left as a rule doesn't want to hear thoughtful disagreement".*

That's not the case on the right. I know many conservative podcasters who would love to have Democrats on their shows, but find no takers. Podcasts and cable TV on the left never ask conservative guests on their shows (a few notable exceptions: like Bill Maher having Ben Shapiro on). When conservatives are asked to appear on liberal media, they always do. When liberals are asked to appear on conservative shows, they never do. 

So, how, Joe, are we supposed to "come together" and "unify", if the Left won't even engage?  (I'm thinking here of old Joe's speech last night to Congress). 


*“The left as a rule doesn’t want to hear thoughtful disagreement,” [Baquet] pointed out." [here]

~~ May 30, 2017. (Things have only got worse since]