Friday, 23 October 2020

Standing by for the last presidential debate…

Moderated by Kristin Welker from NBC news. They’ve got a mute button. Each has 2 uninterrupted minutes to answer. 
Q1 Covid: to T. How will you handle it going forward? T: vaccine due in weeks. Better therapeutics. Making 1000s of ventilators. B: 200k dead … masks, testing, national standards, open schools. I will end this. I will make sure we have a plan.
K: asks which co have vaccine coming up. T: J&J, and several others I missed.will have 100m vials ready to go. B: need to make sure it’s fully tested. Says T has no clear plan. T: says we know a lot more about the disease. Hammers B re H1N1. B: he closed down China late (!)
(So far so good on no interruptions …).
T: won’t be over soon, but we’re learning to live with it. Can’t stay in a basement and handle it. (!). 99% of people recover. K: says CDC says young pp can get it (irrelevant). Gives B another go. Who hammers T for saying it would be over by Easter. Says we’re learning to die with it.
T: when I closed he said I shouldn’t have closed (true). B: says he didn’t say T was xenophobic re Covid closure (he did).
T: says Shutdown states are dying and all run by Democrats. We have to open the country. Cure can’t be worse than the disease. B: says can open and protect at same time. Come on! T: says NY is dead.
K: asks T re Fauci (who T had called an idiot). T: Fauci is a good man, made some mistakes. B: think about what T was told in January re the danger of Covid. 
Q2: National security and vote security. B: any country tries to interfere will pay the price. T: says B got $3.5 m from Russia, via Moscow mayor. I got no money from Russia. No one tougher than me on Russia. Sanctions etc…B: I’ve never taken any money from a foreign government. Accuses T of taking money from China. Onto T tax returns. T: says no money from China or Russia. Accuses B of taking Russian and Chinese money. B: says show us your taxes. T: I’ve prepaid tens of millions. 
Q3: Ukraine and China: any issue there mr B? B: all sorts of people said I did my job impeccably. T: Hunter got 183k per month from Burisma. B: no one said he did anything wrong. (K is shifting the debate, wants to move on. Now cuts it short).
Q4 China: how would you handle? B: would make it abide by international rules. Says all T does is cozy up to them and NK. T: I’ve already made China pay. B: to camera, it’s not about his family or my family, it’s about your family. K cuts off T again, I’m guessing a bit more than B.
DPRK: T: Obama said we’d be at war. There’s no war. B repeats Obama policy. C’mon!
Q5 Healthcare: ACB nomination is all about Obamacare. T: Preexisting conditions will always be protected. Just got rid of the individual mandate. B: my plan will be Obamacare with a public option. Bidencare. K: to B what o you say to people who say your plan is a move to socialism (why it’s almost as if they’d pre-agreed the questions). 
(K is definitely giving more time in follow ups to B than T)
Q6 Unemployment. T Pelosi is stopping the aid bill. B: says recovery act has been sitting there since summer. 
(Overall, much better experience with the mute button … not that she’s used it,  it just the threat of it seems to work).
K to B: is now the right time for increase in minimum wage? B yes. They need help. T it should be a state issue. Each state is different. K cuts T off again. Gives B another go (does she know she’s so biased?)*
Q7 Children of illegal immigrants. Separated from parents. T cages were built by Obama. We’re trying to reunite. B they came with parents, were separated at border. Talk of cayotes. T they did it, we changed it. 
Immigration reform q to Biden: B: ast time we took too long to get it right. We will have pathway to citizenship for 11 million. Dreamers too. Won’t send them back. T he had 8 years to fix it. Did nothing but build cages. K again gives B chance to respond. T catch and release is a very bad system. B gets another chance : says when released they do come back for trial.
Q8: Race. The talk. B: I understand why they fear for their children. B repeats the narrative of police violence against blacks. My kids didn’t need The Talk (actually they should get it). T I understand why they fear for their children. He had 47 years to do something. Did nothing except the 1994 Crime Bill made them Superpredators. I did the First Step Act. Had to twist a lot of arms. Prison and criminal justice reform. I’ve done it, Joe did nothing. Also helped HBCUs. 
BLM, q to T are you contributing to racial hatred.T I have good rels with all pp, I’m the least racial person you know. B: C’mon! Hates Mexicans, banned Muslims, etc
Q9 Crime bill q to B. B it was a mistake. We schouldn’t put pp in jail for drug problems, should be going into treatment. T why didn’t you get it done in the 8 years with Obama. You’re all the same you politicians, all talk no action! B gets final word .. blames Republican Congress.
Q10 climate change.T trillion trees program.i love clean air and water.we have lowest carbon numbers in 30 years. Look at China amd Russia. Filthy! Paris Accord treated us badly. Won’t sacrifice jobs. B: existential threat. We will not thresholds. Great opportunity. Specifics: 50,000 charging stations, insulating building, green energy will create 18.6 m jobs. T 6.5 k will be cost to each person of the GND. It’s a crazy plan (but gives no alternative). B talks to camera: my plan is supported by localities, individuals. T wind is very expensive. Kills birds. I love solar! B I never said I oppose fracking. We need to capture the emissions. Need to become zero carbon by 2025 (really?)
K chops at off, gives B a final word, again
Final question: What will you say at inauguration to those who didn’t vote for you. One minute. T: Success will bring us together. Low taxes. Strong economy. Blah blah (Not a good final answer from T )
B I’ll say I’m an American president. We choose science over fiction, we can grow the economy deal with systemic racism, make clean energy. What is on the ballot: decency, honour, respect. I make sure you get that. (Better finish for B than T)
Wrapping up. 
Biden did fine, no gaffes and good presentations. Trump behaved himself and was pretty coherent. Supporters of both will be happy, is my guess. Biden has more specific plans. Trump made more of how he’s not a “politician”. “These politicians are all the same, all talk no action”. And why didn’t B do all these things in the 47 years he’s been in government. 

*24 to 2 is the count of Kristen interrupting Trump vs the times she interrupted Biden. So my impression was right.
ADDED: Biden got away with the Hunter Biden corruption allegations. Denial is not debunking.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Pool time

Today.25.6 C. Swam, but a touch chilly for me…
Central in the distance

Osiris meet Bennu

An impression of Oris-Rex landing on asteroid Bennu
And does a “boop” —
Osiris-Rex eased its robotic arm down to a target zone just eight meters in diameter, then fired pressurised nitrogen to agitate the surface material and catch its sample. 
Then the spacecraft fired its thrusters to back away from Bennu’s surface to complete what scientists playfully described as a “boop”.

US spacecraft completes sample grab from asteroid”.

NASA: “We’re looking for our own origins out there, and that’s why we’ve gone so far to bring a bit of Bennu back.”

Shock, sadness… as staff digest news


Cathay axes 6,000 in Hong Kong 

Cathay Pacific job loss and DragonAir closure. 

I remember back in 2001, when I was running the company we’d set up, and we got a contract to teach Cathay flight attendants, to improve their English. As part of my own briefing Cathay asked me out to Cathay City, their HQ near the airport, to see how the attendants are trained. They have full scale simulators of all the plane models they fly, the Boeings, the Airbuses, and took me through some of thei training sessions.  It was great fun and the attendants, mostly young women, a few blokes, were charming. I remember the experience clearly to this day. Our best corporate job, ever.

From a dream job to jobless. With diminishing  prospects, young families to feed.

Related article…

The flagship carrier apologised for causing “great distress and anxiety” as it confirmed nearly all Cathay Dragon staff would be laid off as part of 8,500 job cuts across the group, raising concerns for Hong Kong’s reputation as an international aviation hub as well as fears it could set a precedent for other major companies.

ADDED: Of course Cathay, cutting 24% of staff, are not alone. A graphic at the link shows other cuts from 16% at Lufthansa to 31% at British Airways, via Qantas at 20%.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

‘Environmental experts should map out a long-term carbon strategy for Hong Kong’| SCMP LETTERS

Soup in the harbour, Jan ‘19. China has committed to
Carbon neutral by 2060. HK has no target, AFAIK
RE: The letter on carbon-neutral energy. (My comment at the site):

Why rule out nuclear? Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents were 42 and 35 years ago. Fukushima was 1960s technology. New nuclear is vastly safer.*

We ought welcome Bill Gates' TerraPower to set up a trial plant in Hong Kong. It prioritises safety, while generating carbon-free power. (Would lso move us along the high-tech road).

Germany closing down nuclear is a mistake. It has led to it increasing CO2 emissions, as they use coal-fired power to make up the shortfall in baseload power. [Link…]
*ADDED: In Netflix’s hagiography “Inside Bill’s Brain” someone - maybe Bill - says “Fukushima was designed before computers. It was designed using slide rules!” The bio talks a lot about TerraPower and what drove Gates to invest in it. It was just about to build a trial plant when Fukushima blew up, blowing up TerraPower’s plans with it. Still, it might get up somewhere. We’d be wise to consider it for Hong Kong. I reckon. 

Bad newses on Hong Kong

All the front-page news stories in today’s South China Morning Post are pretty very bad. 

Cathay Pacific has cut 6,000 8,500 jobs, including 5:000 5,300 here in Hong Kong, and has axed its Dragon Air brand entirely. [Link]. Note: the revised figures are update from print to online versions.*

Next to that is a story on our jobless rate which has hit a 16-year high. That’s bad enough, but I wonder it’s not even worse, like the highest rate ever. Maybe that’s coming, for the third headline is “City warned of a ‘cataclysmic recession’ as private sector debt soars”. Goodness me. Hold on tight …

While, amazingly, the mainland economy powers back.


*Personal note: I really feel for those who have lost a job. It happened to me twice, that I got laid off by companies restructuring, so I know that feeling of devastation. Especially bad in your fifties, because the likelihood of another job then is minuscule. 

It’s close to us now as well, as a tenant of ours is a senior Cathay pilot who’s been on tenterhooks for months. Now he knows he’s out of a job, at a time when it’s going to be tough, maybe impossible, for him to find another. He has to leave by the end of this month. Another two weeks then. And we’ll be  looking for a new tenant. In a weakening market. Our troubles are nothing compared to the tens, the hundreds of millions who face truly bleak futures. Oh “these interesting times”…

ADDED: Then again, we’re fine in our little Discovery Bay bubble. I hardly ever go to town. I have to ask J what’s it like? when she returns from a jaunts to Central. And the answer is, just normal, except everyone is wearing masks. Other than that, as busy as ever. Here on our island, in DB, down at the pool every day, temp 28 C and perfect, kids swimming, gambolling, shops, bars and restaurants all open, life appears as normal. Except it’s not. There’s a stickiness to the economy. No one doing anything. Property not changing hands. People sitting on their hands. Going to work if they’ve got it. 

And in China, they’ve got it. They’ve got the itch. Sex toy sales up, up, up. Tumescent, one might say.

Click screenshot for video

Monday, 19 October 2020

The New Zealand story

Prime Minister Jacinda Ahearn 

More than a passing interest in New Zealand as mother from there originally, I went to school there for a bit, Palmerston North, and have many Kiwi sailing mates. That said, it’s puzzled me from the outset that New Zealand has been held up as a model. I mean, seriously? An island closer to Antarctica than anywhere… Which “crushed” the virus by the simple expedient of closing its doors. As a result of which Premier Ardern just won re-election in a landslide.

What is not answered, or even asked by many, is what now? When they reopen — or should than be *if* they reopen? — there will be new cases brought in. Unless everyone is quarantined for two weeks. Is that the plan? 

Hector Drummond breaks it down in his “New Zealand Story”. Thanks Hector.

Today’s SCMP reports a new local case in New Zealand. This article, sourced to “agencies” also tells us that “Victoria’s lockdown has demonstrated the effectiveness of tight controls”. Or is it a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc?

Meantime NZ has some sort of “bubble” arrangement with Australia, which surely will bring in some new cases. Again, what then, for a thoroughly Covid-phobic nation? 

Covid photos

More here

Saturday, 17 October 2020

What’s with this hospitals admissions business?

Now pro-lockdown folks (in the UK) are saying something along the lines of “okay, deaths may be way down, but hospital admissions are climbing. Last week up 50%. What happens if younger people who are obese catch the virus, get really sick and hospitals are overrun?”.

So I looked it up, for the UK. Yes daily admissions are up 50% last week. But still daily admissions and totals are just one-tenth of what they were back in April. And back then they didn’t even have to use the emergency Nightingale hospitals, which are on stand-by should they be needed.

This seems yet another angle of the ongoing panic. First it’s deaths. Deaths go down, so then it’s cases. Cases zoom up but deaths remain low, so then it’s “long covid”. Which turns out to be similar to any other viral infection, so now it’s the young obese getting sick and stressing hospital admissions. All just keep the panic going. 

Palm on forehead.

ADDED (18 Oct). More graphs! (All for the UK)

Daily hospital admissions. See if you can find where they are 
“Nearly at March levels” as claimed by the Deputy CMO

Meanwhile, back to deaths and case infections:
In short: cases up, deaths low

“Excess deaths” are those over - or under - projected normal.
I doubt it’s widely known that they are running below normal

You’re not supposed to compare Covid with the flu…
Pneumonia and flu together are more than Covid.
Official NHS figures. One must ask: WTF?

These charts are all based in UK government data, from sources such as the NHS and the Office of National Statistics, where they are openly available, but not in such a user-friendly graphs. I could have made the graphs, but found them already done, courtesy of the Daily Mail. Some may object the Mail is just a trashy tabloid. Two facts remain: (1) The charts are based on official data, aka “the science”. (2) One will search in vain for these in your non-trashy press, The Guardian, the Independent, the BBC website, not even in the Times. Where instead, one might learn to panic a bit more because  “Liverpool admissions devastate other care” (The Guardian), or hospitals stressed (Independent). In short, the only place I’ve found such charts is in the MailOnline.
We watched Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer give a press conference the other night. He said “were nearly back to March” in terms of hospital admissions. That is true only if you’re very selective with the data (choosing Blackpool only) and if “nearly” means less than half of March, and just one tenth of the peak. Van-Tam and his two sidekicks wore gloomy faces. And the media asked only about the caseload,  not about deaths, which remain low. And the data above show that admissions are nowhere near March-April levels. 
I don’t for one minute suggest conspiracy here. I guess it’s just that Medical officers have nothing to gain by giving a more balanced picture instead of the worst case, and ditto the politicians. The media go along because bad news sells better than good; “if it bleeds, it leads”. 
The data remain stubborn things,  however. No matter “surging“ cases, death rates are lower by orders of magnitude than in the frost wave. And hospital admissions, overall, are just one tenth.

Defending the Great Barrington Declaration

This is the website for the Declaration (GBD). Authored by three eminent virologists and epidemiologists at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities, co-signed by 34 specialists.

The GBD signature page: at time of writing, there were 509,193 “concerned citizens”, 10,278 “medical & public health scientists” and 28,062 “medical practitioners”. 

This is the WHO article criticising the GBD. And my fact-check of it. With my intro-post here.

Meantime, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the GBD central claim was “emphatically not true”.

And here is the rebuttal to Hancock from GBD co-author Dr Sunetra Gupta, professor of immunology and vaccine development at Oxford University.

ADDED: Jennifer Rubin on the mixed messaging in WHO. Remember when David Navarro said that WHO is not in favour of lockdown, then the next day the head of WHO came out in favour. There’s some info here, though it may strike some as rather febrile.

Meantime the geniuses at Apple and Google believe they know better than world-renowned virologist, and have decided that you oughtn’t to hear about these issues and the debate about the best way forward to the biggest health crisis of out times. Google efforts to stifle the GBD. While, if you ask Siri, via “Look up”, you get this:

Not a link to the GBD. Not a link, even to the Wikipedia entry on the GBD (which is itself sniffily anti the GBD), but a link to a nakedly partisan piece by one Taylor Cowen, opinion columnist at Bloomberg, telling us that it’s “dangerous”! 
That is really shocking and I’m offended. Excuse me, Siri geniuses, excuse me Bloomberg, but I don’t need you to tell me what to think. Especially on an issue of such urgent public interest and on which many of us have informed views. 
And what’s maddening about that “Look up” result is that there’s nowhere to go to complain. Even here in Hong Kong, if our government does something I’m not keen on, I can contact them and usually get an answer.
Of course this is not the most egregious use of tech power to push their own worldview. The latest and worst is the suppression of an article on Hunter Biden’s emails implicating his father in his Ukraine business dealings. That’s a real corker! And a huge own goal for FB and Twitter.

Hong Kong in the fifties


James Chung photos. My parents passed through this Hong Kong in 1953, with me in tow

Good grief! Go ahead for monster reclamation…

Artificial islands to be built between Sunshine, Peng Chau
and Siu Kai Yi Chau, back right. Our Discovery Bay top left

 …Which happens to be right on our doorstep. And sure appears to be, at the very least, and in today’s vernacular, “problematic”. 


Hong Kong’s government is pushing ahead with a controversial plan to build a new metropolis on artificial islands at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, and will approach lawmakers next Friday for funding to carry out a preliminary study.…

 The ambitious megaproject is a contentious issue because of concerns about its HK$624 billion (US$80.5 billion) price tag and the potential threat it would pose to the environment and marine wildlife.


Friday, 16 October 2020

Cases, cases, cases.... a nothing about deaths....


Click to enlarge and clarify
All I’m hearing from politicians both sides of any aisle, and the media, is that the number of Covid cases are going up, variously “surging” or “exponentially”, or “worryingly” or “surging exponentially which is very worrying". Very rarely do they talk about the number of deaths. And yet this is freely available, in real time, in many places, my favourite being Worldometer.  And surely this metric is the most important. And where there is good news, as shown in the chart above: death rates in all countries are well down, from 9-fold (Germany) to 49 fold (France), between the beginning of the pandemic in March and today.

I had a closer look at France, because it’s said to be two to three weeks ahead of the UK and the country I’m tracking most closely is the UK. The others are following the same trajectory: from few cases many deaths, to many cases few deaths. 

France, March-April: Few cases many deaths

France, 15 October: Many cases few deaths

That got me looking at the proportions for other countries in Europe-- deaths per cases at (1) the beginning of the pandemic and (2) the latest figures to15 October. Based on the highest figures for 7-day moving average. The spreadsheet I generated is this:

But don’t worry too much about this spreadsheet. It’s better summarised in the chart at the top. Which is basically this: the number of times better we are doing today, compared with the First Wave in March-April. For all these countries, we are doing substantially better, anywhere from 9 to 49 times better. Even Sweden, the one that didn’t do lockdown, is doing much the same as the others, and very much better than at the height of the pandemic. [And I do know the complications with cases measured differently in different countries and the fact that we’re now testing more and so finding more cases. What I’m looking at tis the trend, which, in terms of deaths per cases, is positive]
And yet, and yet, and yet... there is nothing about but talk of cases, cases, cases, you better panic and lockdown (vide Boris). Close the pubs, the clubs, the restaurants. Cancel Christmas. It’s all loony.... At least based on the science. Which is the data. Which we now have and don’t need to rely on models, the like of Imperial College London’s Neil Ferguson’s which made Boris & Co panic.

Une journée aux courses

Jeremy Clarke

My French friend André speaks perfect English and is the kindest of men. After reading last week about my futile efforts to place a bet on the French state betting terminal in the village bar, he put himself out during the week to have a word with one of the bar staff. He gave her my description and told her to expect me to appear in the bar the following Sunday afternoon in time for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. And he drew an assurance from her that she would help me decipher the betting-form multiple-choice hieroglyphics. Or, better still, take a verbal betting instruction over the counter.

I know next to nothing about horses other than that they are frightened of crisp packets and can deliver a terrific kick if you loiter behind them. I should also face the uncomfortable truth that I have won more bets selected because I liked the horse’s name than by any other method. 

The Sunday before last, my frame of mind had been oddly grandiose.

Basil’s walkway


Thursday, 15 October 2020

Fact-checking the WHO’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan (II)

Part I: the intro here.

Here’s my fact check of Dr Swaminathan’s piece. The article is indented, my comments in purple, flush left.

Fact-checking the WHO’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan (I)

This is my intro to the fact-check. The fact-check is here. It’s about the attack by Dr Swaminathan on the Great Barrington Declaration. 

One divides into two”, again. 一分为二, Yi fen wei Er.  

Early on in following this Covid thing, which was way back in February, as here in HK we’d been pretty much first in line after Wuhan, I worried that the “cure” would be worse than the disease. I didn’t realise then how quickly it would become politicised. Though I should have, since “One divides into two” has been something I’ve had dear to my heart since I learnt of it in China in 1976. So much so, that whenever I hear “we must all pull together”, or some such, I think “nah... not gonna happen”. And it doesn’t. Not even in a pandemic.

And so for this whole lockdown thing. Early on, it may have been necessary, if only “something to do”. But it pretty soon became apparent that it had nasty consequences in areas non-covid. Then the world divided into two: supporters of lockdowns and we lockdown sceptics. And pretty soon it got identified as Left = pro lockdown and Right = anti lockdown. Though that’s pretty simplistic as there’s bleeding into each side from each side. But close enough. (though I claim for myself to be neither left nor right, more heterodox, but that’s for another day).

Another clear division. The lockdown supporters have salaries, the lockdown sceptics are business people who have to meet a payroll. If you can work from home and receive a salary no matter what -- civil servants, politicians, media, academics -- then lockdowns can be just fine. If you have a payroll to meet, and rent to pay, and need to make a bit of profit so you to give your kids a decent education, then you’re going to be much less supportive of lockdowns (but still care for your grandma!). 

I remember for us, when we set up our business here in Hong Kong in 2000, which we eventually grew to 300 staff, the whole concept of meeting that salary bill, every month, no matter what, became sacrosanct, and changed the way I looked at the world. People should not sneer at those who have to meet a payroll. They should try it themselves. And praise and admire those that do. It has seemed pretty clear to us from some time that there’s a big chasm between the pro and anti lockdown camps and that the main reason is whether you have to meet a payroll, or you get a salary.

Our local English language paper, the South China Morning Post, which I’ve often said is the best English language paper in the region, is openly pro-lockdown. It will print letters anti the lockdowns, like mine. But its editorial stance is clearly in favour, not just of controlling the virus, but a “zero virus” strategy, which we were told early on was not possible and in the pursuit of which we may just permanently ruin our economy and the lives of working age people. 

Part of the pro-lockdown stance, they run today’s article from the WHO’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan. TBF to the article, she nowhere mentions lockdown. But the tone is all about control of the type that leads governments to lockdown. And while she says that government ought to pursue targeted interventions, she attacks the Great Barrington Declaration for its focused protection” -- which does sound pretty similar to “targeted intervention", doesn’t it? So in some ways its a bit of a dogbreakfast of an article, not even internally consistent. (Recalling too, that her colleague, David Navarro, just last week said we at the WHO do not advocate lockdowns”). And ‘Lockdowns are a terrible idea’, Martin Kulldorff, Harvard epidemiologist and co-authors of the GBD.

The WHO’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan attacks the recent Great Barrington Declaration, in a piece in today’s South China Morning Post.

ADDED: what expertise do I have to offer? Why should I think I can critique a doctor from the WHO? Well, I, like the rest of you, am now an expert armchair epidemiologist. I have googled. Ergo am an expert. Covido ergo sum...

Then, consider this: Dr Swaminathan is criticising -- indeed sneering at -- an eminent group of epidemiologists at top-tier universities (Harvard, Oxford, Stanford). So, the experts are on different sides. I’m just taking a side. If it’s going to be a battle of the experts, should I follow Swaminathan, a middling bureaucrat at the muddling WHO, led by a man with no medical degree? Or follow storied professors of virology and epidemiology at world-best universities? I’ma gonna go the latter.

How one handles the virus is a political judgement. And in many countries in the world, the people, the demos, have their say in the politics. So we all have a say.

The fact-check

The Great Barrington Declaration

Click on screenshot to go the vid. A talk with Andrew Neil

Prof Sunetra Gupta is great. I’ve been following her since she wrote a paper back in March or thereabouts, questiong the modelling done at Imperial College London. And it deserved to be questioned, as it has got the numbers  wrong by a factor of over 10. And can’t be replicated.

Recently she co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration. “Great” not as in Sunetra is great, but as in that’s the name of the town in the US where it was jointly signed by three preeminent epidemiologists from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford.

Because it doesn’t fit the narrative -- lockdown, lockdown and more lockdown -- it’s not very popular on the left and amongst the technorati. Google has tried to suppress it. 

Still, it’s there, the Declaration. And ready for your signature, if you read it and support it. That is, i you care about the fact that lockdowns are ruinous not just to economies, but also to the health, life and well-being of working-age people the world over. Mainly the poor, as it happens. 

Kitchen garden


Wednesday, 14 October 2020

‘I love penguins’ | Ben Fogle


I looove penguins. So does Ben Fogle. So much so he wanted to call his son Penguin. His wife put her foot down. Now he’s “Ludo”. Don’t know that’s superior, TBF.

My love affair with this tough, loyal, monogamous little creature began with my first visit to Antarctica in 2007. Ben on his love of penguins.

Heather and Bret talk about the penguin in their 49th Blackhorse podcast. They point out penguin wings are not “vestigial”. They fly in water…

(My second favourite fauna is the dragonfly)

Monday, 12 October 2020

Winter flu deaths in Hong Kong three times Covid deaths

Below clip from the Hong Kong government Centre for Health Protection

Why aren’t we offering the same advice re covid as offered re the flu, in the second para below? Namely that people “adopt strict personal hand and environmental hygiene”, but otherwise carry on life as usual.

By the way, I don’t think that comparing Covid to the flu is good framing of this issue; better to compare with pneumonia, which is much closer to what covid is. The reason it’s not good framing is because people may then assume  you don’t know nuffink. You’re a “Covidiot”. But I mention it here because these are the mortalities -- for a disease we catch in much the same way we catch covid -- and they highlight the different treatment, of covid vs flu, the latter disease three times more deadly than covid (at least in Hong Kong) and also affecting children, which covid has so far not done. 

It remains my biggest “I don’t get it”. I don’t get why everyone has gone crazy and continues to be crazy, over a virus that is nowhere near as deadly as all other pandemics except for Swine flu. And for those we did not institute the extraordinary measures we now have for covid. I don’t get why the media and governments think that fear-mongering is the way to go.

Anyway, here’s the clip from the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection:

For adults, 601 cases of influenza-associated admission to the Intensive Care Unit or death (356 deaths)* were recorded this influenza season (from the week of December 30, 2018, to the week ending April 6). As for children (aged under 18), 24 severe cases (one death) were reported in the same period. About 73 per cent had not received seasonal influenza vaccination for the current season....

  "Meanwhile, the public should continue to adopt strict personal, hand and environmental hygiene practices against respiratory illnesses and other infectious diseases," the spokesman added. [my bolding]

Those “respiratory illnesses and other infectious diseases” would-should include Covid. 

*As of today, 105 deaths from Covid. Not one of a person under 39 yo, let alone of a child.

With h/t for the link to the CHP, to a comment at the site of the alarmist front page story in today’s South China Morning Post, predicting 1,000 deaths over winter, when we have had 105 in the ten months to date.

ADDED: (14 October): I trust these Hong Kong government figures and the HK medical system. I’ve had a lot to do with HK government over my years in government here and in business dealings with them. They are picky, persnickety, particular and precise. As for the hospital system, I’ve had close friends working in it, who confirm it’s world class. I’ve had two of my children born in HK hospitals and I’ve had serious heart surgery in one.

So when they categorise a death as being from flu, I trust that to be the correct cause of death.

‘Live not by lies’ | Alexander Solzhenitsyn

From 1974. And so relevant today

‘Trump, not TikTok, is real threat to US national security’ | SCMP

Quote from the article: 
 "Beijing has always welcomed US internet companies operating in China, provided they follow Chinese laws and respect the government's concerns over information that could endanger national security". 
This simply parrots China's line. China bans at least 137 foreign internet companies. Ones that are available everywhere else in the world. Why only China bans them?  Answers: (1) China is scared of free speech and (2) it protects its own copies of American companies (Google, FB, WhatsAp, etc).
If TikTok gets caught up in the crossfire, I for one don’t give two hoots…here 

Sunday, 11 October 2020

The New York Times describes Hitler’s Nazis as “anti-Zionists” | WEIT Blog

The New York Times has a long history of getting things wrong: supporting Stalin*, downplaying Hitler's treatment of Jews in the thirties. Today there’s the egregious 1619 Project — slavewashing history—  and this latest, turning Holocaust into a mere tittle of "anti-Zionism". Right.
“Paper of Record”. Sure …
Prof Jerry Coyne of Chicago Uni (evolutionary science) has a go at the Times’ brand of holocaust denial in which Jew hatred becomes “anti-Zionism”. Here 
*Preferring Walter Duranty’s Stalin-loving line over Gareth Jones’ investigation into the Stalin-made mass famine in Ukraine. Here (Mr Jones, the movie). Here (the man).

Around-the-world motorcycle touring pioneer Carl Stearns Clancy, and what he thought of Shanghai and Hong Kong in 1913

A Henderson poster promoting Carl Clancy’s
round-the-world journey

What a wonderful adventure! Now 108 years ago: Carl Clancy motorbikes around the world starting in New Hampshire, United States.

He predicts, from Shanghai in 1913: 

“Give China a little time, and she’ll not only have plenty of trunk roads, but will be one of the richest countries on the globe. Nothing can stop her”. 

Turns out two world wars, several revolutions and political upheavals nearly did stop her, but in the end Clancy proved right. And those “trunk roads”? Clancy could not have imagined the network of modern eight-lane freeways they now are.

From today’s South China Morning Post Magazine, the thrilling and inspiring story of the first motorcycle ride around the world:

It was going to be the “longest, most difficult, and most perilous motor­cycle journey ever attempted”. At least, that was the opinion published by The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review when it hit American news stands in the autumn of 1912.

The trailblazing odyssey was to take a 20-something advertising copywriter from Epping, New Hampshire, around the planet on a 934cc Henderson Four, which boasted a single gear and no front brake and retailed for US$325. The machine’s devil-may-care pilot was Carl Stearns Clancy, and rain or shine, sweltering tropical heat or nigh Arctic blizzard, he was to be found mounted on his two-wheeled steed wearing a three-piece suit with a collar and tie. Truly, this was the 24-carat golden age of the amateur gentleman adventurer.

In some ways, travel was simpler then. Rather than being straitjacketed by a daily blog and festooned with corporate logos, Clancy was able to fund his trip with occasional journalism. If roads were fewer and patchier, traffic was certainly lighter, although it was rare that the Henderson could hit its top speed of 105km/h.

No prurient documentary camera or local television news station poked its lens into Clancy’s innermost feelings along the way. And if he had forgotten to pack the relevant map – as he did in Ireland, on the first leg of the trip – or there was no map at all, there was usually an admiring soul who was more than willing to help out with directions.

Clancy repairs a tyre, Pyrenees, 1913 
Clancy was also fortunate with his timing: in August 1914, a year after he completed his epic journey, Europe and much of the rest of the world was engulfed in a bitter and bloody war. Freewheeling travel became next to impossible.

Clancy at Fork R. Montana, on his way back east from California
at the end of the trip. The other bike is a Henderson 1913 of  
friend Bob Allen who accompanied him back to New Hampshire
Clancy made a formal start in Dublin as a tribute to his Irish father, and rode through Britain and much of Europe before crossing to North Africa and then sailing to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) via the Suez Canal. Read on…

Dinner by candlelight

Last night in the garden. 25 degrees, perfect…
iPhone Pro; the one with 3 lenses. No editing, just cropping
As a onetime photographer with a big SLR, I think the above
the depth of field, the clarity, the dark and light, the shadows,
the whole thing, is just amazing. The power of the AI

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Holding a pen in one hand, Grasping a gun in the other

We all do it. All we countries. We all spy. We all influence peddle. So why pick on China? Two reasons: First, it has become much more aggressive since it’s become so much wealthier. Second, because its driving force is so much more malign. It’s working on behalf of a corrupt dictatorship. Sure, one that’s made many richer and happier, I’ll give them that, but which is at heart an authoritarian state, seeking to expand its influence. That is why it is so much more to be feared when it is China that’s doing the influence-peddling, the buying of military secrets, the hacking and stacking.

China has always had its diaspora to call on, in support of the “motherland”. And now many more, as well. Since it has so much money to splash around, many are now beholden to Beijing. They love the money and will attack anyone who calls out this vile influence peddling. Like professor Anne-Marie Brady, a graduate of my alma mater, the Australian National University. She’s now in New Zealand, at the University of Canterbury, has written broadly around this subject but been vilified, attacked and burgled for her troubles

Recently she presented a paper to the New Zealand parliament, titled “Holding a pen in one hand, grasping a gun in the other” [WebArchive] the heading a borrowing from Mao Zedong, he of the pithy aphorisms (“power flows from the barrel of a gun” and all that).

For presenting meticulously researched and referenced evidence of China’s malign efforts to steal secrets, blackmail businesspeople and politicians, influence elections, hack systems -- prof Brady has been censured by her very own Canterbury University. Shame on Vice Chancellor, Cheryl de la Rey, who has led the denunciations. 

Today I read that a group of China scholars, 142 at latest count, have come with an Open Letter in support of prof Anne-Marie Brady. They ask the university to apologise to prof Brady, for not rejecting outright the complaints against her and for not standing up for academic freedom. 

I know a number of the signatories to this letter. Benedict Rogers, Clive Hamilton, Ding Qiang, Dong Luobin, Feng Chongyi, Jonathan Mirsky, Roger Garside. And some I was classmates with in the seventies in China: Geremie Barmé  (probably the world's most accomplished non-Chinese Sinologist), John Fitzgerald and Jonathan Unger, all professors. And the big daddy of sinology, Jerome A. Cohen. These are people who really know their China stuffThey have fact-checked the prof Brady paper and found no manifest errors or misleading inferences. [going on then, to my pedants delight, to offer the grammatical observation that the paper makes no inferences, as these are taken by the reader, not made by the writer. What the writers meant, clearly was “implications” -- this being one that often trips up folks].

I would have found this nowhere in the MSM, because it’s not there. I learnt about it here. But it’s surely critical to the west. The extent to which China is influence peddling, both through its massive diaspora and through those it has suborned. 

Not addressed in any of the recent debates: who does China prefer? The answer, we know, is Biden. What does that tell us about the hard-nosed Chinese? That they expect less trouble, less hassle, from Joe. That they will be able to carry out their influence peddling, their intelligence gathering, their covert acquisitions of military secrets, more easily under Joe than under Trump. Think on’t.

Top Shots


A coronavirus cake. Here are 33 more photos
First of 34 fabulous photos from around the world, and not all about Covid.... Dogs, Cats, People... From here.
I couldn’t do this. (Brighton, England), but…

... but I could do this! Redcar beach, England

‘Mandatory testing of Hong Kong’s high-risk groups key to eliminating coronavirus’ | SCMP

My comment at the site, re today's Editorial:
You say "Despite 105 deaths and 5,169 infections since the coronavirus emerged in the city in January, there would still appear to be a lack of awareness of how dangerous the disease is." And you urge not just testing, but ever more stringent lockdown measures. ("Loopholes have to be closed")

I would say "BECAUSE 105 deaths … people have a sense of proportion about Covid". Pneumonia, a similar disease -- also mainly of the elderly -- has a death rate *100 times* greater than Covid, but we don't shut down our city because of it.

The WHO are not in favour of lockdowns or of the "virus elimination" strategy. Aren't we supposed to be following the WHO advice?

When did this paper and our government decide on the ruinous "zero Covid" strategy without telling us?