Wednesday, 2 September 2015

"Government should not try to stop Uber operating in city"

Uber office in Cheung Sha Wan.  Photo: SCMP Pictures
Printed my letter in yesterday's South China Morning Post (subscription needed), under the headline above and uncut:

Robert Boxwell certainly has a way with scare words ("Uber pushy",($), August 26).
He lambasts Uber for throwing "bombs" at local laws; for "clogging" streets with "gypsy cabs", with some drivers having convictions for "sexual assault". Uber coders "blow up billions of dollars of Hong Kong investment " by "stomping on the necks of hard-working taxi drivers" and "cutting corners on safety". But Boxwell's vitriol doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It is unclear whether local laws specifically prohibit Uber-type car-hailing services, but in any case Uber has offered to work with Hong Kong lawmakers.
Uber cars are not clogging streets. Most already operate as limousines, filling in their spare time with Uber, a more efficient use of their assets. Uber cars are hardly "gypsy cabs"; most are modern Mercedes or Alphards, intrinsically safer than the older Toyota taxis.
Taxi drivers whose necks are allegedly stomped on are in fact working with Uber, which has an "Uber taxi" service providing more work for taxi drivers. For this reason, the price of a taxi licence in Hong Kong has been only marginally affected since Uber opened in mid-2014.
I doubt Boxwell has ever used Uber in Hong Kong. He claims that if the customer doesn't tip, or winds up the window, the Uber driver will give them only one star.
News for Boxwell: we generally don't tip in Hong Kong and usually drive with the window up. I've used Uber 48 times since June 2014. I have never given a tip and keep windows up - my average Uber rating is five stars.
Boxwell states that Beijing won't be influenced by Uber's "propaganda" and so can't "build scale". News for Boxwell: Uber has already built scale, including in four Chinese cities.
This issue should not be one of either taxis or Uber. It should be taxis and Uber. Sometimes one uses taxis, sometimes Uber. This is more choice for consumers, which Hongkongers clearly want.
I have a simple suggestion for the government. Handle it by the Taoist concept of wu wei - do nothing. In response to pressure by taxi owners, refuse to send in the police. Tell the owners to improve their service.
In the US, cities have allowed Uber to do business despite similar arm-twisting by taxi owners, the sort of philosophy that makes the US more innovative than Hong Kong. Let it happen, wu wei.
Yours, etc...

Germany versus Science

Final sentence in the WSJ editorial, "Germany versus science" ($):
"if Europeans miss out on the jobs, growth and cheaper products that come with free trade, they'll have the green lobby to blame". 
That green lobby has a lot to answer for. The other huge thing they have go answer for is the campaign against nuclear energy, starting in the late sixties, that halted the move to carbon-free energy. To the extent that we have too much CO2 in the atmosphere, causing climate change, it's the greenies wot dun it.
They, the greenies, urge us to "respect the science" on global climate change, but willfully ignore the science on the safety of GMOs. 

Monday, 31 August 2015

Pakistani Christians Told to Convert to Receive Flood Aid | Clarion Project

The migration debacle

As Europe flays about, trying to forge some sort of coherent strategy to cope with the exponential[*] flow of migrants (which used to be aka "undocumented" or "illegal" migrants), Francois Heisbourg weighs in with his "France cannot indulge the xenophobes on immigration" in the 28 August Financial Times.
He laments that
At present, most EU member states, France included, are not providing the systematic right of asylum to which war-refugees are entitled under international humanitarian law or by common decency.
And claims that
The deliberate conflation by demagogues of immigration, the refugee exodus, the spread of Islam and jihadi terrorism is as emotionally powerful as it is factually spurious.
But not all who want to control (somehow, somewhere) the immigrant flood (or "swarm" as Cameron called it, correctly), are demagogues, wanting to "arouse emotions, passions and prejudices of the people".
Take The Atlantic, for example, a high-quality review with a moderate world view.  In its "Closing Europe's Harbors" by David Frum (July/August 2015), it makes the following points:
The current migrants, however, are overwhelmingly working-age males. All of them have paid a substantial price to make the trip: it can cost upwards of $2,000 to board a smuggler’s boat, to say nothing of hundreds or even thousands of dollars to travel from home to the embarkation point in the first place. Very few of the migrants from Libya are actually Libyan nationals.
which puts lie to the regular claim on the left (and by the United Nations) that the migrants are all refugees
...
... a 2014 study in The Economic Journal found that each year between 1995 and 2011, immigrants from outside the European Economic Area were a net drag on the United Kingdom’s budget.
which put lie to the regular claim on the left that immigrants are always a positive to the host country
...
Immigrants’ economic frustration and ensuing social isolation has in turn fostered political radicalization and violent extremism.
Which we all rather know of, don't we?
And, quoting a book I've also often quoted:
Christopher Caldwell lamented several years ago in Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, his superb book on how migration has transformed Europe, the price of increased diversity has been diminished liberty.
Though you won't find that admitted by the likes of Heisbourg and his many fellow travellers (les bien pensants).

As for Heisbourg's claim on a "conflation" being "factually spurious", well consider: the migration to Europe is overwhelmingly Muslim.  That necessarily means that the votaries of Islam will increase, which will spread Islam, and necessarily again (see Caldwell) will lead to an increase in jihadi acts within Europe. In short, the "conflation" is far from spurious, it is a necessary outcome of the unchecked immigration (for that is what it undoubtedly is, at least for now).
And, in turn, the effect of that is that Europe is storing up huge problems for generations to come.
All for want of action.
And what could that action be?  For one, it could be to tackle the human traffickers at source: Libya, as Kim Semgupta argues here.  And for second, to foster a Syria-in-exile economy located in Jordan and other neighbouring countries, as professor Paul Collier argues here.
Professor Paul Collier also raises an issue that's rarely addressed in the debate on migration: the damage to the source country.  See articles I posted here and here.  This is particularly so when the migrants are educated, as all the evidence points to.
****************
[*] Note that since Frum's article in The Atlantic of July/August, in which he quotes figures of 50,000 illegal immigrants to Europe from January to April 2015, the figures for July alone are 107,500.  That's not just exponential, it's a huge blow-out. Or, as Europe is now calling it, "a crisis of unprecedented proportion.  Yet, to date, no strategy, let alone a coherent one, per Semgupta and Collier above.

Quebec’s Proposed Imposition of Blasphemy Laws Will Affect Us All - Kyle Shideler - Townhall

Wow!  How can this be possible? That even "criticism" of Islam (an idea), will be punished. While no doubt criticism of any other religion, or indeed of atheism, will be a crime??
/Snip
While Canada is currently in the throes of an early election, in the province of Quebec there's growing debate over the future of free speech. The Quebec Parliament is currently debating whether to pass Bill 59, a bill that would grant the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC) the authority to investigate so-called "hate speech", even without a complaint being filed. 
The Head of the QHRC, Jacques Frémont has already openly said that he plans to use such powers, "to sue those critical of certain ideas, 'people who would write against … the Islamic religion … on a website or on a Facebook page'" according to Canada's National Post.

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Sunday, 30 August 2015

British economics graduates have left a trail of misery around the world » The Spectator

/Snip:
The dishonour of distributing economic failure around the world is spread around British universities but the London School of Economics can rightly claim more than its share, of course. Jomo Kenyatta, first prime minister of Kenya after independence, went there. True, under his leadership, the Kenyan economy was not the worst-performing in Africa — but overblown, corrupt state industries and attempted import substitution took their toll, so that GDP growth per capita was low and, in some years, negative.
>>more>>
https://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9589072/how-british-universities-spread-misery-around-the-world/

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Friday, 28 August 2015

Hong Kong Christian Groups Feel New Scrutiny From Mainland - NYTimes.com

The nastiness (or paranoia?) of Xi Jinping. 
/Snip
HONG KONG — For years, the Rev. Philip Woo, the feisty leader of a small Protestant church here, has delighted in testing the limits of China's restrictive laws on religion. From his perch in Hong Kong, he has delivered fiery sermons on human rights, led seminars on social problems for mainland students, and ordained pastors in the mainland without permission from the ruling Communist Party.
But Mr. Woo, a longtime Hong Kong resident, was startled when he was summoned across the border recently for a meeting with officials from the State Administration for Religious Affairs. Over tea, he said, the officials rattled off a list of laws they said he had violated, and they ordered him to stop.
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/27/world/asia/hong-kong-christian-groups-feel-new-scrutiny-from-mainland.html?referrer=


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Could The ‘Fusion Engine’ Become a Reality Before 2020? - Yahoo Finance

Fusion energy, 20 years away 20 years ago and still 20 years away.
But now perhaps *really* just 20 years away...?
/Snip
"I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming," said the world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. If there are timely innovations in field of superconductors, batteries and materials that facilitate a compact and a more efficient fusion reactor, that could be enough to make fusion energy viable. The technology that is available today can only produce a Helion 'fusion engine' which is capable of producing commercial energy of around 50 megawatts.
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/could-fusion-engine-become-reality-213101192.html

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Nazi gold train 'found' in Poland: live - Telegraph

Goodness! How exciting!
And just after I've read the thriller "the English Assassin", by Daniel Silva, all about Nazi looting of art works during WW2. (Good book, by the way, a real page turner).
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/11826840/Nazi-gold-train-found-in-Poland-live.html

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Thursday, 27 August 2015

Uber-pushy

Letter to the South China Morning Post:

Robert Boxwell certainly has a way with scare words (“Uber pushy” ($) August 26).  He lambasts Uber for throwing “bombs” at local laws; for “clogging” streets with “gypsy cabs”, whose drivers are prone to “sexual assault”.  Uber coders "blow up billions of dollars of Hong Kong investment” by “stomping on the necks of hard-working taxi drivers” and “cutting corners on safety”.

But Boxwell’s vitriol doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.  it's unclear whether local laws specifically prohibit Uber-type car-hailing services, but in any case Uber has offered to work with Hong Kong lawmakers.  Uber cars are not clogging streets: most already operate as limousines, filling in their spare time with Uber, a more efficient use of their assets.  Uber cars are hardly “gypsy cabs”; most are modern Mercedes or Alphards, intrinsically safer than the older Toyota taxis.  Taxi drivers whose necks are allegedly stomped on are in fact working with Uber, which has an “Uber Taxi” service providing more work for taxi drivers. For this reason, the price of a taxi licence in Hong Kong has been only marginally affected since Uber opened in mid 2014.  

I doubt Mr Boxwell has ever used  Uber in Hong Kong.  He claims that if the customer doesn’t tip, or winds up the window, the Uber driver will give them only one star. News for Mr Boxwell: we generally don’t tip in Hong Kong and usually drive with the window up. I’ve used Uber 48 times since June 2014. I have never given a tip and keep windows up — my average Uber rating is 5 stars.

Boxwell states that Beijing won’t be influenced by Uber’s “propaganda” and so can’t “build scale".  News for Mr Boxwell: Uber has already built scale, including in four Chinese cities.

This issue should not be one of either taxis or Uber.  It should taxis and Uber. Sometimes one uses taxis, sometimes Uber.  This is more choice for consumers, which Hong Kongers clearly want.

I have a simple suggestion for the government.  Handle it by the Taoist concept of Wu Wei: do nothing.  In response to pressure by taxi owners refuse to send in the police. Tell the owners to improve their service. In the US, cities have allowed Uber to do business despite similar arm-twisting by taxi owners, the sort of philosophy that makes the US more innovative than Hong Kong.  Let it happen; Wu Wei.

Yours, etc...

Muslim writer explains why Islam and democracy are incompatible

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 25, 2015 – Question of the day: Can a Muslim writing about Islam be called an “Islamophobe”?
We in the West love to philosophize and fantasize about bringing democracy to the Middle East. Like Christian missionaries who venture into remote corners of the world to bring the word of God to uncivilized cultures, Westerners believe that if we can just get Muslims to understand the democratic way of life, then all our problems will vanish.
Muslim writer Salem Ben Ammar completely refutes that idea, and his explanation is crystal clear. In fact, it is so simple that if everybody read it, especially those in authority in Washington, there would be no doubt why a true Islamic democracy is an oxymoron.
“To hell with democracy! Long live Islam!,” writes Ammar. “These two competing political systems are antithetical to each other. You can’t be democratic and be a Muslim or a Muslim and be a democrat. A Jew can’t be a Nazi and a Nazi can’t be a Judeophile.”
When you consider the last sentence of Ben Ammar’s opinion, the complex is simplified in a matter of 13 words.
Ammar continues, “Islam is the brain and the spinal fluid of all Muslims. Outside its path, there’s no salvation for them. Now, it’s rather hard to imagine Muslims abandoning Islam to embark on the democratic path. They’ll be the first to take advantage of benefits in the West, right up till the day when they become masters of the political game and with democratic legitimacy be able to impose the dictatorship of Islam and put to death individual and collective freedoms. It won’t be an Islamic republic that’ll see the light of day…that’s just an optical illusion as in the case of Iran…it’ll be a caliphate to govern the Muslim Reich, the Ummah.”
Here the key to Ammar’s statement is that Muslims do, indeed, enjoy the creature comforts of their Western foes. When they have the financial resources, Muslims thrive on all things Western; nice cars, air conditioning, fast food, high definition television. You name it, wealthy Muslims will purchase the West’s top of the line products in virtually every situation.
Read the rest >>

Thursday, 20 August 2015

GM crop ban 'threatens research' say scientists - BBC News

Many of the same non-scientists who tell us to respect the science on global warming disrespect the science on GM foods. They end up stopping development of foods that could help the poorest in the world. 
/snip from article below on the idiotic decision of the new lefties in Scotland's government to ban the use of GMOs:
>>The decision has also been criticised by Dame Anne Glover, a former chief scientific adviser to the Scottish government and chief scientific advisor to the President of the European Commission.
She told BBC Radio Scotland's John Beattie programme that she was "genuinely perplexed" at the government's position and that there had not been any consultation with the scientific community on the issue.
Dame Anne called on ministers to rethink the decision, adding: "I think that they have made the decision not based on scientific evidence.">>
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-33959450

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Saudi Arabia the world's biggest hypocrite


Quite.  The west's so-called "ally".  Lets get energy independent and ditch this horrid regime.
From the always-reliable Raymond Ibrahim:
/Snip:
Saudi Arabia recently preached to the international community about the need to confront “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations.”
If this sounds surreal, consider the following excerpts from a July 26 report in the Saudi Gazette (emphasis added):
Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any act vilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.
Saudi Arabia wants Western cartoonists, comedians, and others—people who represent only their individual selves—to stop mocking the religious beliefs and symbols of Islam, even as the Arabian kingdom’s own institutionalized policy is to vilify and discriminate against the religious beliefs and symbols of all other faiths.
Not a single non-Muslim worship building is allowed there; the highest Islamic authority decreed that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.”  Whenever Christians are suspected of meeting in a house for worship—or as one Saudi official once complained, “plotting to celebrate Christmas”—they are arrested and punished.

King Coal, Long Besieged, Is Deposed by the Market

This is an interesting article, confirming what I've long thought. That it may have been industrialization that got us in a climatic pickle, but that's it's also technology that can save us. 
/snip
Market forces have accomplished in just a few years what environmentalists and social advocates have struggled for decades to achieve. Coal prices have plunged about 70 percent in the last four years. This year the number of underground and surface coal miners in the United States dropped more than 10 percent, to just over 80,000 workers. There are now more than twice as many workers in the fast-growing solar power industry than there are coal miners.

Mountaintop removal, the poster child for environmental destruction, has all but ground to a halt as coal companies continue to close mines, lay off workers and slash capital spending on expensive new mining operations. Meantime, natural gas production has soared and electric utilities have built up gas-fired generation to replace aging coal-fired power plants.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Scaling China’s Great Firewall - NYTimes.com

Murong Xuecun
In the fall of 2011, a friend and I got on to discussing Tibet. "Do you know," he said, "that Tibetans are setting fire to themselves?"
I had spent from 2005 to 2008 in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, but I had never heard of acts of self-immolation. My friend filled me in on the ghastly details, and then added, "Everyone beyond the wall knows this. A writer who cares about China, but who doesn't go over the wall, suffers from a moral deficiency. You shouldn't let a wall decide what you know."

When my friend said "beyond the wall," he was referring to the notorious Great Firewall of China, which since around 1998 has been a government project to screen and block Internet content. Seventeen years on, the firewall is a frustrating feature of life that splinters the Chinese world into two.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Is Julia Warwick an enchriophobe? A doppiophobe? A tottikophobe?

Julia Warwick works for the BBC Weekend program, though I can't find anything about her when I Google.
The reason for writing about her now is that I heard her on the BBC World Service Radio, here in Hong Kong, a little while back talking about the so-called[*] "migrant" issue in Europe.
I have noted down that she said: "They [migrants] are, if I may be so bold, more intelligent [than the British in Britain]".
For saying that she was roundly criticised.... no, no, she was roundly praised for being so open and tolerant!
Imagine for just a second that she'd said it the other way around: "British, are, if I may be so bold, more intelligent than the migrants."  Oh, my goodness me, the firestorm that would have engulfed her!
So, I was trying to come up with some words that are the literal opposite of "xenophobia", using a Greek root (as is "xeno").  And hence the headline:
"Enchirios" is indiginous
"Doppios" is native
"Tottikos" is local.
Surely Ms Warwick is one of these.  And surely, too, are all her fellow travellers.  Haters of anything in their own culture, society, nation.  And, by contrast, lover and excuser of all that is the opposite.
**************
[*] I say "so-called" because they used to be known as "illegal migrants", then as "undocumented migrants" until someone somewhere (in the BBC?) decided that it would be more "neutral" and "balanced" to call them simply "migrants".  But they are, are they not, illegal or undocumented?  I could not go to the Europe without a passport nor stay there without a visa.  Laws mean something; or they are simply mocked. (The refugee issue is a whole 'nother matter.  But noone's any more pretending that these migrants are not overwhelmingly educated, well-off and looking for a better life, rather than deserving refugees).

Using officers to stop Uber is just a waste

South China Morning Post published my letter about the Uber car-hailing service, on 14th August.  Usually my letters are untouched, but this time a bit of bowdlerising.  I think they deleted my comment about the law being an "ass" because they think "ass" is American for arse.... Of course it's "ass" as in a donkey.  Just a guess, but they also removed my reference to sitting on one's "butt", so they may have a thing about posteriors.
Anyway, the other letters on the issue of Uber vs taxis were pretty anti taxi.  I predicted that Uber would win this battle.  Since then, there've been articles about the number of complaints against taxis -- up fivefold in the last ten years.  And articles saying the bureaucrats and the law need to catch up (my point about the law being an ass), or they'll get "ubered".
Anyway, here's my letter and a few others after it on the Uber vs taxis topic, with my addition back of what they cut, in red and added.

Using officers to stop Uber is just a waste
Don't the police have anything better to do than to pose as customers of Uber and then to arrest its drivers?
I refer to the report "Five arrested in crackdown on Uber" (August 12).
Chief Inspector Bruce Hung Hin-kau "appealed to the public not to use such services". But why should we not?
Uber is a hugely popular car-hailing service.
The reasons are simple: cars come on demand, are new and clean, have friendly, courteous service, and payment is automated by credit card. For this, people vote with their thumbs, willing to pay more than they do for the equivalent taxi trip.
Instead of kowtowing to "pressure from the powerful taxi lobby", the government should tell the taxi owners to get  off their butts and compete start competing.
They could make their own app, accept credit cards and provide thumb-based app hailing. Instead, the taxi owners want to sit on their hands and rake in monopoly monopolised profits, using the government to protect them.
What's happened to the government's commitment to more competition in our economy?
The only issue they should be focusing on is to ensure that Uber drivers have proper commercial insurance.
The public should pay no heed to Hung's appeal not to use Uber. Instead we should all download the Uber App and use it. Uber could protect itself by asking customers to confirm they are not undercover agents. 
The way forward lies in changing the law if the law is proving an "ass" clearly wrong, not in wasting police resources on trying to stem the tide of a service that the public clearly wants.
PF, DB
Taxi drivers must ask who is at fault
Police have been applauded by taxi drivers for their high-profile crackdown on Uber operators in Hong Kong. But have these drivers given any thought to the level of service they give to the public?
How many times have readers been refused a ride by a taxi during rush hour?
How many times have they had the same experience during a downpour? Try getting a taxi on Queen's Road Central at 6pm on a weekday.
Taxi drivers are notorious for "selecting" passengers to their preferred destinations rather than meeting passengers' needs. Yet our police have always refused to address this issue in a fair manner.
The police commissioner should remind himself that when a cabbie refuses a passenger without a valid reason, he commits an offence.
Joseph Lee, Quarry Bay
Police should arrest cabbies who break law
I find it very interesting that the police have now arrested members of Uber.
I do not use Uber because of this very issue of legality. But what I find amazing is that, to my knowledge, no taxi drivers have been arrested for overcharging, refusing to stop or refusing fares - actions that are also illegal.
I live in the New Territories, and every week at the Kowloon taxi stand, they pull up, and then when you tell them your destination, they either drive away or simply refuse to take you and put the "out of service" card on the windscreen.
While waiting for 10 to 30 minutes (depending on time of the evening) for a taxi, there are three to five Uber cars available to transport people.
Rather than taxi drivers continuously complaining about Uber and other car-hire companies that may be unauthorised, why don't they do the job they are supposed to be doing? And, more to the point, why don't the police (or another relevant government department) stop the taxi drivers' illegal actions?
That would then leave no room for allegedly illegal firms to operate.
Brian Mahoney, Ma On Shan

Saturday, 15 August 2015

ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape - NYTimes.com

Interesting article, horrific events.
Though this being the *New York Times* one has to beware the attempts scattered throughout to exculpate the Koran or Islam.
"Narrow and selective reading of the Quran", for example. Or moral equivalence such as "in much the same way as specific Bible passages... the Islamic State cites specific verses or stories in the Quran...". (The Old Testament which contains such verses was abrogated by Jesus' New Testament).
Still, good on the NYT for reporting the horrific and barbarous practices of these votaries to the Religion of Peace...
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/world/middleeast/isis-enshrines-a-theology-of-rape.html?_r=0&referrer=
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