Saturday, 18 September 2021

Spring View. Redux


Another go at the poem here
My go at the translation:

A state destroyed, but nature thrives

Deep green in the spring city

Time passes, tears fall on flowers

A sad parting, a startled bird

War beacons burn for months

Letters from home are priceless

I scratch my thinning white hair

It no longer holds my official pin

There are a number of translations. I've found none felicitous. Not that mine is. It's tough. But it's a wonderful poem in its original. Four related couplets, with the characters in each couplet mirrored in the next line

Tremble and Obey

Never mind Xi Jinping’s Beijing:

  • Expanded in the South China Sea, occupying desert islands, dredging reefs, making airports out of coral attols
  • Attacked India, threatened Vietnam and the Philippines 
  • Increased its military build up
  • Brought down a draconian “National Security” legislation for us here in Hong Kong, 
  •                 and … the granddaddy of all “threats to peace and stability”:
    • Open, explicit, threats to attack Taiwan

Never mind all that! It’s those horrid white-nationalist English-speaking nations, their reacting, they’re the problem. You’re supposed to Tremble and Obey, barbarian!

The top-left editorial in the SCMP op-Ed page has become a conduit for Beijing. For sure we should read it, though. “Problematic” as Beijing is, it’s surely consequential. We have to know what they’re thinking. Including via other sources, such as CGTN, the People’s Daily, Wen Hui Pao, etc.. For what the “masses” (群众 qun zhong) are talking about there’s What’s on Weibo.

Fractal Giraffe


Friday, 17 September 2021


Flowchart here. Pretty funny

Via Althouse blogpost

I’m not really anti mask, in that I’ll wear a mask where it’s mandated and sensible. But I kind of am as well, since there seems to be a belief in mask effectiveness that’s largely untethered from reliable data. 
Early in this pandemic, in January 2020, I posted something about masks based on our experience during SARS in 2002 and on the then available data. 
[Looking back at it now, how simpler were those times! When posting something about masking didn't immediately slot you into one tribe or another!]
In my post I linked to "What doctors say about wearing masks" from 29 Jan 2020:
By contrast [to N95 respirators], surgical masks — those cheap, disposable, gauzy masks that often come in blue or green — are less uncomfortable. But Schaffner says the scientific evidence that "there might be a benefit for people in the community wearing [surgical] face masks is very, very meager. The general sense is perhaps, but they're certainly not an absolute protection." In other words, they do provide some benefit but they're far from foolproof.
All the evidence since then suggests that that remains pretty much the same. Masks help a bit, but not a lot; N95 are far more help, but are hard to wear and need training to fit properly; surgical masks are of some use; cloth masks basically useless. But I’m guessing — guessing, mind, no science here! — that when officials and health bureaucrats call for masking, they’re imagining (now I’m mind reading)  that masks are a kind of “do or die”. That if you don’t mask you’re at huge risk to yourself and others; if you do mask you’re stopping the virus in its tracks.
Not so quick...

China gets ticked …


Another article: “Oz move likely to anger China…”. Likely?  D’ya think?
The "alliance" is AUKUS, which sounds like a kind of bird. Or whale, maybe, in the genus Orca?

Comments at both articles are not all against Oz, though many veer between ignorance and contumely.  For South China Morning Post a huge number of comments.

Re Australia’s plan to buy nuclear-powered submarines, I must admit that was a surprise to me. I watched ABC Q&A last night in which this was a subject. I’d been expecting big push backs, but not so much. There seemed to be an appreciation that what’s being bought is a power system, well tested, not nuclear weapons. Earlier on ABC radio I’d heard a nuclear expert, an academic, talk of accidents with nuclear powered subs, but she then admitted — when pressed — that every accident had been on Russian subs, and not always problems with the power system. The US has been operating nuclear subs for 70 years, and AFAIK, no problems. The main advantage is how long they can deploy vs diesel or diesel-electric. Like non-stop for years. As long as the food lasts.…

Anyway, for sure this decision and the new AUKUS alliance is sure getting a lot of attention.

China slams “provocation” in South China Sea. But…but…. Just after Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 China started pushing in the S. China Sea. It’s almost as if he was the one responsible. China has occupied islets, dredged reefs, built airfields in coral lagoons and made an ambit claim for pretty much the whole of the South China Sea right down to Indonesia. Not to mention highly threatening moves against Taiwan. 

It has a military bigger by an order of magnitude than the rest of Asia combined. And continues massive annual military expenditures. And now has the gall — call it chutzpah, if we’re charitable — to call out others for “provocation” and “arms build up”. 

MEANWHILE and utterly UNRELATED: It’s  now official. It’s the science: you’re more likely to die from lightening strike in Hong Kong than from Covid… “Hong Kong canoeist dies from lightening strike…’. Swimming in the midst of a hail storm. HK Covid deaths 7-day average for September: zero

Thursday, 16 September 2021

"Spring View": Chun Wang by Du Fu. 杜甫春望

My messing about calligraphy of this poem
I kind of prefer the more free-form translations, like this one

Martin Winter:
state gone: creeks & peaks,
spring grows in the streets.
times bloom sprinkled tears;
birds part, startling hearts.
beacons burn three months,
words from home are gold.
scratching white hair short:
pin doesn’t hold.

Margaret FORSYTHE ("Mutti"): 100 years young 💗🎁🎂

Mutti at Carey Gardens, Red Hill, yesterday, 15 September

The ABC Canberra FB page on the interview with Mutti here. As at writing had 2.8k likes and uncountable comments; wow!

Mutti turned 100 yesterday. My post with photos is immediately below

Many thanks to all those involved in celebrating her birthday and for all the birthday greetings. Quite overwhelming!

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Margaret FORSYTHE ("Mutti"), Centenarian -- 100 y.o. on 15 September 2021

Born Te Mawhai, New Zealand, 160km S of Auckland 
Near Hamilton and Cambridge. Farming land

Kilburn Park, Wellington, Spring 1944
New Zealand Air Force uniform
Crop from above
Margaret Tokyo 1946
Mother and Son (Peter), Tokyo 1952
With John. Grindlewald Switzerland Nov 1972
Murren, Switzerland 1972
Mutti and granddaughters Anna and Meredith
December 2009, Melbourne Llewellyn Hall, ANU

Mutti, grandson John, his mother Jing
Dogs Marcus and Basil, August 2012
Melbourne Botanic Gardens June 2017

Murray River, June 2017

Otago National Park, Victoria, June 2017

Mutti and Anne, June 2018 Canberra
Mutti and Marylin Adrienne (photo BY Marilyn, see comments)
Canberra, March 2021
ABC RADIO Interview with Margaret and Peter here.
ABC Canberra FB Page on the interview here.
Email me to Add a Greeting to Margaret ("Mutti"). I can’t seem to enable Comments, and I don't do Facebook. I’ll post only your surname and initial unless you want otherwise. 
ADDED: The ABC FB page on the interview has 2.5k likes! And thousands of Greetings! Amazing. Link here
Click “Read more” to see Greetings to M sent via me. Latest on top.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Won’t be leaving Hong Kong any time soon

Returning to HK airport last week. What’s with the guy’s blue
plastic raincoat? I assume fear 
Last year we cancelled our trip to Alaska. This year trips to Oz for Mum’s 100th, to Alaska and to Europe all cancelled. I don’t want all the hassle associated. And for Oz it was simply not possible to get a ticket — only for emergencies and a centenary (for Mutti, see above) is not deemed an emergency. 
Next year to Alaska? Who knows? I’m not going to go through this hassle if the rules haven’t relaxed.
The folks in this story today didn’t have a good time of it:
…that changed on August 20 for those coming back from countries deemed high-risk. They now needed to produce a pre-departure negative test result for the coronavirus, spend 21 days in hotel quarantine, and be screened for Covid-19 seven times after arrival.
 Looking back now, Chu, 33, who works in consulting, said he would not have returned to New York on August 18 to visit his family for the first time in three years if he knew the hassles that lay ahead.
And that certainly holds for this Grumpy Old Man, 71, who “works” at home.
From ‘Not worth the hassle’ Hong Kong residents return from summer holidays with tales of pandemic stress, anxiety and increased costs.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Is this the New Normal?

I don’t mean “New Normal” about anything relating to the post-911 world. There’s more than enough in the media on that. The world 20 years later“changed forever” and all…

I mean the masks. Every single one of these people is double jabbed; yet every single one is masked. This sends the signal that the vaccine is not effective. Which it is. The vaccine gives them a very high degree of  protection as Joe Biden himself told us that just a few days ago (@4’30”):

“The world's leading scientists confirm that if you are fully vaccinated your risk of severe illness from Covid-19 is very low. In fact, based on available data from the summer, only one out of every 160,000 fully vaccinated Americans was hospitalised for Covid per day”. [emphasis added].

Given that all the people in the photo above (Presidents and ex Presidents) are vaccinated, that figure of 1/160,000 is even less, halved to about one in 320,000. These good folks have more chance of being felled by a wayward branch than the virus.

They may think they signalling: you better mask up. But if so, it’s a mixed wrong signal. It suggests that vaccines are not effective. Otherwise why mask up. Yetwe know they are safe and effective. We want people to get vaccinated because it’s safer for them and lets everyone get on with life. If the great and powerful above were all unmasked, the message would be: look at us! Freed by the vaccine! Free to show you our sad and solemn faces, here on this 911 anniversary...

OTOH: Is this going to be the New Normal? The “well, it can’t hurt” safety play? The "Just in case"? The "Better mask up -- better safe than sorry" ploy?….I for one sure hope not.

Who are the real vaccine hesitants? Joe Biden,

Video here. Vaccine efficacy figures start at 4'30"
Who are the real vaccine hesitants? Answer: Joe Biden. And some expert virologists and their supporters in the media. 

Why? How? 

Joe Biden, at his presser to announce a plan to Execute an Order everyone to get a vaccine, said two things:

  • One: that the vaccines are very safe and very effective. Only one in 160,000 chance for be hospitalised with Covid if you’re fully vaccinated. We are protected against getting the virus, and even if we do get it we won’t be badly affected and extremely unlikely to be hospitalised. Good. Understood. That’s exactly why my family and I are fully vaccinated and have been since as soon as we could.
  • Two: that the unvaccinated pose a threat. Well, of course they are a threat to themselves. But, according to Joe Biden, they also pose a threat to we fully vaccinated people. Despite what he said in One, above.
Wha…??! But, Joe, you just said … ?? Like just one second ago…. You just said we were protected from the unvaccinated. So, says Joe, it’s “frustrating” that so many are unvaccinated and pose a threat to the rest of us. And that’s why I’m instituting this vaccine mandate. It makes no sense.

So, I reckon: if you tell the American people that the vaccine is great and safe and effective but then in the very next breath tell them that even vaccinated they’re in danger from their unvaccinated neighbour, then you’re the one who doesn’t believe in the effectiveness of the vaccine. You’re the one who’s vaccine hesitant. Either that or your guilty of the greatest self contradiction ever.

I add to this dogs breakfast of a mixed message the Sydney Morning Herald. It ran an article on September 9th titled: 'One person's freedom is another person's going to hospital'. This is the grossest of scaremongering, not to mention flat out wrong. 

What's the story? 

NSW Premier Gladys Bereliklian plans a phased opening up when vaccination rates reach 70%, and everyone has had the chance to be vaccinated. To repeat: everyone has had the chance to get a free jab. Only those who don’t want to, or can’t, for whatever reason, will remain unvaccinated. And those that are vaccinated, as Joe Biden tells -- relying on expert data -- are very safe. Good oh, right? Well, no. The Herald quotes an epidemiologist Professor Alexandra Martiniuk expressing “surprise that some restrictions are being lifted…even for the double jabbed”. But why, given the high level of protection that even Joe Biden has stressed. Martiniuk says this is “prioritising industry over public health”. This is a particularly crappy take, demeaning as it does, the noble effort to offer products and services to the public, often critical, who provide employment to many millions, and who support their family in the process. Public policy is all about about balancing risks and needs, balancing the needs of industry against the needs of public health, with neither being ignored and neither given exclusive reign.

I’ll bet Professor Martiniuk has never had to meet a payroll. She may well not know what the phrase means. To those of us who have done so, it's a visceral part of life. Only someone who doesn't know it would hurl abuse at Premier Berejikilan for trying to return to some semblance of normality with most of our population vaccinated — and therefore safe! 

It is true that some hospitals appear to be "under pressure". We were told this from the beginning of the pandemic. In the UK, Italy, the US.  Emergency measures were brought in. They were not used. No the USS Hope hospital ship in New York, not the Nightingale hospitals in England. What these did, though was show us that the surge capacity was there. And that was then, when we had no vaccine. And the waves of virus were much higher. Today we have the viruses and the waves are lower. I'm going to bet that once again our hospitals cope, or that surge capacity comes on stream. While the number getting vaccinated is steadily rising, bringing greater protection, as Joe Biden has stressed.

So, for goodness sake let’s follow this science! Let's listen to Joe! Vaccines do work. We can open up. All the rest -- the panic, the talk of hospital meltdowns -- is sound and fury, signifying confusion. 

ADDED: Two Sydney Morning Herald articles I consider misinformation:

  • Underlying health conditions? That's almost all of us. Dr David Berger, 7th September 2021. Tries to make the argument that we're all at risk. Trivially true, based on anecdote, not data. The data showed from the beginning, and stubbornly continue to show: the average age of death is around 80, most have pre-existing conditions, a major one of which is obesity. Berger's opinion piece only adds to hysteria. Wrong and unhelpful.
  • 'One persons' freedom is another person's going to hospital'. 9th September. That's not true, especially for the vaccinated. I call it out as scaremongering.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Twin Towers from Middle Lane. Remembering 911

In four hours it will be 20 years ago exactly that the first plane slammed into the North Tower. I was sat in our study at Middle Lane, Discovery Bay, working on some spreadsheets for our growing business, listening to the World Service, when the news came in, at first just that a plane had hit the tower, leaving us to wonder if perhaps it was an accident. I seem to recall that a light plane had crashed into a Manhattan building not long before.

I called to Jing to tell her the news, so we turned on BBC and watched the smoke. Clearly not a small plane. A reporter was on the roof of a building with the tower burning behind him. Talking to camera. When the second plane came in to the South tower. The reporter didn't react, kept talking to camera, as he hadn't seen it. Someone in the crew must have motioned frantically, as he turned, mid sentence, to look, and take in what we were taking in: the second tower was also hit. And with it went the concept, the hope, that it had just been an accident.

I seem to remember saying to Jing: it must be Osama Bin Laden.

ADDED: I just checked and she confirmed that that's what I'd said. So... I was a touch in front of the intelligence services and the cable news in identifying the culprit.

20 years on and the common wisdom is solidifying around the idea that we're worse off than then, in terms of the terrorist threat. Because of pulling out of Afghanistan. And leaving it an actual State, which will welcome Islamic terrorists of whatever stripe. And is massively armed, thanks to the American military leaving behind around $US80 billion in the latest kit. 

Tony Walker writes about his time, at the time, in Washington, with the then Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and the opposition Labor Party under Crean, which was to not support the invasion of Iraq. Here.

And my comment on that.

ADDED: a note from 2014 about what drove Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to attack the WTC.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Why is it so annoying when people talk on their phones in public?

FaceTiming at Uncle Russ Coffee
Perhaps I ought to ask “why does it annoy me so much.” I’m not so sure it annoys everyone so maybe this is just a grumpy old man thing.  But I suspect not. 

Surrounding me is a roomful of coffee drinkers chatting away, maskless. They don’t annoy me at all.  So why does the FaceTiming woman do so? 

I think I’ve got it. These chatting in person folks are contributing to a gentle burble, a kind of public murmur. If they ever talk about something really private, they naturally and unconsciously lower their voices, bring their heads close together. 

The woman above by contrast, FaceTiming what turns out to be her daughter in Australia, cuts through the chatter. She is so caught up in her bubble that she talks loudly and I hear it all. I don’t want to,but can’t  help it. Was browsing happily against the background burble until that familiar Aussie twang cut through. Of course she didn’t mean it.  That seems to be the nature of talking on the online and even more when FaceTiming. That’s why I long ago resolved never to do that in public. And it always irks me when other people do. That’s why I have no compunction in posting her picture. She intruded on my aural space, so I intrude on her visual.

Anyway, I think that’s it. Because when on the onjne one is much louder than when face-to-face 

That’s why it’s so annoying. To me at least. A GOM.

The Great Forgetting goes on

Today’s South China Morning Post 
Memory-holing Tiananmen 1989.

On the mainland I know from personal experience that no young people know anything about “June 4” (六四 Liu Si) and the Tiananmen massacre.That’s the Great Forgetting. 

Then again… how to say this without sliding like an apologist for the horrid Xi Jinping and his regime? Does this addition to the Great Forgetting— appalling as it is — impact on me? On the vast majority of the Hong Kong population? Of course here the retort is Martin Niemöller’s First They Came. The retort to the retort, is “go on then…”

Thursday, 9 September 2021

More arrests, more crackdowns

Front page South China Morning Post
Check the circled bit — the language of communist apparatchiks

("... resolutely insisted on refusing to comply". Another way of saying which would be: "Resolutely insisted on their legal rights to due process...")

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Zero Covid crept up on me.... .

Click to enlarge. From here
Australia's health systems, as in the US, are run by the States
Each state is in charge of Covid responses. There has been a lot of
aggro and bitterness between them. 
I remember early on in this pandemic, way back in early 2020, hearing an expert -- an epidemiologist or virologist -- saying that we could never get to a "zero covid" situation, as that was not possible. I bought this. And I assumed everyone else did too. After all, weren't we "following the science"? Weren't we outsourcing decision making to the experts? 

Then, a bit later, an expert told us that we humans have wiped out only one virus in all our history: Smallpox. I've checked this and it turns out it's true! All the others that we don't think about any more, like polio, measles, ebola, are still with us; they're endemic not pandemic. And we live with these viruses. 

Then Australia snuck in with a de facto Zero Covid Policy (ZCP) by shutting its international borders, early on.  They never said that it was ZCP, iirc, but that's what it was. Still, it did seem to have nipped the virus in the corona, as it were. We all recall that Australian Open in 2020, with crowds in the stands -- no masks! -- and Aussies going about their business, carefree! Bronzed! Sun-loving!  They couldn't travel anywhere outside Oz, of course, but then whydy'a need to leave god'zone? An enforced stay at home, in paradise. While the rest of the world see-sawed between lockdowns and easings.

Hong Kong did the same -- the ZCP -- but so sneakily that I didn't even notice. The government never said "we're going ZCP", but sure enough that's what it is and remains so. Ditto our dear motherland, China.

I struggled to understand the exit strategy for ZCP. When you do open up how can you keep the virus out? Especially the Delta variant? 

Then, I realised that that ZCP folks are working on what we might call the "Vaccine saviour theory". Cometh the vaccine, commeth the saviour. When we reached 80% fully vaccinated (a figure we settled on only after a considerable amount of waffling between 60 and 90%), you can -- slowly, carefully, prudently! -- open up again. 

Fair enough, I thought; at least it's a plan. So aim for 80%. 

Now, it turns out that's not enough either. 

This note (at left) is only some Canberra bike riders -- mainly public servants and academics -- sharing their thoughts. But this is widely shared as far as I gather in Australian media and influencers -- the call for both a "much higher vax rate" than 80%, and "continuation of some restrictions like mask wearing and ban on mass events". When NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian's (a Liberal) called for opening up with other states on reaching 80% vax-rate, Tony Walker, a senior and respected journo, said she was "Proposing COVID Roulette". Wow! The goal posts are being dug up, ready to shift them even further up the field, as we speak.  
The note is correct about the UK and Oz figures for cases and deaths. But he's not right about the hospitalisations issue. The Australian health system is better able to handle an increase in Covid cases than is the UK. We have 52% more hospital beds and 37% more ICU beds per capita than the UK which has the lowest number of beds per capita in the G20, but is doing just fine following its recent opening up. In NSW, there's a surge capacity for ICU capacity with is 3 times greater than that in the UK: 

Ms Berejiklian said the state had a surge capacity of up to 2000 ventilators and 1550 fully staffed ICU beds. [Ref

But if the Forever Lockdown folks say that even with 80% vaxxed, we, Australia, cannot open up, then we must ask: "If not then; when?". If 80% vaccinated doesn't do it, what will? The answer, whatever it is, cannot be trusted, given the constant shifting of these goal posts. Remember "flatten the curve"? Oh naive us! 

A couple of points on the map above: 

  1. The states doing best are Liberal (ie conservative) states, whereas they are constantly held out to be the villains, esp by folks in the Labor-run states.
  2. But, whatever, the vaccination rates are all pretty similar and are all very low. 
  3. The 80% goal: only Malta has managed to get above 80%. For other countries to get there will be very tough, given that it's not the recommendation to vaccinate the under-12s. (eg, the UK by the expert group on vaccines). AFAIK only Cuba is vaccinating <12yo.
Australia must come out of its Zero Covid delusion and commit to to opening up when vaccination rates hit 80% (or even, dare I say it, 70%). And if not, the question must be "if not then, when?"

The ZCP fans keep saying that the alternative is "let her rip". I seem to recall Boris using the phrase, and the ZCP-ers have picked it up. But it's a bad faith misrepresentation. People on the Lockdown sceptic side of the debate are not saying we should simply "let her rip". We're saying that protections should be focussed on the most vulnerable, vaccinations rates as high as possible and for the rest of society: get on with life, as much normally as possible. And if you feel vulnerable, don't go out or wear a mask. There's zero evidence that the currently draconian regimes are doing any better than such a focussed strategy.

Covid lockdowns hit Australian economy  2 September 2021 (Available to 26 Sept)
Prison Island 28 August 2021
Wishful thinking 30 August 2021
Why has Australia's Covid strategy faltered?  30 July 2021. A BBC experts' panel

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Climate Change Crisis

Click to enlarge. From here, p23. 
I've seen some reports the latest UN IPCC Report is not so much of a worry. One commenter saying that it's only more variable rainfall and heatwaves that have increased due to climate change. Other things like hurricanes and wildfires are not directly due to climate change. So they say. 

But the Synthesis Report doesn't really say this. The  chart above is a summary. There's a lot there, so I've summarised a bit, by circling those areas the Report has a "High" confidence that it's man-made climate change affecting it.

This is my summary, from the chart above, of "Observed impacts attributed to climate change" with a "HIGH degree of confidence" for:

  • Glaciers, snow, ice and/or permafrost: Canada, North of the US, Europe, Central America
  • Rivers, lakes, floods and/or droughts: Southern US, Northern Asia, Central S. America, Australia.
  • Terrestrial ecosystems: Polar Regions, Central Asia Australia
  • Marine Ecosystems: Southern US, Southern Europe, Small Islands, Southern S. America, Southern Africa

So, it's pretty much global, and it's pretty much in all areas, all with a "high" degree of confidence. The figures at the bottom of each section in the chart above are the number of papers that relate to the issue in question. If there is one bright spot, and it's a pretty dim one, it's that there is no single item on which the IPCC authors have a "Very High" degree of confidence.

On with Nuclear! It's in the mitigation measures set out by the IPCC authors. But very little mentioned when discussing what to do. It's all Wind and Sun. Which, fine. But we need baseload and that's nuclear. 

For full disclosure: An article on how Wind and Solar are outdoing Nuclear in China, where there is strong support for Nuclear and no viable NIMBY-ism. 

OTOH: Gates and Buffett are financing a new type of reactor, and these are not men given to frivolous investments. 

Tackling the big issues…


From here second down 
 Mike Rowse’s column on 5 September 

Monday, 6 September 2021

Saturday, 4 September 2021

‘China tensions set to further pummel Australia’s coronavirus-battered economy’

Click flags above to go to the article
This is a bit of a non story. Old news that Australia’s economy is performing fine, thank you, despite Beijing’s bully-boy tactics. And, TBF, surprising too, to me, doing well in the face of repeated lockdowns.
Still this article gives Aussie haters yet another chance to bash Australia in the comments. Many of which, I’ve long suspected, are paid trolls of Beijing. 
The headline (above) seems rather more in hope than from any close analysis…
Australia’s economic resilience in the wake of China’s efforts to punish it for diplomatic slights has some down under declaring victory. They might be speaking too soon. 
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last month that China’s campaign to “make us more compliant” has “completely backfired”. Beijing’s pressure, he added, “has demonstrated to China that they can pull all these levers and it doesn’t actually work”. 
Exports continue to scale record heights even as China has blocked or limited a growing number of imports from Australia since May 2020. Still, the dispute – China accuses Australia of taking a hostile approach on issues ranging from a clampdown on foreign investment to questions on the origins of Covid-19 – is casting a shadow over the future. [Read on...]

Friday, 3 September 2021

Improve the News

Click screenshot to go to site
From an OR

[This] is a site established by Max Tegmark an MIT professor as his ‘covid’ project. An AI engine in the background scours the news and assigns various weightings so you can adjust what you want to see. Very cool.

I’m trying it with the Slider set at default, which is nicely centrist. You can skew it Left or skew it Right, but why not be blandly centrist? 

Interesting isn’t it? Centrism ought to be the best for most. But political parties rarely win by being centrist. And even authoritarian states are most often far left or far right. Is that an original sin of humankind?

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Neil deGrasse Tyson caught making stuff up. Deletes tweet for "causing unintended Twitter fights"

 Today there's this tweet from Neil deGrasse Tyson: 

"FYI: Deleted the Republican-Democrat COVID tweet. Was causing too many unintended Twitter fights"

[ADDED: I feel like I caught DeGrasse Tyson cheating at cards and I’m the only one that knows as he deleted the evidence. But I have screenshots! OTOH maybe I'm making a mountain out of a Twitter storm.…]

The reason I'd got to that above tweet today was that I was checking back into deGrasse Tysone's account. I'd already screenshot the now deleted tweet yesterday and was wanting to write something about it, so I just wanted to see the latest discussion before doing so. Deleted!

What was it that deGrasse Tyson had tweeted to his 14.5 million followers and now deleted? It just happen I have the screenshot, because I’d thought it rather extraordinary:

"Right now in the USA, every ten days, more than 8,000 (unvaccinated) Republican voters are dying of COVID-19. That's 5X the rate for Democrats"

I thought, when I read it, "huh?". Where are those figures from? I know there's more vaccine hesitancy amongst Republicans — we all know that, right? — but dying at five times the rate of Democrats?! Where the figs, Neil? And then attaching a gratuitous slur on Republicans, these "Medieval Peasants"?! (Even if, at least, a welcome break from "Deplorables"). Meantime, no mention that the most vaccine hesitancy is not Reps vs Dems, but Black Americans v White (Racial and ethnic differences in COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, NIH, 28 Feb 21).
I wasn't the only one who wondered "where the figs?" for Tyson's tweet:

Chuck Huber: "Where's that raw data? Link please?"
Neil deGrasse Tyson: "Thanks for asking. Twitter of course, does not lend itself to full citations. 
I derived the number from published COVID-19 death rates of unvaccinated people (about 1,000 per day). And from the polls that show 25% of Republican voters are unvaccinated, versus 5% of Democrats"
Chuck Huber's subsequent reply (deleted by Tyson) was something like "Aha! so, made up then. Thanks for clarifying". And the numbers sure didn't look right to me. Didn't pass the "common sense"test. I'd accept, for the moment, the figures for deaths of unvaccinated, but "the polls that show" 25% of Reps are unvaccinated vs 5% of Democrats? That didn't look right, didn't smell right. It didn't take long to find other figures, other polls, such as these
Click to enlarge
If a combined 52% of those whose Party affiliation is Democrat say they will either "Wait and See" or "Definitely not get the vaccine" then how on earth could 95% of them be vaccinated? Even if the poll figures I quote are nearly two months old, it's highly unlikely the could have got to the figures Tyson uses.
I call BS on that, and total made up. I'd have said so on Twitter if I ever tweeted, which I don't. I just followed some of the discussion, which did indeed get pretty nasty and divisive. No-one made the point I make here: that the Tyson's figures just make no sense, don't add up, and should be called out as BS.
He claims the twitter fights were "unintended" but then what was intended? To convince Republicans that they ought to get the jab? Well, that's not the way to go about it, Neil. As you ought to know -- there are plenty of studies showing that dissing folks is not the way to persuade.
I like deGrasse Tyson a lot. Have numbers of his books. I like his shows (Cosmos aside, which I find a bit cheesy). But this is a major own goal. A failure of common sense, a failure of good will. 
A failure too to come clean about the figures he posted: total nonsense and plain wrong. He ought to have admitted that, instead of falling back on the "unintended" trope, as in the "unintended Twitter fight". That's a bit slippery. I feel like I caught him cheating at cards and he denies it...
Shame on you, Neil, I think less of you cause of this. Joining other heroes of mine that are now tarnished (in my mind, at least) by not living up to their "driven only by facts and science" brands: Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

Wicked Humour

The headline at Babylon Bee (which, I must hasten to add -- because these days you never know, the craziest of satire might just be reality-- is a satirical Onion-like publication for the conservative side) is: 
Report: Biden Wasn’t Checking Watch, Just Making Sure There Was No Blood Left On His Hands. Ouch!

For the record, Biden is checking his watch during a ceremony to mark the return of 13 American soldiers slaughtered in Kabul, during the retreat from Afghanistan which he authorised. You got to wonder, does he have no filter any longer, between his brain and his hand?

Negative views on China continue to grow in the US

From here. I guess the opposite is also true
I got to the Pew Poll above thanks to  “Welcome to Cold War II” in Quillette. Looks to me like “unprecedented”  would describe the animosity shown China in today’s America. Also note the swing up in “unfavourable” is from Xi Jinping taking power 2012…
Meantime the new Chinese ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, claims that “China is not the Soviet Union”. I agree; it’s not. It’s more dangerous.  
To be fair to China, its people are way better off than Soviet citizens ever were - speaking from personal experience. 
My meaning of “dangerous” here is that China is a vastly stronger and more wily adversary than the Soviet Union ever was. 
I wonder: is Ambassador Qin is reviving Deng Xiaoping’s advice to “hide your strength and bide your time” a policy that Xi Jinping ditched a few years ago? I doubt it. But Qin’s comment is certainly in that tradition; play weak, play dead. It’s worked so well in the WTO and WHO where China’s contributions are set at levels of the poorest of “developing countries”, absurdly, vanishingly small for its size. Also, saying “we’re not the Soviet Union” might fool old Joe; you never know. If he can be fooled then that’s all the less hassle for Beijing, the less they have to spend time looking over their shoulder at the US and the more time they can spend spreading their suzerainty over the region.

Chinese students shun Australia


Frustrated by being “taught by robots”, worried by a rising threat of racism and exposure to the Delta variant, overseas students most which originally hail from China, are weighing up their options, raising question marks over the future of Australia’s under- pressure international education sector. [Read. More…]

But my mates here in Asia, in the asset management business, tell me interest in Oz is still very strong amongst mainland Chinese.

Meantime: Foreign interference guidelines fuel anti-Chinese prejudice

Oh goody! More repression


Zero comments online. The Fear Factor?

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Prof Jay Bhattacharia stands by Great Barrington Declaration

Click above to go to vid
Like the prof, I too was startled at the reaction to the GBD. The reaction ought to have been to discuss it and its recommendations, which were, in short -- focussed protection. Just as we have done with every previous pandemic in history. But somehow folks had already committed themselves to Non Medical Interventions -- aka Lockdowns -- and anything else suggested was seen to be heresy and even "dangerous". So, the GBD, and prof Jay, were demonised and vilified. 

Time has shown the "focussed protection" route to be the better. That's what we've followed in the roll-out of the vaccines, after all: first then elderly and Health workers, then gradually down the age ranges. Focussed.

Here in this video, Freddy Sayers has an interesting conversation with Prof Bhattacharia, full of nuance and careful statements of the science.

Prof Bhattacharia is professor of Medicine at Stanford. Not a nutter, iow.

Jay @48:50 "In my review of the literature Lockdowns have cost more lives than they have saved".

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Monday, 30 August 2021

China contributions to the WHO: the facts

Wheeeere’s China?!
Email to Occasional Reader (OR) re discussion on China’s financial contributions to the World Health Organisation. Based on figures on the official WHO website.

China is 17th in the list of contributors. All its contributions are “Assessed contributions”. China makes Zero “Voluntary contributions”. 

Overall 0.6% of the WHO budget is from Chinese contributions. 

For comparisons:
  • Australia contributes almost as much as China in absolute terms, 50 times more in per capita terms and 10 times more adjusted for GDP/capita. In addition we make Voluntary contributions. 
  • US contributes 10 times more than China in absolute terms, 45 times more per capita and 8 times more adjusted for GDP/capita. The US contribution doesn’t include the Gates Foundation which is almost as much again. Or the UN contributions of which the US is the majority funder.
  • UK contributes 5 times more than China in absolute terms, 115 times more per capita, 28 times as much adjusted for GDP/capita.
  • All other countries in the top 20 pay more than China in both per capita terms and adjusted for GDP per capita. Most make additional Voluntary contributions. 
On the one hand, this cuts against those who say the WHO is in the pay of China. On the other, it makes a pretty strong case that China pays less than it should.