Monday, 9 December 2019

Erdoğan rejects reference to 'Islamic terror' - Turkey News

The Islamic version of the "No true Scotsman" fallacy.  
Erdoğan at the opening of the latest mosque in Cambridge:
A Muslim cannot be a terrorist and Islam does not produce terrorists, the Turkish president said on Dec. 5, once again rejecting the term "Islamic terrorism".

But.... but.... the prophet himself said "I have been made victorious by terror". (Then again I guess, strictly speaking he was not at that stage a Muslim).

A Billion Chinese Dreams E1

A great series. Hosted here by Zhou Yijun. 

Sunday, 8 December 2019

The government can’t do nothing

All along the government has said that it needed peaceful streets before it could discuss demands.
We’ve had peace these last few weeks, if a touch brittle. Like an uneasy cease fire. And right now, this evening, there’s another major demo in Central — fully approved — peaceful so far.
But I just don’t get the feeling that the government is ready to start any meaningful talks. Or indeed any talks at all. We’d have had some hint of them by now. Some idea of what agenda they’d be proposing. But nothing.
I have a gut feeling the government would like to have everything calm down, just from exhaustion if nothing else, and then to just carry on. As if the last six months hadn’t happened.
That is not going to work.
The government must, it simply must, come up with something. Or more insanity on our streets.
So now I too am part of the “must brigade”. 

The difference between Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism

Historian Giles Udy explains the difference between “Social Democracy” (think Scandinavia) and "Democratic Socialism" (think Venezuela).
I’m one the of few of my friends and rellies who has lived in a proper socialist society: China in the late seventies, when it was at the fag end of the Cultural Revolution. Well before Deng Xiaoping allowed free enterprise to explode China’s wealth. And I know Scandinavia. So I can relate to the difference Udy describes.
The distinction is important. Because people like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez are members of the Democratic Socialists of America. Not the Social Democrats of the US.... Many folks thinks she’s just looking to Scandenavianise the US. But she’s a down-and-out socialist, and I critique her here. Socialism does not work. I’ve seen it not work, with mine own eyes. I had ration tickets for my cotton for clothing, for my rice. Because socialism was unable to produce them.
Only free enterprise delivers what socialism promises.
Short version of the difference:
  • Social Democracy: Capitalism is OK, but needs to be controlled and channeled, so society is fair.
  • Democratic Socialism: Capitalism is the enemy and must be abolished.

What Has Brexit Revealed About Britain? Has it broken the UK & its Institutions?

Tim Stanley, author and historian.  Labour Party
Madeline Grant, journalist. DK.
Tom Harwood, journalist, activist.  Conservative
David Oldroyd-Bolt, media & marketing

In Australia as in the UK: Labor/Labour Parties have abandoned the working class.  Most Labo(u)r voters now are uni graduates. And that’s different from 50 years ago. Nowadays they are the urban middle class. The “nowheres” as opposed to the “somewheres”. That’s one reason they were so shocked at the Brexit vote. Not that that vote was all working class, as the folks above show.
It’s a good discussion. 

‘If this is the democracy Hong Kong protesters want, they deserve it’

My online comment on the letter below in today’s Post. (Headline as above, in original).

Good letter. Is it possible, objectively, that the police have suddenly gone from the best to the worst? Of course not. It’s all (or mostly) perception. Fuelled by social media. The police are not blameless and have made mistakes. But they are not the brutal bullies the protesters make out.

Letter from Victoria Cheung:

Hong Kong protests: Look at the numbers

These last few days I’ve been collecting links on costs of the protests. That being one side of the ledger. And the other side being the benefits, whatever they may be. If your aim is revolution and overthrow of the government, then you’ll take Mao’s view: “a revolution is not a dinner party, it cannot be so refined…” and accept that “you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs”. [ADDED: “but where is the omelette?” 26’00].
For “revolution of our times” there can be no cost-benefit calculation. The cost doesn’t matter. 
But if the aims are less than revolution, say the Five Demands, what then? If they are achieved, will it have been worth it?
Well here are some of the costs I’ve been tracking. I’ve tried to include only links that work without having to pay or register. If any problems, let me know, at right. 
Also: these are far, far from exhaustive. The media we follow here in Hong Kong is daily filled with what’s going on and the costs to our city. As I write, Singapore’s CNA has its Correspondents’ Diary investigating costs of the protests. Anyway, here goes:

30 November 2019
Tourism down 45%. Here
Effects on poor, disabled, old.  Here
Poly U a wasteland.  Here.
Financial war chest running down. Here
Difficulty talking to kids. Here. 
Guest rooms convert to love hotels… Here

1 December 2019
University funding cut. Here

3 December 2019
Biggest drop in retail ever. Here
PolyU: Research losses and starving lab mice. Here.
Ad workers down tools. Here

6 December 2019
MTR $HK 1.6 billion losses. Here
Festival Walk to remain closed to 2020. Here

7 December 2019
Destination Despair. Young people can’t find jobs. Here.
Fewer crimes solved because police busy with protesters. Here.

And today, Yonden Lhatoo has his go with numbers. Click left link, or full text below the fold:

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Small Modular Reactors. OK, Roller!

Rolls Royce SMR. Now, doesn’t that look cool!
Here’s something I’ve often wondered about: there are heaps of nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines around the world.  As far as I know they haven’t had a single accident since they were introduced just after WW2. 
So, I’ve wondered, why can’t we have those smaller reactors dotted around the place? Why do we have to have monster plants, over 1 GW capacity, that take ages to build and cost a bomb (as it were....).
Answer is, there’s no reason why not, and it’s starting to happen: now they’re called SMRs, Small Modular Reactors. They’re good for generating electricity in out of the way places -- eg outback Australia -- and for the power to make eco-fuels that the aviation industry needs.
Here is Rolls Royce pushing the concept. OK, Roller!
Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc is pitching nuclear reactors as the most effective way of powering the production of carbon-neutral synthetic aviation fuel without draining global electricity grids.
Drawing on technology developed for nuclear-powered submarines, the small modular reactors or SMRs could be located at individual plants to generate the large amounts of electricity needed to secure the hydrogen used in the process, according to Chief Executive Officer Warren East.  Read on...
Thing is, the world focusses on electricity generation: which is all about renewables. But electricity generation is responsible for only 25% of total carbon emissions. The rest comes from things like farting cows and flying planes. So we need some focus on those emissions too...
From the IPCC 2014


And remember it’s perfectly safe to like this cartoon! It’s not bigoted.…

It kind of reminds me of this: “kleptomaniacs don’t get puns because they take things literally”.

And Groucho: “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana"

‘Hong Kong protesters are anti-China separatists who want to overthrow the local government’

American flags in Hong Kong. Western MSM see this as wonderful.
Many Hongkongers, including me, see it as shameful.
(The banners say: “restore Hong Kong, revolution of our times”)
I’m not the only cranky old bugger who is hacked off by the violence of the protesters and concerned that their aims are less than noble, including the dangerous push for independence. Here is Regina Ip, founder and head of the New People’s Party (the links are all in the online original):
I refer to the letter from Adam Dyer (“London unrest very different from Hong Kong strife”, December 3).Yes, I agree that the Hong Kong unrest differs sharply from the Tottenham riots of 2011. It is a movement with a clear political objective, despite its initial camouflage as a protest against the rendition bill.
Starting with peaceful protests on June 9, the demonstrations quickly degenerated into road blockage and vandalism. As the protests dragged on, the political objectives have become increasingly clear. 
The organisers were not joking when they sang: “Restore Hong Kong (to its former colonial master?), Revolution of our Times” – to use a more literal translation of the Chinese original (光復香港, 時代革命) – or when they waved American flags. 
The insistence on “Five Key Demands, Not One Less”, the refusal to compromise even after the government had withdrawn the rendition bill, the turning of university campuses into arsenals, the sabotage of major public infrastructure and the increasing sophistication in their deployment of lethal weapons, all point to the fact that the real objective of protesters and their behind-the-scenes backers is to overthrow the government, and cause as much trouble for China as possible.
The violent methods adopted are akin to those used by terrorists.
The movement is not a civil protest nor a short-lived convulsion caused by isolated incidents. It is subversive, separatist and anti-China in character.

As such, it is radically different from the Tottenham protests, which were triggered by a fatal shooting by police.

The Hong Kong protests should have been dealt with by using greater force, and anti-terrorist and anti-subversion legislation. Unfortunately, none of this is in place. [PF comment: don’t agree with this, as would only lead to more violence]

A review to look into the deep-seated ills of society, as promised by the chief executive, is of course different from an inquiry, but why set up an additional inquiry into police conduct when we already have an Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), aided by a panel of overseas experts, unless the sole purpose is to make sure heads will roll? 
A statutory commission of inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Ordinance does not have much more powers than the IPCC, nor is it suited for an inquiry into a prolonged and complex political unrest.
And why penalise the police when we have been relying on them to hold the fort, without military support as in the colonial days?
Have we all become so naive as to believe that a further concession at this stage will lead the rioters to auto-abort their use of force?
 Regina Ip, member, Legislative Council

Friday, 6 December 2019

Asian neighbours wary of China. Pew Survey

Click to enlarge and clarify
Consistent with an earlier poll I posted years ago. Great wariness of China. And all sharing my great dislike of the dictator Xi Jinping. 
Very roughly: 30% of countries surveyed think Chinas growth is a bad thing while 60% think it’s a good thing.
In terms of China’s investment in their own country most are pretty evenly split for and against, with my own country Australia coming out strongly against Chinese investment (66/30). 

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Hong Kong protest paradox: can a democracy movement backed by bigotry and vigilantism succeed?

Click to enlarge, and read caption. An alternative caption might be:
“Protesters beat the living crap out of a mainland tourist”
for this has happened often; rarely the other way around (7.21 aside)
Attentive readers will know that I’ve criticised the bigotry amongst many of the protesters, so I’m totally on-board with the sentiments expressed here by Philip Cunningham, author of Tiananmen Moon. He’s correct: there are many bigots in the protest movement and many vigilantes too [Webarchive version of the article].

Cunningham’s piece responds to an article in The Times a few days ago, by Richard Lloyd Parry. That article is behind a paywall and so, with thanks to The Times, I’ve put it for free here.  For subscribers here.

The Parry article is the latest from the “but brigade....”. As in: “I don’t agree with violence, but....” and finishing most commonly with “... but it’s understandable” or “... but you made me do it”. Parry supports the violence because -- he believes -- it's done in the name of Freedom and Democracy, yay! Cunningham doesn’t agree with this, and neither do I.

My own comments on the Parry article are below. (One-word comment: nonsense.  Two word comment: dangerous nonsense.  Three-word comment: uninformed, dangerous nonsense).
My comments are flush left, Parry article indented...

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Let’s get this right: Do not blame the killers. Blame those who want to stop the killers

‘If Jack could comment on his death – and the tragic incident
on Friday 29 November – he would be livid.’ Says Jack’s father
Jack Merritt was killed last week on London Bridge.
In the Guardian Jack’s father Dave Merritt tells us more about Jack, by all accounts a fine young man:
Jack was proud. Jack was absorbingly intelligent. Jack was fiercely loyal. Jack loved music, art, eating good food with his family, and having more than one pint with his mates. Oh, and in case you haven’t realised by now … he was also devilishly handsome.
Jack’s killer was one Usman Khan (perhaps devilish, but not at all handsome) a votary of the religion of peace. Khan had been in jail for terrorism offences, released last year on an early licence.
Khan didn’t “choose” Jack to murder.  He killed him simply because he was there, at that spot, on London Bridge, on that day, representing the hated infidel. Khan’s religion -- not a voice in his head, not some sadistic fantasy -- but his religion made him hate the unbeliever, urged him to "kill the infidel wherever you find him”.  And Khan found Jack. And Khan killed Jack.
But let’s get this right.
We must not condemn killer Khan or his hateful ideology. We must condemn Boris and the Tories. Because they are furthering “an agenda of hate”. Because Boris called for investigation into killer Khan's early release and called for - wait for it - increased sentences for terrorism and scaling back early release. (As he’s done for ages, by the way)
This is “an agenda of hate”, we are told.  About which Jack “would be livid” his father assures us.
Do not blame the killer, says this “left-leaning atheist”. Do not question Khan’s ideology. For that would be “hate”.
Blame instead those who want to halt further such killings. Blame that hater, Boris.
Turn the victim into a hero. Turn the killer into a victim. Turn the Tories into hateful oppressors.
ADDED: It ought go without saying, but maybe not.... that I feel fully for David Merrits’s loss of such a fine son.  The pain of loss, such a senseless loss, as a father myself, is unimaginable. Still, he makes himself the target, by his own clear political agenda, and then blaming Boris for an “agenda of hate”, because Boris has a different view of penal policy. These views he puts in his dead son’s mouth. Maybe Jack would feel as his dad imagines. Who knows? It strikes me as a rather shameful and tawdry thing to do. Who is going to challenge your progressive political agenda when you are grieving?  And condemning others for having an agenda?
This is what Dad Dave tweeted few days ago. Not an agenda, at all. Not at all sanctimonious! Heaven forfend....
His twitter profile: “I support the underdog”.  But don’t we all? Just that we have different notions of how to raise them from under... He says “I despair at where we’re at politically”. Of course he does. He’s a Remainer, and still litigating Brexit in his feed.
ADDED (4 Dec): along similar lines to mine, from Julia Hartley-Brewer. Either everyone is politicising the issue, or no-one is.  Because everyone is having a say, and you can’t slam one as “political” just because you don’t agree with it. And... we cannot have the veto of discussion by the victim’s family, just because they are victims, much as we sympathise.  To me, Julia makes sense (of course; she agrees with me....)

People ‘Not to Learn Islam From’ — Really?

Shireen Quodoshi, from here
A while since I’ve posted anything about Islam.  Don’t worry, this one’s harmless.....
A post by Muslim Reformer Shireen Qudoshi talking about a list of people that one is not supposed to learn Islam from.
Shrireen makes the point that Muslims hate being lumped together as being this or that, and so Muslims ought not to arbitrarily lump together lists of critics of Islam and tar them all with the same “bigot” brush.
I agree with the ones Shireen says have been treated unfairly. I’ve read the books and heard the podcasts of most of them, including: Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Robert Spencer and Steve Emerson. Laura Loomer I don’t really know.
Others such as Judge Jeanine Pirro and Ann Coulter, I find a touch too shrill (is that sexist?).  A touch dogmatic, then, though generally accurate with the facts. Ditto Hannity and Carlson.
Richard Spencer is a self-declared Nazi, and must not  confused with Robert Spencer, who is widely knowledgable on Islam and nothing of a fascist, more a classic liberal.
Essentially, what the list says is; don’t listen to anyone who knows anything about Islam and who questions its core tenets. Don’t listen to the experts, in short. (It’s rather like what used to be said in Christianity -- the reason the priesthood resisted translation of the Bible into common English. The plebs would then understand it!  Heaven forbid!)
Anyway, it’s here, and quite a useful read.

ADDED: Qudoshi is a Muslim Reformer and for that she is reviled not just by many mainstream Muslims, but also by the Left in the West. To them, she’s a “porch monkey”, a female Uncle Tom, a traitor to Islam.  See Yasmine Mohammed’s just published “Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam"

“Voices of Hong Kong”

David O’Bottomley, producer of Channel News Asia’s “Voices of Hong Kong”, says it was easy to find pro-protesters to talk, but harder to find pro-government, or anti-violence people to talk. Asked why, he said “ I’m not really sure”.
Well he’s not paying attention.
Just last Sunday we had the latest example of what happens to people that don’t support the protests: smashed in the head with a metal drain cover; “enemies” restaurants trashed. Others have been killed or burnt alive, or doxxed, labelled as “enemies”.  You don’t have to be pro-government. Just anti-violence.
I’d say that’s pretty much why many people won’t speak against violent vandalism. Simple, understandable, fear.
“Voices of Hong Kong” is on CNA.
I’ll find out where and post it. (Haven’t seen it yet, just the interview with the producer).

ADDED: ok I found it and it’s actually pretty good. I watched it on an iPad which is fine. Not sure how it would work in a phone. It’s not a video but an interactive infographic. Here it is.
One quick take-away: back in June no-one expected what was to come.
Another quick take-away: most of the “voices” think the storming of LegCo was a critical watershed and most think it was a bad on at that, because it let the hot-heads take charge. To remind: the police were not there at the storming. The rioters had their way. Many residents then called for the police to get tougher. I remember all that. The police did not start out as some sort of brutal force. Anyway, take your time there’s quite a bit there. 

Monday, 2 December 2019

A case of Potemkin gone awry

This guided visit to Xinjiang was supposed to convince the delegation that China is doing just fine and all these Uygurs are happily studying in “Vocational Training Centres”, their very own Potemkin villages.
It didn’t quite go as planned.
Read about it in “What can the Muslim world do to save the Uighurs and Islam in China”, from the Daily Sabah.
The Muslim countries should reconsider their position and urge China to immediately stop the persecution of Muslims and the prohibition of Islam in Xinjiang. China must close its "Vocational Training Centers," release the religious and political prisoners from prisons and detention camps, abolish the Islamophobic and criminal "Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region De-extremification Regulations," stop sending Chinese colonists to the homes of Uighurs and order all state apparatuses and organs to stop their persecution of Muslims.
Mind you, I would not be quite so sanguine about Xinjiang not having separatist ambitions. Big chunks of it do, and they are all the Muslim areas.

Man smashed in head while trying to clear road

Click for Video
This is really shocking. And it will go unlamented, uncriticised, by the protesters. They have a “no splitting, no criticising” policy explains Joey Siu. Which includes killing people with bricks, setting people on fire, trashing their properties, and as above, smashing people over the head with a metal drain cover. Shameful. 
But, you know, Freedom and Democracy, Yay!

Hong Kong protests: tens of thousands return to streets after days of calm as radicals trash shops with mainland China links

Sigh… one way or another, we’re screwed. When you have thousands of our youth who think the way forward is to vandalise your enemy's property and our public infrastructure, immediately after you’ve just made some political gains, we’re doomed. My pessimism grows. 
Tens of thousands of Hongkongers returned to the streets on Sunday a week after the pro-democracy camp’s landslide election victory, but their procession rapidly descended into stand-offs with police and, by nightfall, mobs once again trashed shops with mainland China links.
After nearly two weeks of relative calm, chaos returned to the Kowloon side of the city by evening, as a group of protesters hurled bricks and police fired tear gas, while radicals set about smashing restaurants* and shops in Whampoa and vandalised the exits of the railway station there.
They unleashed their acts of destruction after a peaceful march that began in the tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui with crowds, many of whom were in their trademark all-black gear but also including families with children in tow, streaming in to the waterfront promenade.
Read on 

* ADDED: this is the “reason” they attacked Yoshinoya, the Japanese noodle chain restaurants in Kowloon:
Yoshinoya outlets in Hong Kong were targeted to be boycotted and vandalized by anti-government protesters during 2019 Hong Kong protests. Hop Hing Group, based in Hong Kong, is the licensed operatorof Yoshinoya in the city and Mainland China. Its CEO Marvin Hung was criticized by protesters for attending a rally for Hong Kong police organized by pro-Beijing camps.[16]
Were pro-government people scared off voting in recent Council elections by fears of doxxing like this? Some, surely.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Animal Languages: The Secret Conversations of the Living World by Eva Meijer'

There are two reasons for posting the opening para of this Speccie article:
(a) It's fun and leads on to an interesting story on animal communication…
(b) Note how easily you can turn it from a para with a single masculine gender into the neutral gender using what I call the "singular 'they'", without doing violence to its felicity. And shouldn't we, if we can, make this little blow against "toxic masculinity"? After all, don't women own pets too? Most assuredly, and likely in greater numbers than men. 
Random interesting fact: adult cats only meow to humans, not to each other. I did not know that.
The reality of animal communication (or, more precisely, our belief in that reality) is a fact underwritten not by science but by direct experience. A dog owner knows that his dog communicates with him because he makes eye contact with it, notices its body movements, listens to its barks and whines and yips, and associates all of these actions with the contexts in which they occur and the actions that take place before and after such 'signals' have been sent. The owner unscientifically — but naturally and effortlessly — projects into the dog a sense of awareness and autonomy similar to the one he himself possesses. Since this projection is rewarded day after day with actions and responses by the dog that are consistent and expected, he quickly comes to 'know' that his dog communicates.
My neutral version:
The reality of animal communication (or, more precisely, our belief in that reality) is a fact underwritten not by science but by direct experience. Dog owners know that their dog communicates with them because they make eye contact with it, notice its body movements, listen to its barks and whines and yips, and associate all of these actions with the contexts in which they occur and the actions that take place before and after such 'signals' have been sent. The owners unscientifically — but naturally and effortlessly — project into the dog a sense of awareness and autonomy similar to the one they themself possess. Since this projection is rewarded day after day with actions and responses by the dog that are consistent and expected, they quickly come to 'know' that their dog communicates.
Painless, no? (Just a quasi neologism: "themself").

‘Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays by Leslie Jamison'

A side dish of Leslie Jamison
Is this the best put-down ever? (The kale bit). Surely one of the cleverest and most biting (as it were).
Note to self: no need to Wishlist this one, even though Jamison is a smouldering houri, a doe-eyed beauty.
Because she is a woman who writes essays, Jamison has been compared with Joan Didion, Janet Malcolm and Susan Sontag, but she is the antithesis of her predecessors. A recovered alcoholic, Jamison speaks the lingo of sharing, gratitude and moral righteousness (in her acknowledgements she thanks those friends 'who simply helped me survive my own life'). She trades in platitudes, believes that scepticism contains an 'ethical failure', and 'has doubts about doubt'. As an 'expression of kinship and curiosity' with the world, she has the words 'Nothing human is alien to me' tattooed on her arm. She thus carries her heart on her sleeve: there is no experience she can't relate to; her belief system is 'tolerant enough to hold everything as equally valid'. If Didion, Malcolm and Sontag are caviar from a live fish, Jamison is a side serving of kale.