Wednesday 30 November 2016

Fidel Castro’s Communist Utopia - WSJ

If you want to see the difference, literally (and I mean literally!), between socialism and capitalism in practice have a look at the satellite picture at night of the Korean Peninsula. The South is a blaze of light. The north has a little pinprick of light at its capital Pyongyang. (The fat prick's pinprick:  Kim Jong-un's nickname in Chinese is "Fatty the Third"). 
I have the temporal equivalent of that geographic snapshot. It's China when I first went there in the mid 70s while it was still "Cultural Revolution" time, in thrall to Marxism-Leninism. Studying there as I was, I had to get food and clothing like the locals and that meant getting ration tickets and lining up. Look at China now. There is nothing you can't buy. And the average Chinese is earning ten times what a senior official was earning in the 60s and 70s. The difference? Just ideology. The first period was communist. The second period was (and is) capitalist (thought to save face the Chinese called it "socialism with Chinese characteristics"). 
And in this Wall Street Journal article, Fidel Castro's Communist Utopia, they make the same point. Look at Cubans in Cuba. Then look at Cubans who fled to the United States (some 2 million of a population of 10 million). Same people. Different ideologies. Which is better off? The ones in the United States by a long way. Average monthly wages in Cuba are $US 20. In the US, it's $US 2,000, one hundred times more. 
And don't give me that guff about how Fidel gave Cuba great education and health systems. First,  good education and health care predated Castro.  Second, they're not so great anyway (doctors get $US20/month, and hospitals are falling apart). Third, even if they were as great as the left would have us belive, that would not excuse Castro's gross violations of human rights.  Many countries have good medical and education systems, without dictatorship.  Singapore, for example.
Basically, Castro backed the wrong horse. If he'd gone for the US instead of the Soviet Union Cubans would now be as rich as their American co-nationals. But despite this gross strategic error, Castro is forgiven all by the left. As I'm seeing now on CNN and has been the case in BBC since the beginning. 

Conscription, the secret behind Israel’s army of geeks

Follow on from my letter to the South China Morning Post the other day about Israel and the two-state solution in which I noted that Israel has the third largest number of companies on Nasdaq, after just the United States and China.
This is a remarkable achievement given that Israel is under constant low-grade warfare.
And interested how important conscription is to the body politic and, as here, the body economic.
I would rather like to see the return of conscription or some form of public service in other western countries before being let into the workforce.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Fact-checking a liberal Islamopologist

Faiza Patel, Islamist apologist at New York University
Faiza Patel works at the Brennan Centre for Justice which is part of the New York University. She recently had an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times that caught my attention.  Mainly because she dowplayed the Islamist intent of a couple of major Islamic organisations in the US: specifically the Islamic Circle of North America and CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.
As I looked through the article, at the Brennan site, I found other statements one should not expect from a senior research analyst at a prestigious New York think tank.
So, I go through her article, copied and pasted below the fold.
It's called "A 'Commission on Radical Islam' Could Lead to a New McCarthy Era" at the Brennan site.
My comments are indented and in italics, based on the Brennan version, after the fold.

Islam is a religion of peace. If you don't believe me, I kiiiiil you!

Just another Islamist nutter contemplating the evil of we infidels and
wondering when he can strike against us.
Talk about cognitive dissonance.  Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the latest Islamist nutter who tried to kill random infidels by mowing them down with a car and then knifing them, was upset about what people would think if he prayed in public.  "I'm a Muslim", he said, "it's not what the media portrays me to be."  Oh really?  And what would that be? That you might at any random moment explode with Allah-stoked rage and try to kill as many innocent infidels as you can?
So, how to negate that stereotype?  How to negate the stereotype that Muslims will try to kill infidels?  How about trying to kill as many infidels as possible?
Oh, that would do it. Yeah, right, Abdul.
Note in the meantime, that Abdul did pray in public (his main concern) and nothing happened.  Of course it wouldn't in a PC American campus.
He also railed against the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma. Demanding that the US stop it. But...that’s nothing to do with the US.
Good riddance to you Abdul.  Hope you're enjoying those 72 virgins…

Monday 28 November 2016

Election Therapy From My Basket of Deplorables -

This is Maureen Dowd's way of eating humble pie as she eats her Thanksgiving turkey (Election Therapy From My Basket of Deporables). Posting an apparently annual "column" that her conservative brother Kevin gives her each Thanksgiving.
I read this as an accompaniment to my listening to her audiobook "The Year of Voting Dangerously", her collection of columns up to but not including the election. She's pretty far to the left, but her columns, to be fair, rounded as much on Hillary as they did on the band of Republican candidates.
It also turns out that she's close to George H. W. Bush and there's a lot of quoting from letters and notes they have exchanged over the years. A very different Republican from today's, that H.W.

Sunday 27 November 2016

‘A recipe for scandal’: Trump conflicts of interest point to constitutional crisis | US news | The Guardian

I had thought, from what's appeared in the press and TV news, that there's no conflict of interest for a president.  Surprising, but that appeared to be the case.
In this piece in The Guardian, it's pointed out that a US president can't take any payment (any "emolument") from outside the US.
That is, any payment to PresidentTrump, via his companies, that came from a foreign source (and he's got hundreds of deals in many countries) would be illegal.
What's he going to do about that? He's got payments coming in all the time, one presumes.  The IRS would know....
Who is going to be the first to take him to court over this? Could it lead to impeachment?


Enough of the hagiography, already!
Castro was a mass murderer who impoverished his country.
Trump had it right (and I voted Hillary!): "a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people.....".
There's no "nuance" to be had...
Yours, etc

Saturday 26 November 2016

"Trump must try to get Israel's acceptance of a two-state solution". Letters, 19 November

Alon Ben-Meir urges Donald Trump to "pressure Israel" to agree a two-state solution (Trump must try to get Israel's acceptance of a two-state solutionLetters, 19 November).
There is little to indicate that President Trump will want to tread into a dispute that has been the graveyard of hopes for seventy years. As Ben-Meir himself notes, even Obama has failed, despite "supreme efforts".
But even if Trump were to wade into these murky waters why is it that only Israel should be pressured? After all, Israel has repeatedly accepted a two-state solution over the last 70 years. Various iterations of Palestine have rebuffed all solutions.
On 1 September 1947, the UN Special Committee on Palestine issued a report proposing a split of the Palestinian Mandate along lines similar to those pursued by Palestinians today.  The Jewish Agency accepted the proposal. The Arab Higher Committee rejected it. [UN Security Council Report October 2016]
Just imagine if the Arabs had accepted the proposal. We would have had none of the murderous mayhem of the last seventy years. Instead of destruction, construction.
Israel has 82 companies listed on the NASDAQ, more than all countries except the U.S. and China. Imagine if this Israeli entrepreneurial spirit had been harnessed with that of the Palestinians. They would today be the mega-Switzerland of the Middle East. They could by now have developed an Israeli-Arab-Palestinian common market, perhaps even a Federation.
Instead, we've had attacks on Israel (all unsuccessful), belligerent intifadas (mostly unsuccessful), and the infamous "Three Nos" -- No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel and No negotiations with Israel. How is one to negotiate with such intransigent interlocutors?
And yet it's Israel who must be "presssured"?
There's a great deal of hypocrisy amongst observers of the Israeli Palestine conflict.
Yours, etc...

Friday 25 November 2016

The Disappearing Dialect at the Heart of China’s Capital -

I'm pasting the whole article, in case you can't use this link:


BEIJING — To the untutored ear, the Beijing dialect can sound like someone talking with a mouthful of marbles, inspiring numerous parodies and viral videos. Its colorful vocabulary and distinctive pronunciation have inspired traditional performance arts such as cross-talk, a form of comic dialogue, and "kuaibanr,'' storytelling accompanied by bamboo clappers.
But the Beijing dialect is disappearing, a victim of language standardization in schools and offices, urban redevelopment, and migration. In 2013, officials and academics in the Chinese capital began a project to record the dialect's remaining speakers before it fades away completely.
The material is to be released to the public as an online museum and interactive database by year's end.
"You almost never hear the old Beijing dialect on the city streets nowadays," said Gao Guosen, 68, who has been identified by the city government as a "pure" speaker. "I don't even speak it anymore with my family members or childhood friends."
The dialect's most marked characteristic is its habit of adding an "r" to the end of syllables. This, coupled with the frequent "swallowing" of consonants, can give the Beijing vernacular a punchy, jocular feel. For example, "buzhidao,'' standard Chinese for ''I don't know,'' becomes "burdao'' in the Beijing dialect. "Laoshi,'' or "teacher," can come out sounding "laoer."
In the 1930s, China's Republican government began defining and promoting a common language for the country, referred to in English as Mandarin, that drew heavily, but far from completely, on the Beijing dialect. The Communist government's introduction of an official Romanization system in the 1950s reinforced standardized pronunciation for Chinese characters. These measures enhanced communication among Chinese from different regions, but also diminished the relevance of dialects.
2010 study by Beijing Union University found that 49 percent of local Beijing residents born after 1980 would rather speak Mandarin than the Beijing dialect, while 85 percent of migrants to Beijing preferred that their children learn Mandarin.
The remaking of the city has also played a role in diluting the language. Into the mid-20th century, much of Beijing's population lived clustered in the hutongs, or alleyways, that crisscrossed the neighborhoods surrounding the Forbidden City. Today, only a small fraction of an estimated 3,700 hutongs remain, their residents often scattered to apartment complexes on the city's outskirts.
The city has also become a magnet for migrants from other parts of China. According to China's last national census, an average of about 450,000 people moved to Beijing each year between 2000 and 2010, making about one-third of Beijing's residents nonlocals.
Mr. Gao, a diminutive man with a booming voice, remembers how different it used to be.
"Until this project, I didn't even know that what I was speaking was a dialect, because everyone around me used to speak like that," Mr. Gao said in his new apartment, not far from the hutong where he lived for more than 60 years.
According to the United Nations, nearly 100 Chinese dialects, many of them spoken by China's 55 recognized ethnic minorities, are in danger of dying out. Efforts are also underway in Shanghai, as well as in Jiangsu and five other provinces, to create databases as part of a project under the Ministry of Education to research dialects and cultural practices nationwide.
Yet the potential loss of the Beijing dialect is especially alarming because of the cultural heft it carries.
"As China's ancient and modern capital, Beijing and thus its linguistic culture as well are representative of our entire nation's civilization," said Zhang Shifang, a professor at the Beijing Language and Culture University who oversaw the effort to record native speakers. "For Beijing people themselves, the Beijing dialect is an important symbol of identity."
The dialect is a testament to the city's tumultuous history of invasion and foreign rule. The Mongol Empire ruled China in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Manchus, an ethnic group from northeast Asia, ruled from the mid-17th century into the 20th. As a result, the Beijing dialect contains words derived from both Mongolian and Manchurian. The intervening Ming dynasty, which maintained its first capital in Nanjing for several decades before moving to Beijing, introduced southern speech elements.
The dialect varied within the city itself. The historically wealthier neighborhoods north of the Forbidden City spoke with an accent considered more refined than that found in the poorer neighborhoods to the south, home to craftsmen and performers.
In Shanghai, some schools teach in Shanghainese rather than Mandarin. The Beijing city government has explored the idea of developing teaching materials in the Beijing dialect. However, these proposals have been criticized by those who fear such lessons would diminish the effectiveness of Mandarin-language education.
"As a Beijing native, I personally hope the dialect will survive,'' said Wang Hong, a third-grade teacher at the Affiliated Elementary School of Peking University. "But if you aren't a native, there's no reason to learn Mandarin plus a dialect. You would just confuse the two."
The researchers documenting the Beijing dialect are quick to stress the preservationist nature of their efforts.
"We aren't promoting the teaching of dialects in school, because China is still a Mandarin-speaking society," said He Hongzhi, the director of the forthcoming online dialect museum, which will showcase some of the recordings collected by Professor Zhang.
For Mr. Gao, the vanishing dialect of his youth is nothing to be mourned, though he is happy that more people are paying attention.
"Society needs a unified language and culture to develop,'' he said. "If we restored the old things, then the road ahead wouldn't exist."
"But I love to listen to the Beijing dialect,'' he said. "It is something innate. When I speak the Beijing dialect, it comes naturally from my heart."
Correction: November 24, 2016
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of officially recognized ethnic minorities in China. There are 55, not 56, minority groups. The Han ethnic group is in the majority, with more than 90 percent of the population.

Democrats Are Obsessed With Race. Donald Trump Isn’t - WSJ

Good article.
We daily see the left, Democrats and others on the broad left, pursuing racial identity politics that Jason Riley identifies here in the Wall Street Journal as one of the reasons for Hillary's dramatic loss. 
Trump's win came from turning around previous Obama voters. So it can't be that that was due to racism. 
Instead it was due to the need for change, seen from America's heartland. And Hillary couldn't be further from being the candidate for change. 
Obama didn't help by saying that it was his legacy on the  line. What legacy?  His failed foreign policy, with Middle East in ruins and Europe overrun by refugees that he enabled? His economic policy of death of a thousand regulatory cuts? His health policy of Obamacare with rising, not falling, premiums?
His hubris was and remains visible. The left's obsession was and remains palpable. 
The reality is that Mr. Trump didn't prevail on Election Day because of fake news stories or voter suppression or ascendant bigotry in America. He won because a lot of people who voted for Barack Obama in previous elections cast ballots for Mr. Trump this time. In Wisconsin, he dominated the Mississippi River Valley region on the state's western border, which went for Mr. Obama in 2012. In Ohio's Trumbull County, where the auto industry is a major employer and the population is 89% white, Mr. Obama beat Mitt Romney, 60% to 38%. This year, Trumbull went for Mr. Trump, 51% to 45%. Iowa went for Mr. Obama easily in 2008 and 2012, but this year Mr. Trump won the state by 10 points. Either these previous Obama supporters are closet racists or they're voting on other issues.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Just how partisan is Facebook's fake news? We tested it | PCWorld

This article, fact-checking Facebook's own fact-checking, is interesting. Fake news now very much in the news.
The author created two profiles, one a Trump supporter and one a Hillary supporter. The fake Trump supporter was subject to more negative and fake articles about Hillary, than was the Hillary supporter about Trump (if you can follow that).
I came across this article while looking for a reference to a BBC World Service radio story that I just heard the end of, the other morning. Something along the following lines: that Facebook would remove some stories and replace them with a statement "many people have said this story was factually inaccurate". I couldn't believe they would do that. It's so easy to get a lynching crowd to say something they don't like is "factually inaccurate". I can imagine a case where somebody said "Islam was spread by the sword" , and a posse of islamapologist SJWs complaining that that was factually untrue. Whereas of course it is true.
I haven't found a reference to that yet. Maybe it's fake.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Canadian police force holds seminar against “Islamophobia”

Christine Williams reports the wise words of the Iranian dissident Assadolahi, complaining about the Canadian government's bowing down to the nonsense terminology of "Islamophobia", a term used to silence all criticism of Islam, as in their police force's seminar. 
It would be a brave police person who voiced any concerns about aspects of Islam, however "problematic". 
An open letter was written to Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators to challenge the spurious "Islamophobia" narrative. It was penned by Iranian dissident, writer and activist Shabnam Assadolahi, who asserts: "I have a reasonable fear of radical Islam."

What kind of "minority" is this? Germany in Jihad's crosshairs

German salafists. Who would have thought, 20 years ago?
I read somewhere a few days back -- I can't remember where, but you can be sure it was an authoritative source! -- that German authorities are now worried by the increase in the number of Salafists in Germany's burgeoning Muslim community.
Within that fundamentalist group of Muslims there's a subset that are a Jihadi threat. That is, they're a danger of committing mass murder by suicide; of becoming, that is to say, model shahid warriors according to Islam. 
These salafist jihadis number 9,000 according to the German authorities. Thats not a small number in itself. Imagine if only 1% of them, let alone 10% of them, managed a jihadist attack on the Bundesrepublic. 
But it's worse than that. The number has tripled in the last five years. That's a growth rate of 25% per year. In many cases these jihadis will be be born and brought up in Germany. 
There is no reason to believe that the growth rate of German jihadis will reduce. Why should it when Mad Mutti Merkel carries on with her insane policy of letting in a million more of these jihadi co-religionists every year?
So, expect close to 30,000 jihadis living in Germany by 2020. 30,000 and growing, who will want to wreak murderous havoc on the country that has taken them in or raised them from birth. 
Germany is screwed. It's Merkel's fault.  And the fault of Germans who enable her. They are paralyzed by their guilt for a war that ended seventy years ago. 
Visiting the sins of the ancestors on their progeny, you might say.

Priebus Calls Aspects of Islam ‘Problematic.’ Are They? | PJ Media

Further to the post just before this one, below, here is a detailed outline of why aspects of Islam are "problematic" to the extent that IslamISM is an ism we have to fight against.

CNN disastrously wrong on "Islamism"

Watching CNN just now here in Hong Kong. The anchor had on two guests only one of whose names I got: Lanhee Chen, ex Romney adviser. The other guest was from the left. 
The anchor played a video of new NSA head Gen Flynn talking about "Islamism". 
Flynn compared the fight against Islamism to the fights against other "isms", like Nazism, fascism, imperialism, communism". It's a cancer in the body of 1.7 billion Muslims and needs to be excised, by muslims with non-Muslims help. 
In this he's surely right. 
Islamism is separated from the practice of Islam by this: that Islamism aims to spread Islam to the rest of the world, to create a global Caliphate; but that aim to do so by peaceful means. ANY peaceful means, including  lawfare. They agree with jihadism's aims; just that they don't go for the violent aspect of jihad. 
From the talk of these three on CNN, none of them knew of the definition and aims of *Islamism*.  
They found Flynn's comments "troubling" and wondered about their effect on those "moderate Muslims" that we needed in the fight against terrorism. 
Not knowing that Islamism is just terrorism lite. But still aiming for the global caliphate. 
And that if these so-called "moderates" are "troubled" by Flynn's comments then they aren't really moderate at all.

Trump Summons TV Figures for Private Meeting, and Lets Them Have It -

Quite extraordinary what Trump is doing with the press. Still taking them on, as president-elect, on Twitter and now in off-the-record meetings at his pad in Trump Tower.
Look at what he's upset about and what he claims is "unfair":
1. Reporting on his tax affairs. But that's of great public interest.
2. Reporting on his affairs with women. But that's of great public interest.
3. Reporting on his legal troubles at Trump University. But that's of great public interest.

So the president-elect is taking on the "newspaper of record" for reporting matters of public interest. Where will this end? The beginning doesn't look good.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

The presenter (Tulip M'zunda?) on the WorldService radio show about FGM claims that the cutting of young girls in Africa and the Middle East is purely cultural and that there is no religion that mandates it. Indeed Islam did not invent FGM, but it does enable and support it. 
It's not in the Koran, as Tulip correctly states. But it's in the Classic Manual of Islamic Jurisprudence (Umdat al-Salik), the authorised manual of Sunni Islam's legal mandates. 
Section 4.3 says:
Circumcision is obligatory (O: for both men and women. For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (Ar. bazr) of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert). (A: Hanbalis hold that circumcision of women is not obligatory but sunna, while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband.) 

Saturday 19 November 2016

‘The Art of the Qur’an,’ a Rare Peek at Islam’s Holy Text -

Here is a classic in the genre of "bend over backwards to make Islam sound nice". Here it's the New York Times art critic Holland Cotter on an exhibition of Korans, now on in Washington, in 'The Art of the Qu'ran', a Rare Peek at Islam's Holy Text.
Cotter describes the source of the Koran. And he does so by buying into and retailing that story according to what Muslims believe -- that it was the Angel Gabriel talking to Muhammad, an medieval age trader and telling him to "Koran-it". That is to recite it. BUT: Cotter doesn't say that this is what Muslims believe. He writes it down (recites it) as if that were the truth. He does not say, for example,  "Muslims believe that...":
The word Quran (or Koran) is derived from an Arabic verb for speaking from memory or reading aloud. And the book originated with the sound of a voice heard by a man named Muhammad ibn Abdullah near Mecca, the city in what is now Saudi Arabia. A trader by profession, he was in the habit of spending periods of reflection in a cave outside of town. On one visit, in A.D. 610, when he was 40, he heard a command, seemingly coming from nowhere, in Arabic:
Recite! In the name of thy Lord,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught man what he knew not.
Fearing for his sanity, he fled the cave. But he returned, and the voice, which belonged to the Angel Gabriel, spoke again, bringing a message from God. The message named Muhammad prophet of a new monotheistic religion and explained its tenets and beliefs to him. He began to share what he'd heard, but encountered violent resistance, and had to move to another city, Medina. The voice followed him there and would continue to speak until Muhammad's death in 632.
Is it more likely that this man, Muhammad, really heard the angel Gabriel; or that this man, Muhammad, heard voices?  If anyone today, whether or not named Muhammad, said they heard voices from God, they're pretty smartly sent off to the asylum. 
After this particularly Medieval Muhammad started proselytizing, the Jews who then were the majority in today's Saudi Arabia, mocked him. That's in the official Islamic history, the Sirah. But Cotter doesn't report mockery. He says that the Medieval Muhammad met "violent resistance". Not true. Cotter buys into the now familiar Muslim grievance industry. 
As for the growth of Islam, for Cotter, it simply "spread". Nothing about the violence by which it spread. Correctly and infamously, Islam was "spread by the sword". This is well documented in Islamic texts. 
For Cotter the Koran is in ancient Arabic, therefore neither he nor any non Arabic speaker can fully understand what he accepts to be the beauty of its message. And this accounts, per Cotter, the Islamophobia of the likes of Trump. Trump cannot understand the beauty of the basic text of Islam. 
I do not buy the islamopologists' tripe that you can't understand the Koran if you don't understand Arabic. I know Chinese, including Classical Chinese. It's difficult; more so than Arabic. But it can still can be translated. Even by me a non Chinese. 
And what of the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia?  They can't speak Arabic. Are they incapable of understanding the core message of Islam?
This is sheer bullshit apologia. By the New York Times no less.
Shame on Cotter. Shame on the New York Times. 

Friday 18 November 2016

Trump Threatens the Postwar Order - WSJ

The world would have been a much worse, poorer and more dangerous place had not the U.S. guided post-war global developments. No matter how much influential leftists like Noam Chomsky might deny it. 
The Marshall plan, the GATT, the United Nations, patrolling world sea lanes - the world's Mayor and the world's policeperson. 
To this global role Trump is a "clear and present danger", as William A. Glastonbury argues in yesterday's Wall Street Journal
...the balance sheet is clear: The world the United States has led since the 1940s is more prosperous, more secure and more democratic than it would have been had we stood aside.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Man who led Trump’s digital strategy says his SA company earned more than $90 million | WOAI

Just saw Brad Parscale with Megyn Kelly. He had called the Trump victory well before the election. And was running the Trump campaign's digital programme. He called the election for Trump based on the numbers he was getting via digital and fed to the campaign.
Re FBI Director Comey's letter to congress about Clinton's emails -- the intervention that Hillary blamed for her defeat -- Parscale said that the numbers of undecided breaking for Trump had been increasing well before Comey's intervention just before the election.

Monday 14 November 2016

Lies in the Guise of News in the Trump Era -

The BBC World Service ("The World's Radio") had a show just the other about spoof and misinformation sites. I guess one of the best-known satirical sites is The Onion though it was not mentioned in the BBC show. And then there are the outright made-up news sites. I'm sure a lot of people believe their lies -- if the number of friends and acquaintances who quote ridiculous stuff is anything to go by. 
Kristof goes into the subject in some detail here: lies in the guise of news
The take-away is "buyer beware". Do the common sense test. Also read the MSM. If the crazy sounding thing you just heard or read is not in the MSM then it needs more research. 
If  it's NOT in the MSM doesn't make it not true: just that it needs verification. Take, for example, the issue of oppression and murder of Christians in the Middle East. It was covered in detail in the blogosphere for years before the MSM got around to acknowledging it. But for other stuff: confirm and verify.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

My prediction: Hillary win...

...  with 300+ Electoral votes

LATER (1:12 pm 9th November. HK time): well I guess I read that one wrong. As did just about everyone else on cable news, from BBC, to Fox, and CNN in between. Unbelievable!  And sick-making. I guess there were a lot of secret Trump supporters who only came out on polling day. 

Donald Trump’s success reveals a frightening weakness in American democracy - Vox

Longish article in VOX, but interesting and worth the read.
The litany of Trumpian lies, deceptions, bigotry and shortcomings.
And of the complicity in all that by an American electorate that pines for the strong leader, the authoritarian, the fascist, even.

Sure Sean ....

Sure, mate. You're spot on, Hillary's a witch and Donald's a saviour.
I'm just watching Sean Hannity's last (thank god!) rant before the election. And a more partisan spewing of factoids you couldn't find. He viscerally hates Hillary and ball-tighteningly worships Trump.
It's kind of surprising (or not), that the channel selling itself as "Fair and Balanced" shiould allow the ranting of a know-nothing like Hannity.
The others on the evening stint -- Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly -- are rather better, especially Megyn who has been an equal-opportunity griller of both sides.
Hannity should be dumped by Rupert sins who are now looking at better positioning Fox News for the future.
By the way, one of the standard gripes of Fox is that the mainstream media is in thrall to Hillary. It's true that apart from Fox, TV news tends left. That said they also tend to try present a balanced picture -- even if balance is not be needed. The world isn't flat, after all, even if some loonies insist it is. There need be no equal time for inanities. But even if you accept the Hannity trope about the leanings of MSM, he doesn't ever mention mainstream radio. Lots of people listen to radio. Rush Limbaugh, for example, has tens of millions of listeners. And he's solidly on the right, even the far right. Most talk back radio is right of centre.  Why doesn't that ignoranus Hannity ever mention that?  I guess I answered my own question. He's an ignoramus. 

WikiLeaks Isn’t Whistleblowing -

I agree with this article. There's no way that the unchecked vomit-dump of hacked emails is whistleblowing.
It's a purely political act to destabilize the Clinton campaign.
Note that there are no leaks of RNC emails.
Not even Fox News can find any smoking gun amongst the dump. The worst seems to be that a DNC operative leaked a few debate questions to the Clinton camp pre the debate. There was no evidence that Hillary even knew.
But if that's a "dirty trick" (which it is), we can be certain that it's the sort of dirty trick that both parties have done in every campaign since ever I remember. Indeed the Republicans used to be the masters at them: duplicitous attacks on John McCain (an alleged black love child) and on John Kerry (attacks on his war record) come to mind.
But now, according to Trumpistas, what's revealed in the Wikileaks are not dirty tricks any more. Now it's "the system is rigged".
Well, what's rigged is the Wikileaks data dump. Hacked by Russia, passed to the egregious Assange, for him to crap down on the world. All to try to get Putin's favoured candidate into the White House.
As for the bulk of the hacked emails they're about internal party discussions, squabbles and strategising. So what?
Whistle-blowing, as Mr. Ellsberg did, is a time-honored means for exposing the secret machinations of the powerful. But the release of huge amounts of hacked data, with no apparent oversight or curation, does the opposite. Such leaks threaten our ability to dissent by destroying privacy and unleashing a glut of questionable information that functions, somewhat unexpectedly, as its own form of censorship, rather than as a way to illuminate the maneuverings of the powerful.

LATER: 8th November in the New York Times, and Paul Krugman makes the following points about the hacked emails:
Nothing truly scandalous emerged, but the Russians judged, correctly, that the news media would hype the revelation that major party figures are human beings, and that politicians engage in politics, as somehow damning.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Why I hate Hillary, but...

... why I would still vote for her. (If I were a US citizen, that is).
The reason I've hated her is a time and place: 2012, Benghazi.
That horrid episode revealed a deep character flaw in her. Her primary, no, her *sole* focus during the siege should have been her staff. It wasn't, and four died including the ambassador. That's totally her responsibility. Yet she lied and weaseled out of it. That was a shocking dereliction of duty. She deserves no forgiveness for it.
And the reason I couldn't vote for Trump is an FLA: a five letter acronym.
"T" is for Trade, as in he'd wreck it
"R" is for Russia, as in his love affair with an ex KGB bully, arch kleptocrat and serial murderer
"U" is for Uranium, as in Nuclear, as in let 'em all go nuclear, what do we care. And as in "we've got nukes, why can't we use 'em?"
"M" is for Misogyny, as in feel free to grab pussy if you're a reality star. It's also for Muslims as in I hate 'em.
"P" is for populism as in that's the way to get to the White House: pander to the lowest and most ignorant views.
Not fitting in with the FLA is his denial of climate change. This view, especially in view of the recent agreement reached in Paris, is dramatically bad for the globe. 

Saturday 5 November 2016

Robert Manne’s Mind of the Islamic State deserves a wide audience

More evidence against the sloppy theory that "ISIS has nothing to do wither Islam".

Sent from my iPad

Those poor millennials, they have too much choice....

... and they're traumatised by it.
On the BBC radio just now, interviews with a number of millennials (18-30 yo) who are the most difficult demographic to get to the voting station.
Why?  Well, it seems that most of them are traumatised by "too much choice".  They can't differentiate between Trump and Clinton.  They say things like "we're told this, and then we're told that; so how do we know what's true?" and "we just don't have enough information" (really).
Well, look: there's more information now than any time in human history. The problem with you dorky young snowflakes is that you don't know how to discriminate between reliable information and scuttlebutt.   The give away is the use of "told".  They're not comfortable, it seems, unless they're directed this or that way. And when they get two candidates.... woahh, too much choice!
These young sensitive beings, who've been taught that "all cultures are the same" and similar rot, are now quite incapable of knowing where to go on the internet to find sound information.  Did I say "internet"?  Hell, these young cupcakes don't even do that.  As many of them said, they get their info from Social media.
This is disgusting and disturbing. It's pretty easy to find out, for example, if it's true -- as both Trump and Clinton say -- that trade deals lead to a loss of jobs (they don't). Or if climate change is a "hoax" as Trump says (it's not). Or if crime is at an all-time record as Trump says (it's not).  Or if it's wise to let in 65k Syrians per year as Clinton says (It's not).  And so on.
But no, for these essentially illiterate millennials, it's all too hard, all too confusing.
In the UK, they didn't vote in the Brexit referendum and were then upset when the Leavers won.  They should have known and they should have voted. If the millennials had voted in June, Britain would still be in the EU.
They should vote this time, and it should be for the queen of pantsuits. It's simply not that case that Trump and Clinton are equally venal and so one can forget about voting.  And millennials should not be abrogating their right to vote because they're traumatised by choice.

Friday 4 November 2016

When will HK see the light on solar power? - SCMP. 4 November

My letter published in today's South China Morning Post. 

"Check out the sweet roof," said Tesla boss Elon Musk, introducing the company's new solar roof tiles to the public ("Now available in other colours", ­November 2).
This brings to mind a question I've long had. Why do we see no solar panels on buildings in Hong Kong? One reason might be that in such a vertical city, ­solar power can deliver only a small fraction of our electricity needs. But surely some is better than none. In my own village of Discovery Bay, we have a lot more medium- and low-rise housing that would benefit from solar power.
In Siena village, we even have exactly the same Tuscan roof tiles that Mr Musk is promoting in California. And yet Hong Kong has no incentive for solar, such as the common provision elsewhere for excess solar power to be sold back to the grid.
How about it, Hong Kong government? Surely promoting solar power is at least one thing that all folk in the fractious ­Legislative Council could agree on?
Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Supporting Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Here's a list of the main articles in support of Maajid (mainly) and Ayaan (a few less), in the wake of the outrageous "listing" of both of them on a list of allegedly "anti-Muslim extremists" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Latest on top.
I would like to have seen more defence of some others on the list. Especially Robert Spencer, who is all to often characterised as an "Islamophobe", but is nothing of the sort in my view, and I've seen him in innumerable videos, and read all his books in the last ten years.  He's done his own defence of the scandalous SPLC listing of him along with 14 others (also here).  I call their list lazy, sloppy, tendentious, vicious, vacuous and, well, just plain horrible.  I can't even bring myself to link to their list.

LATER (3 November): Sam Harriss' talk with Ayaan Hirsi Ali was published just yesterday.  It was done literally on the day of the SPLC slime piece was published, so it does not talk about it, except for Sam as an epilogue in the last five minutes.  As Sam says, their talk shows just what a thoughtful, empathetic, non-bigot of a person Ayaan is.  But the SPLC just doesn't care.  I guess they care about the fact they got lots of hits and clicks. Here's Sam's talk with Ayaan.

My email post to the SPLC (There are various answers from SPLC from others, on the Why Evolution is True blog, quoted above).
I've seen your defenses of the now infamous "list" of allegedly "anti-Muslim extremists" and none of what's said in the various boilerplates makes any sense.
Is there anything that would change your mind, especially about Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali?  Anything?  
It's clear from what's in your OP and in subsequent email justifications, that you don't really know anything about Maajid and Ayaan.  So, shame on you for that.
Perhaps you ought to spend some time to look at what they say. The latest for Maajid is to see the Why Evolution is True blog, their post of 2 November.  And for Ayaan, have a listen to Sam Harriss' talk with her, posted on 2 November, but recorded before all this kerfuffle.  Mind you: it's 58 minutes long this podcast, and that may well be longer than your attentions span. (given what I've read of your so-called "reasons" for putting all these folk on a hit-list, reason characterised by lack of serious research, and third-person half-quoted obloquies).
Forgive me for the ad hominem, but really.... you need to get a head screwed on to your body on this one, and shame on all of SPLC for this travesty.
Peter Forsythe
Hong Kong

Later (3 November): The Federalist

"Now Available in Other Colours", 2 November.

Elon's on the far right, looking like he's auctioning the building. Actually,
it's one of the houses on the set of "Desperate Housewives", and he's
showing off the roof tiles, which are solar!
LETTER TO South China Morning Post (SCMP):
"Check out the sweet roof", said Tesla boss Elon Musk, introducing their new solar roof tiles to the public ("Now Available in Other Colours", 2 November).
This brings to mind a question I've long had. Why do we see no solar panels on buildings in Hong Kong? One reason might be that in such a vertical city solar can deliver only a small fraction of our electricity needs. But surely some is better than none.  In my own village of Discovery Bay we have a lot more medium and low-rise housing that would benefit from solar power.
In Siena village we even have exactly the same Tuscan roof tiles that Mr. Musk is promoting in California: "Tetti dolci"! ("Sweet roofs" in Italian).
And yet Hong Kong has no incentive for solar, such as the elsewhere common provision for excess solar power to be sold back to the grid.
How about it, Hong Kong government?  Surely promoting solar is at least one thing that all folk in the fractious Legco could agree on?
Peter F
LATER: SCMP, 3 November 2016: Solar tiles and Powerwall 2.0 to be available in HK next year
"Tesla urges Hong Kong government to keep e-vehicle tax breaks".  Link

Tuesday 1 November 2016

How Did Maajid Nawaz End Up on a List of 'Anti-Muslim Extremists'? - The Atlantic

More on the infamy of SPLC putting Maajid on a list of "anti-Muslim extremists".
This one strikes me as a rather tepid defence of Maajid. Going to a strip joint, by a young man is "tasteless"??  Never been to one, writer of this article? 
Anyway note how the SPLJ guy reacts, it's pathetic.

How Did Maajid Nawaz End Up on a List of 'Anti-Muslim Extremists'?

When earlier this week, the Southern Poverty Law Center and three other groups released a list of 15 "anti-Muslim extremists," many of the names came as no surprise. They included Pam Geller, who led the fight against the misleadingly nicknamed Ground Zero mosque, and her ally Frank Gaffney, who has called Barack Obama a crypto-Muslim and assailed Grover Norquist as a Islamist agent.

Huma Abedin worked at Muslim journal that opposed women’s rights | New York Post

This is the woman -- Huma Abedin -- who Hillary Clinton has chosen to keep by her side for the last 20 years. The woman who is now bringing Clinton new grief with emails found on the computer Abadin shared with her disgraced ex-husband Anthony Wiener. 
The main point, however, being that Abedin was deputy editor of a Muslim Journal of Minority Affairs, which her Saudi-based mother published. Huma was on the masthead of the magazine from 1996 to 2008. She has never resiled from the deeply misogynistic articles in the magazine. 
This magazine went against everything that Clinton, and all good liberals, believes about the rights of women. It is deeply conservative and anti-feminist in a way that would offend most women in the west. 
So why would is Hillary hire her? Lack of judgement again, as she's shown over and over, from Benghazi to the email imbroglio. 
Below a quote from the magazine. 
It is true that "Islam goes the farthest in restoring equality across gender", if by "equality" you mean "INequality". 
"Among all systems of belief, Islam goes the farthest in restoring equality across gender," she claimed. "Acknowledging the very central role women play in procreation, child-raising and homemaking, Islam places the economic responsibility of supporting the family primarily on the male members."
LATER: more on Huma's mother's misogynist views, including FGM, stoning to death and the rest of the dreary litany of anti-women hate at the centre of Islam. Remember: this is Hillary Clintons top aid. 

Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops -

Just to show how "fair and balanced" I am, here is a link to a New York Times article about GMOs. It reports evidence that GMOs are no more productive than non-GM crops. And, secondly that in non-GMO countries (mainly the EU), pesticides and fungicides are used less than in GMO countries (mainly North America). 
I've been advocate of GMOs on this blog, so that news was news to me and sobering. 
Some quick comments:
1.  The article says nothing about the safety of GMOs. Assuming they are indeed safe (which is the preponderance of scientific evidence), what they're saying is that they're simply not effective. That is: don't bother spending your money on them. 
2. Perhaps there other factors at work. For example: would EU production be even higher if it did use GMOs or North American production lower without GMOs?
3.  I did a bit of a fact-check on world cereal production based on World Bank figures derived from the Food and Agricultural Organisation. Over the 53 years to 2014, countries using GMOs were 0.4% more productive per year. That doesn't sound like a lot. But as Warren Buffet is fond of saying, compounding has a magic effect on returns. 
Over the 53 years that 0.4% extra annual growth translates into 24% more cereals produced in GMO countries than in non-GMO countries. And that ain't trivial
4.  It says nothing about the positive medical effects of some GMOs especially for poorer countries. I'm thinking of golden rice, for example, which provides nutrients not available in non-GM rice. There are others that don't quite come to mind right now. 
Anyway, interesting article, with a number of powerful charts, if one is interested in the topic. (Which really ought to be everyone!).