Monday 30 July 2018

Some facts on the countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

According to Mr Google:
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation founded in 1969 has 57 members, 56 of which are also member states of the United Nations with 47 countries being Muslim majority countries. Some, especially in West Africa, are – though with large Muslim populations – not necessarily Muslim majority countries.

GNP per capita.

The list I used for this is CIA World Factbook.
I added a couple of countries that were not in that WFB list, ending with a list of GNP per capita for 231 countries in the world.. The full list in Excel is here.
Here is a summary of the results ($US):

Non-oil OIC is relevant because those that have oil have incomes per capita that are real outliers.  Domestic populations are much smaller than their temporary "guest workers" from Asia -- South Asia, Philippines and the like.  They are reliant on oil extracted by western countries and on workers that are all but indentured labour.
Through this dodgy route, for example, Qatar is #2 in the list at nearly $US125,000 per capita/year.

  • The average of all OIC countries is 26% less than the world average.
  • For non-oil OIC the average is 65% below the world average.
  • The overall average rank is 160 out of 231.
  • There are 29 OIC countries in the bottom 100
  • Half of the bottom 20 countries are OIC countries.

Gender Equality

I used the Global Gender Report produced by the World Economic Forum (The Davos crowd).
It only covers 144 countries (not the 231 as above).  It is called "gender equity", in reality a measure of how well, or not, women are doing in these 144 countries.
Here's a summary of those results:

  • The average ranking of OIC countries is 117 out of 144.
  • Of the bottom 10 countries in the list, ALL are OIC countries.
  • OIC countries are overrepresented in the bottom half of the world gender equity rankings.

Four OIC countries did better than the global average

The raw figures are on the spreadsheet at the "OIC" tab.

Arab Human Development Report

The latest AHDR is on Youth unemployment. In Arab countries, all OIC members, youth unemployment is much higher than the world average 30% vs 13%, the highest in the world.

Arab Human Development Report
The report is actually a series: Youth (2016), Human Security (2009), Gender (2005), Freedom (2004), Knowledge (2003) and Opportunities (2002).
I'm not going to summarise them here, save to say that the meta-summary is this: in all the areas studied, Arab countries, all of them OIC countries, are falling well behind world averages and in most cases they are at the bottom.

What's caused this poor showing in all measures by OIC countries?

I'm going come back to this.  It will come as no surprise that I find Islam a factor on several levels.

China’s ‘city of warp speed’ is poised for another major leap forward | SCMP

1n 1970 a village.
In 2018 highest office rents in the world

There is a dreamlike unreality in comparing today's Shenzhen with the ramshackle township I first saw in the late 1970s.

There was little to attract notice. Shenzhen may not quite have been the fishing village of urban mythology - local accounts say the hamlets and towns of Bao'an County amounted to around 58,000 people - but it was hardly going to stir the adrenaline of the occasional sleepy visitor.

So speaks David Dodwell in today's South China Morning Post
I've been critical of Dodwell, in a letter the paper published. Gotta give him this, though : he's prolific!
And here in this article, he's spot on. He could be describing my own feelings on my first visit to Shenzhen, in September 1976.  
And the rest of the article is also spot on. About the extraordinary — historically unprecedented — growth of the city, from a tiny hamlet to a city of over 12 million. In four decades. And of its office space now in the ten most expensive in the world. And of its civic society shallowness because of that very speed of growth. 
And now Shenzhen is on the cusp of a new Beijing grand plan, as the centre of a "Greater Bay Area" super city of 65 million. And if which we here in Hong Kong will be a part. Dodwell compares it to the opening of China and its SEZs in the early eighties, which Deng mocked into high gear in 1992, his famous "Southern Tour" which I remember so clearly. 
I'll add this: that whenever I visit Shenzhen, which I do from time to time as it's just over the border under an hour away, I find it pretty thoroughly charmless. Hong Kong remains the city for me. It's the city for us, dogs 🐕 and all. 

Sunday 29 July 2018

Mesut Ozil’s resignation airs a German political dilemma | SCMP

From today's South China Morning Post. The author, Hans-Georg Moeller, is professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Macau. 
While most ethnic Germans emphatically embrace a set of liberal Western values – partly to distance themselves from their nation's fascist past – a significant part of the immigrant population holds on to values attached to a commitment to specific ethnic, national, religious, or family affiliations.
The ensuing irony is that the liberal Germans (similar to other liberals in the "West") find themselves in the uneasy situation that their non-racist, anti-nationalist principles oblige them to unconditionally welcome all "foreigners", but the same principles also oblige them to condemn, or at least disregard, core values that many of these "foreigners" identify with.
I wonder why "foreigners" is in the scare (or doubt?) quotes. Are they not foreigners?  Well maybe not. Some may have been born and raised in Germany. But as we know from many studies(1) the later generations of immigrants and refugees to Europe can often become more religious, more pious, more extremist (take your pick) than their parents.
Professor Moeller resorts to weasel words in the first para-snip above. ".... values attached to a specific ethnic, national, religious, or family affiliations"
We're not talking about different cuisines here, or different sartorial choices or different ways to worship. We're talking about Islam. Not Buddhism, Hinduism or atheism. We're talking about a very robust, very tough very self-confident, not to say righteously-arrogant ideology(2). An ideology that is, at core, misogynistic, homophobic, sectarian, supremacist and anti-freedom of thought. 
That many Muslims are fine and peaceable people is not at issue or in dispute here. What is at issue is Islamic ideology and not in dispute is that large fractions of its many votaries hew to its abhorrent values. A very much larger fraction — likely the large majority, according to many polls — are comfortable and supportive of its tenets. 
A thought experiment. Imagine it had been a different set of migrants to Europe. Imagine they'd been from East Asia — Korea, China or Vietnam, for example. These immigrants would have settled down, set up their Chinatowns, their Koreatowns, their Mini Saigons. Worked hard to send their children to college, to become second-generation professionals (and not religiously-obsessed, disaffected malcontents). How do we know this? Because that's what immigrants from those countries have done elsewhere, in the United States, in Australia. It's a cultural thing. It's not a racial thing. Some cultures are more attuned to success in this world than "martyrs" in the next one. Is it any wonder we prefer — and rightly so, or at least understandably so — one of those cultures over the other? To repeat: it isn't in the least racist to note these cultural differences. Nigerian Christians, Lebanese Christians, atheists form anywhere, fit in and are more successful in their adopted countries than are their Muslim compatriots. 
(An Australian government study in the mid nineties compared the success of Lebanese Muslims and Lebanese non-Muslims immigrants to Australia. The Lebanese Muslims had four times higher unemployment rates (20% vs 5%) and has created just one-third the family wealth of their non-Muslim counterparts. (Iirc). That's pretty much a perfect experiment. They were Lebanese, all ethnically the same, all given equal opportunities. The only difference was their belief systems. Ideas and beliefs have consequence,
as Sam Harris is fond of saying).
Professor Moeller is right to identify this as a German political dilemma. That is: Liberal western values versus the values of Muslim immigrants. (Moeller doesn't say "Muslim", but my point is that that's what it is, that's the problem, not the non-Muslim immigrants). 
How does Germany get over the dilemma? Moeller doesn't say. 
What I say is: Not by surrendering to cultural equivalence (all cultures are equal and must be equally respected) or being concerned at Mesut Ozil or his ilk's abandonment of their adoptive country. You should condemn, not just "disregard". You should condemn values inimical to those that the west fought centuries to secure. And phooey to those who bleat that to do so is "racist", "islamophobic", "xenophobic" (take your pick). These are just words intended to shut up defenders of decent, fair and liberal western values. 
Stay close to western values, oh Deutsche Folk! Stay firm! 

(1) Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. Christopher Caldwell. 

(2) Islamic ideology: I use the term "ideology", because that's how Islam is described by its senior representatives, imams, mullahs, ayatollahs and the like. They stress that Islam, unlike other religions (all of which are viewed as lesser), is a religion for the totality of life. Everything is set out for the believer, everything personal, family, cultural, political, legal, as well as the religious duties. It is a total system for life. In short: an ideology
LATER: I just noticed that Moeller has put the "West" in scare (or doubt?) quotes., as well. Why?  Does he doubt that there's such a thing as the "west"?  That to have a concept of something called the "west"Is somehow risible?  A nasty concept of the Alt-right? 
His slip is showing.

Saturday 28 July 2018

“Algeria, land of Islam, has three-thousand year history marked by cultural diversity”

Yeah right. This sort of thing needs to be countered. The Left and Islamapologists (tautology?) love it and trot it out as evidence of Islam's "tolerance". Like Spanish Andalusia under the Moors. Not. 
The fact is that Algeria used to be all Christian. Like all of north Africa. And now it's all Muslim. Like all of North Africa. That doesn't happen by accident. It happens when the "Arab invasions", the armies of Muhammad, invade Algeria, and all of North Africa, in the 7th Century. Christians were given the infamous three choices: (1) convert to Islam (2) don't convert, but pay the jizya dhimmi tax (3) die.
Even today the few remaining Christians in Algeria are not allowed to seek converts; not allowed to proselytise; not allowed to repair churches; not allowed to build new ones. Any Muslim that coverts to Christianity is subject to government investigation. 
So this concept of Algeria celebrating itself as the birthplace of St Augustine, of this wonderful land of Islam, of tolerance and multiculturalism, it is all just a sick joke. 
It was that. Before 700 AD. 
Until the arrival of the armies of Muhammad.

Did China think Donald Trump was bluffing on trade? How Beijing got it wrong | SCMP

This article blows apart my conception that Beijing were being deep and strategic thinkers in this Trumpian trade brouhaha.  If they were silent, I thought, it was a strategic, contemplative silence. If they said something, it was a strategic and well-thought-out something. Or so I thought. 
But no, it appears none of that is true.  If you believe Wendy Wu and Kristin Huang in today's South China Morning Post. And I have no reason not to believe them.  My my thoughts were feelings, and the feelings were just that: feelings. Whereas Wu and Huang have done their homework. They have talked extensively to people on both sides of the battle. I would rather their researched views than my gut-feel one. 
What's shocking is the extent of Chinese ignorance about the US, their unpreparedness for the trade war, and their continued lack of serious people in serious numbers working on US issues. 
The US side was way better prepared according to this article. 
Also shocking, but predictable, is the extent to which this is all the consequence of dictator Xi, and his efforts to tighten party control. Control => no one willing to speak truth to power. 
Sources and observers told the South China Morning Post that the problem is policies introduced by Beijing – driven by a need to consolidate the party's power – that have discouraged policy advisers from having in-depth discussions with their US counterparts that would help them to understand the latest thinking in Washington, or from speaking their minds.

China has first world infrastructure but ...

Guiyang from my hotel room. Old city and Nanming river
... I want to say "China has First World Infrastructure, but a Third World government" — mainly because it balances nicely — but it's not quite true. 
Sure, the first part is right enough.
I've travelled its excellent highway system and its comfy bullet trains. Both are marvels, built in record numbers at record speed. China has the largest freeway system and largest bullet-train network in the world now (iirc). In many ways the freeways are better than those in Europe, especially Italy's which we've crossed north to south (and back) recently and you can't help noticing they're showing their age. Same in the US. China's, by contrast, are sparkling new and have all the mod cons: rest areas, regular service stations, good signage. What else: airports, WiFi, mobile coverage, ports for containers and people — all these are large, top of the line. First world or better. 6-Star, if you like. 
But the second part about Third World government is not right. For a start third world governments are not nearly as effective and efficient as the Chinese one. No third world government has, to my knowledge, done a fraction of the nation building that China's has since I've known it — 40 years and more. 
Flip side: no third world governments are as brutally effective as China's in controlling its population and what its people can read, can see, can hear. 
So: "dictatorial"? Correct, but doesn't capture it all, for while it's dictatorial about politics it's pretty laissez faire in many other areas. 
"Leninist"? Yes, but that needs too much explaining. How different or similar is Leninism to Marxism or communism or even socialism (the last of which is all China will fess up to). 
"Fascist"? I think this one fits best. For fascism can be on the left or the right. Rome was fascist but not racist. Fascism's main thing is control. And that's what China is all about. Control. 
So on consideration I'm going to go with:
"China has First World infrastructure with a Fascist Government". It may even be — likely is — that the former is only possible because of the latter. 
Not so nicely balanced but more correct I believe. 
PS: why am I making a thing of "balance"? Because China teaches it to you. Poems are balanced: two scroll, read top to bottom, right to left, each side with equal number of characters, usually odd: 5 or 7 or 9. And in each side the characters are balanced with an equal and sometimes opposite thought on the other side. Common sayings, or chengyu (成语) are balanced. And so on. I know this is a thing in English too, especially as a rhetorical device in powerful speeches (vide: any speech by Martin Luther King Jr). It's just that it's far more so a thing in Chinese. At least that's my take. I haven't done an in-depthy on it.
Last night in Fanjingshan the restaurant served me their excellent tea in what I've named the world's largest mug. On it some words of Mao Tse-tung. Though they make sense as they are, it didn't seem balanced to me. I asked the boss, Lao Wang. He was impressed. Said not many people realised that it was missing two characters. Which are Guang Kuo (广阔).  "Wide". 

Above: next to a frosty bottle of Xue Shan beer, the world's largest mug. The writing, attributed to Mao, says "in the world there are great accomplishments",
channelling a nascent Trump, it seems. 
The missing characters, which had been scraped off, are 广阔 or "wide". 
Above: Boss Wang tells me someone scraped off the characters because he was an oldie with bad memories of Mao. He was stopped before he could scrape them all off. In that hatred of Mao that oldie (老人) is a in a small minority. Those that can recall Mao's horrors are dying out — and do let's recall that a direct result of Mao's mad policies (the Great Leap Forward) and revolutions (The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) about 100 million people died, but who's counting?  
The young kids, if they think of Mao at all, think of a kindly father. Father of the nation. 
More than that by the way: they know nothing of their history. Nothing of the Cultural Revolution, let alone the earlier Anti Rightist Movement or GLF. They know nothing of the Gang of Four. Nothing of June 4. They're happy, but. 
Enough of all that. 
I'm on the Hong Kong airlines plane back to Hong Kong. And free air. And where people still know — and commemorate — important events in their motherland. Most recently the June 4 vigils. 
I lived through the June 4 demos and crackdown and was in China at the time. It would have seemed impossible then that anyone could forget them. Let alone a whole nation. 

Sent from my iPhone

Raphael Lemkin & Simele Massacre: 85 Years Later, Assyrian Genocide Victims Still Seek Justice | National Review

Raphael Lemkin & Simele Massacre: 85 Years Later, Assyrian Genocide Victims Still Seek Justice | National Review

Note that all these massacres, by Turks and Iraqis, numbering in the millions, were specifically religiously based. "Become a Muslim or we kill you" said the brave soldiers facing Christian children and pregnant women.
Would you "become a Muslim"?  I would. Why make your life forfeit in the face of a fanatical maniac driven by a wicked ideology? Why not lie to him? Even if you're a Christian, let alone an atheist like me. 

Thursday 26 July 2018

Spot the Darwin! « Why Evolution Is True

I really really like this photo of prof Jerry Coyne's office on the university of Chicago.
From his Why Evolution is True website. 

Wednesday 25 July 2018

What Makes a 'Self-Hating' Muslim? - Quillette

A very interesting article and comments in Quilette by a Muslim who visited Israel with good intentions, and the blowback he got from his coreligionists.
I've recently returned from a study tour to Israel. As a Muslim visiting Israel I was put through considerable security, but was otherwise treated well.
Since my return, I have been surprised by the level of negative reaction I received from other Muslims, including some close friends and relatives. It's as if visiting Israel equates with ardent support for Zionism and the wholesale rejection of the Palestinian people, neither of which I adhere to. However, I have returned with a more complex understanding of the issues at stake.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Peace offers in the middle east, knocked back

Like the previous video about Settlements, this one strikes me as sound.  I've looked at the issue for many years. There have been indeed many offers of a "two-state solution" by Israel.  And each time it's been knocked back.  And yet, it remains Israel that's lambasted for being "intransigent" or some such.
No.  The heat must be put on the Palestinians.  On Hamas and their dodgy cronies.
To finally say: "ok, we accept.  We accept Israel".

Israeli settlements, explained

Whenever I see an article labelled like the headline here, I'm suspicious.  It's going to be an agenda-driven take. It can't help but be pro or anti-Israel; it can't help but be pro or anti-Palestinian.
This video seems to me something different: it's remarkably neutral.
If I'm wrong:
BTW, it begs the question of what the Palestinian settlements are like.  I doubt they're New Joisey on Judean Samaria.

Monday 23 July 2018

Sunday 22 July 2018

Re: Pompeo: Trump has been strong in protecting US from Russia | Fox News Video

RE the video:
Well, OK, Pompeo is defending Trump. No surprise there. (By the way Pompeo looks and feels like he'd be a better president than his boss).
Pompeo says that Trump was "resolute" regards Vlad's attempt to get his hands on Browder & Co.  
Trump most assuredly was not "resolute". 
In Helsinki he said that a swap was a "terrific idea". Jing and I saw him say so. We can't unsee that. 
Then the Senate voted 98-0 to tell him "no way baby". Thank goodness for that and just as well. They stopped him from his "artful deal". 
You've got to wonder if Trump thinks that that was a great deal what else might he think is a "great deal" and have given away in the private conversation in Helsinki?  Something perhaps on the dormant Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty? Gulp!  Have a look at why George W withdrew from
 that treaty in 2002. And why Vlad wants it reinstated — and said so in Helsinki. Maybe Don said "great deal" in the private talk. But who knows? But shouldn't we know?!
Fox was initially stunned by the Helsinki horror. Then they got their thinking in order and returned to business as usual which is Trumpian apologia as usual. And so too for Trump supporters. Sure the Left went crazy. "Traitor-gate" is nonsense. But the apologia of Trumpkins  is a wonder to behold. Well, sickening really. 
Trump is a disaster for our post war liberal world order which America crafted, Marshall Plan, GATT, WTO, NATO and the rest of it. And to rubbish this, in toto,  as Trump does, is not just a calumny, but recklessly dangerous. 
I can't see anything that'll change that assessment. Unless there's victory in NOK and in the multiple trade wars, none of which appears remotely possible right now. 
I was hoping that facing up to China would yield something. I no longer think that. Though I can still hope. 
Sorry. I'm full-on TDS now. 
But we can still talk. 
Just that I've had it with Trump. 
I think he's incompetent. More: I think he's a dangerous incompetent. 
There. I've said it. 

Why *occupied* Golan Heights?

The once "occupied" Hong Kong

To the BBC World Service:
Why do you stress "occupied" Golan Heights. Yes, they are occupied, but there's a background. As there is with, say, Tibet. But you never say "occupied" Tibet. You don't do so because China is strong and tough and you're scared of them. 
Admit it.
All I ask is consistency. 
If you can't bring yourselves to say "occupied" Tibet then please don't say "occupied" Golan Heights. 
As the Chinese say: all same-same. 

Peter Forsythe

Sign of the times: calligraphy of Hong Kong neon lights dying out

I studied Chinese calligraphy in Hong Kong and Peking (as it was then) in the seventies. I translated a local book on calligraphy and scroll-making into English though goodness knows where it is now. And with my calligraphy teacher here in Hong Kong — the elegant Liu Bai Ya-mei (an unusual four-character name, most Chinese names being two or three characters; and likely indicating Mongolian  heritage) — I learned how to turn rice paper calligraphy into Chinese scrolls. How to make the scrolls that is. 
I thought again about all of this, and how much I'd enjoyed it, when I read this article in today's South China Morning Post. And remembered that for years thereafter I would practice my Chinese brush calligraphy, particularly drawn to the likes of the poet and calligrapher Li Bo (aka Li Bai, 701-762) who liked to get drunk and splash around with "crazy characters", rice paper, ink and ink stone all on the ground, pouncing, wild brush in hand. I copied this style after many a wine on many a time when I lived in Shanghai. 
Getting drunk and doing calligraphy has a long and honourable history in Chinese culture. Promise. 
Google image search on "Bei-Wei calligraphy" shows many fascinating styles including the one discussed in this article, the one that is native, as it were, to us here in Hong Kong, and yet appears to be dying out.  
The Bei Wei Shu Fa or 北魏書法
Literally "calligraphy of the Northern Wei Dynasty". Wayback Archive

Saturday 21 July 2018

Black American Culture and the Racial Wealth Gap - Quillette

Coleman Hughes on a recent Timcast here
Great article in Quilette from an undergraduate!  And as you can see from the screenshot above, a POC (important, given the subject matter). 
Coleman Hughes. I've read several of his articles. All good. 

Expose the Palestinian “Refugee” Scam

Showing the shocking contrast between UNRWA (bad) and UNHCR (good).  Here
This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 5th July, but is behind a paywall, so here it is in the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The thing is this: that UNRWA is a scam and a scandal and has been for many years.  It's got itself firmly suckling on the UN teat, as is not going to give up. In doing so, it's defined the meaning of "refugee" out of all recognition and uniquely so that the number of refugees continues to increase, based on the same original population. There are related issues like that no surrounding Arab country, all Muslim, have allowed any Palestinians to settle there, whereas Israel has allowed Jews kicked out of surrounding countries.
From the image above:
UNRWA (bad): serves 4.8 m refugees, in 5 countries, with 29,000 staff.
UNHCR (good): serves 34 m refugees, in 126 countries, with 7,700 staff.
The full text is below the fold.
Related: Comment on the article.

Trump and Russia: One Mystery, Three Theories | NYT | Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat writes on the New York Times, at the more Conservative end of that paper's spectrum of opinion, which skews left. 
His latest article is at once amusing and also possibly spot on. Like the pusillanimous observer he claims to be I withhold my judgement. Douthat will wait for the outcome of Mueller's investigation.  For my part I can't imagine anything wildly incriminating coming out of that investigation, given that if there were, it would have leaked by now. But still. 
A Tweet in response to the article says "I endorse this article with 65% degree of certainty".  The humour in this comment becomes apparent in reading the article, the first paras of which are:
My official pundit's opinion on Donald Trump, Russian election interference, collusion, kompromat and impeachment is that I'm waiting for the Mueller investigation to finish before I have a strong opinion. This allows me to cultivate the agnostic's smug superiority, but it also leaves me without a suitably en fuego take after something like the immediately infamous Trump-Putin news conference — not because the president's behavior wasn't predictably disgraceful, but because the nature and scale of the disgrace can't be assessed without a certainty about Trump's motives that's somewhat out of reach.
So maybe this is a good time to step back and sketch out the three main ways to understand Trump's relationship to Russia and Putin and the 2016 hacking of his Democratic rivals, the three major theories that make sense of our president's strange conduct before and since. I'm not going to formally choose among them, but for people interested in betting I will offer odds for each.

Retaliating against US tariffs is not in China’s interest. Reform is | SCMP | Andy Xie

I've known Andy Xie since his days with the International Monetary Fund and my days as a diplomat in the Australian government. 
He's famous — or infamous, if you will — as a contrarian and for having called all the bubbles of recent decades. 
He's a sound commentator and always worth a read. 
We know the Chinese government read him. And don't really like him for his criticism of them. That dislike aside, I doubt their ingrained nationalism and bull-headedness would allow them to follow his practical advice: reform not war. Jaw jaw not war war. 
If that's the case we better buckle up. It'll be rough including for us here in Hong Kong. 
And if that's the case what should one do? The ubercautious would shift to the troubled-time favourites: cash and precious metals. 
Still it's hard to be in cash or gold. It just feels too..... cautious.  
Real estate and equities — especially US equities for us here in HK — still feels to be the go. We just have to ride it out... 
Andy's key point is summarised in his opening para in today's South China Morning Post:
China's objective must be to avoid, not win, a trade war with the United States. Winning, even if it's possible, would spell catastrophe for China's economic development. Negotiating, not counter-punching, should be China's principal strategy 

And comment from a knowledgeable observer:

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Ep. 582 - The Russian Connection | Daily Wire

Screenshot: it won't take you anywhere clicking on it.... Click here instead.
Can you see this? Non-subscribers can listen to the podcast, just not watch the video.  Here to listen.
Ben Shapiro's take on the Helsinki Horror.
I find I'm about .... 100% in agreement with Shapiro's take here.
The day before he'd been somewhat more sympathetic. Here he's got his thoughts together and expresses them in his usual robust way.

Relief is in sight as analysts forecast Hong Kong’s home prices to drop | SCMP

Let's see how this forecast from Citibank in today's South China Morning Post performs shall we? It predicts home prices to drop by 7% in the second half.
How do they know with such accuracy? Well, they don't of course. And it's a bit of a shame on the SCMP to report it as if it's not spurious accuracy.
I've had a quick look at performances of past predictions of home price movements in HK and they don't stack up at all well against actual performance. The analysts are flat out getting the direction right, let alone nailing a specific percentage movement up or down. *For example
We own property in Hong Kong. We don't really mind which way prices go because we are not at all leveraged. If prices go up, well fine — though I worry about affordability for first-time buyers. So if prices go down, well that's fine too... first-time buyers as well as ourselves can more easily buy. Property remains a great asset to hold.
I'll try to remember to come back in six months to see how the predictive geniuses at Citibank have performed.
LATER: *Bocom International Property, in December 2016,  predicted a 30% fall in housing prices in 2017.
Look at what happened in fact.  Exactly at the time he made that prediction, prices shot up.  This is a common thing.  In other words, take any prediction of house price movement, at least in Hong Kong, with a bucketload of salt.
Prices didn't just not drop in 2017. They rose over 20% !

Let’s remind the US that Hong Kong and China are different | SCMP

Agree with all of this article in today's South China Morning Post. Hong Kong remains a great place with liberal values clearly distinct from the increasing repression in the mainland. 
That generates a heavily distorted image overseas. The essence of Hong Kong – personal liberty, rule of law, the reliable and independent judiciary, freedom of expression, the "raucous free press" (in the words of one major American newspaper), free flow of information and data, and openness to the global digital world, the free and open markets and the level competitive playing field – is alive and, for the most part, remarkably well. It is why so many of us came here, and remain here. It is woven so deeply into the texture of our lives that we often take it for granted.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Horror in Helsinki = Surrender Summit

And how may I further abase myself, dear Chairman?
Trump's performance at the Summit with Putin was truly shocking.  Abasement to a murderous, kleptomaniacal tyrant.  Moral equivalence and evasions. It was such a disgraceful performance that even Fox News was bewildered and critical -- before normal obsequious service was resumed the following day, courtesy of Hannity (even with Hannity, did I discern a glimmer of concern for what had happened in Helskinki? certainly had Obama had a similar performance he would have been hammered... and rightly).
It's got me suffering the first fits of Trump Derangement Syndrome having tried to be neutral so far.  I'm giving up on him.
John McCain critique says it all. (Wayback archive).
The good Senator trashes "Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats..."  
"President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin... [Trump] made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant."  Which marks  "a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency." 

Bombastic Trump leads the paradigm shift to ‘ashtray diplomacy’ | SCMP | Tom Plate

Professor Tom Plate has been a non-TDS-afflicted observer of Trump, giving, for example, a positive review of the Singapore summit with Kim Jung-un. (Or at least a "let's wait and see"). 
So this — much more critical piece — is all the more significant for that previous neutrality on Trump. 
Indeed, Trump's performance in Finland has given *me* a case of TDS. Taking the side of a murderous kleptomaniacal dictator instead of his own country's evidence of Russian cyber crimes against the US which has led to the recent twelve detailed indictments.  (And disgraced FBI agent Peter Strotz's bias in no way mitigates Mueller's detailed indictments). 
The current president of exceptional America swoops across time zones as if one giant human ashtray, hurling insults rather than invitations, tearing apart old fabric rather than stitching together new consensus, withdrawing from international organisations, tearing up treaties, sending carrier groups through the Taiwan Strait, insisting intolerantly on one and only one version of reality – more provincially than any president in memory.

Monday 16 July 2018

To Those in Their Ivory Towers: Stop Sanitizing Sharia | Clarion Project

This is a police officer taking a young lady to be caned for sleeping with a man
What a horrid, horrid religion that mandates such grotesque punishments for "crimes" that the enlightened world have long ago deemed no crime at all.  
Sanitised versions of sharia law are common in the West. Take Georgetown University Professor John Esposito's new book, which he wrote with Natana J. Delong-Bas.
In the book, Shariah: What Everyone Needs to Know, Esposito tell us that sharia is a reflection of "the common good (maslahah), human dignity, social justice, and the centrality of the community." Perceiving it as anything less is only due to "myth" and "sensationalism."
The authors make a big point to differentiate between sharia (which is "immutable and infallible" and based on the Quran and the sunna – hence divine in origin) and Islamic law (fiqh), which is fallible and subject to change.
Recently, the world has seen a number of instances of horrific public floggings in Islamic countries. In Iran, a young man was given 80 lashes in a public square for drinking alcohol when he was 14 or 15. The crime was committed over 10 years ago. Witnesses reported the man was tied to a tree and flogged by a masked man while a small crowd watched from a distance. The incident took place in the eastern city of Kashmar last week.

Trump trip... so far...

This pic has nothing to do with the story: a lovely 1931 Alfa 6C

Germany: lecture on how bad the gas deal with Russia is. True but undiplomatic.
NATO summit: undiplomatic tough talk but effective: other NATO members agree increased defence spending. NATO SG acknowledges this.
Brexit: True but undiplomatic. Risk: emboldens Corbyn supporters and we don't want this crypto Marxist in power.

So, overall: truth spoken. Feathers ruffled. Some points could have been made better. NATO strengthened. Brexit talks (trade deal with U.K.) a wash.

Still to come: HELSINKI
LATER: Didn't go too well...

How will Hong Kong be affected by the US-China trade war? | SCMP

Based on the list of the US$34 billion worth of Chinese products, the Hong Kong government said about 17 per cent – or HK$60 billion (US$7.6 billion) worth – of Chinese exports in question passed through the city to the US, and about 9 per cent – HK$6 billion – of US exports came via the city on the way to mainland China. The exports in question accounted for 1.4 per cent of Hong Kong's overall trade.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said the city's traders would be "the first to bear the brunt" of the trade war, and the latest round of tariffs that the US imposed on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods would "hit Hong Kong harder".

Saturday 14 July 2018

America needs the WTO | WSJ

According to the Wall Street Journal Trump is indeed considering pulling out of the WTO. 
This would be an even more catastrophic mistake than the clear and egregious error of pulling out of the TPP. Major own goal. Not just shooting oneself in the foot but shooting it right off with an assault weapon. 
James Bacchus' op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. 
But let's say Mr. Trump managed to get his way and pull the U.S. out of the WTO. The consequences for the world and U.S. economies would be immense. Among them: diminished trade growth, costly market and supply-chain disruptions, and the destruction of jobs and profits, especially in import- and export-dependent U.S. industries. The resulting trade barriers would compel some American companies either to downsize or move offshore. The global economic spiral set in motion by Mr. Trump's reckless trade actions on steel, aluminum, Canada, Mexico, China, and Europe would accelerate.

Thursday 12 July 2018

Time for a reality check for China’s wishful US trade war thinkers, Chinese professor warns | SCMP

China was heavily dependent on the United States for exports, core manufacturing technology and imports of soybeans, but more than anything it was weakened by its reliance on the US dollar, according to a leading Chinese finance professor. Photo: AFP
How about this, in the South China Morning Post?
Isn't it annoyong that the government in the Motherland (China) treats its residents like children?

Time for a reality check for China's wishful US trade war thinkers, Chinese professor warns

China has risen within the US dollar system but also been weakened by it, academic says

A leading Chinese finance professor has warned against overblown claims about China's ability to take on the United States in a trade war, adding that it could be the start of a bigger rivalry lasting more than half a century.

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Free Speech Now! | The European assault on freedom of speech | Spiked

This I did not know, from Spiked.  Legislation in the works that will severely restrict free speech rights in Europe.
And scary stuff that may just sneak up on Europeans without it's being noticed until too late.

Sunday 8 July 2018

US and China: who tried to avert a trade war and who forced it? | SCMP

In a nutshell, the Xi government proceeded with sincerity to fulfil its side of the May 19 bargain.

The same cannot be said of the Trump administration. Barely 10 days after the ink had dried – and with no perceptible negative shift at the Chinese end – Trump reversed course and announced the US would go ahead and impose the Section 301 tariffs on China. A final list of covered imports was announced on June 15 with tariffs set to go into effect three weeks later.
So what to make of this article by Sourabh Gupta in today's South China Morning Post?
Trump flip-flops, inconsistency and bad faith? (the Left) Or some form of "master manipulation"? (Scott Adams).

Saturday 7 July 2018

Donald Trump is a master manipulator of bias. The trouble is, we go along with it | SCMP

LATER: They published this in 13th July
David Dodwell writes about Trump's manipulation of bias. (Going with the bias, SCMP, 7 July).
Ironically, Dodwell appears oblivious to his own bias.
He quotes Daniel Kahneman "We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness." And so it is that Dodwell is blind to his own blindness.
Consider the media he quotes: The Financial Times, the Washington Post, the Scientific American. Each is left of centre and each avowedly anti-Trump. Nothing from the conservative side. That's bias, right there. In all major democracies the split between Left and Right is around 50:50. By ignoring conservative media Dodwell ignores half of these electorates. Surely this biases his own comments on bias. Or is it only Hillary's "deplorables" who are "blind to their own blindness"?
Dodwell claims "The howler from the "Leave" campaigners in the UK's Brexit campaign that Britain sent the EU £350 million (US$409 million) a week ... was manifestly false." [my emphasis]
But it was not manifestly false. The UK Treasury reports that £17 billion year is sent to the EU, about £327 million each week. This makes the Brexiteers' figure of £350 million a rounding up rather than a "manifest" lie.
Dodwell calls Trump's policies "venal". Really? When writing about bias you use a word like "venal"? Trump made his policy intentions clear in the election campaign and is now in the process of implementing them. It seems the Left hates that Trump is implementing his stated policies. [Even the New York Times admits Trump won against ISIS]
To be clear, I'm no Trump supporter and never was. I would have voted Hillary, if I were American. But I'm tired of Trump Derangement Syndrome, as manifested by Dodwell.
Moreover, Dodwell is late to the "Trump as master manipulator" trope. Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) identified it way back in 2011 and predicted Trump's victory early 2016, precisely because of Trump's manipulation skills.
Dodwell would do well to heed Matthew 7:5 :
First remove the beam out of your own eye,
and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.

Friday 6 July 2018

Homicide, Happiness and Equality

For a counter argument to my discussion below, see Equality Trust.
I don't buy their line, because the stats I've looked at don't support it 
A few days ago someone on BBC radio claimed that there's an inverse relationship between Homicide rates and Equality in any given society. The more Equality, the lower the Homicide rate. The BBC did not challenge this assertion.
But it reminded me that I'd heard something similar about "Happiness" some time ago. "Studies showed", we were told, that the more Equality in society the greater the Happiness in that society.
Sounds right, right?  Well, no; it's not so right. At least according to me...
I did my own study of that proposition a while back and found it wanting.
These days, with the wonder of Mr Google and Excel spreadsheets, one can do one's own fact-checking of such studies. Rough and ready perhaps, but studies which purport to show a correlation ought to be borne out by readily available and authoritative statistics.
In both these cases, Happiness and Homicide as functions of Equality, that's not the case.  At least according to the stats I found....

Is there a relationship between Happiness and Equality?  

NO, not really.
Here is the PDF of my own results.
The Correlation between "Happiness" and "Equality" is 0.419, which is "not significant", but "weak" to "moderate".
The "coefficient of determination" -- the percent of the variation in Happiness that can be explained by variation in Equality -- is 17.5%.  So equality determines happiness a bit, but not much.  Money really doesn't buy happiness.
For "Happiness" -- a pretty slippery concept -- I use as a proxy the Legatum index, which considers a range of factors to come up with an overall "happiness" score per country: economic performance; entrepreneurship & opportunity; governance; education; health; security; personal freedom; and social capital.  One might argue these don't comprise, or necessarily make for, "Happiness", but I can't find a better proxy and would be happy to hear of suggestions if there is one. Meantime, Legatum seems pretty comprehensive to me.
For "Equality": I use the widely accepted and widely used GINI index. This is an index from 0 (best) to 1 (worst).  Good, ie very equal, countries are around 0.25.  Bad, very unequal countries, are around 0.5 to 0.6.

Is there a relationship between Homicide rates and Equality?

NO, not really.
Here is the PDF of my own results: it's ranked by Happiness. Then correlated to GINI.
The Correlation between Homicide and Equality is 0.532.  A bit more than for Happiness, but still "not significant".
The "coefficient of determination", the percent of the variation in Homicides that can be explained by a variation in Equality is 28.3%.  More than for Happiness, but still not significant.  This makes sense as we know there's been a major drop in homicides, in, for example, the United States in recent decades, while inequality has become (slightly) worse.
For" Homicide rates", I use the statistics of the United Nations Global Study on Homicide, collated in Wikipedia.
For "Equality": I use the widely accepted and widely used GINI index. This is an index from 0 (best) to 1 (worst).  Good, ie very equal, countries are around 0.25.  Bad, very unequal countries, are around 0.5 to 0.6.

Something else about GINI (the equality index)

A couple of things come out of the GINI figures (PDF which is sorted by GINI, best to worst):
Overall, equality worldwide has improved slightly in the recent decades (that's the "Previous" column in the PDF).
That corresponds to Stephen Pinker's observation (and YouTube) that country-vs-country equality (wealth and income) around the globe has improved. That is, poorer countries have become richer, in income and wealth more quickly than rich countries have become richer.
Indeed if you look at the "top 50" and "bottom 50" (in my PDF) you see that the top (ie the most equal) countries have become very slightly less equal, while the bottom 50 (the least equal) have become more equal.

So, there we have it: Equality (or lack thereof) doesn't seem to have (much of) a direct impact on either Homicide rates or Happiness, despite what those (mainly on the Left) would have one believe.
AND... equality overall has improved in the world, despite what those (mainly on the Left) would have you believe.
The Left doesn't like this, because it pulls the rug from under one of its main tenets: we must have more equality, no matter what the costs. And the costs of that shibboleth can be high: witness every country from Albania to Venezuela which has tried out socialism, the main route to equality, or so Marxists think.

Final disclaimer: I wouldn't want my comments to be seen as suggesting that there's something wrong with Equality or striving for Equality. I mean, it's a good thing if a society can be more equal in income and wealth.  But being obsessed with it doesn't do us any good in working out how to improve our lives (Happiness) or how to avoid its downsides (Murder).
There are other factors at work here that make us happier or make us kill people less.  Capitalism and freedom, perhaps?
I'm all for Equality, and the figures do show that there is "some" correlation between it and the Happiness/Homicides.  So, for sure, let's strive for it.  But let's not be obsessed by it.  Especially not if it involves socialist redistribution, because I've lived in such a society (China of the seventies) and there's no way it was either happy or safe.