Wednesday 30 December 2020

Is it possible Chinese are less susceptible to Covid than other ethnicities?

Someone suggested this the other day. That ethnic Chinese are less likely to get Covid and less likely to die from it. At first I though, nah… not likely. Though we’ve had claims that Covid is worse for ethnic minorities in the west. So the disparate effect of Covid on disparate minorities is a live issue. Just not with Chinese, AFAIW. So I had a look at it.

I’m using Worldometer figures, which are taken from official government figures. This counts on those government figures being accurate, which we can’t really assume. But they’re the best we have.

Above is a screenshot of the latest figures, with what I’m calling “ChinaWorld” made up of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, in descending population order. Compared with the World, with Europe and the US.

The only relevant figures are per million population. 

Looking just at deaths/million “ChinaWorld” has an average of only 3% of the deaths for the whole World and even smaller % compared with Europe and the US. Can we believe the ChinaWorld figures? I say yes to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. China’s figures I doubt. But: you’d have to multiply them by a hundred to be at World average by three hundred to approach US figures and there’s no way such figures could be hidden. Overall I’d say the figures are close to the actual. Next question: are ethnic Chinese are less susceptible to Covid? I don’t know and I don’t know that anyone is looking into that. My guess: maybe, but probably not. 

Someone has asked: does China have a secret cure?  That is unlikely. Again it would be hard to hide, no matter what western media thinks about China censorship. China has a lively social media and it could not hide any miracle  cure. In any case what about the others in ChinaWorld? They would not amd could not hide a miracle cure. And note that Taiwan is doing even better than the mainland. Of there were a magic site and it had been shared with ChinaWorld, I highly doubt they would — or could — hide it.

My best guess as to why China has done so well is in the post I did a while back: how did China do so well fighting Covid? There’s a number of reasons, some good management, some measures only an authoritarian regime could take. Nothing magic.

Tuesday 29 December 2020

‘China’s coronavirus success boosts confidence that its system is the best answer to the country’s challenges’

Zhou Xin in SCMP today: 
China's trajectory in 2020 has offered strong support for the belief that China is on the right path while liberal democracy is in decline.
I wouldn't count out liberal democracy quite yet. It has a resiliency. Measured by how people vote with their feet. The path is still one way, to the US, Australia, UK, etc, not to China.
A bit of CCP propaganda from Zhou Xin

Monday 28 December 2020

“Not like today, today is no hope at all.”

Joey Qi (right) and co-host Yang Liu record the Unemployables
 So says Joey Qi, podcaster in China. 

Things are getting worse for the growing band of podcasters who simply want to talk freely. They are there, they are in China, they are talking freely (if obliquely). And they are -- they fear -- in danger of being shut down. 

Xi Jinping’s China. Repress, suppress, depress. 

.. as the medium [podcasting] grows in popularity, its content may fall victim to the pressures of commercialisation and censorship. Podcasters are concerned that more money and corporate sponsorship will drown out niche, individual voices, and that its increasingly mainstream status will attract more government censors.
“I think the space is getting smaller and smaller,” said Yang Yi, co-host of award-winning podcast Left/Right and founder of JustPod, a Chinese podcasting company.
“If a podcaster is podcasting for this reason [free speech], they can stop now. Because it will be scrubbed within a year or a year and a half.” 
Chinese podcasters cover a range of niche topics, from hi-fi sound systems to user interface design. Yang estimates that although the number of corporate-sponsored podcasts is growing, as many as 90 per cent of podcasters are independent or amateur. The rest are produced by big companies, particularly venture capital firms, and he expects this number will increase.
“Companies are now saying ‘I want my own podcast’, in the same way they wanted their own WeChat or Weibo [accounts] in the past,” he said. [Read more....]

China jails citizen journalist Zhang Zhan for four years over Wuhan coronavirus reports

Zhang Zhan. Lawyer. Reported on the Virus. Jailed.
This really is crappy news. I’m inclined to say it’s an own goal, given that this four-year sentence is grist to the west’s anti-China mill. But the thing is: they don’t care what the west thinks, only what Chinese citizens think. They must “tremble and obey” because they -- the masses -- see what happens if you speak freely. You end up in jail. In China. For four years. 
And so:
Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan was sentenced to four years in prison in Shanghai on Monday for her reporting of the coronavirus pandemic in central Chinese city of Wuhan early this year, one of her lawyers said.
Zhang, 37, was found guilty by Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court on Monday morning of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a broadly defined offence which carries a maximum sentence of five years and is often used by police to stifle dissent.
“Zhang Zhan attended the trial in a wheelchair and was in poor health,” lawyer Zhang Keke said.
“She did not immediately say if she would appeal [against the sentence].”

Meantime: good on the SCMP for continuing to report this sort of story.

PS: “Picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. What a nonsense charge. What a wonderfully, horribly Leninist charge. A gruesome Stalinist charge. A pathetic Xi Jinping-ist charge. 

Cotton Mill to Mill on the Floss

Hong Kong: Converting old textile mills into art centres. More photos

Sunday 27 December 2020

No ‘Negative’ News: How China Censored the Coronavirus

I’m sure there are some people who think this sort of news suppression by China at the start of the pandemic was a good thing, because it stopped panic. Maybe. But it had a price. And the price was huge. Not so much in China itself, which seems have avoided the worst of Covid, but in the west, where the suppression led to millions of cases and thousands of deaths that could have been avoided.

In the New York Times the way China deployed its “50-cent army” to shut down information on the virus. Early on.

In the early hours of Feb. 7, China’s powerful internet censors experienced an unfamiliar and deeply unsettling sensation. They felt they were losing control.
The news was spreading quickly that Li Wenliang, a doctor who had warned about a strange new viral outbreak only to be threatened by the police and accused of peddling rumors, had died of Covid-19. Grief and fury coursed through social media. To people at home and abroad, Dr. Li’s death showed the terrible cost of the Chinese government’s instinct to suppress inconvenient information.
Yet China’s censors decided to double down. Warning of the “unprecedented challenge” Dr. Li’s passing had posed and the “butterfly effect” it may have set off, officials got to work suppressing the inconvenient news and reclaiming the narrative, according to confidential directives sent to local propaganda workers and news outlets. [Read on...]

H/t “Lockdown Sceptics”. 

Looking at our garden…

… reading the wise words of Nick Cave at Red Hand Files

And wondering what’s happened to Dark Horse podcast Livestream no.60 (not the Q&A) which disappeared from YouTube when Bret and Heather started talking about a trans controversy at their previous college, Evergreen in WA. Disappeared in front of my eyes and I can’t get it back. WTF?

ADDED: it appears the podcast was censored by YouTube, because Bret and Heather started talking about an issue about a trans woman, pre-op, with full male genitalia, going into a women’s changing room at Evergreen College, one full of teenage girls, whose parents complained. For this they’ve been censored. 

Saturday 26 December 2020

Boris, match racing "Jean le Roi" in the Southern Ocean


Click on above screenshot to go to Video
Boris Hermann, enjoying Christmas Day, deep in the Southern Ocean (55'S) in the Vendée Globe. Just in front of Jean Le Cam in Yes we Cam, who Boris calls “Jean Le Roi”. The King. Indeed. The oldie in the fleet. With an older boat, not foiling. Doing great. 
Doing 17.8 knots of boat speed in 13 knots of wind. Wow. Even Boris is amazed. “That’s foiling!”  He's enjoying it so much. 

The Race Tracker. And yes, Boris is 3rd Place, as I write this.

A look at the Moon — Happy Moon-mas


Click to go to video

From the face of the moon to the smile on your face, this Boxing Day 2020. Click above to go to the lovely little video…

I must get me a reflecting telescopes like that one!

Are Americans the only ones who, like, always, say “Oh My God!”?

Music: “Clair de Lune” by Debussy. Which brings to mind a cartoon, two dogs and a cat sitting down. First  dog: I Bach. Second dog: I Offenbach. Cat: and I Debussy.

[video: h/t to David Thompson.]

ADDED: BBC radio Four Extra did a Soul Music on Clair De Lune

Friday 25 December 2020

Christmas morning deep in the Southern Ocean

Click screenshot for video
Boris Hermann sends us video, sailing fast in unusually calm seas, southern Ocean, near the Antarctic Ice Barrier. Boris running fourth in the Vendée  at the time of shooting. Gives an idea of the effortless, the graceful speed of these 60-footers. Foiling IMOCA class. 
The Vendée — Around the world; Single-handed; non-Stop; Unassisted.  Hmmm… These boats do it in around 80-120 days, the current record set last time, 2016-17 at 73 days 03 hours. No record will be set this year, as they’ve had some light winds down south.

And how did you spend your Christmas if not deep in the the Southern Ocean…?

Happy Christmas one and all!

Thursday 24 December 2020

‘Happy Christmas… and now for the sprouts”

 So said Boris Johnson at the end of his press conference just now announcing — finally— a Brexit deal with the EU.

And I notice — startled — that he’s going bald! Clearly and obviously. Across a broad swathe of the top of his noggin.  His famous shaggyness can’t be rustled around enough to cover it.

I google it and find it was noticed I. July and out down to his “battle with Covid”

‘Matters of fact' vs pernicious philosophies

Sent from my iPad

The Beatles: Get Back - A Sneak Peek from Peter Jackson



Isn't that what we're trying to do with the wretched virus: "Get Back, co... co..."

Watching Lex Fridman conversation with Dan Carlin of “Hardcore History”


Penguin, found sitting on our candleholder
Sitting in the garden listening to educated, knowledgeable talk in the world and the future of mankind. It’s long, but has handy bookmarks. Dan is super famous for his “Hardcore History” podcasts that I’ve listened to from years ago. Loved his deep dive into the Mongol conquests. He’s an old timer, podcasting since 2005, one of the first.

One stick-in-the-mind thing about war, from Dan: “no one who has not been within a hundred yards of the front line, knows what war is about”.

And, talking of the Cuban Missile crisis, how one man held the lives of 100 million people in his hands, and made the right decision. 

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Hallelujah (or Hallelul-you)

Leonard in London, 2009. Click to go there
Listen above. Then have a look at Eric Weinstein talking to Lex Fridman about Leonard Cohen, and Hallelujah in particular. And then re-listen to Leonard.

What strikes me is Cohen pronouncing every "you" as "yew", at the end of the line. Not as "yah", which I'd always remembered it, and as Jeff Buckley pronounces it. And as seems right, given the rhyme with "hallelujah". 

Why does he do that? Maybe it's Cohen being Canadian. Being Nice. Being Proper. Being Correct. Then again... This is the guy that hung out in the Chelsea Hotel, before it was the Chelsea Hotel of folklore.

IMHO: “you” should be pronounced “yah", not "yew". Otherwise, it's “Hallelul-you”…

Tuesday 22 December 2020

‘Punishing Australia through trade also comes at a price for China’

Some Australia-sympathetic words from a Post editor. After months of Aussie bashing cause Beijing had a hissy fit over our having the temerity to call for an international investigation into the source of the coronavirus.  Naughty us.
In the comments, the Beijing led "Fifty-cent army" is out in droves.  Any time there's an article with "Australia" in the title there's an order of magnitude more commenters in the site. Must be incited, by Beijing, thinks I. 
China's decision to punish Australia through trade is the result of both feelings and calculations. Beijing is angry at Canberra and is implementing a plan to inflict pain – making a case to the world that those who dare to offend China will pay the price.
But Beijing's approach of selectively picking battles is costly for China, as well. [Read on...]

Monday 21 December 2020

'Rapid Testing could control Covid -19 in a month’ | Lex Fridman talks to Michael Mina

Michael Mina. Click to go to video

Lex Fridman -- an AI researcher at MIT -- talks with Michael Mina, an immunologist, epidemiologist, and physician at Harvard.

Prof Mina makes the case for wide distribution of simple, cheap, at-home Covid testing kits. They exist, but are not widely distributed because of bureaucratic bottlenecks. They fall into the limbo between “medical device” and “public health service”. Click on the screenshot above takes you to the beginning of his talk on this, in the two-hour long podcast. All fascinating, by the way.

Lockdowns, he says, are only -- can only be -- temporary emergency measures. They’re being used around the world as a cure-all. But they have public health implications - in addition to the obvious economic ones - which are being ignored. But his main point is about the cheap, simple, testing. Lex agrees, in a big way. So do I, for what that’s worth. Support is bipartisan, says Mina, but stuck in bureaucratic limbo.

I’d read about this concept of having widespread cheap and easy testing kits, earlier in “Could ten million Covid tests a day get Britain back to normal?”. Short answer: yes.

Christmas in Hong Kong

Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui east, looking to Central. More photos 
We remain in a kind of lockdown here in Hong Kong, yesterday extended through to January 6th at least. We can still go out and shop, but many things closed, like bars, clubs, gyms, etc... And -- would you believe -- beaches..... 
Australia just had a Covid outbreak that was reported as being in Sydney's “Northern Beaches”, so many people think it’s at the beach. It was not there. It was an outbreak at the local RSL Club at Avalon. Lovely Beach, Avalon, where by the by, my parents used to live. Happy Days. But the virus has nothing to do with Avalon the beach; just with a bunch of folks inside a popular club. Covid remains “not an outdoor virus”.*
*ADDED [from hereA study of 7,300 Covid patients in China, part-funded by our own HK government, found only one that was contracted outdoors. The study concludes [my emphasis]:
The transmission of respiratory infections such as SARS-CoV-2 from the infected to the susceptible is an indoor phenomenon. [Link]

Saturday 19 December 2020

Unintended — but entirely foreseeable— consequences in ‘The year of living obediently'

Cornell University in the US has mandated that — come the vaccine — students will need to have been vaccinated to enter the Library and other Uni Buildings. But only if you're white. If you're a Person of Colour, you need not.
Now, imagine white students — all fully vaxxed up — in the Library coming upon some Black classmates. Not knowing if they were vaccinated or not, wouldn't the natural thing be to recoil? Indeed would t it be required? To keep away? To keep this social distance, as we are endlessly told we must do?
In short, will the result of this policy not be more racism, not less? 
And isn't this entirely predictable?
Not to mention that the policy is condescending, paternalistic and racist itself.
Rod lashes out…

Friday 18 December 2020

Night Lights


Flame of the Night

Jing took this last night on her iPhone 12

This is an amazing and slightly strange photo. Taken in our back yard patio looking up in the night sky through our Poinciana. It’s completely un-edited and un-filtered, but at 2x zoom. That’s as is and for some reason the AI in the iPhone 12 makes the sky that pastel colour and the branches whisky like a Chinese painting. The whole effect is rather like a Chinese ink painting.

The Poinciana has many other names, in English “Flame of the Forest”, in Chinese Fenghuang Shu, 凤凰树, meaning “Phoenix Tree”.

That’s what we need in Hong Kong now, a bit of the spirit of the Phoenix. What the world needs, TBF.

Instagram is Using False “Fact-Checking” to Protect Joe Biden’s Crime Record From Criticisms - Glenn Greenwald

Kamal attacks Joe for his 1994 Crime Bill
Kaboom! Greenwald lands another big howitzer on censor-happy Big Tech.
Greenwald is a guy I used rather to dislike, as he'd slandered Sam Harris as an islamophobe. But he sure is sound and on point about the duplicity of the media, especially Big Tech. So much so that he left the online media company he himself set up — The Intercept — on principle because they tried to censor him. He now writes at Substack where he controls his content.
Greenwald is very much a man of the Left. This attack on the 1994 Crime Bill — a signature Bill of Joe Biden — comes not from the loony Right, but the bowels of the Left. And yet Big Tech is stumping for Joe by suppressing.
The key criticism of that Crime Bill is that it led to mass incarceration, especially of Black men. That was later admitted by the president who signed it into law, Bill Clinton. It was admitted by the current Vice President elect, Kamala Harris, in the Democratic primary debates. 
But now ..... poof! ..... gone. If Google, Instagram, FB, Twitter, have anything to do with it.
Greenwald fights back:

A long-standing and vehement criticism of Joe Biden is that legislation he championed as a Senator in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly his crime bill of 1994, contributed to the mass incarceration of Americans generally and African-Americans specifically.

Among the many on the left and libertarian right who have voiced this criticism (along with President Trump) is then-Senator Kamala Harris, who said during the 2020 Democratic primary race that Biden's "crime bill -- that 1994 crime bill -- it did contribute to mass incarceration in our country." When Hillary Clinton was running for President in 2015, Bill Clinton, who as president signed Biden's bill into law, told the NAACP: "I signed a bill that made the problem worse. And I want to admit it." [Read on…]

Thursday 17 December 2020

“Why is Asia divided on a green light for medical marijuana?” | SCMP

Thailand legalised marihuana for medical use a couple of years ago — so far the only one in Asia — and is now taking  it up a notch.
Thailand, the sole Asian country to legalise cannabis for medical use, is so keen on educating locals about the drug's benefits that tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn this month unveiled a medical marijuana tour that will cover eight provinces, set to kick off next year.
And now, the United Nations just passed a resolution to delist marijuana as a dangerous drug. 
Predictably Singapore, voted against, urging us to "hold the line" against marijuana, based on "rationality and science". Because the War on Drugs has been such a roaring success. 
China, too, voted against:
China's delegate, Zhang Jun, likewise said that despite the vote, the country would strictly control cannabis to protect its citizens from "harm and abuse". 
Funny that. I remember going to the Ming Tombs outside Beijing for a picnic in October 1976. They are fabulous and in those days, we were virtually the only ones there. That day they were surrounded by fields of marijuana, eight foot tall. I chatted to a local peasant, puffing away in his dope-filled foot-long pipe. He told me they grew marijuana because it was cheaper and easier than tobacco. “It’s also good medicine”, he said.  He didn’t strike me as “harmed and abused”, this craggy dope farmer. Just happy. Growing his crop amongst the tumbling glories of a glorious empire. 
A year later, October 1977, I accompanied Australia's then ambassador to China, Hugh Dunn, to Harbin in north-east China. I was his companion-cum-interpreter. On the long car ride in from the airport, flat fields stretching to the distant horizon, I saw the main crop was marijuana, tall, bushy, healthy, drooling with buds in the late summer, late afternoon sunshine, growing so happy in the deep, black loams of northern China. I didn't tell Hugh. Later that evening when I judged him safe in bed, I popped "out for a walk", snaffled a branch this fine Harbin Green and took it home to Beijing to cure in the oven. Thank goodness there is a statute of limitations on theft of a medicinal plant and intra-provincial trafficking. 
The Chinese have had marijuana on their list of herbal remedies for millennia. It's only when some people — not me, other people — started noticing the huge plantings in northern China that they banned it. Shame.

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Hong Kong coronavirus fourth wave: what you can and cannot do this festive season under the government’s social-distancing rules

I'm just Bookmarking these rules for our latest lockdown, for my future ref.
Pretty much everything is closed down and people can only gather in twos. Which is not gathering at all, really. Fines are increased to $HK5,000.
The silliest rule is the closing of beaches. The science — which everyone claims to be following  — shows that this is "not an outdoor virus". I analysed the government stats on the 7,000-odd cases here in Hong Kong. Not one was contracted outside,
Closing schools is also anti-science. Schools are safer to be in than home. 

If I wanted to visit Australia, I'd need an exemption certificate from the Australian government, spend two weeks quarantined on arrival and spend another two weeks quarantined in a hotel room here on return.
We grin and bear it. 
Why we keep saying "Fourth Wave" is a bit odd, as the alleged First Wave was just a tiny ripple in January. 

More in the “not good news for Hong Kong” category

Ant is the financial arm of Alibaba, the monster Chinese Amazon-on-steroids, which in turn owns the South China Morning Post. The Post has been quite remarkable in keeping up a stream of eclectic opinions in its pages, including ones critical of our local government and of Beijing. The only thing they don’t do is criticise “The X Factor”. You can’t talk about Winnie.

How long can this heterodoxy last when the Posts’s owners have pledged to “align firm with national priorities”?  National priorities most certainly do not include free speech, least of all any whiff of criticism of our dear motherland.

Story is here

Japan scientists left ‘speechless’ by samples from asteroid 300 million km away

Japan’s capsule of asteroid dust lands in South Australia
Scientists in Japan said on Tuesday they were left "speechless" when they saw how much asteroid dust was inside a capsule delivered by the Hayabusa-2 space probe in an unprecedented mission. Read on…

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Australia Is Having a Strategic Revolution, and It’s All About China

From Foreign Policy magazine, response to those who say Australia is simply following a US lead, and that our current foreign policy is not in our domestic interest. This article argues that Australia is actually leading the way on strategic readjustment in Asia, and that it’s in response to China’s doings [my emphases]:

It is not only China’s military capabilities, which it has been building for decades, that have caused anxiety. Rather, it is their increasingly aggressive use that has caused a growing sense of alarm. In just the last few months, Beijing has asserted control over Hong Kong, intruded into Taiwan’s airspace, trained guns on the Philippine Navy, harassed Malaysian vessels, sunk a Vietnamese fishing ship, rammed a Japanese coast guard vessel, reignited a deadly border conflict with India, and conducted cyberattacks and economic coercion against Australia....

Australia’s leaders have committed to a major spending increase and explicitly promised to “take greater responsibility for our own security.” This has more to do with China’s increasingly aggressive behavior than with U.S. pleas. Regardless, Australia is putting resources behind its strategy. [Read on...]

Since then (July), of course, China has waged economic war on Australia, because we had the temerity to demand an international enquiry into the source of the coronavirus. This is a fair demand, and no other country would have responded with such a hissy fit. But not our China: 

The Chinese Government has either placed bans on, or impeded, exports from Australia of coal, copper, wine, lobsters, cotton, wheat, sugar, barley and timber.

Other countries are taking notice. Is this the way a country wishing to be a leader in the world should act? Only if it plans to be a brutal leader. Will we take that? All the while China is rather shooting itself in the foot...

What is “tu quoque”? Considering Australia-China critiques

“I’m wrong? Well you too are wrong!"

What is tu quoque? It goes like this:

A: You’re a thief and a liar!

B: Oh yeah? Well, you are a thief and a liar too!

These days it’s better known as “whataboutery”. As in:

Australia criticises China for human rights abuses. Someone says “Oh yeah? Whatabout Australia? It abuses human rights too!”

At its best, this tactic calls out hypocrisy. And that’s fair enough criticism. We don’t need the pot calling the kettle black. [Wiki’s take on tu quoque is here and ThoughtCo's here].

Tu Quoque goes wrong in two ways:

1. The two "crimes” -- or shortcomings, or faults -- may be very different. Eg person A says “you’re a murderer” and person B responds “Oh yeah? Well you’re a pickpocket!” They’re both criminals so how dare one criticise the other??

This is the fault with Greg Barns’ article in today’s South China Morning PostAustralia is in no position to criticise China on human rights abuses”. The title says it all. Australia commits human rights abuses so has no right to raise China’s. But they’re different. Australia stopping illegal immigrants (“undocumented migrants”) from jumping the queue to enter Australia in front of legally-processed migrants and refugees is a rather different thing from jailing a million of your own citizens because they happen to hew to a different ideology -- in this case islam. I’m not a fan of the "Religion of Peace”, but China’s documented repressions are horrific. 

2. The two "crimes” -- or shortcomings, or faults -- may be the same: but one does not excuse the other. I remember now, as I write this, where I first heard of tu quoque. It was when I read about critiques of the Koran and people responded “well, the Bible is violent too”. Which is true. But does not excuse the violence in the Koran. A better, a more logical, response would be to look at the violence in both of these foundational texts and see what can be done about reducing the violence; not responding to criticism by saying “well, your book is violent too!”. 

I could go "meta-whataboutist" here, in relation to Barns’ attack on Australia. I could say, well, all countries have some human rights abuses. We’re all guilty! With the inevitable conclusion that no-one can accuse anyone. Then again, that’s why we have measures and indexes. To rank the countries in the world according to various measures, in this case one on Human Rights and freedoms.

There’s a Human Freedom Index, which measures a dozen areas including: Rule of law; security and safety; religion, press, assembly, movement, etc. Australia is number 5 out of 162 countries. China is number 126

Or there is a List of Freedom Indices at Wikipedia. This is the summary for Australia and China:

From here. Click to enlarge.
Finally, what about immigration? Australia is consistently at the top of the league table of those countries that people seek to emigrate to. In 2019 it was number 2 in the world after Canada. Why would people clamour to come to Australia if it were as horrid a place as Barns suggests? How many are clamouring to enter China? (Hint: it’s not even on the list). 

None of this is to downplay Australia’s sorry record in our treatment of indigenous Australians, in our treatment of asylum seekers, in our handling of the climate crisis. All ripe for critique and improvement. But here’s the thing: you can do that in Australia -- you can freely and openly discuss, dispute, debate these issues. You can call for the government to change. Indeed, the critique is done pretty much 24/7, to the extent it’s almost an obsession; whereas in China, dare to criticise the handling of Uygurs in Xinjiang. Dare to criticise the handling of the Nobel Laureate the late Liu Xiaobo. I mean, sure, if you want to research the Chinese penal system.

In Australia, Barns’ attack notwithstanding, we have standing to raise any issues we wish. Critiques of other nations, as much as critiques of ourselves, ought to be part of healthy international discourse.

Barns’ article is not it. It is, rather, tendentious nonsense. I’m inclined to say it’s virtue signalling, but that would be a cheap shot. Yet it’s doing well online, with the comments running much in his favour. How many Wumaos? I don’t know, but many, I’ll bet. 

Barns' article is catnip to CCP-lovers and Aussie-haters. And can only serve to justify Beijing’s bullying. Meantime, my friends in the wealth industry living in China tell me that they’ve had a big spike in wealthy Chinese moving money to Australia. Go figure that, if Australia has “lost its lustre”, when it is a “pariah” as Barns claims.

RELATED: Would you rather be Meng in Canada or a Canadian held in China?

AND: Australia stands up to bullying

Monday 14 December 2020

Why did Wuhan lock down but allow international flights to continue? The big unasked question

Amidst all the finger pointing -- was the vaccine man-made (unlikely), did it accidentally escape the lab (unfalsified), were there mistakes made (surely), did Chinese government suppress info (also surely) -- there’s one big question that goes pretty much unasked. Because it’s too sensitive and risks the response: Tremble and Obey. The target of the questioning would have to be Xi Jinping, he of whom one must say nary a nasty thing. It’s not only in China that one may not mention “The X factor”.

This is the question: Why did China -- specifically, why did Xi Jinping -- lock down Wuhan to internal travel, but still allowed international flights? That alone led to the huge spread of the disease world wide. 

Charles R. Stith does not raise this question (in “... blaming China is.. a waste of energy”) and is pretty dismissive of even trying to find out where the virus originated, saying just that - given so much international travel - it was going to spread anyway, no matter what (there’s no doubt some truth to that, although equally surely the spike out from Wuhan was exacerbated by the international flights out of Wuhan).

Towards the end, he does speak sense: 

The world needs to do several things to put us in a better position to manage our lives during this crisis. Put people back to work. End the lockdowns so that people can earn a living and be in a better position to fend for themselves. Get additional food relief to the needy so they can eat better and have stronger immune systems. [my emphasis]. 

Read more.... 

Sunday 13 December 2020

What’s the lockdown logic?

 I’m watching the German cable channel, DW T . We are told that Angela Merkel is a physicist, that she “cares about numbers”, cares about “the facts” and therefore … schools will be closed and public gatherings outdoors will be banned. The numbers re schools are clear worldwide. They are not vectors of the virus. And, people don’t catch it outdoors. So what’s with that? 

Apparently this is going to cost Germany €12 billion a month in compensation 

Meantime here in Hong Kong. I’ve just been for a bike ride around our park. The playgrounds are roped off, the football pitch and tennis courts too. Again this makes no sense in the basis of “the science”. This is simply not an outdoor virus. An early widespread Chinese peer-reviewed study showed the same, but that science was ignored. 

Contacts in Australia say things are “pretty much normal” there. Well, yes, but… you can’t go to Australia. Unless you get a government “certificate of exemption” which is (a) hard to get and (b) needs you to undergo a two week quarantine. So… normal except you can’t go there. 

ADDED: Governor Cuomo — he of the inflated self-worth, he who sent unprotected oldies to their deaths in nursing homes — spoke some sense, facts, at a press conference on 11 December: 

(12:03): We invested very heavily in doing COVID testing and we do more testing than any state in the nation, but that gives us actual facts that we can base our actions upon. And we’ve now done 21 million tests. So, we’ve actually done more tests than we have people in the state of New York now.

On the facts, what we’re seeing, schools are almost without exception, safer than local communities, in terms of infection rate. This was not what was initially expected. Initially, some of the experts said, “Well, schools are like mass gatherings, and if you get a lot of students together, there’s going to be a spread.” That is not what has happened. That’s not what the facts say. The facts say, that the schools are actually following the rules and following the guidance, the children are following the guidance. The teachers are doing a great job, following the guidance. And the schools, the positivity rate tends to be lower than the positivity rate in the surrounding community. My point is, if it is safer for the children to be in school, then have the children in school. If it’s safer for the teacher to be in school, then have the teacher in school. It’s less disruptive, the children get the education, you don’t have the same issues you have with remote learning. [My emphasis][Transcript]

And yet, Germany, HK, close schools.

Saturday 12 December 2020

ICNARC report on COVID-19 in critical care: England, Wales and Northern Ireland

I’m bookmarking this report that came out in the UK yesterday. A detailed study of the Intensive Care taken up by Covid-19 vs other diseases in the UK this year, by the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre.

Given the concerns -- might I say “fear mongering”? --  that we’re running out of hospital space -- not just in Britain, but here in Hong Kong, all over Europe, in the US -- it’s interesting to pick out the chart above. The lines across are the last four years, in % and the bars are this year, in more detail. For most months the hospital occupancy for intensive care is at or under the last four years. 

Other stats show the hospitalisation by ethnicity. Most are in line with their proportion in the general population. The outlier is Asian where infections are about double their proportion in the general population. Don’t know why. Not for lack of care, for they are also the same % in terms of intensive ventilation, which I assume is a marker of the extent of care. So I’m left with wondering, and wouldn’t immediately go to “structural racism”, though some will/already have.

Those with higher BMI are more represented than their proportion in the general population, as we’d expect. But not by as much of a margin as I’d thought. Am I just giving myself an out here? Given that mine is on the wrong side of average?

With News of Hunter Biden's Criminal Probe, Recall the Media Outlets That Peddled the "Russian Disinformation" Lie

Glenn Greenwald was never a Trump supporter. Indeed he’s a lifetime Democrat. But he was outraged at the manipulation and suppression of information about the Bidens by the US media and intelligence communities before the election, and has been banging on about it for a while now. He even quit from the Intercept, an online magazine he himself founded, over the issue. He has another go at it here, because it’s now come out, finally, in the MSM

In sum, we have the extraordinary historic disgrace of media outlets collaborating with the intelligence community in the weeks before a presidential election to manufacture and peddle a propagandistic lie to justify censorship of highly relevant materials about the presidential front-runner and his family’s efforts to profit off his name — namely, that the documents were not authentic but rather “Russian disinformation.”

It is vital to recall which media outlets did this and how they deceived the public yet again.  Read on....

Reasons for this?

Leading up to the 2020 election, much of the U.S. media and Silicon Valley giants decided that ensuring Trump’s defeat was such an overarching goal, a moral imperative, that anything and everything was justified to achieve it — including uniting with the professional liars of the CIA to disseminate blatant falsehoods about the Hunter Biden materials in order to discredit them, lead the public to believe they should be ignored, and justify their own burying and censoring of these materials. 

Friday 11 December 2020

Tremble and Obey -- 凜遵 Lǐn Zūn

I was looking up “Tremble and Obey”, which I recalled -- but without detail -- as an imperial Chinese edict. I wanted to write something about how China -- at least the Beijing part of it, China's own "Deep State" -- is going about its diplomacy these days. Not so much tact as threat. With the example of how it’s thugging Australia as its shaming example. You, Aussies: “Tremble and Obey!"

When I googled it, most of the links are to the 2019 Documentary by Australian’s Four Corners on the ABC, on the thirtieth anniversary of the Tian’anmen square demonstrations and the crushing of them on June 4, 1989. I’m not going to talk about that, there’s plenty at google. 

I confirmed what I’d vaguely recalled: that “Tremble and Obey” was the sign-off to imperial edicts in China, right up to the end of the Qing dynasty in 1912. Not “Sincerely yours”, or “yours faithfully”, or “Regards”,  or “Cheers, comrades!”. But ... Tremble! and Obey! 

The English term is described as a “calque”, a new word for me: meaning a “borrowing by word-for-word translation”. Eg: English “skyscraper” was calqued into the French “gratte-ciel” (literally “scrapes-sky”). And the English “flea market” is a calque from the French “marché aux puces” a market with fleas. Related learning: “quarantine” is from the Italian for 40 days -- quaranta giorni. That was the length of time that boats entering Venice during the Plague had to wait in harbour before landing. If the word had been “calqued”, it would be “Forty-days” not “quarantine".  

The two characters making up “tremble” and “obey” are 凜遵 , pronounced Lǐn Zūn. Lin means “to shiver with cold or to fear” and Zun means “to observe, to obey, to follow”. 

Here endeth the language lesson. 

I also came across an article from 12 July 2019  by David Vines -- “The paddlers of the tremble and obey theory owe us an apology”. Vines is a local journo who I’d known back in my government days; his article made me think that one ought not opine -- at least with certainty, as Vines does -- about erupting world events. That’s what the Hong Kong demos and riots were last year, lest we forget. An Erupting World Event. And Vines got it about 180 degrees wrong. Sample: 

Thursday 10 December 2020

The Hunter Biden Criminal Probe Bolsters a Chinese Scholar's Claim About Beijing's Influence With the Biden Administration - Glenn Greenwald

What we knew but many millions of American voters didn't: that Biden is in Wall Street's pocket and that Wall Street is in Beijing's pocket. A Chinese academic says the quiet part out loud and Greenwald reports it:

Hunter Biden acknowledged today that he has been notified of an active criminal investigation into his tax affairs by the U.S. Attorney for Delaware. Among the numerous prongs of the inquiry, CNN reports, investigators are examining "whether Hunter Biden and his associates violated tax and money laundering laws in business dealings in foreign countries, principally China."

Documents relating to Hunter Biden's exploitation of his father's name to enrich himself and other relatives through deals with China were among the cache published in the week before the election by The New York Post — revelations censored by Twitter and Facebook and steadfastly ignored by most mainstream news outlets. That concerted repression effort by media outlets and Silicon Valley left it to right-wing outlet such as Fox News and The Daily Caller to report, which in turn meant that millions of Americans were kept in the dark before voting. 

But the just-revealed federal criminal investigation in Delaware is focused on exactly the questions which corporate media outlets refused to examine for fear that doing so would help Trump: namely, whether Hunter Biden engaged in illicit behavior in China and what impact that might have on his father's presidency.

Read on… 

Wednesday 9 December 2020

"Covid- New powers allow Hong Kong government to lock down coronavirus hotspots" | SCMP

Oslo waterfront, December 2014


"There used to be a thinking that youngsters who got infected would be fine. But this time, the perception has to be changed too. The situation is very worrying,” [C-E Carrie] Lam said.

What does our C-E mean? It remains the case that this virus kills mainly the elderly. Until the latest cluster the average age was 81 80.3 and is now 79 79.8   Is this what she means by "youngsters"? Or is she thinking of the 38 year-old male who died recently (HK's youngest)? If so, did he have pre-existing conditions?

study by the New England Journal of Medicine of 319,814 youngsters under 21 recorded 121 deaths. "Underlying medical conditions were present in 75% and included chronic lung disease, obesity, and neurologic, developmental, and cardiovascular conditions." Thus, 30 healthy youngsters died of Covid-19, a survival rate of 99.99%. Ms Lam needs to explain why we have to "change our perceptions".

In a recent letter I quoted similar statistics. I was accused (in the comments) of not caring about deaths ("a single death is too many"). I most certainly do. And I understand the risk the older people when younger relatives bring the virus home. But that is happening anyway, with home-based lockdowns. It would have been better if students had been left to their campus partying and not forced home.

I am over 70 with heart conditions. I'm in the high risk category. Yet I do not want our youngsters to be denied their livelihoods for the sake of us. That's the view of many older folk: no lockdowns. The WHO says the same.

The  line of "we are all at risk" is in pursuit of lockdown compliance. But it is not in compliance with science and statistical facts. In short, it's wrong.

Better to publicise the virus' age-specificity, to protect the vulnerable, to allow the rest to go about their business. Elderly should be protected by their own families. If my own children and grandchildren visit I will keep my distance unless they've had a clear test. This approach has to be better than on-again off-again lockdowns which are ruinous to our economy and to the lives of our youngsters. 

Some fear "our hospitals will be overwhelmed". The same was said in March, but we coped, as we did with the August wave. We have over 40,000 hospital beds and just over 1,000 hospitalised for Covid-19. Does 2.5% overwhelm our system? 

Pf, etc