Sunday 31 May 2020

Alaska Trip Day 23: Sitka

[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]
DAY 8 Sitka While others end their adventure and new guests join later in the day, you’ll spend the day off the boat. It’s a quick ride to Fortress of the Bear. Tour this home for orphaned bears and observe their unique personalities. With access to the Tongass National Forest all around you, take the hint and take a hike—your guides know the way. Or get to know Russian-influenced Sitka as you please—shuttles will run from your ship into town. Reboard in time for happy hour and get to know newly arrived travel mates. Set sail into Sitka Sound with unmistakable views of Mt. Edgecumbe—a volcanic wonder in its own right. Laundry service is provided today.”


Saturday 30 May 2020

I share the sense of dread…

“Dread”. Anticipation with a sense of fear.
Prof Scott Kennedy says his one metric of whether “One Country Two Systems” is working is whether information is freely available in Hong Kong, including that critical of China.
That’s also been my favourite metric: freedom of the media. So far, since 1997, there has been. And I’ve said if that goes, I go. I value it too much. I find when I visit China, all else is fine, food, people, transport, all fine. What I miss is not being able to access international media and my favourite blogs. Including even this one.
Fortunately I’m in a privileged position. If we had to leave it would be easy. Not the case for many in Hong Kong.
So we dread. Or, at least I dread. For Hong Kong, for its people, for its young folk, for what it is and for what it has been.
A longtime Beijing-based said the other day “they [Beijing] inherited a nice city; they’ve turned it into rubble”. I kind of disagreed, as it doesn’t look much like rubble. Everything is operating again, after protests and Covid, and all looks well. But overall, I take his point. None of this was necessary. And while there’s plenty to blame the protesters for, and we have, there’s sure a lot of blame in China too, and in particular that brute Xi Jinping. It did not need to be this way.
Now we have the Security Law drama. Trump has just announced the US would rescind the special trade conditions HK has had since ‘97, as an autonomous region of China. Part of the HKHRDA provisions which we’ve criticised before.
Bloomberg thinks there’s room to deescalate, but it’s not a good trend. We are the piñata. Beaten by both sides, till we break and spill our contents on the ground.
The dread that I share with Scott Kennedy, by the end of the decade:
… the decline and withering of independent political parties, street protests, impartial courts, a free media, an open internet, critical arts, liberal education and autonomous religious organisations. All that might remain of current society is driving on the left, and Beijing could even attack that as a colonial legacy. [Here]
Theres rather more there than one metric, the erosion of media freedoms. But it could happen. Many will say it’s inevitable, now. And what then? For Hong Kong? For us?
For now it’s stay put. Hoping for the best, fearing…. Dreading.…

ADDED: I’m remembering that in 1983, when I was working in Australia’s Office of National Assessments, I was tasked with writing an assessment of that would happen to Hong Kong under Chinese rule. What prompted this was Margaret Thatcher’s visit to China to discuss HK with Deng Xiaoping (the architect of “one country, two systems”), and the Joint Declaration of 1984. I wrote it together with the late, wonderful, China scholar, Ross Maddock. As I recall, we wrote it fairly pessimistic. We did not think China would deliberately aim to destroy Hong Kong.  We thought damage would happen because Chinese leaders, bureaucrats, apparatchiks, did not understand what made Hong Kong tick. In the decades since then they have basically stood back. Now they’re wading in, and it looks like we may be proved right after all. Sheer incompetence and ignorance may do for us. 
Oh dear…

Alaska Trip Day 22: Sergius Narrows → Neva Strait

[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]
DAY 7 Sergius Narrows / Neva Strait There aren’t many straight lines along Baranof Island. Its western side is dotted with hundreds of coves and uninhabited islands. This is a prime area for spotting sea otters. It’s no surprise to round a corner in your kayak and find one looking at you and you looking at him. The protected beaches are made for exploring the intertidal zones, and spotting bears. So, boot up for a guided hike. End your day with celebration and a toast at dinner with your captain. Your expedition team treats you to a photo recap of the week’s adventures.”
Kakul Narrows, Sergius Narrows, Peril Strait, Baranof Island

Friday 29 May 2020

“We have to destroy Hong Kong in order to save it”

More serious, even, than football
“We have to destroy Hong Kong in order to save it”  That’s really the message, isn’t it, of the protesters when they say “if we burn, you burn with us”. To which I said, no thanks.
Now it seems to motivate the madness of the US.
China has gone ahead with the Security Law. That was expected. The US is ramping up the threats to China. That, too, was expected.
But does it have to throw Hong Kong under the bus? By removing all the special treatments we enjoy as an autonomous region of China? Does it really have to destroy us in order to “save” us?
The US is ramping up European and Australian support, and it seems they are likely to go along.
None of this in the least bit good for us. It may satisfy virtue signalling by Trump and his acolytes. But it will do our businesses and our autonomy grave harm. Far more than the Security Law itself.*
The only way out of it would be for the US to turn its metaphorical guns on the mainland and on mainland officials.
This is all grim consequence of the HKHRDA. Which, we recall, was promoted to the US Congress by local protesters and pan-Dems who made special trips to Washington to plead for an extra-territorial law punishing us in Hong Kong for Beijing overreach. Oh boy!
Meantime Britain’s Foreign Minister is talking of providing eacape route for refugees.  Not good.
None of this any good.
Remember that most infamous sentence from the Vietnam war: “we had to destroy the village in order to save it”.
Are people really going to go ahead and destroy Hong Kong in order to “save” us?
ADDED: Alex Lo, who only last week described the passing of a Security Law as a “masterstroke” is now as gloomy as I am:
“Forget about Hong Kong being “the goose that lays golden eggs” for China, or the conduit and window for the Western world to enter and invest in China. Such considerations are out the window in this rising titanic struggle between the two superpowers. It’s hard to see a good outcome for Hong Kong now.“ [Here]
Albert Cheng is also gloomy. While Grenville Cross says we have only ourselves to blame for failing to implement Article 23. I agree. And the reason for the failure is opposition by the pan-Dems.
*ADDED: A knowledgeable reader comments that the effects in HK of a US change to the status of HK will not have a dramatic effect on HK. It would likely harm US companies more than HK, especially US banks, who could lose out on lucrative IPOs (HK was the largest IPO market in 2019). The readier's advice to the US: “go for it!”.  i.e. shoot yourself in the foot, why don'cha!

Alaska Trip Day 21: Baranof Island → Peril Strait

[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]
DAY 6 Baranof Island / Peril Strait Leave it to the captain to steer you through Chatham and Peril Straits. At Baranof Island, your top-notch expedition team has the game plan dialed. Tap some of the most untouched wilderness in the Tongass. Head to the woods for an adventuresome bushwhack. Or slide into a kayak for an easygoing shoreline paddle. Find a perch on deck in Peril Strait—it’s a twisting drama of currents and history..
Peril Strait

Thursday 28 May 2020

Thanks for nothing, Pompeo

My comment to Shapiro, on the site:
Re Hong Kong @55’: Pompeo and State Dept stating HK is “no longer autonomous” does NOT mean HK is not autonomous. I’ve lived here over 40 years. In govt and business. In every day terms we remain very much autonomous. And will do so even after the Security Law.
Still. If State Dept removes the special conditions from us (HK), it will be THAT, not the Security law, that does us in. This is punishing us here in HK for what Beijing is doing, which please note was done after a year of rioting and looting in the streets. Ben talks of “virtue signalling”. This is the biggest case of virtue signalling on the international stage. Pure virtue signalling, and "commitment signalling" by Pompeo, to show “how tough on China I am”.  Pity us, here in HK. We suffer from your “good” intentions. Thanks a lot.

Hong Kong national security law: pro-democrats lost their chance, now city is paying the price

Your columnist Yonden Lhatoo hits the nail on the head when he asks, “Is Hong Kong American or Chinese territory?” (May 23). Since World War II, US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific has not been seriously challenged, not because they are right but simply because of their might. Now we have two bullies in the playground, the People’s Republic of China and the United States. So what does the US offer that makes the black-clad protesters wave the Stars and Stripes?

‘Pompeo: HK no longer warrants special treatment from US’

And ‘World leaders concerned over China’s proposed HK security law’ .
Those are the chyrons cycling on CNBC.
A talking head is saying that the most injured in this battle will be Hong Kong. Which is true. America taking action against HK to protest Beijing is like punishing the kidnapper by killing the hostage.
The US may be aware of this (or not), but its desire to punish Beijing is stronger. Very well. Punish Beijing officials. Not us.
This reaction will do more immediate and identifiable harm to our business than the security law. The security law may be a threat to freedom of the press, which would be enough to see me outta here, but Pompeo threatens people’s livelihoods with ill-considered punishments.
Why the HKHRDA is bad for Hong Kong. 

Alaska Trip Day 20: Kake → Frederick Sound

[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]
DAY 5 Kake / Frederick Sound  “Kake” comes from a Tlingit word meaning “opening of daylight.” Apropos, start your day in this native village with traditional storytelling and dancing. Count the many totems on their 132-foot pole. Drop the kayaks in Saginaw Bay or some other hidden cove along the Keku Islands. Black bears are common sights along shore. But so are eagles in the treetops and orange-billed surf scoters paddling nearby. For hikers, your guides have a route in mind. Make for the forest, far off the map. Cruising Frederick Sound, chances are high you’ll see humpbacks. The up-welling of nutrients in the water make it an irresistible feeding ground.”
More photos

More photos
Kake. Pronounced “cake"

Wednesday 27 May 2020

So, instead of being in Alaska, we go to the Sai Wan Swimming Shed on the west side of Hong Kong Island

The ramp, and Green Island
And it’s terrific, on the west side of Hong Kong Island, facing Green Island, which is a mark of the course in many of our yachting races. You have to leave it to starboard, when we do the Round the Island race, in November, clockwise around HK Island. 
The pier and the swimming shed has been there since the 1930s. And has some old sheds and showers. Fantastic. Clean water. 24 deg C.

Alaska Trip Day 19: LeConte Glacier → Ideal Cove

[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]
DAY 4 LeConte Glacier / Ideal Cove LeConte is the southernmost tidewater glacier in North America. If tides are low, take a boot-sucking walk to check out icebergs resting on the mudflats. If it’s high tide, a skiff ride brings you up-close to its iceberg gardens. Surrounded by national forest, Ideal Cove’s boardwalk trails wind through meadows of ferns and grasses. Or test your balance paddle boarding in this quiet cove. It’s just you and the vast wilderness.”
LeConte glacier. Melting fast

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Pro Beijingers spin the Security Law

Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, 24 May 2020            Robert Ng, SCMP
Since they announced a few days ago that the National People’s Congress will insert a national Security Law into Hong Kong’s Basic Law,  pro-Beijingers have been busy spinning how it’s nothing to worry about. Beijing, of course, via Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Premier Li Keqiang.
And their HK acolytes: Yesterday a double page spread, an ad in the SCMP from a group of Beijing-friendly businessmen, analysing the law and assuring us there’s nothing to worry about. Same day a full page spread in Chinese only from the China Merchants company here in HK, “warmly welcoming” the new legislation.
And this morning at her weekly presser, C-E Carrie Lam on how we have “nothing to worry about”.
Which all rather begs the question: then why do it? If no one need fear it, what’s the point?
But we all know what the point is. It’s to have something to hammer with. To hammer those that have been openly calling in the US to intervene. Who demonstrate waving the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack. Who go to the US Congress and British parliament to beg for interference. And who call for independence for Hong Kong.
On that last point, I’ve said for years on this blog that if you want to have Beijing interfere in our affairs, go ahead and ask for independence. The “high degree of autonomy” never meant independence. And all of us knew that except the blockheads leading the violent protesters.
So we are where we are. With a law to deal with that.
I don’t mind that part. The part that worries me is about “theft of state secrets”. Because I know that’s been used in the mainland to jail journalists.
That’s my biggest fear. Erosion of freedom of the press. Awa the right to freely assemble.  Not the bit aimed at stopping moves to independence.


Alaska Trip Day 18: Thomas Bay → Baird Glacier

From the brochure:
“DAY 3 Thomas Bay / Baird Glacier Have your rubber boots handy. You’re in for muskeg and mud in Alaska’s backcountry. Hiking along Baird’s moraine, look for shimmers of gold and quartz—this area is known for it. 
“The glacial outwash plains look almost lunar, but you’re not alone in this moonscape. The glacial valley is a nesting hot-spot for arctic terns. Splash away the mud before a paddle along the bay’s mossy cliff walls. Back on board, it’s time for a cocktail and a soak in the hot tub.”
Thomas Bay:
More photos here

Monday 25 May 2020

The Byron Bay Soviet Choir

And the story here.
Thanks to a reader.

The new Security Law is a great achievement of the Pan-Democrats

That headline is sarcastic. But true.
Beijing implementing a Security Law for Hong Kong (aka “Article 23 law”) is entirely down to the eruptions on our streets last year, and the calls for independence.
We in this family took part in the first “anti-Article 23” demonstration with 500,000 others back in 2003. The legislation was withdrawn and the Tung Chee-hwa government collapsed.
Since then it’s been on the back burner.
Until last year, when we were rocked by “anti Extradition Treaty” demonstrations, which morphed into anti-government riots. We’ve all seen the pix and vids, and in my case, I took part in the demos to see with mine own eyes.
Those led to more pressure for implementing of Article 23, which refers to a requirement of our mini-constitution, the Basic Law, to implement our own national security law, prohibiting acts of"
“... treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central people’s government, or theft of state secrets … and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the region from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies”. [Here’s a primer].
Beijing had waited for 23 years, with no obvious overt pressure to implement Article 23. And the Hong Kong government did nothing about it, despite the clear requirement of the Basic Law.
Until now. 
Until now, because some some in the protest movement proclaimed: “Independence for Hong Kong”. And trashed Legco, and threw petrol bombs, and killed and maimed people. But mainly because they called for independence.
So, Beijing is moving now, during the current meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC), because Hong Kong has been  unwilling or unable to do so. It’s method is a bit dubious, inserting it in Annex III of the Basic Law, but then again, it is the sovereign.
Me? I don’t like it. Not one little bit. I’m on Buddle’s side . I worry especially about the bit that says “theft of state secrets”. That can so easily be used against journalists who get a scoop. You’re done, son. And I do value the rights of Hongkongers to read and write what they like, unlike on the mainland. Colour me one of those worried by the legislation and “not liking it one little bit”
And my view is shared in the western media, which is agog with stories of China "strangling Hong Kong", this is "the end days" for our city, or the beginning of the end, or... take your pick. Pretty much universal slamming of what the NPC is going to do, from the international media, left and right and from government officials, on both sides of the Atlantic and all sides of the aisle.
But that’s not universal here in Hong Kong.
We have differences within our own family..
And there are many local working folks, working age, bringing up families, who are much in favour of this move by the NPC. Who are fed up with the violent protests. Who look forward to some peace on our streets.
Alex Lo thinks it’s a “masterstroke”. And, as Peter Krassel says it’s still “better than Singapore”. (while highlighting housing unaffordability as one of the drivers of the demos).
Many say what I say in the headline above: this was brought on by the Pan-Dems and their black-clad rioters on the streets. That is so patently obvious that it’s amazing people don’t see it.
An alternative could have been: talk to Beijing about universal suffrage. Don’t demand. Talk. Up until 2013 it was moving along the path to that. But pan-Dems, in a shocking case of taking aim and shooting themselves point-blank in their collective foot, chose to reject the moves, because the proposals were not 100% of what they demanded. They were 60%, but rejected. All subsequent drama comes from that.
So, that’s why this whole mess is their fault. Clearly. China would not have moved on Article 23 without the rioting last year and the ill-advised calls for “independence”. 
Still, I no like....

Alaska Trip Day 17: Juneau → Tracy Arm → Stephens Passage

Weather in Tracy Arm and Stephens Passage today: 7-12 and rainy
[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]

From the brochure:
“DAY 2 Tracy Arm / Stephens Passage Wake in a fjord flanked by sheer granite walls. Grab a hot cup of joe and take it all in from the bow. Cascading waterfalls. Drifting icebergs. A lazy harbor seal or two. Layer up with gloves and a warm hat, and hop in a skiff for a better look at the glacier—the temps drop the closer you get. Your expedition guide clues you in to signs of the ice ages that carved this landscape. The geology is fascinating and so is the wildlife. Keep an eye out for mountain goats, bears, and eagles. Make waves for Stephens Passage. It’s all hands on deck watching for signs of humpbacks. It’s a big first day!”
Homing in on Tracy Arm:
And more here

Sunday 24 May 2020

Kerfuffle in our mango tree

Baby Crested Bulbuls asleep in our mango tree
This is the last nest photo we’ll take as Robert Ferguson of WildcreaturesHK has warned us as they get older they might be scared by us and jump out of the nest.
A bird in the hand: Arlene came in this morning with a Common Tailorbird in her hand. It had flown into a window and been stunned. Forgot to take a photo, sadly. But all good, released back onside and flew away chattering.

I’ve just noticed quite a kerfuffle by the mango tree and crossing fingers that the babies are okay. There was a Magpie Robin pacing around and looking up into the tree. A host of Bulbuls chattering and flappering in and around the tree, including Red-vented and Chinese Bulbuls. I couldn’t see our proud parents, Danni and Hector, Crested Bulbuls. And I couldn’t see anything else, just kerfuffle. But there was a fair bit of commotion and I’m hoping it doesn’t mean unseen interlopers were up to some sort of mischief. There was a Common Tailorbird lurking as well, perhaps our bird in the hand from this morning. Fortunately no bigger birds like the Created Mynahs or Speckled Doves.
I’m presuming Danni and Hector could see off these smaller birds.
LATER: Just had a horrible thought. What if it was a snake. I should have looked closer. Oh dear… (but on reflection, I don’t thinks snake because of the snake-cone)
UPDATE (25 May): Sad day. The nest is empty. On reflection I don’t think it could have been a snake, because we had our anti-snake cone pretty well secured. So what was it? My suspects are: Crested Mynah, Violet Whistling Thrush, Spotted Dove and Red-billed Blue Magpie. Devna says “it could be anything”, and suggests CCTV next time, which is a good idea.
Another sad thing yesterday: we found a turtle had been killing our fish. We had to partially drain our fish pond to locate the turtle, and put it back in Siena Park and strengthened our fence with chicken wire. We abut the park which has many turtles in the lake. It took a pretty severe toll on our koi carp which didn’t stand a chance, the classic “fish in a barrel”.

And there’s the resurgence yesterday of violence on our streets, tear gas and protests

Related bulbul posts

Alaska Trip Day 16: Juneau → Segway → Endeavour

Segway ecotours around Juneau
[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]

We have a day in Juneau before boarding the ‘Safari Endeavour’.  Maybe we’ll do the three-hour Segway eco-tour of Juneau.
The Safari Endeavour:
84 passengers, 36 crew.  More details
"Polished, unwavering, and upscale, the Safari Endeavour may be the workhorse of the fleet but it’s her zest-for-life persona that’s remembered most. She looks sharp—a nod to the crew who work hard to keep her that way. Wood fixtures and accents shine and artwork highlights the warm and cool waters where she sails. No other UnCruise vessel covers more territory, and like her namesake, Captain Cook’s Endeavour, both the ship and crew are true explorers. Her roomy lounge, dining room, and sun deck are undisputed, but the Safari Endeavour claims to have the biggest heart, too. [From Here]

Day 1Juneau – Embarkation
“Welcome to Alaska’s capital, where your home on the water awaits. Come aboard, meet your crew, and unpack your adventurous spirit. Your course is set for glaciers, and the Tongass—the largest national forest in the U.S.”

Saturday 23 May 2020

Egg-istential crisis

Sent in by a reader. 
I’m an egg-ophile myself. Maker of demon poached eggs, the perfect soft boiled egg and lately of Chinese Lu Dan = 卤蛋 =  brined eggs. Similar to Japanese Ramen Eggs

Babies born this morning to Danni and Hector!

In our mango tree, 11:15 this morning
(Is the third one sleeping or.... 😧.
UPDATE (24 May): all OK! She was just kipping…
Related posts:

Tsitsipas the tsit

Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek tennis god, unburdened himself of a truly awful idea. That we ought to have an annual Lockdown because ”it’s good for nature, it’s good for our planet”. Well, maybe so. And also just fine for him, sitting on his $12 million pile and $10 million annually in endorsements. Just fine. 
But does it not occur to him? That it’s not so fine for the hundreds of millions thrown out of work, the bankrupted mom and pop stores, the hundreds of millions who will die of hunger because of lockdowns, for those struck by mental health and domestic abuse... and… and…
None of this appears to have registered through his gorgeous locks. He was brought up privileged and he remains in his privileged bubble. 
An ex colleague of J’s has similar views. He texted that he "loved the lockdown" because it suited him just fine. Working from home and getting his salary. Just fine. 
The lack of empathy of such people is breathtaking, How can they not think of so many people suffering?
Shame of Tsistsipas. Shame on those who revel in the lockdowns. 
For hundreds of millions lockdowns are a disaster. And Tsitsipas wants to do this once a year?
I reach for the thesaurus for the adjectives: non-empathetic, arrogant, self-absorbed, solipsistic, selfish…
The planet needs a breather. I agree. Crushing people’s lives and destroying their dreams is not the way to do it, you tsit.

Alaska Trip Day 15: Jackson Hole → Salt Lake City → Juneau

Weather in SLC today 6-23 C partly cloudy. 
[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]

Today is a drive from Rustic Inn, Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City airport and thence flight to Juneau in Alaska. To start the Alaska trip proper.
We go down a different route to the east, in and out of Wyoming and Utah.
I’m it sure if it’s going to be possible to get to the airport in time for the flight so we may well have to leave the day earlier,  but what the heck, this is an imaginary drive to an imaginary flight to an imaginary place, so we end up in Juneau Alaska, after an imaginary trouble-free drive and an imaginary easy seven hour flight....
And as I listen to Norah Jones jam at home. And I imagine other times. As she reminds me of someone.
Weather today 5-18C Sunny
Staying at the Juneau Hotel. Looks pretty basic … Juneau looks like it’s massively shaded at some time of the day, perhaps afternoon. I could look it up, but I’m too lazy.

Friday 22 May 2020

Not good news ‘NPC Acts on Security Law’

Dictatorship 101: the brutalist look. Winnie the Pooh in the middle
Prince Charles called them “appalling old waxworks
ADDED (24 May): it’s fair to ask and expect that the UK should resist Beijing encroachments, given their history and being the other side of the Joint Declaration, an international treaty. Point being that this would have more impact than counterproductive  street protests and pan-Dems’ Legislative shenanigans. Here.
The Chinese National People’s Congress is going to enact a security law for Hong Kong, required under Article 23 of the Basic Law. We here in this household joined half a million other protesters in 2003 to march against the proposal by then chief executive Tung Chee-Hwa to implement it. That succeeded in stopping it and Tung stepped down as a result. 
Since then it’s not been addressed again, and the word is Beijing has become impatient as it’s 23 years since the handover. TBF, it is a requirement of the Basic Law. Still, no one here wants it. If there were more trust in Beijing, it wouldn’t be a problem. But there isn’t, so it is.
The part of the law that worries me most is its potential impact on freedom of the media. If a journalist can be charged with revealing “state secrets”, then freedom of the media is dead.
If the media starts to look like the China Daily and CGTN, then I’m outa here.
If they start blocking blogs like this one, if they start blocking Google and YouTube and other portals, then I’m outa here.
I shudder at this development. Even if it’s been brought on and hastened by the misjudgements of the protest movement and shenanigans of pan-Dems in Legco. “I told you so” doesn’t ease the pain.
Oh dear.

UPDATE: Social media here in Hong Kong, like LIHKG and Telegram, are already calling for people to come out on the streets in protest. Could be a troubled weekend.

LATER (23 May): A reader comments:
Hong Kong is at a turning point and Beijing will be quite happy to let the city wither on the vine. This is a very very sad day for Hong Kong.  The second exodus will now start which will drain the city of talent and this time they won’t return. The Hong Kong I love will never be the same.
ADDED (23 May): My comment on this video:
RE Hong Kong (57’): Ben needs to learn a bit more about what’s going on in this part of the world before commenting. I live in HK, and have lived and worked in Shanghai and Beijing. I don’t like for one little bit what Beijing is doing about Article 23 in the HK Basic Law. BUT... it is allowed to do so, and it was entirely predictable (and was predicted, by me amongst many others) that Beijing would be riled into doing exactly this. Not that that’s a good thing, of course. But folks, we are dealing with a tyranny here. Not a nice democracy. My aim, in living here, has been to *maintain the very real and very extensive freedoms that we do have*, and which have been maintained in the 23 years since the handover, whilst living as a part of an acknowledged dictatorship. If the US decides to implement the “HK Human Rights and Democracy Act” to punish Beijing, the only people to be harmed will be us here in Hong Kong. You folks over in America may feel good about it, well done. But we will suffer. Here in Hong Kong. Not Beijing. Not America. WE Hongkongers will suffer.I’m a big Ben fan-boy. But honestly, he doesn’t know anything about China and Hong Kong, and as long as he does not know, he’s only doing damage to us with his crude and uninformed judgements. My feelings care about his non-facts. 

Alaska Trip Day 14: Jackson Hole → Horse Riding

[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]

And plenty of other horse riding options in Jackson Hole. Jing did some in South America last year, enjoyed it.
It’ll be like in the vid, I’m sure, sun glancing off the still snowy peaks of the Grand Tetons.
Maybe we’ll even stay at the Dude Ranch....
The Chinese for “America” is 美國, Mei Guo which means “Beautiful Country”. And surely it is. 

Thursday 21 May 2020

Beijing is moving steadily to bring HK closer into the fold | Robert Keatley

Its not that Im anti-democracy for Hong Kong. Im not. Who can be against democracy? And its not that I welcome Beijing interference in Hong Kong. I dont. Who would? 
So I don’t report Robert Keatley’s gloomy predictions with any pleasure. He’s pretty much spot on, though he doesn’t note what I would: that the process, of “Beijing moving steadily” to control HK, is hastened by the ongoing violent protests and the legislative shenanigans of the pan-dems.
The way the protesters have gone about pressing their case is counterproductive and will make things worse, not better. It will lead to less democracy and fewer freedoms. And to me, right here right now, those freedoms are more important that the chimera of universal suffrage.
I’ve pointed out the Seven Freedoms we have. And I’ve also pointed out that we have wider democracy, at the ground level, than many people realise, and more than at the handover. 
Thats why Im a status quo-ite. Better keep the freedoms we have than lose them in a quixotic tilt at universal suffrage. 
I have a couple of comments on Keatley's article.
Yes, Carrie Lam is unpopular, as all the C--Es have been since handover. Then again, so are most of the elected leaders in the west. Whereas Xi, for all his bullying boorishness is highly popular in China, and not because people are afraid to say they don’t like him. They aren’t. The research is by Pew, and I confirm from personal experience in China. Point being, the very fact of popularity is not a measure of anything much.
HK college graduates believe employers favour mainlanders: they ought to consider that it’s perhaps because that mainlander really is more qualified than they are. Educated more broadly, often in the west, with better English and better Mandarin, the two languages of international trade. 
When I was boss of offices across East Asia, including Hong Kong and the mainland, I found that my employees in China were more open minded, more innovative, more keen to think outside the box than their Hong Kong colleagues. They also wrote better Chinese and knew more of the Chinese classics. Weird, right? Sure, but that was the case, and I noted it at the time. 
Less moaning victimhood by these Hongkong graduates and more self-reflection might be in order here. 
[Confucius Analects:  見賢思齊焉,見不賢而內自省也. “When you see a virtuous person, reflect on how they became so. When you see someone less virtuous, reflect on yourself ” (my translation)]
As for the housing crisis: yes, it exists. We have housing prices amongst the highest in the world. What is not pointed out by Keatley is that the reason there is less public housing is right down to the Pan-Democrats in the Legislative Council, who have over the years blocked the use of more public land for discount housing. Their reason? To block the government. That’s their whole agenda. They’re doing it at the moment, with endless haggling and filibustering, simply to block government business. They think that this will help them overthrow the government. They are wrong about that, and all they’ve managed to do is make things more difficult for the very students who are leading the protests. 

Our pool reopened this morning Yay!

And I was first in the pool

Alaska Trip Day 13: Jackson Hole → Yellowstone → Jackson Hole

[Remember: this is just a Virtual Virus Vacation. It’s what I had booked before had to cancel coz Covid-19]

We do Rustic Inn → Yellowstone → Rustic Inn, in a day. Early start. Also maybe a reason to think maybe we ought be staying at Teton Village or Grand Teton, instead of Rustic Inn at Jackson. We’ll see. 
A drive up the “Hole”, the valley of Jackson, to Yellowstone National Park, the first ever National Park in the United States, the remnants of a super volcano that could erupt at any time. So NatGeo tells us. Magnificent Yellowstone. I believe we may have to book ahead to get an entry permit.
And plenty of land adventures.
On the way we pass by the world-famous ski field at Teton Village on our left. What I’ve always known as Jackson Hole. And where I’ve long wanted to go skiing. I wanted to do its scary black runs. If I went there now, I think I’d be sticking to the red and blue runs, being now built more for comfort than for courage. Here’s the map of the ski trails. Pretty awesome. [Correction: not “black, red and blue” runs; that’s European and Aussie. In the US it’s “black, blue and green”. And looking at the ski map, there’s not much of the latter at Jackson Hole. It’s skier’s ski field]. Look at those runs on the left at “Hoback”.  They are steep!

Check out Snowking
New alternative history novel, ‘Rodham’, by Curtis Sittenfeld, imagines if Hillary had not married Bill. Out today and I just bought it on Kindle and it’s just been delivered to my iPad.
Given we are in Jackson Hole, here’s a clip. They’re in Jackson Hole, at a liberal fundraiser. (and, btw, random fact I learned recently: 50-60% of a Congressperson’s time is spent in fundraising. What a life):
The Grand Tetons rose behind us, a jazz quartet played on a patio near a stream, servers pressed bacon-wrapped dates and tuna tartare, and an unsurpassed quality of progressive schmoozing occurred.
Will we also see an "unsurpassed quality of progressives schmoozing"?

Wednesday 20 May 2020



This is from Campus Reform, which is a conservative-leaning site, yet not particularly a purveyor of “fake news”.
I’ve checked a number of the allegations in the video, which appear to be sound key based. So, what the US has is a growing problem in the Academy. Professors being paid by China to give them results of US-based research. The same happens the other way around, of course, but not to the same extent because (1) China has stricter control and (2) Research remains more innovative in the US

Discussing Lockdowns with Melanie Phillips

ADDED (22 May): ‘Japan shows faith in lockdowns misplaced
Below is an email I sent Melanie Phillips in response to a recent post of hers. Melanie is a rather famous journalist and commenter in Britain. She started her career at the Guardian until her spats over some left-wing shibboleths led her away and into the anti-regressive left world. She writes for the Times, awa being a prolific author.
Her blog, like mine, has no comment section hence my email
I haven’t asked Melanie for her permission to post her email replies to me so I’ll just summarise it as “your email rather proves my point”. She was referring to my passing comment that in some places, like Japan, cultural factors like bowing rather than hand shaking would have kept her virus spread lower than otherwise.
But I don’t see how that proves her point. Here’s why:
Her contention is A → B. That is “Lockdown → control of virus”.
My contention: the statistics show no correlation between A and B.
We all know that  “correlation does not (necessarily) imply causation”, BUT, causation does imply correlation. If A → B there must be a correlation, as measured by a correlation coefficient ≥ 0.6. There is not. Hence lockdowns are ineffective by themselves and the declines in infections must be due to other factors, perhaps simply the passage of time and the rhythm of the virus.
I mentioned as an aside, some places like Japan where the cultural practice is not to shake hands, to be socially distanced,  probably played a part in control. (I could have added that they tend not to love in multigenerational households, a factor that impacted Italy adversely). Also Hong Kong where we were.wary of viruses because of 2002 SARS, and so mask, disinfect, distance.
I simply cannot see how the mention of cultural factors “makes her point”. I would have thought it rather made my point! That lockdowns are ineffective, at least in and of themselves, as shown by lack of correlation.
Oh well, I leave it there.
Save for a final “I don’t get it”. In Britain a majority of people don’t want the lockdown to ease. I don’t get it. The science certainly doesn’t support it. Least of all the schools. All the science and the experience there is that children are just fine.
To repeat the Sceptics’ recommended path: protect the elderly and otherwise vulnerable. We know who they are: 70+ folks with other conditions (like me!). Let the rest of the world get back to work, school and play. With appropriate distancing, masking and disinfecting. That’s what we do in HK.
Taiwan, much admired for its handling of the virus, has no school closures, no stopping of sports events, no stay-at-home orders. Its secret appears to be having stopped inbound travel from the mainland, early. Something, let’s recall, the WHO was against. (Taiwan has lowest lockdown “stringency” index in the world, according to Oxford U).
My email below the fold