Friday 31 July 2020

Eat meat from animals that deserved to die....

‘Mainland and overseas Chinese may be worlds apart over China’

I agree with Alex Lo's points about half the time. And this is one of those:
In short: 

Washington is mistaken to assume that Chinese citizens within China are about to rise up against a hated communist party. Not going to happen. 

Beijing is mistaken to assume that the Chinese diaspora will automatically support them. Many may (often in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain) and many may not (often in SE Asia). 

Wrong assumptions such as these can worsen already frayed relations.

Un-good trends in Hong Kong

Several today:
1. A new daily high of new cases, 149.
2. A swag of pan-Dems disqualified from September Legco elections. Under the new National Security Law. So much for the hopes it would be used with a light hand. Many of those disqualified I don’t have any time for. Joshua Wong, for example. But that’s not the point. Which is… once this has been swallowed and absorbed, what, who next?
3. Retail sales down 33%.  Desperate tenants send mayday. Jobless rate doubles.
4. UPS joins FedEx in demanding the “right” not to fly to Hong Kong because of quarantine restrictions.
It’s hot and wet.  Basil is old and tired …

Elsewhere: A hiker killed in a fall on Basalt Island — we’ve sailed around the island many times. Very rugged. Sad tale…

Krugman claims Republicans “sacrialize” selfishness

Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist has a go at Republicans, claiming they are a “cult of selfishness”, that is “killing America". Is “selfishness" a step up or down from Hillary’s “deplorables”? Who knows.
Imagine this turned about. If we were to make as broad a generalisation about the Democrats. That they were all crazy-left socialists who want to “sacralize” state to control all the means of production and to compel and control your every activity. Fair? Well, no. It’s generally considered bigoted to tar whole groups with one brush. Even if in the converse case it’s truer of where democrats have got to than the alleged selfishness of Republicans. Repeated polls show that Democrats have shifted further left, while Republicans have stayed pretty much Center right.
Back to Krugman. This is a man who has got all the major calls wrong. He said in 1994 that the internet would have no more impact than the fax. On Trump’s election he predicted the worst stock market crash sine the Great Depression, just as it began its longest sustained bull run, that hasn’t quite finished even in this pandemic. He called a crash in 2019, before Nasdaq and Dow reached new records.
He’s also free and easy with figures.
Daniel Okrent, a former New York Times ombudsman, writes that Krugman has “the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing, and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults.” [Link]
In the article he links to this chart of Covid deaths, failing to mention America numbers are inflated by include previously unrecorded deaths from June whereas European deaths are deflated, by changed measures giving lower than trend figures. That’s why the US comes out so badly, an effect exaggerated by using a daily figure. Overall, the US is in the mid range of Europe as I show in my spreadsheet here. (Worse than France and Germany, better than Italy, Spain ams Britain).
Of course Krugman puts this bad US figure — exaggerated as it is — down to Trump. Whereas the measures to fight Covid are virtually all taken at the state level. And at the state level, as I showed yesterday, the top ten worst states are all run by Democrat governors.
To his main point about the alleged "sacralisation of selfishness” by Republicans, is this perhaps a projection? After all, what can be more selfish than wanting power so much that you attempt to invalidate an election by phoney charges of Russian collusion — as is now manifestly clear from revelations of FBI treatment of the Steele dossier, etc…
And how easy to invert Krugman. Here he is:
You see, the modern U.S. right is committed to the proposition that greed is good, that we’re all better off when individuals engage in the untrammelled pursuit of self-interest. In their vision, unrestricted profit maximization by businesses and unregulated consumer choice is the recipe for a good society.Support for this proposition is, if anything, more emotional than intellectual....
And here’s the inverse:
You see, the modern U.S. Left is committed to the proposition that equity is good, that we’re all better off when the government engages in the untrammelled pursuit of control of all means of production. In their vision, unrestricted control by government and restriction of consumer choice is the recipe for a good society.Support for this proposition is, if anything, more emotional than intellectual....
I don’t need to refute Krugman’s crude stereotype, nor substantiate the inverse -- after all, we’ve have plenty of evidence of the horrors of socialism in actual practice if not in theory.
In all, Krugman’s piece strikes me as a bit of a rant. I’m guilty of rants myself. But then I’m not a New York Times columnist. A bit more fact-checking by the “paper of record”, would do wonders, especially given the importance of fact checking the Times itself claimed to be motivated by in the fracas over the recent editorial by Tom Cotton -- and editorial, let’s recall, that reflected the beliefs of 58% of the American populace.  

Thursday 30 July 2020

Bret and Heather on Portland and Covid

This is a terrific podcast. They are there, on the ground. And no lovers of Trump…

Mat Ridley on the WHO

How are we doing, here in Hong Kong?

Backyard pano: lush in rain and heat
Like Bluebottle, Eccles we’re “fine, fine, fine…” [“What time is it, Eccles?”]
HK: The whole place is now shut down, though the dining shut down is causing blow back. Pools and beaches closed which also makes no sense. Both our Piazzas sealed off with police tape.
So we sit and gaze at green.
Croton and “Wallet-lower” on Traveller palms
Our Flame Tree (left) nearly joining up with
the Traveller Palm
While we’re fine, we know we’re lucky, safely retired and we feel for the many who are not. Especially the mom and pop stores and mid-sized businesses. Much heartache, agony, angst, bankruptcies and depression. HK Economic growth latest quarter Minus 9% and unemployment jumped. FedEx employees demanding that flights to HK stop because of the new measures — will put more strain on the supply chain, which has been just okay so far.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Why is Bob Ross still so popular?

I sent a note to Frank Skinner at Absolute Radio, where he does his weekly radio show and podcast:
Hi Folks! Long-time listener, first time commenter...
I first learnt about Bob Ross on Frank’s podcast. I bought all the Bob Ross gear and am looking forward to deploying it. I agree with Frank that Bob paints the same painting 400 times. 
But I don’t agree with Frank that Bob is some kind of charlatan for copying the  technique from someone else. Yes he did, but the “wet-on-wet” technique goes back to the Italian Renaissance. Bob never hid or denied that he’d learned from Bill Alexander. There’s a great new article in The Atlantic on “Why is Bob Ross still so popular?”  It’s a great read. /Snip:
Ross was a force of pure positivity in a world without a lot of it. Later in life, when writing magazine stories became my full-time job, I started watching old Joy of Painting episodes when I wanted some inspiration. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and writers are prone to self-doubt. Sometimes when I need a bit of outside encouragement, I turn to my old friend Bob Ross. His calming voice helps me cut through the noise of life and focus on creating something new.
It turns out that a lot of other people feel the same way. As long as he’s been on television, he’s had a large, devoted fan base. At the end of the 1980s, Joy of Painting had 80 million worldwide viewers and received 200 letters in the mail every day, according to old newspaper stories. Not long after the show went on the air, the company that Ross started with his business partners created an 800 number fans could call to ask questions about the painting technique: My trees are blurry or My rivers look funny or My colors are mixing when they shouldn’t. Sometimes people would call just to talk about life in general.

Fact checking the New York pandemic performance

All top ten are Democrat States. From Statista
Max Boot in the Washington Post tells us that New York flattened its curve, but Sun States are been flattened by it. Nice contradistinction. But is it true? In a word, “No”.
At least not if you follow the facts — aka the data.
First up is the chart above, which is deaths per 100,000 ranked top to bottom, about which two points:
1.  New York is at the top of the list.  Not only that. New York has the highest per capita Covid deaths in the world. Sure the curve is flattened, but only after huge spikes It’s surely a bit rich to claim this is terrific performance, when it’s really rather the polar opposite.
2.  Every state in the top ten worst performers has a Democrat Governor. Given that the states are 24 Democrat and 26 Republican, it is surely no coincidence that every single one of the worst performers is Dem. Again, it’s rich to present this as evidence of how well Democrat states are doing vs the Sunshine states, when the data show exactly the opposite.
To the extent he acknowledges New York’s high death rate, Boot excuses it, thus:
…our misfortune was primarily not of our own devising. New York City paid a heavy price for being the most dynamic and densely populated city in the country — the No. 1 travel destination for foreign travelers in North America. Covid-19 spread far and wide before anyone knew what was really happening.
About which again two points:
1. Bill De Blasio, mayor of New York, was encouraging people to come to New York. During Chinese New Year he encouraged people to go out and party. In big groups. I remember this clearly at the time, and I agreed with him. (I was in my “herd-immunity uber alles” stage). Appears I was wrong, and so was De Blasio. I’ll admit I was wrong, as were many people, scientists included. De Blasio, however, shifts the blame. To Trump, of course. When it happens that, at the time, Trump was closing borders with China and Europe, to the (then) chagrin of De Blasio and co, who said it was “racist” and “xenophobic“ — but who now have the temerity to say Trump “didn’t do enough”! That is, at the very least, breathtaking hypocrisy. Or perhaps he just doesn’t remember … (Mind, I don’t think Trump has had a good pandemic. He’s been fitful, contradictory, disengaged. Even conservatives are critical)..
2. While Boot gives New York and De Blasio a pass — “Covid-19 spread far and wide before anyone knew what was happening” — he gives the federal government no such slack. Everyone in every country has been blindsided and made some missteps at some stage during this pandemic. (Look at us here in HK!). I’m just looking for consistency, is all.
Boot appears to believe that he alone has the answer to controlling Covid. Rather odd when you see what bizarre conclusions he comes to with clear and unequivocal data above,, but hubris will have its way…
Fact is, no country, no expert, has all the answers. We know some things (schools safe to open) we don’t know lots of things. Even Dr Fauci makes mistakes. A little modesty needed here. 

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Coleman Hughes, refuting the “epidemic” of police killing African Americans

I wrote about this before. Coleman also refers, as I did, to Roland Freyer, the Harvard professor whose stats show this: namely that white suspects are killed at a greater rate than black suspects, when controlled for the number of interactions. 
For folks that say “African Americans are only 13% of the population but 35% of police killings” just remember this: men are 95% of prisoners. That’s not because of misandry. It’s because men commit more crimes. Similarly in the cop situation, they interact with African American men more than others because that’s where they get the 911 calls from.
Still, I know. It’s not about the data. It’s about the narrative. And the feeling....
Thus, BLM, the movement focussed in police killings, cares nought for the data.
And Coleman finishes off on the data issues. He’s “playing a different game”:

'Even if genocide were to happen': Han treatment of Uygurs

And a report on Uygur dissident intellectual, Ilham Tohti: “Even if genocide were to happen”.

Free speech in the balance?

Click to enlarge
Update (29 July): It’s here now.
The above is in today’s print edition of the South China Morning Post.  It is not in the online version.  Could this be a bit of self-censorship? After all, Beijing can easily get the inline version. Whereas the print version just goes to old dodderers like me, and we don’t need to worry about them too much, do we? Let them play around in their sand pit and believe free speech remains.
I hope I’m wrong and it’s just an oversight.
The article is by Henry Litton, retired court of Final Appeal judge, who has been a staunch proponent of focusing on keeping OCTS going past 2047. Had we focussed on that, we wouldn’t be dealing with a harsh NSL as we are now.
We brought this on ourselves, lads.

Monday 27 July 2020

Can we stop a civil war in the US?

In the clip above (17:20 -- 20:00), ex Evergreen U professor Bret Weinstein talks about why some solutions on the Left just don’t work. Like Communism, which, via the "Group Selection Fallacy", leads to authoritarianism. People can see that “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”, means they’ll do much better outside the system. So you have to be authoritarian to stop people going outside the system. In the interests of the masses, of course. Indeed, I saw this with my own eyes in China of the seventies. And I saw the opposite: what allowing people to go outside the system — using market forces — does for the vast masses. Even if some get left behind, for which we ought mitigate, not tear down a system. Which is the civil war that calls in the Left are leading — “dismantle the system” is a common slogan. In addition to “defund the police”.
Bret and his interviewers are all of the Left. In Bret’s case he calls himself a revolutionary, a Bernie supporter. And Francis Foster is a solid leftie. The thing that will get others on the Left in knots is that they criticise some of the crazy stuff that’s going on at the moment. Calls not for reform,  but foe “dismantling”.
To watch the whole interview: click on “YouTube” in the bottom right. 

Hong Kong: dining out banned; masks required outdoors; sixth straight day of triple-digit cases

But where is the “Second Wave”?
[Huge sigh].... when will this end?
  • Exemptions for mask wearing will be granted in the case of ‘reasonable excuses’ such as medical conditions, but not for exercise
  • The measures come as the city records two more coronavirus deaths, a 76-year-old woman and a 92-year-old man.  Here...
Meantime, in Sweden: the soft-lockdown country (aka voluntary), things going pretty well.
And Bernard-Henri Levy, France’s rock-star philosopher, and Lockdown Sceptic, says we have “to resist the wind of madness blowing over the world’.
I agree. Delusion, hallucination and paranoia. We have to learn to live with the virus:protect the elderly, disinfect, mask, get on with life.  (H/t Lockdown Sceptics)

I know why so many people don’t believe in the American Dream

Says Joe Scarborough in the Washington Post 
But I know I am blessed to have had the luxury of living fearlessly though the first four decades of my life. Unlike my Post colleague Eugene Robinson, I never had to warn my teenage boys how to behave when stopped by a police officer. And unlike the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, I did not know the fear that arises from being born of “a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing.” As Coates told his son, “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.”
The streets of West Baltimore do not allow a child to walk through life carrying a sense of invincibility. Instead, parents harbor an unremitting dread when their child does something as mundane as walking to school.
Fathers across the South Side of Chicago cannot assure their children that a faith in God, a love of country and a life filled with hard work will lead them to The Dream. For millions of Americans, that dream appears to be little more than a white man’s conjuring, designed to conceal a country’s sins and hold its citizens harmless for crimes committed against black humanity over the past 400 years.
President Trump understands better than most politicians the allure of cheap racial absolution. That is why he spent this week defending the Confederate flag and attacking a reporter who asked about the continued killing of black Americans. Just as he preached moral equivalence after Charlottesville, Trump suggested that we ignore the uncomfortable fact that a disproportionate number of black people are killed every year by law enforcement officers.
Scarborough is right that it’s dangerous to war in South Chicago or West Baltimore. I’ve been to both, and got mugged in Chicago. Driving around South Chicago twenty years ago, trying to find the road to Carbondale* Illinois, stopped at a gas station and got mugged on my way back to the car. It was a gentle kind of mugging. The guy “sold” me a broken Walkman, despite my assuring him I didn’t need it and had moved on to iPods. “Oh, you need it”, he says. $25 bucks later, and leaving him with the Walkman to sell again, and we were in our way. 
South Chicago is way more dangerous than that. Murders are common, multiple daily. But here’s the thing. It’s not police doing the murdering. It’s young black men killing other young black men. 
But, according to BLM, the movement, not the belief, the problem is police killings. 
Then again this is not about data. It’s about feelings. And the feelings are that cops kill blacks, in “disproportionate numbers”. Disproportionate by percent of the population. Not disproportionality by number of crimes committed. Of course this is down to problems “upstream”, some of which, maybe even a majority of which, are due to racism. But that’s a society issue and not the police’s, whose remit is to uphold the law.  
Even people on the alert, like Harvard professor Steven Pinker, are savaged for quoting the data on police killings. They tried to cancel him recently…
As others have said: if you bring up your child to believe that you can’t make it in America, no matter what, because the system is rigged against you, that’s the worst thing you can say to your child and virtually guarantees failure. Shame on the Ta-nehesi Coates and their ilk. More power to the Coleman Hugheses and John McWhorters...

*Carbondale: said to be the most boring city in the world. Wouldn’t argue

We’re all thought criminals now

Toby Young on the Bari Weiss resignation from the New York Times, the Harper's Letter, its signatories and blow-back to the letter. Here.
Critics of the Harper's letter deploy a straw man: that the signatories are just trying to protect their own privileges. But that's not what they said. They were talking specifically about less privileged voices being silenced. 
Still, as others have noted, the Harper's signatories seem to want to widen the Overton window just enough to include a slightly wider circle of the Left.  Not necessarily widely enough to include conservatives. Note, for example, their ritualistic swipe at Trump and the right. 
Meanwhile Kevin Myers slams J.K. Rowling, a signatory, for having cancelled him in 2017, unfairly as it seems. Here.
Added: a nice Snip:
Bill Buckley used to observe that liberals always say they are in favor of entertaining opinions opposed to their own but are then surprised to discover that there are opinions opposed to their own. Here.

white people, stop capitalizing on your skin color

The sly humour of Jarvis DuPont…
I feel confident that we will begin to make huge strides towards true racial equality once we learn to treat people differently according to our preconceived notions regarding their skin color, and I would like to thank the Associated Press for taking that first brave step.
(I believe this should be accessible without a sub).
I saw a poll the other day suggesting 86% think racial relations have got worse since the George Floyd killing. 4% say better and 10% undecided. 

Baby Bulbuls now grown up…

Baby first seen in my workshop
Remember we thought the babies had been filched by a predator, because they were born, and two days later the nest was empty.Turns out the parents, Hector and Danni, must have flown them somewhere away from the nest, for we found a baby on 8 July and now the whole family are in our kitchen garden, mum, dad and the three grown babies. One of which above. 

Sunday 26 July 2020

‘What we know – and what we don’t know – about stopping the spread of the coronavirus’

I put this in the FWIW category. What we know, and don’t, about the coronavirus. Some use, but not too reliable.
My comment at the site is :
"Another strategy that appears to have been successful is the use of lockdowns: imposing restrictions on movement to contain the spread of disease." 
The data do NOT support this assertion. Oxford U has a measure of the "Stringency of Lockdown". It has no correlation with no. of cases or deaths per million. (HK is an example!).
Meantime a UK Government study suggests up to 200,000 "excess deaths" as a result of lockdown. That is deaths not Covid-related, but caused by effects of *lockdowns* — eg, people going to hospitals less, not getting regular treatments, "excess" suicides, etc. You *cannot* ignore the costs — in *lives* as well as the economy — of lockdowns. This is a sloppy and superficial piece on a subject too important to treat so glibly.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Bret and Zuby how the US looks to the outside

I start it at 22:00 right when he starts talking about pessimism and optimism,  but he’s worth seeing the whole. He first came to wide attention when he claimed the women’s deadlift record by simply saying he now identified as a woman. He’s far more than a practical joker. A clear thinker, Zuby. 

Hong Kong democracy camp wants many things, but do their demands add up?

Protesters who loathe Trump loathe China even more and
urge him to “Make HK Great” while waving US flag
Horrible Irony: people who resist Hong Kong becoming “just another Chinese city” pass a law — the Hong Kong Autonomy Act — that makes Hong Kong more “just like another Chinese city”. And claim a “victory”. This is because their beliefs were delusional from the get go. That Hong Kong is oppressed. Under the yoke of communist tyrants. It wasn’t then. But it is now. Thanks to their antics. 
To be clear, I also don’t want Hong komg to be “just another Chinese city” that’s why I live here and not Beijing or Shanghai. 
I think the protesters were right to protest the extradition bill. And if their gripes include ridiculous house prices and widening economic gaps, then I’m all in. But they ended up with an inchoate and irrational set of “Five Demands, Not One Less”, which is where we part company. And I stick by my belief that all the year of protests have achieved is greater Chinese interference and greater repression and erosion of lie Seven Freedoms. They are turning Hong Kong into “just another Chinese city” with the willing acquiescence of the US, for it is playing a bigger game, the Great Game, the battle of the old hegemon with the rising hegemon. 
In short, the protesters are achieving the very thing they say they are fighting against. The road to hell…
Spot on letter:

China - US reciprocity. If only they’d thought of this earlier

The US forced the closure of China’s consulate in Houston. It claimed they were spying. In retaliation China kicked our America’s consulate in Chengdu. Because… well… because it’s reciprocal.
It might have helped if China had been a bit more reciprocal after the US chaperoned them into the World Trade Organisation in 2001. China got free access to western markets, most importantly the United States. And boy did it do well! In return? Pretty much nothing. They were supposed to. According to the WTO.  But they simply didn’t.
Here’s an incomplete list of companies that China did not allow access to China’s market: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Twitter…sure, were better off without lots of these. But that’s not what happened. China simply copied them and gave the home grown version exclusive access to China’s market. Whole sectors, like finance, insurance, telecoms, were off limits. In China, not to China in the west.
They forced foreign companies to transfer technology if they wanted access. This was specifically illegal under WTO rules they had signed up to. And I saw this, experienced this, myself via Australian companies.
Did they need to do this? Of course not. They just did. Because they could. And the west did nothing in return.
Until now. It’s too bad the fight back had to be by a man as unsuited to the fight as Donald Trump.  But no president before had done anything other than cavil.
And so back to the reciprocity. If China had been more reciprocal four decades ago, maybe we’d not be reciprocating at each other now.

Friday 24 July 2020

Hong Kong Covid: record cases in “Third wave”

From Worldometer 
They’re all calling this our “Third wave” with the “Second wave” being March, which I don’t get, because I can’t see a First wave in the chart above, and I don’t recall a First wave.
Whatever… we have a chart like no other, except Spain is having a bit of an uptick. Nothing to be proud of, especially since I’ve been banging on about how well Hong Kong has done…
Seems most of the new cases are from crews on ships and planes that were neither tested nor quarantined. Why not? I don’t know.
[Professor Gabriel] Leung said the “working hypothesis” or credible explanation was that the latest cases came from multiple imported infections in those previously exempted from quarantine and testing, such as sea and air crew members
Taxis and restaurants are also vectors.
That said, we still have very low cases and deaths per million, still amongst the lowest in the world.
Dean of the Medical School at HKU, professor Gabriel Leung says that the “R number” has dropped sharply from 3-4 a few weeks ago, to under 0.5 now, result of measures taken, that I call “soft lockdown”.
Leung warned on July 12 that the city’s Covid-19 reproductive number had shot up to between three and four people infected by a carrier, but he said on Thursday that the figure had plunged on the back of a raft of social-distancing measures, including school closures, two weeks ago.

The number fell to the current level of around 0.5 after more measures, including capping public gathering to groups of four, banning dine-in services at restaurants after 6pm and mandating mask-wearing on public transport, were put in place about a week ago.
It seems to me a pretty arbitrary set of measures that are assumed to be working.  Maybe they are. Maybe not. The measures used across the world are all over the shop and it’s going to take some pretty sophisticated analysis to work out precisely which ones have worked and which ones haven’t. School closures, for example: there is little to no evidence that school closures affect the spread of Covid one way or the other. 

Why Australia is exercising in South China Sea

From here. I haven’t checked the thread but guess it’ll
be the “Australia is a US poodle” vein
Well here’s two reasons, Paul:
1. India, Japan, US, all democracies, like Australia. Democracies stick together against a clear and present threat. Which is that …
2. Xi Jinping's China is increasingly aggressive in the SC Sea. (And beyond, of you count the Belt and Road strategy).
Australia bread has been buttered by China. The US has provided a security umbrella for 70 years. When push comes to shove, security matters more than bread.
John Mearsheimer predicted* that Asian countries caught in the China-US bind — including Australia— would have to make a choice some day. Seems that day is here. Largely courtesy Xi Jinping. He has brought this in himself and on China. * )“Australia caught between the dragon and the eagle”).
Not that this has no precedent. Today’s “Posts from the past” is a headline from 2010 “US says S China Sea pacts in its national interest, riling China” and quotes  Hillary that resolving conflicts over the sea are “pivotal to regional security”.
Plus ca change
Meantime others have another take. Which is it’s all down to hawks on Pompeos’s team, the key villain being Yu Maochun. Who harbours very “dark thoughts” about China. It’s not China’s increasingly aggressive claims. It’s not China’s bullying. No. It’s a wicked adviser. Right.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Mars in 4K

Robin DiAngelo and white fragility: does her message make sense? And do her methods work? « Why Evolution Is True

Just wanting to bookmark this. There's some crazy suff around aboutt "White Fragility". That's the one where white folk are subject to the witch's water test: if you drown you're innocent. If you float, you're guilty and it's immolation for you.
The link is to the blog of Jerry Coyne, professor emeritus at Chicago U. Evolution his specialty. 

The New York Times Magazine has a very long article on Robin DiAngelo, her white fragility hypothesis (and her best-selling book about it), and her methods of training people in government, colleges, and businesses to be anti-racist and promote diversity in the workplace. As the article notes, she's made a ton of money off her hypothesis, but I don't begrudge her that. After all, the Kardashians, who are completely useless, make much more. Rather, I'll focus on the efficacy of her methods and whether her very message is consistent. If you read this site yesterday, you'll have seen a post about John McWhorter's take on DiAngelo's book White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, a take that was not only highly critical, but accused her methods of fostering a bigotry of low expectations towards African-Americans.

The NYT piece, which is pretty positive, raises some of these questions, but they're examined in depth—and criticized—in a piece by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine. The two pieces are below; click on screenshot to see the articles.

Do Teachers Have an Excuse for Missing Class?

Short answer: "No".
I also wonder about locking down swimming pools.  That can't make any sense, given that there are three reasons the virus will die there: 1. The sun. (UV kills germs)  2. The outside. 3. The Chlorine. I haven't seen that one case has been caught in a swimming pool.
Back to schools:
The Times: There has been no recorded case of a teacher catch­ing the coro­n­avirus from a pupil any­where in the world, ac­cord­ing to one of the gov­ernment's lead­ing scientific ad­vis­ers.… 
WSJ: Around the world, cit­i­zens have per­haps be­come more wary lately of the claims of epi­demiol­o­gists. But at a min­imum this re­port puts new pres­sure on lockdown  advocates to pro­duce ev­i­dence of al­leged harms to jus­tify school clo­sures. This also creates a rather awkward mo­ment for U.S. teach­ers unions and their me­dia friends.…
Do Teachers Have an Excuse for Missing Class?

Wednesday 22 July 2020

'Harper’s Versus the Carpers'

A defense of free inquiry and robust debate draws strong opposition from the left.
It was at this point that he [Bertolt Brecht, German playwright and refugee from Hitler] said in words I have never forgotten, ‘As for them [the doomed defendants in Stalin’s show trials], the more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot.” I was so taken aback that I thought I had misheard him.

“What are you saying?” I asked.

He calmly repeated himself, “The more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot.” . . .

I was stunned by his words. “Why? Why?” I exclaimed. All he did was smile at me in a nervous sort of way. I waited, but he said nothing after I repeated my question.

I got up, went into the next room, and fetched his hat and coat. When I returned, he was still sitting in his chair, holding a drink in his hand. When he saw me with his hat and coat, he looked surprised. He put his glass down, rose, and with a sickly smile took his hat and coat and left. Neither of us said a word. I never saw him again.

“What are you saying?” I asked.
He calmly repeated himself, “The more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot.” . . .
I was stunned by his words. “Why? Why?” I exclaimed. All he did was smile at me in a nervous sort of way. I waited, but he said nothing after I repeated my question.
I got up, went into the next room, and fetched his hat and coat. When I returned, he was still sitting in his chair, holding a drink in his hand. When he saw me with his hat and coat, he looked surprised. He put his glass down, rose, and with a sickly smile took his hat and coat and left. Neither of us said a word. I never saw him again.
The narrator of that modest domestic but morally significant moment in 1935 is the late and much-lamented Sidney Hook in his 1985 memoir Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century
The above is the intro to John O’Sullivan’s eloquent essay on the kerfuffle after the release of a rather anodyne letter in support of free speech by 153 leftish worthies. The “Harper’s Letter”.

I’ve heard of Bertolt Brecht, of course, but never quite realised that as an early Marxist he was a profound supporter of Stalin in all his goriness, all his genocide of kulaks, all the purges and the Red Terror and all that. One of Brecht's plays is The Decision which is pretty much a straight-up justification for mass killing of even your own supporters... the more innocent they are....

Or, in O’Sullivan’s nice take, on the cancelling of people in leftish media -- Kevin Williamson (The Atlantic), Andrew Sullivan (New York magazine), Bari Weiss (the New York Times) --
The more talented they are, the more they deserve to be silenced.

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and how it applies to battles modern and ancient

A super sounding edition bound in traditional Ming dynasty style
Another go at the classic Chinese text. Another one for the Wishlist.
Reviewed in today’s Post.

Barber’s Adagio for Strings

Music for the birth of a son. And for troubled times, and for grief. And for life going on.
Soul Muisc…

Tuesday 21 July 2020

‘Slow Train to Democracy’: Shanghai’s early democracy movement

A fellow Aussie and fellow student (同学 tongxue), in those early days for foreigners in China, 1978-79 for Anne McLaren in Shanghai, while I was in Peking (as it was called then). I’d done my Chinese language studies, at Peking Languages Institute, 1976-77, and later lived a golden year in Shanghai, 1989-90.
From today’s review in the Post:
  • Anne E. McLaren’s book about her time as a student in Shanghai in 1978 and 1979 stands out because it takes place in a time of huge transition in China
  • Slow Train to Democracy recalls the city’s protest poster movement, and encounters with Chinese students who spoke about politics and changes in the country
ADDED: From Amazon, where it’s on pre-order:

About the Author

Anne McLaren is Professor of Chinese Studies at the Asia Institute University of Melbourne where she has taught Chinese language culture gender and human rights since 2000. Born in Sydney she studied Modern and Classical Chinese at the Australian National University where she completed a PhD in 1983. From September 1978 to August 1979 she lived as a student in China most of that time at Shanghai's Fudan University. She is the author of numerous books and studies on Chinese traditional popular culture fiction oral ritual and performance art. Her research has been funded by several awards from the Australian Research Council. In 2010 she was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities for pioneering research in the oral and ritual culture of Chinese women.

Action against China over treatment of Uygurs

This looks like a “Vocational Skills Training Centre”, right? Right.
Dabancheng, Xinjiang, September 2018
Finally! This is good and about time. It’s been three years or more we’ve known about Beijing’s brutal treatment of Muslim Uygurs in Xinjiang, apparently simply because of their religion. To Beijing this is a counter-terrorism effort, and “vocational training”.
Britain too, is taking action, via the Magnitsky Act against Chinese officials engaged in the oppression.
Glaringly absent: the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.  Its 57 members have been silent on the treatment of its coreligionists in Xinjiang. The power of Chinese mammon.
A thread on how we got to action stations.
LATER: China’s horrid treatment of Uygur women

Monday 20 July 2020

New York’s record on Covid is the worst in America (and the world)

Clip from 2:40 to 11.00. For more, click at the end

Yesterday, down the Plaza here in Discovery Bay, HK, bumped into an old mate, resident here, but originally a New Yorker. who said, in passing, how badly Florida was doing in handling Covid -- his elderly parents live there-- and so much worse than New York.
I said: But New York is doing worse than Florida.
He said: No, it isn’t!
I said: Well, NY deaths per million are many times worse than Florida and the worst of all the American states. I’ve just been looking at the figures and they’re several times worse than Florida (I didn’t recall the exact amount). 
He left it at that, I guess he wasn’t sure of the figures, but had just been repeating what he’d heard: namely that New York has done so well under Andrew Cuomo.
These are the facts (as at 07:12 GMT on 20 July):
  • Deaths total: New York = 32,570   Florida = 4,985 (NY = 6.5 times as many)
  • Death per million: New York = 1,777  Florida = 232 (NY = 7.7 times as many)
In short, New York suffers nearly eight times more Covid deaths per capita than Florida. 
It is also way more deaths per capita than any other country, the worst of which is San Marino on 1,238, with most around 300-400.  
And yet, and yet... somehow, Cuomo acolytes are saying that New York has done wonderfully. And my Plaza friend repeats that. 
The worst in the US, the worst in the world, and it’s done “wonderfully." So much so that it’s worth the poster that Shapiro mocks above:
Don't forget: how bad this is, v. Sweden

Chinese people are happy. Yes

Alex Lo is spot on: ‘Beijing enjoys greater legitimacy than any western state’.
Two points:
(A) I speak from experience, of visiting China regularly, at least pre-pandemic. I speak Chinese, usually travel on my own and Chinese folks are warm and chatty, So I have talked with many of the laobaixing — 老百姓the “old hundred names”, your “average Zhou’s”, the “broad masses of the Chinese people”.
(B) Same time, I’ve heard many commenters in the West, on all sides of politics, tell me that Chinese are living in a “hellhole”, that it’s a “police state”, that all thinking is suppressed.
BUT, Because of (A) I can say of (B): it is simply not true.
A “hellhole”??  No,
In the forty-four years since Deng Xiaoping opened up the economy in 1977, average wages have increased 14% each and every year. The “wonder of compounding”, as Warren Buffet calls it, means that average incomes in China have massively increased — If you earned 100 a month in 1976, by 2020 you earned 31,920. More than 300 times as much! Truly the wonder of compounding.
As a result, nearly half the Chinese population are Middle Class.
This has happened at the same time as real wages in the West have stagnated: cue discontent and regular rioting. Just as flat real wages make unhappy, rising real wages make happy.
Thus: China ain’t no hellhole. There are plenty of places in China I’d rather live, than some places in the US (south Chicago, west Baltimore, bits of LA…)

Restaurant lockdown Hong Kong style

Can this make any sense?
We go down to Plaza, Discovery Bay style, just before 6:00 pm as that’s when the new restrictions come into play.  Dining at Il Bel Paese, which has refurbed in these virus days. New cutlery and crockery, elicited many positive comments, as I’m told by the waiter when I too effuse. We order, pasta, salad and prosecco. All served as normal, on the new gear.
Then, come 6:00 pm and they have to remove said cuttle-crock and replace all with plastic, plates, knives, forks and glasses. There is no difference in social distancing but we’re abiding by the new regulations, apparently.
In short: zero benefit in keeping virus at bay. And we end up with a pile of plastic. Which we help get rid of with the people who take over our table. In the trash, as there’s no recycle bin. (While: pandemic rubbish piles up).
Crazy, what?

Other: New restrictions in Hong Kong, while record new cases and no signs virus is in control here

Sunday 19 July 2020

Hong Kong: this is what a Third Wave looks like

Hong Kong daily new cases. From Worldometer 
Does this shake my scepticism about lockdowns? Not about stringent lockdowns. It seems the government didn’t check or quarantine incoming crews by air and sea. That didn’t help. Also we don’t know the source of 40% of the new cases, so we ought to know that before deciding on the form of lockdown.
Further: there’s zero evidence, as far as I know, that you can catch the virus at the beach or pool. For the pool you have three things against it: UV, open air and chlorine.
Meantime we’re back in a form of lockdown. Pools, beaches, schools, gyms, included.
Still, Yonden Lhatoo thinks we’re “staring into the abyss”.  I hope not. But I’ve given up predicting anything about this perplexing virus. 

Saturday 18 July 2020

Yikes! Hong Kong python swallows a deer

I’ve come across Burmese Pythons on walks around Hong Kong. Once out hiking with our dogs, Nikki and Basil Snr, we met up with one suddenly right by our feet (and paws). Nikki, our tough and fearless little rescue dog, jumped 6 feet straight up in the air. Just as well… pythons are very fond of dogs.
This link has more on the story — nature red in tooth and jaw, right here in rural Hong Kong. And also a vid of a python consuming a pig, in our north-east suburb of Sai Kung.

Why Sweden Succeeded in “Flattening the Curve” and New York Failed

With h/t to PN
This is dramatic proof of what I’ve been saying for some time: that the lockdowns are not effective. What is effective is protecting the most vulnerable, ie, the elderly and especially elderly with pre-existing conditions. For the rest of us: disinfect, distance and mask.
It’s what makes me think that the recent reimposed lockdown we have here in Hong Kong is useless. Why close pools, when we know that there’s not been a single case of transmission from a swim at your local? Reason for no infections at pools is simple: chlorine, open air and sunlight (UV) combine to kill the germ. And schools? well, we know they’re pretty much immune, so why close them also? All that is happening because the public wants it, because the public believes what the governments around the world have been telling them, that this virus is extremely dangerous (it isn’t: the Case Fatality Rate is between 0.2 and 0.4%) and that it can easily transmit (it can’t, except in specific circumstances, which we’re getting better at identifying).
Here you have another case of the New York Times running a “narrative” rather than the news, when it says that we must “learn lessons” from Sweden. Yes we must, but not the ones the Times wants us to learn: viz, that lockdowns are a must. The lessons we must learn are that we do better when we count on people’s innate good sense to do the right thing, as long as we are clear on what that is: namely: distance, mask and disinfect. And protect the elderly, especially those with preexisting conditions.
Oh dear.... we are being Covid-clobbered, and not in a good way.

Friday 17 July 2020

“I talk a lot about cow farts”…

We must handle the other 75%
“I talk a lot about cow farts”… says Bill Gates, somewhere in his Gates Notes blog. And quite right, too, because, as he points out, farming animals for meat produces about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions (in the form of methane), about the same as burning fossil fuels. We hear a lot, like a real lot, about the need for renewables v. fossil fuels; we hear almost nothing - Gates aside - about growing livestock and its impact on global warming via methane emissions from flatulent cows.
Now Burger King has put out a video promoting a type of lemongrass additive to reduce methane in cow farts. Reduce by around 33%, according to BK.
Good, right? Not according to farmers who slam the video as “condescending and hypocritical”. They point out that cow burps are worse than cow farts, methane-wise. (I did not know that!).
Still, isn’t doing a bit better than doing nothing?
Btw, I’m all in favour of our growing meat in the lab, rather then on actual animals. In a hundred years’ time we may well look back with horror at humans today who raised actual living creatures for meat.
Anyhoo… here’s the BBC, where I just found this lovely little story, and learnt about cow belches v. cow farts:
Fast food chain Burger King has released an advertisement encouraging US farmers to change cow diets in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The controversial video ad features children in cowboy hats singing about the impact methane gas emitted due to cow flatulence has on global warming.
Burger King claims adding lemongrass to cow diets could ease digestion and dramatically reduce methane emissions.
But farm leaders say the ad is "condescending and hypocritical". More…
Memo to Bill: it’s the belching, not the farting. Or, more correctly: it’s farting and belching.

LATER: I actually got around to watching the vid. It’s quite cute. I don’t understand why people should get so het up about it. And no doubt helps raise the issue of cattle-sourced methane.  By the way, it doesn’t miss out on belching! Link to the vid.

Thursday 16 July 2020

‘We had to destroy it in order to save it’. Part II

As I was saying yesterday. The Trump Admin's HK Autonomy Law — arising our of the HK Human Rights and Democracy Law  — reduces our autonomy. It harms us here in Hong Kong. We, the very people it allegedly aims to help, are harmed by it. While Beijing laughs up its sleeves. Thanks very much Donald Trump. Not.
Alex Lo makes the same point today in How to weaponise Hong Kong against China.
Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” Trump said. “No special privileges, no special economic treatment, and no export of sensitive technologies.”
It’s hard to see how any of that will help Hong Kong, its people and their “autonomy” by treating it as part of China. Surely this couldn’t have been what the opposition and protest movement had in mind when they openly urged Washington to sanction Hong Kong and Beijing. They had wanted the threat, not the execution, in the belief that Beijing would back off.
This is down to the actions of protesters and rioters. There is not another reason we are in the pickle we are in now. We were never an “oppressed” society under Beijing’s boot. That’s a myth and a delusion. We’ve enjoyed wide freedoms, more than most nations. We did have a niggling issue — universal voting for the chief executive. But it’s not that we had no democracy. We have, especially at the local level, and as someone once said, “all politics is local”. And look elsewhere at voter turnouts in places that do have wide suffrage. For the position of Mayor for example, which is what our chief executive really is - an executive mayor - turnouts in the US are as low as mid 20%. I’m not downplaying the importance of universal suffrage. It’s a fine and dandy thing. But to destroy our city for it? To invite Beijing interference because of it? Especially when the driving force is nativist bigotry against Mandarin-speaking cousins? Surely not.
Alex Lo again:
Some opposition leaders thought they could change the behaviour of one superpower by inviting the intervention of another one. They rather neglect the fact that Hongkongers are small fry caught in a titanic power struggle between the two. If someone is going to be trampled on, any sensible person could have guessed which one.
 The new American laws – there are more in the pipeline – will harm Hong Kong a lot more than Beijing. Washington is on a warpath to take on China in every domain it can think of – think of – South China Sea5G, trade, international disease control, Chinese students and researchers in America, US-listed Chinese companies …
Either they are too naive or stupid to realise what has happened. Or they hate China more than they love their own city. Maybe giving Beijing a bloody nose is worth it even if it means breaking Hong Kong in the process. And many of our noble freedom fighters can move to the Five Eyes English-speaking nations to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.