Monday 31 August 2020

Heather and Eric on Portland riots

It’s safe outside!


The screenshot above is from today’s print edition of the South China Morning Post which would have you believe, I guess, that these are irresponsible people. Going outside “and not a mask in sight”! How very dare they?

I’ve long suspected that it’s safer to be outside than in. I don’t ’t know of anyone who has caught Covid outdoors. I did an extensive google search to check. 

It led me to a health science paper on an online eprint site for academic health literature run by Yale university. The paper is funded by the Hong Kong government and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, analysing 7,300 Covid cases in China up to April.

Here’s a clip, from the Discussion:

The first salient feature of the 318 identified outbreaks that involved three or more cases is that they all occurred in indoor environments. Although this finding was expected, its significance has not been well recognised by the community and by policy makers. Indoors is where our lives and work are in modern civilisation. The transmission of respiratory infections such as SARS-CoV-2 from the infected to the susceptible is an indoor phenomenon.

Overall, only one case in 7,300 was contracted outdoors. Yet our government fails, despite having part funded the study, to recognise that catching Covid is “an indoor phenomenon”. And hence the senseless closing of beaches and pools. And hence the photo and caption above suggesting that people going outside maskless are somehow irresponsible. 

We have just over 4;800 cases in HK. Tomorrow we start mass testing. Let’s say we find we have double that number, round up to 10,000. That’s 667 per million of our 7.2 mill population. If we factor in the data from the study above, one case in 7,300 contracted outdoors, then the chance of one of those Sharp Island frolickers above catching Covid is one in 11 million. [ADDED: I realise that figure is a bit dodgy  main point remains: catching Covid outdoors is a highly unlikely ecent]

And for that we close beaches, parks, pools, schools?!

ADDED: At 45’45, Bret Weinstein analyses an article that says “300 beach goers aught Covid at beach party”, but turns out that it was in a beach house... iow: indoors.... And thus the headline is misleading. And as Bret says, dangerous.

Sunday 30 August 2020

The Media Navigator


With circles of ones I follow on a regular basis. 

Left to Right is actually top to bottom, the Y-axis. The X-axis is Close or Distant from power.

Saturday 29 August 2020

America is so systematically racist that…

America is so systematically racist that…

…non-white members of the US Congress have doubled since 2001 and for the fifth time in a row the US Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. And that Americans voted a Black president to two terms. 

That Black Americans are the most wealthy black community in the world. 

That Black Americans are in charge of towns, cities, states, police departments across America  That police departments across America are majority minority.

That Black American culture, from movies to music, is deep in every pore of American culture  

That the number of Black basketball players in the NBA has gone from zero to 80% in three generations; Baseball players, zero to 60%. And earn an average of $US 7 million per year. 

That some of the most admired and beloved Americans include: Barack and Michelle, Oprah, Morgan, Tiger, Serena. And Le Bron James a billionaire basketballer who complains that America is nothing, has never been anything, will never be, anything but systemically racist, that police rise from their beds thinking “I’m gonna kill me a black man today”. 

So that’s how racist America is  But for me to point this out is racist.

The counter to the Le Bron narrative is that America was brought into being with fine ideals. That it often failed to meet those ideals. That it fought a Civil War to end slavery and that killed 600,000 Americans. And that it continues to try to “perfect the Union”.

But to BLM — the Movement, the Organization with a website, not the sentiment, that Black lives matter — everything is race. They mock King's dream of “the content of character” being more important than the colour of skin. If America buys that narrative it will come to regret it, surely.

Friday 28 August 2020

A path for Basil


As he’s got older, Basil’s paws have hardened and the floor's become an ice rink for him. So we’ve had to lay out carpets and anti skid rubber mats. Currently waiting for a single long anti slip mast to arrive from Amazon. 

Basil in a reflective mode:

Thursday 27 August 2020

The Left-wing case against Lockdowns

From Lockdown Sceptics:
It really annoys me that lockdown sceptics are so often dismissed as Tory-voting, Brexit-supporting, libertarian-sympathising, white, middle-class, middle-aged Gammons. Okay, yes, that’s me, but there are plenty of other sceptics out there who don’t fall into any of these categories. And what’s really infuriating is the assumption that anyone on the Left should be a lockdown zealot. Why? As each day passes, more evidence comes to light that the lockdown has caused disproportionate harm to the most vulnerable people in our society – children, the elderly, cancer patients, the BAME community (not all of them are vulnerable, obviously), those suffering from mental illness… the list goes on. 
And what about the catastrophic effect the Global Economic Recession will have on the world’s poorest people in the developing world, with hundreds of millions now likely to die of starvation, TB, dysentery, etc.? Are left-wing people now just expected to sign up to the mantra of “safety first” and to hell with the consequences? 
So it was heartening to get an email yesterday from a woman who started out by explaining she was a Guardian-reading, Remain-voting, Liberal Democrat who voted for Jeremy Corbyn at the last election, but is nonetheless a staunch lockdown sceptic. I’ve published it and it now sits below “The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdown” by Alexis Fitzgerald on the left-hand side. 
Here are a couple of the opening paragraphs: 

From Cotton to Congress in One Lifetime

 I’m not on board with all his god-bothering stuff, but his story is powerful.

The quote above is right at the end, about his grandfather who’d’ve been 99 yesterday. He was illiterate. Picked cotton. His grandson was elected Senator in the US Congress.



From here

“Author” says:

It's not an original thought, of course. The songwriter Nick Cave gave an eloquent summary of the new religion a couple of weeks ago:

"Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck."

From here:

Wednesday 26 August 2020

"The frightening divide between Democrats and Republicans” | WEIT

Strikes me that there’s a lot of projection and double think here. At Prof Jerry Coyne’s blog, “Why Evolution is True”. 

The choice of “acceptable” or “not acceptable” is a binary that seems designed to divide, and offers no context. I might vote “acceptable” if the choice for lower deaths required draconian lockdowns, taking no account of resulting costs: non-covid deaths, suicides, bankruptcies, etc, etc. Or I might vote “not acceptable” if I thought -- as have some that have attacked me -- that “one death is too many”, clearly an absurd position, but one embraced by increasing numbers who seem to think that death can be outlawed. 

Coyne’s comparison with the deaths in Vietnam is not useful. In Vietnam it was (mostly) young men, dying in an unnecessary war. In Covid it’s (mostly) very elderly people with preconditions (like me).  There’s a difference and it’s not callous, cruel or heartless to point that out. We do that all the time in our actuarial and insurance industries, and by determining Quality Adjusted Life Years. 

Coyne’s claim that Republican states have handled the virus worse than Democrat states is belied by the data. As I showed here, every single one of the top ten worst performing states in terms of deaths per million are run by Democrat governors. That’s not to make any point other than that Coyne is wrong. While we are all struggling to find out how best to handle the virus, on all sides of the political spectrum. Here in Hong Kong we thought we were doing pretty well, then got hit with a “Third Wave”.

Coyne’s claim that the US could have done better in saving lives if it had locked down earlier is also belied by the data. As I showed here, with data on stringency of lockdown (Oxford U) vs cases and deaths per million (John Hopkins U) there is no correlation. The same is true in the US. Indeed, rather the reverse if anything. 

Coyne’s final point about tribalism and divisiveness. Seems to me that the question itself and the results can only lead to more divisiveness, and the conclusion that “Republicans are evil”, because they don’t care for people dying. As I said above, this may not at all be the reason people might vote to say “acceptable” and Coyne is himself only adding to the tribalism by suggesting it. 

Physician, heal thyself. 

It’s adults who are the real school snowflakes

Like the weekly "Clap for the NHS" sessions we had a while back, we ought start a "Boo for the Teachers" session. At least until they get back to work.
They are most assuredly not "following the science" which overwhelmingly shows it's safe for kids to go to school. Moreover it's necessary. For the kids' mental health and the sanity of their parents.
Yet the teachers and their unions remain more afraid than Health workers, bar tenders and nail salon workers. At least they claim they are. Getting a regular salary while bunking off might have something to do with it. And conflicting advice from a dithering government something to do with it too.
Meantime, Boo to the teachers and boo to their unions.

Tuesday 25 August 2020

UK lockdown was a ‘monumental mistake’ and must not happen again – Boris scientist says

Follow the science!

LOCKDOWN will come to be seen as a "monumental mistake on a global scale" and must never happen again, a scientist who advises the Government on infectious diseases says.

Mark Woolhouse said lockdown was a “panic measure” but admitted it was the only option at the time because “we couldn’t think of anything better to do”.

But it is a crude measure that takes no accounts of the risk levels to different individuals, the University of Edinburgh professor said, meaning that back in March the nation was “concentrating on schools when we should have been concentrating on care homes”.

The professor of infectious disease epidemiology said that the Government must now focus on increasing testing and striving to unlock society safely rather than restricting it further.

Prof Woolhouse OBE, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours that advises the Government, said: “Lockdown was a panic measure and I believe history will say trying to control Covid-19 through lockdown was a monumental mistake on a global scale, the cure was worse than the disease.

Monday 24 August 2020

Hong Kong events industry pleads for a lifeline as pandemic wipes out trade shows, putting thousands of jobs at risk | South China Morning Post

The pandemic has dealt a massive blow to Hong Kong's Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) industry, with event planning companies facing millions of dollars in lost income, and thousands of jobs at risk. [Link
So says your article on the last minute cancellation of the Hong Kong Book Fair. 
But it is not the pandemic that "dealt a massive blow".  It is the Hong Kong's government's reaction to the virus that dealt the massive blow.
The HK government could have decided to let the Hong Kong Book Fair continue.  It did not. 
We need to acknowledge that there are trade offs. The costs of lockdowns vs the costs of not locking down. Yet all we see are the Covid deaths, not the costs of lockdowns. 
We now know a lot more about the epidemiology of the virus. It is dangerous. But so is locking down. It's clear that there are many deaths from the lockdown itself, from not testing and treating serious diseases, to suicides and depression. Not to mention the economic costs of bankruptcies and shattered dreams of businesses hit by government-mandated lockdowns. 
The way forward ought be clear to a brave government:
  1. Protect the elderly. Especially those over 70 and with pre-existing conditons
  2. Protect front-line workers: hospital staff, food retail workers, transport staff
  3. For the rest of Hong Kong: get back to work, get back to school, get back to sport.
And… all to be sensible, wear masks and sanitise. Infections will happen. We handle them. Which we can.
Enough of the madness of lockdowns. The figures, the science, show us that lockdowns don't work to stem the virus, yet they destroy lives and livelihoods.  
As the most famous French public intellectual, Bernard Henri-Levy, says, we must "resist the wind of madness blowing over the world".
It is, he says "a psychotic delirium". 

Pf, etc....
ADDED: As published on 27 August.  They edited in a way to change what I said. Which was not to say we ought look at costs of lockdown “instead” of Covid deaths, but in addition to. Plus, the headline is misleading. The economic mess is result of policy response to the virus…

Saturday 22 August 2020

‘God of war'

My parents met in immediate post-war Tokyo, both involved in their various ways with the War Crimes Tribunals. That is to say, exactly at the time that this article discusses: right after VJ Day, 1945, August 15 (also the birthday of our son).
I remember Dad, a fluent Japanese speaker — he interpreted for interrogations of Japanese prisoners of war in Papua New Guinea — telling us that one of the reasons the Japanese were so accommodating of the gaijin invaders, such as him and my mother, was that Emperor Hirohito had told them they must be welcoming the occupying forces. And so they were. They recalled not a hint of acrimony in the five years they were in Tokyo.
Was that alone a good enough reason to forgive Hirohito?  Francis Pike thinks not.
He argues that Douglas MacArthur's decision not to prosecute Hirohito as a War Criminal was a grave error, with consequences down to today's ultranationalist Abe government. And Japan's continued failure to own up to, and apologise for, its genocidal military.
Just before this year's 75th anniversary of VJ Day I listened to a podcast with Sam Harris talking to William Perry, a long time ardent anti-nuclear weapons man, who served as Defence Secretary in Republican and Democrat administrations, and Perry's granddaughter who runs his Perry Foundation, which warns of the dangers of nuclear war. Even Perry with his long study of the issues, believes the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were necessary and saved many more lives than they took  — Japanese as well as American. Japan was NOT on the verge of surrender — as the BBC claims — and absent the bombs would not have surrendered. Indeed while Japan was not on the verge of surrender, it was on the verge of delivering its own bomb.
Article copied below the fold with thanks to the Spectator.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Principal of Australia International School in Hong Kong resigns

I was here in Hong Kong when the school was established. And I took part in various functions at it over the years, when I was wearing an Oz government hat. Now the Principal has resigned to head back home, for the usual "personal reasons", though of course suspicion lurks that it’s because of the deteriorating climate for free speech and the fear teachers have that they can get caught up in the draconian National Security Law. Well done, Pan-Dems. Well done, Beijing. The former will deny any role; the latter don't care. 
Hong Kong's school system has been thrown into turmoil with teachers claiming they are being monitored, Catholic and Anglican systems delivering "patriotic education" and textbooks carrying warnings of criminal liabilities for failing to teach the correct national history.

The crackdown, driven by national security laws imposed by Beijing, comes on top of the coronavirus pandemic already affecting schools.

Monday 17 August 2020

Cascading Complexity of Diversity

 Andrew Sullivan in The Dish, pointing out some of the contradictions in anti-racist theory. 

In a fascinating series of tweets, and a memo, the News Guild of New York — the union that represents 1200 New York Times employees — recently set out its goals for the newspaper, especially with respect to its employees of color. Money quote: “Our workforce should reflect our home. The Times should set a goal to have its workforce demographics reflect the make-up of the city — 24 percent Black, and over 50 percent people of color — by 2025.” It also recommends “sensitivity reads” at the beginning of any story process, and wants a pipeline for jobs with a minimum of 50 percent people of color at every stage of recruitment. 

Tiny Turtle


Wandered into our kitchen

Sunday 16 August 2020

Pipes “ Feeling Optimistic about Israel and the Emirates”

Daniel Pipes on the recent UAE-Israel agreement to normalise relations, something that seems to have received not quite the attention it deserves. He is optimistic for the first time in decades.

I was skeptical about Israel's 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, 1983 agreement with Lebanon, 1993 Oslo accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and 1994 peace treaty with Jordan. But the joint statement by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States on Aug. 13 breaks new ground and, as it itself claims, deserves to be called "historic."

The statement boils down to Israel's commitment to "suspend declaring sovereignty over [parts of the West Bank] and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world." In return, the UAE "agreed to the full normalization of relations" with Israel. This exchange of promises in three ways improves on previous Israeli agreements with Arabs.

First, the Egyptian, Lebanese, and Jordanian agreements basically ignored the Palestinians, but UAE leaders can point to wringing a commitment from Jerusalem to suspend its West Bank annexation plans. (Perhaps that was what Benjamin Netanyahu all along had in mind; my colleague Matt Mainen presciently outlined two months ago the Israeli prime minister's "brilliant bluff" of sacrificing annexation for diplomatic recognition by Gulf Arabs.).  Read on…

Friday 14 August 2020

‘How will we handle the next contagion?'

Lionel Shriver on the latest new aim — ie, the latest shifting of the goal posts. (Remember when the aim was simply to "flatten the curve?):
The graph of new cases in the UK roughly levelled off throughout July — but it has not plateaued at zero. The PM gives every indication that only zero will do. Thus as long as the coronavirus persists, the fearful prophylactic measures will continue. 
In trade for this valiant vigilance on our behalf, we merely have to sacrifice: our friends. Any new friends. All live performance — music, plays. Restaurants. All occasions, like proper weddings, funerals, birthdays and extended–family celebrations. Travel. Colleagues. Any search for love. Any moving communal experience, like festivals. Dentistry. A functional National Health Service. Oh, and the economy — and in case you need translation, that means the country, full stop

Quong Tart: champion of the cause

  • Quong Tart came to Australia in 1859 as an enterprising nine-year-old, where he later established a tea export business and set up elegant tea rooms
  • At a time when there were few places women could mingle with ease, the tea rooms formed important venues for women’s early discussions on getting the vote

A lovely story about a Chinese-Australian that I’d never heard of (why not?), but ought be more widely known: Quong Tart, aka Quong. He was an entrepreneur and philanthropist in late 19th and early 20th century Sydney. About the same time our grandfather arrived from Ballymena in Northern Ireland and set up his own shop, Forsythe’s, on the corner of Pitt and Goulburn, just a few blocks south of Quong’s King St Tea House, above.  Quong’s Tea shops flourished and survived while Forsythe’s was wiped out in the depression. 

Quong gets his name from the transliteration of his name in Cantonese (he was from Taishan, Guangdong): Mei Kwong Tat, but which someone — perhaps an immigration officer — chose to render as Quong Tart.  It was common practice in those days for the names of new arrivals with “funny names” to be given one by the first officer they met.  In Mandarin it’s Mei Guangda (梅光达). More at Wikipedia 

/Snip, from the article…

Thursday 13 August 2020

Wuhan, WHO and WTF (?)


Not on the itinerary: Wuhan Institute of Virology

A delegation from WHO is in China trying to find the source of the virus. “We must keep an open mind”, says team leader Mike Ryan. But not open enough to demand seeing the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Of which reasonable questions remain, even amongst international virologists. It is, at least, a possibility that the virus escaped from the lab: 

Filippa Lentzos, biosecurity researcher at King’s College London, said while there is currently no proof for the lab accident theory, there is also “no real evidence” that the virus came from the wet market. Link

In fact there is now “real evidence” that the virus did not originate in the Wuhan wet market, according to Professor Gao Fu, head of China’s Centre for Disease Control, quoted in SCMP, 23 May:

“We first believed the virus originated in the seafood market, but now it looks like that the market is just another victim. The virus existed [before the infections happened in the market],” Gao said. Link

And there’s still the Five Eyes Intel dossier, in which our joint intelligence bodies assessed widespread Chinese cover up.

Rarely mentioned in press reports is that the French built the facility and have ever since refused to sign off on it, such were their concerns about its safety. Even the WHO has refused to certify the facility. US officials and scientists voiced “grave concerns” about its safety protocols after visits to the Institute back in March 2018. 

But the WHO team in China now won’t even visit WIV. Rather like air crash investigators deciding not to look at the wreckage.

The idea that it was just a totally natural occurrence is circumstantial. The evidence it leaked from the lab is circumstantial. Right now, the ledger on the side of it leaking from the lab is packed with bullet points and there’s almost nothing on the other side,” the official said. Link

One of those bullet points must be the very fact that China refuses access to the WIV. If it were not implicated, why not open it up? Yet all along China has suppressed info and kept even WHO in the dark.

Meantime, the virologist in the centre of the storm, Dr Shi Zhengli, aka “Batwoman” of Wuhan, puts her case to Science magazine. She sounds a fun lady. Speaks fluent French and English and wows conventioneers with her renditions Chinese folk songs. She is, Science says, very professional and highly regarded in the international virologist community.

ADDED: An accidental release of a natural virus is one thing. The virus being bioengineered and released  is quite another. To date what I’ve read has told me it weren’t so. Last week an “internationally renowned Italian scientist” published a book claiming just this. By Dr Giuseppe Tritto.  He also claims the WIV is now run by the PLA, whereas rest of the media continues to say it comes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hmmm…

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Meet President Harris

 Joe names Kamala Harris as his running mate. Given his age and infirmity, it’s very likely she will take over as president, sooner or later. Interesting pick. Had been favourite, until last few days when the odds shifted to Susan Rice. Both have their issues. Kamala’s are flip-floppingness.

ADDED: NYT says she’s a moderate pick… but  Harris is no moderate.  Her pursuit of power and Kevin Williamson On Kamala Harris.

ADDED (13 August): Just one example of prosecutorial misconduct. Blocking exculpatory evidence:

Here is Lara Bazelon, director of the Criminal Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinical Programs, in the New York Times, writing when Harris was only a primary candidate about a particularly appalling case involving the moderate pragmatist from California:

Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of “intentionally sabotaging” her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.

Ms. Harris contested the ruling by arguing that the judge, whose husband was a defense attorney and had spoken publicly about the importance of disclosing evidence, had a conflict of interest. Ms. Harris lost. More than 600 cases handled by the corrupt technician were dismissed.


Clearly these are all National Review articles I’m quoting (apart from the one NYT article), but that’s deliberate because the NYT, the Washington Post, the CNN, etc views, are out there and dominating the narrative about Harris, and what a wonderful choice she is. So this is a bit of balance. 

All I’m getting on my Google News feed -- allegedly neutral -- is stuff from CNN, WaPo, NYT and the Guardian. And they’re all on the same point, about how wonderful Kamala is. I don’t think so. But then I’m biased. But then, so are you. And so is all the MSM..... good luck and goodnight.


Monday 10 August 2020

Killing the chicken to scare the monkey

Jimmy Lai, owner of the Apple Daily, was arrested today under the provisions of the new National Security Law. I’ve always thought Lai a bit of a clown, a jerk even.  But he didn’t deserve to be arrested for that.  Even if he did go to Taiwan where he called for interference in Hong Kong by the US and Britain, which I thought pretty abysmal. [ADDED: the point is made that the NSL was not supposed to be retroactive, so what has Lai done since July 1st?).

As the owner of one of the most popular tabloids in Hong Kong, his arrest certainly sends a clear message. Don’t mess with us, or else. It’s the classic Chinese tactic, to “Kill the chicken to scare the monkey” 杀鸡儆猴, Sha Ji Jing Hou.  Monkeys are already scared. Today on RTHK Radio 3 Hong Kong, their talk show, normally lively and provocative, was just music and lifestyle progs.*

Today a comment of mine on the SCMP website was removed.  First time ever. In one comment thread, only seven out of 19 comments remained, after the rest had beeen moderated out. Again, never seen before. Self-censorship is censorship and it’s started in a big way. 

This is all pretty shitty. And it doesn’t help that we could say to the likes of Jimmy Lai “we told  you so”.

Do I start packing? 


*RTHK Radio 3 today (11/8) seems normal again, with eg. Emily Lau, Democratic Party, lambasting Beijing and the government, and hammering the arrest of Lai.

ADDED (11 August): comments on radio that international business based in Hong Kong are positive about HK future and we’d agree based in our own contacts. Local offices have problems convincing their head offices because they have the views of their local media, namely that “HK is dead”.  Not quite. Even if trend not good.

The Two Chinas

Gansu goats

I realise that my post on Chinese people being happy, is biased. Because I was only thinking of people in the cities. Things are not nearly so bright in the country. I did say so in a post a while back -- stories that paint a picture of class divide in China -- and also in a video I posted that I can’t find for the moment, which look at the terrible state of many in the countryside. 

It’s a picture you can see if you leave the superhighway, the brand new freeway, and go down any dirt track to any village. You’ll encounter a scene of poverty, of decrepitude and decay. People are leaving the country for the city, for obvious reasons (something happening throughout the world and really obvious in places like Russia and Japan). Even if they have problems getting permissions (the hukou) for living in the city, people are desperate to leave. 

I’m correcting that bias now, by reposting the above link to my earlier story and by linking to “The Two Chinas”.

‘China sympathisers’: a new Red Scare stalks Australian businesses

You get the gist of this article from the headline. “Red Scare”. Harking back to the infamous McCarthy witch hunts. So, according to Su-Lin Tan, China is unfairly hammered by racist, nationalist, isolationist, flag-waving right-wing Australians who slander all those fine folk supporting China as “China sympathisers” and appeasers”.  They are creating an unnecessary “Red Scare” and are —  of course!—  driven by Trump and his acolytes’ Sinophobic rhetoric. 

Most of the comments on the article buy this line. Yes, they agree, Australia is the most racist country in the world and in China policy is just America’s lapdog.

The “red scare” faction — I’ll call them China Doves — set up one straw man after another. Eg, quoting ex head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (the one I was in for seven years), Dennis Richardson:

For one group to continually wrap themselves in the flag and want to imply that those who disagree with them are not loyal Australians is simply crossing a line,” Richardson said…

He’s referring to remarks of one politician which he then ascribes to all China critics — the straw man argument — who are simply “wrapping themselves in the flag”. 

Or, quoting mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest:

…he said he would “crack on with helping my country, unapologetic to those who think racism or isolationism is a viable path for Australia.”

Again, the straw man is that every critic of China and our trade relations is a racist isolationists. There are no doubt some who are. But I know Australian businesspeople living on the mainland for over forty years, married to Chinese, who are pissed off — and have been for a long while — with the increasing mercantilism, ripping off foreign businesses in more and more blatant ways. That’s why they’re critical. Not because they’re racist or isolationist. They just want a fair go. Mainlanders don’t know about these frustrations because China bans 125+ websites, including our own ABC.  

Or, quoting Jocelyn Chey, our ex Consul-General in Hong Kong:

Anti-communist sentiments have been there for decades and again it has been fanned by Breitbart, Fox News and the Falun Gong media, spreading to Australia and other English-language parts of the world

Here my criticism is not so much that it’s a straw man argument (though it is) as the suggestion that having “anti-communist sentiments” is somehow wicked and down to wicked right wing media. 

I’ve had “anti-communist sentiments” since I arrived in a China in 1976 and saw what communism had done to the country. And then witnessed what introduction of market forces did in the subsequent forty years. Chey co-authored a slim book in 1975 titled “China’s New Society”. I have a copy in my bookshelf  it’s deservedly rare. A disturbingly over the top paean of praise for Maoism, it landed on shelves shortly before China itself ditched that very same Maoism that Chey was in thrall to. It would seem those sentiments have necer quite been abandoned by Chey, in her mocking, today, of people who are a bit leery about communism, whether Maoist, Marxist, or, like Xi Jinping, good old Leninist, even if leavened with “Chinese characteristics”. 

The article mocks concerns about Beijing’s furtive influence in Australian society, especially in education and the media. But the influence is real and widespread, via its United Front Works Department. It’s naive and dangerous to downplay it.

And all the above is before we get to the Uygurs, Tibet, Hong Kong, and, yes, even Tiananmen. 

A final observation, mostly ad hominem, but then so are the comments by those interviewed. All he interviewees, bar one, are superannuated public servants. The one not is Twiggy Forrest, but then his fortune comes from digging up earth and shipping it to China. All the others, Richardson, Chey, Clifton, Barratt, Smith, and are all ex public servants, now superannuated or in academic sinecures. Not a one of them knows what it’s like to meet a wage bill. Not a one of them knows what it’s like to actually do business in China. As one who has and does, I can say it gives you a very different perspective on things. 

Wouldn’t this article have been rather more balanced if it had included comments from the front line of business with China? 

Sunday 9 August 2020

“ National Security law is price we all pay for the self-serving tactics of pro-democracy camp”

2014 banging the drums for Occupy, rather than
agreeing to more voting rights. The 
characters, kang ming, say “disobey”.

This letter covers pretty much word for word what I’ve been saying in this blog for a year now. We supported the anti-extradition law protests but stopped supporting the protests when they became violent and clearly self-defeating.

The letter writers is just another gweilo like me, so doesn’t count for much… and is getting attacked in the comments, because he’s not tough enough on the “cruel and illegitimate” communist party.  

Still, it seems spot on, at least to me. The outcome of tougher crack down by Beijing was entirely predictable and was predicted. 

So the question then is: if you know, for absolute sure, that by doing X, the certain outcome will be Y, and Y is something you definitely don’t want, do you still go ahead and do X?   Even if it makes you feel better, braver, more virtuous? I’m steering clear of using the phrase “virtue signalling”, but, you know… 

It’s not that by not protesting you do nothing. We could have worked on universal suffrage, by, for example, tying it to implementing our own version of the Article 23 Security Law. This would have been better all round and, moreover, may we’ll have been achievable.  Consider how long it took for Beijing to act in the face of widespread and lengthy provocations — slagging off the Party in graffiti everywhere, attacking, burning, vandalising mainland or Beijing-owned businesses, calling mainlanders ”locusts”, refusing to serve mandarin speakers, all that nativist, bigoted stuff was going in weekly, throughout our city for months in end. Then Beijing stepped in with the National Security Law. Well done, pan-Dems …

The letter, copied below the fold:

Saturday 8 August 2020

In polarised city, news media neutrality is important


I am a long-time print subscriber to both The Atlantic and the SCMP

I agree with Chow Chung-yan that The Atlantic’s article on the Post was a travesty of bias. (In polarised city, news media neutrality is importantAugust 8)
It happens I did my own “survey” of the Post’s coverage of current affairs back in January. Over an arbitrary period of fifteen days, I divided its Op-Ed articles and Letters into three categories: (a) “Critical” as in anti-government anti Beijing (ie yellow); (b ”Pro” as in pro-government, pro-Beijing (ie blue); and (c) “Neutral” as in no particular leaning detected (ie green). The results are here.(Chart above).
As I said then:
I’ve been reading the South China Morning Post for forty-odd years. When, in 2015, it was bought by China-based Alibaba, I was worried -- as were many folks -- that it would become a mouthpiece of Beijing. I’ve kept an eagle eye on it, and I don’t think it has. It remains, in my view, the best English language paper in Asia. So, yes, it’s reliable.
I did a follow up in June. Results here. It remains pretty much the same.
Figures are numbers of articles. Similar to earlier
Now, I readily acknowledge I have my own biases, as does every single person on the planet. I did try to judge as fairly as I could, as I was doing it purely for my own interest. And what’s important is the trend. In the case of the Post, the trend appears neutral, which is good. The same cannot be said for The Atlantic where the trend is increasingly “woke”. And for the woke what’s  important is the “narrative”, in this case the narrative being that the Post is irredeemably pro Beijing. It ain’t so.
I’ve said to friends that the one thing that would make me consider leaving Hong Kong would be if the Post became just another mouthpiece for Beijing, as that would really be the end of press freedom here. I’m counting on you, Mr Chow — and all the staff at the Post — to allow me to remain in Hong Kong!

Peter Forsythe
Discovery Bay, Hong Kong 

Friday 7 August 2020

Decode China: US pulls plug on Chinese-language news site for Australia without explanation

  • Decode China had been envisaged as an outlet to ‘expose and counter propaganda and disinformation’ with funding from Washington
  • Observers said it could have acted as a balancing force to Chinese state media, which has made significant inroads in Australia in recent years [Link]
An Australian program on China I’d never heard of, and now never will, as it’s been canned before launch for reasons unknown, at least to we humble readers, which reasons would be fascinating to learn. 
The article has an embedded video interview with Gareth Evans, ex-Foreign Minister of Australia. I knew Gareth back in the day, when I was a senior member of the Foreign Service and he was minister. He was always smart and straight forward and I respected him. Still do, including in the interview, which struck me as clear eyed about China and our, Australia’s, relations with China, which he describes as the “worst I’ve known them”. Agree.  He contemplates some ways our relationship with China may be improved, including working together on “problems without borders”. And both sides stepping back from the bellicose rhetoric. With which, good luck…(as I’m sure Gareth would know).
Also mentioned in the article is Jocelyn Chey, founder of the Australia China Council. I worked alongside Jocelyn when she was Australia’s Consul-General to Hong Kong, back in the nineties. 
I’ve never forgotten a little book she wrote -- “China’s New Society” -- still on my bookshelf, which was published in 1975 just before I arrived in China at the fag end of the cultural revolution in 1976, where she was Cultural Counsellor. It praised all the Maoist stuff that was going on, and was just about to be overturned with the arrest of the Gang of Four. I’ll bet she wishes it’d be forgotten. But… quoted in the article linked above she dumps on Aussie critics of the Communist Party. So apparently she’s still in that camp. 
Another connection with Jocelyn. In 1990 I took over her apartment in Harbour City Kowloon. She’d just finished a stint as head of the International Wool Secretariat in Asia, based in Hong Kong. The IWS had decided to shift out of HK. I got the apartment with all the furnishings, Persian rugs, cutlery, crockery, the whole lot, for a snap. I was taking up a newly-created position of Executive General Manager of Austrade for East Asia, Hong Kong based, and needed a digs. 
What a digs! 2,800 sq. ft. Views from two enormous balconies right across to Central, downstairs to Canton Road and bustling Tsim Sha Tsai. Three huge bedrooms, each with en-suite, massive kitchen and lounge. Outside a fabulous pool and the free membership to the Pacific Club with its three-Michelin-star restaurant, indoor pool, jacuzzi, spa, air-conditioned tennis courts. What a place! For a single guy, in a new fancy job, with a salary at the top end of Australia’s civil service and right smack bang in the middle of rhe beating heart of Hong Kong. 
Oh boy. I’ve just remembered all of that. What a time! For fun, and play. And a bit of work…

Thursday 6 August 2020

Children ARE “almost immune” from the coronavirus

CNN says it’s a “false claim”. But it’s not, not by any measure of its fatality. CNN takes of “viral load” which is irrelevant if the outcome is minimal or no symptoms
The figures for deaths by age show that just 5 of 49,607 deaths to end July were children under ten. That’s 0.01% of deaths. That’s pretty much the definition of “almost immune”. And we know that there are no known cases of children passing in the coronavirus to teachers.
Therefore kids should be back at school. 
But Facebook and Twitter deleted Trump’s post about children being “a,most immune” because they say it’s “misinformation”. It’s not. They are doing this because he’s Orange Man Bad. 
The misinformation is actually the other way around. It is misinformation to suggest that children are as susceptible as adults. For that will delay children getting back to school, something which is needed for their mental health. Teachers are holding up banners saying “I can teach from a computer. I can’t teach from a coffin”. Ridiculous: there has not been a single case in the world  of a teacher getting Covid from kids. So the misinformation is there, from the teachers (and Facebook and Twitter), not from OMB — at least in this one case.
We ought be working on facts. On the science. On the data. Which tells us the kids should be back at school. 

China: ‘The influence game'

I know how it works, the United Front. And it's true, this piece by Juliet Samuel.
China's United Front Work Department - which reports directly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party — is a scary and scarily efficient outfit. We ignore it only if we're naive, or if we are wilfully ignorant. Those first class tickets to a thorough China duchesssing, are mighty appealing…. The UFWD knows just how to flatter and cajole. They've been at it almost 100 years. They're very good at it. 
Juliet Samuel has some simple suggestions at the end, of what Britain should do. Any country which cares for its security and dignity ought do no less — demand accountability and transparency. 
She speaks well of Australia's policies in this area. But there are plenty of uber-sinophiles in Oz, who speak out against standing up to China. "It'll impact our economic relations" don't you know.

The influence game

Why do we still struggle to see Xi's China as a threat?

Lockdown Lovers are selfish

As it turned out, many people loved lockdown, especially the well-off, middle-aged middle classes with Ocado, gardens and good broadband. 
Says Rachel Johnson, Boris’ younger sister. 
I’m going to go ahead and say: and “many people are plain selfish”. Or ignorant. 
Selfish or ignorant, about what, exactly? Well, about this:
Over two hundred million people have been thrown out of work world-wide.people,are,going hungry.  Hundreds of thousands of small businesses have shuttered. 15,000 restaurants in the US alone have closed, permanently. Lives have been ruined, dreams crushed. And these nice well-off, middle class folk are “lovin’ it”? 

Getting facts right on Sweden’s coronavirus response

A letter in the British Medical Journal 
Sweden does not have a herd immunity strategy, and it is irresponsible for The BMJ to perpetuate this myth. Similarly,the decision not to “lockdown”is only “controversial” because the media have framed it as such. It is time for the word lockdown to be replaced with precise, non-sensational language that describes the measures taken.
Most of the media coverage has focused on country level data, which is misleading. Stockholm county has 91 deaths per 100 000, whereas Skåne county, including Malmö, has about 15; Blekinge has the lowest, with 4.4 deaths per 100 000. I am still waiting for an article on what we can learn from Blekinge’s approach to covid-19.
Sweden does not have a single approach to covid-19; its response is a mixture of policies at national, regional, and local levels and in sectors outside of the health system such as public transportation. Although a strategy might be set nationally, the responsibility for implementation can be regional or local. In Sweden social care, including care homes for the elderly, is run by municipalities, whereas healthcare is run by the county. Municipalities are also responsible for public health education campaigns and for enforcing physical distancing in public and commercial spaces. In practice, the balance of responsibilities is blurry and can differ depending on the county and municipality. Much of the “public” sector in Sweden is privatised, which raises further questions of responsibility (and blame).
Compulsory physical distancing measures exacerbate social and health inequalities to a greater extent than voluntary ones. With some exceptions, people in Sweden have continued to have access to regular and specialist care, and children have had access to education. The importance of a semi-normally functioning society cannot be overstated.
Sweden, and the Swedish approach, is much more multilayered than portrayed in the media, and this hinders serious policy evaluation.
Rachel E. Irwin, Researcher

My comment: the US is the same only more so. Virtually all the detailed coronavirus response measures are at the State level, then county, then city. The federal government has very limited mandate. A national mask law, for example, would be unconstitutional. So, when it’s time to toss bouquets or hurl brickbats, the targets must be state governors, and on down the line. 
On this point, to repeat: the ten worst performing states in America, are all run by democratic governors. The narrative is the opposite, of course. According to CNN, NYT, etc, it’s the red states that performing badly. The opposite is the truth, if one goes by figures. That’s not to say that anyone has figured out the single best way to handle this disease. Because they haven’t. Researcher Irwin, above, is saying as much. 
Related: from “The Swedish Economic Model”:

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Joe Rogan and Nancy Panza: what’s wrong with police and what to do about it

Nancy Panza talks to Joe Rogan

This is a terrific podcast for anyone interested in post George Floyd street violence and the calls to “Defund the police”. She knows whereof she speaks, which is rarely the case amongst the commentariat and twitterati.
ADDED:  Usually mentioned only in passing: that police departments have many minority ethnic officers. Not always completely reflective of the surrounding community, but often not far off. 
Here’s some info from

Tuesday 4 August 2020

“How to test a Chinese cook“

Peking duck. Often maligned because it’s often cooked poorly
“How to test a Chinese cook“: as in a cook of Chinese food, as opposed to a chef who’s Chinese…
From “Vintage cookbook collects recipes from 1970s China, tells you how to judge a good Chinese chef”.
  • Five Treasures of Chinese Cuisine’ assembles recipes from Guangzhou, Fujian, Beijing, Shanghai and Sichuan
  • Written by friends Flora Chang and Gaynell Fuchs, it includes recipes for sweet and sour pork and Peking duck
The authors suggest testing the skills of the cook (whether hired or yourself) with three dishes: egg flower soup, steamed pork hash and stir-fried beef.
My comments:
Egg flower soup is easy to make. Italy has a version, adding to the links between Chinese and Italian — the whole “spaghetti v noodles” thing. AKA “Egg drop soup“: so easy even Basil could cook it.
“Ready when you are, boss!”
Steamed pork hash: also easy. Also boring. Yummy. (Having just made a batch)
Stir-fried beef: which version?? There are approximately a million ways to cook “stir-fried” beef. Again, it’s pretty easy to turn out a tasty good looking one.
What I’d add to test a cook of Chinese are:
Peking duck. This a very hard to cook in a home oven. Can de done, but needs time and real skill. The best Peking duck we’ve ever had was at the Beijing Kitchen in Macau last January. The best I’ve had in over forty years in China. The chefs are specialists working at a huge wood fired oven that gets to over 300c.
Ma Po Doufu: the famous “pock-marked granny’s bean curd”. Sichuanese style chilli bean curd. Not difficult, but hard to get it just right.
Dan Dan Mian: another from Sichuan. Chilli noodles, with a dash of pork mince. Widely cooked, rarely well. Me, myself, I, am a bit of an expert in this, if I say so meself.  Having got a secret recipe in Peking in 1976 and perfected it since. I should say “worked at perfecting it”, since, like happiness, it’s a pursuit, never fully achieved.