Wednesday 30 September 2020

Hong Kong Covid deaths by age


Deaths by age, my graph from here
Based on government figures from here. The government figures are not published in a user-friendly way and needed quite a bit of manhandling. I suggested they add deaths by age to their Dashboard, but they said no. It seems they don’t want to make it easy to get.

In sum, Hong Kong covid deaths average age is 81. Most (60%) are men, 40% are women. 84% are over 70. Under 60 yo are just 3 individuals, or 3% of all deaths, and not a single person under 39 has died of Covid. For three people in a population of 7.5 million, we have locked down their entire cohort. And that continues in other places, where the figures are similar.

This fact is very well known. We’ve known since the outset that it’s a disease that kills, mainly, the elderly. Yet, somehow, it continues to be ignored in policy making. And if anyone does raise it, they’re accused, “so you want to kill your grandma”. I’m pretty sure that most elderly folks don’t want these wide-scale lockdowns which are affecting their kids and grandkids. That’s certainly my view, over 70 and that of my 99 yo mum, grandma and great grandma.

Added: a probably more compelling presentation of the figures, now in pie chart!

My hot take on the debate. Trump lost it. Biden better than expected

[Written 10:15 pm ET, with 15 minutes to go. With a number of additions]

Biden doing very well.. Trump doing very badly. And overall way too much interruption, mainly from Trump.

So far: Trump supporters would be disappointed  Biden supporters would be cheered. 

Trump answered the question about the $750 tax payment very badly. I could’ve answered it better.* His answer on Critical Race Theory was a mess. Biden gives better, more coherent and on-point answers. There are many issues I don’t agree with Joe, but on which he gave a more compelling answer.

*Chris Wallace: “Is it true you paid only $750 tax in each of 2016 and 2017?” Answer Trump should have given: No, it is not true. I paid $1 million in tax in 2016 and $4.2 million in 2017. Later the IRS did its calculation based on new rules on deductibles and said we should have paid just $750 each year. (By the way, that change to deductibles was made by the Obama administration!). We were therefore due a refund on the tax paid. However I did not ask for this refund, but instead let the amount we’d already paid be rolled over for future tax obligations.”  [Ref]

[Instead of which Trump answered in such a dog’s breakfast-y way that he clarified nothing and confused everyone]

Trump was very weak on the “fine people hoax”**  which Biden again repeated. Trump should have had the clear response. He did not. 

So far, my conclusion, this is bad for Trump. Good for Biden.

It’s very clear that Biden practiced. And that Trump did not. 

Trump constant interrupting is very annoying and moderator, Chris Wallace, called him out several times, one quite sharply. 

Trump refused to condemn White Supremacy.** How easy is it to condemn, when specifically asked to do so? Trump did not. Why not?  Oh dear.

Also: Trump doesn’t answer the question, over and over.

Written with ten minutes to go.

LATER: CNN: “chaotic and combative debate”. Fox: a “train wreck”.

Van Jones on CNN: the big issue was T failure to condemn White Supremacy. Other commenters: Biden “put to bed” the worry that “he didn’t have enough gas in the tank to get through the night” (true). Wolf Blitzer: worldwide this was an embarrassment for the US.  Fox has turned to other programming. Maybe also embarrassed by T’s bad showing. LATER: Fox now saying the big issue was Biden refusing to answer the question of whether the Dems would pack the Supreme Court.

**ADDED: Re Charlottesville hoax and White Supremacy. Here is how Trump should have answered: “It’s wrong to claim, as Joe has just done, that I said Nazis were 'fine people'. I specifically said, at the time, in Charlottesville, ‘I’m not talking about neo-Nazis and white nationalists, who must be condemned absolutely’. This was cut from the video just so people like Joe could make me look bad”.

[Sidebar]: At 1:58 in this video Trump says “…and I’m not talking about neo-Nazis and white nationalists, who must be condemned absolutely”. Trump makes a complete hash of the main point he’s trying to make, which is that there were people on both sides of the issue of whether statues should be toppled in a Charlottesville park. But it’s  clear, however much of a hash he makes of it, that he is not talking about Nazis and White Supremacists when he says there were “fine people on both sides”. Sadly, during the debate today, he botches it again. There was plenty of warning Joe would raise it.

And THEN: when Chris Wallace later asks “will you condemn White Supremacy?” Trump can answer “Of course I do. Just as I did clearly and forcefully at Charlottesville”. But he didn’t. Botched it again. Made it look like he supports White Supremacy, and gives the Dems yet more ammunition. How hard could it have been to get this right? Answer: not very. Shows lack of seriousness and lack of preparation. Or a major “I don’t get it” factor.

Clair de Lune

On BBC Radio Four Extra. Clair de lune

Moonlight, bringer of light and life and love, and happy and sad…

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Questions to ask Biden

Prepping for the Trump Biden debate, tomorrow morning 9:00 our time Hong Kong. 

Joe has had no hard questions asked of him by the MSM so I’ll do a public service and link some conservative sites for balance. 

The WSJ: Questions for Joe Biden

The Nation Review: Questions media should ask Biden 

Bombshell: Trump pays tax according to the law!

Shocking revelations! Trump tax accountants are efficient at reducing his tax obligations. In further shocking news: There is no evidence of anything to do with Russia! But wait, there’s more! Trump really is being audited! For these and other amazing revelations -- like the fact that you can deduct depreciation from taxable income: who knew? -- go to our excessively long article here. [Headlines that should be in the NYT]

That’s pretty much the sum of the long piece in yesterday’s New York Times, which they labelled a “bombshell”. 

Their opening para was that Trump paid only $750 in tax in 2016 and 2017. That is incorrect. Further on in the article, buried deep in its bowels, is this:

Each time, he requested an extension to file his 1040; and each time, he made the required payment to the I.R.S. for income taxes he might owe — $1 million for 2016 and $4.2 million for 2017. But virtually all of that liability was washed away when he eventually filed, and most of the payments were rolled forward to cover potential taxes in future years.

In other words: he paid a total of $5.2 million in 2016/17. (We would call that provisional tax). When the actual tax owed was calculated -- by the government -- it came to a nominal $750 because of extra deductions that were introduced by... (drumroll).... President Obama! That is, what was owed was $750. What was paid was $5.2 million. 

Trump’s accountants accepted that assessment (natch).  Therefore Trump was owed a tax refund of $5,198,500 ($5.2 m less $750x2) from the Internal Revenue Service. 


.... it is worth keeping in mind that the tax provision under which Trump was able to carry back (as opposed to carry forward) some extraordinary losses and thus claim a huge tax refund was not some arcane tax scheme — it was part of the Obama administration’s stimulus package. [Here]

And here’s a thing... Trump’s accountants did not apply for the refund -- they left it as a credit with the IRS, against future tax obligations. (“…rolled forward to cover potential taxes in future years”). That’s not something done by a company with tight cash flow, which would certainly have asked for the refund. 

In short in 2016-17 Trump: . PrePaid $5.2 million. Owed $750. Was owed refund  Didn't claim it, but rolled it over. 

Thus the Times characterisation as “Trump paid only $750” is deeply misleading.... in fact, plain wrong.

As for the rest of the article, it shows, at length, that the accountants for Trump Inc, tried to minimise its tax, by applying all the relevant laws and regulations. There is no suggestion anywhere -- and this in a Trump-hating outfit -- that anything was done against the law. I don’t know a single person, anywhere anytime, who offers to pay the government more than it owes. Not even Warren Buffet, who has said he’s embarrassed whenever his corporate taxes are less than his secretary pays. But even Buffet doesn’t pay the government more than he owes. Money to charity, sure… in the mega billions. But noone, anywhere, anytime, on any side of politics, offers to pay the government more than it legally owes.

The Left media hammers Trump for paying so little tax. The Right media wonders if this “bombshell” will harm him. None appears to have read the article, which shows no wrongdoing, including with Russia. If politicians are upset by so little tax being paid, they need to change the law.

The article also confirms that Trump did and does still have an Audit of one of his deductions (of some $72 million, iirc). That’s been going on for some years. I’d thought in 2016 that maybe it was just a Trumpian excuse for not making his tax return public. But it appears, from this very report, to be correct. Again, I don’t know of anyone, right or left, who would willingly open up their books to the public when they are being audited. 

There is the issue of debt, raised in the article. But it’s not possible to tell if the debt is a problem or if it’s over-leveraged. Maybe it’s a problem. As Trump often says “we’ll see”. 

All up, apart from learning that there is nothing illegal in the tax returns — as far as the Times can tell — and that there is indeed an ongoing audit, this article is less “bombshell” and more hit piece 

ADDED: My comments may come across as apologia for Trump. But I’m no Trump fanboy, and clear on his manifold shortcomings. It’s more that I’m incensed at MSM malfeasance. The Times is the “paper of record”. But it puts out manifestly bad faith articles like this one, in which the lede is belied by the content.

Another thought: the Times has long hammered Trump for not revealing his tax return. Now it has them. And refused to make them public. Presumably to keep the ability to spin them. But do they have any principled argument for keeping them hidden?

Monday 28 September 2020

Europe choses America

The president of the European Council does not usually make news when addressing the UN General Assembly. In fact, the current occupant of the post, Charles Michel might be used to giving UN addresses that attract minimal attention. He is, after all, a former prime minister of Belgium.

However, today was different. Michel told the world that the European Union has made its choice in the emerging strategic contest between the United States and China:

Since I became President of the European Council, I have often been asked a question that is both simple and brutal: “In the new rivalry between the United States and China, which side is the European Union on?” My answer is the following…

We are deeply connected with the United States. We share ideals, values and a mutual affection that have been strengthened through the trials of history. They remain embodied today in a vital transatlantic alliance. This does not prevent us from occasionally having divergent approaches or interests.

We do not share the values on which the political and economic system in China is based. And we will not stop promoting respect for universal human rights. Including those of minorities such as the Uighurs. Or in Hong Kong, where international commitments guaranteeing the rule of law and democracy are being questioned.

Interesting in that to many of the commentariat have been telling us that the current US Administration has so damaged relations with allies that they’d lean to China. Well, no. In part because of those “deep connections” and shared values, of course. But also because Xi Jinping is just such a nasty bully. From Xinjiang to the China Seas... (via us here in Hong Kong, as some would add).

More on this...

Boris Bottles it

Click above to go to the vid
Boris’ speech to the nation last night. 
Two errors, at least, at first look:
UK cases

1.  The cases are not increasing exponentially. They are bumping up and down, with the latest 3-day average dropping. (see latest chart, left, or direct here)
2.  The virus is not “as deadly as ever”. Deaths are nowhere near the new cases increase, as Boris himself reveals towards the end, when he says we now have much more effective ways of treating the virus than we did back in March.
At around 4 minutes he says that they can’t just isolate the elderly and vulnerable. Why not? That was the very advice to the government back in March, by his SAGE group: the Scientific Advisory Group of Emergencies, as the ex Supreme Court Judge, Lord Sumption, points out here.
Boris says we “must follow the science”, but doesn’t.
Somewhere towards the end he says he is “hoping” and “dreaming” of things getting better. And that his SAGE group are “unanimous” that things will indeed be better in spring. But as someone once observed, “hope is not a strategy”.
Time for the Rishi Sunak approach: accept the virus is with us for foreseeable future and we must “live without fear."

‘Washington finally admits it has been interfering in Hong Kong’ | Alex Lo

We always suspected. And some people just "knew"…
The US government covertly supported the 2019 Homg Kong "pro-democracy" demonstrations, even as they devolved into widespread rioting and vandalism.
Now we have the proof by of admission to the fact, as reported by Alex Lo.
By the way, the "pro-democracy" name? Better be more accurate. They were "anti-China" and "anti-government" more than pro-democracy.
Remember that universal suffrage was an afterthought. It wasn't part of the original "Five Demands", which included instead a demand that C-E Carrie Lam resign. When that appeared either unlikely or meaningless, they dropped it and added the universal suffrage demand, as the last item on the list.

Sunday 27 September 2020

Fact-checking Doonesbury

Click to enlarge 

Oh, très amusant Monsieur Trudeau! Very droll. Trump with literal blood on his hands! What truth! What power! Truth to power....

Ok, it’s just a cartoon. Except it isn’t. It’s Doonesbury…more comment than cartoon. And since he’s going at Trump let me go at Gary Trudeau. 

First, I don’t really like the “blood on hands” metaphor. It’s tossed around a little too wildly for my taste.  Most people are doing their best to stop this pandemic, even Orange Man Bad.

Second, to remind that I posted a piece very critical of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, way back. So I’m coming after Doonesbury and the Dems not because I think Trump did a grand job, but because of their breathtaking hypocrisy and duplicity.

The strip above is probably a reference to Bob Woodward’s latest in which he “reveals” that Trump knew the severity of the coronavirus, but downplayed it, hoping it would be magicked away. Hardly a revelation since we could all see how he was downplaying it in his Trumpian way. But the Democratic leadership all had the same intelligence from the WHO that Trump did. Every single one of them: Pelosi, Schumer, Biden, Cuomo, De Blasio. (As did the Center for Disease Control, with its staff larger than the whole of the WHO). This intelligence was widely known in senior levels of government. Do we think for one moment that these folks would have held back from criticising a hated president? Of course not. But what did they do? They didn’t simply downplay the virus; they actively encouraged people to get out and about, to enjoy themselves, to gather for Chinese New Year. We remember.

When Trump did act, first to stop travel from China then from Europe, the reaction from the Democrats was to rip him, as a “racist”, a “xenophobe” and, best of all from Biden, “hysterical”. Oddly, while hammering Trump for “racistly” restricting travel from China, some Dems criticised him for not restricting enough, for exempting some travellers from China. What they didn’t say was that that was because they were American citizens living in China and could not, constitutionally, be prevented from returning to the US. 

In any case, these national travel bans aside, most of the virus control measures are at the State not the Federal level. The United States is just that, a federation of states, many the size of major nation states. The constitution gives them the obligation to take the majority of measures in emergencies like the pandemic. Had Trump stepped over the governors, you can imagine him getting ripped from here to Scranton. 

Of course, FEMA has a federal role. In the pandemic, an early role was to provide ventilators. Remember Governor Cuomo banging on and on about the need for ventilators? I do. Then when FEMA began sourcing them from China, Cuomo’s own people went in and outbid FEMA! China no doubt laughing all the way to the bank. In the end ventilators were provided by the feds and many governors thanked them. The US now manufactures and exports them. One doesn’t hear much about that.

We remember watching NY Governor Andrew Cuomo give his daily press briefings. There was no doubt he was in charge and that he relished being in charge.Trump wading in would not have pleased him, no... not one little bit.

We also remember when Cuomo asked for federal help, and Trump provided the hospital ship Hope, which steamed into Manhattan to much fanfare.  It wasn’t needed in the end though would have been better if Cuomo had deployed it. What he did instead was to ship off elderly Covid cases to nursing homes, a policy that killed more than half of the New York State total. Does Cuomo not have blood on his hands, M. Trudeau? 

Given that states are the most responsible for Covid policies, how have they fared? Back in July I showed that the top ten worst performers in terms of death per capita were all  run by Democratic governors. I had another look recently and there are now two GOP-run states in the top ten, but all the top spots remain Democrat-run, including Cuomo’s NY State.

Here is a chart comparing New York with Florida. NY run by the Democrats Cuomo and De Blasio at State and City level; Florida in Republican hands. I remember when Florida Governor DeSantis, was hammered for not locking down sternly enough and then for easing too early. How did he do? Answer: way better than New York. Florida has only one-tenth the death rate of NYC. We don’t hear anything about that now, either.

NY State light blue. City dark blue. Florida, green

So that’s why I get pee’d off with he likes of Doonesbury and the Dems. They bang on about “follow the science“, but assiduously ignore the facts. Because it doesn’t suit their politics. Which is, in three words, Orange Man Bad.

‘Panic-driven response to coronavirus prioritises some lives over others’ | Philip Bowring |SCMP

Dad and daughter at Tamar Park, near Wanchai 

In the South China Morning Post print version the headline is “Paying a price for lockdowns”. 

I don’t often agree with Philip Bowring, (who I know from my government days in Hong Kong). But I most certainly do agree with him in today’s piece, linked above. Indeed it’s more like Bowring agrees with me given he takes points straight out of my Letters and blog posts. Eg, the death rate from pneumonia vs from Covid (pneumonia 90 times higher). And… governments put a price on life all the time (rebuttal of the absurd notion, widely bruited, that “one death is too many”). 

My comment at the site: we need additions to the government Dashboard. Now they only have daily cases and deaths from Covid. We need other measures such as excess deaths, Covid and non-Covid. Excess bankruptcies, suicides, depressions, debt, etc… “Excess” being variation from projections for normal times. This would help give some perspective  

The point being that lockdowns have costs and they’ve been largely ignored. Lockdowns probably don’t work anyway, other than push down deaths temporarily. After lifting restrictions, they spike up again. Sweden has avoided this by not strictly locking down. The higher deaths per million in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, than in Sweden is evidence. Here is Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s Covid response.

ADDED: Philip points out country differences in Asia. Bangladesh with no lockdown has half the deaths per capita of India’s which has severe lockdown. Philippines has severe lockdown but high Covid death rate.  I could add Peru and Argentina, both strict and long-term lockdown countries which still have high Covid death rates compared with Latin America averages. 

The evidence is: lockdowns don’t work, except to ravage economies and societies. 

Saturday 26 September 2020

'Trump Was Right' About FBI Scramble to Assemble Russia Evidence After 2016 Win | Newsweek

 Wow! and this is Newsweek, no lover of Trump.... There’s a lot that’s very dodgy in the predicate to the Trump/Russia Collusion narrative. I remember seeing Trump’s tweet at the time, alleging Obama spying on him and thinking he’s paranoid. But turns out he’s right. More will come out about they way the FBI went about the Crossfire Hurricane project, and how sleazy it was, entrapping definitely innocent people like Carter Page. 


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employee involved in the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn claimed that President Donald Trump "was right" while discussing a 2017 intelligence briefing regarding the Russia probe, according to a court filing.

The federal court documents, filed by Michael Flynn's lawyers in the U.S. District Court of Columbia on Thursday, included text message conversations between FBI staffers about former President Barack Obama's intelligence briefing on January 5, 2017. One unnamed FBI employee asked another "What's the word on how [Obama's] briefing went?"

"Don't know but people here are scrambling for info to support certain things and it's a mad house," the FBI colleague replied. "Trump was right. Still not put together... Why do we do this to ourselves. What is wrong with these people. Read the rest

‘L.A.’s Failed Homeless Policies Turned My Home Into a Prison’ | Amy Alkon

Las Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, etc…

 I’m sure we’ve all seen pix of the homeless in Californian cities. By all accounts they have got worse in recent years. And by all the accounts I’ve seen, they result, at least in large part, from well-meaning but failed policies, first of Republican and then of Democratic governments. 

Going way back there was governor Reagan and the push to release people from institutions. Lots of folks with mental health problems were released to fend for themselves. Even today, nearly eight in ten of the people on the streets suffer poor mental health. Many of those are also drug addicted, some seven in ten according to this Quillette article

There was a time when Republican mayors followed so-called “Broken Window” policing, which dramatically reduced crime including among the homeless. Then that was reversed by human rights lobbies, and we have the situation that Amy sets out in sad detail here. She also proposes solutions, based on policies that have worked earlier or elsewhere. 

What I’ve learned from reading around this subject over the years is that the problem of “homelessness” is not so much that there aren’t enough homes. The street sleepers often refuse perfectly good accommodation. The problem is more that they have these serious issues, mainly drug addition and mental health problems. Implementing the solutions Amy proposes needs the municipal and state governments to admits that their progressive ones have failed. Breath holding, anyone? 

And also that lax law enforcement —  mandated not b the police but by the mayors —-is allowing homeless people to sleep and live anywhere, with no recourse to the police. This is down to progressive mayors. Well-meaning, perhaps, but with hugely bad unintended consequences. (There are some that don’t think they are well meaning, but rather have a Marxist agenda. That’s a story for another day).

Meantime, people are leaving California in droves. Including Joe Rogan, who’s not really a conservative. So many are leaving that the Governor Newsome wants to punish them for having the gall.

The Absolute BEST SECRET to fail-safe sourdough loafs


Alu the lizard from Bali, bird and butterfly binoculars,
fan, sourdough loaf. On painted tile table from Ravello


I’ve been cooking sourdough bread for over six years now, well before the Covid lockdown sourdough craze.

I’ve watched about a zillion YouTube vids on the subject. 

These days I’ve got it down. I bake two to three times a week. And always I have a loaf with good rise (aka “oven spring”), nice texture (aka “crumb”) and great taste (aka “yum”).

Watch the vids by all means. I recommend the Foodgeek. He really really knows his sourdough. But you don’t have to. What I give you here is the fair dinkum guaranteed deal to bake a great loaf every time.  It’s the bomb.

Friday 25 September 2020

Hong Kong Covid cases


It seems like our island is one of the safest places to be
(Click to enlarge and clarify)

From Hong Kong government figures here

“U.N. still relevant 70 years after Seoul recapture” | Letters, 25 September

Interesting how Thomas Byrne manages to lavish all his praise on the "United Nations forces", at the 70th anniversary of the recapture of Seoul. Not a single mention of the United States which made up over 90% of the those forces and was indispensable to the ROK's establishment, security and economic growth. 
I guess this is part of the narrative that the US is never to be praised, only to be excoriated. 
Another example of this narrative was David Dodwell's hatchet job in "America is the biggest warmonger by far". Dodwell can reach this conclusion only if he limits it to "other" people. If you kill hundreds of millions of your own people — as did communist and fascist regimes in the 20th — apparently it doesn't count. 
Enough of this tendentious moral equivalence. Give praise where it's due. In the Korean War, the United States was the key player in reclaiming Seoul and establishing its Republic. On the 75th anniversary of the U.N. let's recall it was the United States that midwifed its existence and still contributes more to its budget than the next three largest members combined.

Pf, etc 

Thursday 24 September 2020

Two paths for meritocracy

 Modern social critics really shouldn't read the Michael Young's 1958 book, The Rise of the Meritocracy. Yes, it's the book that coined the word. But Young, a veteran British Labour activist, wrote it as a satirical work of fiction, told in the form of bureaucratic memos -- witty enough if you can penetrate the verbiage, but almost unreadable by today's standards. Little plot. No sex.

And it's demoralizing, because, despite its clunkiness, Young foresees practially everything. I mean everything. The hiving off of the credentialed, the inevitable SAT-selected snobbery, the rise of Trump-like populists, Herrnstein-Murray genetics, the push for a guaranteed income (UBI), even a Silicon-Valley style elite.  I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in there Young told us the winners of next year's Grammys. As the first to describe an important new social phenomenon, he left precious little for those who would come second or third. It’s like Mary McCarthy’s famous review of Nabokov’s labyrinthine puzzle-novel, Pale Fire: She figured it all out right off the bat.

Read on (and h/t Althouse)

Come on in, the water’s fine!


Pools open, Water temps perfect for lengths and lounging. Chatted with some smiley folks who said how happy to be back swimming 

Wednesday 23 September 2020

‘Political pressure grows with acceleration in cases: Statistics show surge in infections’

Does this look like a “surge”? (Added 25/9/20)
The above headline is alarmist. There is no “surge” and no need for further “political pressure”.
I have been tracking figures daily since January on Worldometer which is more up-to-rhe-minute than WHO figures. [My comment at the site].
Global daily cases increase, averaged by month, increase over previous month:
  • February 38%
  • March 768%
  • April: 260%
  • May: 17%
  • June: 49%
  • July: 61%
  • August : 12%
  • September (to 22nd): 8%
This is NOT a "surge". The surge is long past. It is more of a peaking and easing. (vastly increased testing around the world likely accounts for the July spike). Yet media have "surging" headlines, which are “pressuring” (read: “panicking”) governments. 
Meantime, daily deaths are easing to 5,408 worldwide, down 4% on August.
In short, daily worldwide cases are rising at a declining rate and daily deaths are declining. 
This ought to be good news. But the media ("Agencies") spin it as "surge", which is “accelerating worldwide”. When the opposite is happening
ADDED: I still take note of a figure that few or no others in our government do, at least publicly: pneumonia and lower respiratory deaths in Hong Kong. Every year 11,500 Hongkongers die of these diseases. They happen every year and are preventable by the very same measures that we use to fight Covid. Yet we don't tie ourselves in knots to try and do so.
Hong Kong Covid-19 deaths? 103 so far this year. Less than one one hundredth of pneumonia and related disease deaths. Average age at death: 82. How can we say we're not in a delusional panic?
ADDED: The first sentence at the article says “The pandemic appears to be accelerating worldwide…”. No it does not, not if you actually look at the numbers, instead of simply reproducing “Agencies” fear-mongering. Which begs the question, why? Why would the media do this? And the answer is as old as media: “if it bleeds it leads”. Bad news sells better than good. In today’s parlance: click bait.
And so, of course we get “growing Political pressure”. Which people like dear old bumbling Boris cannot resist, with his new lockdown measures set to last at least six months. Oh dear.  And the media is complicit.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Vallance and Whitty are guilty of malpractice

The chart above was shown last night at a press briefing (not a press conference, as no questions were taken) by the UK Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and the Chief Medical Adviser Dr Chris Whitty.

My comment:anyone can do a projection like that. Two seconds on Excel. But is it likely? Answer: not remotely. NOT REMOTELY. I say this because we know we are some weeks to a month or so behind Italy, Spain and France and we know what they are doing (see below). They are not suffering anything remotely approaching Vallance’s irresponsible projection above. 
I am so sure the UK won’t hit 50,000 new case per day that I’ll give any reader odds of ten to one. I’ll bet you one of your dollars to ten of mine that the UK will not be at 50,0000 daily new cases by October 13. (Email me).
I know this, I believe this, because I have access, as we all do - even Pat Vallance - to the figures at Worldometer. They are based on official government statistics, more up-to-the-minute than those at WHO.
I say this is malpractice because it leads to unnecessary panic. And unneeded lockdowns. Which, we know lead to more deaths in non-Covid areas, more deaths from untreated or undiagnosed cancer (50,000 by some estimates), more suicides, more bankrupticies, more of everything that’s horrible, because of lockdowns. 
Meantime NHS hospitals are running at half capacity as they keep wards empty for this hypothetical surge, this purely fantastical torrent, based on a few clicks in an excel spreadsheet. Insanity. Irresponsible.  Vallance and Whitty ought be censured. Or sacked. Or both.  Instead the likes of the BBC is running with this nonsense with zero scrutiny. Keep Vallance away from the keyboard! Block his access to Excel!
Here are some charts that I’ve taken from Worldometer, with my notations:

And here is what it looks like if there were 50,000 daily cases in the UK in mid October: 
In my view this is a serious dereliction of duty by the chief scientist and the chief medical officer. They ought to be impeached. They ought to be sacked. They ought, at least, to be mocked. They ought, at the very least, be ignored. 
ADDED: I’ve looked at the figures for UK daily cases and the only week in which they doubled was 5 to 11 September. In no other week did they double. So, Vallance has cherry-picked the very worst figures and projected them out a month. That is duplicitous, to say the least. Surely it is not worthy of the chief Scientist.
PS: it’s been really weird to watch British Ministers talking about the Covid measures as if there weren’t any experience in other countries to draw on. We can all go to Worldometer and see the real time new cases and daily new deaths, all around the world, and in Britain. 
So when they talk as if we don’t know this, and it’s all super dangerous, it’s kind of crazy and not real. Though it does seem to me, watching some of the Ministers, that they really don’t know. That’s even more worrying. That it’s ignorance and incompetence, not duplicity.

From ‘Zoom shirts’ to ‘biz-leisure’: how the pandemic altered fashion and the words we use to describe it

Fashion for the Zoom age

What is an outfit these days if not an OOTD? That acronym, often in hashtag form, is widely used by fashion bloggers for their “outfit of the day”, usually on trend, always photographed.

It may surprise fashionistas to learn that the word “outfit” originally referred, in the mid-18th century, to the act of fitting out or equipping a ship for a journey, expedition or battle – a meaning now obsolete. Another related meaning at that time involved the articles and equipment required for an expedition, later meaning equipment of any kind. More…

Monday 21 September 2020

Trump v Biden: PJ O’Rourke on why this US election is the craziest yet | The Sunday Times Magazine | The Sunday Times

What a lovely piece of writing from the inimitable P.J O'Rourke (h/t Althouse):

Americans have had their fun electing a clown flapping around in huge shoes he can't fill, honking incessantly on his Twitter horn, the little car of his administration spilling forth far too many buffoons, zanies and felony indictments. His greasepaint now looks nothing but greasy, his fright wig is too frightful. His antics cause the tightrope walkers of foreign policy to totter, the trapeze artists of domestic policy to lose their grip, and he's scaring the children in the ringside seats, particularly the millennial voters. (Alarming their suburban moms as well.) He's chasing the elephants out of the big top. Two notable Republican pachyderms — General Colin Powell and John Kasich, the former Ohio governor and erstwhile Trump primary opponent — wandered over to perform at the Democratic National Convention.

The rubes are getting wise to the ballyhoo. They've guessed the sideshow games of chance are fixed, like the one where you take off your facemask and hope to win Covid immunity. The crowd is turning ugly. The Maga calliope is out of tune with the times. The circus had better leave town.

So why does Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential race feel somehow one prefix short of inevitable?

Read on 

Is it true that Black Americans are better off than Blacks anywhere else in the world?

 In one (or two) words: True. (Mostly).

[I’m fact-checking the claim American Blacks are better off than those in any other country. This is often used as push back to the BLM claim that nothing has improved since slavery days]

I looked at GDP per capita of 54 African countries compared with the GDP per capita of the Black community in America. 

On the basis of nominal GDP  ($US):

United States: Black or African American: $23,303African: $2,639. American Blacks 8.8 times more GDP per capita than Africans in Africa.

On the basis of GDP by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)  ($US):

 United States: Black or African American: $23,303.  African: $6,167. American Blacks 3.8 times more GDP per capita than in Africans in Africa. 

[PPP corrects nominal GDP to allow for that fact that purchasing power is different in different countries. A thousand dollars buys a lot more in Equatorial Guinea than it does in New York]

In short: American Blacks are 4 to 9 times better off than their cousins in Africa. I added the qualifier “Mostly” because in two countries, Equatorial Guinea and the Seychelles, the GDP per capita in PPP terms, is a little higher than that of Black in the US. 

Of course there’s more to life than money. But it’s often put forward by BLM and their allies, that Blacks in America are no better off than they were a century ago, that things are as dire as plantation slavery. We need to look at the data and acknowledge where it shows otherwise. Which it does.

Black Americans are substantially better off than their cousins in Africa. In terms of free speech they are also better off, as we can see from the prominence of BLM movement itself.

ADDED: and acknowledged: that I haven’t compared with other large Black communities, as in the UK, which I’ll do in due course and update.

Covid Cops in Melbourne


Mounted police charge anti lockdown protesters in Melbourne
Not a good look! In today’s South China Morning Post 

Not a good look. Hold a BLM protest in Melbourne and you’re good to go (and reliably excused). Hold a protest against severe lockdowns and you’re charged by mounted police and arrested. And that’s as there is increasing evidence that lockdowns do not reduce overall deaths. They just spread them out. We ought to have followed Sweden, not New York and not, heaven help us, the UK and the debunked Neil Ferguson Imperial College models, that still hypnotise Boris & co.

ADDED: The print version but not the online, has the following quote by Victoria Police: “The behaviour of these selfish few who choose to blatantly ignore the directions will not be tolerated”, which strikes me as ugly and intolerant. Who is to say the “selfish few” are not educated and knowledgeable about the virus, and are “following the science”, that lockdowns are counterproductive?

Picnic in the Park, Policed

Sunday 20 September 2020

‘Scandi noir': Swedish criminal gangs

I wrote about the crime in the Swedish immigrant communities way back in 2012. I predicted trouble, and trouble has come.
But only now are Swedish politicians admitting that immigrant crime gangs are a very serious problem. Violent crime is 700% higher (!) in Sweden than its neighbours. In a country that used to be famously peaceable, there are now daily shootings and bombings. Bombings! But it wasn’t discussed because… not the done thing, not PC. Instead Sweden boasted that it had the highest immigration intake in per capita terms. It’s boasting no longer. 
Sweden is going its own way in handling Covid, to pretty good outcome.  It's also been going its own way on mass immigration, to rather worse outcome.
Is it too late? They’ve started to control more, as per Denmark. But already they have "no-go" areas controlled by crime gangs. Not a good outlook.

Saturday 19 September 2020

My piece published today. ‘Hong Kong’s coronavirus mass testing results support full reopening of city‘

Barbecue pits closed at Repulse Bay, when outdoors
is safest place to be

Here on the SCMP website

Yet there’s panic talk of a “Fourth wave” in Hong Kong and talk of further lockdowns. Arrivals at Hong Kong airport are down 99.99%. Consider that! From 50 million a year to 48,000. What happens when we reopen?  More infections for sure. Then another lockdown? We simply have to get used to the fact that the virus is here to stay and we must live with it, we protect the elderly and vulnerable, we urged cleanliness and so on… but for the rest get on with life and living. 

ADDED: Tim Black looks at we how handled two previous pandemics. The Asian flu of 1957-58 and the Hong Kong flu of 1968-70 (which I kind of remember through the purple haze of dope and dames as I “studied” at the Australian National Uni). Both affected tens of millions and killed millions. In neither did we panic as we’re doing now. 

Click to enlarge

ADDED (21 September): there is more talk that our government is after a “Zero virus” policy  if so, we’re in for ongoing ruination… Oxford U professor Carl Heneghan points out a Zero virus policy is at once  impossible and dangerous. Zero Covid makes zero sense 
Text of my letter below the fold…

Friday 18 September 2020

Fact checking Biden

Trump is fully fact checked  including his tax returns.

While Biden gets a pass. There’s plenty on what a horrid man Trump is and what a nice man Joe is. So I won’t cover that. I’ll only cover some of the stuff about Joe that one won’t find in the mainstream media. Mostly it’s from centre-right sources, such as National Review and the Wall Street Journal, respectable journals, but no in Biden’s pocket. Just including some links here. Updated from time to time.

Biden is deceitful

Plagiarised Neil Kinnock’s speech, 1987
Lies about his college results and high school record, 1987
Clarence Thomas hearings, 1991. Lied to Thomas about how he would treat him. (Voted against him)
And other random lies: The secret life of Joe Biden (18 September 2020) 

Questions to ask Biden: If he were a Republican  (11 October), Questions for Joe Biden (24 September). Questions the media should ask Joe Biden (8 September)

Speech at 1991 gulf war: shockingly misjudged (3 September)

Joe Biden’s money misadventures (11 September)

Wrong in all foreign policy issues of last forty years. Robert Gates

Healthcare and illegal immigration: in one primary, he looked around then raised a shaky hand. That picture has stuck in my mind. He is likely to be pushed to open borders by the AOC wing of the party, and that would hurt poor people the most.

Corrupt: Hunter Ukraine and China issue. Since then, confirmation of Biden’s personal involvement in Ukraine and China deals has come from a senior partner in the business. 

What has he done in 47 years?

Biden is against choice in schools. Something that is very popular amongst Black Americans.

Thursday 17 September 2020



From here

The Wall of the Old City Jerusalem lights up for the Abraham Accords

Click for vid

This is really a big deal. Even if the WaPo commenters think it’s just a PR stunt. Huh? Working on this for three years, to get an agreement the first of its kind in a quarter century. A PR stunt? Only if you’re deeply TDS...  

The Arab states have simply got fed up with the rejectionism of the Palestinian leadership. Remember when Abbas said “no, no, no” to the economic development proposal brought to them by Kushner a few years ago. “From the River to the Sea”, pretty much says it all: the only thing that will satisfy them is Israel wiped off the map. But Israel grows ever stronger and the Arabs have decided to get on the winning side.

There were a lot of predicates for this deal, including pulling out of the Iran deal, moving the embassy to Jerusalem and recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights (When you go there, as we have, you realise immediately how it can’t be given back to an enemy, least of all one as barbaric as Syria). 

There’s plenty on the MSM about the deal, which I’m guessing readers will have seen. So here I just link to something non-MSM, a thoughtful essay in the Nation Review by Rich Lowry. I urge you to read it.

Note: this is such a big deal that even CNN had to say something nice about it. Though of course they did find something to carp about: in their chyron: “No social distancing on the South Lawn”.... Yawn.

John Kerry had it covered. Hehe! Click on pic to go to vid
This matured about as well as milk in a sauna....

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Is it true that Black Americans are more likely to be killed by lightning than by the police?

 In a word: Yes. [I’m writing this as a fact-check of a statistic quoted by some writers who challenge the BLM movement’s narrative: that police are out to randomly slaughter Black Americans]

Here are my calculations

In short: 

Black Americans are 2 to 4 times more likely to be killed by lightning strike as they are by the police. (The range is due to uncertainty of death by lightening strike between 1 in 50,000 and 1 in 80,000).

But we should really only look at those Black Americans who are unarmed and killed in a police interaction. Because, given the peculiarities of the United States, if you have a gun and resist arrest, you’re more likely to be killed and the justice system will find that a “justified killing”. 

Unarmed Black people killed by police in 2019 was 14 out of 235, according to figures from the Washington Post. Thus: 

Unarmed Black Americans are 38 to 60 times more likely to be killed by lightning strike as they are by the police.

In all scenarios Black Americans are way more likely (2 to 60 times) to be killed by lightning strike than they are by the police.  This ought give some pause for contemplation. 

Is this a valid comparison? Not really. I think it’s basically bogus since lightning has no agency, whereas the police do. But... it does give some perspective, since there is a view out there that Black people are in fear of leaving their homes, in fear of being gunned down by the police. That is simply not true, by the stats. Unless they’re afraid of going out because of lightning. 

Yet Obama worked the same trick. He said that more people died of accident in the bathtubs than they did from terrorist attacks. Again, true, but bathtubs are not out to get you, they don’t have agency, whereas the jihadist are out to get you and do have agency. Bathtubs don’t kill thousands at a time, whereas Jihadists do.

Still, the BLM types can’t have it both ways. If Obama compares terrorism with accidents in the bath, then the other side may compare police killings with likelihood of being killed by lightening. In fact, that comparison is more relevant because -- and even BLM would agree here, surely -- the police are not out to perpetrate mass casualty events like 9-11. To deny we can make that comparison with lightning, while going along with Obama’s bathtub comparison, is pure hypocrisy.

I’m guessing that readers may think my observation itself racist. What of all the police killings we see, every day, on TV? Indeed we do. And will continue to do so, because everyone has a camera in their pocket and are determined to get the police, and they kill about one a day. But that's evidence by anecdote, which is not evidence. That’s feeling. The other side is data. The feeling is that there’s mass slaughter of Blacks. The data is there is not. Nowhere near. Lightning can strike 60 times before there’s a black death at the hands of the police.


To avoid being killed:

By lightning: Don’t stand under a tree in a thunderstorm 

By police: Don’t resist arrest: How not to get your ass kicked, by Chris Rock

More recent: Matt Walsh, @ 2:57 

Australia-China relations

China throttles Aussie wine imports. And suspend Barley

Australia-China relations have been much in the news lately, especially here in Hong Kong but also in other MSM, like BBC and Bloomberg. 

Fair to say, I think, that the main theme is that Australia is cutting off its nose, if it stands too tough on Beijing.  

It’s a struggle. And one in which Australia has the “disadvantage of democracy”.

This is what I mean:

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Jimi Hendrix Woodstock

Click image to go to video

An occasional reader reminds me its the anniversary of Jimi’s death, says a friend’s favoirrite Hendrix is Purple Haze, his own All Along the Watchtower and asks what mine is, which is this one.

Not in this clip is what Hendrix says to the crowd just before launching into one of the finest pieces of guitar extempore in history: “you can leave if you want to, we’re just Jamin’ that’s all”. And I’ve always pictured one in the straggling crowd — it was the final day, everyone was tuckered — turning to her mate “Oh wellhe’s just jamming. We may as well leave”.

Monday 14 September 2020

Covid: Cases and Deaths


Top chart is daily Cases and the one below is number of daily Deaths, for the countries in Europe that were earliest and most affected. 
It’s clear: there are definitely Second Waves -- of cases. But… there are no second waves -- of deaths
These figures are from Worldometer, which is run out of Yale and Johns Hopkins Universities. In short, reliable. There is relatively little talk of this in the media. It’s all about cases, cases, cases. And that’s driving policy. Driving a “psychotic delirium” as Bernard-Henry Levy calls it.

Dragonfly: Crimson Dropwing

In our kitchen garden, iPhone photo
Evolution made this.
Homo Sapiens can’t. At least not yet
Marvel at the intricacy of the wings. And the amazingness
of a phone that can take a photo like this
ADDED: It’s a Crimson Dropwing, Trithemis aurora, from Rob’s Wildlfe, where many much better photos of Hong Kong dragonflies. They’re one of my favourite fauna, right up there with my absolute favourite, the penguin.

‘The Emperor’s New Road: the inside story of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative’ | SCMP

Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka. Now owned by China

In our 2011 African jaunt from Cape Town to Cairo, we came across many Chinese projects. Some the people liked, some they resented. 
Xi Jinping was not yet president, so they were just bilateral initiatives, though I guess by now they've become absorbed into Xi’s signature “Belt and Road Initiative” The BRI swallows all, Xi’s very own Blob. Or, from the review of the book above: “Belt and Road” has become a brand name to be attached to just about anything.
No doubt some of the projects are terrific. We drove along a brand new highway in Sudan, up the mountains and along the Nile. A fabulous day's driving. Built by the Chinese. And you can see so clearly in Africa: where roads go, there too goes development. And where roads don't go, there's no development. And the people do like development, whatever ante-diluvian greenies may say.
But no doubt some are deeply resented. As in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, above, in Malaysia and Pakistan, "debt trap" infrastructure projects — where the country gets so deep in debt for the project the Chinese take it over, in massive debt-for-equity swaps.
…as Hillman makes clear, to many of them the belt now appears to be a noose, and the road a road to nowhere.
This book sounds like a good take on the subject, by Jonathan Hillman.
No mere desk-bound theoretician, he provides personal accounts of visits to key projects across Africa and Asia, struggles with bureaucracy and mutual suspicion at China’s borders, bringing all their logistics to life. Contrary to the dreary enthusiasm of official accounts, he sees ports without ships, trains without passengers, airports without flights, and free trade zones largely free of trade.

‘The IOC should move the 2022 Olympics out of Beijing’

 An Op-Ed by Rick Scott (R), Senator for Florida makes the case in the Washington Post, of all places.*

I agree. Beijing should be stripped of the 22 Winter Games on the strength of its treatment of Uygurs alone. There’s plenty more, under the horrid Xi, but the policies of extermination of a people’s culture alone is more than enough. 

Let’s see what happens. And what contortions the IOC goes through if it decides to let a Beijing keep the Games. Follow the money, I’d say. 


* ”of all places” because the WaPo is rather left of centre, doesn’t usually give voice to Republicans.

Sunday 13 September 2020

‘Hong Kong reaches grim milestone of 100 deaths’

That's the headline in today's South China Morning Post. And, yes, grim. But as a commenter notes at the site, about 100 people die in Hong Kong every week of tobacco connected cancer. Avoidable, in other words. And that’s in a week, whereas the 100 grim deaths are over nine months. 
To which comment, I added:
100 deaths = "grim milestone". But every year in Hong Kong 48,000 of us die. Of which -- just looking at diseases similar to Covid -- 11,250 of us die of pneumonia and lower respiratory diseases (Gov figs). These too are  "grim milestones". But we don't tie ourselves in knots to avoid them. Perspective needed. A sense of proportion. It’s time to open up. 
I worry that government officials and advisers are working on a "zero virus" strategy, which was never the aim, cannot be achieved, but will be ruinous to our society and economy. And what happens if we reach zero, open up, and find that, inevitably, there are more cases. Is it then back to lockdown??
Overall, why are we treating this virus so massively differently from all other preventable diseases? It's insanity.

ADDED: 100 deaths in Hong Kong makes it 15 deaths per million. Just a tenth of the world average of 150, and a twentieth of Britain, Europe and the US averages of around 600 deaths per million. Let alone a similarly international city, New York at 1,700 per million (the world’s highest, by the way). 

Why is it only new *cases* of coronavirus we’re hearing of, and not the number of deaths, which are dramatically down

All I’m hearing and reading about the Coronavirus is how cases are up, how there are Second Waves (or, here in Hong Kong, and quite unaccountably, a Third Wave), and therefore we have to have new lockdowns, like the “Rule of Six” in Britain. It’s all cases, cases, cases. 

Yet death rates are down, down, down. All over the world. Despite recent rises in cases. Why is this? I don’t get it. We seem to have got our mindset into a place where any increase in the virus is time to press the panic button, otherwise it’s mass deaths. Where clearly, the actual, real, experience, around the world, that that is not the case. 

Here are some charts proving that. Note that the Y-axis is logarithmic for all the charts (other than England and Wales) which means that each gridline is ten times more than the one below. And focus on the squiggly lines, which are daily cases and deaths. 

In each and very case, there has been an increase in cases, but deaths have remained low. And that’s been the case for nearly three months. Enough time to be over the incubation period by months. 

The Chief Science adviser in the UK was asked about this. He answer was we need to “watch out”, because there’s an incubation period and deaths will go up. But we have figures from all the other countries where they have not gone up, even months after the increase in cases. Seems they are still going on the model of Imperial College London, rather than the actual, real, data from countries around the world.

ADDED: Toby Young makes the same point here.