Saturday 31 October 2020

Glenn Greenwald. Boom!

Hunter and Hunted?

What a huge Glenn Greenwald story!

I’ve known Glenn Greenwald’s writings for quite a while. I went off him a bit a few years back when he got involved in a nasty spat with Sam Harris over Islam, where I felt Greenwald was rather wrong. But, like Sam, he’s an independent spirit. A man of the Left — he wrote for The Guardian and Salon — but, also like Sam, infuriated by some of the shenanigans on the Far Left.

He’s the guy who broke the Snowdon-NSA papers in the Guardian. And most recently the corruption in Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s government, in the news source he co-founded, The Intercept. And now he’s left it in a big huff. He’s no lover of Trump…

And yet… and yet… he wrote a long article on the Hunter Biden / Joe Biden emails imbroglio (why is it always emails that trip up the Dems?) and of the cover up of the story by big Tech (mainly FB and Twitter). This story was censored by The Intercept, a news outlet he he-cofounded in 2014, despite his having a contract that explicitly allows him to publish anything he wishes. And as a result he has resigned. 

The Intercept editors dispute that he was “censored”. So Greenwald has published his draft article on Substack. “Article on Joe and Hunter Biden censored by The Intercept”.  Pretty much all you’d want to know about the Bidens’ doings in Ukraine and China, and the MSM response (or lack thereof). Greenwald has also published his email exchange with the editors of The Intercept, so we can make our own decision as to whether he was indeed censored. 

Greenwald quotes a New York Times article pointing out that financial support for Biden is mainly from people above the average wage. Below the average wage, contributions favour Trump. So apart from all the other divisions, it’s also a rich-poor division. 

One of the first comments in the article is from one  “Alex G”, saying he doesn’t care that the media have buried the story because “the people are rubes” amd would just vote Trump back in  — which I find a pretty disgusting view, rather too widely held: just a step away from votes saying should be limited to the elite. “Alex” despises “the people”. They’re just Hillary’s “deplorables”. Where is the concern for the poor? That used to be something Dems did, worry about the poor, the working classes. No longer, alas. There  in it for the top of the meritocracy.

Another interesting Greenwald observation: that the reason the MSM has spent the last four years beating up Russia collusion with Trump, and now “Russian disinformation” with Biden, is because the MSM (NYT, WaPo, Boston Globe, LA Times) are exclusively in the beltways populated by Trump haters who blame the media for having too closely criticised Hillary, while not having closely enough criticised Trump, back in 2016. That is, journalists’ neighbours in New York, in Washington, in Boston, in LA excoriated them for the ascent of Orange Man Bad. The media are trying to make it up to their neighbours. They don’t want to be embarrassed again. Remember how early in post 2016 FB was hammered for allegedly allowing Russian propaganda on their platform. They don’t want to make that mistake again. So nothing about Hunter-Joe is allowed until it’s “fact-checked”.

Friday 30 October 2020


From here
It’s perfectly safe to like this cartoon. Not bigoted.…

Checking the cable news last night, talking heads informed us that it’s an “extremely small minority” of muslims who go full-scale jihadi. And that Charlie Hebdo deserves blame. Because, one tell us, if it were any other minority group, we wouldn’t stand for it. Which is, of course, wrong. Hebdo regularly skewers not just Christians (who are now a minority in Europe), but also Jews, Mormons and we atheists. Are we to bow to radical Islam and hold our tongue, or are we to expect Muslim in western countries to hew to western values. So far, Macron is standing firm: it’s the latter. Never much liked the man, but he’s sound on this.

I’d rather watch vids of people digging up potatoes than the news


Al picks potatoes at Lumnah Acres
Or building a barn. Much more relaxing than the antics of Trump and Biden. At beheadings in Nice…

Thursday 29 October 2020

Democrat States continue to outperform on Covid

My graph from Worldometer at 28 October
Outperform, that is, in terms of deaths per million. 

Nine out of the top ten US states in terms of deaths per million are run by Democrat governors. And in the US, which is a Federal Republic, the governors are the ones running things. Recall Governor Cuomo of NY State some months back, making a huge deal, every single night in a press conference, of how he and “my people” were handling the virus. Turns out not too well, as he’s no. 2 in deaths per million in the US and the second worst in the world. 

But the MSM will never mention this. Because they need to blame OMB for it all. In an inversion of reality, Cuomo has come out as some sort of hero! While he has ruled over the second worst deaths per capita in the world. 

Please note: the top five US States above, all Democrat, have the highest rates of death per capita in the world. Not just that they are doing worse than Republican-run States; they are doing worse than every other country in the world. 

Meantime, Trump is hammered for having mishandled the virus. Where, overall, the US is middling. About where most European countries, and the UK, are (600-700 deaths per million).

Mind, Trump has done himself no favours with his quixotic handling of the pandemic. But blaming him outright is simply nonsense, when the real responsibility is with the governors and the data show how they’ve done. Namely: Democratic lockdowns only lead to more deaths per capita.

Beijing Bully Boys threatens to Berlin HK

Hongkongers escaping to cold
wet London?

Un-good news from Hong Kong. “Beijing should ask itself why BN(O) passport holders want to leave Hong Kong”.

Conquering Covid and energising the economy has apparently given Beijing bluster more bounce. Chief bully-boy amongst their “wolf warriors” is the oleaginous Zhao Lijian, he of  “coronavirus-was-brought-to-Wuhan-by-American-soldiers” fame. (I shouldn’t really use ad hominem like that about Zhao, but I’m sorry, he is oily).

Now he’s leading Beijing’s crude attempts to stop Hong Kong holders of the British National (Overseas) passports from leaving Hong Kong to settle in Britain. This would make a mockery of our Basic Law, where free travel is guaranteed. It will backfire on Beijing, though they probably don’t care, having made a success of hiding the Wuhan virus, lying about it, then getting away with draconian steps to crush it. 

It is only communist dictatorships stop their citizens from leaving. I was a kid in Bonn, Germany, in 1961 when the Berlin Wall went up. I remember my father, in the Australian Embassy at the time, coming home kind of shell-shocked and saying “Can you I imagine what those East Germans are doing now?!”. I wouldn’t want to be here when a fly-wall goes up. Mind you, Zhao’s blustering doesn’t impact other passport holders like us. At least not yet.

I’m not a big fan of Michael Chugani, author of the article, but he’s on the money here.  “Beijing should ask why Hongkongers want to leave”, he says. Indeed.

 I’m not holding my breath. Though one can hope they won’t go ahead with such a drastic move.

By the way, this may be shaping up to be about the worst thing to happen since the June implementation of the National Security Law, foisted on us thanks to the antics of the pan-Dems and their rioters. The NSL has helped restore calm to the streets, but otherwise not widely impacted our treasured freedoms. A move such as the threatened by Zhao to stop free travel, if it happens, would be a severe blow to Hong Kong. 

I’ve added the “Australia” label because Beijing is also angry at Canberra for offering asylum to Hongkongers. So far it’s shown it’s displeasure by cutting back iron ore and wine imports, a,d stopping coal imports altogether. Canada is also in their sights.

Hoping and dreaming and watching…

Wednesday 28 October 2020

An emboldened Beijing: conquering Covid and powering economy

Xi Jinping in his best Winnie the Pooh mode
Surrounded by “those appalling old wax works
Trigger alert: I’m going to say something nice about China!

Which to some makes me a China apologist, a Chicom running dog. I’ll have to write something nasty about Beijing soon to balance, something about the egregious Winnie the Xi, perhaps. But for now — putting treatment of Uygurs, Tibetans, corruption and censorship, into a box on one side, to come back to later — I’m posting a couple of links to articles noting recent Chinese successes.

I’ve been meaning to write something about how  China did so well handing the virus and have been collecting views from in and outside China. After all, whatever one thinks about the nasty side of the regime, it surely has done well in crunching Covid.

I’ll get to that in due course. But for now, an article yesterday by Zhou Xin, arguing that China has done well in controlling the pandemic (it has) and is rebounding  fast (it is), making it a good investment bet.

Buried towards the end is something more worrying to me: reference to Xi Jinping’s comments on the 70th anniversary of the Korean War. By the way, what we in the west know as the “Korean War”, China knows as the “Oppose America, Support Korea” war, 抗美援朝, Kang Mei Yuan Chao. Then again, United Nations forces, led by the US, were also supporting “Korea”… The one that 70 years later has comprehensively trounced its northern namesake in every single area of human endeavour, save for the starving of its people and brutalising of its citizens. North Korea: another tiki torch in the triumph of Socialism! Supported by Beijing! Yay! (Oh dear. I can’t write too long without getting crabby at Beijing).

Back to the article. Zhou paints Xi’s Korean (“Oppose America”) War comments as defensive, as do other China apologists: Xi is quoted as saying “China will not back off from challenges, from Taiwan to the South China Seas”. But it was Xi who set China on a more aggressive posture the moment he became Chairman of the Party in 2012: on Taiwan, in the South China Sea, in Xinjiang, in Tibet, via his Belt and Road initiative, his  “Wolf Diplomacy”, his railing against freedom of speech, democracy and western values. It was Xi who single handedly, by his gross bullying, boosted the anti-Beijing, pro-independence parties in Taiwan. It was likely Xi-inspired meddling that boosted anti-China sentiment in Hong Kong, fanning the protest fires.  It strikes me as a bit rich therefore to be talking now about “defence”. What, is this supposed to be counted-attack as self- defence?

All that said, here is another article in the strong Chinese rebound, by Yale faculty member Stephen Roach, contrasting China’s handling of Covid with the US’. That’s my second China positive link, re its Covid control and economic recovery. 

On the other side of the ledger: have China’s Covid cases been as low as reported? Not quite. Because until recently China did not. count positive but asymptomatic cases as confirmed cases. Even now, they are listed separately, though we now know that they are contagious. China is the only country in the world to count cases like this and is not in keeping with WHO recommendations, as Josephine Ma explains
China is the only country in the world to adopt a different definition than that of the World Health Organization, which defines a confirmed case as someone who tested positive.…
Data shows that asymptomatic cases comprise a significant percentage of the total positives and such patients spread Covid 19.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Who would have thought 8 million people would watch a guy cutting lumber?

I was watching this, having got caught up in a wooden groove. I built a wooden boat a few years ago, have built a few electric guitars and other bits and pieces out of wood, and so I’m a bit of a wood aficionado. So... wood. And got caught in the byways of the internet, as one does.

I was enjoying the series by the guy above, Fall Line Ridge, found it very relaxing to watch a guy ripping planks from a fine bit of fallen Red Cedar. I wondered how many might have watched it, thinking maybe 50k or so, but was staggered to find it’s over 8 million. I’m gonna bet pretty much all of them are guys. Not being sexist here, but don’t imagine too many women finding solace in milling lumber.  

Click on screenshot above, or else link is here. (For some reason the new version of Blogger doesn’t embed videos, at least for me)

Bogong moth



Monday 26 October 2020

Who to vote for in US election? J’Accuse!

I’m sometimes accused — yes, accused!...  — of being a Trump supporter. To which I say “not guilty”. If you press the “Trump” label below and can be bothered to look at the result, you’ll find I’m as often critical of Orange Man, as not. I’m accused, I guess, because I’ve given Trump his due for achievements or criticised hypocrisy of the Dems. 

But it’s a battle between two people and so we must look at the challenger. Had that challenger been Tulsi Gabbard or Andrew Yang, I’d vote for either. In 2016, I’d said I’d hold my nose (because of Benghazi) and vote for Hillary. And I’d have voted Obama in two elections before. So there’s that, FWIW.

Yet the good burghers of the Democratic National Committee — more them than the people of America* — decided to foist Joe Biden on us, instead of a whip-smart young vet who repped Hawaii, or a Chinese-American entrepreneur with new ideas. For many, that’s just fine, as it’s ABT --  Anybody But Trump, They’ll happily pull the lever for Joe. Happily enough, anyway. And some seem to think it’s a choice between good and evil  a letter this morning for example:

Post, 26 October

Note the framing. The Dems are moral; the Reps are wicked. The Dems want “compassion, dialogue and multilateralism”, while the Reps want “discord, confrontation and unilateralism”. This attitude is what got Hillary done. The letter above is just a twist on Hillary’s “basket of deplorables”. I know Trump supporters. They are not keen on discord, they deplore confrontation and are cosmopolitan, not unilateralists. By the way, it’s a bit rich, surely, to charge the Reps with “confrontation “ when it’s Biden supporters, Antifa and BLM, who are torching and looting US cities across the Democratic heartland. Staunchly Democratic Portland has had over 150 days of protest and riots. 

For me, it’s not such an obvious choice, between Trump and Biden, as people like the writer above seem to believe.  Bottom line, though: if I had the vote in America, I would pull the lever for Trump. Not because I am unaware of his many failing and shortcomings, the fact that all his actions are refracted through his ego. How could I not know his manifold failings? We’ve been fed them every single day, non-stop, since his election. No, the reason I would not Trump rather than Joe is because Joe has been every bit as bad as Trump, yet threatens worse on many fronts. So, it’s a choice of two very compromised and awful candidates. I don’t think one ought not vote, as many folks seem inclined to do. You have to make a choice. And if it’s of the least bad, as it is now, then so be it. 

Joe has gone largely unexamined. His 47 years in government have not been fact-checked, save by partisan “fact-checkers” whose aim is to provide counter arguments to criticisms from the right. The aim of this post and an earlier one is to fact-check Biden and give some links to stories on the man, so that one has a fuller picture of where America might be headed if the polls are right and Biden wins the election.

We know from surveys that liberals in the US get most of their information from liberal sources (CNN, ABC, MSNBC, NYT WaPo), whereas conservatives get their information from more diverse sources: see my “Bubbles and vortexes”. Partly, no doubt, because there’s so much more liberal mainstream media than conservative media, the latter being pretty much just Fox. The fact remains. 

Which means that many liberals won’t know of Joe’s nefarious dealings with Ukraine and China. Or if they do, it’s only to repeat what they’ve been told, namely that they have been “debunked”. No, they have not. Denial does not make a debunking. As for the latest revelations, surely “bombshells”, the evidence is strong that Joe not only knew of his son Hunter’s business dealings with shady characters, but stood to profit from them as well. There can be little doubt that he’s been recipient of “gifts” in his Kong government career, or how else Dow he end up with a net worth of $9 million on a government salary.

This is all highly relevant since the biggest selling point of ol’ Joe is that he’s “honest Joe”, in contrast to Orange Man Bad. That’s it. It’s trust. Joe can’t run in his record, because he has nine, as Trump hammered home at the last debate.  The two BillBills authored and brought to Congress  — the Drug Bill and the Crime Bill — he has repudiated and said he’s “sorry” for.

So all you’re left with is “honest” Joe, and trust. And that looks like a bust, which the MSM is covering for him, openly, brazenly. His supporters, like the letter-writer above, don’t even know of it.

This is not his first time deceiving. Where I also link to articles you won’t read in the MSM.


* DarkHorse podcast no 51 on the Duopoly and why the DNC wants a malleable old-timer like Biden than smart young people like Gabbard/Yang

Goodwin on Trump

Diary reveals horrors of Japanese internment camp


Sydengham “Syd” Duer In Japan, 1950. Born of a Japanese
mother and British businessman

As Syd Duer was starving at the Japanese internment camp from 1941 to 1945, my father was sloggimg through the Papuan jungles, an Australian Army Intelligence officer fighting those same Japanese.

After the war, Syd remained in Japan, became a doctor, married and had two children. My father joined the Australian Department of Foreign (then “External”) Affairs, was posted to Tokyo, met my mother, had two children, one, me, born in Tokyo. He might have met Syd…


When Sydengham Duer left his family’s house in Yokohama, Japan, for university on the morning of December 8, 1941, he had no idea it would be the last time he would see his home for nearly four years.
Before the day was out, Duer – better known as Syd – and his businessman father, William, had been arrested by Japanese police because they were registered as British nationals, and the Japanese attack on the US fleet at 
Pearl Harbour
 and advances against British forces in Malaya had made them enemy aliens and, potentially, spies.

Read on… 

Long weekend at the beach

HK, Discovery Bay, North Plaza, looking north to Sam Pak Wan beach
It's been a long weekend here in Hong Kong. The Chung Yung festival, (aka “Double Ninth”) when families sweep graves and hang out, as yesterday in the park, plaza and plage. Some people set up tents at the beach and camped for the weekend. You can see the beach in the distance. Taken by me, on my bike ride yesterday.
It was lovely to see so many folks about and about. A plethora of young couples. At our non-dom chapel, a Sikh Indian wedding. “Central Park”, we back into, full of kids, dogs, families, picnics.
Tents on the beach, Sam Pak Wan, a bike ride from my front door

Sunday 25 October 2020

Masked wine

Small gathering


Shuai Mei, born Beijing 1969
We bought this painting from the artist in 2003, via Schoeni Gallery here in Hong Kong. Gallery founder Manfred Schoeni became a good friend. He was murdered in the Philippines in 2005. We remember him via the lady in black. 

Friday 23 October 2020

Standing by for the last presidential debate…

Moderated by Kristin Welker from NBC news. They’ve got a mute button. Each has 2 uninterrupted minutes to answer. 
Q1 Covid: to T. How will you handle it going forward? T: vaccine due in weeks. Better therapeutics. Making 1000s of ventilators. B: 200k dead … masks, testing, national standards, open schools. I will end this. I will make sure we have a plan.
K: asks which co have vaccine coming up. T: J&J, and several others I missed.will have 100m vials ready to go. B: need to make sure it’s fully tested. Says T has no clear plan. T: says we know a lot more about the disease. Hammers B re H1N1. B: he closed down China late (!)
(So far so good on no interruptions …).
T: won’t be over soon, but we’re learning to live with it. Can’t stay in a basement and handle it. (!). 99% of people recover. K: says CDC says young pp can get it (irrelevant). Gives B another go. Who hammers T for saying it would be over by Easter. Says we’re learning to die with it.
T: when I closed he said I shouldn’t have closed (true). B: says he didn’t say T was xenophobic re Covid closure (he did).
T: says Shutdown states are dying and all run by Democrats. We have to open the country. Cure can’t be worse than the disease. B: says can open and protect at same time. Come on! T: says NY is dead.
K: asks T re Fauci (who T had called an idiot). T: Fauci is a good man, made some mistakes. B: think about what T was told in January re the danger of Covid. 
Q2: National security and vote security. B: any country tries to interfere will pay the price. T: says B got $3.5 m from Russia, via Moscow mayor. I got no money from Russia. No one tougher than me on Russia. Sanctions etc…B: I’ve never taken any money from a foreign government. Accuses T of taking money from China. Onto T tax returns. T: says no money from China or Russia. Accuses B of taking Russian and Chinese money. B: says show us your taxes. T: I’ve prepaid tens of millions. 
Q3: Ukraine and China: any issue there mr B? B: all sorts of people said I did my job impeccably. T: Hunter got 183k per month from Burisma. B: no one said he did anything wrong. (K is shifting the debate, wants to move on. Now cuts it short).
Q4 China: how would you handle? B: would make it abide by international rules. Says all T does is cozy up to them and NK. T: I’ve already made China pay. B: to camera, it’s not about his family or my family, it’s about your family. K cuts off T again, I’m guessing a bit more than B.
DPRK: T: Obama said we’d be at war. There’s no war. B repeats Obama policy. C’mon!
Q5 Healthcare: ACB nomination is all about Obamacare. T: Preexisting conditions will always be protected. Just got rid of the individual mandate. B: my plan will be Obamacare with a public option. Bidencare. K: to B what o you say to people who say your plan is a move to socialism (why it’s almost as if they’d pre-agreed the questions). 
(K is definitely giving more time in follow ups to B than T)
Q6 Unemployment. T Pelosi is stopping the aid bill. B: says recovery act has been sitting there since summer. 
(Overall, much better experience with the mute button … not that she’s used it,  it just the threat of it seems to work).
K to B: is now the right time for increase in minimum wage? B yes. They need help. T it should be a state issue. Each state is different. K cuts T off again. Gives B another go (does she know she’s so biased?)*
Q7 Children of illegal immigrants. Separated from parents. T cages were built by Obama. We’re trying to reunite. B they came with parents, were separated at border. Talk of cayotes. T they did it, we changed it. 
Immigration reform q to Biden: B: ast time we took too long to get it right. We will have pathway to citizenship for 11 million. Dreamers too. Won’t send them back. T he had 8 years to fix it. Did nothing but build cages. K again gives B chance to respond. T catch and release is a very bad system. B gets another chance : says when released they do come back for trial.
Q8: Race. The talk. B: I understand why they fear for their children. B repeats the narrative of police violence against blacks. My kids didn’t need The Talk (actually they should get it). T I understand why they fear for their children. He had 47 years to do something. Did nothing except the 1994 Crime Bill made them Superpredators. I did the First Step Act. Had to twist a lot of arms. Prison and criminal justice reform. I’ve done it, Joe did nothing. Also helped HBCUs. 
BLM, q to T are you contributing to racial hatred.T I have good rels with all pp, I’m the least racial person you know. B: C’mon! Hates Mexicans, banned Muslims, etc
Q9 Crime bill q to B. B it was a mistake. We schouldn’t put pp in jail for drug problems, should be going into treatment. T why didn’t you get it done in the 8 years with Obama. You’re all the same you politicians, all talk no action! B gets final word .. blames Republican Congress.
Q10 climate change.T trillion trees program.i love clean air and water.we have lowest carbon numbers in 30 years. Look at China amd Russia. Filthy! Paris Accord treated us badly. Won’t sacrifice jobs. B: existential threat. We will not thresholds. Great opportunity. Specifics: 50,000 charging stations, insulating building, green energy will create 18.6 m jobs. T 6.5 k will be cost to each person of the GND. It’s a crazy plan (but gives no alternative). B talks to camera: my plan is supported by localities, individuals. T wind is very expensive. Kills birds. I love solar! B I never said I oppose fracking. We need to capture the emissions. Need to become zero carbon by 2025 (really?)
K chops at off, gives B a final word, again
Final question: What will you say at inauguration to those who didn’t vote for you. One minute. T: Success will bring us together. Low taxes. Strong economy. Blah blah (Not a good final answer from T )
B I’ll say I’m an American president. We choose science over fiction, we can grow the economy deal with systemic racism, make clean energy. What is on the ballot: decency, honour, respect. I make sure you get that. (Better finish for B than T)
Wrapping up. 
Biden did fine, no gaffes and good presentations. Trump behaved himself and was pretty coherent. Supporters of both will be happy, is my guess. Biden has more specific plans. Trump made more of how he’s not a “politician”. “These politicians are all the same, all talk no action”. And why didn’t B do all these things in the 47 years he’s been in government. 

*24 to 2 is the count of Kristen interrupting Trump vs the times she interrupted Biden. So my impression was right.
ADDED: Biden got away with the Hunter Biden corruption allegations. Denial is not debunking.

Thursday 22 October 2020

Pool time

Today.25.6 C. Swam, but a touch chilly for me…
Central in the distance

Osiris meet Bennu

An impression of Oris-Rex landing on asteroid Bennu
And does a “boop” —
Osiris-Rex eased its robotic arm down to a target zone just eight meters in diameter, then fired pressurised nitrogen to agitate the surface material and catch its sample. 
Then the spacecraft fired its thrusters to back away from Bennu’s surface to complete what scientists playfully described as a “boop”.

US spacecraft completes sample grab from asteroid”.

NASA: “We’re looking for our own origins out there, and that’s why we’ve gone so far to bring a bit of Bennu back.”

Shock, sadness… as staff digest news


Cathay axes 6,000 in Hong Kong 

Cathay Pacific job loss and DragonAir closure. 

I remember back in 2001, when I was running the company we’d set up, and we got a contract to teach Cathay flight attendants, to improve their English. As part of my own briefing Cathay asked me out to Cathay City, their HQ near the airport, to see how the attendants are trained. They have full scale simulators of all the plane models they fly, the Boeings, the Airbuses, and took me through some of thei training sessions.  It was great fun and the attendants, mostly young women, a few blokes, were charming. I remember the experience clearly to this day. Our best corporate job, ever.

From a dream job to jobless. With diminishing  prospects, young families to feed.

Related article…

The flagship carrier apologised for causing “great distress and anxiety” as it confirmed nearly all Cathay Dragon staff would be laid off as part of 8,500 job cuts across the group, raising concerns for Hong Kong’s reputation as an international aviation hub as well as fears it could set a precedent for other major companies.

ADDED: Of course Cathay, cutting 24% of staff, are not alone. A graphic at the link shows other cuts from 16% at Lufthansa to 31% at British Airways, via Qantas at 20%.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

‘Environmental experts should map out a long-term carbon strategy for Hong Kong’| SCMP LETTERS

Soup in the harbour, Jan ‘19. China has committed to
Carbon neutral by 2060. HK has no target, AFAIK
RE: The letter on carbon-neutral energy. (My comment at the site):

Why rule out nuclear? Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents were 42 and 35 years ago. Fukushima was 1960s technology. New nuclear is vastly safer.*

We ought welcome Bill Gates' TerraPower to set up a trial plant in Hong Kong. It prioritises safety, while generating carbon-free power. (Would lso move us along the high-tech road).

Germany closing down nuclear is a mistake. It has led to it increasing CO2 emissions, as they use coal-fired power to make up the shortfall in baseload power. [Link…]
*ADDED: In Netflix’s hagiography “Inside Bill’s Brain” someone - maybe Bill - says “Fukushima was designed before computers. It was designed using slide rules!” The bio talks a lot about TerraPower and what drove Gates to invest in it. It was just about to build a trial plant when Fukushima blew up, blowing up TerraPower’s plans with it. Still, it might get up somewhere. We’d be wise to consider it for Hong Kong. I reckon. 

Bad newses on Hong Kong

All the front-page news stories in today’s South China Morning Post are pretty very bad. 

Cathay Pacific has cut 6,000 8,500 jobs, including 5:000 5,300 here in Hong Kong, and has axed its Dragon Air brand entirely. [Link]. Note: the revised figures are update from print to online versions.*

Next to that is a story on our jobless rate which has hit a 16-year high. That’s bad enough, but I wonder it’s not even worse, like the highest rate ever. Maybe that’s coming, for the third headline is “City warned of a ‘cataclysmic recession’ as private sector debt soars”. Goodness me. Hold on tight …

While, amazingly, the mainland economy powers back.


*Personal note: I really feel for those who have lost a job. It happened to me twice, that I got laid off by companies restructuring, so I know that feeling of devastation. Especially bad in your fifties, because the likelihood of another job then is minuscule. 

It’s close to us now as well, as a tenant of ours is a senior Cathay pilot who’s been on tenterhooks for months. Now he knows he’s out of a job, at a time when it’s going to be tough, maybe impossible, for him to find another. He has to leave by the end of this month. Another two weeks then. And we’ll be  looking for a new tenant. In a weakening market. Our troubles are nothing compared to the tens, the hundreds of millions who face truly bleak futures. Oh “these interesting times”…

ADDED: Then again, we’re fine in our little Discovery Bay bubble. I hardly ever go to town. I have to ask J what’s it like? when she returns from a jaunts to Central. And the answer is, just normal, except everyone is wearing masks. Other than that, as busy as ever. Here on our island, in DB, down at the pool every day, temp 28 C and perfect, kids swimming, gambolling, shops, bars and restaurants all open, life appears as normal. Except it’s not. There’s a stickiness to the economy. No one doing anything. Property not changing hands. People sitting on their hands. Going to work if they’ve got it. 

And in China, they’ve got it. They’ve got the itch. Sex toy sales up, up, up. Tumescent, one might say.

Click screenshot for video

Monday 19 October 2020

The New Zealand story

Prime Minister Jacinda Ahearn 

More than a passing interest in New Zealand as mother from there originally, I went to school there for a bit, Palmerston North, and have many Kiwi sailing mates. That said, it’s puzzled me from the outset that New Zealand has been held up as a model. I mean, seriously? An island closer to Antarctica than anywhere… Which “crushed” the virus by the simple expedient of closing its doors. As a result of which Premier Ardern just won re-election in a landslide.

What is not answered, or even asked by many, is what now? When they reopen — or should than be *if* they reopen? — there will be new cases brought in. Unless everyone is quarantined for two weeks. Is that the plan? 

Hector Drummond breaks it down in his “New Zealand Story”. Thanks Hector.

Today’s SCMP reports a new local case in New Zealand. This article, sourced to “agencies” also tells us that “Victoria’s lockdown has demonstrated the effectiveness of tight controls”. Or is it a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc?

Meantime NZ has some sort of “bubble” arrangement with Australia, which surely will bring in some new cases. Again, what then, for a thoroughly Covid-phobic nation? 

Covid photos

More here

Saturday 17 October 2020

What’s with this hospitals admissions business?

Now pro-lockdown folks (in the UK) are saying something along the lines of “okay, deaths may be way down, but hospital admissions are climbing. Last week up 50%. What happens if younger people who are obese catch the virus, get really sick and hospitals are overrun?”.

So I looked it up, for the UK. Yes daily admissions are up 50% last week. But still daily admissions and totals are just one-tenth of what they were back in April. And back then they didn’t even have to use the emergency Nightingale hospitals, which are on stand-by should they be needed.

This seems yet another angle of the ongoing panic. First it’s deaths. Deaths go down, so then it’s cases. Cases zoom up but deaths remain low, so then it’s “long covid”. Which turns out to be similar to any other viral infection, so now it’s the young obese getting sick and stressing hospital admissions. All just keep the panic going. 

Palm on forehead.

ADDED (18 Oct). More graphs! (All for the UK)

Daily hospital admissions. See if you can find where they are 
“Nearly at March levels” as claimed by the Deputy CMO

Meanwhile, back to deaths and case infections:
In short: cases up, deaths low

“Excess deaths” are those over - or under - projected normal.
I doubt it’s widely known that they are running below normal

You’re not supposed to compare Covid with the flu…
Pneumonia and flu together are more than Covid.
Official NHS figures. One must ask: WTF?

These charts are all based in UK government data, from sources such as the NHS and the Office of National Statistics, where they are openly available, but not in such a user-friendly graphs. I could have made the graphs, but found them already done, courtesy of the Daily Mail. Some may object the Mail is just a trashy tabloid. Two facts remain: (1) The charts are based on official data, aka “the science”. (2) One will search in vain for these in your non-trashy press, The Guardian, the Independent, the BBC website, not even in the Times. Where instead, one might learn to panic a bit more because  “Liverpool admissions devastate other care” (The Guardian), or hospitals stressed (Independent). In short, the only place I’ve found such charts is in the MailOnline.
We watched Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer give a press conference the other night. He said “were nearly back to March” in terms of hospital admissions. That is true only if you’re very selective with the data (choosing Blackpool only) and if “nearly” means less than half of March, and just one tenth of the peak. Van-Tam and his two sidekicks wore gloomy faces. And the media asked only about the caseload,  not about deaths, which remain low. And the data above show that admissions are nowhere near March-April levels. 
I don’t for one minute suggest conspiracy here. I guess it’s just that Medical officers have nothing to gain by giving a more balanced picture instead of the worst case, and ditto the politicians. The media go along because bad news sells better than good; “if it bleeds, it leads”. 
The data remain stubborn things,  however. No matter “surging“ cases, death rates are lower by orders of magnitude than in the frost wave. And hospital admissions, overall, are just one tenth.

Defending the Great Barrington Declaration

This is the website for the Declaration (GBD). Authored by three eminent virologists and epidemiologists at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities, co-signed by 34 specialists.

The GBD signature page: at time of writing, there were 509,193 “concerned citizens”, 10,278 “medical & public health scientists” and 28,062 “medical practitioners”. 

This is the WHO article criticising the GBD. And my fact-check of it. With my intro-post here.

Meantime, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the GBD central claim was “emphatically not true”.

And here is the rebuttal to Hancock from GBD co-author Dr Sunetra Gupta, professor of immunology and vaccine development at Oxford University.

ADDED: Jennifer Rubin on the mixed messaging in WHO. Remember when David Navarro said that WHO is not in favour of lockdown, then the next day the head of WHO came out in favour. There’s some info here, though it may strike some as rather febrile.

Meantime the geniuses at Apple and Google believe they know better than world-renowned virologist, and have decided that you oughtn’t to hear about these issues and the debate about the best way forward to the biggest health crisis of out times. Google efforts to stifle the GBD. While, if you ask Siri, via “Look up”, you get this:

Not a link to the GBD. Not a link, even to the Wikipedia entry on the GBD (which is itself sniffily anti the GBD), but a link to a nakedly partisan piece by one Taylor Cowen, opinion columnist at Bloomberg, telling us that it’s “dangerous”! 
That is really shocking and I’m offended. Excuse me, Siri geniuses, excuse me Bloomberg, but I don’t need you to tell me what to think. Especially on an issue of such urgent public interest and on which many of us have informed views. 
And what’s maddening about that “Look up” result is that there’s nowhere to go to complain. Even here in Hong Kong, if our government does something I’m not keen on, I can contact them and usually get an answer.
Of course this is not the most egregious use of tech power to push their own worldview. The latest and worst is the suppression of an article on Hunter Biden’s emails implicating his father in his Ukraine business dealings. That’s a real corker! And a huge own goal for FB and Twitter.

Hong Kong in the fifties


James Chung photos. My parents passed through this Hong Kong in 1953, with me in tow

Good grief! Go ahead for monster reclamation…

Artificial islands to be built between Sunshine, Peng Chau
and Siu Kai Yi Chau, back right. Our Discovery Bay top left

 …Which happens to be right on our doorstep. And sure appears to be, at the very least, and in today’s vernacular, “problematic”. 


Hong Kong’s government is pushing ahead with a controversial plan to build a new metropolis on artificial islands at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, and will approach lawmakers next Friday for funding to carry out a preliminary study.…

 The ambitious megaproject is a contentious issue because of concerns about its HK$624 billion (US$80.5 billion) price tag and the potential threat it would pose to the environment and marine wildlife.


Friday 16 October 2020

Cases, cases, cases.... a nothing about deaths....


Click to enlarge and clarify
All I’m hearing from politicians both sides of any aisle, and the media, is that the number of Covid cases are going up, variously “surging” or “exponentially”, or “worryingly” or “surging exponentially which is very worrying". Very rarely do they talk about the number of deaths. And yet this is freely available, in real time, in many places, my favourite being Worldometer.  And surely this metric is the most important. And where there is good news, as shown in the chart above: death rates in all countries are well down, from 9-fold (Germany) to 49 fold (France), between the beginning of the pandemic in March and today.

I had a closer look at France, because it’s said to be two to three weeks ahead of the UK and the country I’m tracking most closely is the UK. The others are following the same trajectory: from few cases many deaths, to many cases few deaths. 

France, March-April: Few cases many deaths

France, 15 October: Many cases few deaths

That got me looking at the proportions for other countries in Europe-- deaths per cases at (1) the beginning of the pandemic and (2) the latest figures to15 October. Based on the highest figures for 7-day moving average. The spreadsheet I generated is this:

But don’t worry too much about this spreadsheet. It’s better summarised in the chart at the top. Which is basically this: the number of times better we are doing today, compared with the First Wave in March-April. For all these countries, we are doing substantially better, anywhere from 9 to 49 times better. Even Sweden, the one that didn’t do lockdown, is doing much the same as the others, and very much better than at the height of the pandemic. [And I do know the complications with cases measured differently in different countries and the fact that we’re now testing more and so finding more cases. What I’m looking at tis the trend, which, in terms of deaths per cases, is positive]
And yet, and yet, and yet... there is nothing about but talk of cases, cases, cases, you better panic and lockdown (vide Boris). Close the pubs, the clubs, the restaurants. Cancel Christmas. It’s all loony.... At least based on the science. Which is the data. Which we now have and don’t need to rely on models, the like of Imperial College London’s Neil Ferguson’s which made Boris & Co panic.

Une journée aux courses

Jeremy Clarke

My French friend André speaks perfect English and is the kindest of men. After reading last week about my futile efforts to place a bet on the French state betting terminal in the village bar, he put himself out during the week to have a word with one of the bar staff. He gave her my description and told her to expect me to appear in the bar the following Sunday afternoon in time for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. And he drew an assurance from her that she would help me decipher the betting-form multiple-choice hieroglyphics. Or, better still, take a verbal betting instruction over the counter.

I know next to nothing about horses other than that they are frightened of crisp packets and can deliver a terrific kick if you loiter behind them. I should also face the uncomfortable truth that I have won more bets selected because I liked the horse’s name than by any other method. 

The Sunday before last, my frame of mind had been oddly grandiose.

Basil’s walkway


Thursday 15 October 2020

Fact-checking the WHO’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan (II)

Part I: the intro here.

Here’s my fact check of Dr Swaminathan’s piece. The article is indented, my comments in purple, flush left.

Fact-checking the WHO’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan (I)

This is my intro to the fact-check. The fact-check is here. It’s about the attack by Dr Swaminathan on the Great Barrington Declaration. 

One divides into two”, again. 一分为二, Yi fen wei Er.  

Early on in following this Covid thing, which was way back in February, as here in HK we’d been pretty much first in line after Wuhan, I worried that the “cure” would be worse than the disease. I didn’t realise then how quickly it would become politicised. Though I should have, since “One divides into two” has been something I’ve had dear to my heart since I learnt of it in China in 1976. So much so, that whenever I hear “we must all pull together”, or some such, I think “nah... not gonna happen”. And it doesn’t. Not even in a pandemic.

And so for this whole lockdown thing. Early on, it may have been necessary, if only “something to do”. But it pretty soon became apparent that it had nasty consequences in areas non-covid. Then the world divided into two: supporters of lockdowns and we lockdown sceptics. And pretty soon it got identified as Left = pro lockdown and Right = anti lockdown. Though that’s pretty simplistic as there’s bleeding into each side from each side. But close enough. (though I claim for myself to be neither left nor right, more heterodox, but that’s for another day).

Another clear division. The lockdown supporters have salaries, the lockdown sceptics are business people who have to meet a payroll. If you can work from home and receive a salary no matter what -- civil servants, politicians, media, academics -- then lockdowns can be just fine. If you have a payroll to meet, and rent to pay, and need to make a bit of profit so you to give your kids a decent education, then you’re going to be much less supportive of lockdowns (but still care for your grandma!). 

I remember for us, when we set up our business here in Hong Kong in 2000, which we eventually grew to 300 staff, the whole concept of meeting that salary bill, every month, no matter what, became sacrosanct, and changed the way I looked at the world. People should not sneer at those who have to meet a payroll. They should try it themselves. And praise and admire those that do. It has seemed pretty clear to us from some time that there’s a big chasm between the pro and anti lockdown camps and that the main reason is whether you have to meet a payroll, or you get a salary.

Our local English language paper, the South China Morning Post, which I’ve often said is the best English language paper in the region, is openly pro-lockdown. It will print letters anti the lockdowns, like mine. But its editorial stance is clearly in favour, not just of controlling the virus, but a “zero virus” strategy, which we were told early on was not possible and in the pursuit of which we may just permanently ruin our economy and the lives of working age people. 

Part of the pro-lockdown stance, they run today’s article from the WHO’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan. TBF to the article, she nowhere mentions lockdown. But the tone is all about control of the type that leads governments to lockdown. And while she says that government ought to pursue targeted interventions, she attacks the Great Barrington Declaration for its focused protection” -- which does sound pretty similar to “targeted intervention", doesn’t it? So in some ways its a bit of a dogbreakfast of an article, not even internally consistent. (Recalling too, that her colleague, David Navarro, just last week said we at the WHO do not advocate lockdowns”). And ‘Lockdowns are a terrible idea’, Martin Kulldorff, Harvard epidemiologist and co-authors of the GBD.

The WHO’s Dr Soumya Swaminathan attacks the recent Great Barrington Declaration, in a piece in today’s South China Morning Post.

ADDED: what expertise do I have to offer? Why should I think I can critique a doctor from the WHO? Well, I, like the rest of you, am now an expert armchair epidemiologist. I have googled. Ergo am an expert. Covido ergo sum...

Then, consider this: Dr Swaminathan is criticising -- indeed sneering at -- an eminent group of epidemiologists at top-tier universities (Harvard, Oxford, Stanford). So, the experts are on different sides. I’m just taking a side. If it’s going to be a battle of the experts, should I follow Swaminathan, a middling bureaucrat at the muddling WHO, led by a man with no medical degree? Or follow storied professors of virology and epidemiology at world-best universities? I’ma gonna go the latter.

How one handles the virus is a political judgement. And in many countries in the world, the people, the demos, have their say in the politics. So we all have a say.

The fact-check

The Great Barrington Declaration

Click on screenshot to go the vid. A talk with Andrew Neil

Prof Sunetra Gupta is great. I’ve been following her since she wrote a paper back in March or thereabouts, questiong the modelling done at Imperial College London. And it deserved to be questioned, as it has got the numbers wrong by a factor of over 10. And can’t be replicated.

Recently she co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration. “Great” not as in Sunetra is great, but as in that’s the name of the town in the US where it was jointly signed by three preeminent epidemiologists from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford.

Because it doesn’t fit the narrative -- lockdown, lockdown and more lockdown -- it’s not very popular on the Left and amongst the technorati. Google has tried to suppress it. 

Still, it’s there, the Declaration. And ready for your signature, if you read it and support it, as I have done. That is, if you care about the fact that lockdowns are ruinous not just to economies, but also to the health, life and well-being of working-age people the world over. Mainly the poor, as it happens. 

Kitchen garden