Monday 30 November 2020

Alex Thomson out of Vendée Globe

Flying machine. Brought to ground by fishing kit

Three weeks into the race and just after having completed a mammoth five day repair job, being back in the race — only four days ago exulting “the Boss is back!” — his boat, Hugo Boss, hits some discarded fishing equipment and loses his starboard rudder...

Vendée Globe Tracker : Alex’s sad news aside, the race is fascinating. 31 boats remain in the race and the leader is about to pass the Cape of Good Hope — four days behind the record Alex set in 2016. Surely he’ll be back in 2024. He’s a fantastically popular sailor, even in arch rivals France.

Article from Vendée website:

Charlie Dalin, the Vendée Globe race leader, should pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on Monday, the first of the mythical 24,296 nautical miles solo round the world’s three Great Capes. That his elapsed time since the race started in Les Sables d’Olonne will be around 22 days might be of some tiny consolation to British skipper Alex Thomson who is heading to Cape Town.

His Vendée Globe may be over because of a broken rudder sustained on Friday evening but the blistering pace of 17 days  22hrs 58 seconds that Thomson leading the 2016-17 race remains intact, and is likely to remain so for at least another four years.

Central Moon


Central Hong Kong from Siena, Discovery Bay. Last night.
108-storey International Commercial Centre in middle

Saturday 28 November 2020

Blue … Dog


Blue: Morning Glory. Pots hand made with old T-shirts and fast-dry concrete 

Dog: Basil, coming to grips with Shuai Mei painting

With its ‘wolf warrior’ bullying tactics, China failed to learn from US path to global leadership

This article by Gregory Mitrovich strikes me as being pretty much spot on the money. Bottom line: it's very critical of China and its bullying tactics, with Xi Jinping and the Belt and Road (BAR) mentioned specifically.  As I've been critical too, especially of the bully-in-chief, the guy that sets the tone, the Godfather, Xi Jinping. (Btw, this is our local paper, keeping on keeping on, with robust criticisms of the mainland).
The comments are running almost all against Mitrovich: The US is the true great bully, kills and maims innocent civilians; it set up the post-war order for its own benefit.
There’s the usual gaggle of the “fifty-cent army” among the commenters. The Beijing sock-puppets, though you're not allowed to say so or your comment is blocked. You can tell them though, from their poor English — on an English-speaking site. There are others who are just anti-American in the good ol' Chomskyian sense and so have to support a US rival, even if it's an evil regime like Xi's.
Some facts can't be gainsaid. The post-war order, largely US inspired, has given us a fairer and richer world; US soft power for the last 70+ years has been a powerful magnet for the whole world; as a result, the feet vote by running to the United States, not away, and certainly not to China. 
If we look at China’s rapid rise in the last forty years, the remarkable increase in incomes and standards of living, consider this: that it didn’t happen because of the policies of Xi Jinping and like minded authoritarians. It happened precisely to the extent that China loosened its grip, precisely to the extent that it let people get on with doing their own thing, precisely to the extent that it allowed market forces to work their magic, even today the SOEs, China’s State Owned Elephants, are monstrously inefficient and still gobble up vast quantities of state mandated funds. So talk of the magic of socialism or even “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is way off the mark.
China state interference in its economy makes a sick joke of its slamming Australia wine with nearly  220% import duties on the claim it gets export subsidies*. I used to work in that industry and I know it’s nonsense. Talk about pots and kettles and glass houses. But they’ll get away with it. Probably. Because they’re bullies and they’re a large bully to boot, the lethal combination. 

*ADDED: That story — the one about China blocking Aussie wine — is infested with the “Fifty-cent” brigades in the comments section.  How do I know? 
1. Because there were 176 comments when I went there. SCMP is not like the New York Times or Washington Post which get thousands of comments. The Post does well if it gets a dozen. 176 is almost unheard of. Especially for a post tucked away in the Business section, which took me a while to find. It suggests - to me, at least — that the swarms were directed there. As they have been whenever there’s been an Australia-China story. Bash Australia, Comrades!
2. Their bad English, in an English-speaking paper. Their grammar and tone don’t fit in.
3. They follow a set of talking points — Australia is a “small potato” (xiao tudou), it’s the US’ lapdog, who cares about Australia, they’re a bunch of racists anyway, block all Australian goods, don’t visit or study in Australia. They have a big thing two against the Five Eyes. First Australia, then the rest, Comrades!
Meantime, I just spoke to an old mate who’s lived in China for 35+ years. He tells me that there’s been a boom in wealthy Chinese shifting money to Australia. Amounts have doubled in recent months. So no matter the vitriol from Beijing and the efforts of the vile Fifty Cent-ers, folks on the ground are still wanting out even to as horrid a place as Oz.

Thursday 26 November 2020

Frances Adamson: Aussie’s Wolf Diplomat

The senior diplomat’s [Frances Adamson] candid remarks come as relations between Canberra and Beijing remain at their lowest ebb in decades amid heated disputes spanning trade, alleged espionage, Huawei Technologies Co., Hong Kong, and the South China Sea. [Link…]

Frances is head (Secretary) of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where I worked for eleven years all up, between 1976 and 1995, serving in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. And for sure Australia-China relations are the worst in all that time. Most of the time they have been more than cordial.

To resolve this very serious breakdown will need each side to step back from one of their demands and this discussion ought to be going in behind closed doors. In my reading of it, Beijing needs to make the first step as it was the one which staged a hissy fit in response to criticisms from Canberra that were well within the normal diplomatic ambit, within, that is to say, the norms of international relations. Not for Beijing, though. Oh no. Beijing cancelled Australian exports, and did in breach of WTO rules and conventions  — their bans on our exports are “informal guidance”, says Beijing. Right. (China was brought into the WTO by Bill Clinton with assurances it would engage China more fully in the international community. It did not — membership of WTO led to China’s domination of world trade and quasi-theft [technology transfer demands] of intellectual property).

Which is why we need to be very wary of Beijing wanting to set the agenda. Can we trust they can overcome their mercantilist impulses? No we cannot. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”.

[The “Wolf Diplomat” term is a reference to China’s Wolf Warrior Diplomats]

SCMP - Beijing moves towards ‘comprehensive jurisdiction’ over Hong Kong

More in the "not-good-news" category.  Given that an independent judiciary is one of the KSPs of Hong Kong to the international community, especially business, and as a bulwark for we locals. A free and independent judiciary. But … 
The common law tradition is being slowly rolled back as the legal system will be converging with that of the mainland in the coming years. Foreign governments and legal specialists, as well as local opposition, may huff and puff, but the reforms are inevitable and irresistible. [Link…]
Whatever the reforms over the last forty years in the Chinese legal system, they have signally failed tomachieve independence and neutrality. Finding without fear or favour. Doesn't exist on the mainland. Coming soon to Hong Kong: not good. Though I don't expect to be caught up in it personally, as I'm not expecting to come before the courses.  Still, one never knows. 

It's so sad to sit and watch Beijing's depredations. And Carrie Lam, our C-E, in collusion with it. Yesterday her annual policy address was two and a half hours long. Only authoritarians speak so long. 



From Grindjee, Zermatt, Valais, Switzerland. From International Landscape photos of the year. I skied on the Matterhorn’s glacier in 1974.

Kewl (?!): China’s stealth bomber

Gives intercontinental strike capacity 

Wednesday 25 November 2020

A moon goddess is not a moon rock

The Moon Goddess Chang ‘e. Ming dynasty
China launched their rocket to the moon yesterday from the Hainan Island launch site. It’s off to the moon to collect moon rocks to bring back so we can learn more about what it’s made of, and thus what our earth is made of -- given our understanding that the moon was created out of a collision between the early earth and a Mars-sized planet we call Theia. 

I decided earlier this year I’d pop down to Hainan for a launch, as it’s just down the road from us — we’ve even sailed there on our Xena —  but of course… Covid-19.

The rocket is called the “Chang’e” (嫦娥) Pronounced like “chunk” without the “k” and then “err” as in mistake. Chaarng Err.... Close enough. (Not “Changi” as in the Singapore airport).

It’s named after the Chinese goddess of the moon. That’s her above. Wiki tells us:

Chang e... is the Chinese goddess of the MoonShe is the subject of several legends in Chinese mythology, most of which incorporate several of the following elements: Houyi the archer, a benevolent or malevolent emperor, an elixir of life, and the Moon. She is married to the archer Houyi. In modern times, Chang'e has been the namesake of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.

Now here’s the thing. No-one confuses these Chinese legends and myths with the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Yet that is what Australia’s CSIRO is doing, when it stretches the meaning of “astronomy" to include Aboriginal myths and fables about the night sky. That’s patronising and dishonest. The new name of the Parkes telescope, which was the first in the world to beam news of the moon landing to earth, is now Murriyang. 

In the Wiradjuri Dreaming, Biyaami (Baiame) is a prominent creator spirit and is represented in the sky by the stars which also portray the Orion constellation. Murriyang represents the 'Skyworld' where Biyaami lives. [Link...]

I don’t mind at all -- in fact I fully support -- moves in Oz to name things after indigenous antecedents. Many names in Oz already have indigenous names, and many have changed, with broad public support -- like Ayers rock now commonly known as Uluru. Great. And I love what the CSIRO is doing with the Reconciliation Action Plan, to work with and respect the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. And Murriyang is a fine, euphonious name, a pleasing name. And I do like to learn what it means as an aboriginal story, a “Dreamtime” story. 

But to pretend that it’s equally valid to describe, say, Cygnus X-1, a high-mass X-ray binary system rotating around a black hole, as an Aboriginal bark canoe -- because this is Aboriginal “Astronomy”, as opposed to an Aboriginal fables? To suggest that these fables gave us (unspecified) knowledge “long before us”? There’s now a whole website on Indigenous Astronomy. All of which is of the same ilk: fables and stories, starting with the “Emu in the Sky”, presented to us as “science” and now taught at schools as “astronomy”. 

This is not only wrong, it is deeply and dishonestly condescending. It does nothing to develop true aboriginal astronomy, wherever that may be practiced. These are legends and myths, like the Chinese Moon Goddess, fun to learn about sure, but not astronomy. Astrology, if we wish. Just not the science of Astronomy.

LATER: I guess I seem somewhat cranky here. After all, what’s the problem with Reconciliation? The answer is “nothing”. Indeed, as I said, I support widespread renamings to recognise aboriginal heritage. It’s when it makes equivalence between fables and science — claims that they are the same — that I get tetchy. It’s part of the woke attack, via Critical Theory, of the whole edifice of science, especially of STEM. The notion that 2 plus 2 can equal 5, if I want it to. If I need it to. This is a trend in the Academy in the US and now more broadly about. So, that’s why my crankiness about this....

[Here’s the academic James Lindsay, author of Cynical Theories, talking about the origins and now influence of Critical Theories]

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Bougainvillea and Tea Tree

The Chinese for the Tea-tree is Huangjin LiuShu 黄金 柳树 which back-translates to “Golden Willow”, though it’s clearly not a willow. It looks more like a Tea tree, though maybe a touch spiky. *
The bougainvillea has just bloomed again, in Fall. From my observation the bougainvillea is a capricious plant given to fickle bloomings. 

* Official: it’s the Black Tea Tree, a member of Melaleuca family

ADDED: I’ve also read about the bougainvillea that you should treat it harshly if you want it to bloom well. Don’t give it water or fertiliser. It’s a masochist of a plant, apparently. Rather like in Australia, the finest merino wools, the most prized fibres come from sheep that have grazed in harsh lands, not the lush green English fields of their forbears. That makes their wool fine, low-micron.  But we’re not going to mistreat our bougainvilleas. We’re going to give them some of our wonderful compost. That may make them even more fickle. A sign of their displeasure, perhaps. 

Tumbling Compost


It took just a month for our kitchen scraps and fallen leaves to turn into this wonderful fragrant compost. In our old upright composter it took nearly a year. This one has two chambers, one for adding, one for curing. Each time you add some scraps, you give it a turn or two. Great machine!

It’s made of recycled and recyclable plastic. On Amazon it’s amongst the cheapest also the highest rated. We put the  tray underneath is to catch the liquid compost “tea” and keep our kitchen patio pristine. 

Coronavirus fatality rate does not justify strong lockdowns

  • Those who oppose lockdowns do not place the economy above the health of the elderly, but recognise that these measures cause public health problems unrelated to Covid-19

My letter Published 20 November 

I refer to your editorial “We must all soldier on together if coronavirus battle is to be won” (November 17).

Coming so soon after Remembrance Day, the headline conjures up unfortunate images of soldiers hauling themselves out of the trenches only to be mowed down by machine guns.

Monday 23 November 2020

The Trouble(s) with ‘Sovereignty’

I thought at the outset that Trump pulling the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership deal was an own goal. Why pull out of something that could counter the rise of China? Why leave the playing field wide open to the strikers in Beijing? 

Even Trump supporters were critical of this move. Bad move. Silly move. Dopey move. Idiotic move.

Kevin Williamson spells it out 

Sunday 22 November 2020

Debunking the “Electric Universe Theory”

Click above to go to video
How did I miss this one? I’d never heard of the Electric Universe Theory, but it’s apparently widespread. In its strongest version it denies the existence of Gravity! The Big Bang didn’t happen. The universe is static…

Came across the EUT via David Thompson’s blog, reporting on the renaming of Australia’s iconic Parkes Telescope — made famous by transmitting the first pix from the moon in 1969. I remember! 

Those Aboriginal Telescopes.:

The particulars of that “astronomical knowledge,” also referred to as “ancient wisdom,” and its bearing on modern radio astronomy, are, alas, not shared in the press release. We are, however, told that the “telescope naming project,” which involved CSIRO staff, Wiradjuri Elders, the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and various other bodies, required “over two years” of work. Readers intrigued by the promise of astronomy being enhanced with, and perhaps superseded by, ancient aboriginal wisdom can partake of this cosmic bong trip.

Silver grass on Sunset Peak


Sunset Peak on our island of Lantau, Hong Kong, where nestles our very own Discovery Bay. More pix here

I have walked these very fields in the times of "silver grass" and remembered the Gladiator, Russel Crowe, returning from battles, walking away from us (from camera), in wheat fields, his hands outstretched caressing the kernels. He’s dying. 

Saturday 21 November 2020

SCMP - China-Australia relations: PM Scott Morrison tells business sector no compromise for ‘what we stand for’

I'm no fan of our PM Scott Morrison (ScMo), but he's spot on, in saying Australia cannot apologise for its values
China has said it bears "no responsibility" for the poor state of Australia-China relations. Got that? No responsibility; none, nada, zip. That's not a position we can begin to deal with.
And just recently the oleaginous Zhao Lijian (I'm sorry for the  ad hominem but he is oleaginous), spokesman and pack leader of the "wolf warriors" presented a list of "14 grievances" to Australian media. That's post-Opium-War-100 years-humiliation-driven grievances. [By the way, I'm fully on board with China's grievances over the horrors of opium inflicted on them by Victorian England, and of British failure to fully acknowledge its damages].
Many of the "grievances” enumerated by the oleaginous Zhao, are legitimate comments and criticisms by Australia of foreign policy issues, better handled at the United Nations if they even need taking out of the normal bilateral hurly-burly.
I'd expected that the comments at the site would be staunchly anti-Australia and anti-ScoMo, but they're not. Perhaps it's just that the WuMao ("fifty cent army") haven't got there yet.
I'm still to find out if China's anti-Australia trade restrictions are legal under WTO rules. I suspect not. Many are said to be "informal", which suggests — to me at least — that they are not; otherwise why not announce them as WTO compliant?
In China, for importers, an "informal" suggestion by Beijing that you stop buying Aussie wine and meat and coal, is pretty much an offer you can't refuse.
Here in Hong Kong, yesterday at the Wellcome Supermarket, I saw they no longer had an Aussie wine section. This is truly troubling for Hong Kong. Are Wellcome bosses being presented with an offer — an "informal" suggestion —they can't refuse? If so, that a real worry, an erosion of a key freedom, that of Free Port. 
I mean, they can rein in the unruly pan-Dems all they want. But mess with my wine supply?!

Friday 20 November 2020

Turquoise visitor — a Verditer Flycatcher


Conclusion: young male Verditer Flycatcher. Eumyias thalassina 

Came in through our open dining room door this morning. Maybe a Blue Rock-Thrush, though perhaps a little too small for that. 

LATER (22 November): from Robert Ferguson of Wild Creatures Hong Kong:

Hiya,  what a lovely bird. 

Im pretty sure that is a verditer flycatcher…. One of my fave immigrants to photograph at this time of year….tho quite early.. [Robert’s photos]  [Wikipedia]

ADDED: Mystery Bird 

My comment: I’d be inclined to go from Robert’s modest “pretty sure” to my presumptuous “certain”, based on Robert’s pix and Wiki description — the copper-sulphate blue colour, dark patches and grey vents, which you can see clearly in my pic above. Also: according to the Mystery Bird link above, the only bird one might confuse the Verditer Flycatcher with is the Black-naped Blue Flycatcher, and she’s he’s clearly not that.

At the link to Robert’s photos he says they appear in the early months of the year, so this one is “quite early”. Given that this flycatcher moves in winter, does moving early suggest the the weather is warmer or cooler than usual? I’d have thought the logic suggests cooler, as that’s a signal to move, but it sure hasn’t felt cooler than usual. I’m sitting in the patio in 27C, sunny and about to go to the pool for its last day before closing for our “winter”. 

Reminder: for some of you readers of this blog, I sent you a copy of Robert’s booklet Wild Creatures Hong Kong.

LATER STILL: The turquoise colour is not because of pigment but 

…result from small changes in feather structure that alters their light reflective properties. These fundamental modifications cause violet and blue light to be selectively reflected from the feather surface….  Schemochromes

Thursday 19 November 2020

Watch the Vendee Globe around the world Yacht race


Look at these flying machines. Click above to go to the video.
Or see Alex Thomson interview here

Around-the-world, Single-handed, Unassisted, Non-stop. The “Everest of Yachting”.

Great to watch the Tracker. They’re just ten days into it, with about 70 days to go, for the fastest. 

Alex Thompson is in the lead. His fifth Vendee... and they’re only every four years. What magnificent men and women in their flying machines. 33 of them, a record entry.

See it live here
ADDED: Alex’s on-board videos here

“Hong Kong pan-democrats who quit Legco showed neither foresight nor courage”

This letter is along the lines of what I've said for ages: that the key strategic error of the Pan-Dems in Hong Kong was to rebuff the 2014 moves towards universal suffrage. It was a classic case of rejecting the good in favour of the perfect.
That's not hindsight. We thought that at the time: 60% of something was better than 0% of everything.
So what? That's past. "We are where we are". Of course.
But could some awareness maybe inform them now? Support our remaining freedoms. Support the Free Port. Look to 2047 and beyond. Stop bickering. Stop grandstanding.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

“We must all soldier on together if coronavirus battle is to be won”


I refer to your editorial “We must all soldier on together if coronavirus battle is to be won”, 17 November.

Coming so soon after Remembrance Day, the headline conjures unfortunate images of soldiers hauling themselves out of the trenches only to be mown down by reaping machine guns. 

The virus, thank goodness, is not that that deadly. We now know from a Stanford University peer-reviewed analysis  of 61 studies worldwide, that the median Covid infection fatality rate is 0.27%. To be sure, that’s two to three times higher than the influenza IFR, but still means that on average 99.7% of people with Covid recover from it. 

Your Editorial criticises the  "…many who put business and dining above public health". This is a false dichotomy. Those of us who oppose strong lockdowns do not put money above grandma's health. Instead we recognise that the lockdowns themselves cause public health problems unrelated to Covid. There's ample evidence of this worldwide — increased mental health problems, suicides up, more heart attacks and cancer deaths… most tragically, countries unable to “furlough” those thrown out of work by lockdowns face famine. These are also “public health” issues, quite aside from the lives ruined by crushed businesses. Even the WHO recognises this

For Hong Kong, unless we plan to keep our airport permanently closed, we have to learn to live with some level of the virus in our community and to handle it. Balance is the key. Not "zero virus" absolutism. (About as realistic as our “zero road deaths” policy).

A final note: the number of Covid deaths in Hong Kong this year (108) is 1.28% of the deaths from pneumonia (8,437) in 2018. That is, pneumonia is 78 times as deadly as Covid, and the number killed by it every year has been steadily rising (4.6% pa. or 387 deaths per year). Pneumonia is a similar disease to Covid, also most deadly to the elderly with comorbidities (like me). Yet we do not shutter our economy and close the airport for pneumonia. We do not, in short, feel the need to “soldier on together” in mute submission. 

Pf, etc...

SCMP - To stay in Hong Kong or go? Beijing’s latest ruling reignites the dilemma

My comment at the site:

My own decision to stay or go is based on freedoms. Can I freely get access to whatever information I want? Whether from China (Baidu, WeChat, etc) or international (Google, YouTube, Blogger, Netflix, newspapers, etc), and all international films. And I have freedom of speech -- that my blogs are not censored. That I can travel freely. And have freedom of capital movement. That freedom of religion is maintained (tho I'm atheist). These are important freedoms, which we continue to enjoy. If they were eroded, that would be a red line, for me.

I don't like Beijing overreach -- who does? -- but (so far) has not affected these freedoms.

In this respect I say SCMP is doing a pretty good job keeping free speech alive, in difficult times.

SCMP - Coronavirus hunters pick up another piece of the trail in Italy

Will China now support an international investigation into the source of the virus, as some scientists suggest it began in Italy? (Instead of bullying countries like Australia for suggesting an investigation, including the possibility that it began as a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology labs).
Assuming that Milan was indeed the source of the virus, then it's believable that it should appear soon after in China. The Italian fashion industry, based in Milan, has deep ties in China, the manufacturer of much of Milan-designed fibres, clothing and footware.

Monday 16 November 2020

Meantime … major trade deal signed

15 nations sign Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

Including Australia. The RCEP was helped along by Trump pulling out of the TPP, one of his early major strategic errors. Leaving the ground clear for Beijing intrusion. An own goal. RCEP is the “largest in the world”.

RCEP doesn’t mitigate Australia-China tensions. Which, let’s recall, amount to China bullying Australia for having the temerity to ask: why did China ban local flights out of Wuhan in January, but allow international flights? And: what was the true source of the outbreak? Could we have an international investigation, please? Both fair questions. Which any other country would answer. Xi’s China bullies.

Oh, and Australia complains about malicious interference in its domestic affairs, by Beijing proxies in Oz, via its United Front Work Department. How dare we? 

So Beijing’s hissy fit against Australia continues. Bigger picture being that it will only frighten other counties from closer ties with Beijing. Which it should.

Another report on how Beijing is punishing South Korea because it allowed US THAAD missiles on its soil. Punishes a K-Pop band because it doesn’t parrot its false narrative on the Korean War (“Caused by US Imperialism”).

Xi Jinping’s Beijing regime really is horrid. Everyone must try to disentangle from its horridness. 

Sunday 15 November 2020

Staycation in Discovery Bay

Auberge Hotel and the White Chapel
North Plaza, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong

Lots of young couples about in the park and plaza by our place. The Augerge has been offering weekend deals on staycations — come hang out in DB. Our home is a tourist resort. I rather like it. It’s very sweet to see loving couples wandering about. 

And down the beach…

Sam Pak Wan (三白 湾) beach. “Third White"

Saturday 14 November 2020

"Unable to contain the outbreak of joy”...

 No, this is not satire from the Onion:

[The bar owner] said: "Having seen the videos I am shocked, disappointed and saddened.

"This simply is not acceptable and I understand why people are so upset by this."

He said it was clear they "misjudged" what was likely to happen and were "simply unable to contain the outbreak of joy at Scotland's success”.

From the BBC, with h/t to LS. A story of a pub crowd’s reaction to Scotland win in the Euro Football Cup.

Isnt it sad that weve got to this point? Where happiness causes … shock, disappointment and sadness?! And no, its not about “saving grandma”. Grandma would rather you all had your fun. 

SCMP - Last thing world hit by coronavirus needs is US political chaos...

... So reads the Editorial in today’s South China Morning Post. My comment at the site:
Dear SCMP Editors: stop this hyperventilating.

Gore v Bush took *five weeks* in the courts and America survived. For all Trump's bluster, he is entitled to seek court-mandated recounts.  I don't expect he will win those, but until all states are *certified* and the Electoral College voters have voted (mid December, iirc), Joe Biden is not even officially "president-elect.
As for the rest of your scenarios, they are overwrought. Power will be handed over peacefully on January 20. Trump will not barricade himself in the White House; that’s delusional.
Two things can be true at once: (1) Trump may be bloviating, exaggerating -- hysterical, even. And (2) There may be some irregularities (deliberate or glitches) in the voting, which need recounting. 
Even the New York Times acknowledges mistakes in the vote. Though you wouldn’t know it from the headline “”No, Dominion voting machined did not cause widespread voting problems”. In the text, if one can be bothered to actually read it (and many people don’t), it reveals that there were indeed software problems that miscounted votes in Michigan and Georgia, in one case mistakenly giving the race to a Democrat, when a recount -- demanded by Republican observers -- gave it to the sitting Republican, and in another case misallocating over 5,000 votes to Biden instead of Trump, and which again flipped the results. 
So, while it seems that there are not enough mistakes/glitches/whatever, out there to overturn the Biden victory, it’s wrong to say, as much of the MSM media does, that “Trump claims, without evidence, that there are vote irregularities”. There clearly is evidence of some irregularities -- even the New York Times says so! 
By the way: the NYT headline has changed online from that highlighted above to “No, Dominion voting machines did not delete Trump votes”, as if in response to criticisms that words like “widespread” are subjective. Though “delete” is also a bit of slippery word. There were Trump votes misallocated. See Viva Frei, for example.

Malcolm gets in on the act

Ex- PM Malcolm Turnbull urges Canberra not to ‘buckle under pressure’ from Beijing:

Australia should not “buckle under pressure” from an onslaught of trade actions from Beijing and change its stance on controversial bilateral issues with China, according to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The comments* are many and pretty much 100% anti-Turnbull, anti Australia, along the lines of “Australia is US poodle”, “Australia is pathetic, biting the hand that feeds it” and so on.... mostly simplistic and ill-informed, but there you have the essence of modern global relations. 

*Many of the commenters being members of the “Wumao” brigade, I’m sure.

RELATED: Australia’s Power Index Ranking. For those in the comments disparaging Australia’s place in the region and the world. We are a solid middle ranking power and strong in the region. Australia is up there, on that index, just shy of Japan and South Korea, ahead of most in ASEAN. It’s on par with Israel, and no one messes with the “little Satan”. That site also has a fun-to-play imaginary coalition builder. Itsobering that China basically doesnt need any coalition, to be stronger than any one we could build, without the US, which heads the index, ahead of China and Russia.

Friday 13 November 2020

Why has China done so well controlling the virus?

China daily deaths = zero, since April. Daily cases, 7-day avg = 27
Compare and contrast with the World
[Posted at risk of being labelled a Beijing running dog...]
All over the world Covid cases and deaths are on the rise. Especially the US, UK and Europe. While in China, they’re back to normal and the seven-day average of deaths is zero and has been since 24 April. And all over the world people are looking for lessons -- who’s doing best, how and why? The one country they don’t look to is China. Because, I assume, China is on the nose, (1) for the way it (mis)handled the outbreak a year ago now, and (2) the belief that you can’t trust its figures. 
As for (1) we can apply Hanlon’s razor: “never attribute to malice what is explained by stupidity”, or more charitably “don’t ascribe to conspiracy what is explained by incompetence (or uncertainty)”, given that at the outbreak no-one knew what they were dealing with. There’s an exhaustive discussion of the handling of the early data in Quillette. In any case, we’re well past that chaotic beginning, nearly a year ago.
As for (2), given where we sit, here in Hong Kong and the many family connections to the mainland, we would know if there were mass hiding of infection or death figures. There are not. And everyone in China is back to normal activity. That would not be the case if there really were fudging of the figures. I just had a call three days ago with my friend who lives in Zhongshan. He told me that most mainlanders did not need to wear a mask when walking in the streets or playing in the park because the coronavirus is totally under control. They just wear masks in some indoor spaces like supermarkets. Yet, there are Hongkongers who continue to believe that the mainland has low infection numbers only because the Chinese government is deliberately hiding facts. 
I’ve talked to people in China and outside, who know what’s going on. It’s clear that China has indeed got the virus under control. That’s not fake news. Or China hiding the figures. So, what’s it done right and is there anything we can learn from them?
  1. Focus: China made it a priority to eradicate the disease. Xi Jinping said something along the lines of ‘we can make money later, people come first.’
  2. Quarantine: The people of China didn’t argue over being quarantined.
  3. Subsidies: The government picked up the tab for all sorts of things like rents, testing, hospitalization of the sick.
  4. Track and Trace: China has superb tracing apps that give people a colour code that allows them to enter places only if they have not unwittingly been in the same area as a COVID person. No need to take names and addresses in restaurants, buses etc. it’s all done automatically. Everyone in the mainland is required to have a 
    health QR code
    . The codes use three different colours – red, yellow, green – to indicate a person’s likelihood of coronavirus infection. People in the mainland need to present their codes to enter places like shopping malls or restaurants. The effectiveness of this is due to CHina’s investment in surveillance, not as much followed in the west.
  5. Judgement: The government in Beijing made some very good moves early on, and continue to make them. 
  6. Volunteers: millions of volunteers answered the government’s call to help out across the nation, for medical and logistical support and to support the effectiveness of the early lockdowns. It would be a mistake to assume that this was done by force. It was not.
  7. Science: related to not ideology (eg individual vs collective, science vs religion, or “democracy” vs technology). The decision made based on experts’ advice, executive committee’s backing, not a reckless move. (It was a completely lockdown, and quarantine all cases)
  8. Leadership accountability: First time in modern history in the world to lockdown a cosmopolitan city of the size of Wuhan, right before the Chinese New Year without getting into social unrest and riots - there was no army or riot police in sight. The decision was made with huge political and economic risks - Q1 GDP from +6% to -6.8%, and it was made in a very short time.
  9. Speed: As opposed to dilatory action in the west: we still recall how the west looked on in part amazement in part mocking tone, at how China had handled the virus early on, saying “we can’t do that in the west, we’re democracies”, only to lock down every bit as severely, but way too late. Much of the comment at the time was barely concealed racism, which the west ought reflect on with shame.
  10. There is no 10, though ought to be, to round it out. If you can think of one (or more) please do email me.
Some of these are transferable to the west. Some, no doubt not: for example the widespread surveillance system. It’s also not fully understood outside China the extent to which they are post-analog. Cash money is virtually a thing of the past; all payments are by App, even more so than here in Hong Kong. Ditto pretty much everything else. So this would affect the extent to which China experience is transferrable, like that Health QR code.
But at the very least these issues ought to be looked at. Yet we are not. We look instead to New Zealand, or Iceland or Australia. Irrelevant. 
We ought, as they say, “have a discussion” about what China has done right and see what in particular we can learn. With the virus still rampaging in the west, we really need to do that.

Thursday 12 November 2020

Coffee on the patio


22C, garden sitting, Sumatran coffee

Is it over for One Country Two Systems?


Pam-Dems “put on a show of unity”. Well done chaps. Not

I don’t know. But to repeat: they brought it on themselves, the pan-Democrats and the rioters they unleashed on our city last year. Remember last year? They brought Beijing interference on our city. Shame on them. But they don’t see it. They feel no shame and sit there in a “show of unity”, aka virtue signalling. 

This is at top level, in LegCo. What’s important to we the people is maintaining our freedoms. Of movement, speech, religion, assembly, media.

SCMP editors are upset:

The decision to unseat four pan-democrat lawmakers has sent political shock waves across Hong Kong, and not only because it was made without going through the local courts as previously.

 In response, opposition lawmakers have vowed to resign en masse in protest at the move. The outcome is hardly conducive to stability and has a far-reaching impact on political development.

The four risked being ousted when the Legislative Council was extended by another year. They were barred from standing in the now-delayed September elections after their lobbying for foreign sanctions against the government in the wake of last year’s protests was deemed inconsistent with the requirement to uphold the Basic Law.


Believe Harder…

Comments here
The strip today comments on blind faith. “… Believe harder”. Whenever I consider: what do I hate most, my answer would be “blind faith”. It’s that that’s caused the greatest chaos over the millennia. It’s also a late sixties supergroup, Blind Faith. Blind faith saws the head off a middle school teacher. 

Remember: It’s perfectly safe to like this cartoon — it’s not bigoted! The likes of Chicago prof Jerry Coyne writes the foreword to a collection of the strips. Click on the “Jesus & Mo” label below to see my selection over the years, or go straight to the source. The writer of the strip has only ever been known as “Author”, a wise precaution given the anti-cartoon murders in France and Austria.


Canberra Lightening


Black Mountain, Canberra, Australia. Photo: Ari Rex
International photography awards
Canberra: where live manny family and friends…

Wednesday 11 November 2020

It’s such a lovely day here in Hong Kong

Looking west to Park Siena and Tiger Head mountain
23 degrees, clear all the way to the east, past central, a zephyr from just south of east brings clear China Sea airs. 
Riding the promenades after a brisk swim. Look back west, past the banyans, to the Lantau hills, behind the pool, where just swam. Water 24.3C. 
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

REMEMBRANCE DAY: I did remember and follow the ceremonies in the UK. Mum’s father, Grandfather Anderson fought in Egypt in World War I, in the New Zealand part of the ANZAC forces.
Club Siena, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong.Tiger Head mountain

Tuesday 10 November 2020

The ethics of lockdown

 The NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, for instance, has said that shielding the elderly would be a form of ‘apartheid’. Meanwhile, in one highly-regarded bioethics forum, shielding-based policies were compared to a ‘genocide of the aged, the disabled, and the sick’.

From The ethics of lockdown, by Alberto Giubilini 

This is bizarre. Me, I’m over 70 with conditions, so I’d be one of those “shielded”, or -- according to Stevens -- subject to “apartheid”, in danger of “genocide". Really! “Genocide”! Steady on, lads.

All the folks in my age range that I know would prefer that lockdowns be focussed, and focussed on them. Not on the whole population, which only hammers the lives of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Like me, they’d all rather have school and working age folks get back to study, work and play. And for the protections to be focussed. As per the Great Barrington Declaration. I’ve not seen a better idea since.

Giubilini goes on:

Such loaded, politicised language runs contrary to rational ethical analysis. If shielding is a far worse idea, then the idea should be properly assessed and weighed up against the alternatives. Of course a full lockdown should not be ruled out on principle — it is good to keep the option on the table. But if it is to be a measure of last resort, then we must examine the alternatives.

BREAKING (16:00 HKT): hearing that there’s a vaccine in the UK that can be rolled out. .... Zoom shares have slumped on the news.