Wednesday 31 March 2021

Zhuangzi on Confirmation Bias

My brush pen arrived. Above is my first go, writing out this bit of Zhuangzi.

From Zhuangzi "Metaphorical Language", Article 1. 

Men assent to views which agree with their own, and oppose those which do not so agree. Those which agree with their own they hold to be right, and those which do not so agree they hold to be wrong.
Surely the very definition of Confirmation Bias. From 1800 years ago...

How to read the above in modern Mandarin, top to bottom, right to left:
Yǔ jǐ tóng zé yīng, 
Bù yǔ jǐ tóng zé fǎn, 
Tóng yú jǐ wéi shì zhī, 
Yì yú jǐ wéi fēi zhī

[ADMISSION: the bottom right character (Ying) is incorrectly written. But you only get one go]

ADDED; I'm trying to write in what Chinese call "Cao Shu", which is more free-form than simple cursive, or Xing Shu.  Up until this very minute I'd always thought Cao Shu meant "grass script" on the basis that the character Cao (草) means "grass", and I'd taken it to mean that the writing is way more cursive than normal and is kind of like grass. But I read in wiktionary that it's a calque, meaning "careless, sloppy or hasty". Still, it might be pretty much the same. I'll continue to call it "grass script". (In fact, it opens it up to me: I can just call it my careless, sloppy or hasty go at it....)
I've just got a new Dictionary of Cao Shu, from the Jiangxi Art Publishing House. It's great. Multiple examples of famous calligraphers' Grass Script over the millenia. When there's a choice, I prefer that of the Jin Dynasty calligrapher Wang Xizhi. That's what I try above. 

“Beijing passes sweeping reforms for HK”

Not a good look and depressing for those of us who hoped for increasing democracy in Hong Kong. Then again, the nail was hammered into that coffin way back in 2014 when the pan-Dems rejected reforms that would have brought us closer to universal suffrage, rejecting on the basis that they were only 60 or 70% of what they wanted and not 100% of what they demanded. Instead they get roll-back to zero. Way to go, lads!

So, who to blame? There’s plenty to go around. 

Beijing, of course, because one can always blame Beijing. Who, these days, loves a Communist Party? 

One could argue — and it has force — that the apparatchiks in Beijing were forced into what they’re doing now. That last year’s National Security Law was needed to stop rioters rampaging daily through our streets. 

You can blame the protesters-cum-rioters themselves. And that’s where I, myself, me, place most of the blame. It was truly shocking g to see what they did to our city. The wanton destruction and vicious anti-police anti-CCP graffiti, burning Chinese owned businesses, storming our very own Legco. 

And tied to that one could also blame those providing the money to the rioters. The evidence is circumstantial, but strong, that the CIA-funded National Endowment for Democracy funded the rioters, at least to some degree. I doubt that had NED or someone else not provided funds that the rioting woikd have stopped. I reckon it was mostly, maybe 99% above, locally-inspired. So this “foreign interference” was more of a force multiplier than a force initiater.

And finally, of course, one can blame our very own government, particularly the inept Chief Executive Carrie Lam pushing the ill advised extradition law. It was that that sparked the demos and then the rioting in the first place. 

Still, most of our seven freedoms remain intact. If Xi”s apparatchiks stop with requiring our leaders be “patriots” that’s fine. But will they stop? Once they have the bit between their teeth and sanctions are just an inconvenience? 

Pink, Red, Magenta


Auberge Hotel, Callistemon Viminalis

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Saturday 27 March 2021

Zhuangzi on Twitter

Starts with CD pen medium, runs out of ink, turns
to fine. Waiting for brush pens


From Article 3 of "Man in the World, Associated with other men"

Pinyin. In my writing above, top to bottom right to left.

Fánshì yì rán. Shǐ hū liàng, cháng zú hū bǐ; 

qí zuò shǐ yě jiǎn, qí jiāng bì yě bì jù. 

Fū yán zhě, fēngbō yě; 

xíngzhě, shí sàng yě

Legge translation: In all things it is so. People are at first sincere, but always end with becoming rude; at the commencement things are treated as trivial, but as the end draws near, they assume great proportions. Words are (like) the waves acted on by the wind; the real point of the matters (discussed by them) is lost. The wind and waves are easily set in motion; the success of the matter of which the real point is lost is easily put in peril. Hence quarrels are occasioned by nothing so much as by artful words and one-sided speeches. The breath comes angrily, as when a beast, driven to death, wildly bellows forth its rage.

My Twitter-morphic translation: Everything turns to shit. 

Isn't Zhuangzi's observation just like things so often go on Twitter? What starts off as a simple discussion, very quickly devolves into name calling and nastyness. "Quarrels are occasioned". 

Why it matters if the origin of the coronavirus was a lab leak or not

Click above to go straight to the talk on lab-leak hypothesis
Bret and Heather sum it best here, starting around 58'.  Podcast no. 68.


  • If the virus accidentally leaked from a laboratory that was researching an enhanced versions of it, in order to work out how to control it (known as "gain of function" research) then such research ought be stopped forthwith, until better safety protocols can be worked out. 
  • If, on the other hand, it is proven that this virus did not come from a lab leak, then such research ought be speeded up

So it's pretty important. Gain of function research: stopped? Or speeded up?

Many people are saying the lab-leak hypothesis has been "debunked". It has not. People -- including, of course, the whole of China -- have tried to discredit the hypothesis, but discrediting is not the same as debunking. Nor is it enough to quote the WHO that the lab-leak hypothesis is "extremely unlikely". That's not the same as "impossible". Moreover, recall that the WHO said in January 2020 that human to human transmission of the virus was also "extremely unlikely".  (They now try to excuse that comment by saying they were just passing on Chinese information. But that only goes to show how much they were -- arguably still are -- parroting a Chinese line).

After the recent WHO team China visit a number of scientists sent an open letter seeking an independent inquiry, including into the lab-leak hypothesis. 

In interviews with Science Magazine the head of the WHO team admitted that it didn't have the tools during its visit to research the lab-leak hypothesis. Forensic tools were needed and the team didn't have forensic tools. An amazing and frankly shocking revelation, given the alleged aims of the team visit. Moreover: they were not given access to data at the lab in question: the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). They said in an interview with Science Magazine that the Chinese "told us" that there had been no lab leak. Oh right! That settles it. Nothing to see here lads. Off to the welcome banquet!

In case the lab-leak idea sounds ludicrous (and it ought not, as lab leaks have happened regularly), the head of the WIV, Dr Shi Zhengli (aka "batwoman") rushed back to the lab in some panic, fearing, as she told the media at the time -- before she was silenced -- that there "may have been a leak from my lab". Why would she fear this, if it was impossible? She was later "relieved" to find that it had not been a leak. Oh right!  More evidence! Off to the return banquet!

By the way: I'm not sure that believing the lab-leak hypothesis ought be properly investigated is some kind of conspiracy theory. It's simply stating the obvious, that all possible virus-origin sources ought be properly investigated, and by all accounts, including the WHO itself, that has not happened. Saying the lab-leak hypothesis was "extremely unlikely" (the WHO view immediately after their recent visit), doesn't do it, especially when we recall that they said human-to-human infection was also extremely unlikely back in January 2020.

ADDED: at the Darkhorse podcast look at "Show More" for a link to the WebArchive version of the lab-leak hypothesis on Wikipedia and how that has been "disappeared" in the current entry on the origins of the virus, by some activist "fact checkers". Fascinating and a touch scary.... I'm wondering why these activists would do it. Why support China? An answer: they all hate Trump and it was Trump, among others, who pushed the lab-leak hypothesis.

Friday 26 March 2021

‘When you think of your travels in China, remember your Chinese mates’


My calligraphy practice with the thicker brush. It says wot says the headline.  J reckons it’s Mao Tse-tung. I can’t find reference.

Top to Bottom, Right to Left:
Sī zhōnghuá zhī xíng  Thinking of your travels in China
Niàn jiǔzhōu zhī yǒu  Remember your Chinese friends

Are women safe on UK streets? Emma Webb and Ella Whelan

Emma Webb and Ella Whelan. Click screenshot for vid
As Emma says: it’s impossible for men to have a conversation about this without getting into trouble. So let’s hear from two smart, eloquent women. Emma I know form appearances on the New Culture Forum. Ella I’m seeing for the first time. I find both impressive. 

They speak to two listeners on Triggernometry: Francis Foster and Konstantin Kisin.  These are two leftish stand up comedians who have come out as anti woke. 

Thursday 25 March 2021

Joanna Lumley urges “Stop the Blasts”

Oh I do love Joanna Lumley. She’s such a lovely and enthusiastic host of trips to this part of the world, to the Caribbean, on trains from Peking to Paris.

Like all celebs, she’s also an “activist”. But darling Joanna picks her activist fights with care. A few years back it was the awful treatment of retired Gurkhas. She won that fight and good on her.

Now it’s the issue of underwater blasts; he blazing that’s done on the sea floor where they mean to build an offshore wind turbine. She’s not against offshore wind power..Heaven forfend! But there are ways of doing it that cause much less damage to marine life, especially marine mammals..

She needs to win this fight as well. I just saw her in German DW TVspeculating that the blasts may be the cause of the mysterious beaching of dolphins and whales — their lose their sonar locating sense. So join up Stop the Blasts”!


Joanna Lumley has urged Boris Johnson to stop the “needless” detonation of wartime bombs at sea because it can cause deafness and even death in vulnerable whales and dolphins.

In a letter to the prime minister and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, who is a conservationist and animal welfare campaigner, the actor describes underwater explosions used to clear ordnance ahead of windfarm construction in the UK as “truly shocking in scale”, with a “devastating impact” on marine mammals.

Her intervention came after a report last week said that noise pollution in the ocean was being dangerously overlooked.

In the seas around Britain, an estimated 50 detonations are carried out every year, but this figure is likely to increase as a result of the quadrupling of offshore windfarms as part of Johnson’s pledge to power every home using wind energy by 2030. [Read on…]

False prophets...


And the religion of Woke, with all their twitter acolytes who "happily swallow their incoherent ideology"....

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.

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Zhuangzi on Capitalism vs Socialism


Writing is mine, with a CD marker; I'm going to improve, promise....
[I started looking at Zhuangzi here. A lot of what this Taoist says resonates today]
From Zhuangzi 365 BC - 286 BC. “Nourishing the Lord of Life” article 4. 
Mandarin pinyin, top to bottom right to left: 
Zé zhì shíbù yī zhuó, bǎibù yī yǐn
Bù qí chù hū fán zhōng
Shén suī wáng... bùshàn Yě
My translation: 
"Pheasants scrabble to find their own food and water. They’d be better off in a coop. But they prefer the freedom."
[Or check out Legge's translation Article 4]
Is it too much of a stretch to see the connection between Zhuangzi's ruminations on pheasants (a bit of inter-species mind reading?) and free markets vs socialism? People looking out for themselves, vs being fed and clothed by the state....

Floods and Tears

Full back page spread of the floods. Also on all cable stations

That’s the headline on the full back page pictorial in today’s South China Morning Post. Pretty much all we see of Oz news is bushfires, floods and parliamentary sex scandals. 

Monday 22 March 2021

Airforce One: don't be a Stairway to Heaven!

Joe Biden slipped going up the stairs of Airforce One. Not once, but thrice. So what? But Republicans mocked; Democrats excused. Me?... I felt for Joe. It's not funny. Those are steep steps. You could die on them. They could be the president's very own Stairway to Heaven.

I did the calculation. It's easy from the photos above. The slope is 40 degrees. Now, that's the slope of a Black Run on a ski resort. And if you've ever skied one of those (I have) you know they're steep and if you fall you're going to slide an awful long way. It was luck for Joe he was holding on, otherwise he too could have fallen down an awful long way. A friend of ours fell down our staircase a decade ago. It was a shock. We fitted a handhold straight after and I've held on to it ever since.

The problem here is that of the people around the president none is in their seventh, let alone their eighth, decade. The president is the oldest man, full stop. The others -- his aides, the marines, the pilots, the sundry helpers, the airport staff -- they are all in their 30s to 50s. They don't know that when you get to 70+, stairs are no longer something you take for granted. Even for Joe, who's in pretty good shape. Let alone a Trump, or me, a septuagenerian like them, but more the body shape of the Orange Man than the Sleepy One. So, these younger folks surrounding the president don't treat stairs as seriously as their boss does. And their boss is not going to admit he's got anything to worry about. I'm sure Joe will say "I'm fine, don't worry about it". But the simple truth is that he ought worry about it. And therefore so should the people around him. 

You can die from falling down the steps. In the BBC mini series Life, the David Aston character (Adrian Lestor) mourns the recent death of his fiancée, killed in a fall down the local shopping mall's escalator. I think of that these days, when I get on an escalator. I no longer take them, even escalators, for granted.

So, I call for -- indeed I predict -- doing away with the steps up to Airforce One. It's a bit strange they still have them. What for? Security? or just to have the photo ops? Either way, do away with them. Do away with them, I say! Bring Airforce One up to the Air-bridge like the rest of us. That's what ought to happen. And that's what I predict will happen in this age of octogenarian heads of state. 

We don't really want their climb into the presidential airplane to be their own Stairway to Heaven, do we?


The Great Acceleration: why I’m looking forward to the post-COVID age

Under my label of "Optimism". 

Before the pandemic, there was talk of an impending 'Great Stagnation' — that the world economy was doomed to lackluster growth because we were in a technological rut. But COVID — and lockdown — have changed that, making us reevaluate how we understand the timescale of innovation. Early on there was much doubt over the prospect of a vaccine because they normally take at least 10 years to develop. Now, in the space of 10 months, we have six working ones. The same creative catalyst that saw the vaccine rolled out at breakneck speed is active across a variety of sectors, hastening the arrival of emerging technologies, from transport and energy to medicine and science, and even in the financial world.

Take transportation and energy: the demand for driverless cars and delivery vans boomed last year because people were fearful of getting infected. In response companies quickly scaled up their plans. Last October, for example, Waymo announced the launch of a taxi service that is fully driverless. Walmart announced in December its plans to use fully autonomous box trucks to make deliveries in Arkansas later this year. As retail goes online as a result of the pandemic, massive delivery volumes are now placing greater pressure on others to follow suit.

Read on… 

Saturday 20 March 2021

Zhuangzi on Woke-ism

I'm reading Zhuangzi. In the original, as in the original classical Chinese (humblebrag...). Classical Chinese which I have enjoyed studying since I first did in 1976, during studies of modern Mandarin. I love the compression of classical Chinese, the elegance. 

The translation is by James Legge (1815-1897). Not a great translation, according to me. But I'm not about to try my own... Also not a great edition, by Dragon Reader, a paperback which tends to fall apart, but it'll do. The Classical Chinese is followed by Legge's translation. 

Reading through, rather selectively -- because a lot of of Zhuangzi is tosh -- I found some bits of it that seemed to reflect the woke vs non-woke battles we have today. Zhuangzi lived in the Warring States period 475 BC to 9 AD (Western Han), so roughly 2,500 years ago. Plus ça change!

Example: From Tian Xia, (The World) Article 7.1. Talking of the then famous debater Hui Shi (惠施). This is Zhuangzi hammering Hu Shi; hammering what we would call today the SJW, the woke brigade, the "woke-erati"... This online version is also Legge's translation. Colours relate to the Chinese below.

Hui Shi had many ingenious notions. His writings would fill five carriages; but his doctrines were erroneous and contradictory, and his words were wide of their mark. Taking up one thing after another, he would say:
    • 'That which is so great that there is nothing outside it may be called the Great One; and that which is so small that there is nothing inside it maybe called the Small One.'
    • 'What has no thickness and will not admit of being repeated is 1000 li [miles] in size.' 'Heaven may be as low as the earth.' 'A mountain may be as level as a marsh.'
    • ' The sun in the meridian may be the sun declining.' 'A creature may be born to life and may die at the same time.'

Hui Shi sounds rather like today's SJWs who claim that everything is relative, that there is no real Truth, that, indeed,  2 + 2 can equal 5? If he were on Twitter today, Zhuangzi would say: "Hu Shi: that guy's a woke dick"....

Bits I like, in the original, the classical Chinese, colours relating to the above: 

惠施多方,其書五車. Reads, in modern Mandarin: Huì shī duōfāng, Qí shū wǔ chē. Literal translation: Hui Shi Many Sides; His Books Five Carts. Less literally: "Hui Shi is all over the place, and churns out  enough to sink a ship"...
山與澤平: Reads:  Shān yǔ zé píng. Literal: Mountain and Marsh Level. Less literally: "There's really no difference between a mountain and a marsh; between the high and the low". This is part of a string of moral relativist nonsense Zhuangzi quotes in disparaging Hui Shi. "Po-mo bullshit" we'd say today, "we" anti-woke crowd.

Despite this nonsense from Hui Shi, Zhuangzi notes that he was very popular. Again, rather like today, SJW charlatans' popularity. In the very next verse, we learn:
Hui Shi by such sayings as these made himself very conspicuous [famous] throughout the kingdom, and was considered an able debater...

And his acolytes went further with the woke-ness, all of 2,500 years ago: They vie to outdo one another in what today we'd call moral relativity.  Eg:

 'There are feathers in an egg.' 'A fowl has three feet.' 'The kingdom belongs to Ying.' 'A dog might have been (called) a sheep.' 'A horse has eggs.' 'A tadpole has a tail.' 'Fire is not hot.' 'A mountain gives forth a voice.' 'A wheel does not tread on the ground.' 'The eye does not see.' 'The finger indicates, but needs not touch, (the object).' 'Where you come to may not be the end.' 'The tortoise is longer than the snake.' 'The carpenter's square is not square'...

One I like:
犬可以為羊. Read as: Quǎn kěyǐ wéi yáng. Literal translation: Dog can be like sheep. Less literally: "Don't dogs -- especially creamy-coloured ones, ivory coloured ones --  sometimes look like sheep, especially when they've just had a bath? And even if they deny it vehemently?".
That's our Basil:

When he's just been washed he's got fur like a sheep. He denies it. We love him still.

Friday 19 March 2021


I used to have to be reading or watching something on the iPad. Always had to be occupied when sitting down. Now in my eighth decade, I find the pleasure of just idly gazing. 

North Plaza Discovery Bay, Hong Kong. A balmy and not too humid 25...



Thursday 18 March 2021

Did Lockdowns reduce Covid deaths?

From my own spreadsheet. Stringency of lockdown from 
Oxford; Deaths per capita from Worldometer

Not really. With one proviso: if you locked down every person in the land, inside their houses, for six months or more, you'd reduce the spread of any virus to about zero. So there's that. Just as you'd reduce road deaths to zero if you prohibited people from driving cars at all. 

But that's not the situation we have. What we have is a hotchpotch of measures around the world, commonly known as "lockdowns", but aka "Non Pharmaceutical Interventions" or NPIs. And given that none of these is absolute, we have a range, and what we would expect is that the more stringent the NPIs, the fewer Covid deaths we would have. 

"Correlation does not (necessarily) mean causation". But the opposite is true. If there is a causation, then we will have a correlation. That is if A and B are related by high correlation, it does not mean that A caused B (though maybe it did...). But if we hypothesise that A caused B, then when we get data it should show a significant correlation, or else we must question the hypothesis. 

With Lockdowns and per capita Covid deaths from the hypothesis is this: Lockdowns => fewer infections => fewer deaths. 

Or, more simply Lockdowns => fewer deaths. Or A => B. And the more of A the less of B. There should be a negative correlation. The more of one the less  of the other. 

Is that what the data show? The answer is NO.  

Again: the hypothesis is the greater the lockdown stringency the fewer the deaths per capita. That is, in the figure above, the red line is what the hypothesis predicts. Higher stringency of lockdown on the Y axis, fewer deaths on the X axis. We expect a negative correlation of >=  -0.7. 

In fact it is positive: +0.55. [my original work here]

So we see the opposite of our hypothesis: to the extent that there is a trend (it's weak, sure) it's going the opposite direction: the greater the stringency the higher the number of deaths per capita. 

This might mean: (A): greater lockdowns lead to more deaths or (B) more deaths lead to greater lockdowns. Being charitable, we can dismiss (A) on common-sense grounds; how can tighter lockdowns lead to more deaths? I'm willing to dismiss it, even if there are some grounds for thinking that perhaps lockdowns actually lead to excess deaths. But still, let's leave that aside for now. Which leaves (B): the figures we see for tight lockdowns correlated with higher deaths rates is because the tighter lockdowns are reacting to the deaths. 

An objection might be that tight lockdowns in the past have already led to reduction in death rates, thus lower stringency is now also correlated with lower deaths per capita. But that's not what the figures show going right back to the major waves last year when I did a similar analysis. At no time do the figures show that lockdowns have led to subsequent reduction in death rates, except when that was happening anyway, as appears to be part of natural up and down curves across the planet. Or, in the case of the UK, when the vaccine program began to bite. [ADDED:  ew Zealand is an exception, with strict border control early in and now low lockdown stringency. But, New Zealand ?!…. One can look at individual countries on the Oxford tracker since the beginning of the pandemic and find, for nearly all, no correlation between the strictness of lockdown and the death rates]

The US is a perfect illustration of the failure of strict lockdowns to correlate with lower death rates. 50 states, many the size of substantial countries. Decisions about how to handle the pandemic are taken by governors of those states. Not by the president of the United States. By governors and by their city mayors. Roughly half US states are run by Republican governors and half by Democratic. They took very different approaches. I have pointed out -- with the data -- several times, that of the top ten worst performing states in terms of deaths per capita (which I reckon is the only reasonably comparable figure), the top eight are Democrat-run states, with high stringency of lockdown. 

This fact was completely ignored by the US media, who instead lionised the efforts of NY governor Andrew Cuomo -- whose state in fact was by far the worst in the US, indeed the worst per capita in the world -- while excoriating the state of Florida, run by Republican governor Ron deSantis, when Florida has in fact done very well. And there's no need to put a "but" when discussing its success.  [BTW, it's only just now that the MSM is catching up with the fact that Cuomo is not quite the Covid Superman they all claimed he was, plus being a serial sexual predator-- remember when his brother on CNN, Chris Cuomo, called him the LuvGov, not quite anticipating that he'd be rather too much Luv and too little Guv. National Review has been on it all along]. 

ADDED: Then there's the case of North and South Dakota, one of which had a mask mandate and the other which didn't. Results, very similar. Some thoughts on the Dakotas here

There are many PhDs to be examined, many books and studies to be written about this pandemic. One must surely be to study the extent of disinformation and extreme partisanship when made people taste chalk as cheese and use cheese to write on the white/blackboard. 

Meantime: don’t call people who question the efficacy of lockdowns “Covid deniers”! Just don’t.

France, the sweet enemy

Sir Humphrey explains UK's Europe policy (1980)
Click screenshot for video
A fine little piece here about the historical relations between les rostbifs and "the frogs"....
After many years of political meltdown on our island, it has been satisfying these past few weeks to regain the one feeling that really puts a spring in every Englishman’s step. Because, while it’s of course important that our vaccine programme has saved thousands of lives so far, the most special thing is that for the first time in many years France’s politics are much worse than ours. Order is restored to the galaxy once again.   [Read on..]

Amazing how spot on some of those "Yes, Minister" eps can be, fully... what... 40+ years on!  What it taught us about Europe

Plus ça change!

ADDED: Sylvie Bermann typifies French attitude to Brexit

Wednesday 17 March 2021

When Harry talked to William...

… it didn’t go so well, apparently.

Britain’s Prince Harry has spoken to his elder brother William for the first time since he and his wife Meghan’s Oprah Winfrey interview but the talks were “not productive”, a friend of the couple said on Tuesday.

Hmm… not that I’m that interested in this saga, but still. The way the aftermath has panned out its a classic case of “one divides into two”. Democrats are mostly sympathetic to the couple and especially Megan, while Republicans not so much. There’s also a divide across the Atlantic. Americans are sympathetic overall; in Britain, the couple’s popularity has plunged. 

That means people in the US have bought into the narrative, despite years of “fake news".  No double checking, no desire to Call the Bullshit.

My comment at the site (typos and all...):

Which reminds me, the "fake news" bit: the AstraZeneca vaccine is being delayed in many countries because “blood clots”. Individual cases have brought vaccination to a halt. But: in Britain they’ve jabbed 11 million with the AZ, and had 37 folks with blood clots. That’s less than the number of blood clots one would expect in an equivalent population. And in tests, there were more clots in the placebo group  so it makes zero sense to stop jabbing cause of that. But they do, despite saying endlessly, “we follow the science”. A hypocrisy I don’t get. (LATER: they've now restarted in the EU with the AstraZeneca vax).

ADDED: A good explanation of how to read numbers and unmask bullshit numbers.  

I have another example. A year or so ago, there was the horrifying news that eating cured meats, like bacon, led to a 20% increase in colon cancer deaths, in the UK. Yikes! 

Delve into the figures, however, and you find that that eating massive amounts of bacon (ten rashers a day) led to a few more people dying of colon cancer. The number went up from 247 per million per year to 297 per million per year. Sure, that's a 20% increase. It's also: an extra 50 people who might die per year, from a massive increase in consumption of bacon. In a population of 67 million, does a 0.000074% increase in the number of deaths really warrant the headline of "20% increase", even if it's correct on a facile level?

Tuesday 9 March 2021

‘Hong Kong is becoming a troubling place to be an Australian’

Even under “Hitler Trump” making Obama Tigger didn’t 
get you jailed. Not so China. And Hong Kong?
Peter Kammerer, an Australian journalist based here in Hong Kong, highlights some of the dangers that could see his fellow countrypersons, like me, jailed under Hong Kong's China imposed National Security Law. 
Meantime, old friends and colleagues who live in China, some for decades, tell me they're packed and ready to go.
China — that is to say the bully-persons in Beijing — have randomly jailed Canadians, Australian and Irish, simply in retaliation for perceived slights. So the threat is real. Link.
I’m going to guess the comments at the online article will be of the “if you don’t like it, why don’t you go back to Australia, then?” variety.
A BIT LATER: sure enough the very first comment I see is “What, you can’t find a job in Australia?”  I’ve always thought that sort of response is pretty vile ad hominem. You criticise somewhere and if you don’t happen to be local born and bred you’re told to go home. Trump was rightly excoriated when he suggested Rep Ilhan Omar go back to Somalia when she criticised some policy or other. Ditto here. Why not face the issue rather than hammer the messenger? 
Reminds me, as always, of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem “First they came …”.
So will it be “first they came for the Aussies”?
For me, here in Hong Kong, I’ve had this blog for ten years and often criticised the government and Xi Jinping. I’ve often called him the ultimate ad hominem, the one he roooly hates, Winnie the Pooh. (Well, he pretty much is, with mate Obama as Tigger)  And saying that can land you in swift trouble in the mainland. But I’m not worried. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe stupid. So be it. I think I’m just too small beer for them to be bothered with. After all, the South China Morning Post itself carries this article and continues to criticise China and our local government. 

Monday 8 March 2021

The ‘what if?’ moments on path to where Hong Kong is today

The dream of Hong Kong emerging as a free and democratic part of China under the “one country, two systems” concept has been shattered. The city is losing its dynamism. Where did it all go wrong?

Who you blame, no doubt, depends on which political camp you support. Is it the protesters for their violence and calls for Hong Kong independence? The democrats for supporting them? The pro-establishment camp for telling Beijing what it wanted to hear rather than seeking constructive solutions for Hong Kong? Beijing for tightening its grip on the city? Or Hong Kong officials for pandering to vested interests and failing to tackle deep-rooted problems? You can take your pick. Link

This reminds me of the talk on the Dark Horse podcast with Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying (“rhymes with flying”) in which they talk of first-person, second-person and third-person epistemology. Short version: third-person epistemology is that of the famous philosophers, from Plato to Confucius. Second person epistemology is understanding what you — the other person — thinks. First-person epistemology is knowing yourself, your “lived experience”. Which, by the way, is the only epistemology that’s recognised by the woke brigade: my lived experience trumps your facts.

There’s no third-person epistemology re the above “take your pick”. No famous yet neutral observer to dish out wisdom. Least of all our esteemed Chief Secretary, Matthew Cheung, who opined yesterday about patriotism with words sounding just like a communist party apparatchik. 

Second-person epistemology I have to remind myself to look at, so that my own confirmation bias — which we all suffer — is minimised. So, yes, many will blame Beijing and our own local government, led by the hapless Carrie Lam, who ushered in the demos of 2019. And sure, Beijing have been bullies, ugly, open, nasty, venal.  As to whether they are responsible, though, is less clear. How could a Leninist entity stand idly by as teenagers trashed their property and threatened to seced? 

And so for the first-person epistemology, that’s me, and what I think about it is that the calls for Hong Kong independence were what did it for Beijing. They fear independence like the littlies fear Voldemort. Independence leads to chaos, and chaos is the biggest of big no-nos for Beijing. It was predictable that they would react to the violent demos—  and was predicted, by many including me. Before that, despite the hysteria about “Beijing interference” they’d largely kept hands off. For twenty plus years. It was the demos wot dun it…

Saturday 6 March 2021

Listen to Wuhan

Click on screenshot to go to vid

A kind of Vox pop in Wuhan by a Japanese director. Ignore the first few minutes where they talk of the source of the virus, whereas we don't know, and the most likely place remains Wuhan. The rest is talking to everyday Wuhan folks about what they've lost in the pandemic and what they've gained. Interesting perspective.

The comments are mostly Chinese, which would be Taiwanese, Singaporeans, HK people, the rest of the Chinese diaspora, as YouTube is not available on the mainland. 

It's worth a watch. To get some feel for what ordinary Chinese folks thought and think about the pandemic. We need to touch some more common humanity. Screenshot or also here.

Thursday 4 March 2021

Bret Weinstein talks to Tristan Harris: all about Social Media and unintended consequences


Click on screenshot for vid. Settle in: nearly two hours
Tristan Harris was in "The Social Dilemma". Which is all about what they call here the "Cultural Derangement Syndrome". Aka "Fracturing Reality". This is serious stuff and dangerous to our existence. So they say. That Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have led to erosion of our shared realitiy.
This is most surely worth a listen and ponder. What to do about it? Their suggestions about Global Solutions is going to cause angst amongst many. But clearly something needs be done about the unintended consequences of the growth of social media.