Friday, 30 April 2021

What the Left and Right look at and read | “The Left as a rule doesn’t want to hear thoughtful disagreement"

 

The masthead at the Blendle online site
I had a chat recently with an Occasional Reader (OR) who said she read widely. "I get Blendle as well, which gets me access to articles across the board", she (kind-of) boasted. I've also subscribed to Blendle for some years. 

Blendle not quite an aggregating site. It's a place where you can read one or two articles and just pay for them one at at time, like 25 or 50 cents per. I'd thought of this business model myself, a way long time ago, and thought it a great business potential. Others thought so too, and created Blendle. How many folks would be happy to pay a quarter or up to a buck to read a single article, but don't want the hassle of a monthly sub to the paper? Many, I'd bet. And here's Blendle to do it for you. (My twist on it, which I think is better is: pay for each article by mobile phone number, each of which is unique and has the capacity for small individual payments. But that's another thing...).

Well, above is the masthead of Blendle, proclaiming that "Blendle is the biggest platform of premium journalism in the country."

But it's clear that to Blendle "premium" means Left of centre. Every single one of those sources of "premium journalism" is Left to Far Left of centre. There's not a single respectable conservative voice there amongst those fourteen: not a Nation Review, not a New York Post, not even a Wall Street Journal.  How can this be the "biggest platform"? And if it is, shame on us.

In all democracies in the world, the electorates are divided pretty much 50/50. One Divides into Two. 

So, by taking only the Left as "premium journalism", Blendle are ignoring the thoughts, values and ideals of at around half the human population. Are they all "deplorables"? (Sadly, many Democrats, including ones I admire, really seem to think so).

Thing is: polls tell us this skewed media access is common: The Left reads and watches almost exclusively media on the Left. The Right reads and watches mostly on the Right, but also watches and reads media on the Left. Conservatives watch about six times more liberal media than liberal watch conservative media. Look at this Gallup poll:

From "Bubbles and Vortexes"

Partly, I guess, that's because they have to, since Left media is so dominant. But partly too it's surely down to a curiosity about what drives that much maligned "other", their political opponents. Whereas liberals see conservatives as “racist or bigoted or sexist" twice as much as the other way around, and we have the Editor of the New York Times, Dean Baquet, admitting, in an unguarded moment "the Left as a rule doesn't want to hear thoughtful disagreement".*

That's not the case on the Right. I know many conservative podcasters who would love to have Democrats on their shows, but find no takers. Podcasts and cable TV on the Left never ask conservative guests on their shows (a few notable exceptions: like Bill Maher having Ben Shapiro on). When conservatives are asked to appear on liberal media, they always do. When liberals are asked to appear on conservative shows, they never do. 

So, how, Joe, are we supposed to "come together" and "unify", if the Left won't even engage?  (I'm thinking here of old Joe's speech last night to Congress). 

*****************************

*“The Left as a rule doesn’t want to hear thoughtful disagreement,” [NYT Editor Dean Baquet] pointed out." [here]

~~ May 30, 2017. (Things have only got worse since] 

Thursday, 29 April 2021

CNN's New "Reporter," Natasha Bertrand, is a Deranged Conspiracy Theorist and Scandal-Plagued CIA Propagandist

The most important axiom for understanding how the U.S. corporate media functions is that there is never accountability for those who serve as propagandists for the U.S. security state. The opposite is true: the more aggressively and recklessly you spread CIA narratives or pro-war manipulation, the more rewarded you will be in that world.

The classic case is Jeffrey Goldberg, who wrote one of the most deceitful and destructive articles of his generation: a lengthy New Yorker article in May, 2002 — right as the propagandistic groundwork for the invasion of Iraq was being laid — that claimed Saddam Hussein had formed an alliance with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. In February, 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, NPR host Robert Siegel devoted a long segment to this claim. When he asked Goldberg about “a man named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” Goldberg replied: “He is one of several men who might personify a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.”

Greenwald really hammers the MSM.... Read on at Substack.... 

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Larry Elder - "Police Systemic Racism Is a Dangerous Lie"


Larry Elder drops so many Truth Bombs in this interview with KK and FF on Triggernometry:  "Fascinating conversations with interesting people".
I first heard of Elder some years ago. He was then — and clearly still is — able to quote clearly and quickly so many facts and figures about this issue, all of which are checkable and all of which, for the ones I have checked, are spot on.
Sadly it's not about truth and facts any more. It's about feelings
Larry does his bit, to being rationality and actual facts, figures and recommendations to improve, not just here on Triggernometry, but on his daily own radio show as well. More power to Larry, the wide elder.
Pity America's leaders won't, or at least the current admin won't (Trump might have but he was too incompetent). They won't, because they're so invested in the dominant narrative — about systemic racism and police hunting down Blacks to kill them. For for the Democrats that narrative helps them keep 95% of the African-American vote. For CNN, MSNBC, etc, it's ratings (though also, as Elder points about, there's likely many young cubs who buy the dominant narrative).
Konstantin and Francis ask Larry what's the solution to the big gaps in achievement between African-American and Whites or Asian Americans. 
His answer comes just before the end and I won't spoil it. Listen on…
This is a fascinating interview. 

Monday, 26 April 2021

Every Roman Settlement, and nothing else


From here

"And nothing else" means literally "nothing else", not even country borders. The only way you can see that it's Italy with its boot and Sicily and Spain and North Africa and, and ... what's that over there on the right? ... oh, Israel Palestine (then!)... the only way you can see these is because of the number of Roman settlements that effectively outline them, with settlements all along the coasts and borders.  

Every Roman settlement that was founded or administered by the Roman empire.

It's a bit of a wow. I mean, we knew, but still....

Every morning I pick up the paper with trepidation

An attack on our legal system 
Because there’s almost always some bad news. I mean, from the point of view of Hong Kong freedoms and the encroachment of Beijing. And I fear for the South China Morning Post itself. It’s continued to report openly and, yes, fearlessly. When will the hammer come down?

But you wouldn’t know if you didn’t read the paper. If you just went out and about, rode your bike, went swimming, shopping, work. Nothing out of order. And sure, it’s more peaceful. For that alone there are many who welcome the intrusions. 

The quote extracted above is a sick joke. “We ask the Bar Association not walk down the road of politicisation” says the Beijing Liaison Office. When all they are doing is politicising. 

Web Archive link

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Montreal night of terror = the future for police defunded cities?

Chris Rock: "How not to get your ass kicked by the police"
From 14 years ago, ever more relevant.
Click Chris for the Vid
Steven Pinker, the psychologist, popular science writer and a fave of mine (and not him above), was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. He recalls how an infamous wildcat police strike unfolded, back in the sixties: 

“As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 a.m. on October 7, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 am, the first bank was robbed. By noon, most of the downtown stores were closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order. This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).”

-- The Blank Slate, Penguin, p285. 

One would think that that would be a lesson for what happens when you don't have the police around, much as you might despise them. But no. What we have in the US at least, is a strong push to "Defund the Police" pushed by the BLM and their acolytes. The push is even stronger after the George Floyd guilty verdict. "We haven't finished" the crowds are chanting. Asked what they mean they say "Defund the f***ing Police". Some of their apologists have said all they mean is that funding should go to other ways to handle crime. To some extent that's true. But in the main, they really do mean "defund the police". And it's happened. 

Early results are in:

Minneapolis: December 2020 shifted $8 million from the police to "violence prevention" and other programs. Result: Between Dec 11, 2020 and March 28 of this year, murders in the city rose 46%.

Los Angeles: City leaders voted in July to cut the LAPD budget by $150 million. Result: Murders up 38%. Shootings up 92%. 

New York City: The NYC Council voted in July to move $1 billion away from the NYPD budge into education and social services in 2021. Result: Murders up 12% (to March 21). Shootings up 40%. 

Portland: City commissioners voted in mid-June 2020 to cut nearly $16 million from the police budget in response to "concerns about the use of force and racial injustice". Result: form July 2020 to February 2021 (the most recent data) murders rose 271% over the same period the year before. 

Austin: In August 2020, the Austin City council unanimously voted to cut $150 million from the police budget. The funds were redirected to social services. Result: Murders up 39%. Aggravated assault reports up 26%. 

[Sources: City governments, City Police Departments, Statista, NPR, USA Today, WaPo, various other]

These are not trivial figures. And the communities most affected are minority -- aka, usually, Black -- communities, who cry out for more not less police protection. But the elites in the BLM movement, and their acolytes are oblivious to all this. They continue to call for "defunding the police". Which strikes me as a "thing I don't get". Unless we choose to believe that what they after is the crumbling of society so they can build their own better, more enlightened, non-racist society on the rubble. We saw how well they did that in Seattle last year when they set up their own "Autonomous Area".... Like "Lord of the Flies", it was chaotic, violent, dingy, dirty and .... well, basically a failure. But have at it. Again. 

If BLM really did care for Black Lives, they would be addressing the far more serious issue of Black-on-Black deaths in minority communities, which dwarf those at the hands (or guns) of police (97% Black-on-Black vs 3% by police); and they would be calling for Black youth to "Don't Resist Arrest" when stopped by the police. They would be calling for more police training, not for defunding them. 

And that's why the Chris Rock video above. It ought to be played on loop to all Black kids. Indeed to all kids, especially adolescent boys, instead of the nonsense that the police are simply out to murder them at random. That's a dangerous, wrong and wicked narrative. 

PS: Rock's vid is up to 20 million views. Last time I posted it, a few years back, it was on 14 million. It continues to get views and comments up to today. BLM would do more good promoting this vid than all their street actions. 

The Koran drinking game

shot. Haha. "Jesus is playing a dangerous game"

Reminds me that I started this blog twelve years ago, as I was reading around Islam and I wanted somewhere to bookmark some interesting readings. That's pretty much what it remains, not so much a normal "blog" as a place for me to file stuff I find of interest. And to have the occasional rant. Which also means that readers are pretty occasional too. But better that than having the obligation every day to try to maximise likes and visits.... 

Anyway, early on I had my copy of the Koran by my bedside, another by my lounge chair and I would dip into it, randomly (this after I'd read it cover to cover. Unlike the Bible, it's a slight book, easy to finish off in a few readings). And I'd dip into it to see if I came across anything that was of love and mercy. Nada. That was my own version of Jesus' "Koran drinking game". On which he's not wrong. A textual analysis shows that something of the order of 70% of the passages rail against we infidels. 

And remember: it's not bigoted to like and chuckle at this cartoon. It's an equal opportunity mocker of ideas, not of people. Or, to repeat...

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, 21 April 2021

Guilty verdict in George Floyd case

I'm just bookmarking this, as there are a million articles out there. The policeman accused, Derek Chauvin, has been found guilty on all counts, including First Degree murder and manslaughter. 

I'm wondering if the Defence with go ahead with an appeal on the basis that the remarks by Diane Feinstein Maxine Waters (tx to Occasional Reader for correction) about getting "confrontational" in the event of a Not Guilty verdict, might have tainted the jury. She really is a piece of work that woman. She was the one shouting to a crowd during the riots last year, that if they found a Republican in the parking lot, or in the gas station, or in a restaurant they should be attacked, and told "you're not wanted here". Nice. 

Correlation between lockdown and death rates low-zero

 

Deaths per 100,000 by US State, marked up by
Governorship, Blue = Dem, Red = Rep
The above chart from Statista in the US, I've marked up with which Party the governors are. Reason: in the United States almost all the health policies and covid strategies are decided and carried out at State level, under the executive authority of the Governors. That's why it was always silly, or ignorant, or plain duplicitous, to blame Trump and only Trump for his "mishandling" of the virus response, when the response was pretty much all up to the Governors. (Still is).

The chart above, with the latest death figures per 100k people per state shows a pattern that hasn't changed much since the beginning of the pandemic and since I first pointed it out. In broad terms in the US, the Democrat run states were into earlier and stricter lockdowns, which lasted longer, than were Republican run states. 

The results speak for themselves: there's very little link between the two. Overall, one could argue (and I would) that Democrat-run states have done somewhat worse than Republican run states,  though TBF, there's not much in it. All top four worst-performing States, in terms of death rates from Covid,  are Democrat-run. Of the top ten worst states, six are Democrat-run. As I say: not much in it, but most certainly not the case, as the MSM would have us believe, that Republican run states have fared badly, worse than the rest, are killing our grandmothers, and so on and so on.

Of course one could argue, as some Occasional Readers have done, that the Democrat run states are more populous and have higher population density. That's no doubt part of the reason. But then we have states right next to each other which perform differently -- North Carolina (R) has much lower death rates than South Carolina (D), with the North having much laxer covid lockdown than the South. 

Note also the much maligned (in the Mainstream media) Texas and Florida. Both Republican both with very light lockdowns and no mask mandates. I've circled them in Red. They've done better than most, not worse. And yet, if all you listened to was CNN and MSNBC -- or 60 Minutes -- you'd think the governors there were out killing people. 

These figures back up what I've found at the global level, using the Lockdown Stringency Index from Oxford University and death per million figures from Worldometer (links top right). I first did this back in June 2020, and then earlier this year. Both times it showed no correlation (in fact, if anything a negative correlation) between lockdown stringency and death rates. 

There's yet to be PhD's to be done on this. I'm guessing they'll show what I'm claiming here; that there is little to no relationship between lockdown measures taken and the path of the virus. That being the case, if it is, the next time (hopefully after I'm dead...) we have to be far smarter. It's time to revisit the Great Barrington declaration, for a dose of sanity. And make sure we don't go through another episode of global "psychotic delirium", as Bernard-Henri Lévy says. 

The Briton in Beijing who made Mao suits fashionable again, and his 25-year journey from backpacker to TV personality | SCMP

Artwork by Dominic Johnson-Hill
I was looking for something else — the "Moonlight Cult" (月光 族)— when I came across this cute story from 2018. It's about the Beijing-based British fashion entrepreneur Dominic Johnson-Hill who's been living in Beijing since 1993. That makes him kind of from my era there, though I was earlier still, arriving at the Peking Languages Institute, as it was then known, in 1976.
It's a fun little story. Like him, way back, I was also trotted out from time to time, the performing bear, the Mandarin-speaking foreigner, to the media or to give a Chinese speech at a conference. That's my humblebrag. (Though is it a humblebrag if you say it is?)
Today, as Dominic says, they're a dime a dozen Mandarin-speaking foreigners, all of them young. Sigh… I guess I ought be thankful there was less competition in those days.
Also like me. Dominic loves Chinese culture and arts and Chinese people. He's careful — very careful — to steer clear of politics. Even mentioning the "X-factor" can get you in trouble. And Beijing-based mates who ring me here in Hong Kong are very careful, assume they're being listened to. 
I must ask my Beijing-resident mates if they know this laowai.
Snip:
Johnson-Hill adds: "Chinese can be conservative when it comes to family values, education and work ethic. But when it comes to fashion, they are very daring. You see a guy in his forties walking past, wearing a bright shell suit, bright hat and ridiculous sneakers. Something may be too bold for Western audiences, but in China, they love it." Read On…

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Huai Su 千字文

 

My latest calligraphy practice 
A portion of Tang Buddhist calligrapher, Huai Su, from his 千字文, Qian Zi Wen, Thousand Character Essay. I’ll get around to translating it, at some stage. Right now just to say I really do like writing with brush pen on rice paper. And copying the masters, which is always the way it’s been done. 
ADDED: Qian Zi Wen Chinese Text. Translation is mine:

[知過] 必改,得能莫忘  [Zhīguò] bì gǎi, dé néng mò wàng. Knowing it, change and don't forget it
罔談彼短,靡恃己長 Wǎng tán bǐ duǎn, mí shì jǐ zhǎng. Don't talk about the bads and benefits
信使可覆,器欲難量   Xìnshǐ kě fù, qì yù nán liàng.  The message is strong but hard to measure
墨悲絲染,詩讚羔羊  Mò bēi sī rǎn, shī zàn gāoyáng.  Sorrow in ink and silk, poetry praises the lamb
景行維賢,克念作聖   Jǐng xíng wéi xián, kè niàn zuò shèng.  Acting virtuous is a sacred act
德建名立,形端表正  Dé jiàn míng lì, xíng duān biǎo zhèng.  Morality built righteousness
空谷傳聲,虛堂習聽  Kōnggǔ chuán shēng, xū táng tīng Empty valleys magnify sound, Xi (Jinping!) listens in the empty hall (actually more like: “which the empty hall magnifies”. Xi’s character also means “to study, or amplify”)
禍因惡積,福緣善慶   Huò yīn è jī, fú yuán shàn qìng. [I give up, too much woo]
尺璧非寶,寸陰是競  Chǐ bì fēi bǎo, cùnyīn shì jìng
資父事... [君]  Zī fù shì... [Jūn]

I gave up the translating after a bit, as the text is a kind of poetry primer which kids in the 6th Century were required to read out loud. and basically rather boring. 
The Buddhist monk Huai Su, also used this "Thousand Character Essay" as a practice for his calligraphy. And it's just that not much of his calligraphy survived, this being one of them, and that's why we still have and treasure it. 
The text itself is a lot of 6th century wooo, which I can't be bothered to translate any more, as it doesn't really "speak" to us today. [If it does, then I'll let it...]

US-China relations: a good-versus-evil world view does no one any good

 

I'd really like to believe, as does Tom Plate and the man he admires here, Richard Falk, that being nice and hoping for peace will bring it. 

Is China pushing hard in the South China Sea because it feel threatened by the US? Or is the US muscling up in the same sea because it perceives a unilateral Chinese ambition to grow its world power? Times are tense. There is talk of the US' actions pushing China to invade Taiwan. All because it's a national imperative, because they must make up for the century of humiliations -- the invasions, the colonies on Chinese soil, turning its young men into opium addicts. And all these are true. So they can't give up on Taiwan and Xi Jinping has made it a central feature of his presidency. But does that make it right? Does that make it inevitable? Does that make it right for the broad masses of the Chinese people, save for those on the mainland who won't be affected in any way by it, save to bask in the glow of renewed Chinese dominance?

I'd like to believe we could get back to a cooperative path, US and China. But it's surely a two-way path and Plate looks only at the one side. As does his hero here Richard Falk. It's yet another version of how it's all America's fault. They're softer Chomsky-ians, not as crude, not as crazy left, but in that territory. Chomsky-adjacent, we'd say today. 

Snip:

Understanding China, [Richard Falk] believes, requires a special effort. The good-versus-evil bifurcation produces policy astigmatism that clouds judgment. Naval-gazing – at China’s build-up in the South China Sea – need not trigger regional warfare if China’s motive is understood as strategically defensive rather than offensive, and if issues are negotiated, not militarised. MORE...

Monday, 19 April 2021

‘China-Australia relations: on first anniversary of trade conflict, hay-import licences bedevil Australian exporters’ | SCMP


Very many viciously anti Australia comments at the site. Some in support. Overall the tone of comments is dripping with contempt for dear old Oz. Painted always as the poodle of America.
The highest-rated comment is very anti-Australian and anti-American to boot, the usual litany of CIA-inspired wars, from a Canadian… A call to return to Eisenhower-Ian policies. Screenshot from the site:

Many read like the WuMao brigade ("50-cent army"). There's a sniff to them.
My comment at the site:

(1) Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Le Yucheng in today's Post [19/4]: "…called for greater cooperation …on a basis that was "equal-footed" rather than "one side drawing up a laundry list of demands for the other side"."
Oh, you mean like China handing a "laundry list" of 14 demands to Australia in November 2020?
(2) China demands Japan be open and transparent, allow international inspection of the waste water from Fukushima which it plans to release into the ocean. (Just as Australia urged an international investigation into the source of Covid).
Shall we expect Japan to punish China by cutting its imports? For having the temerity to ask this?

ADDED: for all the hate on Australia in the comments, including I assume many from the 50-cent army, Australia is currently undergoing a "miraculous recovery". So, China be damned.

How anarchists captured Portland

Bret Weinstein, a fair and knowledgable observer of the insanity in the Academy. And now in American cities. 
When Heather and I moved to the city three years ago, after being spectacularly driven from our jobs at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, there was little to suggest that municipal embrace of anarchy was on the horizon. We considered moving to more than a dozen cities across the US, Canada and Europe — but in the end Portland won. With the city’s proximity to nature and world-class food culture, it seemed to provide the perfect balance. And then suddenly last summer, with the confluence of the George Floyd protests and the Presidential election, Portland came unmoored. Read on....

And on their podcast they talk of the vandalism of Portland. Going on as I write. Bret and Heather forecast this craziness back in 2016. They know whereof they speak. A society ripping itself apart. Which makes the taming of the craziness on our streets here in Hong Kong in 2019 seem very logical. And give the China narrative more power. 

Sunday, 18 April 2021

"In search of the truth": Coronavirus origins: how unseen Wuhan research notes could hold the answers – and why lab-leak rumours refuse to die

Dr Shi Zhengli, aka "China's Bat Woman" at the Wuhan Institute
of Virology.
She worried that covid might have leaked from her lab
["In search of the truth" is the headline to this story in the print version of the Post. The rest of the headline above is the online version of it. Either way, they're pretty provocative headlines, it seems to me (at least, I'm guessing, from Beijing's pov), and I'm encouraged that the Post still has the guts to write such pieces.]

China is clearly hyper-sensitive about the lab leak hypothesis: that the virus could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where they had been studying the very coronaviruses that have killed, as of today, 3 million people around the world. Their basic line has been "we looked into it, and it didn't happen" -- the Chinese version of "nothing to see here; move on".

Beijing's concern is obvious and understandable: what if it were proven that covid escaped from the WIV? There would be immediate and loud calls for reparations. So, the WHO "investigation mission" went it and found it "extremely unlikely" that the virus had escaped. Nota bene: how long China took to allow the WHO team in -- long enough to purge the records, which they clearly did, as 30,000+ sets of data are missing. And there are other questions remaining. Including: why did the WHO say it was "extremely unlikely" that there was a lab leak, when by their own admission they didn't have the forensic tools needed to carry out an investigation into that hypothesis?  They ruled it out without the necessary research. 

Amazingly, the South China Morning Post, our local English language paper here in Hong Kong, ran a detailed article covering this hypothesis and it hasn't (yet) been deemed a threat to national security under our new National Security Law. I keep my breath baited for the time when this becomes verboten, just as the Post's owner, Jack Ma, was given a $US 500 million fine last week on his holding company Alibaba. What next? I'm living in the hope that the Chinese are letting the Post go cause it's in English and poses no real threat to Beijing. It lets those silly foreigners let off some steam. Let them play in their sandbox.

Meantime China is very upset that Japan has plans to release some waste waters from the Fukushima nuclear plant. The New Scientist doesn't see it as any big deal. Me, I'm no expert, as also aren't most folks getting very upset. I note two things: 1. Korea is very upset because they say their waters will be polluted. Well, if you look at the chart of currents, the Koriushu current takes any waters off Fukushima off to California, nowhere near the coasts of Korea.


2. The amount -- 1.2 million tonnes of water -- is equivalent to zero point, then sixteen zeros and a seven, percent of the Pacific Ocean. (0.00000000000000007%) This is undetectable. It still doesn't excuse the water release. But nor does it make it the climate catastrophe it's being made out to be. Still, there may be better things to do with it. I don't find the study by Japanese experts compelling. [Note, btw, that this came out for discussion in February 2020, over a year ago, so the criticism that Japan has just landed this on the world as a surprise is not valid].

China calls for an international investigation of Japan's Fukushima water release plans. Sure. Like the international investigation into a massively more dangerous pathogen -- Covid -- that it has refused and which it has punished Australia for suggesting. Give me a break. 

Here's the coronavirus origins story in the Post. And, because I don't trust that this mightn't disappear, here is the story at the Internet Archive. 

It’s always “grim milestones”


When we hit a million worldwide Covid deaths, it was a “grim milestone”. When we hit 2 million it was a “grim milestone”. When we hit 3 million deaths, yesterday, sure enough it was yet another “grim milestone “. I’m not saying it’s not serious. Bit we have to get off this gig where even one new case gives us the jeebies, and we can’t get back to “normal” until we have “Zero Covid”. That’s just  a recipe for endless lockdowns.

Here’s another grim milestone: jailing media moguls and veteran democracy activists:


I don’t know any place in the world where it’s gone well when they’ve jailed people they don’t like. And I include China in this, despite its huge economic growth. I’ve enjoyed visiting (with quibbles), and even enjoyed living there for four years, but enjoyed even more returning to Hong Kong’s freer air. So now I worry how long that air will remain free for the rest of us who are not media tycoons or democracy activists.  Folks in the US might hate mogul Rupert Murdoch, but they don’t jail him. More’s the pity some might say. But that’s bankrupt and immoral argument. [ADDED. Washington Post thinks “crackdowns show new level of viciousness”. I agree. Not necessary, but things have gone beyond what’s necessary in today’s perfervid climate]

Some, perhaps many, folks in Hong Kong will cheer — or at least privately applaud — the arrests of Jimmy Lai and co. He’s a prickly character, after all, and calling for Hong Kong independence, well, that’s just behind the pale! But there’s always Martin Niemöller to remind us: “First they came …”. It could be you next. It could even be me, for criticising the Supreme Leader, my best saviour being that I have so few readers…

While outside, the Koel calls his plaintive ko-el, ko-el, ko-el… seeking a mate or trying to scare away mummy Mynah birds so Madame Koel can lay her eggs in their nest, for they are cuckoos, Koels, and thus brood parasites. They can be irritating with their noisy calls, insistent, rising in pitch and volume. So I turn my mind to…

…last night when I made the perfect mini Beef Wellingtons. A demon white truffle infused duxelle covers a seared tenderloin medallion unilaterally Dijon-mustarded. 18 minutes at 220C to 55C meat temp.  Rest. Slice. Landing just the rare side of medium-rare. Serve with crispy goose fat-cooked roast potatoes. MiM = melt in mouth, bliss.



Thursday, 15 April 2021

“If you don’t believe in heaven and hell and all that, why don’t you just go round raping and murdering as much as you want?” #AfterLife

nostalgia

Two takes on the same theme. The one we atheists alway hear. As in the headline above. How can we have morality if we don't believe in God. To which one riposte is: why do you need to have a "god" looking over your shoulder to make you act morally?
"He has a conscience" says Rick's mate in the clip below.
"I do rape and murder as much as I want. Which is not at all"

'I Refuse to Stand By While My Students Are Indoctrinated' | Paul Rossi on Bari Weiss' Substack


Rossi: 

Children are afraid to challenge the repressive ideology that rules our school. That’s why I am.

Bari Weiss lends him her popular Substack space for this post. Weiss was a top writer at the New York Times, until some of her Woke-mates turned on her because she didn't hew to all the strictures of Woke orthodoxy.

Rossi's opening paras:

Chinese Internet Slang


"AWSL" is the first letters of pinyin à wǒ sǐ le 啊我死了. In English, Ahh I’m dead.
It is a meme used to express the feeling somewhat like my heart melts, usually for cute/sweet things such as little children, pets, beautful girls or any other adorable things. 

I've posted more in a book in 2018,  here.

Australia recovery “miraculous”

 

This was the forecast in May 2020. The drop predicted was pretty much
spot on. Ditto the recovery.

… so says the Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Bank. 

Unemployment dropped sharply to 5.1%, with more jobs than predicted being created in the last quarter.

Airline bosses are saying that booking numbers are 110% of ore-Covid levels.

This all despite Covid, which shit Australia off from the rest of the world. It shut its doors and they remain shut, AFAIK. Shows international tourism not as critical as thought? 

Also despite China acting like a bulky by blocking Australian exports: coal, iron ore, wine, etc… showing export sector not as critical as thought?


“The Angel of Arkansas” — Ruth Coker Burks, AIDS carer

Ruth Coker-Burks
I've just heard the Conversation on ABC Australia radio Sarah Kanowski talking to Ruth Coker Burks, the "Angel of Arkansas".
It's a very moving story of a brave woman, who started giving care to AIDS victims very early on, when they were feared and shunned. Some shocking stories of how badly they were treated in the early days of the epidemic — "worse than animals" she says.
The audio is not yet available as it's only just aired live, but will soon at the ABC Conversations podcast. 
Meantime, link to the episode here.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Madame Bulbul watching …

…Mr and Mrs Mouse filching her bread bread. She doesn’t approve.

A Different Kind of Army: The Militarization of China’s Internet Trolls - Jamestown

CAC = Cyberspace Affairs Commission
I've mentioned before the so-called "Fifty Cent Army" (无毛军) on the Internet in China. These are paid provocateurs in China, many very young, paid to push pro-Beijing propaganda, to counter foreign attacks on China, to peddle various CCP conspiracy theories (eg, Covid originated in American fish). Apparently, at least early on, they were paid fifty Chinese cents (five mao) per post — about a dime — hence the name.
The link here has a detained study of what China's now up to, by Ryan Fedasiuk, who does detailed amd good work at “China Brief”. [Important Note: China Bried uses links to original Chinese sources, including Chinese government. IOW, they don’t simply rely on secondary sources].
There's a lot new(ish) here, but the general situation is rather well-known. That if you displeae Beijing, an army of trolls is going descend on you. They gonna beat up on yo. The apparatchiks in Beijing are ever more easily offended. Just as the woke-erati are in the west, in an ironic mirroring of mutual victimhood. 
But because we know if them and because they often so obvious and crass, so we discount them. Just as we discount trolls in the west.
That said, I don't doubt they have some effect — H&M and the NBL, for example, have both kowtowed to Beijing and shame on them for that.

Wos it lockdown wot won it?

ADDED (26 April): The Financial Times is clear: it was the Vaccine wot done it. Not Lockdown. Sorry Boris.

My flabber was well and truly gasted when I saw this from Boris, this morning:

But it is very, very important for everybody to understand that the reduction in these numbers - in hospitalisations and in deaths and infections - has not been achieved by the vaccination programme. People don't, I think, appreciate that it's the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement

Add to the "things I don't get". [ADDED: Kate Andrews takes apart Boris's "strange statement" here. "What's behind [his] playing down of vaccines? Is it because of data-driven concern about new variants? Or concern that people will start taking their lives back into their own hands? Either way the government needs to be open and transparent about these issues, not muddy the waters as it's doing" (or words to that effect. My summary)].

I've shown elsewhere that there is no correlation between strictness of lockdown and the severity of the virus. And also the vaccines have been shown to be around 95% effective, which pretty well accounts for the 95% drop in infections and deaths. 

My own view: if this is meant to ensure people don't relax too much, then I think it's a bad tactic, as it'll damage faith in the vaccines.  And let's not forget that vaccines have been held out as the magic bullet for the virus, and so far that's been true. 

Boris is disappointing hugely. Not rising to the occasion but snivelly and grovelly to the lowest denominator in the SAGE committee. He's become more like a high rank bureaucrat than a leader.

From Isabel Hardman:

Wos it lockdown wot won it?

It’s a Night Heron


I wondered on Monday if the visitor to our back garden was a Chestnut Bittern or Pond Heron. Got a closer look just now in our backyard and by the fish pond and we reckon it’s a Night Heron (夜鹭, Ye Lu). Not sure why the name as it’s strutting about in the full light of this fine morning (26C and 70%). 

Its status is resident and widespread. It likes to hang about in public parks and ornamental pools which is exactly what it’s doing here.

I wish I could get a oic, as ours is a touch different from the photo above and may be one of the sub varieties. But that’s unlikely as I’m not currently an owner of a powerful telephoto lens SLR.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Teen Spirit. Schools and the problem of ‘rape culture’


I hadn’t heard of Everyone’s Invited until a few weeks ago, despite being mother to a 15-year-old girl. I was a little surprised to learn that the forum making the front pages, on which predominantly teenaged schoolgirls share their experiences of every-day sexism, sexual harassment and worse, was actually founded in June last year. The site received no prominence until it went viral following the death of Sarah Everard.

As I write, the testimonies of those Wikipedia is terming ‘survivors of rape culture’ number almost 14,000. That the connection made between a horrifying yet rare occurrence and an ‘endemically’ misogynistic society might be tenuous is an argument that cannot be advanced — as those who have raised the mildest of objections have discovered to their cost.

We appear to be in the grip of a full-blown moral panic...

Alicia Munckton in the Speccie. Read on...

Monday, 12 April 2021

There are two sexes. Period


Courtesy of Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True website I get to this article by Andy Lewis, refuting an article by Sarah Hearne in The Skeptic magazine (of all places. Motto: "Reason with Compassion") which argued the now fashionable view that "sex is a spectrum". It's not. And no peer-reviewed scientific article claims that it is*. And that's been the case for all sexually reproducing animals for between 500 million and 1.3 billion years. There are two sexes, with the male defined as producing small, motile gametes, the female as producing large, immobile gametes. Gender may be a spectrum; but not to be conflated with sex.

Snip

The purpose of such arguments presented here in The Skeptic magazine is for us to be convinced that sex is arbitrary and not objectively knowable and to abandon objective attempts to define terms like male, female, man and woman. It is a textbook example of postmodernist denialism of science, reason and objectivity, using sleight of hand to undermine understanding. Such arguments are now so common and fashionable, even among those educated in medicine and biology, that recently the Endocrine Society in the US felt it needed to publish a position statement on the fact that sex is real, binary and immutable, and that recording sex accurately was vital in healthcare and research as we should not conflate sex and gender.

The rest of the argument presented in the Skeptic article then goes off on the predictable route of defending gender ideology that the only meaningful expression of sex (or gender) is through self-declaration – that you can be a man or woman only meaningfully though “identifying” as either. We are supposed to ignore the inherent incoherence and circularity here as otherwise we would would not be “kind” or, even worse, horrible bigots. We just have to accept that one can be a woman when the word “woman” has been denied any sort of objective meaning.

I do not believe for one moment we can help improve the lives of people with gender dysphoria and trans identities if we rob all the relevant words that might objectively describe those experiences of any stable and coherent meaning. And even more so, and despite Hearne’s wish to help women, we cannot help women if we cannot say what the word “woman” means. ... Read on...


*No peer reviewed biology paper has ever attempted to characterise sex as some sort of spectrum of possibilities despite absolute convictions about the matter from ideological positions. [Ref] 

Chestnut Bittern or Chinese Pond Heron?

 

Chestnut Bitter

Chinese Pond Heron
These are not my photos but from google images, cause we weren’t quick enough to get a pic of a sighting in our patio and lawn just now.

The Chestnut Bittern (栗苇鳽, Li Wei Yan) top, is a summer visitor to Hong Kong, arriving in April. 

The Chinese Pond Heron (中国池鹭 Zhongguo Chilu), bottom, is a winter visitor, leaving in April.

So the one I saw this morning in our backyard could be either. Or even something else. I’m plumping for the Heron. If we don’t spot again after May, then more likely the Heron. Other household members believe it’s the Bittern, top.

‘Why in US eyes, China’s maritime ambition can only appear as a threat’ | Jing Lee

Jing's latest article was published as the top piece in the op-Ed page of today's South China Morning Post
Arguing for greater knowledge of each other's histories, cultures and geo-political drivers. True dat, but hard, in an age of Twitter…
She’s now a bit of a regular in the op-ed pages. Click on the “Jing” label below for the other writings. Or click here.
I’ll paste the whole article below the fold…

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Masking science

 I’ve just come back from my daily bike ride around our park. Very pleasant it is, too. 24 C (75F) low humidity, a pan easterly blowing. And I notice, as I do all the time these days, that everyone is wearing a mask. As in everyone from the elderly to kids. 男女老少, as the Chinese say, Nan Nu Lao Shao. Man, woman, old, young.

And I’m wondering why. It’s certainly not “the science” since the science has told us from early on including in detailed studies part funded by our own Hong Kong government, that this is not a disease you catch outdoors. Especially when everyone is massively socially distanced and there’s a fresh breeze blowing in from the East. That is from the South China Sea and rhe Pacific beyond. You’d have more chance of catching leprosy brought in from California than catching Covid (yes, California has cases of leprosy. At about the rate we currently have Covid).

So if it’s not science it must be that people are wearing masks because they are in fear. Fear that our government has government has promoted. That every government in the world has promoted in this last year. Why, in the I

UK now, the government itself is so strikes by fear that it’s afraid of its own shadow. Boogie variants haunt their nightmares. Even massive vaccine success doesn’t lessen their fear. 

Lord Sumption talks of this manufactured fear with Brendan O’Neil. Brendan and mates shred Boris here. I rather liked Boris once. Coronavirus has been his WW2,  but unlike his hero, he has not done a Churchill. I see he’s weak and unprincipled. Not a leader. Sad! ADDED: Like Lord Sumption, Bernard Henry-Levy is appalled at the collective madness. “Psychotic Delirium” he calls it.

ADDED: Silly me. I chatted to a neighbour about this outdoor mask wearing and she tells me "it's the rules". I knew that we had to wear masks indoors. But outdoors? Turns out, yes, even outdoors in any "public place". So, I was wrong. But there's no science to that requirement, as the likelyhood of catching the virus outdoors is virtually zero. And are we on the route to needing masks all the time, because we might catch something? Scarily, maybe. Son John tells me there's some noise along those lines in the US...

‘Voice actors in demand as Netflix series like Lupin and Money Heist put dubbed content front and centre’ | SCMP

Netflix has changed the game for dubbed movies. They now do it so well it's hard to tell it's dubbed. Used to be so obvious and plodding. Now very natural. 
I remember in my yoof, people said the reason Italians were so bad at English was that all the Hollywood movies they watched had been dubbed while the Germans watched them in the original with subtitles and so kind of imbued English by osmosis. And certainly it's true, or was when I lived in Europe, that Germans generally speak better English than the Italians. But I'm sure it's not a univariate thing. Btw I speak here as one who taught English as a foreign language to Italians and to Germans in the 1970s. (Linguarama). 
I've always Unliked dubbed movies. But that was when they were done badly. The article here explains how Netflix has led the charge to doing dubbing much better. It's true. I remember watching the Spanish movie Money Heist last year, in English, not realising at first that its mother tongue was Spanish. That's how good the dubbing was. After a bit I changed to watching it in Spanish with English subtitles and that worked best for me. 
Recently we've watched a couple of great Italian series on Netflix — The Trial and Carlo and Malik. We watched both in Italian with English subtitles. It's great for my wonky Italian. Now we're watching Call My Agent in French with English subs. 
This is a new pleasure. To watch foreign movies with very well done subtitles. And to have the option to choose the dubbed into English version if you want.
By the way, here in Hong Kong foreign movies are always subtitled not dubbed and English-speaking levels among Chinese speakers has been pretty good. It's also good for my Chinese reading to read the Chinese subs. Sometimes very fast they are.
The article is below. Today's South China Morning Post

https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/entertainment/article/3128576/voice-actors-demand-netflix-series-lupin-and-money-heist


Sent from my iPad

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Duke of Edinburgh remembered


The BBC covered his life, in death, extensively, starting eulogies the moment the notice went up on the gates of Buckingham palace yesterday, and put them on repeat. I gotta say they were pretty damn good! Respectful and informative. They’re doing more now, as I sit here a day later. The BBC has a thing for the monarchy despite its leftishness. There’s a sense, I sense, of the end of an era. And what of the Queen? And then of the monarchy itself? 

I learnt from these encomiums that the Duke of Edinburgh was a true polymath. A naval man who fought in WW2, commanded his own warship took part with distinction in the liberation of Sicily. A sportsman of more than average skill, cricket, horse riding, sailing. He won a Cup at the famous regatta in Cowes. A not too bad amateur painter, like Churchill, he owned over 1,000 books on art. Less well known, he was interested in poetry and had 500 books on that. That’s a decent library! He was interested in engineering and promoted British skills throughout his life.  He was an early promoter of saving the whale: he founded the Fund for the conservation of nature.

It was said at the time that had he not married the then princess he would have become the First Lord of the Admiralty, such were his leadership skills.

And that’s not event me thinks most well known legacy: the Duke of Edinburgh Award, to encourage self reliance in young people. Over 7 million in 130+ countries have taken part. 

What a life!

View from the patio


Our Hong Kong garden 
As I sit here contemplating covid, life and the universe, wildlife comes to me. All around is birdsong, from the mynahs, the bulbuls, the koels. Chat,chat,chat, chatter go the crested mynahs, the bulbuls babble a fine symphony, the koels koh-ell, repeated, rising, rising, suddenly stop!

I’ll see here other avians: the marsh egret, the greater and lesser coucals,, the magpie robins, the blue magpies, tailorbirds, Japanese white-eyes, olive backed pipits, turquoise flycatchers, kingfishers, speckled doves, black-necked starlings. And the violet whistling thrush scampering madly across the lawn chasing a morsel, finding a snail, picking it up amd smashing it against a rock to slurp down the delicious oyster of meat. And the black kite hovering in the updrafts, its keen eyes out for a reckless rat, a surfacing fish. I remember when I was working in our office in Kowloon, on the eighth floor, a Black Kite zoomed past my window, down to the alley below, sniffled a rat and flew right back up, past my window, struggling rat in its beak.
And non-avians: our koi carp, their frogs and their dragonflies, the rat snake basking daily by the fish pond, in the early summer sun, the Chinese cobra in our kitchen garden, the Burmese python in the bush. 
And sometimes we catch Madame Mouse, on the bird feeder, stealing their sourdough. 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Former CDC Director supports lab leak hypothesis. And criticism of WHO China visit report

Here for the vid. Or click the screenshot

Dr Fauci kind of sort of disagrees with the CDC Director, but not convincingly. In the clip contained herein

Bottom line: the WHO report [from the recent team visit to China] had one paragraph on the lab leak hypothesis for the source of the Covid virus, to conclude that it was "extremely unlikely" but 45 pages to suggest it came from an animal, but with no animal found as the source. [Matt Ridley's take]

  • What we know (or don't) of the lab leak hypothesis:
  • The head of the WHO team admitted that the team had no forensic capacity to pursue the hypothesis. 
  • They were given limited access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, only a matter of an hour or two. 
  • Data relating to the research being done was wiped from the servers, with no explanation. Here is the proof of that.
  • The WHO team were "told" by the staff of WIV that there had been no leak. Oh, that's ok, then... back to sleep... Here's the clip of that, incredible...

Even the staff in these labs told us that was their first reaction," Embarek said.
"They all went back to their records... but nobody could find any trace of something similar to this virus in their records or their samples." [PF: bangs head on table....]

And now, the head of WHO, once derided as a stooge of the Chinese has come out saying that the lab leak hypothesis must remain on the table.  

Of course we'll never find the truth of that, because no matter what, the Chinese will never admit it. Too much face to lose. Too much hate from the rest of the world, too big a risk of demands for reparation. 

Zhuangzi the Butterfly

My calligraphy practice, from Zhuangzi

This is the famous -- some say "annoying" -- meditation by Zhuangzi. He dreamt he was a butterfly. And then woke up. Didn't know if he was a man who had just dreamed he was a butterfly, or a butterfly who was dreaming he was a man. 

I guess we could see it as kinda deep in that stoner, sixties, weed-soaked kind of way, like "deeep man".....

Then again, we could all be part of a simulation. And that's somewhere in mainstream science, these days. So Zhuanzi was, again, in front of the curve, 2,400 years ago.