Sunday 31 October 2021

We already have Zero Covid in Hong Kong


The caption says “Crowds at Causeway Bay, 16 October. Life has
largely returned to normal...”. ME: not it hasn’t. If you like to
travel internationally. And if you prefer to be unmasked, as I do

Health Sec Sophia Chan tells us that “we remain steadfast in the “zero-Covid” strategy…”. (Hong Kong’s zero-Covid strategy has the community’s overall interest at heart, Letters, 29 October).
Oh dear.
Breaking news: we already have zero covid in Hong Kong. No local cases for over six months. 
And how do we benefit from this?
  • Closed borders; arrivals face three weeks of quarantine if they can get a room (our World Class airport is a ghost town)
  • Masking indoors and outdoors, in all public areas
  • Social distancing continues: eg: the HK Marathon.  Cancellation of the Trailwalker
  • Questions about international sports events: the Sevens, HK Open, etc.
How, exactly is this in line with “the aspirations of our community” which professor Chan claims to divine? 
[Look the photo at the article linked above: everyone masked, including a child; is this to be the new “normal”?]

Chan takes no account of the costs of zero Covid: the negative impact on the futures of schoolchildren; impacts on mental health; increased non-covid death rates; increased poverty and homeless rates. All these are costs, clear in Hong Kong, and documented in overseas studies, which Chan’s zero Covid obsession ignores.
[Chan’s letter below, and also here]
ADDED: Cliff Buddle on the same issue

Saturday 30 October 2021

The media’s betrayal of the poor

What they do is call the poor the “Working Class” and so proceed to despise them.

Despicable Deplorable 

ADDED: the New York Times is a leader in this horrid snobbery

Batya Ungar-Sargon :

At the end of his career, in his 1907 retirement speech, Joseph Pulitzer wrote up his credo for journalism. He was adamant about the thing that made it a noble profession, one worth dedicating your life to: “Never lack sympathy with the poor.”

Living in the Gilded Age, there were plenty of poor people for journalists to sympathise with — the streets were teeming with working-class Americans who had been cast out of the comforts enjoyed by the obscenely wealthy industrialists. You might think modern-day America — a new Gilded Age in which the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than it has been in living memory — would provide another such opportunity for American journalists to sympathise with the lower classes. You would be wrong.

Friday 29 October 2021

I will cry when the Queen dies

How much have these eyes seen
And so will many when they realise they have lost the global grandparent.  
Thankfully, the Queen is not yet this ill. But she is 95 and easily the longest serving monarch in history. Her Christian faith has long been a comfort to her. And this is especially evident now, in the twilight of her years. Indeed, the version of the Queen that we are now seeing is the greatest of her roles as our monarch. It is not important if she misses COP26 or other political talking shops. She is doing something much more important now.
She is showing us what human life is all about when we loosen our grip on power and status and function. Her last act may well be her finest. [Giles Fraser’s fine thoughts]

Though I’m bracing myself for the horrid things that will be said when she passes. Recalling the chants of “Ding Dong the Witch is dead” when Thatcher died. Horrid. And ignorant. And wtf-she-gave-you-your-own-goddam-leftie-demands-for-cheap-working-class-housing insane.

While the Queen gave us stability, dignity and care for the whole of the Commonwealth, that countries fought to join.

Baldwin, a hot take (heh!)


Chris Boutté talks to John McWhorter about John’s new book “Woke Racism”

A fantastic podcast episode with Chris Boutté  talking to John McWhorter on his podcast “The Rewired Soul”.

Some fantastic reflections on Robin DiAngelo and her book “White Fragility” at around 25’ 

Thursday 28 October 2021

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Wow! Chinese quantum supercomputer ONE MILLION times faster than west’s fastest

A million times faster than Google’s Sycamore. Can do in a millisecond what world’s fastest would take 30 trillion years. True? Who knows. It’s like that factoid “there are more stars in the universe than all the grains of sand on earth”. Except that it’s possible to fact check that one and it’s true!

Things usually improve incrementally. This is a million-fold improvement! That’s why people talk of “quantum leaps”. 

China calls this quantum computer the “Zu Chongzhi” (祖沖之), after a 5th century mathematician and astronomer. [Ref]. Zu is best known for having calculated pi π to 7 decimals, a feat not bettered for 800 years. I like it, good name. Much better than the name for the new Hubble-beating telescope, the James Webb, a NASA bureacrat. 

ADDED: While China goes hard on STEM, the US obsesses over Social JusticeCultural MarxismCritical Race Theory, Textbooks, Pronouns, TransphobiaWoke Maths. [TL;DR: China STEM; US floppy flower?]

Can I still have faith that the US will prevail? That it will do well? That it will be that “shining light on the hill”? I hope so, but begin, for the first time, to doubt.

Comments at the article on the Chinese quantum computer are cutting about the US. Example: 

''China’s quantum computers outstrip Google’s and are fastest in the world.'' Yes, and so are China's hypersonics, space station, 5G, and a long list of biomedical equipment. China used to look ahead and see the US; now, it sees the US in the rearview mirror.

These may be China’s “50-cent army” commenting. Or maybe not. And in any case, true. No? 

As the rest of the world goes one way we go the other


Everyone is “exasperated” 

Tuesday 26 October 2021

‘In Major Shift, NIH Admits Funding Risky Virus Research in Wuhan’ | Vanity Fair

I guess the NIH and Fauci could say there’s no conflict between these two reports, because, the NIH says, even after admitting what’s in the headline, there’s no way the research could have led to Covid 19. 

But given the lack of transparency from NIH and its director Anthony Fauci, if not outright duplicity, surely we must question that claim. The “lab leak theory” remains on the table. 

As even very left-of-centre Vanity Fair says

But the NIH letter—coming after months of congressional demands for more information—seemed to underscore that America’s premier science institute [National Institute of Health] has been less than forthcoming about risky research it has funded and failed to properly monitor. Instead of helping to lead a search for COVID-19’s origins, with the pandemic now firmly in its 19th month, the NIH has circled the wagons, defending its grant system and scientific judgment against a rising tide of questions.

Maybe we’ll never know the origin of the virus. Given China has locked down on any more investigation there; and given that attitude of NIH.  Shame on both of them.

Climate change “could be solved overnight” with nuclear | Zion Lights

Zion Lights speaks to Oz. Click screenshot for video, 4 minutes 
A couple of things about Zion Lights:

1. I don’t know what about her name. I can’t find her natal name. Perhaps it was Zion Lights. With parents from the Punjab, I doubt the “Zion” has anything to do with judaism...
2. She co-founded Extinction Rebellion in the UK and was its spokesperson. She left it when she realised it was no good going around saying “we’re doomed”. You have to have something positive to say. For her that’s promoting the benefits of nuclear energy.
3. She makes a point I hadn’t realised: that Millennials and Zoomers are much more open to the idea of nuclear than Boomers (this Boomer aside, obvs). Boomers have a fixation with “nuclear = weapons”.
4. She makes a point I’ve made for years.  Namely: if we’d done more nuclear decades ago, we’d not have a climate emergency now. I think that’s a true counterfactual. It was only stopped from happening because of Green fear, especially from the (unfortunately) very efficient and persuasive Greenpeace. Zion Lights is the only other person I know who’s made that point, though surely there have been others.
5. I first saw Zion Lights a few years ago when she was still with XR and she was in Andrew Neil’s show on BBC. He eviscerated her… 
6. She’s “baffled” as to why Australia has not developed its own nuclear industry. As am I. She notes Australia could have been a leader in nuclear tech. Like Sweden, which has a strong nuclear industry providing 40% of its power. (A point never mentioned by that Swedish nymph, Greta Thunberg, btw). We could label it “New Clear”. But conservative media aside, there’s not a whiff of a mention of nuclear in Oz media. It’s crazy. It is, dare I say it, anti-science.

Monday 25 October 2021

Climbing Lantau mountain at dawn

Dawn on Pagoda Hill, Lantau Island Hong Kong
Our Discovery Bay is on Lantau island.
… Jo Lodder signed up to join a new group in his neighbourhood on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island that planned to gather weekly to climb a mountain at dawn. Read on…

ADDED: reminds me of a blogger who does a daily dawn run: Ann Althouse

Lovely day in a Hong Kong garden. 22 degrees C and 60%


Backyard, Siena One, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong 

50 Shades of Green. And grey and black

This is the time of year Hong Kong and Canberra meet, Canberra warming up to the 20s, Hong Kong cooling down to the 20s.

Defining "Wokeness" | Cathy Young

Cathy Young: 
In the culture-war discourse of the past decade, a variety of terms have been used to refer to the ideology of the socially progressive left: “political correctness” (first coined during an earlier phase of the culture wars, in the late 1980s/early 1990s), “social justice,” “identity politics,” and more recently, “wokeness” or “wokeism” (and occasionally, “cancel culture”). These shifting terms invariably become targets of left-wing ridicule as well as right-wing misuse (so that, for instance, any condemnation of actual bigotry is mocked as “political correctness,” “social justice warrior-ism,” etc.). Meanwhile, critics on the left dismiss the idea of a “woke” or “social justice” ideology as a right-wing myth. The latest such sarcastic dismissal comes from Vox writer Ian Millhiser:

The supportive replies are typical: It’s just “making an effort not be racist or sexist,” or “a meaningless epithet whose unironic use is pure cringe.” Read on…

Sunday 24 October 2021

Beautiful Fall Day in Hong Kong

Our Siena One Discovery Bay garden 

It’s 21C and sunny. I sit on the patio reading the Sunday papers. Occasionally assailed by flutter-byes

Chinese Slang

朝圣(聖) (Cháoshèng). To hit the trendy spots

扫街 (sǎo jiē)  Street food crawl

相机食先 (xiàngjī shí xiān)  To take photos of your food (something people here do rather too much)

打卡圣地 (dǎkǎ shèngdì)  A must-go spot.

Mostly used in Hong Kong in Cantonese, though I’ve transliterated to pinyin. Thanks to Sue Ng 

Saturday 23 October 2021

Amala Ekpunobi at Winona State University in Minnesota


Click above to the video
Amala Ekpunobi is really fantastic. At least I think so. She refuses to be a victim. As so many of her fellow Nigerians in America, who succeed more than native-born African Americans. 
Anyway, have a look. It’s 14 minutes. And consider. How does she handle the issue of debating. And how did those people demonstrating against her “hate” handle the issue? Surely Amala 1, Demonstrators 0 

‘Hong Kong’s backward zero-Covid policy threatens to kill all our hopes and dreams’ | Peter Kammerer SCMP

In search of Zero… (Click for the article)
It’s been 20 months since I last left Hong Kong. This is by far a record for me; having lived in the city for more than three decades before the pandemic, I was used to taking overseas trips three or four times a year. [More…]

That para could have been me writing it instead of columnist Kammerer. If it were me only two things would change: it’s been 22 months without travel; and I used to do six to eight trips a year. 

That was always a great thing about being here. Sure we’re a city-state. But you could leave easily. Be at the airport in seventeen minutes (no more; no less — traffic-free from our front door), and quickly, easily through to the comfy business lounge. To spoon up the best Dan Dan Noodles in Hong Kong, at the Cathay lounge, washed down with a fine wine. Oh, bliss!

So, that was then. And this is now. Where I’m wondering if things will ever get back to that kind of normal in my life time. Getting through the mandatory testing and health checks now takes five hours. And then three weeks in strict hotel quarantine. If you can even book a hotel — I saw yesterday they’re booked through to post Xmas. 

I realise as I write this that I’m describing a very First World Problem. There are people losing lives and livelihoods. Not worried about their next overseas trip. 

So I just leave it there. Noting it. And wondering, with us here having zero Covid cases for months, if things don’t change now, then when…

ADDED: I this what we want the world to look like post Covid?

Friday 22 October 2021

I, Pencil. I, love it

Click pencil and scroll down for I, Pencil
I’d heard of this famous essay from 1946, a parable really, about how many people it takes to make a pencil. Forget “it takes a village”, as Hillary said. It takes a world to make a pencil. And it’s made without a single person in that world chain thinking that they’re making a pencil or having any aim to make a pencil.

I arrived in China in 1976 when the communist party still believed that they could plan how to make a pencil. Result: no pencils. In winter, courtesy of central planning, there was only one vegetable available: Pak Choi (白菜). Now, since they decided to let the market decide from 1980, they have every food imaginable. And every consumer good imaginable. That’s the magic of the market. That’s the mire of central planning.

A conservative site criticised the essay “I, Pencil” recently. Too libertarian for them. And Dominic Pino defends it. As I would, a left-libertarian as I’ve found myself to be.

Sitting in the coffee shop … contemplating two figures...

David Hockney, Two Figures
No, not those two figures. The two figures I’m thinking of are:

  1. The number of unarmed black men killed every year by the police in the US
  2. The number of otherwise healthy children under 17 in the US who have died since Covid

I know from asking around, and from the intertubes, that people invariably overestimate these two numbers. In both cases estimates range from “several hundred” to “Oh, goodness, I don’t know, but I guess, what?… tens of thousands?”  

The actual figures are below the fold. A clue: they are similar. Another clue: the highlighted qualifiers above. One of the reasons I posted this: that the reason we overestimate is because of the media; and that this has damaged us all. In short, the media, mainstream and social, has harmed us all.

Go below to see the actual figures.

Thursday 21 October 2021

No, Jen Psaki, we don’t “Welcome stiff competition from China”. Still: is the hypersonic missile a “sputnik moment” or not?


“Stiff competition” is fine in building cars, or silicon chips. Not when we’re talking “war, war” instead of “jaw, jaw”. Why should we welcome China becoming more assertive? With their “Fractional Orbital Bombardment Systems”, aka Hypersonic missiles. 
Here is Psaki saying just that, though I very doubt the US military is so sanguine. I wouldn’t hyperventilate about what a spokesperson says. They’re paid to block, to play the straight bat.

Arguing that we’ve been here before, kind of, so nothing to see here, nothing to worry about, but still:
The test should thus be seen more as an indication of China’s intent rather than its superior technology. By developing such systems, Beijing is demonstrating that a new nuclear competition is forming, with hundreds of billions of dollars likely to be spent by both sides on both offensive and defensive system

In "China’s reported hypersonic missile test is not a ‘Sputnik moment’, but is still cause for concern”.

There are others, many others, saying this is indeed a “Sputnik moment” for the US. Though if that really is that case, there’s not as much being said about it as one would expect. Sputnik at the time it was complete panic.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

‘If the US and EU were divided on China, Aukus ‘betrayal’ just dug the trenches deeper’ | SCMP

Click screenshot for article 
We’re supposed to worry about the hurt feelings of the EU.
The geniuses who:
  • Built the worlds biggest, unaccountable, bureaucratic state
  • Which free rides in US defence spending
  • Which blundered in the GFC which gave us the Greek/Italian/Spanish debt crises which led to mishandling the Covid pandemic 
  • Whose Merkel shut clean reliable nuclear power in favour of coal and Russian gas; who tells 5 million unvetted migrants to “come on in
  • Whose Macron is so blinded by bitterness over Brexit he can’t think straight
  • Whose Charles Michel tells Poland to keep quiet about its nuclear power in case the Greens get angry 
  • Whose leaders all, offer obeisance to Beijing 
These are the strategic geniuses we should hitch our wagon to. Right. 
Too late, anyway.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

‘China’s Brain’ | DW. The surveillance state in the People’s Republic


Click above to go to video
I just watched this. Fascinating. Also scary, sinister and wicked. But also some parts surely good.

Interesting how far in front of the world China is on all this technology.
DW — Germany’s Deutsche Welle — produces some very good, very balanced docos.

'Anjem Choudary: What threat might he pose once freed?’ | BBC Newsnight

Click above to go to vid
Part of the answer to the question -- what threat is Choudary? -- is that Choudary apparently influenced Ali Harbi Ali, the killer of Sir David Amess. Though, TBF, Ali didn’t need Choudary to be free. He just watched his videos on YouTube
The vid above is a BBC Newsnight report from 2018. And it does seem a pretty fair investigation by the BBC. Nothing much has changed since. Or are arguably worse. I wonder if the BBC would do a similar video today, or even an update? 
The main media reaction to the murder of Sir David Amess is to worry about the threat to MPs but not to touch on the reasons, the motivation, of the killer. [ADDED: and saying, as I’m just hearing, that nasty Twitter threads have something to do with it...]
The Newsnight vid did at least touch on the issues of motivation. Namely, what they call “radical Islam”. Which is followed by a disturbingly large proportion of Muslims. The Koran is clear, after all.
ADDED: And as former Islamic radical, turned professor and critic of radical Islam, Ed Husein, there are problems to be addressed at UK mosques:
In his latest book – ‘Among The Mosques: A Journey Across Muslim Britain author and political advisor Ed Husain has documented in detail how Islamic societies in the UK are slowly occupying households in the country and are enforcing strict Taliban-like rules. [Read on...]

And, not un-related to Amess’ killing: During his visit to these areas, Ed discovered bookstores filled with books glorifying violent jihad, especially by Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian godfather of Islamist terror and an acknowledged influence on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Link  

Is this the new normal? Endless mandates in masks, distancing, quarantine…?

I started to worry early on in this pandemic that people would notice anti-coronavirus measures had reduced other transmissible diseases, and call for ongoing mandates to mask up, socially distance and all the rest of it. I didn’t want to mention it for fear it would come true; sure enough it has anyway.

Last week an article I can’t find right now, noticing that pneumonia illnesses in the UK (iirc) were down and arguing that we should keep going with anti-Covid measures until “at least 2024”. OMG, I thought, please no… 2024 means pretty much forever.

Now we have a report of a study from Guangdong:

“Our study suggests that some [intervention measures], such as border restrictions, quarantine and isolation, community management, social distancing, face mask usage, and personal hygiene encouragement, would be very effective measures for the prevention and control of infectious diseases in the future,” the researchers wrote.  
That would be especially for respiratory infections like influenza, vector-borne diseases like dengue, and intestinal illnesses, like hand-foot-and-mouth disease, they said.


I’m not saying intervention measures (NPIs) wouldn’t be effective. Of course they would, at least to some degree. I’m asking, “is it worth it?”  I don’t recall that pre-Covid we were especially worried about the annual flu (there are jabs!), let alone dengue fever (!?) or hand-foot-mouth disease. “Intestinal diseases”, aka “Delhi belly”, or the “Nile runs”? We still went to Delhi and sailed the Nile. We accepted the risks, pretty much unconsciously. Now, not. Now we are told “one death is too many”. NPIs mitigate disease; therefore NPIs must stay. 

Are we about to see the end of a Golden Era of travel, that lasted, in the end just 30 years, from 1970 (the first Jumbo) to mid 2020?

Monday 18 October 2021

Zero Covid Zombie Land

Australia opens up
Australia went crazy on its Zero Covid Policy. They’ve changed now to “living with Covid”. Because ZCP didn’t work and was never going to work. John Power explains in “Australia changes tack on Zero Covid… lessons for Hong Kong…”

But here in Hong Kong we carry on with Zero Covid Policy. It’s the Twilight Zone. Nothing changing. Nothing getting worse. Nothing getting better. Never ending.

Interesting that the comments at the article are mostly in favour of opening up. Months ago that was not the case. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called a “heartless murderer” who “doesn’t care for people dying of Covid” just because I thought we needed to do cost-benefit analysis of strict lockdowns and believed we have to “live with Covid”.  And now, “living with Covid”, previously mocked, is now the default. 

From Power’s article:

Roberto Bruzzone, co-director of the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole in Hong Kong, said populations in “zero-Covid” jurisdictions had been falsely led to see the coronavirus as equivalent to ebola or the plague.
“I may repeat myself, but nobody has objected to the 500-1000 influenza related deaths every year in Hong Kong and now we are told that even one death from Covid is unacceptable,” he said. [Read it all]

ADDED (19/10): “Zero-Covid policies …threaten our hopes and dreams” 

'How China’s coal crisis exposes the hypocrisy of the West’s carbon footprint'

No mention in the article that China has the world’s largest annual investment in renewables like Wind and Solar. And that it continues to invest hugely in nuclear power. 

Shorter Andy Xie: when you click on “Send” for that latest purchase, it’s going to make global warming worse. Hands up: guilty myself.


My two cents’ worth is that people want goods, but they don’t want to make them. Central banks and governments are giving them free money. All they need to do is press a few buttons on the mobile phone. The orders go to the lowest-cost producer – China. And consumers like the low prices and don’t really want to know where the stuff is made.

The world has been waging war on coal. The West, in particular, has been shifting away from coal in recent years. Last year, global coal demand fell by 5 per cent due to politics and Covid-19.

As the global economy emerges from the pandemic, coal demand has shifted more to the emerging economies that are coal-dependent. The climate warriors in the West have pushed coal out of their homes, only for it to re-emerge elsewhere. The war on coal is far from won....

... Climate change  activists in the West are putting pressure on fossil fuel production there, especially on coal. “Outsourcing” to China has been an easy way out. These countries can report good numbers in fighting climate change. But the global total does not reflect a proportionate cut. [More].

Sunday 17 October 2021

We have an ecosystem

Backyard Siena One, Discovery Bay 
(It’s no wonder the human eye is optimised for shades of green)
This is our place in Hong Kong. 

We planted the lawn and all the trees and shrubs in 2002, including the Poinciana (Delonix Regia) on the left and Traveller palms on the right. The other side of the hedge is Park Siena, the trees have tripled since we moved in 20 years ago. Our trees have grown even more: the Poinciana was six feet high when we planted it; it’s now 60 feet. This is our own tropical jungle.

Past the apex, in the distance, you can see Central Hong Kong on a clear day. Right at the apex is our fish pond with generations of Koi carp. On the bank our local Heron angles for an easy fish meal. Over the pond, hover our Dragonflies, aerial aces, accomplished killers, mosquito murderers, the crimson dropwings and others.

Dragonflies are my favourite; right up there with Penguins. [Dogs are default]

Turtles visit the pond, from the nearby lake. We discourage them as they attack the fish, tear off their dorsal fins — to eat? for fun? We take one of our finless fish to the vet to ask her, but she says we only do mammals.

In the hedge lurk snakes: Rat snakes, Chinese cobras, Burmese pythons, none really dangerous; we keep out of each others’ way. They eat small mammals and large insects.They feed off our Frogs that come by each spring and croak us awake. We kill none. I ban killing, for here at Casa Siena it’s live and let live. I don’t even kill cockroaches.

Dozens of avian species make our backyard their territory. Speckled doves, Magpie robins, Violet whistling thrushes, Japanese white-eyes, Coucals greater and lesser, Olive-backed Pipitts, and in springtime the Koel — happy to hear him come, happy when he’s gone again— and the occasional Kingfisher. Overhead, the Black-eared kite and Sea eagles float in fresh breezes off our northerly monsoon. Our most common birds, the various Bulbuls — crested, whiskered, red-vented, Chinese — many nearly tame, come by demanding their daily bread, tossed in the air so they can catch it in flight; these are flycatchers. Like the Verditer Flycatcher, which sometimes crashes into our windows. Later on we’ll see if our bulbuls make a nest in our Buddha pine, as they’ve done years past, and raise their chicks in our kitchen garden. And watch “our” thrush find a snail, a favourite meal, and take it to the patio to crack open, just as Australia’s Kookaburras are famous for doing with snakes. And occasionally find a dead dove on the lawn. We presume it’s natural. They have to die somewhere. We bury them under our golden Duranta.

Meantime. our living Doves have been making their way indoors, to hunt for crumbs, any that Basil may have missed. They’re coming in daily, lately, I guess because we’re now leaving the doors open more often as the temps cool and the humidity drops. They just waddle on in. We welcome them, then help them find their way out of this confusing human nest.

I don’t welcome our local house cats.They’re notorious bird killers. Ferocious felines. There’s one I can’t keep away, the next door’s black-cat Micky, who I forgive as she focuses on the field mice that live in our old compost bin. They’re controlled by Micky but not eradicated. When she’s not around they come by and say hi to me, as I bake bread. I don’t mind them. They’re clean. And great survivors. I respect success. Imagine a life of running a Micky gauntlet, a fierce creature 20 times your size, every time you go out to fetch something for the kids. 

I like our little ecosystem. It’s not much. But it lives, it thrives, it engages. It engages me and is itself engaged. Great battles are fought, dragonfly v mosquito, snake v frog, cat v rat, thrush v snail. I watch them all, watch them grow, survive, kill, eat, breed… live and die.

Chinese characters

Chinese sayings on friends and frenemies

割席   Gē xí. Literal: cut the seat (or woven mat). Meaning: Break up with someone 

心照      Xīn zhào. Literal: Heart shine. Meaning: Understanding someone really well

糖黐豆     Táng chī dòu. Literal: Sugar sticky beans. Meaning: Inseparable friends

人前人后兩个樣    Rénqián rén hòu liǎng gè yàng. Literal: People front, people back, two faces. Meaning: Two faced.

Some local Hong Kong slang, used also in Mandarin. For a bit of a change of pace.

Saturday 16 October 2021

Joe Rogan Vs. CNN's Sanjay Gupta and Don Lemon

Click screenshot for vid. Language warning
(also: “grating accent” warning....)
I'm agnostic on Ivermectin. Historically it's not dangerous, for Covid it may or may not be effective (testing is inconclusive).

Carolla has a good take on the debates, he's well-read on it, surprisingly so, given the number of topics he has to be across.

This shows the contrast in handling the issue, between CNN and Fox. CNN, Don Lemon, Sanjay Gupta, don't come out well. Carlson and Weinstein come out rather better. On any objective reading, surely.

ADDED: Don Lemon doubling down by saying that Ivermectin is a horse medicine, just shows his duplicity. Heaps of medicines (heaps of things) are used by humans and by animals. And Lemon surely knows this; and so, just as surely knows that to say that Joe Rogan was using “horse deworming paste” is only because Lemon want to demonise Rogan -- jealousy? Rogan has ten times CNN’s whole audience). 

Quite why the opponents of Ivermectin are so manic about it, is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it's because Ivermectin got caught up with medicines like Hydroxicloroquin, which Trump promoted. Trump promoted HCQ, therefore bad. Ivermectin => like HCQ => Therefore bad. I guess. There’s also the conspiracy theory that big pharma is against a simple cheap treatment as it would cut into vaccine profits. Not sure about that. I remain agnostic on that as well. 

Friday 15 October 2021

Sitting in an empty coffee shop … wondering about our loss of irony

Customers come in from outside where they have been masked, in strong breezes
Sit down, take off their masks and sit amongst dividers that reduce airflow.
If there is a definition of “anti science” this is it
Bitter, bitter irony. The Stones’ latest tour is called “No Filter” but cancels their “Brown Sugar”.

At first I thought Oh, no, Stones what have you done!? But it turns out it’s not them wot dunnit. Keith tells the LA Times:

“You picked up on that, huh?” Richards told the outlet after he was asked why the band has refrained from playing it on the US tour. He added that he doesn’t understand the controversy.

“I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is,” Richards said. “Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they’re trying to bury it. At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this shit.”

Thursday 14 October 2021

Polling for the result you want. Sexual harassment at Australian universities

Bettina Arndt and I were at the Australian National University together, 1969-72. She did Science, I did Economics (where I studied the texts of her father economics professor Heinz Arndt). 
I headed off to Europe then China. She headed to Sydney and a storied career in feminist publishing. She was brave then. She’s brave now. Fighting the demonisation of young men at universities throughout Australia. It’s not popular to fight in the men’s corner. For which, you can imagine, she gets hammered by the bien pensants of the Left. For them the demonisation either doesn’t exist, or the ends justify the means; the being to crush the “campus rape crisis” that Bettina shows is more imaginary than real; the means being to demonise young men.
As an aside: I remember my days at Uni back in those late sixties. It was totally what they say: sex, drugs and rock & roll. It was all pretty open. I lived a year on campus and two years in a student house right nearby the Uni. Here’s the thing (which I didn’t think about at the time): if there had been any rape on campus we would have heard of it. We were pretty plugged in. Our place, Elder St, was the place people dropped in. Do we think if there’s been rapes in campus, let alone an “epidemic” of rape, we’d not have known about it? Of course not. We would have known. I’m not saying there was none, or that there is nine; that would be ridiculous. But our experience and the data, as Bettina unpicks it, do not support the hysteria.


What does it say about our country that a student writing to me doesn’t dare give his name for fear his letter could be traced back to him?

Concerned Student wrote to me last month after being asked to complete the National Student Safety Survey, which has just been distributed to over 400,000 random students on our campuses:

“As I was completing the survey, I was shocked and alarmed at how the survey had seemingly been deliberately constructed in a way likely to produce results that will exaggerate perceived rates of sexual violence on campus and thereby distort and manipulate public opinion and policy. The authors have applied definitions of sexual assault and harassment that are so broad they conflate normal interactions between men and women with heinous and brutal acts of violence. This is an injustice to survivors.” [Read more…]


Wednesday 13 October 2021

Vaccine Mandates

Public Health England: you can catch Covid more readily
if you’re vaccinated
I’m fully vaxxed. Have been since May. I need to make that clear. So is all my family and all those in our household  (Basil the dog aside). Since as early as we could. We’re all fully on board with the covid vaccine.  

But what’s with vaccine mandates?  Governments are demanding them, and many are pushing back.

The only reason I can see for mandates is that if you don’t get vaccinated “you’re harming other people”. 

But that’s not “the science”. Which is: (1) if you’re vaccinated you can still catch Covid, and (2) if you’re vaccinated, you can still pass it on Covid. The thing that the vaccine does is reduce both hospitalisation and deaths from Covid, by factors of 10 and 100, respectively. You take the vaccine to protect yourself. It doesn’t really help in stopping other people catching covid, or you from catching it.

The above chart -- data from Public Health England -- is the evidence for:

“You can catch Covid, even if you’re vaccinated”. 

And here is evidence for: 

“You can pass on Covid even if you’re vaccinated” [Internet Archive]

Net result: the case for mandating vaccination is thin. Why do it? When so many are dead against them, with pun intended. The risk, such as we know it, is theirs, the unvaccinated. 

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Follow the science. Until … well, until don’t follow the science, because you should have known better

I’ve just heard of a Report by UK MPs on how Britain handled the pandemic. I haven’t read the Report. I’ve only seen reports of the Report. 

What I’m seeing on BBC, Sky, Talk Radio is that the Report criticises the UK government for its handling of the crisis. Fair enough. They also say it was the “worst mishandling of a health crisis” in British history. Who knows? Maybe.  

But here’s the amazing bit … they say the government should have questioned the science at the beginning of the outbreak. 

Should have questioned the science”. 

I remember, very clearly, what it was like then. Questioning the science was verboten. Questioning the science on a basic matter of how to handle the pandemic — lockdown or no lockdown —  was unthinkable. The media would have excoriated the government. They’d have been hammered.

Some, but not many enough, are criticising the Report as being with “the benefit of hindsight”. Absolutely. But none refers to the “Follow the Science” zeitgeist at the time. I’ll bet London to a brick the authors of this Report believed exactly the same at the time. “Follow the science”. It was a mantra. If there was any questioning of “the Science”, it came from the Right — and was thus safely mocked or ignored. Or it came from scientists of the Great Barrington Declaration. Who were all roasted at the time. And continue to be.

I find this all breathtaking hypocrisy. And forgetfulness. And 2020 hindsight. 

Apparently the Report says there were 20,000 “unnecessary deaths”. This is a cheap shot. You could always say there are “unnecessary deaths” from any policy. Driving at 50 mph rather than 30 mph; or simply allowing people fo go about their daily lives. Any policy has a cost in lives and livelihoods.

I’ve yet to read the Report, but plan to. What I’ve heard of it, it’s multiple cheap shots and hypocrisy grande.

This is not to claim there were no mistakes made. Of course there were. In the UK, as elsewhere. As Everywhere. Everyone could have done better. If this Report helps the process of learning, great. But cheap shots and being Captains Hindsight don’t help.

ADDED: The myth of the ‘late’ lockdown [in the UK]

ADDED even later (15th Oct): Noah Carl’s response to the House of Commons Report on the UK response to Covid

Trigger warning: I was *about* to say something nice about China …

The something nice I was going to say was about Beijing’s plan to nominate Hong Kong as a biotechnology “hub” in the region. The praise being that it kind of made sense and when China says it’s going to do something it usually does. 
It reminded me how I’d been standing in a rice paddy in southern China back in 1983 listening to a group of officials describe how they were going to develop this land into a major industrial and high tech base. Sure, I thought. Believe it when I see it. 

Those paddy fields are now Shenzhen a high-tech megalopolis of 30 million (somewhat more than the whole population of Australia). 

And I was thinking of being Shanghai in ‘84 listening to the mayor Zhu Rongji (my fave) describe how they were going to develop the flatlands across the river in Pudong. Sure, I thought. Believe it when I see it. Well, see it:

I took this photo from the 8th floor Peace Hotel, Shanghai 
looking across to Pudong, 12 October 2013. Yikes!
8 years ago to the day! Was there with mate Steve Padgham, 
for the Shanghai Masters tennis

And I was thinking of how Beijing said we’ll build super fast railways, 20,000 kilometres in 10 years. Sure. They built 35,000 km in ten years and will do another 35,000 in the next ten.

So when they say Hong Kong will (or “can”) become a biotech hub, the default thinking is: Sure. Of course! That was why I was about to say something nice about Xi Jinping’s China. 

But then I remembered: they’ve had their failures. There’s ghost towns all over China, built in a frenzy of infrastructure development with no thought to who would live in them. Many are now being demolished. Leaving behind just dust and debt. There’s the Shanghai Free Trade Zone that’s never taken off, despite high level encouragement.

So simply saying it no longer means it will happen. We now have a grand vision by our dear leader Carrie Lam, the other day in her annual policy address. The grand vision of building a big high-tech town in the border of Shenzhen. 600 sq km of it, even if a lot is “old wine in new bottles” (老酒新 瓶 laojiu xinping), reheated plans cobbled together. 

Lucy Kwan — in “Hong Kong policy address, why the gap between elite and public opinion “ — reminds me of a local Cantonese-English saying Hi-tech hi ye, lo-tech low ye, a version of “there’s money in muck, lad”. For every Facebook there are thousands of pet-dot.coms. Make your money in basics.

She also makes the point that most young Hongkongers have zero desire to work in the Greater Bay Area. We can mock them for that, but it’s true. 

My mate Tom Yam asks where are the people going to come from, given declining population growth rates over all China including Hong Kong. 

Monday 11 October 2021

Skewed Risk Perceptions

If the party affiliations were reversed there would be no end of
“Republican deplorables don’t understand the science”
Ask around, ask your friends: "What percentage of unvaccinated people who catch Covid will end up in hospital?" Guessing is fine.

My guess is that most are going to guess way high. In my case I knew the answer -- around 5% -- but friends I asked guessed from 10% to over 50%. 

The chart above is interesting. In America, Democrats way overestimated the likelihood of hospitalisation: 41% of them thought over 50% would be hospitalised, and only 10% of them guessed the correct number (1% to 5%) whereas 26% of Republicans guessed correct; and way fewer guessed the over-the-top number. 

Noah Carl at The Daily Sceptic talks, calmly, rationally, sceptically, about the possible reasons why in Why are People's Risk Perceptions So Skewed? 

It also reminds me that in the wake of 911 people stopped flying. Because they had skewed threat perceptions. They associated planes with flying into skyscrapers. Many more people travelled by car. More people died on the roads than normal and far more than if they'd continued to travel by plane, despite the (tiny) risk of being hijacked by Islamic nutters. 

People here in Hong Kong continue in ignorance of the threat of Covid to us here. We have zero Covid. Plus Covid is rarely caught outside. Yet people continue masking everywhere including outside.  Because the government told them to months ago and hasn't changed its mandate. That's not following "the science". Unless the science is now "you never know" or "better safe than sorry", in which case I fear my fellow Hongkongers are going to be masked to the end of my life.

This morning I heard on Australia's ABC radio Canberra that children going back to school will be required to mask. That's despite the fact that Canberra is homing in on 99% vaccinated for the 12+. That the vaccine reduces likelihood of hospitalisation and death by 100 and 1000 times, respectively. And that children are at more risk of flu than Covid (both for sickness and death). So what, exactly, is the "risk" that's being mitigated by masking children? Not one of the media at this presser asked: what about children and their need to see the teacher's face, to see their fellow pupils' faces? There's research — that is to say, “the science” — showing that suppressing facial expressions by masking is harmful to children. But, no, all must be sacrificed to mitigate the tiniest of risks to the great god Covid.

And while "anyone can catch Covid" (of course, just as "anyone" can catch cancer), the age of those dying from Covid remains stubbornly high, including in Australia (median age 89). Here are the official numbers from 

Thus the Risk, backed by “the science”, of young healthy people dying from Covid (even when they have it) is vanishingly small  (in America 0.002% for 0-17yo). You wouldn’t know that from the media coverage. (Of course the overall percentage is even lower because only a proportion will actually catch Covid, somewhere between one half and one eighth).
From US Centre for Disease Control via here
Back to Noah Carl, a quick read. Which, also explains a lot about current divisions in society — our different perceptions of threats. Broadest generalisation: people on the Left tend to be more afraid of bad things than than people on the Right. Fair?
Noah, take it away!…

Sunday 10 October 2021

‘When Nationalist flags bedecked a Hong Kong town for Double Tenth holiday in live-and-let-live era that seems long gone’

I’m thinking that it’s nitpicking to deny — as James Wordie does below — that the “Double Tenth” (10/10, 10th October) is not Taiwan’s “National Day”. Wikipedia, FWIW, calls it Taiwan’s National Day
Still, I share James’ recollections of a more peaceful and tolerant time in Hong Kong for people of all beliefs and none; for Nationalist and Communists; for pro-dem nutters and pro-gov apparatchiks. Which the National Security Law puts paid to.
As Xi Jinping amps both the rhetoric and the threatening fly-bies, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen responds in kind. And as we note that young people in Taiwan feel more “Taiwanese” than “Chinese”.
But, calm, back to Wordie:
In recent weeks, certain senior Hong Kong officials – who must be held to higher standards than the general public – have erroneously referred to October 10 as Taiwan National Day. Since Taiwan is an integral part of China, the island – whether self-ruled (as at present) or otherwise – cannot, by definition, have its own National Day. 
Let us be clear – Double Tenth commemorates the start of the Wuchang uprising in 1911, which led to the establishment of the Republic of China the following year. Taiwan’s separatists have their own flag – not the Nationalist one; given the chance, these groups would choose a different date altogether. [Read on…]

Saturday 9 October 2021

Queues have consequences

“How hard”? Answer: really easy

 Why am I posting this seemingly random clip from today’s South China Morning Post? And why might queueing be “consequential”?

It reminds me of some happenings here in Hong Kong, maybe twenty years ago.
I was in Pacific Place, having a little meal at the wonderful Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill, one of their chilli bowls and a hamburger that I rate at the best in Hong Hong, arguably the world, juicy, ripe, prime beef grilled to perfection, with sides of pickle and epic chips (“fries” to Americans), thick, crispy on the outside, creamy soft inside. 
I wandered in to a next door shop to buy something for dear spouse. At a Prada.
In the Prada, customers before me, a man under sufferance, leaning on the counter, his ladies, three or four -- wife, mum, sister, perhaps -- trying themselves out with various styles. 
The man leaned, bored, smoking, took a deep draw on his cigarette and blew out an eye cloud. 
Wait. Smoking? Cigarettes?
In a Mall? In the 21st Century?
I can’t remember the last time one could smoke in the Mall of a modern city. 
In any case it was certainly not allowed at the time this fellow was, right there in the Prada shop of Pacific Place.
I said to him, in Mandarin: “Mate, you’d better put that cigarette out. Cause if you don’t the security guys will be along in a bit and they’ll fine you. Like $5,000 ($US642). They do that -- they’re pretty fearsome”. 
He looked at me, puzzled at a huge foreigner confronting him and in his own language. 
He didn’t argue; he also didn’t ignore. He stubbed out his cigarette. But with bad grace. His ladies glared at me. They continued shopping, trying Prada.
When they’d gone the young lady behind the counter said: “Thank you for doing that”. I asked why didn’t they just do what I’d done, tell them they can’t smoke in here. She said they tried that and they were ignored. “Every time we have people from the mainland, they misbehave like this”, she said.
She said they’d tried again and again to stop them smoking (and some other “bad behaviour”), but they were always ignored.
Later, we learnt about more of these “misbehaviours”:  
  • Upsets at the use of Chinese simplified characters
  • Upsets at parents allowing their toddlers to pee in gutters
  • Upsets that Mainlander speak Mandarin and not Cantonese
  • Upsets at Mainlanders taking high-paying jobs in finance and other service industries
I followed the 2019 Hong Kong demonstrations day by day, on this blog. One conclusion: they were as much, perhaps more, due to such “upsets”. Annoyance at the different habits of mainlanders. Of which queueing (or failure to do so) is just one example. Sure, a desire for “democracy” was there -- but let’s remember that the demand for “universal suffrage” only became one one of the “Five Demands, Not One Lessafter they’d promoted the first version which had, instead, the demand for CE Carrie Lam to resign. The “demand” for “universal suffrage” was an afterthought, never front and centre. Nativist hatred of their mainland cousins played a greater part.
“One Country, Two Systems”
One queues, the other doesn’t