Tuesday, 31 May 2022

We’re Still Waiting for a Great Post-COVID Pandemic Novel

These are stories of passive people who mask up, hide away, and shrug, hoping for better days.
Kind of related cause it’s about the pandemic, an Occasional Reader sent me a link to a video by Nathan Rich which slams a guy called Peter Zeihan. I’d never heard of either but watching the Rich “takedown” of Zeihan I found I was agreeing more with Zeihan than his critic Rich. Things really are crazy in Shanghai and crazy bad in Shanghai. I know that from talking to people in Shanghai. And from Weibo, China’s Twitter. If complaints of the lockdown are seeping through social media, despite draconian censorship, you have to know it’s something serious. Simply living in a place does not give you monopoly to state what’s happening there. Look at all the apologists for Soviet Russia, living there, while the greatest critic -- the one who proved the most prescient -- was George Orwell, living overseas.
Nathan Rich is a recovering Scientologist. Good for him escaping that evil cult. But he seems to have found a new cult. Now he’s a China Communist Party cultist. Living in China he’s decided — for safety or for true belief (I suspect the latter) — that he’s going to be chief apologist for China, for the CCP, for Xi Jinping and their zero covid policy. Which me, sitting here in Hong Kong, say is “crazy”. Why, even the WHO says its “unsustainable”!
Rich’s wiki page:
Since moving to China, Rich has started a video blog sympathetic to the People's Republic of China.[6][7] Among the views he holds are that those who had taken part in the Hong Kong protests were "terrorists" and "right-wing",[8] and that Taiwan was an integral part of China and could therefore not be a state.[9] He has also commented on the China–United States trade war[10] and China's handling of the coronavirus epidemic.[11] 
Of these views I disagree with the first, the second and the last (on China’s handling of the pandemic, which has been sketchy at best, horrible at worst).

Monster oven spring

For seven years I’ve baked sourdough, twice or more a week. I’m pretty ok at it by now. Still, this is a good loaf, for the huge “oven spring”, the bounce you get in the dough rising in the oven. Had a good “crumb” too: the feel and shape of the bread inside. This one had nice spread of holes (the holy grail, as it were, of sourdough bakers), good consistency and great, slightly chewy, taste. IIRC, this one was a mix of organic bread flour and some organic malt flour. Nothing else, but a bit of salt, water and natural sourdough starter

Monday, 30 May 2022

Monitoring the pandemic | Hong Kong’s Forever Virus

“Sounds the alarm”!?
Honestly, these “government advisers” are the end. They’re a bunch of pussies! “Unfair”, say I to me. They’re just doing their job. And as we’ve seen elsewhere, doctors do what doctors do, which is to prioritise life and the health system above all else. It’s up to politicians to balance the always-cautious (necessarily cautious) advice of medical folks with the needs of the whole community. That means we need to stop blindly following the super cautious advice of doctors and sundry experts. It means we should not “stop further easing” because of a few cases at some bars.

In other places (UK, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Korea) plans have been made to open up, to remove restrictions, according to a timetable, according to extent of vaccines roll-outs, , etc,  and they don’t falter when there’s a blip in cases. Here in Hong Kong we stumble and stagger from one “crisis” to the next, from one “surging wave” to the other, and we must always “battle fearlessly (Carrie Lam our dear leader, just the other day).

Oh dear.

Oh, one good thing: the comments at the online article are running solidly against this fear mongering. That’s a change from even just months ago. People have had it. 

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Of Excess Deaths

 A nerdy and data-rich article in the The Economist:

As covid-19 has spread around the world, people have become grimly familiar with the death tolls that their governments publish each day. Unfortunately, the total number of fatalities caused by the pandemic may be even higher, for several reasons. First, the official statistics in many countries exclude victims who did not test positive for coronavirus before dying—which can be a substantial majority in places with little capacity for testing. Second, hospitals and civil registries may not process death certificates for several days, or even weeks, which creates lags in the data. And third, the pandemic has made it harder for doctors to treat other conditions and discouraged people from going to hospital, which may have indirectly caused an increase in fatalities from diseases other than covid-19. [Read on...]

At least we’re keeping “One Country Two Systems”

This is the second article* in two days confirming that OC2S will be maintained behind 2047. That’s significant and positive.

Zheng Yanxiong is right in saying that demonstrations in Hong Kong should not be calling for the downfall of communism on the mainland. We thought so at the time, back in 2019. We’d taken part in early demos. We stopped when they became violent (except I went to a couple as an observer). We wrote here, at the time, how dangerous it was to call for Hong Kong independence and downfall of the “Black Party” 黑党 Hei dang. There was no “right” to do so in the Basic Law. And in any case deeply unwise to criticise those you’ve already identified as “tyrants”. For tyrants will do what tyrants do.The dragon, its tail tweaked, will turn and blast you. We’re lucky the blast was relatively mild. Recall at the time many were predicting (hoping?) that the PLA would turn out the tanks. The National Security Law, draconian as it is, is a mild alternative.

People, the teenage “democracy warriors” of 2019 forgot that Hong Kong was under the suzerainty of China, by international treaty, by recognition of the United Nations and by the Basic Law. Promoting democracy in Hong Kong is one thing. Calling for the overthrow of the communist party quite another. And I say that as no fan boy of socialism, let along the Marxist Leninist party in Beijing. It’s realism.

So, given all that, I find it positive that Beijing sees fit to confirm One Country Two Systems will continue, including past its notional expiry of 2047. That does mean a “high degree of autonomy” for us. Less than before 2019, for sure. But that lessening due entirely to the misjudged violence of 2019. Let’s keep what we have remaining. Which is still plenty freedoms, and a safe city. 

The yellow highlighted bit in the article above is me taking note when our local officials do “commie speak”. That “fearless of struggle” is straight out of Mao Tse-tung. 艰苦奋斗 Jian ku fen dou. “Don’t fear difficulties or struggle”. It’s creeping in to the speech of our local apparatchiks. Which I don’t really like. But will. 

ADDED: The above probably looks like apologia for the regime. But Occasional Readers will know that I’ve been critical of said regime over the life of this blog. It’s just that I don’t buy the “fearless democracy warriors” narrative. The demonstrations against the Extradition Treaty, which we took part in, were relevant and justified. They should have stopped when they were successful. Instead they went on with a set of incoherent and changing “Five Demands”, against a supposed creeping dictatorship with Beijing. And they went on the be much more randomly violent. 

But 

(1) there was no "creeping dictatorship" until it was prompted by a year of non-stop the violent rioting calling for “HK Independence” and downfall of the  CCP. To which the response was the National Security Law.

(2) These young protesters would not have had any idea what was going on inside government and whether or not Beijing was interfering in the day to day work of our government. At the time I did know, at senior levels in the administration and through organising legislation to pass in the LegCo. There was nothing coming down as “orders from Beijing”. That only changed because of the riots; it was not the cause of the riots. 

(3) It became clear that the rioters were out go get mainlanders and mainland-linked companies, because of a nativist hatred of them -- who had been coming into Hong Kong at a rate of 150 a day since the 2008 recession. That’s not me saying that: they said it themselves, openly. They called mainlanders “locusts”. It was some pretty horrid stuff, which would be “racism” were they not all Han.

The article yesterday:


ADDED: I just noticed the bit I circled: “…it won’t change if it’s improved.”  ie, it won’t change unless it’s changed. Such is the logic of apparatchiks. 

Saturday, 28 May 2022

"Are you worried about the possibility of nuclear war?"

Lex Fridman talking to Stephen Kotkin, expert on Stalin and Soviet history. And Kotkin's response is that we must all be worried. But there are some .... positives.

Hear here how Russia's "dual key" system for their strategic nuclear weapons controls who and how Russia might launch nuclear weapons. Putin has one key; the top of the armed forces has another. Each with separate codes.

No one knows if Putin would launch a nuclear strike, if they had battlefield set-backs in Ukraine. Will the people flying the bombers, will the people in the silos, those "young guys", will they let the missiles go? You can see it's more than one man making the decisions. 

As for "low-yield" tactical weapons, if they fire one at Ukraine our it's also fired against Russia. The fallout for a weapon used in Ukraine will bring fallout to the Kremlin. So that's an obvious brake. 

That's good. Right? Right!?... A fascinating listen, as nuclear war is again in the zeitgeist, like back in the 60s. 

"A WHO pandemic pact would leave the world at China’s mercy” | Matt Ridley

It’s a travesty that Taiwan was not allowed to attend the recent World Health Assembly, the annual get-together of the WHO. Shameful. Especially given that it was Taiwan (not China) that alerted the world about a “novel coronavirus”, back in December of 2019. And Taiwan has done amongst the best worldwide in handling the pandemic.

But for these people, the WHO hierarchy, charged with global human health, it’s politics above lives. 

The US is the major donor to the WHO, and I’m wondering why they didn’t make more of a noise. Second largest donor is Bill Gates’ Foundation. Microsoft still has major business in China, so it’s not too much of a stretch to think that might play a part in Bill's not supporting Taiwan. By the way, Taiwan had observer status until recently, to the defenestration is a new thing. Thanks to the paranoia of Xi Jinping.

And now the WHO wants us to buy into a grand global anti-pandemic strategy, run, of course, by them. I say, "thanks, but no thanks". There’s plenty everyone could have done better. Of course we should share best practice. But to imagine that countries can “harmonise” policies against the next pandemic, then you haven’t been paying attention to how it all went down in this one. There’s no point in pushing for stuff that’s never going to happen. The localised reactions worked best. Not one-size-fits-all, per what the WHO imagine we can do.

Matt Ridley is a thoughtful commentator on much in the public scientific sphere. Here he says it well:

Though some of the measures make sense, such as more sharing of vaccines with other countries, the plan skates around WHO’s errors during the Covid pandemic. It ignored Taiwan’s early alarm call, praised the Chinese government for its transparency at a time when it was denying human-to-human transmission and punishing whistleblowers, delayed declaring a health emergency, flip-flopped on masks and lockdowns and mounted a farcical Potemkin investigation into the origin of the virus. Added to its poor performance in the 2014 ebola outbreak, when for months WHO resisted calls from doctors and NGOs to declare an emergency to avoid offending member governments, this track record does not inspire confidence. [More]

Matt wrote a book with co-author, the epidemiologist Alina Chan, about the search for the source of the Covid virus. I’ve read it, and thanks mainly to Ridley, it’s a page-turner. Viral. The search for the origin of Covid-19

ADDED: The WHO has lost all credibility 

Friday, 27 May 2022

“Chesa Boudin’s soft-on-crime policies will doom him”

California has many "Chesas", Chesa thinkalikes, governors, mayors, DAs. One wonders why. And, related, why do people flee Californication, to red states, only to vote blue all over again?

I most certainly don't get that.

And why would Chesa Boudin hew to his parents' radical ideology? Does he have no brain of his own?

Anyway, interesting article on Boudain and his background.

Maskaholics

Black line: mask mandate states; Orange: no mask mandates
I’ve meant to do an update on all the data, pro and con, the wearing of masks. Intuitively you’re bound to think that wearing masks will stop coronavirus. Well, yes, but to some extent. From all the studies, they help, somewhat and limited (eg. Yale and Stanford large-scale randomised study). That study showed about a one percentage point difference from 8.4% (not wearing) to 7.4% (wearing). Which leads to the next idea: that you need to test those “somewhat” benefits, against the costs, which the world, and all its experts, have spent very little time on. 

The article above is one that I’d meant to reference, but I’ve not the time for the rest, so I’ll let it stand here for now.  Here it is, Maskaholics. John Tierney mentions Japan, where there’s a kind of addiction to wearing masks. Kind of. I’ve been to Japan many times over the years and they do, or did, wear masks much more than the rest of the world, but mainly for where one had a cold. Now it’s much more. And so in Hong Kong. I think people are already so acculturated to masking that they’ll do it, even when they’re not demanded to. 

ADDED: There are other studies, in the lab, the show bigger benefits from masking. But then at a macro level -- like the chart above, from States in the US -- it appears there’s very little difference between neighbouring areas which have mask mandates cf those that don’t have mandates. The same is true in the UK, where England has no mandates, while Scotland and Wales do: there is no difference in caseloads, hospitalisations and deaths. 

I think the reason there’s a difference between the lab results and the real-world results is that the lab tests are done on crash-test dummies, with instruments measuring the percent of virus blocked by a mask, all carefully controlled. Whereas in real-life there are all sorts of confounding factors: the type of mask (cloth is useless), how people wear them, how far apart they keep while wearing masks.... Also, it may be that a mask blocks 95% of the virus, but that 5% of a very contagious virus is enough to pass on anyway. 

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Rooftop solar in Discovery Bay, Hong Kong

 

Our place, Siena One, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong
Plenty of solar opportunity, including making money off 
installing rooftop solar, because the government pays you to do it

Photos above courtesy Andrew McDonald of SolarFuture who installed the above for us. Speak to me if you’re thinking of rooftop solar in DB, to save the planet with solar! fu.saisee @ gmail dot com.

By my calculation, investment in rooftop solar returns about 15% IRR, based on guaranteed government Feed in Tariffs. UPDATE (1/9/22): we’ve had our first cheques and return is running at 25%. Mind, it’s the sunniest time of the year!

ADDED: getting lots of feedback by gmail and WhatsApp, on this, for which thanks to all. Save the Planet!

ADDED (1/9/22): I learned last night that (some of) our neighbours had taken up a petition to stop our rooftop solar installation! Told to us by a neighbour who’d been approached to sign and refused to do so. So much NIMBYism. You see it everywhere. People “really concerned “ about “catastrophic climate change” then fighting against wind turbines in the fields, or solar arrays on neighbours’ houses. Sigh…. 
I’m guessing the petition failed because it’s government policy to encourage PV rooftop solar in Hong Kong as part of our Paris Accord climate goals. Or maybe not enough neighbours signed; one hopes.
By the way, I’d be quite happy to have a nuclear power station, like the one at Daya Bay, right next door! Say, on Lamma Island to replace the ugly coal-fired station that’s already there. Result: no new despoiling of the country, but a reduction of carbon emissions to zero. Not that it will ever happen. But it should. By logic. Daya Bay nuclear station is pretty! I’ve visited it, just 30 miles north-east of us. I’ve never forgotten the visit; it was hugely impressive.
LATER: I wish I’d seen the petition. I wonder on what grounds they were objecting? That they’re unsightly perhaps? Or.… what? 

Cancelled for nothing | The disgraceful firing of a Princeton professor

The penultimate and ultimate paras:

It was not enough to expel [professor ] Katz from Princeton, his head had to be displayed on a pike pour encourager les autres—tenured professors will now think twice before venturing to criticize DEI policies or the race-baiting demands of militant student activists. That is, if they don’t want their own private lives to fall under the prurient scrutiny of those who wish them harm. [Princeton president] Eisgruber admittedly found himself in an unenviable position, facing immense pressure from students and faculty to dismiss a professor accused of racial and sexual transgressions. But leadership under such circumstances calls for moral courage and integrity, and this dismal episode has demonstrated that Eisgruber has neither.

One of the most powerful corrupting forces in human affairs is the desire for a quiet life. It leads good people to join mobs they don’t support and to be spectators to injustice. Joshua Katz, on the other hand, knew it was dangerous to go public with his objections to the faculty letter, but he did so because his conscience demanded it. For this, he has paid an intolerable price. We remain proud to have published his article at Quillette and dismayed that it has been used to destroy his career. But there is a price to pay for appeasement too. And if Eisgruber believes that feeding Katz to the DEI crocodile will make his own life easier, he is in for a nasty surprise. His weakness will only have inflamed its appetite.

It’s surely ridiculous, scary, risible, nasty, unwarranted, hypocritical, horrid, vindictive, cult-like. Isn’t it?  

The disgraceful firing of professor Katz

I wonder, by the way, if there might not be anti-semitism in this cancellation of professor Katz. Nothing is said in the article, but given left-wing antisemitism in the unies (often in the guise of “anti-Zionism”) I wouldn’t be surprised. 

Monitoring the pandemic | 40% with PTSD

Up to 40% of Hongkongers are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) according to various expert researchers. 

They say, these expert researchers quoted above, that we Hongkongers, to cure our PTSD, should  “avoid overwhelming ourselves with with information and rely on trustworthy sources”. Online here.

Right. 

You mean “trustworthy” like the South China Morning Post itself which has relentlessly fear-mongered Covid, since day one. And even here, in the article above, insists on labelling it “coronavirus crisis”. 

You meant “trustworthy” like the government advisers — epidemiologists, respiratory experts, clinicians — who are quoted in the press every day, with differing opinions, but all leaning heavily to the most scary. And who convinced the government to maintain the strictest masking and social distancing restrictions in the world?  

You mean “Trustworthy sources” like the WHO, who told us early on that coronavirus was not transmitted human-to-human, because that’s what the Chinese “experts” had told the WHO?

You mean like the WHO which advised the world not to cut off flights to Wuhan, when that one single early intervention might have stopped coronavirus in its tracks? 

You mean Those sorts of trustworthy sources?

A bit rich to blame the people for their own PTSD, when the trauma, the fear, has been whipped up by the government and media.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Hehe

 

Like half the rest of the world I’m watching the JOHNNY V AMBER trial daily 

Monitoring the pandemic | Borders closed for at least another month

I say “at least” because the date has slipped time and again. I’d bet it will slip again. And that means no opening of our international borders because the one with China comes first. Even as the General Chamber of Commerce argues we should open internationally first. We bow to Beijing.

Another thing: it’s weird to keep saying “monitoring the pandemic” because in the rest of the world, at least the rest of the west, it’s pretty much a non topic now. Certainly not much coverage in the US, the EU, the UK or even in Oz.

Meantime:


Tuesday, 24 May 2022

“Coronavirus: can Hongkongers finally ditch their masks by summer? Not so fast, health experts say” | SCMP

Hong Kong: the most mask-compliant people in the world 
A depressing sight (click for article)
Personally I hate masks. I find it disturbing not to see the face of one's fellow human being. 
 
I don't say masks don't work. Just that the data shows they work marginally and not nearly as much as people think: per a Yale/Stanford study — the largest random controlled trial to date — there is an under one percentage point of difference between masking and not masking. 
 
So masking becomes a balance between benefits and costs. Problem is, the benefits are overplayed and assumed correct, while the costs are hard to define, but are nonetheless real — we know, for example, that children don't learn as well when they can't see their teachers' and classmates faces. And there's the CO2 problem which the above article mentions at the end. And what about my depression? I can't be the only one. 
 
Note the mission creep by the "experts" in this article. They are now saying we need to mask up to prevent the "flu and other respiratory diseases". We never did that before. No country did. The logic, such as it is, is that "if a single life is saved, it's worth it". No, it's not. That logic would have us stay at home. Stop driving cars. Stop any human interaction. It's all a balance and for me that balance is way over on the safetyism side, here in Hong Kong where we have the strictest mask mandates in the world. 
 
While I watch and track other countries like the US, Australia, the UK, where there are large-scale events with everyone maskless. Each weekend now I watch the Australian Rules football. Melbourne Cricket Ground with 90,000 happy, maskless fans. Oh glory! Unimaginable here in HK. Yet these countries figures for Covid hospitalisations and deaths remain low. 

Only here in Hong Kong (and China too, of course) do we maintain such tough restrictions. 
 
It's depressing.

ADDED: Lab studies of Covid virus-stopping power show: cloth masks stop 10-20%, surgical masks (the one most people wear), stop around 50% and N95 masks stop 90%. Then we have the following from professor Hui Shu-cheong:
Hui said healthcare workers usually needed to take a break after wearing N95 respirators for more than two hours as they might develop headaches due to breathing in carbon dioxide. That was also why the public and patients were not recommended to wear N95 respirators, he added. Link… 

i didn’t know, and I suspect most people don’t, that we are being discouraged from wearing N95 mask-respirators. And 50% stoppage of the most recommended mask, the surgical mask, is not enough to stop the spread, indoors, of a highly transmissible disease. Which is why “In Real Life” is different from lab results. Yes, masks work (in the lab) but not enough to stop IRL spread indoors. (Outdoor masking should never have happened).

Monitoring the pandemic | The new normal is not normal

Not mentioned above: the previously “temporary” quarantine facilities are going to be permanent throughout China. These are what they call ,方舱, Fāng cāng, or Square Boxes. They’re containers cobbled together to give rough shelter for two weeks to the Covid-infected and their “close contacts”. The contacts don’t have to be that close either. If a single person in an apartment block tests positive, then  all residents on their floor and one floor above and one floor below are sent off to quarantine. People who refuse to leave have their doors smashed down and are carted off. So what’s the incentive to test? 

In Shanghai there are reports of local “snap hard lockdowns”( 硬割  Yìng gē) where whole apartment blocks, without warning, can be shut down, no one allowed to leave their apartment, for up to five days. Repeat: no warning and no explanation. 

The head of the WHO, Tedros, repeated his statement that Zero Covid policy in China is “unsustainable” even after China chided him last week when he first said it. Given how close Tedros is to China, it’s significant that he repeated it.

Monday, 23 May 2022

Hong Kong should resume quarantine-free travel with foreign countries first, chief of leading business chamber in city urges government

Hong Kong airport arrivals. How often I’ve stood in a crowd 
here awaiting family or friends. Deserted. Has been for two years
The new chairwoman of Hong Kong's General Chamber of Commerce, Betty Yuen, speaks sense.
The commenters make the obvious point that our officials are too pusillanimous, too much in hock to Beijing, to make such a brave move. To open up to the international community first, if opening the border with the mainland seems too difficult. Which, for now, it does.
Still, good on Betty!
/Snip!
If forced to choose between first resumingquarantine-free travel with mainland China and the rest of the world, Hong Kong should pick the latter, the head of one of the city's most influential business chambers has said. [More…]

There are lost of comments I haven’t checked yet. My guess is most will be anti Yuen. That is, pro opening to China before the rest of the world. 

ADDED: I was wrong about the comments. Or at least the most popular, which support Yuen:



Roland Fryer gets canceled

Click above for vid
I’ve written about Roland Fryer before. Fryer, a prize-winning professor of economics at Harvard, an African-American man (relevantly to this issue). His big contribution to the national debate on policing and Black deaths at the hands of police was a detailed study that showed: Black Americans (usually young men) are not killed by police in greater number than are white suspects, proportionate the the number of interactions. 

Glen Loury, himself a professor of economics at Brown University, talks about the issue starting here

Fryer was cancelled because his findings -- the data, the truth, "the science”! -- show the opposite of what is pushed by the Black Lives Matter movement -- that a police officer begins his days wondering how many young Black men he can kill that day. The stats show otherwise, according to Fryer.

Cancel you, Unbeliever! Via a tawdry Title IX case.

Earlier Fryer had done studies into the issue of “acting white”. The theory -- which Fryer confirms with stats -- that Black students are less popular at school the more they succeed at school. Because success, especially at the higher levels, is seen as “acting white”. Other people have called this the “cultural brick”, holding them down, vs the “cultural hot-air-baloon” which lifts up others, like the Asian-American community. I’m also recalling a graduation day where the prize winning students, the ones who were Black (and only they), were booed and hissed by their Black classmates, as they collected their prizes. Because “acting white”. Pretty depressing. 

Why do I like one cartoon and not the other?

LEUNIG

TRUDEAU
Both are by well known cartoonists, politically left of centre. Leunig is an Aussie cartoonist who’s been around all my life. We might even have gone to Uni together. Trudeau I’ve enjoyed his cartoons a lot. Didn’t we all love Doonesbury in our student days? 

So, Why do I like Leunig's cartoon, above, but not Trudeau’s?

First because Leunig's plays to my priors and Trudeau’s doesn’t. Leunig mocks cancel culture, which I believe is real. (see my later post above, on the cancellation of professor Fryer). Trudeau mocks a mother who is upset at Critical Race Theory being taught in the classroom, which I believe it is. Leunig supports my priors; Trudeau doesn’t. There, I’ve said it.

That’s fine. I mean, I guess we all react to cartoons on the basis of our priors. Cartoons like these are political statements after all, just that they’re humorous (or meant to be). No doubt we shouldn’t react just basis our priors. But we all do. We should rise above our priors, but it’s hard. We’re doing well enough if we recognise we have priors!

With the LeunIg cartoon, If the thing he’s mocking is not real, if there really is no such thing as cancel culture, then fine. So be it. And Leunig's take would just looks silly. No damage done.

With the Trudeau cartoon, if the thing he’s mocking is not real, if CRT really is being taught in the classroom — as there is plenty of evidence that it is, e.g. hereherehere and here— then there is damage. Because his mocking emboldens those who deny CRT existence in schools. Either Trudeau doesn’t know or doesn’t care. My guess is he does know, but supports it. And his cartoon cynically playing to his progressive audience, enabling the ongoing spread of a very nasty, very racist, theory in the classrooms of America, by snarky mocking. 

That ain’t no joke!

ADDED: A Leung we we can all love:




Sunday, 22 May 2022

Not sure why I’m getting this -- it’s new -- but it’s kinda interesting

Kevin Rudd describes the Elephants
A summary of news in the South China Morning Post:

Once called an “old friend” by Beijing, former Australian leader Kevin Rudd minced no words in his recent comment on China. China’s slowing economy – not the Ukraine War – is the biggest elephant in the room for a world in crisis, he says.


While Rudd’s assertion is controversial, it reflects the intensifying debates about Beijing’s policies, particularly its tough anti-pandemic measures. While the Chinese government is adamant about maintaining a zero-Covid policy, critics are questioning its sustainability, pointing to unreasonable incidents like asking students to take swimming tests “online”.


Some mainlanders are now comparing Shanghai with Hong Kong. After a harrowing ride with the fifth wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, Hong Kong seems to be recovering well. Photos of avid train enthusiasts celebrating the opening of a new metro line prompted envious online discussions among Shanghai residents, who are still under lockdown. In Hong Kong, business chambers are urging the government to scrap quarantine requirements for travellers. A top government advisor is less optimistic, warning that the city could be hit by the sixth wave soon. Talks are now on how to speed up the vaccination programme, including the fourth jab for the elderly.


Geopolitical tension over the Taiwan Strait also keeps rising. The People’s Liberation Army is turning the screw on Taipei and doubling down on its development of strategic weapons, such as next-generation submarines. Amid rising antagonism, even a tragic shooting incident in the US has become a lightning rod triggering heated discussion on both sides.


Chow Chung Yan

Executive Editor

I wondered how much the Australian election outcome would be covered

On our local South China Morning Post bottom of page 1.

In the Wall Street Journal not on the front page. Had to go to World News where it’s the fourth story down. 

In the New York Times ditto — World News, down the page

The Times has it as a minor story in page 2. ADDED: Sunday Times had the cute front page photo above.

Elections are always important to the countries having them. But unless you’re the US, or Russia, China or the UK (but not even Germany), the rest of the world doesn’t care much. 

Which is pretty much the same story in Australia’s climate change targets. Terribly important in a domestic and political context (one of the reasons the conservative coalition lost)*, but not at all in the international context. Australia could reach Net Zero Carbon dioxide tomorrow and it would make no difference to the global goals since we emit only 1.2% of world totals. Which is dwarfed by China’s annual error margins.

Not to say we shouldn’t go for renewables and all that. Though I’d sure love to see the Australian political party that has the guts to go nuclear. We do, after all, mine and export the most amount of uranium of any country. It’s fine for our customers to use it. Not for us. Hypocrisy much?

ADDED: People go on about the UN IPCC Report and its apocalyptic projections of massive climate change, unless we [fill in the blank, mainly with “renewables”]. What they never mention is that the IPCC report calls for a five-fold increase in nuclear power

*The Liberals lost seats to this new independent movement called the “Teals”, like between Blue and Green. They’re big in climate change mitigation. I always thought it was silly of Scott Morrison to refuse to commit to a Net Zero emissions goal. All he rest of the world has. And — prediction — the rest of the world will fail to meet that goal. 

Happy Harry!

 


Monitoring the pandemic | our ghost airport

 


Saturday, 21 May 2022

Watching the Australian election

Annabelle Crabb of the ABC
20:00 AEST; What’s happening so far seems to be: the ruling Liberal coalition are losing seats to the Independents and the opposition Labor are losing seats to the Greens.

Worst outcome for a democracy is the one being predicted: a hung Parliament.

How do I feel about the outcome? Neutral. Either. Neither. Both. 

Oz will be fine whichever wins. History tells us that. 

ADDED: I’d be on board with the Greens if they had a coherent platform. But they don’t. I’ve read their platform, which I’ve learned not many supporters have done. It’s “too long”, see?

The Greens are against fossil fuels, and fair enough. And they’re also in favour of renewable, and also fair enough. But they’re against nuclear, which is weird when it’s a “climate crisis” a “climate emergency”. In a crisis, an emergency, shouldn’t you be throwing everything at the problem. Seems not.

Greens say renewables are now cheaper than fossil, but somehow still need subsidies. Weird. They are against all forms of gambling, including against horse racing. Is that even Australian?  They want to shut down all coal production forthwith;  it look at what happened in America this last year when old and new oil and coal were cut — inflation putting the administration at risk.There’s a lot of wishful thinking in that Green Platfoem.

In Europe the Greens policies have been catastrophic. They stopped new nuclear and closed perfectly operational existing nuclear plants. This led to higher carbon emissions than if the Greens had never existed. 

Australia has the luxury of being able to vote Green with no real blowback. Because in the grand scheme of the world we don’t matter much. But to think they are a saviour is both deluded and contra Australianism. 

21:00 AEST: Looks like Labor will win. So, let’s see how Harry Potter and his merry wizards do. Annabelle Crabbe and her ABC colleagues will be delighted. 

22:25 AEST:  confirmed that Libs have lost and Labor Party will form the next government. Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer, lost his seat of Kooyong, In Melbourne. 

Onwards with Harry!

Making my own little Brie cheeses

Sunning in the afternoon sun in the kitchen 
That’s what 8 litres (8 quarts) of milk produces. Two litres per little baby Brie. Oh, and there’s cream in there as well, to make it a “double’ Brie.  Ever wondered why cheese so pensy?…

They are now drying out, losing some more whey, next to be brined (salted), then left to grow the white mould (Penicillium Candidum) to make skin and turn the inside runny. A coupla weeks

Sardines: gotta love ‘em, wild or …

 

"Putin’s plan to starve the world"

I knew that Stalin stole Ukrainian grain (“expropriated” if you must”) back in the1930s, Because I’d just listened to Stanford professor Norman Naimark talking to Lex Fridman, about the “Terror Famine” of 1930-33.

What I didn’t know was that Putin is doing it again, now. According to reports from on the ground:

Now, almost a century later, soldiers have once more been sent by Moscow to seize Ukrainian grain. Once more, farmers are killed and their barns and stores looted. And once more, the Ukrainian people are being made to pay for the madness of their neighbouring Tsar. [More...]

I knew that Ukraine was breadbasket to the world. About 25% of the world’s wheat. What I didn’t know was that this is grown on famous “black soils” about 2% of world’s soil, of which Ukraine has a quarter. So... not easy to shift production.

I knew that Ukraine was going to have problems with the next harvest as they can’t get fertiliser, not to mention being surrounded by war. What I didn’t know was they they have 380 million tonnes waiting to be shipped which can’t be shipped because Russian troops are controlling the ports. And the major country to suffer will be Egypt. That I didn’t know.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this article, Putin’s plan to starve the world. It seems Egypt is in dire straits. If it doesn’t get Ukrainian wheat, there will be starvation there too. 

ADDED: Professor Naimark says that Stalin has not a hint of remorse or pity when millions of Ukrainians die in the famine. “It's their own fault”, he says. Is Putin the same? “We invaded you carried out a 'special military operation' inside your country because you wanted to join NATO. Your fault!”

Echoes from a century ago....

"The sinister symmetry of CRT and GRT"

Crossing the Rio Grande, Ciudad Acuna, Mexico
Most Americans are in favour of immigration. 

Most Americans are not in favour if illegal immigration. 
(“Undocumented migrants” if you must).

That’s pretty much the same as any immigrant-rich country -- Australia, Canada, the UK, the EU. Their residents support immigration; they don’t support illegal immigration; open borders. 

Yet, for cynical political purposes, and in the wake of the Buffalo massacre by a loony white supremacist, it’s bruited that any concern with open borders, any concern with numbers of illegals, is part of the “Great Replacement Theory” (GRT). This criticism is pushed by those who hew to “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), itself a kind of racial essentialism, a “theory” racist to its core. 

Sad times we are in, on this issue. The thoughtful Andrew Sullivan has his take, of which these are the concluding paras:
CRT and GRT are in a deadly and poisonous dance in our culture. They foster ever-increasing levels of racial identity in each other; they demonize whole populations because of skin color; they both believe liberal democracy is rigged against them; and the logic of their mutual, absolutist racial politics is civil conflict, not democratic deliberation.

If we are to get past the kind of ugly violence and race essentialism in Great Replacement Theory, then we also need an antidote to the toxins of Critical Race Theory. The two illiberalisms are profoundly connected. They need each other. And, in their racialized heart, they are morally exactly the same.

The sinister symmetry of CRT and GRT 

RELATED: On “Intersectional Theory”, a subset of CRT: “... the modern intersectional argument is so facially false that it borders on the nonsensical. By Wilfred Reilly.

Friday, 20 May 2022

“We Don't Talk About China” | vid

Click for vid
Some will be upset by this —it’s  “insensitive”, it’s “bigoted”, even — inevitably! — it’s “racist”. 

But it’s fun, well done, and in the spirit of poking fun. Mostly, at hypocrites in the US who criticise social justice at home, but are mum on China — because they’re making so much money there. We’re talking about you,  Lebron James, Disney, Biden & co…. 

It’s a grand take-off of the original “We don’t talk about Bruno”. Bee-bop-a-doo… 

How are we doing? (Updated)

I keep getting asked “how are things" for which thanks to all for concerns and to which the one word answer is “fine”.  Same as, same as…

I guess. (Oh, and no Covid in our house, yet)

Restrictions have relaxed, so we can go out, swimming etc, through international travel remains restricted via quarantine and reduced flights. Masking is universal, though mandates have eased slightly — no longer mandated at gyms and clubs inside, but required outdoors. Which is “the science” of course. Not. 

So there we have it. For myself I won’t travel internationally until it gets close to being “like it was”. Which was 17 minute taxi ride to airport, ten minutes check in and five mins to the Cathay lounge and its wonderful Dan Dan Noodles. But Cathay is now flying only 2% of normal, so there’s that.

With cheers and good wishes to all. 

ADDED (14 July 2022): Not sure what I was talking above about easing of mask mandates. They remain, for now, universal. In any “public space”, either outside or inside. There is no longer any pushback to masking. It’s everywhere, and people seem to be happy with it. Seem. Meantime our new C-E, Johnny Lee is in charge, with little to show so far. Except that we may get out to quarantine “by November” (2022). 

And they’re wanting to institute a Traffic Light signal sort of process to our Apps, so if you’re Red, you can’t go anywhere. There will be plenty of people that think this is just fine. Just not me. I don’t like the fact they track me, colour me red, or green, or yellow, and that determines where I can go. For a virus that has a case fatality rate of 0.065%, per latest stats from China and from here.