Sunday, 31 July 2022

Voter ID — it’s all Jim Crow, don’tcha know?

What’s wrong with requiring some form of ID when you vote? To most, including virtually all Black Americans one cares to interview, there’s nothing at all wrong with requiring voter ID. Or not having random “drop boxes” which can be stuffed with “harvested ballots”, by either party. That is, to great everyone the same. Not “separate but equal” which is the Jim Crow, Gary Trudeau is smearing above. No, it’s not. It’s all the same and to a reasonable, checkable, standard. Not the chaos of the 2020 election. Which, by the way, I don’t think was “stolen”, I’m not one of them “stop the steal” types, even if there were Covid-generated lapses. Which, why not fix?

Also: I clearly remember, the day after the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, and then, dutifully, her whole party, claiming that the election was stolen. By “the Russians”! You can find on YouTube mash-ups of one after another Democrat calling “the election was stole “. This Doonesbury take is the rankest hypocrisy. 

Saturday, 30 July 2022

"Green Dreams, Inflationary Realities"

 

That’s our house above, newly sheathed in Rooftop Solar PV. And we have compost bins, and we recycle all our stuff, and so that’s our green credentials right there. 

Still, it seemed weird -- and kind of mad -- for countries like Japan and Germany to close down perfectly well-operating nuclear power stations. Given the zero death toll of Fukushima -- an ancient generator designed with pencils and slide-rules -- what could make sense? And for California -- highest electricity prices in the US by far -- to close down its nuclear stations as well.

And the for Joe Biden to stop drilling and transporting oil, only to have to go cap in hand to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela for oil. How on earth could that make any sense, environmentally even, let alone financially and having to deal with horrid regimes? Nothing towards reducing carbon emissions, only hassle and inflation at home, for no net carbon-reduction effect. Again, how can that make any sense?

In the Comments there’s much criticism of the article. Including from people who laud the “off the grid” folks. I follow a number of those folks on YouTube and like them a lot. I admire those folks. But to think that that life style can solve the eco problems is fantasy. Not to mention that even the most fastidious of them is never really fully “off grid”. 

I enjoyed this article. If you don’t agree with it, perhaps you’ll find some solace in the comments. 

Friday, 29 July 2022

South China Sea provocations

Note Chinas claim — black dashed — cuts across all other countries
And has been found illegal by the International Marine Tribunal.
Which China ignores
Simple summary: since WW2, the United States has kept the South China Sea as an open passage for international shipping. China, especially since Xi, is unilaterally grabbing islands and reefs. And making a maximalist claim,  so-called “nine-dash line”. And then blaming everyone else when there’s pushback. As does the reliably oleaginous Zhao Lijian, highlighted below. IOW, it was China created the “disputed” in “disputed waters”.
Online version here
By the way, we have often sailed across those “disputed waters” in our boats Thea and then  Xena. In races from Hong Kong to the Philippines and to Hainan Island and Vietnam and Thailand. 
In 2008 we raced Thea to Na Trangh in Vietnam, a pretty wild and woolly race, high winds, knocked down a couple of times, pretty dramatic.
In 2010 we raced Xena to Hainan island. On the last day we were accompanied for a while by a Chinese Navy frigate. We chatted in the VHS. And we felt good that they were there to protect us from pirates! That was the, before Xi Jinping. Would we be so happy to have a Chinese navy vessels approach us today? Not so sure. They might be there to “express sovereignty” and kick us out. While the US claims China’s claims are “unlawful”. 

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Some crazy Covid stuff

I saw a Tweet recently from a scientist that if we’d been more forceful right at the beginning we’d have saved 6 million deaths. To which I thought: “Right. And if we’d been more vigilant in Pearl Harbour in 1941, we’d have saved the Japanese attack; or if the Archduke’s car had turned one street earlier, avoiding Gavrilo Princip’s gun, we’d not have had a “Great War”. Really! 

Not to mention that it was, let’s please not forget, that it was China that foisted this on us. And didn’t close straight away. And jailed whistleblowers. And allowed flights from Wuhan to Italy (a major buyer of Wuhan’s textiles) to continue, and that Italy closed down strictly straight away and still didn’t stop its spread, and that Wuhan allowed a Chinese New Year bureaucrats’ super-spreader feast to go ahead, and even that the terrible Trump closed flights to China, for which he was labelled a “racist”.  

All of that, and people say “woulda, coulda”. No, it doesn’t wash. 

This article is a decent summary of the duplicity of government bureaucrats. Including Fauci, who is deeply implicated in funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology program of gain-of-function research on the coronavirus. His National Institute of Infectious Diseases funded millions to EcoHealth Alliance, that passed it on the WIV for investigation into bat coronavirus. Hmmm?

“holes"

Now this is funny. Coz I was just thinking of the place of science in the Bible. Coz I’d just read a headline in the Babylon Bee, which is a Christian Satire site, The Onion of Bible bashers. Not that I’ve any time for their religious stuff, being an atheist an’ all, but they’re often funny. This piece on the Bible “10 Great Reasons for Not Reading the Bible”, has an intro: "We get it. It's hard to read the divinely inspired word of the creator of the universe. He's so judgy!”. 
Which gets me thinking: not that “judgy” stuff so much that has me wondering’. It’s like: “he’s the creator of the universe, and he’s sending a message to humankind. Why didn’t he mention Black Holes, or Quarks, or neutron stars, or string theory, or gravity waves, or atoms, or quantum theory, or....”. 
Well you get the pic and one could go on. 
I guess apologists would say “well of course He (“he”?) didn’t because at the time you wouldn’t have understood it”. But then there are plenty of other things we don’t understand in the Bible. Like what is it with snakes talking? Or burning bushes talking? Or Arks  that can hold all the animals in the world (in twos)? So that’s not the reason. 
And in any case, surely He could have updated us from time to time. I mean, Mohammad was much later than Jesus and even more much later than Moses, so why didn’t he have any new info for us? Like a Bible 2.0 or Koran v2? 
We had to figure out all this stuff ourselves, no thanks to Him. 
But now, as we wonder if there is life on other planets, which the James Webb Space Telescope (not God) will help us find out, why couldn’t God or Allah or Thor, or Zeus, or whichever god takes your fancy, why couldn’t They (that’s their pronoun now, I guess) give us a clue? Like: “There is sentient advanced life on a star in the middle of Andromeda Galaxy. Coordinates are.... “

ADDED: “Black holes mentioned in the Koran”?? [from the panel above]. Like the alleged prognostications of Nostradamus. Nonsense stretched stretched into long long slim slivers of angel hair pasta. Silly and the triumph of hope and Blind Faith over reason. The“evidence”:
Then I swear by the setting place of the stars,  
And indeed, it is a mighty oath – if you could know. 
-- Surah Waqiah 56:75-76
That’s it?? You’re kidding, right?

“Peaceful reunification ‘still an option for Taipei’”

Like in the Sopranos: Salvatore "Coco" Cogliano saying to the store owner “nice business you got there. Pity if something should happen to it”. The Beijing offer. But not quite yet an offer they can’t refuse. 

China’s number four, Wang Yang, has the gall to say “democratic consultations” when everywhere else “democracy” is a poisonous word to the CCP. 

In the red box above: sinister, wicked, threat.

Biden: Pelosi visit to Taiwan is a “bad idea”. Even so, they’re in a bind as cancelling the visit will be hammered for giving in to the bullies. 

Meantime: 80% of Taiwan residents want nothing to do with “reunification”. That number has only gone up in the era of Xi Jingping (>2012). Not that the people matter! HK people didn’t, in the negotiations on the Joint Declaration. Our views were studiously ignored. 

Barbarians at the gates

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, est 1849
This is the most recent article attacking various clubs around Hong Kong

Including the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, of which we’ve been members for 20 years. Of course we would defend them. But broader Hong Kong must too. The RHKYC is not just a members-only club for the rich. It encourages anyone to come in, of any age and race and on any race day; to sign up on a whiteboard to be a crew -- on the “Crew Wanted” board. That simple procedure has been the start of a lifelong love of sailing for many a youngster. It’s free, open to anyone from anywhere. 

The same for rowing. And also, tangentially, for bowling, snooker and even golf. This is an open club.

Moreover, it’s a “not-for-profit” club, which means that any surplus goes to charity. And the RHKYC is very active in numerous charities. 

The fact that this club and some others applied for money under a government wage-subsidy scheme during the worst of the pandemic, is a side issue, explained in the body of the article itself -- namely that while member fees were still being charged, there was zero income for months from the usual activities that were cancelled because of our lockdowns. 

There’s a lot of envy out there, driving this, I think. It’s possible, though I don’t say it, that some of the envy is driven by the idea that these are clubs for wealthy gweilos. That might have been the case thirty years ago, it most certainly is not now. All of the clubs mentioned in the article are now mostly local membership. 

Maybe the envious ought to hie themselves to the Yacht club and get out on the water. Would give them some chillax. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Hong Kong’s “leap forward”. Okay. As long as it’s not “Great”

Hong Kong from the Peak, looking NE
Let’s hope it’s not a Mao-style Great Leap Forward....

Cheap shot aside, I’m posting this for the propaganda and for reference, a place-marker as it were, to see how reality matches to our new Chief John Lee’s projection. 

Hong Kong will take “another leap forward” in the next five years 

US: “Recession” or “Holistic improvement”?

Source: Wikipedia, with my notations on Republicans 
Interesting. The word “recession” has long been defined as "two consecutive quarters of negative growth”. 

Now that it looks like the US is in a recession, the Biden administration is busily redefining it, so the the US is not in a recession: that it’s more “holistic” and that really everything if fine. As CNN reports: “Who decides we’re in a recession? 8 white men you’ve never heard of”, tossing in the gratuitous racism for good measure. 

Bill Clinton famously said “it’s the economy, stupid”. “The Democrats are better at dealing with the economy, so vote for us” is the message. 

But like so much else, the data do not support it. A while back I gathered data on crime rates, violent and non-violent in the top cities of the US. 85% of the States with the highest crime rates are run by Democratic mayors. 

For economic performance, 65% of the top 20 States in the US are run by Republicans. Statistically significant, because the US states break 50/50 Red/Blue. The above table is to 2019 -- the trend is even stronger since the pandemic: to wit, Red states, which were doing better than Blue ones to 2019, are doing better still coming out of the pandemic than are Blue states. 

Democrats would object, perhaps: “not fair; there are confounding factors”. Which, sure. There are. But if the Democrats are so good at what they say they are -- controlling crime and running state-level economies -- one would expect some evidence of it in the data. Some, surely. In fact we have the opposite: by the data Democrat-run cities and states do worse on crime and worse on the economy. Which is why there’s a rush out of heavily Democrat (Blue) States like California and moving to heavily Republican (Red) States like Florida. 

Ex radical leftie, turned student of homelessness, Michael Shellenberger, has more on the crime issue in his best-selling book San Fransicko.

ADDED: Top Outflow and Inflow cities in the US, from Redfin Real Estate
Outflow: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Seattle, Boston, Detroit.  (All Blue)
Inflow: Miami, Tampa, Phoenix, Sacramento, Las Vegas, San Diego, Dallas. (All Red)

Monday, 25 July 2022

Re “Bamboo Boom” in Business section print edition

For the proofreading and editors departments:

(LETTERS DEP'T: this is not really a "letter to the editor" though by all means print it if you wish. I'm more interested in trying to get a reaction from your editors. Why on earth have a *policy* of using incorrect punctuation? I don't get it) 

Re 吉安, the city in Jiangxi province, its pinyin spelling is Ji'an , NOT "Jian".
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji'an. There is only one correct PINYIN spelling and it's "Ji'an".

Otherwise I might think it's 见,减,件,间 or 建, or a hundred other single characters pronounced "jian". And in fact I had to look it up to make sure it was two characters, so you are inconveniencing we readers.

Surely you are aware that the pronunciation of "Ji'an" and "Jian" are quite different.

What is it with the South China Morning Post — Asia's premier English language paper — that you stubbornly refuse to use the only correct spelling for such names in pinyin?? My favourite bugbear has been 西安, for which you continue to print the pinyin — *incorrectly* —  as "Xian". (Shudder)

I note, by contrast, you are punctilious about spelling "Turkey" with its new preferred name "Türkiye" in which there's a diaeresis, which are rarely used in English, while an apostrophe is an everyday thing. So you respect the Turkish, but you disrespect the Chinese, all for the sake of an apostrophe… huh?

Peter Forsythe
Chief of the Apostrophe Police
Discovery Bay Branch
93080799 WhatsApp 

Sent from my iPad

“Another day another heat record” Hong Kong

 

Top temp of 36.1C highest since records began 100 years ago. 

“Empty airport is a sad symbol of Hong Kong’s economic losses”

Arrivals Hall, HK airport 
A letter from a fellow Gweilo. Member of our own family had the same experience recently. Weird, creepy, empty Hong Kong airport, bustling, busy European airports. The people that are there in HK, are in full hazmat suits. This is Paul Serfaty:

Daily, we see the human and emotional toll of Hong Kong’s Covid-19 policies, inflexibly implemented by an unlamented ex-leader. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor turned Hong Kong’s early pandemic triumph into a mortification of the economic flesh, as evidenced by our empty malls, absent tourists, closed businesses and departing residents.

Aside from the human loss, there is the continuous waste of previously invested capital. This was brought sharply home by my recent journey to Hong Kong International Airport for my first flight since the Covid-19 outbreak. I was met with an almost-empty Airport Express, its stations like ghost towns, and a shuttered retail floor. Its once-bustling aisles silent, the airport appeared like the poorest cousin of a rich family now fallen into destitution.

The plight of our once-proud travel hub, one of the best and most respected in the world, could be summarised by a single departure board – nay, a single panel of a single departure board — recording just 14 flights from 9pm to 9am, one cancelled.

And for what? The health risks in Hong Kong are now tiny and almost costless to manage, and the border with the motherland will not reopen any time soon.

Under John Lee Ka-chiu’s revived leadership, let this dramatic imbalance – between billions of invested tax dollars going virtually unused, and the invisible cost of ensuring all unvaccinated, older, and at-risk citizens are fully indemnified against virus variants – encourage our chief executive to abandon our de facto isolation, in phases if need be, to restore our “Asia’s World City” status.

A pragmatist, Lee would satisfy the needs of the business community, heed the pleas of affected citizens and recognise the expertise of medical specialists, if he did so.

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels


Top rated comment:

I agree with you Paul. During a visit to the airport I got talking to one of the personnel near the security gates And we both lamented at the dire state of our airport. He said he visited Canada and they had none of the rules enforced in HK. John needs to sort out the hotel quarantine issue and allow us to visit loved ones and loved ones to visit us. I lament how my beloved city has changed for the worse.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

“An immigrant’s love letter to the west”

I’ve just finished this book. It’s good and well worth a read. A quick, breezy, page-turner, making strong points against the “ingrate class”, people who know nothing of how good it is in the west, for all its failings, yet slam and smear it for all a sorts of imagined failings.

Konstantin Kisin is a man of the Left, a stand-up comedian. He became famous — infamous? — when he refused to sign a contract for a gig that required him not to offend the audience. As he says, comedy is (often) about offence. He co-hosts the Triggernometry podcast, which I also recommend 

Saturday, 23 July 2022

The neo-liberal military-industrial-complex, merger. Thoughts from the man who broke the Snowden story

An important talk. Greenwald’s voice, his literal voice, its timbre, its hyper-speed, can be off-putting, but its content is informed and unique. Give him and his voice time. Sure to learn something. From the intro:



Friday, 22 July 2022

“Certainty brings insanity”

 

  Nosce te ipsum “Know thyself”
From Ann Althouse, I learn about the three Delphic Maxims. Shouldn’t I have known about these before? Does not knowing the Delphic Maxims make me an ignorant 72-year old? Or does is just mean I’m following Mao, who said: “Live to old age; study to old age” (活到老学到老 Huo dao lao, Xue dao lao)?

Anyway, I do like them. All three, which are:

  • “Know thyself”
  • “Nothing in excess”
  • “Certainty brings insanity”

I like that last one, which would be my answer to one of those quizzes “what’s your favourite hate?”. Which I’ve always thought of as “Blind Faith”. As in Yeats’ “The best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity”. Like religious nutters. Who will kill themselves while murdering innocents. How can we deal with those blinded by faith? Who have no time for other ideas, who are made crazy by absolute certainty?

As we see on the far Left and the far Right.

Profiteering Hotels

That’s the Regala Airport Hotel, here in Hong Kong. One of our family just spent 8 days in quarantine there.

I know this hotel. Before Covid it had 24-hour room service, several restaurants, a nice pool, etc. Pretty nice place.

Now, it’s a quarantine hotel, Hong Kong being the only place in the world other than the mainland and Ukraine to still require quarantine by all arriving passengers.

As a quarantine hotel, it’s full, it accepts only pre-payment, at full room price, with no cancellation possible, there’s no room service, no restaurants open, no swimming allowed. They won’t even supply beer or wine, you have to get your significant others to deliver to the front desk.

And this is what your standard meal looks like:

Scraps on a plastic plate. I don’t even know what some of this is

So: less service than before, they’re paying for fewer staff, provide no room service, rooms are full-price and non-refundable. That’s what you call profiteering. Shame on our Hong Kong government for still requiring quarantine and shame on them for allowing such gross profiteering.

ADDED: This pandemic again confounds. At the outbreak I thought, boy this is going to hammer our hotel industry. In fact, they’re doing the opposite. Coining it, hand over fist. by offering themselves up to quarantine guests.

Jing note:

A travel note: 
After being grounded for more than a year [PF: more like 2.5 years] due to Covid, traveling again can be an exciting but also exhausting experience. Timed a couple of weeks before the European summer holiday season, my trip went relatively smoother than traveling in all the heat waves right now.. 

When preparing for the trip, I was almost lost in the ocean of ​​online information about travel restrictions, however, the reality is simpler, life in Europe seems almost normal, except a Ukrainian flag or two on the balcony or bar window, a few masked travelers walking through the arrivals hall reminding us of the war and the virus still out there, but flight cancellations and frequent strikes bring me back to an uncertain future……

Thursday, 21 July 2022

“Australia needs to meet halfway…” and THEN kowtow

That’s pretty much the message of this article in today’s South China Morning Post by Sameed Basha, who I’ve never heard of before. (ADDED: Having Googled him, his only claim to authority seems to be a Masters degree from Australia’s Deakin Uni. LATER: That “meeting half way” is exact words of China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, when he presented the “Four Demands” to Australia. Which amount to: “accept all of these demands, and that’s halfway”).

Comments on my highlighted bits:

1.  Reciprocity: Basha criticises restrictions on Huawei and ZTE in Australia, because they are, allegedly, “without evidence”; but the evidence is there, held by our intelligence services, and revealed in their actions in other markets. We have valid reasons for being concerned about what they are up to (besides just making money). To imagine that Huawei, with its military ownership, is innocently building the cyber scape in the west, that “there’s nothing to see here”, is naive in the extreme. Meantime China is immensely more restrictive on foreign investment in its own economy. Just look at all those internet companies (basically all of them) that are banned in China. We, Australia, the west, should always have been pushing for reciprocity. It’s not too late.

2. Rules-based order: it is China that is in breach of WTO regulations, in its blocking of Aussie exports,  not Australia. That’s a fact, attested by the WTO. Moreover, China has been in breach of many WTO regs, especially on transfer of technology, since before and even after it joined WTO. In any case, Australian exports have hardly suffered from China’s brutish bullying; it has found new markets and helped to decouple from an increasingly erratic and unreliable partner.

3. “Lack on independent thought” in Australian foreign policy: this shows Basha’s ignorance. Australia has, and has always had — since I was a young foreign affairs cadet in 1976 (and well before!) — a robust, lively, combative internal debate at all levels of government, think tanks and the media. So much so the there are even plenty of people who agree with Basha’s thesis. Which I’ll summarise crudely, as “we must bend to Beijing”. We must kowtow. Because… money. 

On the Covid origin issue, Australia was right to push for a full-scale investigation. Including into the lab-leak theory, which remains a high level contender for Covid-19 origin. It’s an international scandal, and a WHO scandal, that we, the west, have not pushed China, much much harder.  That’s what you get when you internalise being a supplicant to the dragon. 

Re the Comments: I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m going to guess most are violently anti-Australia, coz that’s  the way it breaks here at the SCMP, whenever it comes to articles on Australia-China relations.

Dali, Yunnan, China, 15 September 2014

From my iPad’s random feed. Jing in Dali, Yunnan on a car trip we made to Sw China. That’s beautiful calligraphy on the left.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Battery vs Hydrogen


Since the introduction of the Nissan Leaf (2010) and Tesla Model S (2012), battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) have become the primary focus of the automotive industry.

This structural shift is moving at an incredible rate—in China, 3 million BEVs were sold in 2021, up from 1 million the previous year. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the number of models available for sale is expected to double by 2024.

In order to meet global climate targets, however, the International Energy Agency claims that the auto industry will require 30 times more minerals per year. Many fear that this could put a strain on supply.

“The data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals.”

– FATIH BIROL, IEA

Thankfully, BEVs are not the only solution for decarbonizing transportation. In this infographic, we explain how the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) works.

An issue touched on in this article: supply of minerals, especially rare earths. This is going to get worse as we look to more battery storage for wind and solar.  It seems to me there’s not enough talk of this. 

As for Green Hydrogen, I’ve read that, to now, it costs more to make a litre of it than it produces in power. The same problem we have on the Fusion front. 

Why the world doesn’t buy China’s narrative

“From Xinjiang to Hong Kong, from the Pacific islands to Africa, the Chinese narrative is not bought by people and the reason is, in fact, obvious,” Sun said. “When Beijing projects only one narrative, and does not allow for alternative views or interpretations, people naturally grow suspicious of the Chinese narrative. In international politics, no one just takes anyone’s word for it.”

Quite

We sometimes tune into CGTN, China’s global cable network. Often has interesting shows, but overall the presentation is amateurish and the presenters too stiff, formal and apparatchik-like. We’ve often wondered at how China has done so well economically, but fails to make its window in the world look more worldly. After all, Russia TV, Kremlin-funded, does a way better job than Beijing putting out world-class content. 

93% of mainlanders think XJP is doing a fab job. Right. 79% of people outside China think the opposite. 

That said, I’m going to say something positive about China’s government (for a change). It’s this. Many in the west say China is a totalitarian dictatorship which oppresses the people. It’s true that it’s authoritarian, but a “dictatorship”? No. (Or not quite). Case in point: Beijing recently announced vaccine mandates. People objected, loudly. Next day the mandates were cancelled. Another: people in Shanghai were told they have to wear tracking bracelets if they were a close Covid contacts. Again loud objections and the policy was ditched. (BTW we have both these policies in HK). This morning the Canton government apologised for some crude treatment of people suspected of close contact. So it’s not true that the authorities can trample on people’s rights with impunity. (At least, not always). 

China Taiwan: a question of emotion

South China Morning Post front page
China’s hardline in Taiwan is based on heated emotion, not history and facts on the ground. 

Consider:

Taiwan history is fraught with invasions from the mainland, going back to the Song Dynasty, when they attacked and decimated the aboriginal Taiwanese. Today we’d call that colonialism and, for good measure,  genocide. It’s objectively not the case that “Taiwan has always been a part of the motherland”. 

The Taiwanese are massively not in favour of reunification with the mainland. By polls, around 80%. Do their views count? They should.

Just because a place is right next to you doesn’t mean you have the right to take it over. For what? Lebensraum?

The fact that mainland Chinese, especially those on WeiBo, are hugely in favour of “reunification” means nothing. Or about as much as a Twitter poll. Mainland netizens are increasingly and notoriously ultra nationalist. And they’ve been encouraged by Beijing. Any individual on WeiBo you can net will know nothing of Taiwan’s history. It’s emotional. It’s the emotion, stupid. And how does one deal with emotion, if facts and logic hold no sway?

Note the “commie speak” of our favourite oleaginous spokesBot, Zhao Lijian, underlined above.

ADDED: I do wonder, though, why Pelosi thinks it necessary to visit Taiwan. I’m not sure it’s particularly helpful. Let’s see if she goes ahead.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Briefly noted | Saudi, Masks, Earth, Trans

Saudi Arabia. Friend or Foe? Ally or enemy? I’ve always had mixed feelings about it. Have visited and found it unlovely. In context of Biden’s visit I read somewhere “do we want a Saudi like the UAE, or like Afghanistan”. That nails it. Surely like UAE, which means engaging.

Masks: somewhere in the local press a genius bureaucrat opines “masking should become like wearing seatbelts”. Oh please not. Let’s not normalise things that hinder our breathing and seeing others for what they really, full-faced.

Half the Earth” by E.O. Wilson. First heard of this on Lex Fridman podcast with Aussie economist Steve Keene. Infuriating interview as Keene is alternating rather smart on China and rather forgiving of Marx. Half the Earth is the idea Homo sapiens should occupy only half the world, be banned from the other half. Right. He had a dream one night and thought it’d make a good book. Which half? And who do you kill, to save the rest of nature?

Trans: everything is trans now. Even skeletons. (And after a famous “Woman of the year”)

Monday, 18 July 2022

Monitoring the pandemic | Marching on autopilot

Main article SCMP’s Op-Ed page
Click to enlarge 
Good ol Mike Rowse, a mate of mine from the old days (90s), sets it out again, in the South China Morning Post. We’re trudging along here in Hong Kong, our new government, on autopilot, just twitches and tweaks to the world’s most restrictive Covid policies. While the rest of the world gets on with it, even with rising infections. So I know from the media, and so confirms Jing, newly out of quarantine after a European trip. Strikes aside, all is normal there.

Mike tackles quarantine, testing and masking. As in “get rid of them all”. (At least, aim to do so). To which I say “yes!”. Please. But our government is nowhere near that territory. It’s tweaking. And twitching. And giving us no longer-term hope. 

On the mask issue I read somewhere a few days ago, I think a Hong Kong paper, an official saying “we must treat masking like seat belts”. And I thought “nooooooo…!”. We don’t want these horrid things to become part of normal life, an automatic thing, like belting up. I like to see people’s faces. I hate the discomfort and glasses fogging. I can’t be the only one thinks that. And no, I don’t buy the “if it saves one life it’s worth it” argument. All the IRL data shows little to no benefit from masking mandates. 

ADDED: “The world won’t stand still for Hong Kong”. Local letter with 100% supportive comments 

Hedgehog anatomy

 


Sunday, 17 July 2022

LOS ANGELES SIGNALS RETURN TO MASK MANDATES, IGNORES EVIDENCE THAT THEY DON’T WORK

This is not a story from 2020 or 2021. 

In the year of our Lord 2022, Los Angeles has officially announced their intention to return the county to a universal indoor mask mandate.

The unelected director of LA Public Health, who is not a doctor, has declared that when Los Angeles County hits the arbitrary “high” level on the CDC’s transmissionzone map, she will automatically reintroduce forced masking...

“Behind the headlines” | SCMP

 "The assassination of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, is one of the most shocking historical moments. 

Although Abe stepped down from the leadership position two years ago, he remains highly influential. His murder at the hands of a former military serviceman while delivering a campaign speech in the Japanese city of Nara left the world stunned and Japan traumatised.

As a dyed-in-the-wool nationalist, Abe was no stranger to controversy. Some of his policies, such as an attempt to revise Japan’s peace constitution, deeply antagonised both people at home and abroad.

His political legacy is rich but complicated. Perhaps it is not surprising that his death has caused a polarised reaction in China.

Some are particularly angry at his comments on Taiwan, which are seen as provocative and adding to mounting tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese leaders have warned that any attempt to push the self-ruling island towards independence would lead to “ferocious storms”, and Beijing is doubling down on its military build-up to keep the pressure on Taipei.

History is often a summary of accidents. Only time can tell the true impact of Abe’s tragic death, but the news has already added a sense of gloom to a world battered by the raging coronavirus.

Hong Kong, whose residents are addicted to travel, is still struggling as its daily infection cases have rebounded.

Many argue that the city should stop trying to copy the mainland China model and change its quarantine policies. The debate is raging, but for now, Hongkongers can only look at the free-travelling Singaporeans with envy.

Chow Chung Yan,
Executive Editor

Saturday, 16 July 2022

The Bipartisan Abraham Accords

When Biden landed in Tel Aviv, I noted that what he said supported continuing with the Abraham Accords, without calling them that. Iow, adopting a Trump-era policy but not giving him the credit for the major change in US policy to the mid-east. 

Now it seems he’s taken to referring them to the Abraham Accords. Which is good. Because they’re good. They encourage diplomatic relations between Israel and the surrounding Arab states, without allowing Hamas and other terrorists the terrorists’ veto. Which is dealing with Sunni Islam, and restraining the major Shia state, Islam. 

Biden pledged to deepen U.S. support for the normalization push: “We will also continue building on the Abraham Accords, which I strongly support because they deepen, they deepen Israel’s integration into the broader region and establish lasting ties for business, cooperation and tourism.” [More]

Correct, Joe! Blame your colleague, John Kerry, for dipping his knee to the terrorist veto, saying “we can’t normalise relations with the Arab countries, because the Palestinians will object”. They did, but they went ahead anyway and it’s fine. Better than fine. It’s a good trend, for he first time in decades. 

Friday, 15 July 2022

With Nuclear Instead of Renewables, California & Germany Would Already Have 100% Clean Electricity

What I’ve said here for years and for the WORLD. If the world had kept going with the nuclear energy path of the late sixties and seventies, we’d now have zero carbon electricity. And would have had for decades. Except, Greens....

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Germany’s energy catastrophe

Renewables: take 400-500 times as much land as nuclear, for the same energy generation. This is a key issue in places like Japan and Europe. Indeed, pretty much anywhere.

Nuclear is safe, in operation and in handling of waste. Yet people think the opposite. Because “Greens” have scared them.

I wonder: Why do Greens hate Nuclear? I suspect their fear is real. Just that it’s not science based.

This article also links to Michael Shellenberger, who was an early environmentalist in California who came to realise that renewables would not solve the problem. Nuclear can. “Why renewables can’t save the planet”. 

ADDED: those that say we can store with batteries, three things: (i) Elon Musk, who has put his money where his mouth is on battery power by building mega factories, now believes that batteries can’t help, long term, with storage, for more than a few minutes per day. (ii) Making batteries is really dirty. (iii) Getting rid of dead batteries is really dirty. 

One of the links is to the article that California would be carbon neutral now if it had invested in nuclear power instead of renewables. I’ve said the same about the world. We’d be carbon neutral, at least on electricity production, if we’d gone nuclear. And it would’ve been cheaper. 

Related:

It’s over for Germany”.

"German government lied about nuclear"

Wha…? Amazing statement of the year from Fed Chairman

Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve said yesterday 

“We now know more about what we don’t know about inflation”. 

So now we’ve gone from unknown unknowns to known unknowns. 

But … but …

People, many people, warned at the time that injecting Trillions — TRILLIONS — of dollars into the economy would be inflationary. Biden &  co ignored or denied this. They went ahead anyway and injected Trillions of boondoggle dollars. Result? … inflation! 

Now, I just got a simple pass degree in Economics, 50 years ago. But even I know that if you inject money into the system you get inflation. It’s Eco 101.

Goodness! 

(Though I give this post the label this “hypocrisy”, because Powell must know. He’s gaslighting us).

“A crisis of confidence” | Hmmmm…. Henan's banking scandal

Depositors in several banks in Henan and Anhui are fighting to get their money back, after withdrawals were blocked with no explanation. Assumed to be either incompetence or straight out theft.

The customers planned demos a month or so ago, but were blocked by local government which turned their Covid tracking Apps — to red. In China you can’t go anywhere without your Covid app. If you’re Red, you can’t go anywhere. This freaked out lots of people, including me. But then it was “well, this is China”. Then we heard, amazingly, that Beijing had punished Henan officials who’d misused the app. Great.

Having made it to Zhengzhou, the capital, they were met with uniformed police, plain clothes police and these white-shirted mystery men circled above — probably hired thugs. We had the same sort of thugs here in Hong Kong back in mid 2019, when they came to a subway station and beat the crap out of some demonstrators. I don’t think they were ever caught. Hmmmm… 

So here we have the latest in government-sponsored thuggery. First it was il Duce’s Black Shirts, then Adolf’s Brown Shirts. Now Henan's White Shirts.  Circled in red above.

By the way, I think it’s interesting, and for now encouraging, that the SCMP is reporting this issue in some detail. The above is its full back page, today’s print edition. Plus an inside article, noting that in China they’re warning not to publish stuff from “hostile” western forces, which is basically anyone reporting the issue at all. Like today’s Post.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Watching Biden land in Tel Aviv

With new Israeli PM Yair Lapid
He’s been ministered recently for cognitive and physical decline. I must say, from skipping down the steps of Airforce One, to his prepared remarks, he seemed remarkably spry. 

LATER: Biden seems to be following the policy of the previous administration without admitting it. The Abraham Accords, without calling it the “Abraham Accords”. Israel making peace with surrounding Sunni states and containing Iran. The BBC reporter instead referred to the “supposed ‘greatest deal in the century’”, mockingly, because of course that was Trump. And then she went straight on to wondering what offers there might be for the Palestinians. Whereas this corrupt and terrorist leadership ought to be ignored. They’ve had countless chances to accept a two state solution and every time refused it. The Accords proved they don’t have the terrorists’ veto.

What Biden and co, and the BBC (Yolanda Knell) dont accept is that the “Two state solution” is dead. Because of the Palestinian leadership itself. Which has made clear the “Three No’s” policy still applies. “No recognition, no negotiation and no peace”. How can that be the basis for anything? Hamas & co want a one state solution: with Israel wiped off the face of the earth. They have made that clear non stop for decades. It’s time we accepted what they say. And reject it.

Elon Musk hits back at Trump and says ex-president should ‘hang up his hat’

… and "sail off into the sunset".

I agree. Too old, too obsessed, too crabby.

German “Greens” support burning more coal so closing of nuclear stations can continue

This is madness. It's an anti-nuclear obsession.

Sent from my iPad

Cheung Chau Island looking north

From the weather cam on the HK Observatory site, just now. It’s an island we’ve often sailed to.

Fine weather these days…

Lamma Island, just now:
Also a place we’ve often sailed to and around

What a time to be alive!

 

“Seeing the universe like we’ve never seen it before”. 

I remember when Hubble was launched and there were problems when the telescope was deployed. It was short sighted. In time, they fixed it; we were lucky. Since then, some of the most arresting photos of our universe have fascinated everyone on our little world. 

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on Xmas day last year, and we waited with baited breaths, hoping for Ok, but fearing another Hubble-like glitch.  But it’s gone perfectly, even better than expected. And now JWST will be doing deep science for us not just for the projected five years, but for maybe 20 years. 

It’s already sent back some stunning images, that were released yesterday. The vid above shows them and explains what JWST is up to.

Just think: in our lifetimes we’ve gone from thinking there was just one galaxy in the Universe, our Milky Way, that this single-galaxy universe was infinite and “steady state”, to now: understanding that there are billions, maybe trillions, of galaxies, each galaxy with billions maybe trillions of stars (more stars than the grains of sand on the earth), and that this all started with a Big Bang some 13 billion years ago, and now we’re getting close to peering into that very beginning. And that’s in one lifetime. Not to mention that maybe all these trillions and trillions of stars and galaxies are just one universe in a multi-verse. Or that it’s all a simulation (which Elon Musk believes...).  Wow!

JWST may find life on another planet in my lifetime. Depends on my lifetime.... And depend on life. I believe, as do many scientists, that there has to be life on another planet, just on the sheer numbers out there -- pretty much every star has planets circling it. But there’s also a strong argument for feeling/thinking/believing that we are unique. I hope not.

Quarantine bites back | Hong Kong (and China) the only places still requiring quarantine

From here. The only quarantine countries are in salmon colour. 

On her way back from Portugal, J is at the end of her quarantine in a hotel by the airport. Yesterday failed the last PCR test, so has extended quarantine.  I was cursing Hong Kong as the only place in the world with quarantine requirements. Thought I’d better check. That’s the chart above. I was a tiny bit wrong.  Apart from us here in China and Hong Kong, it’s Ukraine and Cameroon still demand quarantine. Everywhere else has no quarantine. Some, the light Green, require testing, that’s it. 

By the way, the hotel doesn’t sell her any beer or wine, and the food is pretty horrid. Before Covid this was a pretty good hotel, and I, sure they had room service for anything you wanted. Not now. For the ubiquitous excuse: “can’t do, coz Covid”. 

“Dinner”at the quarantine hotel

By the way (2): there’s hardly any mention of vaccines any more, in our government messaging. It’s all Testing and quarantine. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Monitoring the pandemic | Mainland-style colour coding for us

Front page, South China Morning Post.
Click to enlarge
Omicron BA5 does seem to be more severe, increasing hospitalisations worldwide, and here in Hong Kong. Whether yet more restrictions will help, history will tell. So far, waves and hospitalisation rates appear similar in many countries, no matter the stringency of their measures. We here are at the strong end,  very much so. Tougher than anywhere, including ongoing quarantining. John Campbell discussed it here. Including that current vaccines are only 1/20th as good at creating antibodies against BA.5 as against  the original Wuhan virus. Still good at reducing severity, apparently, just not at stopping it.

ADDED: From Our World in Data, today. For these countries, hospitalisations are 20% of what they were in previous peaks. Will the trend continue up? Or go back down, as has happened before? Who knows? This virus and its variants continues to surprise, sometimes on the upside, sometimes on the downside. Hong Kong doesn’t publish hospitalisation stats that OWID captures. So I’m just going by what they say in articles like the one above. On that basis, it seems that Hong Kong is performing about the same as all these other counties, none of which have anything like the restrictions we have. I’ll go further: Hong Kong Covid waves appear to be independent of our restrictions, many and complex and inconvenient and harmful to the economy as they are.