Monday 31 October 2022

Tanabe on the Pilgrim Trail, Japan, 2014

John, Jing, Lizbeth our German guide, fluent in English and Japanese.
The photo IDs it as “Tanabe”, a city, but we’re in the mountains aroun
The random photo Google gives me today. 

Tanabe is small city on the Kii Pilgrim route, famous, ancient, running hundreds of kilometres around a peninsula of Honshu island, a few hundred miles east of Osaka. 

On the last day we had major floods, from a nearby typhoon. All trains were cancelled. We had to get a taxi to Osaka, about five hours — a very happy taxi driver. Amazingly our travel insurance covered the taxi fare, a couple thousand dollars, even though I’d failed to keep a receipt.

On the trail we came across many abandoned villages, ghost villages. I read yesterday that there are now 11 million empty houses in Japan. That’s the total housing stock of Australia. It’s all coz population decline and movements to the city. In the villages that did have people they were all elderly, mostly women, skinny, stooped, smiling. We saw no children in rural Japan. 

“HK must stop ‘lying flat’ on shaking off Covid-19 restrictions” || My letter published

My letter in today’s South China Morning Post 
The Featured letter today. 

I’m a bit surprised they published it, given the Post is really hyping the Rugby Sevens tournament which starts this coming weekend. They do so presumably at the behest of the government. 

We'll see. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong and it’ll be a major success! 🏉

Text from old mate: “SCMP. Well said - HK living in the cave, without light, plain straight ignorance.”

The South China Morning Post, established in 1903, is the paper of record for English speakers in the Asian region with an interest in China and regional news. After 1997 and China’s resumption of sovereignty, then after 2012 when Alibaba, owned by China resident Jack Ma, bought the Post, we all worried. But it’s kept to reporting news, good and bad about China. If recently there are a few more pro-China items, they are well flagged, and there are no fewer China-critical op-eds. I think they’re doing well navigating these treacherous waters.

Musk tweets: “Just received this email from Twitter. This is an actual, real email that was autogenerated 🤣🤣”



 Musk’s comments. “So demanding to allow a mere 30 days to learn this priceless information!”  

“But Management 201 is such a tantalising carrot.” Hehe.

By the way, his Twitter bio is now just two words “Chief Twit”. Someone asked him how long he planned to stay as CEO of Twitter. He answered “My title is Chief Twit right there in the bio. No idea who the CEO is.” 😂😂

Sunday 30 October 2022

The ultimate stage of absurdity. Thomas Sowell

Sent from my iPad

Why shouldn’t we feed our birds?

Discovery Bay, Central Park eatery, the MooFish
I was walking our dogs in the park one day. Siena One Central Park, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong. (To be precise).

I bumped into a fellow dog walker, and we got chatting, as fellow canophiles do. I don’t know her name, so let’s call her Karen. A Gweilo, as we say here.

We got onto feeding birds and I commented that the birds we fed in our back yard — “our” birds — preferred bread to rice. “Ironic”, I said, “here in Hong Kong and they prefer western food to Chinese”. I know. Weak joke. But instead of a weak smile, I got a tirade. We shouldn’t be feeding birds! That’s unnatural! We should leave them to their own thing! Eating food they find themselves!

Taken aback, we parted and when I got home I consulted my Google. The website of the world’s oldest birds society, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, says it’s perfectly fine to feed bread to birds, as long as you make sure it doesn’t have too much salt. I was feeding them my own home-made, organic, low-salt sourdough bread, so big tick there. And the rice is saltless.

So far: Me: 1. Karen: 0.

Other thoughts:

The birds are “ours” in the sense that they live on our land, but they consider it their own land. They know us. We know them. We are family. They breed in our trees and shrubs. They come into our house when we’re not looking.  Wandering around our indoors, we’ve had Crested Bulbuls, Magpie Robins, Speckled Doves, Asian Myna birds, Common Sparrows, Violet Whistling Thrushes, and even, once, an Emerald Flycatcher

They are comfortable with us, and we with them. Us feeding them is part of that. We are part of nature ourselves. Something that many of the Karens of the world deny. To them we are apart from nature, we are different, a pox, a virus on nature. When I counter that we part of nature, and that we are its most intelligent part, the most intelligent life form in the  universe, as far as we know, it's eyebrows raised, screwed up faces from the Karens. Don’t I know what damage humans are doing to the world? And don’t you know that feeding the birds our food is part of that damage?

I think of the birds that decide to hang out with humans. They’re the ones doing best. Like all animals. Dogs do better than wolves. Cats do better than tigers. Cattle do better than Ibex. Sure, we eat some of them; but they don’t know that do they?!

Of course we also want wolves and wolverines, our tigers and snow leopards, our Ibex and Kudu. This means setting land aside for them. Which we can do more when humans gather in cities, leaving the countryside to re-wild. Which we do as we get richer. So, getting richer is a good thing. For wild animals as well as those human-centred birds. Which in turn means capitalism. Which the Karens of the world despise. Look at China. It became richer by capitalism. That led to more city living, less in the country, better life for wildlife. While better life for domestic animals and the birds that come to our windowsills. 

By all means, feed birds. It’s natural!

Saturday 29 October 2022

AI from “Machiavelli’s Underbelly”

COVID-19 Origins: Investigating a “Complex and Grave Situation” Inside a Wuhan Lab — ProPublica

Sent from my iPad

“‘Prebunking' teaches people how to spot disinformation : NPR” || Disinformation

Front page of Googling the phrase below. All are conservative outlets 
New word for me: "pre-bunking"
Which I find ironic. Given the biggest "pre-bunk" I know is the FBI, in August 2020, telling Facebook that some "Russian disinformation" would be coming down the pike. And FB muffled it.
Yet that was not false info. It was not Russian disinformation. 
Yet the folks forwarding this have no wry smile. No hint of knowing of that most notorious case of pre-bunking.
I realise now it's because they don't know about it. Even up to today.
If you Google "Joe Rogan talks to Zuckerberg about FBI warning about Hunter Biden laptop" and what you get is reports all on conservative outlets. Not one on NYT, CNN, MSNBC, WaPo, etc. And certainly not on NPR.
So it’s highly likely that liberals in America simply are not aware of the fact that the FBI intervened in the 2020 election by asking Facebook to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story. They are not aware because they don’t look at conservative media. We know that to be true, by credible polls
No, we do not want these people to decide what we can and can't read. What is "pre-bunked" rather than debunked.  /Snip:
Officials in Ann Arbor, Mich., Union County, N.C., and Contra Costa County, Calif., are posting infographics on social media urging people to "think critically" about what they see and share about voting and to seek out reliable election information.
Earlier this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency put out a public service announcement saying cyberattacks are not likely to disrupt voting. Here

Friday 28 October 2022

Musk closes Twitter deal

Tweets “the bird is freed”, and “let that sink in”. And produces a rationale for the purchase. (Though to the BBC and the Guardian he just “claims” to want to help humanity)

I post the above meme coz it’s pretty funny. Musk-haters will no doubt point out how “arrogant” he looks. But that look is from his night at the Met, when he took his mum, coz she wanted to go, and he did a bit of a prance up and down for the cameras, making fun of the red carpet folks, the Met attendees themselve. That was the Met do at which AOC turned up in a “Tax the Rich” dress.

People I see in the background: Parag Agrawal (just fired CEO of Twitter), AOC, Elizabeth WarrenTaylor Lorenz (?), the Lizard meme-man, the crazy lady screaming at Trump’s election in 2016, and ❓

For me: big Yay! I’m a big Elon fan-boy. Have been for many years. 

Hard to feel sorry for the top folks fired. Each has a package of $40-50 million. 

Thursday 27 October 2022



Britain’s Prime Minister Is India’s Pride || The Wall Street Journal.

"The best way to fight racism is not to be racist". 

So an American judge is said to have said. 

I believe it.

When you think about it, it really doesn't matter what's deep in your heart. Other people can't know. Sometimes you don't know yourself. But if you act towards others — no matter their faith or ethnicity, gender or nationality— if you treat all with respect, with care, with concern and with empathy, then society will be well served.

Act and you will be.

On the anti-racist side of the fence, however, in the land of Robin Di  Angelo and Ibram X Kendi, everyone, everywhere, at all times must be talking race, thinking race and examining their hearts for racism. By all measures, that approach, the CRT approach, has made matters worse. 

There is now a widespread belief that racism has got worse. At least in the United States. 

It's refreshing to have watched the process of selecting Rishi Sunak as the new British PM, during which. his race was barely mentioned (at least compared with the US). 

And refreshing to find that fact acknowledged and welcomed by the following article in todays Wall Street Journal. It notes the only people mentioning his race are the Left, claiming that he's not a "legitimate" person of colour because he is Tory. That he's a "face of colour, but not a voice of colour", a horrid meme, wicked, bigoted and …yes… racist.

Rishi Sunak is prime min­is­ter.And not of In­dia but of Britain. The most strik­ing as­pect of his as­cent to his country’s high­est po­lit­i­cal of­fice is that his race—eth­nic In­dian—is hardly mentioned by Brits. When it is, it is mostly by British In­di­ans of the left who claim that he isn’t au­then­ti­cally “brown.” This is the clas­sic ca­nard with which pro­gres­sives dis­miss peo­ple from eth­nic mi­nori­ties who haven’t sur­ren­dered to the nar­ra­tive of racial griev­ance. 

Most Brits, it seems, care more about the content of his character than the colour of his skin. As Martin Luther King famously said. Let's get back to that. Treat everyone with courtesy, kindness and consideration. Cure racism by not being racist. And by not banging on forever about it.

ADDED (i): What on earth is India doing being "proud" of Sunak? What part did they play in his success? It makes about as much sense as me being proud of Isaac Newton, because he's Caucasian.

ADDED (ii): I watched Rishi's first PMQs last night. I thought he did very well. So did almost all commentators. Even the BBC! He was confident, assured, gracious, combative when needed, facts at his fingertips. 

Wednesday 26 October 2022

“Why Republicans are surging” || David Brooks, New York Times


Above: from my post here. Liberals read/watch almost exclusively liberal news
Moderates and Conservatives read/watch much more widely
Says David Brooks, /snip:

I’ve been watching the campaign speeches by people like Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor in Arizona. G.O.P. candidates are telling a very clear class/culture/status war narrative in which common-sense Americans are being assaulted by elite progressives who let the homeless take over the streets, teach sex ed to 5-year-olds, manufacture fake news, run woke corporations, open the border and refuse to do anything about fentanyl deaths and the sorts of things that affect regular people.
In other words, candidates like Lake wrap a dozen different issues into one coherent class war story. And it seems to be working...
 Why Republicans are surging

Thing is, each of these things that Brooks quotes, above, and which troubles him, is true. Like in my post yesterday --  there’s surprise on the Left about things said by Republicans that are patently true. Indicating how deep in the pit many on the Left are. In a swirling vortex.  (I’m not saying there are no delusions on the Right. There are, many. Just that there are some deep seated delusions on the Left that are not understood by them, because they are in such a vortex).

Let’s look at the items in bold above, that Brooks seems to believe are just a “narrative”:

  • “...homeless take over the streets”: That’s objectively the case in many cities in Pacific states: LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland. As Michael Shellenberger, a Time Magazine “Climate Hero”, eco activist and man of the left who has done a deep dive on the issue, shows how well-meaning progressive policies in these cities has caused -- or worsened -- the homeless problems. We have relatives living on the West coast. They attest to how bad it’s gotten, having to step over homeless and their detritus, wherever one walks in central LA and even along its famous beach front. We have friends who have fled Portland because of it. 
  • ... teach sex ed to 5-year olds...”: again, this is happening all over the US. The response from the Left is:  “it’s not happening. But if it is, it’s good”. It is happening and it’s not good. Plenty of evidence from teachers, parents and the online curricula attests to this. 
  • ... manufacture fake news...”: Where to start? How about a monster bit of fake news: “The Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation story”. This was the summary of a letter by 51 former intelligence analysts, who at the time they said it, they knew was false, as the FBI had the laptop and knew it was Hunter's. Joe Biden used the “laptop is Russian disinformation” story in the final debate to deflect attention from his own misdoings. Joe knew at the time it was false. Because he knew the laptop was Hunter’s. In other words, he lied. And it was a lie that was hugely consequential, given he won by 21,500 votes over three states. That’s a pretty big manufacture of fake news.
  • ... run woke corporations...”: Again, where to start? There’s Google, YouTube, Twitter, Netflix, over in the west. There’s Disney, Blackrock, New York Times, over in the East. And plenty in between. It’s inarguable that most major US corporation are now driven by a woke agenda. Not to mention places we would never have thought of before, like the Military. 
  • ... open the border...”: The Biden Administration, on day one, rescinded previous deals with Mexico and previous tough border-enforcement measures. The result is the largest increase in illegal crossings in the history of the US. From around 100k per year, they are now running at 2 million. 
  • “.... fentanyl...”: it’s true that the current administration is doing nothing about the import of a drug that is causing the deaths of nearly 100k per year. 

The reason for going through these, is that David Brooks, and most of the commenters, seem to think that all these things are whipped up from whole cloth by Republicans, that this a “narrative” that somehow, and unfairly, “seems to be working”. It doesn’t seem to connect with Brooks that the reason the are working is that they are true. 

This is the same as the  MSNBC interview with a Republican focus group the other day, in which the participates were correcting the interviewer, and knew more about the issues than she did. But which Democrats, because they don’t know the other side of the story, read as “misinformation”. The reason they’re in such a bubble is that they consume the mainstream media. The mainstream media is all on the Left. Liberals tend not to Right-of-centre sources. Whereas people on the Right are also exposed to mainstream media (because it’s mainstream) but also have other sources. This was shown by various polls that I’ve posted in the past, see at top.

The net result is that the extent of the bubble, the vortex, is sometimes breathtaking for those of us who are not of the Left, and also not of the Right. Not to say we don’t have our own vortices, we do; everyone does. But the swirls is not quite so strong. Or at least there are counter currents. 

I find it breathtaking that a well-informed focus group is seen by the Left as “misinformed”, when they are the opposite. I find it breathtaking that a major columnist for the NYT should consider a list of major issues, all of them palpably true, just some form of “narrative”, which to him, unaccountably, “seems to be working”. This is truly troublesome stuff. 

Deep, deep pits and swirling vortices of misinformation

This tweet (below) is extremely weird. I thought it was parody at first. It's not. Don Winslow believes that what the participants in the focus group say is “Republican misinformation”. But it’s not. 

Everything these people being interviewed say is factually true, and in some cases they correct the incorrect info of the MSNBC interviewer: 
  • Only one person was killed on J6 and it was a protester: true. 
  • No police were killed: true. 
  • One policeman did die, but it was of a heart attack, after the event: true. 
  • A person acting like a federal employee (Ray Epps) was urging the crowd to attack the Capitol: true. 
  • The crowd denied him: true. 
  • They had the right to gather and protest: true.
  • Some doors were opened up for the protesters: true.
  • Some protesters attacked barricades: true. 
  • That was not an "insurrection": true. 
  • Trump was elsewhere and couldn't have stopped the "insurrection": true (also true that he should have done more, earlier to defuse. And also that he was urged to do so by senior Republicans). 
One young participant makes an interesting and insightful point: Democrats are making this  (J6 and the hearings) their "Reichstag fire" moment of the election, as excuse to gain/hold power: true or not  it's a cunning inversion of the Nazi trope normally thrown at Reps. 
Nothing detracts from the stupidity, the plain inanity, of (some of) the demonstrators' actions on J6. Nothing excuses Trumpian failures of judgement. But the J6 hearings have proved very little other than stupidity, inanity and judgment failure. Nothing that rises to the level of "insurrection", as proven by the fact that no-one has been charged with insurrection. 
But for Winslow, somehow these people — who he calls "voters" — are peddling misinformation. False.
Also: why does Winslow have "voters" in scare quotes? They're everyday folks, quite well read, it appears, who happen to vote Republican. That's all. And that's about half the country. 

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Xena 10 November 2013. ATIR Race

Angel, TC, Zoe, Noel, Gary, Dagmar, Jing, 
Annie, Steve, Biggus, Stevo 

The random Google-fed photo for today. Around the Island Race, Hong Kong. We da winners of Premier Class.

Monday 24 October 2022

Politics is a brutal game, whether it’s hidden (China) or not (UK)

Watching UK politics blow by blow
Xi Jinping
 — at his 20th Party Congress this week — mocks the west for the chaos of British politics. He spruiks the “superiority” of his own system, which we used to call “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Not sure what he calls it now. What I’d call it is Leninism with (some) market characteristics. 

In the online comments at the SCMP are echoing this line. Look how well, how orderly, China is getting in with business! Compared with the mess and chaos of the UK! The mess an chaos in the west!

But do we really think that Chinese politics is any less brutal, any less cut and thrust, just because it’s hidden? 

Well, no. We know from accounts of the court of Mao Tse-tung that it was deadly. Machiavellian. The swords were no less sharp, no less bloodied for being hidden. Why expect Xi’s regime to be any less scheming, any less riven with internecine fights, just because they’re hidden?

For all its historical messiness, for all its “chaos”, isn’t it nice that we can follow the UK vote? As I’m doing now. Vote by vote. Openly. Isn’t that nice? Well, yes it is.

And consider: the UK has had three female prime ministers and soon the first Prime Minister “of colour” in Rishi Sunak.. While China's allegedly superior system gives us seven identical Han men. In these days when diversity is so important? It’s hypocritical, especially for those who profess to care about such things, to say China’s system is better. 

[ADDED: Hong Kong markets plunged 6% today, in broad response to all this. And: “It’s a bloodbath !”]

That said we could learn from China: choose leaders with executive experience. The Chinese leadership have all had executive experience. There’s also a leaning to leaders with STEM backgrounds. That’s something we in the west could do more of. The opposite is often the case in the west. Although, again, I wonder. Was Obama so bad for having had no executive experience? Kennedy? 

Anyway. Bottom line. I still prefer “our” system. The Democratic one. It’s nice to know, as Aussie Democrat Don Chipp famously observed, that “in a democracy you can always kick the bastards out”. 

You can’t do that with these “appalling old waxworks”:

PS: Where the most exciting thing that happens during the five-yearly Congress is when an old comrade is escorted out, with no explanation.

Scientists fouling their own nests (on the pandemic)

Letter in The Lancet, 18 February 2020
I’m talking Covid here. The reason so many people lost faith in “the science” is because scientists (some, not all, but quite a few) did things to damage themselves and our faith in them. They fouled their own nests. In Aussie speak they cruelled their own pitches. 

The above letter was the first example I came across. I felt cheated by it. 

In early 2020 friends had asked me what I thought of a new theory (pushed by US congressman Tom Cotton, iirc) that the virus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan. I knew about the above letter, in The Lancet, the gold-star scientific medical journal. My response was “no, it’s not true; it’s just a conspiracy theory”, and quoted the above letter. As the letter says “Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.” And who would want that? Especially so early in the pandemic, when we didn’t know how deadly it was. So I was a hard “no, it’s not true. It’s a conspiracy theory." 

Imagine how I felt when it was revealed that the majority of the 27 scientists who had signed the letter had severe conflicts of interest. The majority had worked directly with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Many now admit that the virus could indeed have been from a lab leak, from the WIV. But not before their reputations and that of science was trashed. With the help of lead signatory of the letter, Peter Daszak, who is even now getting more funding for Gain of Function research -- in the WIV !

The letter was an egregious lie. A lie that 27 signatories supported. Of whom we now know 19 had a conflict of interest, tied in some way to the WIV. All of the signatories, including even the “conflicted”, have by now admitted that the virus may have originated from a lab leak. (Imagine how much more we may have learned about the origins of the virus, had these people, these “scientists", had not muddied the waters as they did.)

That was the first but not the last or even the worst of what scientists did during the pandemic. 

There’s the case we now know of Anthony Fauci’s own role in suppressing the lab leak theory. In emails released under FOI he pressured the virologist Kristian Anderson, to reverse his belief that the virus seemed to him to be man-made. And then — mirabilis!— Anderson received research money from Fauci’s Fund.

A while later, Fauci, under pressure from his then boss Francis Collins, scuppered the Great Barrington Declaration, the one by three eminent health experts and epidemiologists from Stanford, Harvard and Oxford. The GBD pushed for “focused protection”, a strategy that is now recognised as likely the most effective with the least cost to broader society. But which Fauci under orders from Collins, demonised. He called, infamously, the eminent doctors “fringe epidemiologists”.

And then we find that Pfizer did not test if the vaccine would stop transmission (and we now know it doesn’t) but all government officials and likes of Fauci & Co, told us unequivocally that it did. Another lie, which they knew was a lie when they told it. 

This is not to buy into crazy conspiracies, to be a “climate sceptic” or a flat earther. But it is to say that the  scientific community disgraced itself over Covid. Again, not all did. But lots did. Including some of our most senior. Anthony Fauci, much as he may be an eminence in his fields, ought be ashamed of himself. He did bad. Real bad. I find it hard to wish him a comfortable retirement.

Alexandros Marinos, number cruncher, has more here

"A study of lights at night suggests dictators lie about economic growth” || The Economist

China, far right, exaggerates its GDP by over 100%
This is interesting -- A study of lights at night suggests dictators lie about economic growth. There’s plenty of studies to show the accuracy of estimating GDP -- especially its growth -- by looking at lights by satellite. Lights, i.e. electricity use, are a great proxy for GDP.

This comes to mind because of some figures out of China today that showed 3.9% growth in the latest quarter, even during Zero Covid Policy. Assuming the estimates above are correct -- China overestimates by over double -- then the likely real figure is under 2%. For China that’s a disaster. Youth unemployment is over 20%. There’s a huge debt overhang. Xi, now dictator  for life, is squashing down on the private sector. 

China has always outperformed on the upside. I’ve seen it with mine own eyes. But maybe that’s not the case for too much longer.

ADDED: In the 20 years studied above, China’s GDP annual compound growth rate was likely 5% and not the over 10% they claim. 

How fresh. How face. How diverse.

Xi Jinping leads in his hand-picked team
Zhao Leji, third in line, has a dark blue tie.…

20th PARTY CONGRESS-RELATED. (SCMP Stories. Free to view):
The article below is front page of the print edition. I can’t find it online. How Xi hand chooses the 300+ in the Central Committee. Click to enlarge and read clearly.

I thought gain-of-function research was outlawed (by Obama). Outlaw and destroy the new chimeric viruses made in Boston

Dr John Campbell describes well what’s been worrying lots of people since we heard it the other day -- that Boson University has created a version of our Covid virus that kills 80% -- but not nearly enough on the media and not nearly enough outrage in the population. I don’t know what the Boston University response to this criticism would be, but... what on earth are they up to?? 

A new man-made Sars CoV-2 virus that has 80% fatality rate?? When we’ve had such horrid outcomes with the current one, at around 1%. What on earth are these people thinking?

I agree with Dr John at the end: they need to go in, shut down the lab, and kill off all the samples. Entirely.

Xena crew 7 December 2012, Phuket Thailand. King’s Cup

TC, MC, Digger, Stompfie, Bucket, Bickie, Stevo

Sunday 23 October 2022

Two gay men discuss issues of LBGTQ+, etc...

Click above for video

James Dreyfus and Peter Whittle in conversation. Some points:

Modern Trans activism is not like the gay activism of the 60s and 70s. That sought rights for gay people which didn’t impinge on others (“leave us to love each other”)

Radical Trans activism impinges on the rights of others: especially trans women > women, eg in women’s spaces, in sports. It is misogynist at its core. 

RTA also makes demands on the rest of us, eg demanding “pronouns”, being cancelled for “misgendering”, demanding we accept non-science as reality (“trans women are women”), and demanding we deny “what is a woman”. 

Modern Trans activism is mostly non-trans people. Mostly male. Again: misogynist. 

As an aside: the overwhelming majority of people identifying as trans women have not had an operation. That is, they still have the male dangly bits. That’s so for about 99% of trans women. IOW, 99 out of 100 trans women going into a women’s bathroom will have male genitalia. Women are right to be concerned about that. And they are. All over the place. It’s not such an issue with trans men, for obvious reasons. Men are not nearly so worried about women who think they are men coming into men’s spaces. 

“ Dear Hong Kong Tourism Board, enough of the clichés – the city just isn’t what it was” || Jason Wordie

Hong Kong actually
Hong Kong has to do something, not just wander around saying how wonderful we are. It needs to get rid of all Covid restrictions for a start. Get on with finishing the West Kowloon cultural district for next.
There’s the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens on next month. Seats limited to 25,000 (out of 40,000), Vaccine passes mandatory, same-day negative test mandatory, masking mamdatoey, with marshalls in the crowd to remind people to keep their masks on. What jolly fun!
In Australias recent football season 100,000 filled the grounds regularly. No sign of a blip on the Covid cases radar. This seems to mean nothing to Hong Kong authorities. 
Jason Wordie makes the point today in the Post:
Now that Hong Kong’s hermit-like isolation is finally ending, tourism – one of the four pillars of the local economy – seems desperate for revival. Proclaiming somewhere a “hub” means little when punctured inner tubes remain unrepaired, and the wheels themselves fell off some distance down the road.

Still the platitudes roll on, regardless of actual circumstances. “Pearl of the Orient” – that worn-out local cliché – has been trotted out once again, most recently by Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu at a relaunch function.

But determinedly saying that something is so – and as many times as deemed necessary – is not the same as ensuring interchangeable strings of words align with public perceptions, or aggregated lived experiences.

All right-thinking persons are now urged to tell “good” Hong Kong stories to the world. But does unimaginative recourse to time-expired “Pearl of the Orient” imagery really help turn things around for the better? [Read on …]

Saturday 22 October 2022

“The superiority of the Chinese system”. Right.

Hu Jintao, China’s leader before Xi, is led out in front of cameras, in front of the glassy-eyes of his replacement, Xi Jinping. but with no explanation. Utter contempt for people of China and the watching world to give zero explanation. Weibo has wiped his name. 
We’re told it’s coz he’s sick. Surely they knew that. Yet say nothing?
Xi just yesterday mocked the British election chaos. Said, again, the Chinese system (aka, dictatorship) is “superior”. 
You can have that system. (Secret, creepy).

Or you can have the crazy shenanigans of the British, choosing yet again a new PM, the fifth in six years. (Open, competitive, silly fun): 

Which system? You choose.  I know which one I prefer.

ADDED: I’m kind of thinking that the most likely reason is some sort of illness. Maybe he had a monitor which beeped with the health staff. But what is weird is that Xi was there, glassy eyed. A normal human would show some sympathy if there’d been some health issue. Especially given the age of some of the comrades in the gallery. The creepy gallery, of same be-suited drones...

Whether it’s illness or some form of coup, either case, the CCP is treating not just its own people but the watching world with contempt. To think we don’t even deserve an explanation. Any, would do at this point. 

Socially distanced Rugby Sevens: What Fun!

[Above: From here]  
A socially-distanced Rugby Sevens, with vaccine mandates, food mandates, testing mandates and mask mandates. What fun! 
Even more fun: Marshalls patrolling the crowd to make sure everyone is properly distanced, and masked after taking a bite of whatever food they are allowed to eat. 
I can't imagine anything less fun, less like the traditional rowdy spirit of the Sevens, less like something to visit Hong Kong for.
It's as if we don't know anything about Covid. 
But we do.
In the Australian football season just completed, many millions of fans crowded football fields around the country, all unmasked. The Covid numbers for that period don't show any impact of this free approach. During the peak football season, case number, hospitalisations and covid deaths all declined. Even after the most heavily attended games — the Finals at end September -- there was zero discernible jump in Covid case numbers.*
Why do we keep acting as if there's no experience anywhere else in the world?
Jason Wordie is correct: (Dear Hong Kong Tourism Board, enough of the clichés – the city just isn't what it was, 21 October) we won't entice people back to Hong Kong with cliches, but with actionsThe first and most important action has to be to get rid of all Covid restrictions. All.  
Colonel Sir Maudlin McGruff (Ret.)
Discovery Bay
Hong Kong
ADDED: SCMP trying to sound enthusiastic for the Sevens. “A Sevens like no other”. Then blames Covid for the problems. No. It’s the Covid restrictions.

*Both hospitalisations and deaths followed similar patterns as case numbers for Australia, for the period of the Australian football season: 14 March to 31 September. 

Is this not a case of killing the messenger? MSNBC, ADL go after Carlson

At the very least it's a case of very different take-aways. I don’t think Carlson’s talk on the Rwandan genocide is “trivialising” it. Not at all. And the thing about white women giving birth to white people being “blood libel”… was something said by the lady on MSNBC, the one with very racist views of her own.
I don't get it. I don’t get the ADL take. Or the craziness and vicious racism of the MSNBC anchor.
Their take…

Friday 21 October 2022

“The great leap backwards” || The Spectator hammers China!

Click to enlarge for easy reading. Or, online here.
Wow! The Speccie is going all in on hammering Xi Jinping

I don’t know if they’re correct in their assessment, but I hope they are. Coz I got Xi wrong at the outset back in 2012 (then so did many others including the Speccie itself), and I’ve rather disliked Xi and what he stands for (dictatorship). That’s just my wishful thinking. It would also be better for Chinese and the world. As we see above. 

ADDED: people say “Oh, but he’s popular”. To which:

a. Can we trust polls in China?  Maybe, maybe not. But in any case…

b. So what? Most dictators are popular, at least with “the masses”. Stalin was popular (though not with Kukaks and Ukrainians). Mao was popular, though not with the intelligentsia. He still is. Taxi drivers have his pic hanging from their rear-view mirrors. Which I find quite repulsive. He was a brutal, merciless dictator, directly responsible for tens of millions of deaths. The headline above is a play on “The Great Leap Forward”,  Mao’s crazy policy which led to millions dying of hunger. 

Lest we forget: Putin too is popular. Though, like Stalin, not among Ukrainians.   

So, “so what?” If Xi too is popular?

The world is awful. The world is much better. The world can be much better.

I love Venn diagrams and especially the one above. Three things can be true at the same time.

The world can be awful, yet be much better than in the past and get better still. 

As says Max Roser over at Our World in Data

Thursday 20 October 2022

“Australia’s ‘brutal’ Covid-19 lockdowns hit vulnerable groups harder, worsened existing inequalities: report” || SCMP

Above: Sydney in lockdown. For quite a while in 2020-21
Australia had the world’s most stringent Covid restrictions 
Worst in Melbourne. Where they have a Labor government. Founded 131 years ago on working class roots. To defend the interests of the working class. But which these days cares least for the working class and most for inner-city elites (tbf, the same switch has happened to Left-wing parties in the US and the UK, perhaps everywhere in the west).
During those "brutal" lockdowns, Victoria's Labor party demonised the working class, when they complained and demonstrated that lockdowns were destroying their lives and livelihoods. 
There's some truly horrendous film of Victorian police cracking heads, literally. (And I mean "literally" literally!). Beating up on elderly women for wearing masks incorrectly…
But "flatten the curve". Right. In the pursuit of which — because "health emergency" — any amount of police brutality was overlooked. Perhaps even cheered on. Because "how dare they put everyone's lives at risk?”.
Report of an independent review in Australia of our Covid lockdown policies and their effects, in todays South China Morning Post:
Australia's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately affected marginalised and disadvantaged groups, according to an independent review, which found "brutal" lockdowns exacerbated existing inequalities in the country.

In the comments at the site I ask when we might have our very own Covid Policy review here in Hong Kong. Our chief executive John Lee gave his inaugural policy address yesterday with nary a word on our continuing Covid restrictions, at least as far as you’d know from the six-page report (encomium?) in the Post.

Merimbula Lake 11 February 2018

What beautiful water colours!

Wednesday 19 October 2022

"Australia reverses recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” || SCMP

Jerusalem: capital of Israel. But not to Canberra
There’s nothing to gain by wading into the Israel-Palestine question. Everyone has their view and it’s this or it’s that and that’s the whole of it. I’m a Goy Zionist, so my sympathies are easy to discern. 

I have just one question about this change of tack by my country Oz: what is the advantage in the change? That it helps Palestinians in Australia feel better about themselves, and about Australia, their chosen land of refuge? Or that it helps Indonesia look at us more kindly, as the recognition of Jerusalem had got in the way of our free trade deals?

But Palestinians have rejected every one of the 27 peace proposals in the last 75 years. And Indonesia? Why ought we not be pushing them to follow the Gulf States and recognise Israel, instead  of moaning about our recognition of Jerusalem as actual capital of Israel? But who instead follow the Palestinians, who don’t for one minute want a “two states solution”? The Abraham Accords were a significant breakthrough, the most significant since 1947. And we ought to be pushing it -- like with Indonesia! -- together with our ally, Israel. Not slapping Israel in the face. 

Imagine if we told China that we didn’t recognise Beijing as their capital, but would make our embassy in Nanjing. Or closer to home, if we told New Zealand we preferred to have our embassy in Auckland, not Wellington. How would that go? Yet, uniquely, in Israel, we take it on ourselves, because of the pressure from Palestinian terrorist organisations, to say the capital is Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. Weird. I don’t know anywhere else that happens. 

The only ones celebrating this latest Aussie move are the PLO. The terrorist organisation. The one once led by the rubber-lipped Yasser Arafat, of whom it was said “Arafat never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. But the reason he did was because he was not backed by Palestinians. They didn’t -- and don’t to this day -- really want a two state solution. They want one state: “From the River to the Sea”, that’s to say, to eradicate Israel. To carry out a new holocaust on all the jews, who represent a population that has been in the region for 4,000 years. 

Oh dear. 

Australia reverses recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Tuesday 18 October 2022

As I ponder the possibility that I might not visit mainland China again in my lifetime

Jade Dragon Mountain, Yunnan province
I used to travel regularly to China, that is mainland China, from our eyrie here in Hong Kong. 

Fast trains to Shanghai, car trips to Yunnan's Himalaya, flights to the karsts of Jiangxi. Now, since Covid, none of that. And seemingly that forever, as China doubles and triples down on the Zero Covid policy.

Harry Harding, an Aussie in Guangzhou ponders something similar in "A China closed off from the rest of the world is a loss to everyone".
Almost three years since the pandemic's initial outbreak, it is unclear when, or if, that kind of [fruitful] engagement might return. If it does, it is also unclear who might be welcome to rejoin.
It may be the golden years, post-1976, are finished. And they were golden. Some were magic. 1990 in Shanghai. s

“The bad news for China's semiconductor industry continues” || Peter Zeihan

Click above for video
I’ve only just come across Peter Zeihan, hat-tip to S. Adams. 

Zeihan is an American analyst with several best-sellers to his name. In the vid above he makes the case that the Biden administration’s policies to throttle China's semiconductor industry are working, swiftly and dramatically.

I don’t know if this is true. If it is, it ought to be big news, but none of the media is talking about it, save for Zeihan. 

On the other side of this issue is David Goldman who I posted the other day. His “China Myth no.2” is that China relies in America for high tech. No, it doesn’t, says a Goldman. It used to, but not anymore. They are now ahead of the US in important areas. They have 21 of the top 50 engineering colleges in the world. Semiconductors are a subset of high tech so I guess it’s possible they can’t match the US in that one area. That’s Zeihan’s point. But that would not have been my thought before watching Zeihan.

I’m interested in views on this

ADDED: I have some reader comments, which I’ll add below. Meantime, The Spectator TV discusses the issue, on YouTube, starting at 09:06.

Monday 17 October 2022

“We had to destroy Hong Kong in order to save it"

1968: Destroying a Vietnamese village in order to save it
As in the infamous line of a US Marine Colonel, in 1968, when bombing the Vietcong-controlled village of Ben Tre. “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”. Or so the story goes.

Numbskull US Congressmen are doing the same to us here in Hong Kong. Punishing Beijing (they think) by punishing us. Making us less of an independent entity, when their aim is to make us more of an independent entity (assuming the best of their intentions, which😔). To save our independence by destroying our independence. Saving us by destroying us. 

The latest is calls for US companies to boycott a Financial gathering here in November. Earlier, it was calls from the US Trade representative to nullify the independent international treatments we have. Which are many. Because...

We’re not like any other city in China, no matter the delusions of US lawmakers. We have a hard border with China, we have our own hard currency, we run our own policies (except Foreign Affairs and Defence, which have always been run by our sovereign ever since British rule in 1841), we have freedom of speech, we have freedom of the internet, we have freedom to travel, freedom of religion. Our government decides on all local policies, like social services, housing, taxation, infrastructure. We are independent members of global bodies, like the World Trade Organisation, the Olympics, the International Postal Union, the IMF. We have our Seven Freedoms.

What the numbskulls in the US are doing --- even if they have the best of intentions, which I’m not sure of -- is to make us more of “just another Chinese city”, not less. They harm what they mean to help. (Assuming they mean to help, which I’m not so sure of). If they mean to help it’s another case of  “the road to hell...”. Though I suspect they’re just playing to their home audiences. Making themselves look better (“tough on China”) but harming us in the process. 

Dear American Congresspersons: Could you please butt out of our local Hong Kong affairs? Better do nothing than the decidedly unhelpful nonsense you now do.

I don’t often agree with Alex Lo, but he makes a good point in his “My Take” today: 

It’s an oft-repeated claim that Hong Kong is becoming just another mainland city. If only that were true! Bosses of the country’s most important cities usually show more independence and competence. [Link]

In short: local city mayors in China are often more independent than our own Chief Executive. That was for sure the case with the Mayor of Shanghai back when I lived there: Zhu Rongji. He was immensely impressive. I met him on several occasions, both as businessman and as diplomat (I was Senior Trade Commissioner in Shanghai in the 90s). He turned Shanghai into a modern city while keeping the old colonial relics on the waterfront -- all the old architecture of the Germans, French, British, in the late 19th century, in all their Shanghai “concessions”. The main street, Nanjing Lu, has been pedestrianised; while we in HK can’t pedestrianise even the most obvious places. 

Good job, Mayor Zhu! 

I would welcome a have a Zhu here in Hong Kong any day. Appointed or elected, fine. 

Pudong, East Shanghai, 12 October 2013, taken from 8th Floor
Peace Hotel, with my mate Steve Padgham. In 1976 this was nothing

Sunday 16 October 2022

“This two-step strategy can help lift Hong Kong out of its fathomless coronavirus rut” || My Letter published


Click to enlarge. Online version here
With some editorial changes to numbers, but basically the same as what I submitted. Published today in the Lead Letter column, kind of like a mini Op-ed. 

[ADDED: “... most fatalities in Hong Kong were over 70.” [years old], that’s 88% of HK’s Covid deaths, as of today].

I’m just a raindrop in the rainstorm on this Covid stuff, but if the government wants to “dry off” (in the analogy), then it needs to do something, and there’s hints it is, slowly, hesitantly, easing restrictions. 

But not on the mainland. The Communist Party of China remains steadfast (stubborn? obstinate? intransigent? obdurate?).  Committed to the Zero Covid Policy, as the 20th Party Conference takes place, possibly the most boring political meeting anywhere, with Xi Jinping, to be renamed (surprise!) chairman of everything, for life ’n all. So, I doubt I’ll be able to visit the mainland again in my lifetime. I used to visit often. It was easy and convenient. Now it’s between difficult and impossible. 

ADDED: it’s true what I say in my letter about our government Covid site. It’s clunky, messy, overloaded and user-unfriendly. Whereas a private sector site like Our World in Data, run out of Oxford University, is a wonder of user interaction and ease of use. Quite why this government, with the buckets of money it has, can’t do something about its website falls into the “I don’t get it” category. A suspicious person might say they don’t want to make it easy and transparent. And that may well be true, Who knows? Not I.