Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
In 2015 three British schoolgirls, aged 15, departed the UK to join the terrorist group 'Islamic State of Iraq'. In a carefully planned enterprise, they stole and sold family jewellery to fund their trip. Besides, its suspected that family members provided funds although they dispute this.
The girls from Bethnal Green in London allegedly radicalised through contact with an IS recruiter. There is also evidence that they engaged with radicals in a local mosque. How they purchased their air-tickets to Turkey remains unknown. Although it’s certain someone facilitated their departure. Moreover, members of their families didn’t intervene or alert the authorities.
On arrival in Turkey, the girls made their way to Syria to almost immediately marry IS fighters. In effect, the girls were to be broodmares for the fledging Islamic caliphate.
In recent years, IS undertook terrorist attacks across the world including in the UK. The 2017 Manchester Arena bombing during an Ariana Grande concert killed 22 and injured over 800. An IS operative carried out that suicide attack with his specific target young girls enjoying a night out.
IS is now facing defeat on the battlefield. With its territory shrinking, the proposed caliphate has evaporated. The women of IS have fled. One of the British girls, Shamima Begum, has resurfaced in a refugee camp. Until weeks ago she provided active support to IS and this week gave birth to her third child by an IS fighter. Her husband is a Dutch national. His whereabouts are unknown, while her two previous babies died. Begum is seeking to return to the UK.
Of course, Begum’s request to return home is provoking a strong reaction in many quarters. Justifiable so. Katy Hopkins sums it up well here.
Hopkins makes a compelling case, yet there are many fascinating aspects to this situation. For starters, Begum is not helping her situation by the interviews she is giving to the British media. They’ve flocked to the refugee camp, providing her with a great deal of publicity. Begum may come to regret this high-profile approach.
She is now 19-years-old and presents an un-remorseful image. Open enough to assert she has no regrets, nonetheless she expects Britain to take her back. She talks of accepting the IS violence, and of not flinching at finding severed heads in rubbish bins. Begum knew that IS butchered thousands of people and inspired terror attacks in the UK. Still, she opted to remain until the end as their stronghold collapsed. Up to the last moment, she fed the ‘caliphate’, providing logistical support.
Just as crucial, she and her friends helped give IS credibility. They provided an example to others supporting recruitment efforts.
Begum is a collaborator to a terrorist group that murdered innocent British children. With that, Begum forfeited her rights. Only now because her side lost is she seeking to run back to the comfort of Bethnal Green. So, my gut reaction is that under no circumstances should Begum enter the UK. She made her bed - literally - with IS and now needs to lay there.
Yet, matters are not that straight forward because there is a legal position to consider. It appears under international law that Britain is obliged to take her back. The bloggingbarrister makes the case.
In essence, she can’t be stripped of her British citizenship because she’d be stateless. Plus, if Britain is to keep any credibility, it needs to adhere to these international principles. Therein lies the rub.
The Home Secretary, Mr Javid, was all for excluding her. “My message is clear if you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return.”
He's now gone silent on the subject. His legal advisers have probably pointed out that his hands are tied.
Thus in time, Begum may end up back in the UK with her child. If that happens, here is my proposal. First, she must provide the intelligence services with her full and honest cooperation. This process will include a thorough debrief. That debrief will continue until she can give no more useful information. In that process, if evidence for a criminal prosecution emerges, she should face the full weight of the law.
Further, social services should examine her fitness to keep the child. Finally, if released into the wider community, she must have a tag and report to a police station at least weekly. If she does not comply, then immediate detention must be sought.
Of course, the liberal media led by the Guardian and the Observer are already fighting for her return. They and her lawyer are playing the usual ‘victim’ card. Unfortunately for them, Begum didn’t appear in the least traumatised when speaking to the media. She was coherent, controlled and smiling at times. This ‘victim’ status dishonours those killed in Manchester and elsewhere. Though they would not admit it, the Guardian and others are prepared to accept the death of innocent people as a sacrifice to their poisoned agenda.
Meanwhile, Tasnime Akunjee, the lawyer representing the Begum family, is throwing up a smoke screen of accusations. He goes too far to blame everyone else but the girls. For him, it’s the fault of the police, the girl's school and the local council. These assertions are palpable nonsense. If blame lies anywhere, it's with the family and the mosques that failed to deal with radical elements.
Akunjee elects to ignore the stark truth that these girls acted with agency to formulate and then execute their departure. And even now Begum refuses to admit her mistake. Begum had a choice, and she opted to support the killers of the innocent. She must now accept the consequences.
So, I propose that Begum can return home but as a ward of the State. She must cooperate in full and face scrutiny for all her actions. Unless she agrees to that, then leave her to the mercy of the IS fighters she willfully embraced.
Sometimes even an old curmudgeon like me struggles to find things to rant about. Then, like today, it lands in your lap. The banner above appeared on my afternoon stroll. Where do I begin?
There is a telling scene in the movie ‘Meet the Fockers’. The CIA father - played to perfection by Robert De Niro - mocks his son-in-law's ninth place sportsday ribbon. Well, Mr Fungus Fung, has declared himself a full member of that under-achievers club.
Anyway, am I supposed to celebrate that you’ve achieved (sorry- ‘successfully added’) a pedestrian crossing to a location two miles from the banner. Not that distance should in any way negate this stunning triumph.
Of course, Mr Fung could have attempted something else. How about improving the lot of the elderly working poor by seeking funding for a community or medical centre? Alternatively, if that’s stretch, then pursue a transport management policy that mitigates congestion. Perhaps he could work with the police and other agencies to help relieve the illegal parking by agreeing a strategy. Then engage with the local community to support and sell the policy.
Maybe Mr Fung had those things in mind. I don't know because all I have to work on is the banner. Or was it the case that the low-hanging fruit of a pedestrian crossing was too tempting. By the way, I don't wish to be a pedant but the government 'added' the crossing at the taxpayer's expense. All Mr Fung did was make a proposal for which he receives a monthly payment of HK$32,150.
But wait a minute. There are other road crossings in the area. None of these too far away. So, this raises a question. Is Mr Fung’s crossing really necessary? No doubt he felt it was.
Mr Fung is a member of the Liberal Party. The term ‘liberal’ shouldn’t get confused with the traditional meaning of broad-based, humanistic and open to ideas. The Liberal Party is a pro-business and conservative political group established in 1993 to protect the interests of a few. All its LegCo members are from the functional constituencies. They represent a small circle of self-interest. To his credit, Mr Fung is elected.
With the aid of google translate, I was able to find that Mr Fung is a Master of Arts, Oxford University (Oriental Studies). His bio is only in Chinese. He’s not deemed his non-Chinese reading constituents important enough to provide an English version.
As I stood to bask in the glow of representative government that Mr Fung’s banner emanates, a group of young adults joined me. I asked, “What do you think?”. My question met with laughter and then words I won’t publish here. I surmise Mr Fung won’t be getting their votes.
The appearance of the banner heralds the approaching district council elections. Soon we will see Mr Fung and friends standing at major intersections or on traffic roundabouts waving at startled motorists. That’s what counts as canvassing in this town.
But I don’t wish to be unfair. I’ve worked with several district councillors who were first-rate. They’re committed to their community, embedded with strong grassroots support and a grasp of issues. DAB members excel in this regard. Highly organised and exhibiting a disciplined approach, they proved active representatives. The so-called democrats were less engaged at a local level. My impression is most so-called democrats saw the district council as a forum to further a personal agenda or as a stepping stone to LegCo.
So, Mr Fung, my message to you - do better. Is the bar so long that suggesting a pedestrian crossing is worthy of merit. If you are going to boast about your achievements at least do something substantial. Pedestrian crossings don’t cut the mustard when we have big issues in this town.
(To be read in the voice of Alan Bennett. For the uninitiated, listen here.)
Complete whiteout; isolated from the din of the city. I set off down the access road to the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir. At seven thirty few people are up and about. This could be the Lake District, the wooded part of the Scottish highlands or Dalby Forest. Only the lack of tall trees tells of a semi-tropical climate. I'm in a bubble of ten feet visibility.
Droplets shower down with each passing gust as moisture-soaked trees sway. The stench of dog shit that usually lingers at the country park barrier is gone. Overnight rain has washed away the crap that lazy dog walkers are too idle to pick up. It’s the amahs who walks the dog around here.
The pigs have wreaked havoc in the bins again. Plastic bottles, banana skins and assorted litter are laid out. It’s all sorted, studied and graded. Anything edible is gone. The efforts of the park wardens to secure the bins once again defeated. This time they've upended the whole container with latches broken. You have to admire their ingenuity.
According to those who know these things, pigs rank above dogs in the smartness stakes. They can play video games with more focus than a chimp.
Weeks ago the plastic bins near the park entrance succumbed to head-butting and chewing. The sides ripped out with ease once the pig got leverage. Fibreglass bins hold up better. Best of all is a wooden stockade-type structure in the BBQ area. Height and heavy wooden planks are keeping the hogs at bay. Anyway, the great unwashed leave enough half cooked meat on the ground. That’s sustained the pigs for a day or so.
In the distance voices. Can’t tell from which direction. The chatter of excited Cantonese arrives first, as a group of elderly walkers emerges from the murk. Of course, one has his radio on full volume. No surprise, he's broadcasting a Chinese opera of the cat strangling variety. A full-throated conversation battles for attention above the caterwauling.
“Jo San” is yelled my way. Only the Cantonese can make ‘good morning’ sound like a declaration of war. Then they’re gone. Screeching opera lingers awhile, then fades. It’s silent again.
Alone, I press on, descending towards the dam. The wind is picking up. It brings the fog and dampness in sideways. No bird song today. The trees thrash around as the breeze strengthens, then eases off.
On the dam top, it’s blowing a gale. My cap needs restraining; otherwise, it will take flight. Funnelled by the valley, the air rushes up from Tai Tam Bay, then blasts against the dam wall. I feel the chill. Don’t linger here. A pack of runners hurtles by heads down. All backpacks and day-glow outfits.
I cut back to ascend to Parkview, taking the forest walk to avoid the road. I soon regret this. After a matter of minutes, I’m soaked as overhanging trees, and encroaching bushes spray me. On the summit the small shelter is empty. No views today out over Tai Tam Bay with the Dragons Back dominating the horizon.
I’m back on the road, as silent figures come and go in the mist. Expats in t-shirts and shorts, signalling they don’t fear the damp. Locals wrapped in the latest Patagonia offering. More a fashion statement than a hike. They’ll soon be sweating. A Chinese boy passes me dressed for full arctic conditions. Is he expecting snow? His helicopter Mum is hovering in the background. In the summer he’s the sort of kid you’ll see with a towel wrapped around his neck against the horrors of perspiration. You know in ten minutes that arctic outfit will be gone either that or he passes out from heat exhaustion.
A few of the regulars greet me. The lanky Brit is striding along with his tawny wife in tow. She's had far too much sun. Mr and Mrs Wong, Stephen with a 'ph' as he told me on first contact. He once had a restaurant in Sheffield.
The cleaners are busy. They gather the debris from last night's BBQ crowd. Of course, the pigs have seen off anything digestible. Working with the ants, they'd soon clean up.
A gaggle of amahs is shepherding assorted poodles and designer pooches. They don’t venture too far down the road. Once Fido has done the business, they’ll loiter to chat. I want to shout "Clean up that shit!" but don't.
The Europeans around here favour dogs of the Heinz-57 variety. The ‘tong gau’ is medium sized, far from handsome but an intelligent mixed-breed. I note a Chinese group dedicated to these mongrels. Glad to see that not everyone in Hong Kong is obsessed with pedigrees.
The rumbling of the Parkview air-conditioning plant tells me I’m back at the barrier. More hill walkers are gathering, awaiting friends before setting off. A child is already complaining that he’s bored. His mother thrusts a mobile phone into his eager hands. He squats to start playing a game. Why bother kid? Even a pig can tackle a video game. Come to think of it; I reckon the pig is more sentient than that child.
Anyway, coffee and toast awaits me.
Our Chief Executive Carrie Lam is having a pig of year. She’s in a thicket, struggling to make progress against snags on all sides. There are external threats to Hong Kong, but most of the troubles she faces are of her own making. Having misread the political scene, she went on to insult her support base. Also, her past bungling conduct has caught up with her. In fairness, Lam achieved something that’s remarkable. She’s managed to unify our quarrelling politicians against her. Well done!
Her cruel treatment of the poor elderly in our community is not playing well. Even the pro-Beijing crowd, who utter support as a matter of course, are backing away. With district and legislative council elections on the horizon, the political class is keen to keep the public sweet. Lam’s ‘take it or leave it’ attitude to policy formulation isn’t welcome when the atmosphere is so febrile. To rub salt in the wound, she responded to criticism with a scornful tone.
Taking HK$200- off the poor looks petty and is. Then Lam jumped into ‘totally out of touch’ mode by comparing herself to the elderly working-poor. It’s one of the most absurd public statements I’ve heard a leader make.
Then she scrambled to get the pro-government lot back on-side, seeking to split them from the opposition. It sort of worked, although she’s not out of the woods yet. I endorsed her policy address. It contained welcome initiatives, although I also missed the signs that she intended to punish the poor. In effect, she’s walloping the grass-roots citizens who built this place. That she didn’t see the adverse reaction is telling.
Her ministers do not help her. With the notable exception of John Lee, the Secretary for Security, she’s surrounded by the mediocre, damaged goods or the incompetent. Questions of integrity and honesty dog Theresa Cheng, the Secretary for Justice. With Frank Chan, Lam appointed a Secretary for Transport and Housing who is not up to the job.
Likewise, the Secretary for Food and Health. She failed (again) to prepare for the influenza season, leaving hospital staff struggling. Her response is the usual short-term fix of throwing money with abandon at the problem. No strategy or planning is evident. Hospitals are in crisis, with staff taking to the streets in protest because the government is not listening.
Part of the problem is the failure to deal with the medical cartel that limits the registration of overseas doctors. This approach, in turn, pushes up costs by limiting the number of doctors. Lam won’t even discuss the issue. Thus year after year we lurch through a crisis. Of course, it’s the poorest in our society who suffer. Lam and her team aren’t lining up for 10-hours to see a doctor. They have private clinics or backdoor access.
The unfolding crisis over the MTR Shatin link exposes the incompetence of Frank Chan. Furthermore, some of the blame must rest on Lam’s shoulders. She created a culture that allowed officials to escape sanctions for their failures and willful blindness.
In 2015, tests by the Democratic Party found contaminated water in many public housing estates with excessive levels of lead. The threat to health, especially the development of children, was evident. A lack of supervision by the government allowed contractors to use lead to solder pipes.
As Chief Secretary, Lam intervened to decree that no one is responsible. In her eyes, system failures are to blame. With that statement, she signalled to officials they’d not be held accountable. Thus, it’s arguable that she created the culture that allowed the MTR scandal to spiral out of control.
The MTR saga continues to unfold in a disheartening series of admissions. A lack of supervision by the government (again), missing documents and hints of corruption taint the whole episode. At first, Lam limited the scope of an inquiry. Now events have forced her hand, and the investigating judge has a broader remit. Blame bounces around in all directions, but ultimately it rests with the government.
Frank Chan failed to get a grip of the MTR Corporation. They, in turn, have slipped from the plinth of Hong Kong’s most admired organisations. Lam declined the resignation of the head of the MTR earlier this year. She held Frederick Ma in place despite mounting evidence of shoddy construction and worse. You could argue she wanted him to clear up the mess, or he’s a shield to be thrown under the bus later. Either way, vast amounts of public money are wasted as the media drip-feeds us the revelations.
One DAB politician expressed frustration to me “ Lam takes our support for granted. She feels we will agree to anything.” That’s changing.
Grand concrete pouring projects are burning up public money, while deep societal issues remain unchallenged. If the government is keen on construction how about building a barrier to protect Tai Po, Shatin and Ma On Shan from the next tidal surge? How about getting serious on air pollution instead of pandering to vested interests? That’s where the money needs to go.
Convenor of the Executive Council, Bernard Chan, recently expressed concern that popularism is rising in Hong Kong. He foresees increasing public ‘cynicism and anger’. No wonder when officials pursue policies that damage whole sections of our community.
Is Lam capable of listening given her strong style? In a way, she's trapped by her administrative officer hinterland. One flaw of the British colonial civil service training is it created senior officials unmarked by doubt. They know best. Add to that a taint of Catholic infallibility, and you have a potent mix. Lam has promised a more humble approach in future. Let’s see if that happens.
"For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
It never leaves a favourable impression when the super-rich tell the rest of us how to save the planet. The annual bash in Davos turns this virtue posturing into an art form. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is the event's official title. And the theme this year? ‘Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in an Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. What the f**k does that mean? Answers on a postcard, please.
Every year, the self-proclaimed great and good gather in the Swiss mountains to blather about the world’s problems. In the process, they wash their guilt away in the pristine mountain air. Unfortunately for them, a stench of hypocrisy hangs over this orgy of self-indulgence.
In attendance are about 3000 folks: the majority European men, and amongst them a fair number of tax dodgers. Topping that list is Saint Bono, the patron saint of sunglasses, virtue signalling and crap rock. Joining him are a multitude of billionaires, dodgy politicians, and royalty. Prince William put in an appearance, and David Attenborough spoke. I also note Jane Goodall, the primatologist and anthropologist, was present. I can only assume to study the antics of the most alpha of alpha males.
Jane must be disappointed that Trump stayed away, as did President Xi and Putin. The opportunity of watching this lot interact could produce a lifetime's worth of deliberations. Better than watching chimps go to war.
Of course, Bono and his mates expressed concern about global warming and pollution. In an acknowledgement of this did they opt to arrive by bicycle, hybrid car or train? No, they deployed 1,500 private jets.
Saint Bono treated us to his views on capitalism and how we need to tackle poverty. Here’s an idea for addressing poverty. Bono pay your taxes. The Paradise Papers saga pulled back the veil on the deceit that is Bono. In short, he and his mates used elaborate deals that shifted their money around to avoid tax. That he fronts up at Davos to lecture on poverty is absurd in the extreme.
Don't confuse Davos with an egalitarian event. Even amongst the elite, there is a pecking order. A tiered badge system has the very top folks issued a white badge with a hologram. Journalists get a yellow badge that is easy to spot and so avoided. Individual rooms are out of bounds unless you have a white badge.
The WEF defends itself “we created a shared space for peer-to-peer conversations and that the key was to get leaders to realise they have a shared interest in the problem.” Wonderful words. It’s just that action appears thin on the ground. Insiders portray the event as one massive party disguised as an important deliberation. What emerges of benefit is not evident.
Could I suggest that ‘shared space’ would be more credible if the forum adopted an African township or a rustbelt city as its venue? Unlikely, because the participants need high-end hotels and don’t want to rub shoulders with real poverty.
It’s worth pointing out that the WEF is a club that you pay to join, although they make great play of inviting certain people to speak. Do these invitees get a white badge?
Without irony the 'white badges' discuss how the poor should change their lifestyles to avoid climate change. That stench is rising above the Swiss mountaintops.
I suspect the game may be up for Davos; without Trump and Xi Jinping in the house, it garnered less attention. Also, the rich folks are beginning to recognise Davos exposes them to ridicule. For the most part, the corporate elite now treats it as another business meeting.
Our own Chief Executive attended boosting about inclusiveness in society. She failed to mention she’s treating the elderly poor with contempt or the massive wealth gap in Hong Kong. She didn’t show pictures of old women collecting cardboard to scratch a living. No mention either of people sleeping in MacDonalds because housing is so expensive. Davos is the perfect forum for Carrie Lam because you can get away with talking nonsense.
The one highlight of this years event came from guest speaker Rutgers Bergman. He's a Dutch historian. As the week went on, he grew annoyed at the attitude of the 'white badges' to his suggestion that they need to pay their fair share. In his final panel discussion, he went for it. He told the audience they must stop avoiding their responsibility to pay tax. This idea didn’t go down well. But, it made Bergman an instant sensation in the real world.
Davos is starting to look tired and irrelevant. That stench may be a rotting body. Anyway, I’ll check in next year for more lectures from pop stars and the super-rich about how I should behave. Meanwhile, they’ve jetted off into the sunset with their consciouses soothed.
“The failure of judges to stand firm and apply the law strictly has grievously impaired the rule of law.”
In my earlier blog, I touched on Justice Henry Litton’s new book ‘Is the Hong Kong Judiciary Sleepwalking to 2047?’. I've now had time to digest this important treatise. Let me jump right in by saying it’s a must-read for anyone concerned about Hong Kong’s future. Politicians, lawyers, administrators, law enforcement and the judiciary, need to take note.
There is not enough space here to discuss all the crucial points that Litton raises. Thus, only a full reading of his book does justice to this work.
Doubts lingered in my mind for some time about the conduct and decisions of our esteemed magistrates and judges. As a former police officer, I had some insight into the workings of the courts. Nonetheless, I found a curtain of mystery clouding their actions. Many judgments, even after several readings, alluded my comprehension. Litton’s book rips that curtain aside to reveal things of profound concern.
It would be easy to dismiss the observations of an ex-police officer, ranting as a biased observer. The same charge won't work with a former judge of the Court of Final Appeal. This man served seven terms as Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar. Litton is an insider. He’s filled the gaps in my suspicions that something has gone wrong in the courts. He provides context for things I saw.
His main thrust is to ask are the judiciary giving away Hong Kong's autonomy. A fundamental question. Why? Because as Litton points out, we are up against a deadline in 2047. Unless Hong Kong’s judiciary exercises proper restraint, things may go wrong for our legal system. There goes Hong Kong’s unique status.
I should stress that he blames local antics not Beijing for the situation we face. I must concur. In my view, Beijing has acted with considerable restraint, something that’s not always acknowledged in this town. Opinions, coloured by anti-Beijing sentiment, make some people blind and obstinate.
Litton makes a convincing case that some magistrates and judges have lost their way. They allow lawyers to dictate the course of events in court. This indulgence leads to discussing esoteric points of law unrelated to the issue at hand. Often this is pandering to political causes, which undermines law enforcement for no good reason.
Litton clinically runs us through several cases that illustrate his position. Let me try to summarise. First, he asserts discipline in the conduct of the courts has lapsed. He feels that lawyers are de-facto taking charge, leading to undue delays and outrageous behaviour.
Top of the offensive conduct category sits barrister Mark Sutherland. He's allowed to badger, bully and cause indignities to a victim of an alleged sexual assault. He even asked her to sit on a ruler to measure her bottom in court. The magistrate failed to control Sutherland. The only saving grace is that Sutherland later faced a fine. He remains a barrister. Go figure.
Litton’s second point relates to the first. The lack of discipline allows counsel to import or bring up points unrelated to Hong Kong. Then Hong Kong law evolves into a hybrid that doesn’t meet local needs. As a result people’s trust in the rule of law erodes.
He points out that the Basic Law governs Hong Kong. Thus importing irrelevant overseas judgments distorts reality. Especially when foreign cases take no heed of local conditions. He cites examples, including the case of a UK caravan, raised in a property developer action.
The third point and perhaps the most troubling is that Beijing is compelled to intervene. It's interpretations then erode Hong Kong’s autonomy. In short, matters that can be handled locally, in a pragmatic manner, get blown out of proportion. Sometimes these develop into constitutional issues. Even the simple question of removing a poster from government land took up years of court deliberations.
Litton cites lawyers raising phantom issues in court. While at the same time, magistrates pander to pointless arguments that push cases into a higher arena. In the end, many of these cases amount to nothing more than academic exercises. Lawyers argue back and forth on the meaning of words without any real solutions as the end product.
He affirms my view about certain judgments being ‘unintelligible’ to even educated people. He makes the telling point that no layperson could understand them. None of this adds to the transparency of the courts.
Litton reminds us that the judiciary does not sit separate or above anybody. It’s supposed to work in conjunction with the government and other institutions. Further, the common law is an accumulation of individual cases from which principles of law evolve. Common law should focus on remedies, finding practical solutions. He laments this is not happening. Theorising, polemics and grandstanding by lawyers bury the real issue under a mountain of words. In turn, the use of clever but futile arguments has destroyed sensible and workable systems.
Litton makes the case that on occasions judgements take no heed of practicalities. He notes the courts shouldn’t sit with 'sovereign detachment' in a bubble. He cites a case involving the police and public order. A simple instance of law enforcement inflated into major legal arguments. Litton affirms that the law cannot get involved in matters properly dealt with by the legislature.
Like many police officers engaged in public order duties, I struggled from the 1990s onwards. At times it was difficult to understand my responsibilities and powers. Litton throws some light on this. He mentions judgments taken without consideration to the practicalities of policing. The confusion that arose from regular drawn-out judicial reviews had undesirable operational impacts. Tried and tested procedures held in abeyance pending legal decisions.
Sometimes nothing filled the void, leading to a lack of action or reluctance to act. Thus, the police ended up marshalling illegal demonstrations while reading out repeat warnings that went unheeded. We threatened action and then did nothing. This encouraged protesters to test our bottom lines.
These bottom lines shifted to such an extent that by the time of Occupy, the police facilitated illegal road occupations. This absurd situation did immense damage to the perception of the rule of law. The interests of the wider community willfully ignored to indulge a few. How is this right?
Lawyers, of course, will retort that they are doing their job by raising inconsistencies in the law. They seek remedy for their clients. Yet Litton is firm that any system of governance cannot function if we allow every allegation of ‘unconstitutionality' to interrupt business. Otherwise, thousands of laws could falter. He’s clear that each statute should stand unless a court of competent jurisdiction declares otherwise.
Litton sees an unhealthy trend. The good governance of Hong Kong hampered by having a judge sitting over the shoulder of the administration. When the judiciary has lost focus chasing false rabbits down holes, he concludes "The result is a legal system divorced from the community it is supposed to serve?".
Litton has produced a stinging rebuke to the judiciary. I’ve yet to see a response from within. I suspect Justice Litton has hit a raw nerve with the pain still causing spasms. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to read his book to understand how we could throw away Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“Common law; a rational system, focussed on remedies, based largely on common sense, readily understood.”
The Hong Kong judiciary has an image problem. It's not helped by the annual pantomime of legal types parading around in wigs and silly clothes. This stilted show of ‘My Lords’ - the majority are men - sends a message of antiquated stuffiness and disconnection. The laymen look on with a mixed sense of amusement and unease at an institution he little comprehends. In recent years many voices have called for changes in the judiciary. The reception to these calls is lukewarm at best.
Then this week an esteemed insider broke ranks. He's lambasted judges for their misplaced actions and occasional overreach. More on that later
At the annual opening of the legal year jamboree, the Chief Justice speaks to review the court's work. For several years, he's voiced concerns over 'unwarranted' attacks on the judiciary.
Meanwhile, on a related note, the 2019 ‘Index of Economic Freedom’ placed Hong Kong at the top of its list. But, it did downgrade ‘judicial effectiveness’ which slipped from ‘free’ to ‘mostly free’. Beijing’s interpretation of local laws gets cited as we reason for the slippage.
That’s a recurrent theme in the media and from overseas commentators, who assert that Hong Kong’s legal system is under threat. Besides, so-called democratic politicians stoke these fears to support their political agenda. They are not above making misleading statements or peddling opinions as facts.
While the system is far from perfect - no legal system is - it nonetheless functions with objectivity. After all, it put a former Chief Executive and his deputy in prison. Donald Tsang is a state leader, with a position in the Mainland hierarchy higher than a provincial governor. Nonetheless, he couldn’t escape an examination of his criminality in court. He then went to prison.
The case of high-ranking civil servant Mike Rowse is also worth a look. To cut a long story short, Rowse was scapegoated for the alleged failings of the 2003 HarbourFest. Disciplined by an internal civil service process, he received a fine. Rightly aggrieved, Rowse sought a judicial review. This review destroyed the government’s case, exposing the top of the administration to ridicule.
The judiciary has ruled against the government on many occasions. In the process, it affirms its independence and willingness to uphold the rule of law. That I applaud.
Of course, the sensational stuff make the headlines. Although, most of the cases going through the Hong Kong legal system are mundane and dealt with at magistrate court. The majority of these cases involve three crimes: shoplifting, common assault, and drug possession. Around 60% of defendants plead guilty at the first opportunity. The high proportion of guilty pleas is no surprise. The government will only bring cases it believes it can win.
For several years, Chief Justice MA Tao-li has responded to adverse comments about specific judgements. He has asked that the public be ‘rational and well-informed’ in their comments. Then, directs them to read judgements to understand the reason for decisions. But here's the problem. Many of the judgements are incomprehensible to the laymen.
Moreover, the full reasoning often takes time to emerge. In fairness to the public, it’s not always clear why certain judgements arose. Even those of us with the time and some legal knowledge struggle at times. Thus, it’s a stretch to ask the ordinary citizen to weigh a judgement.
No rational individual sanctions personal attacks on magistrates and judges. These demand swift action to uphold the integrity of the judicial system. Yet, it's inescapable that much needs improving in the courts. At times it appears buried behind arcane thinking and strange practices. Even as a seasoned police officer it’s unsettling to enter a court to give evidence. Thus, the ordinary citizen is most likely intimidated by these strange legal precincts.
Much of the recent criticism arose from a perception that magistrates were indulgent of violent Occupy protesters. This fed a narrative of bias. Proving or disproving these assertions is a hopeless task. Except it’s right to say magistrates wouldn't tolerate such unruly behaviour in court. Which begs the question, why the rest of society, including police officers, need to endure such antics?
Then this week we’ve seen the publication of a blistering insider attack on the conduct of the judiciary. Justice Henry Litton, a well-informed observer, exposes many failings of the Hong Kong judiciary. As a distinguished lawyer and former judge of the Court of Final Appeal, he’s well placed to comment. He doesn’t pull his punches in ‘Is the Hong Kong Judiciary Sleepwalking to 2047?’
He highlights the delays in getting cases through the courts. The role of lawyers engaging in a ‘carnival of words’ that amounts to a charade sums up his position. He cites the Mainland Port Area judicial review as an example of the abuse of process. Pointing out that the four litigants had no substantial interest in the matter, he concludes their actions were political. Nonetheless, the review went ahead in ‘an earnest but misguided manner’. Litton feels the judge overstepped his remit.
His book gives other examples. In his view, Hong Kong’s judicial system has morphed into ‘Frankenstein’ law by absorbing elements that don’t fit well. He cites European law as an example. For the most part, he places the blame locally and not on the actions of Beijing. He holds his colleagues to account for what he sees as a lack of common sense. This trait he couples to a propensity to get lost in pedantic argument.
Litton harks back to the fact that common law sought practical solutions that brought a greater good. He despairs that aspects of the process in Hong Kong have become political theatre.
As a solution, he seeks a return to the ‘strict discipline of law’. The dismissing of frivolous judicial reviews brought about by political posturing would be a start. Those are my words; he made no such statement.
Hong Kong enjoys a special place in the world. It has been well-served by it common law legal system. But, innovation will be necessary to sustain public support. Likewise, the current system has a shelf life that expires on 30th June 2047.
China was pragmatic enough to allow the common law to survive the handover, and I trust they will continue to see its benefits. In the meantime, the judiciary would do well to hear the voices of unease. A change will come and it’s best to direct it rather than get dragged along.
Your credit card company may be monitoring what you buy and pay for to decide if it agrees with your politics. In recent weeks we’ve heard much about China’s social credit system. The human-rights pundits in the West jumped up and down about the so-called ‘repression’.
Then in the next breath, these same self-appointed guardians of free speech pressured banks and credit card companies to shut-down people they disagree with. Their hypocrisy is breathtaking and deeply sinister.
Here’s what happened. Bloggers and other content providers can earn money for their stuff through services such as Patreon. In essence, the public can opt to pay or sponsor a website. Most of this is innocuous material, and some folks made a decent living as content providers.
A few controversial online personalities, who comment on politics, found themselves cut off. Those who disagreed with their views could have opted to present an alternative opinion. Instead, they went another route. They applied pressure to credit card companies and PayPal seeking to cut these people off. In turn, this means Patreon can’t pay them.
Orwellian stuff indeed. Corporations are working with radical pressure groups seeking to take control of who can have a platform on the Internet. In effect, they are de-platforming people by closing accounts using access to banking as the weapon of choice.
If you think I’m over-reacting take the time to visit this website. ‘Change the Terms’ started as an anti-Nazi movement. It’s now drifted into silencing others who don’t meet with its approval. These self-appointed arbiters of our words are keen to stress that freedom of speech remains unchallenged. These are somewhat empty promises.
Their published doctrine comes loaded with contradictions, loose definitions and is creating a weapon for censorship driven by hatred of contrary opinions. While it’s dressed up as an anti-racist and anti-Nazi - that’s only the foot in the door. They are also going after the pro-gun lobby. Next, it will be pro-abortion before it circles back against gays, transgenders and others. I predict the weapon they’ve created will turn against them.
'Change the Terms' stress that people should have the right of appeal. Here is their statement on that.
RIGHT OF APPEAL. The company will provide notice and a fair right of appeal to someone if their content is taken down. This is particularly important for creators of color.
You can see where this is going in that last sentence. Fairness and being objective goes to 'creators of color'. It’s an agenda driven initiative aimed at harnessing private companies as a tool of suppression. Take this to its logical conclusion, and they will shut off your power supply, heating and ability to shop. Hold the wrong opinions and become a non-person.
Plus, the big question is who decides what’s hate speech. The kind folks at ‘Change the Terms’ believe it is unrealistic to expect human reviewers to monitor and decide. They’ve suggested that algorithms do the job. Hey, we all know how well that’s going to work; the legitimate right to speak decided by a computer programmed by some kid with human prejudices and foibles. You can predict millions of false-positives, as content providers are left scrambling to appeal.
And we all know how easy it is to appeal. Our experience dealing with banks and credit card companies over simple transaction issues gives a sign. They won’t invest in large teams to deal with this because it's not a money earner.
Setting aside problematic processes - the fundamental issue remains. These companies have no right deciding who can and cannot speak. That’s for the law and a fair judicial process.
We hear much criticism of China’s social credit system. At least the Chinese are open about it. In the West, the same is creeping in by stealth. A process hidden behind doors, operated by people using their business clout to control speech; while the gate-keepers are self-appointed nor with any independent oversight.
This whole de-platforming phenomenon has spread out from the university campuses. It's championed by the Marxist grievance studies professors and their SJW students. Anyone who dares speak against their postmodern manifesto faces a ban. Book-burning was the old way, these days the equal is closing you off from the Internet.
There is some good news. In response to these draconian actions, the genuine advocates of free speech are seeking to develop their platforms. Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin and others are putting their considerable resources into an alternative channel. The process is advancing well as Peterson is seeking a name for the new venture.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Patreon is haemorrhaging business, both users and patrons. This sting may put the brakes on others who seek to use their commercial power to control free speech.
So are you comfortable that Visa, MasterCard and AMEX could decide whether you get a platform or face exclusion? In the meantime, we need to watch the banks and credit card companies like a hawk.
Praise the Lord that our former Chief Executive is well and released from prison. Well, I say prison. What I mean is the hospital. He walked out of the custodial ward of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, having made a miraculous recovery. Serving a 12-month sentence for his crimes, he was rushed to hospital last week to receive medical care. He spent a good number of days in the custodial ward during his sentence.
He strolled out to face the press looking bright, robust and cheerful. Cracking a few jokes, he seemed the picture of good health. His opportune illness afforded him the chance to hold his press stand-up without the backdrop of a prison gate. How nice.
Of course, he continues to assert his innocence. He intends to fight on with his appeal in May. Good for him.
He was then rushed away by six highly-trained police bodyguards in a government vehicle. Hong Kong is undoubtedly the most generous of places that we provide such perks and privileges. Exactly why six armed young men are needed to protect Donald remains unknown. Clearly, there must be a severe threat to him that demands this coverage. I’m sure there is a good reason for all this.
The former convict’s first stop on his day of freedom was the exclusive Deep Water Bay Club. Next, he went home.
In fairness, Donald’s toughness stood Hong Kong in good stead when he saw off the predatory currency manipulators in 1998. At the height of the Asian Financial Crisis, they came after the Hong Kong/US currency link intending to make a fortune. As our Financial Secretary, the wee man blocked the door to the vampires. He summoned up all his height “You will not pass.”
George Soros and the other blood-sucking hedge fund managers retreated licking their wounds. If Donald hadn’t acted our economy may have suffered irreparable damage. He also introduced the minimum-wage, the $HK2- travel for the elderly and poured money into the hospitals. Fair play.
On the other side of the balance sheet, he did nothing to resolve the housing crisis and his ‘Blue Sky’ anti-air pollution initiative was laughable. It’s true he enjoyed a high level of popularity throughout his time at CE. That's all evaporated.
It appears he got greedy. Rumours started circulating about his warped sense of privilege. Indeed, his arrogance was on display when I encountered him. Like most of the administrative officer cadre, he had an air of pomposity and self-entitlement that placed him above the common herd. Our current CE has many of the same traits.
The stories gathered pace as it emerged he’d received lavish hospitality from business tycoons. Trips on private jets, outings on luxury boats couldn't be denied when the pictures appeared. But his undoing was the dodgy acquisition of a large flat in Shenzhen and failure to declare an interest. Naturally, the public feared Hong Kong was on a slippery slope back into the old habits of corruption.
Donald’s reputation is now in the toilet. All his assertions of innocence, and pleading to a higher authority won’t shake the belief he compromised himself.
Anyway, welcome back to freedom Donald. Shame that your policies while CE have condemned many to a life of servitude and poverty. I trust your faith will give you some solace.
Oh dear. Carrie’s in another pickle. I try to interpret her behaviour in the most generous light, but she doesn't help me. This week she again demonstrated her stunning lack of sensitivity, coupled to a complete failure in political acumen.
The government has proposed changes to welfare benefits that see impoverished people aged between 60 and 64 suffer a one-third cut in their paltry payments. In response to the outcry over this stingy behaviour, Lam tells us “I am over 60 years old, but I still work for over 10 hours every day.”
Setting aside the fact that the government has massive reserves that would allow an increase, never mind a cut, Lam’s statement is revealing. To caricature her as Queen Marie Antoinette is not harsh. I know Marie Antoinette probably never said the phrase “Let them eat cakes” — yet the point is well made. Mrs Lam once again pulls back the curtain on her complete disconnect from the trials and tribulations of ordinary folk.
In the past, we’ve seen her inability to locate toilet paper after divested of her minions. They’d generally deal with such trivialities. Next, she caused hilarity as she fumbled the use of an Octopus card. On a daily basis, you see four-year-olds making their way through our MTR system ‘pinging’ Octopus on the way. That mundane action defeated our Chief Executive.
Carrie is 61 and makes great play on the long hours she works. I wonder if she'd be so sanguine after travelling through North Point MTR during rush-hour? Waiting for a bus in the rain after a hard day at work is something Carrie never faces. She glides around the city in a limousine as befits her status. Her road ahead, cleared by the cops ensuring she’s never late or inconvenienced.
Not for her the challenge at the age of 60 of holding down a job, then struggling home with your shopping. Nor does she need to worry about cooking dinner, cleaning up the home or those other mundane tasks. After all, she has a large domestic staff on hand. So I’m afraid the comparison crashes and burns under the weight of its sheer nonsense. Most of us would be happy to work long hours if we had the support services afforded our Chief Executive.
Added to this is a disingenuous claim that Carrie functions on three to four hours sleep a night. She rolls this line out like a badge of honour. All the science points towards poor performance by those who don’t get enough sleep. The research is clear in this regard.
Margaret Thatcher made a similar assertion that recently was debunked. Her bodyguard noted Thatcher needed regular naps throughout the day as bouts of irritability overtook her. Carrie has shown similar traits including outbursts at press conferences. Perhaps more sleep, less boasting is in order, for the sake of Hong Kong.
Returning to our central theme. The people denied these welfare payments are the very life and soul of Hong Kong. They toiled for 18-hour days in factories or on building sites seeking to make a home. Many arrived as refugees to build this city. To deny them a few dollars each month is mean spirited. Carrie seems to be happy to splash taxpayers money on other projects, several of which are dubious at best and downright wastes at worse.
Did we need to spend HK$5.45 billion on expanding Disney? The whole project is losing money as we bankroll the Big Rat from the US. Billions are going down the drain as the shoddy Shatin-Central link rail project shudders to a halt. A failure of government supervision likely contributed to this mess.
Carrie can even stump up HK$50 million for a musical fountain on the little-used Kwun Tong promenade. Located between the open sewer that is the Kai Tak nullah, a highway and industrial buildings, will the public even be able to hear the music? The list goes on. But no way can a few coins be given to the elderly poor. Meanwhile, the proposed cuts save only HK$100 million annually from reserves of HK$2 trillion.
Part of Carrie’s motivation is the ageing population need to work because the labour force is shrinking. Because Hong Kong ladies do not have children, we are now to be conditioned to remain harnessed to work. This approach is, of course, completely wrong. How about making it more favourable for families, by giving decent maternity leave and other incentives? Having grandma and granddad at home to look after the kids may also help. That won't be possible because Carrie wants them working.
At the core, these policies towards the underprivileged elderly contain a dark callous streak. I do wonder how Carrie balances this hard-hearted attitude with her professed Christian values. Perhaps that’s why she sleeps so little; guilt can be a terrible master.
I must start this book review with a confession. I’m a middle-aged white man. There, I’ve said it. And thus, according to this book that bestows guilt on me. Apparently, my modicum of success is down to ‘white-privilege.’ This social position stamps me at birth.
For the author, Ms Eddo-Lodge, this is my ‘original sin’. To be born white and so pronounced with liability for all the bad stuff that’s happened to black folks down the ages. I was not aware of this status given my origins in a northern English working-class family. An outside toilet and a tin bath in front of the fire aren’t immediate signs of privilege. I may be wrong.
Thus, I’m most grateful to this middle-class author for pointing out my entitled position. Ms Eddo-Lodge is a journalist who works for several national newspapers and writes well. She’s also an avowed feminist, who appears on TV shows and lectures around the country.
Thanks to her, I can now atone for the sin of ‘white-privilege’ to accept responsibility for terrible things. Of course, I wasn’t alive or in any way controlling of those circumstances - but I should make amends.
OK, I'm disingenuous. This book is a must read if you wish to grasp the emotions around race relations. The book is weighty on feelings, alternating between states of fury and despair. It’s UK centric but has echoes across all societies. Despite the title - paradoxically - the author is talking a lot to white people about race. She now has a substantial platform for her views. Along the way, the author makes assertions that are unsustainable or dishonest.
It’s important to assert that I don’t accept a few of the concepts used to anchor the arguments against nasty white folks. For example, the male patriarchy is a fallacy of the feminist movement. If the male patriarchy is so dominant why are the majority of street sleepers men? Men fill the prisons and are three times more likely to commit suicide. The data is clear. Men are having a rough time.
The most bizarre position the book takes is around ‘white-privilege’. Again, it's not something that I can say I recognise. And by that admission, Ms Eddo-Lodge adjudges me a sinner. Because if I don’t see that, then I can’t reform. This castigation somewhat reminds me of the terrible dictates of certain religions. Born a miscreant, judged a wrong-doer, even as a babe. All zealots resort to such language and protestations.
The book narrative takes in much of black history in the UK. It's peppered with statements that if you switched the word ‘white’ for ‘black’, this could provoke outrage. In Ms Loyd’s world whites, especially men, are fair game for attack. Thus we get.
“ … glut of middle-aged white men currently clogging the upper echelons of most professions.”
She allows herself this vitriol because whites have had it too good for too long and even poor whites haven’t suffered like her people. This is whiny, regressive stuff.
It’s no surprise that in a majority white country middle-aged white men are in such a position. The bile here ignores the years of struggle and personal stories that these men underwent to get there. To batch them together in such a lazy manner and deduce their success is due to ‘whiteness’ is deceitful. There is much like this in the book.
Ms Eddo-Lodge is no fool. She doubles back on herself later in the book to shore up her defences. On page 115, about half-way through, “When I write about white people in this book, I don’t mean every individual white person. I mean whiteness as a political ideology.”
Well, that's fine having spent the first half of the book slagging off all white people. I suspect the realisation dawned on her that she’s also at fault for making sweeping judgements. She then gets into class issues to acknowledge that discrimination flows across ethnic lines, class and culture. She admits black people can be racist against whites. She then doubles back again. We get a wild theory that the white community is conspiring against blacks - “It like they [whites] all learn lines from the same score sheet.”
She documents instances of debating white people and faltering. Every one of her failures is a conspiracy. When she’s defeated it ‘the misappropriated use of freedom of speech’, while criticism of her is a ‘take-down’ - a word she uses a lot. Dare anyone to suggest her position is untenable.
Overall, the presentation of 'black' and 'white' people as monolithic blocks is counter-productive. It goes against the stated aim of the book of overcoming race-based prejudice and inequality. The title alone indulges in the same labelling process. It assumes all white people are ‘not sufficiently woke’ or receptive to ideas about race relations.
Towards the end of the book, Ms Eddo-Lodge develops another tirade. This time the target is white-feminists accused of using the movement for their purposes. Ms Eddo-Lodge asserts these ‘white-women’ won’t accept ‘intersectionality’ in the feminist movement. In the process, they deny her a double-whammy of prejudice; being black and a woman. This somewhat esoteric argument wins her no favours. To compare white-feminists to Enoch Powell, as she does, is nonsense.
Ms Eddo-Lodge talks of setting boundaries, because the debate has caused her emotional distress. We learn she suffers from depression. Well, here are my boundaries. Don’t come at me with ill-conceived labels based on your prejudices. You know nothing of my struggles, motivations nor sentiments. Thus to label me makes you as guilty as those who rant against black people.
No doubt Ms Eddo-Lodge and her supporters will dismiss my criticisms. First, I’m a white man and second, I don’t get it since my 'white-privilege' makes me blind. Likewise, I can fire back. Ms Eddo-Lodge views everything through the double-distorting lens of racism and feminism. In her world every motive, every agenda, every move dictated by a prejudice. Thus the argument circles around.
In the end, she offers no new solutions. Finally, she tells us some people opined the book didn't help the conversation around racism. I disagree with that sentiment. The book illustrates the irrationality of prejudice and the mirror reaction of hatred coming the other way.
If nothing else, Ms Eddo-Lodge’s book sparks a discussion. That’s a good thing.
A message from Walter’s bunker deep under the verdant Tai Tam Valley.
I recently started a process that would have seen this website operate in part behind a paywall. To my surprise, I’m generating enough traffic to justify such a move. The cash flow, while not significant, would be welcome to further develop this project.
Unfortunately, as I got into the process of setting up the service certain unsettling things became apparent. In short, I’d be subject to the controls of the service I opted for. They’d have the recourse to screen my content, editorialise and filter out subjects they felt uncomfortable with. Simultaneously, a furore has broken out over Patreon. This subscription service provider, is cancelling accounts under pressure to de-platform people. Censorship is taking place with Silicon Valley deciding who gets a platform and who doesn’t.
Most of my stuff is uncontroversial, expect that these days people take offence at a difference of opinion. Then cite that to shut people down. When the British police can arrest a man for calling a police horse ‘gay’ anything can happen.
Some of the folks Patreon has dropped are not on my favourite list. Their opinions are borderline offensive stuff. Nonetheless, I support their right to have a voice. It’s a slippery slope when certain groups dictate who can and cannot speak, and about what subject. This video best sums up my views on freedom of speech.
Taking all this into account, I’ve decided not to opt for a subscriber service nor place any part of this website behind a paywall. Thanks.
If we’ve learnt anything from 2018, it's that politicians and their technocrats minions have failed the British people. Moreover, those same people appear hellbent on usurping the democratic will of the nation by orchestrating a false Brexit. As a Remainer, I take no joy watching this slow-paced putsch unfold. It’s evident the people who negotiated the deal have by a sleight of hand produced a non-Brexit.
What’s on offer will leave the UK within the EU, without the ability to influence decisions. In effect, Britain has surrendered its right to assert an opinion or control policy. I’m afraid it is vassalage. This stunning achievement has arisen for many reasons. The establishment doesn’t want out, that’s clear. Then you have endless infighting and cross-party posturing. No one in the political class walks away untainted from this monumental mess.
That Mrs May is beholden to the Democratic Unionist Party for her tenure in Number 10 is crucial. It means the faux issue of the Northern Island border sits centre to the whole imbroglio. No one even thought about it at the time of the vote. Distracted by a bloody red bus with numbers and the implied cash flow to the NHS, the debate was facile.
And yet, the Brexit vote was about much more. It was a mass vote of defiance against a political and expert class that viewed the populace with disdain. I include all shapes of politics in that statement. That ‘war-criminal’ Tony Blair and his barking dog Alsatian Campbell come out to scupper the deal is enough proof. The elites don’t like it that the people are dictating the agenda; thus they want to see the deal sunk.
The avowed pro-European Westminster mandarins align with Brussels. It suits them well. The ‘I know best’ attitudes prevails, plus the offer of rich career pickings. For politicians cast aside, the EU is a fat paycheck. Lord 'Mandy' Mandelson is one of many who trod that path. They adjudge the British people as ‘poorly educated and angry’ dismissing them to rob the popular vote of its agency. Only self-proclaimed clever people can decide matters. It’s not lost on us that many Brexit voters are less well-off than the Remainer elites.
With such people in power, you have to question their commitment to democracy. Meanwhile, a proposed second referendum amounts to shirking responsibility. Although, it does affirm the failure of the politicians as if that needed highlighting. Elected to do a job; the whole lot has fallen down.
Over in Parliament, a furore erupts over whether Jeremy Corbyn called Mrs May ‘a stupid woman.' Who gives a flying futtock? Indeed, not the ordinary folks, who would either agree or be indifferent. More attention is thrust on this issue than the growing numbers sleeping rough.
Expert lip readers pour over the recordings of the incident to seek the ‘truth’. Even if he said it, there is nothing inherently sexists with the statement. That’s unless you are an emotionally-charged SJW seeking offence in every statement. This weaponisation of emotional utterances, allied to fake outrage, is a sorry pantomime with no laughs.
In summary, you have to say the current crop inhabiting the Westminster bubble is incompetent, weak and deceitful. Don’t expect Labour to deliver. The party is far from cohesive under Corbyn. The public recognises his frailties as his popularity falls further behind the besieged May. That he can’t rise above her dismal showing is beyond belief.
The hollowed out Liberals remain soiled by the Clegg years. He's run away to work for Facebook. As for the Tories, the old fault-lines are on display. Civil war is on the verge of breaking out if only the paper tigers - Rees-Mogg and Boris - can summon the courage to act. Mrs May was always a place filler, who has extended her tenure way beyond what I expected. I’ve developed a grudging respect for the lady. She’s still at the helm, fighting every swell and wave while taking flak from the rear.
In 2019, there need to be new voices, new blood, and new direction. In truth, without it, British politics will wallow in a stalemate. Transformational change must come, with all its roughness, dislocation and mayhem. Unlike their ‘gilets jaunes’ French counterparts, the British people don’t usually take to the streets. They don’t burn down Starbucks or blockade the highways. I feel that unless things change, that might come.
I hate Christmas. All right, I’m the Grinch. Some tell me “get over it”. After all, it is one day a year. That’s the problem it’s not only one day. The bloody repetitive godawful jingles started in mid-November.
Let’s be clear about a few things. Jesus Christ was not born anytime around the 25th December. Christmas as a festival existed long before any births took place in the greater Bethlehem area. The bible is silent on when JC popped into the world.
All it tells us is that Mary and Joseph travelled by the express bus from Nazareth to Bethlehem to take part in a census. Earlier, Mary had been visited by the Angel Gabriel to tell her she's carrying the son of God. Joseph being a simple sort accepted that. The child was delivered in a stable because they forgot to book a hotel on Trivago.
This year, as with every year, religious leaders will once again spout forth against the commercialisation of Christmas. In the process, they’ll ignore the fact they stole Christmas from the Pagans. In the fourth century, some bloke called Pope Julius I chose the 25th December as the date of birth for Jesus. He took the Pagan festival, rebranded it and then set about spreading the word. It took until the end of the eighth century for Christmas to catch on across Europe. By the way, Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on 7th January.
So the whole Christian thing is a fabrication or clever marketing - aren’t these the same thing? Oliver Cromwell was having none of it. In 1644 he banned Christmas. The collective gaiety and compulsory joy being too much for grouchy Oliver. He had a point.
The modern Christmas is a product of Victorian shaping, with a massive dash of product placement. For example, Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree. Incidentally, it’s a myth that the talented people at Coca-Cola created Father Christmas as a marketing ploy. Instead, Santa is a composite figure. He’s a Frankenstein, taking bits from Saint Nicholas and other winter festive deities.
As a child, I needed sedating on Christmas Eve. I heard Father Christmas land on our roof. Maybe I was delusional given that Mum had prescribed a dose of Aspirin to calm me. The blood loss from a bleeding stomach contributed to my delirious state. Indeed, I could hear Santa’s words as he assembled our toys at the base of the Christmas Tree … “..fucked up bloody thing never come down...”. Santa sounded cross. That’s no surprise with all those toys to deliver at such short notice.
We’d be out of bed at 5 am - run downstairs full of expectation to receive the perfect gift for the season of love and peace - a Johnny Seven gun. It had a pistol, a rifle, a grenade launcher, plus an armour piecing shell. With all that Baby Jesus could rule the world.
Later on comes purgatory. We’re forced to visit the grandparents, Stan and Phillis. This annual pilgrimage to the house of silent tension is in sufferance. We put on our best clothes, behave and don’t touch the ornaments. They made us welcome with “Eat the raisins, not just the nuts”.
The only saving grace was her trifle. A layered delight of custard, strawberries, cream and enough sugar to cause diabetic shock. It’s the reason we tolerated the whole painful saga. They also had a colour TV before anyone else, so that compensated a bit. Come on; this was before video games or the Internet. Our world was black and white.
If you want to understand Christmas, forget the whole Christian narrative. These days it’s moved beyond that. How else do you explain that Taoists and affirmed Buddhists are getting in on the act here in Hong Kong? Of course, there is the commercial side as manufacturers and marketers work with relentless energy to move their stuff.
Advertising kicks into overdrive as we're assailed by the latest must-have gadget or unique item. Much of it gets forgotten or put aside within days. In the UK an estimated £355 million worth of unwanted Christmas gifts were returned in 2016. Add to that the staggering 74 million minced pies that end up in landfills. Christmas is starting to look like an ecological disaster.
Research indicates that as many as 20% of folks find Christmas overwhelming. The compulsory need to be jolly and take part in every aspect of Christmas sometimes is draining. The overspending, anxiety over gift giving and family tensions can all boil over. A 'Facetime' Christmas may be the answer.
So what’s the point? In answer to the question, you have time to reflect. The passing of the seasons, the onward motion of life paused for a moment. I’m spending my festive season with the wife, daughters and one farting dog. I’ll get a bottle of single malt, watch ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ on a loop. There is an eternal joy in being with family. I love Christmas.
May your God be with you, but more importantly your family. Did I mention I’ll be getting a decent single malt?
Here’s the latest instalment in my series on Britain’s steady journey down the rabbit hole. Forget the Brexit nonsense, the real erosion of Britain’s freedoms is from within as an insidious minority propagates its agenda, seizing control of the debate space.
In 2019 we can expect reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. This move will allow folks to self-identify as a man or woman. Transgender people have a rough time; thus any measures that ease their troubles are welcome. Except for the elephant in the room. That elephant is a predatory bloke called "Brenda" who identifies as a woman to gain access to female changing rooms, etc.
These are not made-up concerns or some transphobic fantasy. It has happened already. Feminists and others who raise concerns about biological males in all-female facilities face an onslaught from the radical trans-rights activists. In some ways, the feminists are getting a bit of their own medicine. They promoted their cause by direct-action. The trans-right activists adopted the feminist playbook, polished the tactics and took it to a new level. Hoisted by your own petard.
Nonetheless, it's a genuine concern. Many brave ladies have come forward to voice their worries of a threat to their safety. In turn, each gets assailed as transphobic when they're only seeking to protect women and girls. Others are then afraid to speak out. A militant minority dominate the conversation, giving a false impression they enjoy broad support. The silent majority sit sullenly.
The relentless attack on freedom of speech compounds this unfolding mess. Meanwhile, the Police enforce ‘thought control’ rather than dealing with real crime. It's all very 1984. If you are a victim of an assault you think has been directed at you because you are a member of a legally privileged group, your testimony is enough to classify the attack as a hate crime.
The operational guidance for police forces spells it out: “For recording purposes, the perception of the victim, or any other person, is the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate incident… The victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief, and police officers or staff should not directly challenge this perception. Evidence of hostility is not required for an incident or crime to be recorded as a hate crime.”
Thus no tangible evidence is needed. Feelings are the only factor. We seem to be moving towards the situation in which we can turn every wrong we suffer into an expression of hatred. If you report a burglary, the cops come looking for signs of a break-in and that something was stolen. For hate crime, it’s all about feelings. No wonder the police can assert reported hate crimes have surged. Bonkers!
In one incident an upset father called police after his daughter lost a tennis match to complain the defeat was due to a racist umpire. The police log stated “Informant feels his daughter was subjected to racial discrimination at a tennis match where line calls went against her."
Elsewhere, Lady Warsi, a Conservative peer, is keen to get as much top cover for her constituency as possible. She recently pushed for an all-embracing definition of Islamophobia under the law. Her proposal would criminalise any criticism of Islam. After the mass rape of white girls by Muslim gangs, it seems Lady Warsi is keen to shut down any further adverse comment.
This lady has a track record of craziness. In 2005, her homophobic attitudes leaked out. She then resigned from David Cameron's government over its approach to Israel. Her antisemitic opinions came to the fore, although she'd deny it. Fortunate that she’s failed, as her definition faced robust opposition from more sensible folks. There is hope.
Meanwhile, on the campuses, things are going from bad to worst. The University of London is doing its bit to ensure students are not offended or exposed to anything upsetting. Comedians booked to perform need to sign a 'behavioural' agreement. Performers must agree to a no-tolerance policy; no racism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia or anti-religion or anti-atheism. That’s quite a list.
Can they discuss the weather? Possibility not because if its cold and that affects the old, then ageism comes in to play. Must be fun at their comedy nights.
Let's remember what comedians do. They play with ideas; they challenge norms by showing the absurdity of situations. That sometimes leads to a higher truth and other times it’s funny. Is that too much for the students? Probably not, as worst gets said behind closed doors. The reality here is all about a minority signalling their wokeness. Most students are mature enough to make their own decisions.
The determination to shut down free speech is all pervasive. The middle-class Marxists from the social sciences only allow a single narrative. Students taking proper degrees in physics, maths and the likes of chemistry are too busy with actual study for this nonsense. The kids in the soft degrees, where empirical evidence is not a prerequisite, don’t need to study. Thus, they can have fun.
In 2017, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust conducted a free speech ranking of UK universities. Of 115 colleges, 62 were hostile to free speech or had policies to shut it down. While 46 colleges adopted a regime that 'chilled' freedom of speech: only seven had hands-off policies.
The Education (No. 2) Act 1986 requires that universities take reasonable steps to secure freedom of speech within the law for staff, students and visiting speakers. That’s not happening. It only remains for academic leaders to cower in surrender for the radicals to dictate what's heard on campus.
It's laughable that the UK points its finger at China asserting that free speech is under threat. The real challenge is on your ground.
“Population Explosion” scream the headlines. “Too many people are overburdening the planet, and we are heading for disaster.” That’s the dominant narrative: environmentalists, politicians and every ‘Johnny with a cause’ spout this line. After all the United Nations told us on 31 October 2011, the planet was home to seven billion people. That’s up from 1.6 billion in 1900. We need to get a grip and sort this out.
Poverty, pollution, instability and wars are all blamed on overpopulation. The ‘save the planet’ crowd allied to the ‘global warming pundits’ are the most vocal. Brandishing their data on power-points, they make a grand living jetting about telling us how to conduct our lives. The problem is these folks are wrong about population growth. Here’s why.
For most of recorded history, and as far as we can tell, the human population growth rate per annum was less than one per cent. I know the data is dodgy the further back we go, but that’s not a significant concern. It's modern trends we need to consider.
After World War I, fertility rates (how many children each woman has) went up. The population growth rates climbed to reach about four per cent in 1970. Only the great Chinese famine and World War II saw temporary downward moves. It’s important to understand that a two per cent annual increase in population compounds to give a doubling every 35 years.
The growth we’ve seen over the past 100 odd years is rapid and unprecedented. Moreover, in case you hadn’t noticed its stopped. The data is clear. The worldwide population birth rate peaked around 1990. It’s now going down.
Wait a minute I hear you cry! Why is the population of the world still increasing when births are falling? The answer is simple. Deliveries don't cause the continued growth, but a lack of deaths. People are living longer. At the same time, children are surviving childbirth and the delicate infant years. All these combine to keep the population up for the time being.
Forecasters observe counter-intuitive factors that have a bearing on how the numbers may change. For example, birth rates are higher when child death rates are higher. This applies to rich and developing countries. Added to that is wars, famine and epidemics spur greater population growth in the longer term. This phenomenon appears to function to ensure the species survives. Thus, if we can prevent and avoid disasters, we help stabilise the number of children born. That’s already happening.
Anti-malaria campaigns have prevented an estimated 6.5 million deaths, many of these are children. When fewer children die, parents have less compunction to add more children. Today 100 countries have eliminated malaria. In turn, this led to a corresponding drop in fertility rates. It’s as if that anti-malaria net you sponsored is a secondary birth control device. Don’t tell the Catholic Church.
To sustain a population, as a rough figure, each woman needs to give birth to 2.1 children. That’s assuming no flu epidemic or war comes along to wipe out millions. Once again, because of compounding, even small changes in fertility or death rates cause big swings in population numbers.
Forecasting is a tricky business because it involves a degree of subjectivity and making a few assumptions. Also in play are external factors. Singapore as a new nation in the 1970s wanted to understand and plan for its projected population. The demography guys got to work to predict 80,000 births a year by 2000. The reality was 38,000. Policymakers struggled to recognise that the models used to predict future numbers are weak at best and misleading at worst. No one understood that as society evolved upward, then fertility declined. That’s now obvious.
There is some data we can rely on, and it points to trends that are likely; not certain, but likely. In 1960 the average was five children per woman worldwide. These days that’s fallen to 2.5 children per woman, and the trend line appears to continue on a downward trek. While some nations have seen rises in fertility rates, this comes from new young migrants having kids. These changes are not intrinsic to the country nor sustained.
The scientists agree that the population explosion has fizzled out in the rich and developing countries. Moreover, the evidence suggests the population will either stabilise or decline.
Already we see the signs. Major urban centres such as Liverpool, Glasgow, Rostock and Detroit are experiencing de-population. These cities relied on migration to sustain their numbers. As this dries up, the life-blood ebbs from the city. We can expect more of this if the fertility rates continue to fall.
We can point to factors causing the fall in fertility. Female empowerment through the pill, better education, economic influences and culture all play a part.
The consequence of fewer people is a double-edged sword. Some are pessimistic, yet there is an optimistic side. Indeed, it should reduce the pressure on the resources of the planet assuming we don’t use more stuff. But, many of our current economic models work on growth in numbers and consumption. That will need to change. Further, it is not fewer people but also more people living longer.
The rich western nations currently moving towards curtailing migration may have to change course. With shrinking populations, who will do the menial jobs and staff the old folks homes? Who will run the hospitals? Food for thought.
As I’ve shown forecasting is a tricky business. The best data we have indicates that by 2100 we may see the population of the world peak at around 10 billion. After that, a decline may set in, although how far it goes is anyone’s guess. However, with low rates of childbirth, the population drops to 6.2 billion and keeps moving downward.
Of course, we could be completely wrong. All those ladies pushing dogs around in prams may suddenly switch track and get a boyfriend. Then all bets are off. Still, my hunch is dog pram makers have an excellent future.
I recently gained access to a declassified ‘Top Secret’ paper detailing the probable nuclear targets for the Soviet Union in the United Kingdom. The 1972 assessment is chilling reading. As a kid, I fretted over a nuclear war especially after watching the movie ‘The War Game’. And yet nothing can prepare you for what these papers stated may happen.
The Soviet approach called for an ‘overkill’ strike with an overwhelming crippling attack. Submarine's start the onslaught, giving little warning. A salvo of land-based ballistic missiles follows.
The British planners anticipated an initial strike of 150 nuclear warheads on UK targets. These are a mix of airburst and ground attacks in the range of two to five megatons. Before this hell rains down, a series of high-yield airburst in the upper atmosphere knocks out all communications and unshielded electronic kit. The national grid fails. Telephone systems stop, as would water pumping. Hospitals grind to a halt, factories shut-down, and food distribution ends.
In the modern context, all the computers that run our daily existence go down in an instant. You can’t move, access money or do anything. Suddenly you are back in the dark ages, without the skill-set for that time. Meanwhile, if they’d had a warning, most of the government are deep underground
Military targets face an onslaught of multiple ground bursts aimed at taking out underground structures. Meanwhile, all primary and secondary urban centres could expect airbursts in the two to five megatons range.
Using the data in the report and this modelling tool, I’ve assessed the impact on my 1972 location. At that time I lived on the north-eastern side of Hull. What I didn’t realise is number of missiles heading my way.
The tool asks users to choose the target, megatonnage and whether the blast takes place at the surface or in the air. A surface blast aims at bunkers below ground, and the radiation fallout is more significant. An explosion in the air affects a larger geographic area.
Some 25 km to the east of my 1972 home is Patrington, a quiet market town on the plain of Holderness. It's low rural country that hides a secret. Buried deep under the fertile fields is the RAF’s primary underground radar facility. Designated RAF Bempton, the planners, expected this to get hit in the first wave with at least two ground bursts in the two to five megaton range. Modelling a hit by Soviet SS 4 missile with a yield of 2.4 megatons, the devastation is as follows.
With a sparse population, the initial death toll is an estimated 8,900, although 68,200 would sustain life-threatening injuries. The blast would reach the eastern edge of Hull 20 km away smashing windows and bring down weaker structures. Adjacent villages burst into flames.
A hit on Patrington would ignite fires in the massive petrochemical facilities at Immingham and Saltend. Without the power to pump water, these fires burn unchecked.
Ground bursts produce more fallout as the debris goes skyward. With the prevailing west wind, this drifts out over the North Sea towards Holland.
Simultaneously Hull receives an airburst over the docks. Again assuming an SS 4 missile with a 2.4 megaton warhead, then 213,800 die instantly, and 121,300 sustain serious injuries. The city centre and its surroundings are flattened, while the damage reaches as far as Beverley.
Other potential targets in the vicinity are York, RAF Leconfield near Beverley and RAF Staxton Wold above Bridlington. Even if you survived the initial explosions, the winds carry radiation from targets to the west. Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool are all on the list.
Further south, London is a special target. The horror visited on the capital is beyond words. At least three air-bursts and four ground-bursts ignite everything from Basildon to Slough. Calculating the damage is dependent on many variables. These include the height of weapon detonation, time of day and weather.
Yet, it’s safe to say that at least four million Londoners perish in the initial fireballs. Another six million will die within days from burns, impact injuries and lack of primary medical care.
Hospitals, schools, homes, police stations - all gone. The very architecture of our current existence smashed and burned. We’re back to the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The scramble for food and water will consume us. Besides the physical injuries, the psychological impact is unfathomable.
We revert to base instincts, stripping away the veneer of humanity and civilisation. I recall Mr Howes my English teacher at junior school asserting he’d want to go in the first flash. At the time I didn’t comprehend his sentiment. Now I embrace it.
The scenario envisaged in the paper sees a complete collapse of UK's infrastructure. It heralds deprivations on a massive scale for decades. Those incinerated are the lucky ones. Survivors hang on to a subsistence existence in a highly irradiated environment. The Royal United Services Institute asserts the result of nuclear war would be so devastating that there is no way of facilitating a humanitarian response. In short, it’s back to the dark ages.
It didn't happen, but the threat is still there. If it happens, the survivors will envy the dead. Have a nice day.
My regular readers will be aware that I am not enamoured with Brian. Next week, the man on the world's longest apprenticeship turns 70. This birthday is the trigger for an outpouring of publicity to support his rise to the throne. His PR machine is going into overdrive, with gushing pieces in such places as Hello and Now magazines. Even the republican Guardian is getting involved.
In the process, we get action man Brian, then academic Brian and family man Brian. Photographs of his days in the Royal Navy and the RAF abound. Next, he’s wearing gowns and standing among a collection of books - some of which he may have coloured in. Finally, we get Brian the father, grandfather and kindly uncle. He’s even riding the coattails of his son’s family to burnish his image.
Of course, we don’t get Brian the philander nor Brian the slightly odd bloke who has wacky ideas. Nor are we treated to hypocrite Brian; the man who lectures us about the environment while residing in many homes and jetting about in planes. Lastly, completely missed out is the great thinker Brian. Well, that’s because he’s not.
But, he's a confident sort. “The young have ideas above their station” he mused “because they are taught they can all be pop stars or High Court Judges or TV presenters, even heads of state, without putting in the necessary work”. Wow. You need to savour that, roll it around in your head and contemplate the full meaning.
Remember it comes from a man handed his title on a plate - who will be head of state because he came down a specific vagina. That’s his only qualification for the job. Nothing else matters. Reflecting on the Hong Kong handover ceremony, he observed the Chinese leadership looked like waxworks. Has he ever taken the time to peer around at his own family? The self-awareness gene is missing in the man.
His consort, Fag Ash Lil has grown on me. You sense that she’s more grounded which brings us to the elephant in the room. In all the publicity, there is no mention of Princess Diana of Harrods. Airbrushed from history Soviet style.
The most striking and problematic aspect of this choreographed effort is its sheer falsehood. The PR gurus have gone to considerable effort to spin a sanitised version of Brian’s history. It's fortunate a majority of the public have not forgotten the massive blots on his record.
His poor choice in brides and potty ideas are not my most significant concern. Instead, it's the evidence pointing to Brian being a somewhat different monarch from his Mum. She played the part to perfection — the mystery and aloofness delivered in equal measure. It’s argued she only put a foot wrong once. That was over the whole Diana saga and remaining in Scotland when the nation wanted her in London. Indeed, that’s the conventional narrative. The truth of it we may never know.
Unfortunately, all the evidence points to Brian being an ‘activist’ King. And that could bring the whole show crashing down around his rather large ears. As Walter Bagehot, the essayist pointed out some years ago.
"If the sovereign be able to play the part of that thoroughly intelligent but perfectly disinterested spectator who is so prominent in the works of certain moralists, he may be able to choose better for his subjects than they would choose for themselves."
As Bagehot asserted “The sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights — the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn. And a king of great sense and sagacity would want no others. He would find that his having no others would enable him to use these with singular effect.’
Therein lies the rub. Brian has already proven himself a player and no disinterested spectator. His attempts to interfere in politics are legendary. His memorandum to ministers reveals he sought to influence policy in support of his pet causes. Margaret Thatcher complained to him and the palace about his interference. “I run this country, not you, sir,” Thatcher is alleged to have told him.
He has repeatedly made known that he despises science. This view is odd for a man who relies on so many of its innovations to do his work. He has in the past described the scientific worldview as an insult to ‘sacred traditions.’ Is that why he supported a mosque in North London that acted as an incubator to Islamic terrorists.
Richard Reid the shoe bomber, Abu Hamza al-Masri and others used this facility. Brian acted as patron. He’s never accounted for that except to say he wants to be the defender of all faiths. Does that include those faiths that bring terror to British streets?
It appears this arrogant and absurd man does not fool the savvy British public. The data is damning. His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, K.G., K.T., G.C.B., O.M., A.K., Q.S.O., P.C., A.D.C., Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, is an unpopular man.
A 2018 YouGov poll places Brian as the seventh most popular royal. He sits behind the Duchess of Sussex, who joined the royal family a matter of months ago. His numbers are low.
Then you have polls showing that some 54 per cent of Britons would prefer Prince William as King over Brian. It’s not pleasant reading for the man.
Plus, don’t forget that the British throne extends to 16 countries. Some of these states may consider abolishing the monarchy after the Queen’s death. Polls suggest several will go that route.
His assertions that he won’t be a meddling King ring hollow. The man appears incapable of constraining himself. The only saving grace in all this is that Brian’s reign is unlikely to be as long as his mothers. Thus, time may limit the damage he does. In the meantime, he’d do well to take the sage advice of a Yorkshire farmer pontificating on the subject. “Do your duty lad and shut your gob!”
I’ll leave the final words to Bagehot "The benefits of a good monarch are almost invaluable, but the evils of a bad monarch are almost irreparable."
On the morning of November 7th, a woman police officer attached to the Police Tactical Unit faced a 55-year-old man brandishing a knife on a busy MTR concourse. The male, surnamed Chow, was stopped for questioning. He pulled the knife from his bag and lunged at the officer. She issued a warning to drop the knife. Her colleague also issued a warning. Both warnings went ignored. Chow continued to advance on the officer waving his knife. The officer then opened fire with a single shot. Chow collapsed with a gunshot wound.
This sequence of events comes from media reports. I’m told that CCTV coverage of the incident affirms the story. If true, this is a textbook example of how officers should respond. Legally and morally the officer is justified in her actions.
I carried a gun on duty for 34 years. Had a culprit done this to me I'd have no hesitation opening fire. I owe that to my family, the public and my colleagues.
Chow remains in hospital. And surprise surprise, media reports say he has a criminal conviction for assaulting police officers. Thus his attack would appear to be part of a pattern of behaviour.
None of this stopped a legion of Monday morning quarterbacks, armchair warriors and self-serving politicians from heaping bile on the WPC and the Police Force. It’s as if they’d rather see an officer dead or injured than the commendable outcome of this case.
To his great credit, the Commissioner of Police has come out in complete support of the officer. And so he should. Other senior officers have, likewise, shown unwavering backing to this brave young lady.
Leading the charge of criticism is a legislator, James To Kun-san, a so-called democrat. Listening to Mr To you’d think he was an expert in unarmed combat, firearms and the use of force. Except he’s not. He’s a pudgy, stumbling figure and an opportunist grandstanding little-man. He is also a lawyer, yet he appears to have no respect for evidence nor due process.
A chorus of unjustified and fabricated denunciations came out about this incident. It’s disgusting to watch that those leading this are members of the legal fraternity. You’d think they’d have the common decency to await the official enquiry. At least take heed of the compelling evidence already available. Unfortunately, our so-called democrat politicians lost their collective decency some time ago. The only truth for them is their distorted opinions.
It's evident that Mr To desires to politicise the incident. Ever since the failed Occupy movement, he and his cohort have taken every opportunity to badmouth Hong Kong, and it’s Police Force.
Mr To fronted Chow’s family in a press conference. The family appeared with their faces hidden behind masks. Why? One can only speculate. They went on say it was normal for their renovation worker father to be carrying a knife. Well, yes I’m sure it was. But it’s not normal when stopped by the police to pull that knife out and threaten the officers.
The armchair critics are having a field day suggesting that the officer should have used a baton or pepper spray. These assertions are nonsense. Officers have seconds to react or face possible death. A generation brought up on video games and movies has no concept of how to tackle real violence. Many of their comments and observations reveal a profound ignorance. Take a look at these clips; the reality of knife attacks and knife vs handgun.
Likewise, it is suggested officers carry Tasers. Again, the lack of knowledge and understanding is breathtaking. Tasers don’t always work, and indeed, when someone is wearing a heavy jacket, the Taser can prove useless.
As regards the suggestion the WPC was reckless to open fire on a crowded MTR concourse. That view ignores her training, the assessment she made and the fact that she executed the shot with precision.
The scenario that unfolded on November 7 appears very like an incident that occurred in July 2005. It would be useful to remind Mr To what happened on that occasion. On that day, Constable Chu Chun-kwok, stopped a 30-year-old man acting suspiciously in the street. The man suddenly produced a small fruit knife and slashed the officer’s throat. Constable Chu chased the man for about 20 metres with blood spraying from his wound before collapsing. Later the culprit was arrested. He claimed he’d panicked.
Constable Chu remains bedridden to this day. Is that the outcome Mr To and Democrats would have preferred for this officer? Instead, she went home safe to her family. Meanwhile, a convicted criminal with a track record of attacking officers remains in hospital. That for me is a fair outcome.
If the version of events portrayed so far proves true, then the officer deserves our praise. Any reasonable person viewing the facts would concur. Of course, many see matters through their distorted prism and are unlikely to change course.
Mr To claims himself a Christian. It’s not Christian to condemn someone for seeking to protect the sanctity of life. If I were a believer, I’d assert a fiery afterlife awaits Mr To. Meanwhile, he's judged for his deceit in this life. Also, Mr To is not worthy of the protection that Hong Kong police officers provide him.
Lastly, a misquote from a movie. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain matters to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very protection that this officer provides, and then questions the manner in which its provided! I would rather you said "thank you" and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest Mr To you pick up a weapon and stand a post.
The old guard of liberal-centralist politicians in Europe and the US are struggling. They can't understand the world that they helped create. Hillary Clinton continues to rake over the coals of a failed attempt at the US presidency. It's evident from her recent remarks that she still doesn't grasp why the US electorate didn’t vote her to the office. Yes, I know Hillary won the popular vote. That's not the point; she lost the election.
Meanwhile, her kindred spirit Tony Blair is continuing his campaign to derail Brexit. For Tony, the messiah complex overrides rationality. Why express surprise that Blair engages in an activity that seeks to undermine the democratic will of the people. After all, this is the man who maintained deceit throughout his entire time in office. Then with a concocted litany of lies brought on the untold slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people.
I disagree with Brexit. Nonetheless, the majority voted for it, and that’s the deal you get with democracy. Although, Brexit is not proving to be Brexit. That’s another matter
Left unaddressed, the rise of anti-immigrant, anti-internationalist sentiment, which has shifted the political balance within Europe, could have grave consequences. Clinton has finally woken up to that fact.
In a spasm of concern, the Guardian newspaper is running a series of articles that seek to understand why people have rejected the centralist-liberal agenda. They’re also somewhat lost because their grand dominant narrative is no longer so grand nor commanding. The voters have taken a different tack.
As usual, the media is seeking to label the phenomena. They have to give it a definition, and then you can deconstruct it. Populism is the word all the journalists and academics are struggling to tie down. As far back as 1969, academics at the London School of Economics saw populism as an evil spectre haunting the earth. The only problem is no one can agree what exactly is populism.
Even after loads of study, relentless discussion, the academics remain baffled. Of course, why bother with a definition. To me populism is pure; it's the people exercising their democratic right to take things in a different direction. The fact that people are angry with the elites and prepared to speak out is not something that should be a concern. We should embrace that.
Except that our friends in the Guardian appear anxious at the increasingly illiberal masses and the views that they are expressing. Well, who's to blame for that?
Let's review the broad sweep of political history over the past three decades. For starters, capitalism has stalled for a fair number of people. It’s not producing the benefits it promised as wages are stagnant and housing unaffordable.
Then we're led to war by falsehoods. The invasion of Iraq and the later geopolitical mayhem was all for nothing. As he seeks to shore up his collapsing legacy, Tony Blair talks about bringing down an evil dictator. Meanwhile, he earns a crust these days working for other dictators. Plus, there are many dictators out there that our Tony ignored or did business with. The public was misled, the soldiers paid the price, and the people of Iraq are still suffering.
Next, we have the financial crash of 2007/2008, which started in the US and spread its contagion across the planet. In this jolly little episode, the poor folks are paying for the lack of regulation. Meanwhile, the big guys with the money, the very people who caused the crash, walked away with their pockets lined. All this sanctioned by their political friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Let’s remember that Hillary took vast sums from the folks who caused the crash.
Tony Blair also needs to be accountable for his covert immigration policy that opened the UK door to anybody who wished to enter. This policy, coupled with the later manufactured refugee crisis, has had a disastrous impact across Europe. Media images of refugees struggling to cross the Mediterranean stoke public sympathy. When children are involved, it's heartbreaking. Yet, the truth of the situation is more complicated. Many, if not most of these so-called refugees are economic migrants.
It’s worth pondering the question why is this now unfolding across the whole of Europe. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open the doors to refugees from Syria triggered a crisis within the EU. This move sparked the rise of the anti-immigrant groups. She justified her decision in principled terms against the backdrop of Germany’s history. But does that mean all Europe must atone for the errors of the past to subvert its culture by allowing the world to enter unchecked?
Meanwhile, our virtue signalling celebrities don't miss an opportunity to tell us what to do. Harry Potter’s mum J.K. Rowlings, Saint Bob of the Geldof, Gary Lineker, Emma Thomson plus assorted other super-rich folks encouraged the UK to take in more migrants. But wait a minute. Rowling’s has three huge estates and loads of land as her disposal. And the number of refugees she’s taken in is zero.
None of these self-important, well-heeled lovvies has stepped forward to accommodate anyone in their plush homes. Instead, the so-called refugees get dumped amongst the most depressed communities. There they over-burden already stretched public services to inflame sentiments. So Hampstead and Kensington are off the list, but not Rotherham and Luton.
Of course, mass immigration raises cultural and security concerns as well as fears of economic displacement. If you raise any heckles about this you are immediately smeared with the racist or even Nazi label. Hence the relentless media trope that populism is the rise of the far-right. The constant frivolous use of the racist label only serves to marginalise people and build the walls of polarisation.
The media have a defence. After all, they say, these populists are angry, frustrated and resentful types. But, they forget that the same is said of most left-wing groups and the various tribes of SJWs. I’ll grants you that populism is an anti-elitist set of views. And in that sense, it’s no different from the left.
So while poor Hillary and Tony fret, the people have spoken by rejecting their narrative. Fed up with deceit and outright lies, the ‘basket of deplorables' have said: “Sod you”. Polarisation and fragmentation are the new norms. People are seeking to protect what they have. They play identity politics and dig in. What Hillary and Tony can't get their heads around is that their policies planted the seeds that gave rise to the current state of affairs.
Unless the media and the liberal elites drop their relentless labelling and attacks against anyone who questions their agenda, nothing will change. Only one thing is certain; the finger pointing will continue.
Yesterday was international men's day. Also, in an unfortunate confluence of events, it was international toilet day. I wonder if these two celebrations are connected. Indeed, the radical feminists would like to see men flushed down the toilet. They talk of ‘toxic masculinity’ - watch this to hear true toxicity.
Unfortunately, their agenda is now reaching into UK education policy to deny boys support. Motivated by perverted revenge, the radical feminists are pushing their beliefs too far. This is horrifying.
We shouldn't be surprised by this sort of thing. For years the victimhood feminists have spread their bile and hate-ladened agenda. They've relentlessly worked the media. To them, all men are brutes and rapists. While all women are victims. In their distorted minds, masculinity should be criminalised as a threat.
Separate train carriages and women only public spaces are the demands. Rather than recognising the danger to them as a policing issue, they leap instead to labelling. Every husband, boyfriend, grandfather, boy and uncle is a suspect. Instead of calling upon the vast majority of decent men to protect them, they’d exclude all males.
Of course, the hard data blows the feminist case out the water. Assertions that all men are culprits and not victims is a blatant lie. For starters, estimates suggest that 40% of domestic violence is against men. Much of this under-reported violence lays hidden because men feel a social stigma. The data also shows that women are much less likely to face criminal charges for assaulting their partners. So much for always being the victims.
There also exists a massive under-reported mental health problem amongst men. Each day in the UK 12 men take their own lives. Seven out of ten murder victims are men and 90% of street sleepers are men. A staggering 95% of the prison population is male. Plus, men are a lot less likely to access psychological therapies than women.
Across many jurisdictions, family courts operate in favour of women, and against men. A study in the USA found most attorneys (94% of male and 84% of female attorneys) said that judges exhibited prejudice against fathers. In the vast majority of cases, women get custody of the children in a process that sidelines dads.
By driving men out of families, something the radical feminist seek, they perpetuate a circle of trouble. Again, the science is irrefutable. Boys growing up without a male figure are more resentful, angry, lack motivation and are underachievers. These boys as young men join gangs, engage in substance abuse and drift from crisis to crisis.
I see part of the problem as how the whole gender argument has played out. The prevailing radical feminist belief is that by socialising boys as girls, you can suppress their masculinity. The result is a softer man. This postmodern nonsense has no basis in fact, and the outcomes are counter to expectations. Anyway, the research is in. Gender is not a social construct. Social factors may have an influence, but we remain hardwired to a specific gender. Thus forcing boys to play with dolls is bullshit.
Layered atop this is the false premise of a male patriarchy dominating world affairs to the disadvantage and suppression of women. I wish someone had told Tina Atkinson this as she beat up boys at my secondary school. Apparently, she didn’t get the memo nor did my mum or sister. This insulting idea does nothing but downgrade women through a claptrap theory of no merit.
These radical feminists ignore history, biology and a great deal of research. This stuff proves societies need ‘masculine’ men, not pseudo-men assigned their behaviours by women. When the wolf is at the door, it's the males who normally step up. That's when the masculinity comes into play. That, and getting spiders out of the bath.
The desire to see boys succeed is just not there. One British education advocate recently stated, “People do feel cautious about men and boys because it is seen as speaking up on behalf of a privileged class." Or is it the case that the female-dominated education sector doesn't allow it?
How many men are working in UK primary schools? Only 15% of primary school teachers are male, and that number is falling. Thus, those essential male role models are not there. Kids are being denied the opportunity to witness men and women interacting in positive ways.
Then there is a whole raft of studies to show that teachers inflate the grades of girls. This is attributed to girls being better behaved in class with teachers rewarding them. How does this play out in the real world, when employers discover that these girls are not as capable as their grades suggest? This sort of thing devalues women and is unfair to men.
It's also notable that the radical feminists steer well clear of certain subjects. For instance, I don’t recall them gathering in Rotherham to protest the rape of white girls by British-Pakistani men. Nor did they front up on the TV discussion shows to raise cries in pain for these poor white girls. I can think of no other example of genuine rape culture. And yet the feminists got their knickers in a twist because some Hollywood celebrity had her naked photographs hacked. Their silence about Rotherham, Telford and elsewhere exposes deceit. For them, only white men should be held to account.
I doubt many hard-line feminists drop in here to catch up on what a white middle-aged man is thinking. On the odd chance they do, here’s a suggestion. Something has upset you, and I feel sorry you carry around such nonsense in your heads. Please give us a break from your doctrine. Go away to educate yourself by studying the peer-reviewed evidence. And stop talking about men as the enemy of women. As a husband, as a father and as a son, I don’t recognise the basis for that statement. It’s insulting to the many women and men who function to raise a family.
I’ve been trying to draft this blog all weekend. Things are moving so fast it’s out of date ten minutes after I settle on it. I hack my way through the thicket of detail, then something else pops up. With such a febrile atmosphere, I can't keep up. What a cluster!!
The title of this piece has changed several times. I was going with ‘The longest suicide note in history’ or ‘Hotel California - you can check out, but you’ll never leave.’ I guess ‘Mayhem’ sums it up.
Do I have to ask - was it worth it? Is that the best that she could get after all this back and forth? Let’s be honest; the Brexit deal is no deal. It’s not even a fudge. Instead, it's a mix of half-measures and kicking 'the-can-down-the-road'. While Mrs May has gained grudging respect for her tenacity, an enormous challenge lies ahead.
The European Research Group, a pro-Brexit entity, gives its assessment here. It’s a neat summary that makes the point why the deal won’t go through.
The EU won’t budge either, and they smell blood. After all, the UK started this nonsense, so why should they give in? If I were them, I’d sit tight to watch the UK implode. All the bile and rhetoric thrown their way counts for nothing because Britain is a deeply divided nation. Soon it may be asking to hold everything in abeyance.
All these shenanigans have exposed the complete ineptitude and weakness of the current crop of politicians. The Tory boys are not prepared to bite the bullet and dethrone Mrs May. Instead, they snipe from the sidelines, play petty games while refusing to join the race. Anyway, millionaires Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson will not suffer too much if the economy collapses. Their behaviour is nothing short of deceitful.
On the other side of the house, I have no idea what is the Labour Party’s position on Brexit. Of course, Jeremy Corbyn is taking the opportunity to attack Mrs May from every angle. And yet, we do not know what he would do differently. It's fair that he will seek the advantage and you can't fault him for that. Yet, at some point, he must tell the country what he would do. We wait with bated breath.
So where do we go from here? I suspect the endless round of debating and political infighting will continue. There’s no end in sight.
I’m not going to predict Mrs May’s future. She’s confounded all the pundits. She's fighting her corner with a tenacity that is beyond my expectations. Let us remember she's a diabetic with a punishing workload. Place stress atop that, and you've got to admire her fortitude.
The great British public can complain all they like. As they look around for a culprit to blame, then turn to the mirror. The failure to engage and understand the ramifications of the Brexit decision is shocking. At times it seems for the majority of the public, soap operas or the life of some minor celebrity is all that matters. Everyone knows the winner of the Great British Bake Off. How many understand the details of Brexit? They can tell you who is leading on Britain's Got Talent, but how many can name the leader of the Liberal party? The politicians thrive on this ignorance.
It's often said that Britain lost its way after the Suez crisis. That may be. Yet, it's possible to make an argument the nation lost its mind in the trivialities of celebrity culture and social media. Can the British people continue to dodge the consequences of their actions?
At breakfast this morning in Shanghai, a Chinese student offered his insights. I summarise his thoughts ... “The UK economy will stall, social-order will erode, and you gain nothing from this endless polarisation of your society. Taking charge of a decaying edifice is no prize. How desirable is your democracy now?” He has a point. As the knife-crime cull of youth continues on the streets of London and lines lengthen at food banks, how is it looking? Pretty grim.
Have we reached peak stupid yet? Probably not. If Mrs May falls, the UK is heading for the cliff. A delay in Brexit will be necessary, if the EU agrees. If not, the UK may crash out. That will be interesting to watch.
One positive effect of Trump is that he’s energised the electors to come out to vote. The recent mid-terms saw the most massive turnout in 50 years. That’s a positive. Perhaps the British public can wake up instead of wallowing in TV tripe.
This week is going to be make or break. It takes a brave soul to predict an outcome. I'm not even going there.
You’ve got to laugh. This week Hong Kong took another lashing at the United Nations Human Rights Council. I laugh because I can make a persuasive argument that we enjoy the highest levels of human rights in the world. And yet, if you believed the activists, who deliver their opinion-heavy verdicts, you’d think we lived in a Gulag.
It’s the usual crowd of naysayers. A convicted criminal, self-appointed guardians and a few agenda-driven types. None of them stands-up when exposed to scrutiny. Please don't apply the term ‘independent or balanced’ to this motley crew. Behind their overblown prominence is a false idea that these groups are representative.
Human Rights Monitor illustrates the point. This group sometimes appears at demonstrations with the protestors. Then when it suits, they switch to a monitoring role. Its members don reflective vests as if this confers upon them some special status or power. They then wander around monitoring the police. I’ve yet to see them criticise the actions of violent protesters or defend the human rights of the cops. In their world rights only flow one way.
Human Rights Monitor comes with particular political point of view. There is nothing wrong with that. Except that it's never mentioned when appearing on the international stage asserting their ‘independent’ opinion.
Even the worst aspects of the criticism that these groups level at Hong Kong look trivial when compared with what’s going on elsewhere. Fair enough, bring up your concerns but get a sense of proportion. To me, there is a depressing absence of rationality as ‘human rights’ is pursued by these zealots as dogma. We all know where doctrine leads.
The UN Council itself is hardly above criticism. In the past, its hosted known terrorists and displayed a biased attitude in its reports. It’s not the court of final appeal on human rights. With no monopoly on deciding standards, it’s a talk-shop, where allegations are made without much substantiation. At least this week it had enough sense not to have its findings dictated by Joshua Wong (yes, he of the hunger-strike between meals fame). Young Joshua wants to appropriate the UN Council’s report for his purposes. His rejected attempt caused the usual hissy fit.
You will hear that many of the Hong Kong activists aspire to the US as their model of a free society. This is in part because of ignorance. Most have never lived in the US, nor experienced the reality of life there. Don’t get me wrong, the US has much going for it, but it’s not the nirvana they seek.
On a practical level, if Joshua Wong conducted himself in the US as he did in Hong Kong in 2014, he’d likely suffer a bruising experience. I was there and up close when the NYPD was dealing with the aftermath of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park. It wasn’t pretty. Compared to the NYPD, the measured Hong Kong Police response during Occupy was benevolent.
As a discussion point, it may be helpful to balance the ‘human rights’ record of Hong Kong against the US. Let’s start with democracy. The US has it, although the systems favour those with the 'cash-to-splash' on campaigning. In turn, that means the big corporation weald considerable influence. Hong Kong doesn’t have full democracy. It’s a small circle election dominated by commercial interests. Different approach, but sounds familiar.
The courts in both places remain nominally independent. In the US the judges at the top are political nominees. The corrosive nomination process for Judge Kavanaugh exposed the political influence in the US judiciary. In Hong Kong, Beijing has the final say through the National People’s Congress interpretations. Although rarely used, this gives Beijing a veto. Thus, both systems have a political dimension.
Erosion of press freedom is the standard mantra of the activists. I’ve asked this question several times ... “Can you cite me a specific example of a story or commentary suppressed?" I'm still awaiting an answer.
Naturally, allegations about dark forces operating behind the scenes garner headlines. But I’ve not seen a tangible example of a killed story. We know that journalists face pressures. That's not unique to Hong Kong. I've not seen a Hong Kong reporter have the microphone snatched away yet.
By any measure, Hong Kong has a robust press corp. They are vigorous in their activities although lacking professionalism at times. You only have to look at the ‘Apple Daily’ or the so-called ‘Hong Kong Free Press’ to witness agenda-driven reporting. Likewise, the US has a multitude of campaigning media outlets holding the government to account. A tie on that one.
I’d also put forward the following proposition. In the Internet era suppressing stories is near impossible. Currently, the Internet is hosting revelations about the terrible treatment of a deceased Hong Kong TV star. Hong Kong journalists are staying away from the story. Not so the Mainland media outlets. Is it that Hong Kong journalists lack courage? I don’t know the answer to that. Only they can tell us.
Nonetheless, questions remain. The disappearing booksellers rightly raised heckles. A kind explanation would be Chinese agents operating beyond their brief to stifle subversive books. The 'who will free me of this turbulent priest' defence. Whether this is the case, it remains a disturbing episode.
The Victor Mallet affair appears more about crossing a red-line and giving sinecure to the independence movement. The Foreign Correspondents Club wantonly taunted the government with consequences bound to arise. And there have.
In daily life, I can make a strong argument that Hong Kong citizens enjoy freedoms well above those of Joe Average in the US. For starters, our kids are free of fear of getting gunned down at school. They go to school to learn, and that doesn’t cover how to deal with an ‘active shooter’ on the premises. As a Hong Kong parent waves a child to school in a morning they can be certain little Charlie won’t die from a hail of bullets. Can a US parent be as assured?
In the US, there are 120.5 guns for every hundred residents. Hardly a week goes by without another mass shooting. Bars, cinemas, shopping malls, offices and schools all feature. A Washington Post study found over the past two decades more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus. This year 32 school shootings took place with 90 injuries and 43 deaths. At times it looks like the US is at war with itself.
In the main Hong Kong enjoys freedom from the tyranny of violent crime. The streets are safe, public transport is safe. People go about their business unfettered. Our prisons are run in a humane manner. The staff and prisoners don’t face routine threats of violence or intimidation. The Hong Kong Police are civil, subject to close scrutiny and effective in keeping people safe.
Unchallenged protesters march here on a weekly basis. They disrupt traffic flows, block the pavements and create noise. Everyone gets on with it.
The UN Council talks about safe drinking water and sanitation. Those are a given here. Can the people of Flint, USA, be as comfortable? Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity sit high on the list of freedoms the UN Council cites. Hong Kong is near the top of that list with 1.8 deaths per 100,000, for the US the figure is 18.8. Likewise for infant mortality; Hong Kong’s rate is 2.7 deaths per 100,000, the US 5.8.
Of course, I'm cherry-picking my data. Nonetheless, I can supply a raft of figures across education, opportunities and health care that make a case for Hong Kong’s premier status.
Most of the activists attacking Hong Kong’s human rights operate with prejudices against the Mainland. Their motivation is to find a scintilla of evidence then blow it up. This is then used for political leverage. That strange creature ‘proportionality’ appears beyond them. Like all zealots on a campaign, there is a reluctance to engage with facts. Especially when facts are an irritation.
Granted Hong Kong is not beyond criticism. Far from it. But, nothing comes from these distortions. Those lambasting Hong Kong display a numbing conceit. I ask them “If Hong Kong is so bad, why are you still here?”
I'll start with an admission. I may have smoked a cannabis joint at university. I say may because it came around at a party and I’m not sure. Having consumed a fair amount of Southern Comfort and beer (never a good mix) I can’t recall the exact details. I do recall inhaling, unlike a certain US President. Furthermore, it’s impossible to have noticed any effects. My system was buzzing with alcohol.
That is the extent of my illicit drug consumption. These days my drug of choice is a decent single malt. Also, I’ve learnt to moderate my intake. Well, a clear head in the morning is something to be treasured.
Having steered two daughters through their teenage years with constant warnings and seen the terrible consequences for those who succumb, I’m reluctant about relaxing the law.
Thus, the recent announcement that Canada is legalising the use of cannabis raises mixed feelings. Let me state from the outset, no one should object to the medicinal use of marijuana. Under the control of medical professionals, applied in measured amounts it has considerable benefits. The medical evidence is strong that cannabis can relieve pain for people living with cancer to ease chemotherapy.
It’s also known that marijuana can worsen bipolar conditions, thus its a mixed story. On the medical risks, pot is less harmful than alcohol.
Recreational use of cannabis is more problematic. Like alcohol, this issue is an issue of moderation. Anyway, Canada has since October 17 legalised recreational use.
This decision appears in part due to the law being more observed in its breach. Even Jordan Peterson asserts this is a sound justification for relaxing the rules. I don’t agree. Taking things to an extreme, would we repeal the laws on murder because the practice became popular. Nor, am I confident that this isn’t part of creeping change with no red lines.
Indeed, I agree there are many valid arguments to support relaxing the law. Taking the drug trade out the hands of criminals is a substantial reason. That’s the most persuasive argument I can see. The government can then tax the activity to the benefit of the public coffers. Never missing an opportunity, Hong Kong hosted a cannabis investors forum this week. Cannabis is a new exciting commodity.
Also, relaxation of the law will allow a better-informed customers to understand what they’re consuming. Canada stipulates packaging must provide details on the marijuana strain and its strength. This labelling includes a disclaimer about the health risks associated with pot.
None of these positives can’t suppress my suspicion that legalising recreational use will invite a new set of problems. The long-term health impacts of cannabis remain in doubt. Likewise how the drug will change behaviour is an area that needs exploring. Granted most pot-heads are mellow types yet you wouldn't want operating complicated machinery.
Stepping back to take a broader view, I'm anxious that any relaxation opens the door to feed into a culture of impulsive pleasure. The libertarians talk of rights and freedom, and these are important, yet, responsibility must come into play. I do not see much of that discussion.
Nor are we talking about the cost of overindulgence? It’s the sober citizen who will need to pick up the pieces. The cops, the doctors, the nurses and paramedics are likely to feel the first impact. Later the courts and families get hit. Could we be asking ten years down the road was it wise to cross the line?
There are some positive signs out there. Recent studies identified significant declines in underage drinking in 20 of 28 countries. In countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Sweden, teen drinking halved. Rates of cannabis and meth/amphetamine use have also declined in the past decade.
There’s a global consistency of trends suggesting a shift in youth culture driving a change away from drugs and alcohol use. It’s speculated that kids are better informed about the risks. Many are making a lifestyle choice. They switch to exercise, eating well and avoiding alcohol and other drugs. This is a refreshing change.
It could be I'm missing the point here. The revenues from taxes that will result from the legalisation and sales of marijuana are a massive boost to Canada's coffers. Though estimates vary, recreational marijuana could generate upwards of US$5 billion in annual tax.
Thus, in part, the motivation appears to be fiscal. Yes the Liberals who are in power stand to gain by helping balance the budget. Which is troubling, because a drug policy harnessed to budgetary concerns put the government in the place of the gangs. Even Don Vito Corleone wouldn't touch the drugs trade. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is less reticent.
Events in Canada suggest that the supplies of cannabis are inadequate for demand. A roaring trade is underway. Meanwhile, we are unlikely to understand the full impact for some years. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect the unforeseen will arise and Canada may yet regret this move.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, my WhatsApp sprung to life. In a matter of an hour, I received the leaked thoughts and instructions of a senior police officer. This all tinged with a mild tirade and a fair bit of vim. Mischievous former colleagues took delight in passing on these messages. It was all jolly fun with a whiff of a scandal in the air. Except, a more pressing issue is at play here.
WhatsApp is a powerful tool. It’s become the de-facto main means of non-verbal communication across many organisations. This has positive outcomes, and yet, as always, there is a downside. And that downside can be significant. Careers can get ruined, the organisation exposed to ridicule and security compromised. That’s not to mention the whole issue of data privacy.
At first, everyone assumed WhatsApp was a safe means of communication. After all, it’s encrypted. The publicity trumpets military-grade encryption. I’m sure it is. That’s not the point. The technology is superb, it does its job and does it well. The problem is human. People can and do take copies of what people say to share it. With an anodyne conversation or a bit of tittle-tattle, there’s no issue.
But, commanding a unit through WhatsApp is a different matter. I know, I've done it. Within any command exist jealousies, with a fair bit of infighting the norm. Thus a leader takes a terrible risk issuing directives or admonishments through WhatsApp. The possibility of a leak is high. Coupled with that is the habit of saying things online that you’d not speak face-to-face.
The app gives the impression of control, in reality, the opposite is true. Merely issuing a directive or order on WhatsApp is meaningless. There is no direct contact, no opportunity to read the face of the recipient to assess whether they've understood or agree. It's a blunt tool. There is no real-life relationship, no empathetic reading.
Added to that is the possibility of misinterpretation. A face-to-face exchange allows signals to be picked up that folks are uncomfortable. That’s why evolution made us this way. WhatsApp short-circuits that process, with potentially dangerous consequences.
It’s my observation that junior staff get debilitated by their seniors regularly using WhatsApp to issue instructions, guidance and generally interfere. It removes initiative. Juniors become automatons. They await directives from someone who is not at a scene and ill-placed to take charge. In the long-term, staff development suffers. Young supervisors never get the opportunity to command, make mistakes nor learn. For me, WhatsApp plays into the hands of the lacking-confidence micro-manager.
At critical times, the impact can be severe. With many overlapping WhatsApp groups operating, disruption to the chain of command is inevitable. Officers get bypassed, contradictory instructions go out, and misinterpretation leads to confusion. WhatsApp is those circumstances doesn’t help.
As a plotters tool, WhatsApp excels. Any aspiring officer needs to be conscious that things said on WhatsApp are retained for decades. That stuff can come back to bite them. There is no escape for deniability. You are at the mercy of those holding your words.
Managers and leaders need to use WhatsApp with discretion. It's a great tool that can make life a lot easier; it's also a trap. Use this simple rule: would I send that message on a postcard? If the answer is no, then maybe you shouldn’t say it on WhatsApp. Apply that rule, and you won't go much wrong.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.