Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
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.
Standing on the Yorkshire Wolds looking over the Vale of York, the vista is breathtaking. This green and pleasant land, the evocation of Britain beautifully laid out on a splendid shimmering summer's day. In the distance is York Minster. She dominates the landscape, only eclipsed by the smoky intrusion of Drax Power Station. The eyes seek to ignore that.
Scattered across the landscape, each village gives a nod to York Minster. Each village dominated by a church sitting central to the community on the high ground.
When the terrain floods these hallowed places remain well above the water in a testament to our forefather's ingenuity. Each church is geographically central. That geography tells us something; the influence of the church as a fulcrum for a community. Providing guidance, values and a safe mooring for timid souls. For many hundreds of years the Church, in its various forms, was the foundation of community.
It’s inevitable with the 18th-century arrival of the Enlightenment that the standing and influence of religion would wane. That process has gone on since. It continues today and is gathering pace. Those beautiful church’s sit silently these days, their bells only ring for the occasional wedding or festival.
The erosion of religious influence is not something that raises my objection. Organised religion has outlived its usefulness and forfeited any moral authority. It goes without saying that the pleasant pastoral scene of rural life, masked many injustices. Thus, I do not seek a return to that era with its strict adherence to class structures and genuflecting to the landed gentry.
Even the Church of England, with Christianity-lite, has damaged its brand. Cover-ups and awful abuse stain the record. The shocking levels of child rape perpetrated by the Catholic Church expose the corruption at its core. Add to that the denigration of women, then the exclusion of gays and others. The Church in so many ways acts to hold back people. 'The opium of the masses’ to paraphrase Karl Marx, at least he was right about that.
The dual assault of philosophical argument - ‘God is dead’ - allied to disgust at religions excesses was bound to kick in the door. Thus control is waning. Yet you cannot escape the fact that the falling of these institutions has consequences. The Church did anchor society, providing a safe mooring for many people. Now that mooring is gone, some of these people are cast adrift.
Some folks double-down on their religious belief in an attempt to hold back the tide of change. A few seek new forms of guidance or life-models upon which to build their personal narrative. They embrace spiritualism along with Eastern practices that border on religion. These range from the practical such as meditation to the quirky crystals obsession.
In some ways, the strident advocates of human rights adopt a religious zeal. Likewise, Marxism has all the underpinnings of a sect. The sacred text, the constant infighting to prove who is the true believer allied to endless re-interpretation. Each sub-group is striving to outdo the other with strident belief in a revealed truth.
Meanwhile, the mainstream political system is not open to critical ideas. These days the body-politic offers no real choices. Politicians run scared of market forces in an interconnected world. If they don’t do the bidding of multinationals, punishment awaits with the withdrawal of their investment.
Some of the changes in Britain were accelerated by agenda driven forces. Students of history will find glimpses of Tony Blair’s semi-covert initiative to dilute the social fabric of the UK. His weapon of choice with mass immigration. His commanding general was Barbara Roche, the Minister for Asylum and Immigration. She stated that immigration control is racist, then set about dismantling them. By the time this was spotted the damage was done.
That the multicultural experiment failed is clear. It created ghettoes on land and in the mind. That many won’t acknowledge this is typical of the zealots. They rarely surrender with ease as their defence of the indefensible grows shriller until it finally all crashes down. Don't forget the ardent communists were willfully blind to the evils of the Soviet Union. Even as the Berlin Wall fell, they lingered too long seeking to justify themselves. Then they sat discredited and forlorn.
Likewise ignoring genuine grievances in the UK has allowed the emergence of radicals at both ends of the spectrum. Meanwhile, the liberal elite appears motivated by a sense of collective guilt over the colonial era. We, the new generation, must atone for the past although having played no part. This blackmail from history gets visited most on the working-class communities that shoulder the burden of the failing multicultural project.
The influx of alien cultures is acutely felt in the depressed working towns most in the north. The poor white working-class girls of Rotherham and Huddersfield have suffered the consequences. Of course, the mainstream media continues to ignore this truth. It flagellates itself with linguistic gymnastics as it seeks to avoid giving group names to the victims and culprits. In this regard, they're aided by shameless politicians such as Diana Abbott. Any identification of a group will be met with her rebuke because sustaining the lie is crucial.
But consider this. British Pakistanis make up 4 % of the population. When you cut the ladies that drops to 2%. Yet this 2% is responsible for about 74% of class-one sexual assaults on underage girls. That shocking statistics is a sign of a cultural issue. Hiding this fact serves no purpose other than to forestall resolution of the problem.
One shouldn’t be too surprised that this state of affairs festers. Look at that former bastion of the nation's values - the BBC. Once a cornerstone of national life its influence was immense. Then, in recent years, it housed the nations most prolific sex offender. Moreover, it provided him with a platform for his activities while ignoring his crimes. Those that spoke out faced sanction and career ruin.
It’s possible that the cultural dissonance will never be resolved. Too many internal and external forces are at play. Thus no single unifying voice can emerge as Britain lacks a leader of strength prepared to tackle these issues.
So where is the middle ground? From whence does value judgement arise in a postmodern, post-truth world? How do the ordinary people reassert their decency so that the authorities don’t kowtow at a false altar to allow unspeakable crimes? If facts are opinions, as the postmodernists assert, then we can guarantee nothing. Nothing is right, and nothing is wrong.
That a supposedly educated young lady thinks it okay to desecrate the memory of young men who fought in a world war, then what hope is there? That the police turn a blind eye to rape. That politicians play games to bury these truths. From who do we take the lead?
It’s pretty hard to navigate a path through this morass. And yet in our very core, we know right and wrong. Common decency, honesty and a willingness to speak the truth provide a firm moral mooring. The plain-speaking Yorkshire folk that dwell in the Vale of York fit that bill. That’s not a caricature we should laugh at or dismiss. Perhaps then we can change the direction of travel.
Great news. My dream of winning medals in cycling events is finally looking possible. Even at the age of 59, with a dodgy knee and a bad back, that goal is in sight. Plus, and this is the super part, I won’t need to train much harder. The medals are within my grasp. All I need to do is declare I’m a woman.
Don’t laugh. Last week at the 2018 Track Cycling World Championship Rachel McKinnon won a gold medal in the women’s 35-to-39 year group. As Rachel stepped up to receive the medal a few in the audience questioned the win. Why? Well, the thing about cycling gear is it’s revealing, and our Rachel appears to be a bloke. Check out the pictures.
Rachel affirms as a woman, although the evidence points in an opposite direction. Humour aside, this raises serious questions about the integrity of sporting competitions. Let’s be honest here, men have physical advantages of strength and stamina over female athletes. It’s a fact. Evolutions at fault and all the labelling the SJWs care to use won’t change millions of years of Darwinism at work. You can’t pin this one on the male patriarchy, although I’m sure they'll have a good go.
McKinnon’s win is causing a fierce debate about fair play and ethics. For example, was McKinnon’s participation fair to the other women in the race? Does McKinnon’s birth gender give an unfair advantage? It’s essential that we have a conversation about these issues if sport is to remain credible. Yet, this is a complicated and emotionally charged topic. Even talking about it brings accusations.
There are no agreed universal rules on transgender participation is sport. Each governing body formulates policies best suited to their competition. Fair enough. Measuring testosterone levels is the current approach.
The International Olympic Committee has the following rules:
There’s also the history of skeletal development to consider, the circulatory system and the distribution of fat around the body. In cycling men benefit from a different pelvis structure. This allows them to generate much more force on the pedals.
Thus, Rachel laid the foundations of the win as a man, then declares as a woman to win. Is that fair? Meanwhile, the IOC rules tacitly acknowledge that men are stronger than women. Note there are no restrictions on female athletes transitioning to male.
Track racer Sarah Fader believes the IOC rules create an unfair situation for cis women. Cisgender refers to individuals whose gender identity matches their birth gender. Learn the language folks. In Canada you go to court for getting this wrong.
Fader pulled out of the race against McKinnon asserting it’s not fair. By the way, McKinnon stands six feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. Fader, by contrast, is 5-foot-5 and weighs 135 pounds. Track cycling is all about power output and momentum. It favours a 200-pound person with loads of lean muscle.
“This is my own form of protest,” Fader said. “I knew that I personally did not agree with the situation. I don’t want to compete in a sport where the rules are unfair.”
Other riders shared the same opinion in private. They felt unable to comment in a public manner fearful of attacks from the trans community. Fader said “There’s a lot of sensitivity here. I’ve spoken with women who are afraid to give their opinion because they think they will be deemed to be discriminating.”
McKinnon has responded to past criticism that he is a man robbing women by cheating as akin to the actions of those who were excluding black folks from sport in the past. You see if you object to McKinnon riding against female athletes you are not only transphobic but also racist. That's how the debate goes.
What is the end point of this debacle? Fairly ordinary male athletes identifying as women could sweep up the medals at the Olympics. How is that right?
Anyway, Wilma De Havilland is about to emerge on the cycling scene. Oh, the glory!!
This weekend an estimated 700,000 people marched through London demanding a second referendum on Brexit. This massive demonstration is the likes of which not seen since the anti-war protests in 2003. Tony Blair ignored that protest leading to the Iraq debacle. We’re still dealing with the fall-out.
Let me say from the outset, I never favoured Brexit. Had I voted, which I didn’t, it would be to remain in the European Union. Yet, that comes with a substantial caveat. That the UK needs to reassert control over its borders and grapple back the power of legal issues.
As a nation we never signed up for the levels of control of the EU is now exercising over the United Kingdom. The initial deal was about trade. What's evolved since is much broader, leading to the de-facto erosion of British sovereignty.
Having said that, I do not agree that the country should have another referendum. We have a democratic process in the UK that elects members of parliament to represent us. That process gives them the legitimacy to govern and negotiate on our behalf. Every four or five years we vote to affirm the legitimacy to rule. That the politicians are paralysed doesn’t mean they should throw the decision back to the people. The politicians need to deliver or step aside.
A vote took place in 2016. That referendum had the majority, albeit by a small margin, opting to exit the EU. That Theresa May and the conservative party are unable to negotiate a deal does not mean another referendum. Instead, it is clear that because of these failures there is a need for a general election.
Why do I say this? For the reason that the impasse is primarily down to ideological disputes within the Tory party. Besides, the likes of Boris Johnson have acted with pure self-interest to forestall a deal. Plus, it was not a good idea to have a prime minister negotiating on our behalf who herself wished to remain in the EU. She’s hardly an honest broker.
Further, Mrs May no longer has a mandate. The reality is her party is against her, while she only remains in power because of fear. The fear that Corbyn could win a general election. Although, I’m not so sure about that.
Corbyn’s position on Brexit is a mystery. A general election would flush out the inconsistencies within Labour’s agenda. In any general election, the first item up for debate would be how to proceed with Brexit. Both Labour and Tories would need to enunciate a clear agenda. Then the public can decide.
The current position is that Mrs May is seeking to extend the transition for the EU exit. This is nothing more than kicking the can down the road. Let's face some hard truths. Despite claims to the contrary, the EU is holding most of the cards in this game.
Moreover, they're united. Mrs May cannot even unite the Conservative Party never mind the country. In fairness, she has shown great tenacity to hang on this long. The lady has given her best. But the game is up, and she needs to go.
Something is bubbling below the surface in England. It may yet break through with terrible consequences. A faltering Brexit could be the trigger for events that spin out of control. Meanwhile, the mainstream media ignores or vilifies the man who is emblematic of the unfolding crisis. Love him, hate him or be indifferent … you ignore Tommy Robinson at your peril. (Yes, I know his real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon)
In some quarters the very mention of Tommy Robinson’s name evokes an adverse reaction. He's hated by the left. Yet the lefts traditional supporters, the white working-class, embrace him. Robinson is symbolic, he’s a reaction from a community that’s abandoned. Dismissed as racist, far-right and a criminal, Robinson is overturning traditional politics.
He's running a grassroots campaign of epic proportions without a support organisation. To be clear, yes, he has convictions and is currently on bail. That’s another story I’ll address here. But his label as far-right is more about the linguistics of the left, than anything he represents.
Robinson rose to attention as the leader of the English Defense League. That group formed in response to Muslims spitting on and haranguing British soldiers. In 2013 he abandoned this group citing its infiltration by far-right elements. Since then he’s consolidated his position in a campaign against the Muslim rape gangs. These gangs operate under the noses of UK authorities. In some instances, social services facilitated the crimes, while the police did nothing. Robinson has harnessed that issue to a broader anti-Islam/ freedom of speech agenda. Although the mainstream media won’t acknowledge it, he’s an influential figure.
As it is, one need not agree with Robinson to find a reason to study his rise. In fact, anybody concerned about the cohesion of society should consider his impact. After all, he took one small demonstration in Luton then morphed it into an international anti-Islam movement. This is the most surprising development. He’s gone from a local activist to a transatlantic anti-Islam ideologue.
Robinson now garners attention across the globe. He’s adopted by conservative groups in the USA and Europe. His rise is more surprising when you consider his background. A genuine working-class lad from Luton, he’s not the most educated of men but eloquent and forceful. Watch his address to the Oxford Students Union. I suspect he’s on a trajectory that will take him into mainstream politics. Although he’d deny that.
Economic vulnerability, social-breakdown and political neglect are themes that allowed Robinson to emerge. His recent peremptory imprisonment conferred upon him martyr status with his followers. It feeds into their dispossessed narrative. Robinson's action was stupid. He filmed outside the court hearing a case against alleged rapists, then challenged the accused as they entered. An injunction banned such activity. He's arrested, then immediately sent to prison. That was a tactical blunder by the authorities. With that move, they affirmed his totemic status.
The appellate court later released Robinson noting “a fundamentally flawed process.” That flawed process was evident to everyone. Had it involved a person from the left no doubt Amnesty International would be marching. They, of course, remained silent. Their justice doesn’t extend to white lads from Luton. He remains on bail pending a retrial.
The rise of Robinson is the fault of all the political parties. Each, in turn, decried the white working-class. Seen as oafs and racists whenever they voiced views on multiculturalism, their despised. Remember Gordon Brown’s gaffe.
It's clear that Labour abandoned the working class under Blair. This opened a fertile ground for Robinson to grow. Then the authorities handed Robinson the ideal cutlass with which to cut them. That the police and others ignored, and even facilitated the mass rape of white girls, gave Robinson his calling.
This transformed him into a genuinely global figure. He now enjoys support from leading anti-Muslim politicians in Europe. The US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, expressed support for Robinson. Likewise, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon and Republican Congressman.
Also, more than 630,000 people signed an online petition to free Robinson. His reach is now acknowledged in France, Spain, Holland, Italy, Poland, and Russian.
While asserting he is not seeking political office, that may change. Currently, he is an apolitical figure insofar as he focuses on social and cultural issues. His main themes are the Islamization of Britain, child sex grooming gangs and the dangers of political correctness.
He does not concern himself with elections or the need to cultivate any kind of party discipline. His supporters operate on the streets. A recent demonstration for the 'FreeTommy campaign' had thousands on the streets on London. The mainstream media ignored the event, although YouTube clips give an insight. This sort of street activism is a dangerous development. It’s a sign that people have given up on the democratic political process. This will lead to public disorder and even acts of terrorism. That’s the most dangerous development.
As a side issue watch this clip. The police misjudge the mood of the protesters and stage an intervention. They then retreat. This sort of thing could escalate into serious rioting. I must say the police appear ill-prepared.
To my mind, working-class Britons lost their influence as the Cold-war era ended. Before that, the establishment needed to keep the working class sweet to avoid them drifting to communism. That need died as the Berlin Wall came down. The Tony Blair years accelerated the shift in power. He abandoned Labour’s homeland to govern through a London-based elite. Working class voices were no longer heard.
A recent incident in a motorway service station confirmed Robinsons’ status as a working-class icon. It also shone a light on how the establishment fears him. Robinson bumped into a group of young soldiers, who mobbed him and took selfies. These selfies went out over social media. That's what young people do. Then the Muslim Council of Britain got involved. It expressed outrage. The British Army immediately capitulated to their demands for an investigation. It’s reported one soldier's career is over, while the others face reprimands.
Many feel the British Army’s reaction is disproportionate. Let's not forget that members of the Muslim Council of Britain called for the death of British soldiers. Thus to me, the treatment of these young soldiers confirms the establishment is running scared of Robinson.
This may seem an arbitrary point to make, but those soldiers come from white working-class backgrounds. But there is more to the story if you have eyes to see it. A quick scan of their cap badges will tell you these young men are in northern infantry regiments. In most cases, the infantry are the most impoverished boys. These kids get recruited in a targeted way from communities battered by decades of unemployment.
They're in the army because few other opportunities come their way. To them, Robinson is the authentic voice of their community. All this bolsters the oft-repeated claim by Robinson “we are not being listened to." It affirms that governing politics is a small clique of distant elites out of touch with the masses.
Robinson has a massive social media following. One video on his YouTube channel has 2.4 million views. 'Tommy Robinson confronts another accused Muslim grooming gang,' reached an audience of 1.9 million. His transatlantic social media following has been influential. This has translated into funding.
In the end, Robinson is not to blame for the rising xenophobia in England. He’s a reaction to an establishment that dismissed a group of people as irrelevant. Those people are now reasserting themselves. The more politicians and the media seek to demonise Robinson, the more likely his ideas will stick. The disgruntled white working-class need a voice and Robinson is providing it. The legitimate concerns he raises need addressing, or the outcome is mayhem. No longer can you dismiss him as the ‘enemy within.’ That won't pass muster.
Finally, listen to this young lady. A former radical feminist who suffered a sexual assault from a gang of Asian men and the police did nothing. Appears the cops are still willing to allow abuse of women by Asian men. That’s more material for Tommy.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
This week a UK court convicted Karen White to life in prison for raping two women and sexual assaults. These crimes took place inside a women’s prison, and the victims were other inmates. Further, White has previous convictions for rape and sexual assaults on children. Hang on, can you spot the problem with this?
A clue perhaps from the prosecutors in court “The defendant would stand very close to [the victim], touch her arm and wink at her. Her penis was erect and sticking out of the top of her trousers.” Note, the words used ..."Her penis".
Here’s the thing, White claimed to be transgender, thus under the Home Office rules entered a female prison. Prosecutors said there was evidence to suggest White’s “approach to transitioning has been less than committed”. Really! What a surprise.
Of course, White is a man, who gamed the system to access vulnerable victims. The UK authorities facilitated these attacks as it kowtowed to an activist agenda. This insists that if someone declares themselves a female, then treat them as a female. It follows on from the whole pronoun shenanigans. Moreover, if you dare to speak against this nonsense, you are immediately transphobic.
Moreover, the radicals have harnessed the muscle of the British police to shut down and prosecute dissenters. The cops appear happy to comply because it’s easier than chasing real crime. But that’s another story.
Karen White claimed to be undergoing gender reassignment. But had not had sex reassignment surgery, meaning Karen White had all the gear of a male. By the way, studies suggest 72% of folks claiming to be transgender don’t undergo surgery to change their birth sex organs. That’s their choice. But don’t expect to be treated as a woman in such circumstances.
This is not a bizarre nor isolated incident. Instead, its part of a trend in the UK. It's brought about by blind adherence to dogma rather than applying common sense. In another case, a 12-year-old girl reported a fellow pupil in the girls changing room “played with a penis.” Confused parents then approached the school to find the pupil mentioned had declared as a girl.
As per policy, this person had access to the female changing rooms. When the parents raised objections, they're admonished. The school felt the parents lacked an understanding of a child's transgender status.
The fact that girls had to witness this person playing with themselves appeared irrelevant to the school. That’s the extent of the unfolding madness. Meanwhile, other parents discovered their teenage daughters accommodated with boys on school trips. These girls asserted themselves as male. The parents were kept in the dark about their daughter's choices.
Should we express surprise? After all the authorities ignored for decades the rape and exploitation of thousands of girls. All to avoid upsetting the Muslim community.
Meanwhile, kids are diagnosing themselves with “gender dysphoria”. They read articles online and watch videos on YouTube to guide themselves. Then well-meaning teachers acting under misguided policies, are going along with this. Parents are not included because the child's privacy takes precedence. Some kids outgrow these beliefs before it goes too far with surgery and such. Others jump in and then regret the whole thing.
We know that transgenders have a terrible time. The suicide rate is high. Society needs to treat genuine cases with compassion. Yet, are the interests of transgenders served by policies that cause the broader public to despair? It’s clear that the authorities in the UK don’t have a balanced approach. We know that intelligent, educated people can make costly and sustained mistakes when driven by dogma. Is that what is happening?
I suppose it does no harm to introduce these issues to teenagers. With the caveat of a balanced and rational approach. Yet, the evidence suggests the whole process is indoctrination. You either accept the dogma or face exclusion as a hater. There is no middle ground.
The path through this morass is unclear. Life can be confusing for kids at the best of times. The teenage years are fraught with challenges, ambiguous emotions and attempts to assert an identity. Thus making life-defining decisions at that time is problematic at best. Yet the current thinking is to allow these kids to seek gender reassignment surgery. I’d be in favour of holding off until they are at least 18 years old before going down that road.
There is compelling evidence to suggest that most of these kids, after puberty, come to feel secure and happy in the bodies they were born with. This eradicates the need for acute medical intervention.
Unfortunately, a self-serving clique of unyielding groups drive the agenda. Some of this is extreme tribalism supported by surgical procedures and hormone medication. Currently, transgender groups are vigorously resisting any attempts to study these issues.
Their position is that research is by its nature discrimination. We must resist this lunacy. After all, these are the same people who reject science. If biology conflicts with their distorted views, its the work of the patriarchal. I'm asking a simple question. If we don't investigate are we are in danger of failing children?
At the moment, we are only hearing one side of a nuanced and complex debate. At the same time, the number of children identifying as transgender is increasing year on year. The politicians have abandoned this debate as too hot. Who can blame them? With rabid attack dogs waiting in the wings, its best to keep your mouth shut. Likewise, the gay and feminist community face infighting.
Even Jo Brand, a confident and outspoken lady, is afraid to comment for fear of vilification. Something is seriously wrong. Also, the zealots have sought to shut down Germaine Greer and others. They face ‘no-platforming’ at universities and elsewhere. That a noted feminist is verboten tells how far the loonies will go to control the debate and policy.
Professionals including GPs, educational psychiatrists and social workers won't speak out. Once they express a professional opinion, they're accused of bigotry and damaging the fight for trans rights. This has to stop.
Many of us raised concerns about the gender pronoun issue. We heard that our stance was an over-reaction. Surely, it’s argued, we shouldn’t hurt feelings and accept an individual's choices. Except we now see linguistics having direct consequences on practices and procedures. Those consequences saw the English legal authorities put Karen White, a multiple rapist and paedophile, in a sealed building full of vulnerable women. That can’t be right.
Once again nonsensical ideology runs smack-bang into objective reality.
Let me say it, loud and clear: well done Carrie! I find myself in a strange place of complimenting our Chief Executive. In her second policy address, she signalled a willingness to tackle long-term issues. In this town that’s progress. Moreover, the policy address contained a few gems.
Let us start with the gems first. The health of the wider community must be a government priority. No self-respecting person can argue that providing free cancer vaccines is a bad idea. We’ve had great success with such public health initiatives in the past. Setting aside the personal cost of cancer, it makes pure economic sense to do this.
Providing vaccines is cheaper in the long-run than hospital care. Especially when you weigh up the loss of earnings and the myriad of related palliative costs. The targeted HPV virus causes 70% of cervical cancers. It’s reckoned that this initiative will save 100 life’s a year. By eliminating this risk, the community realises countless benefits.
Staying with public health, banning e-cigarettes is a welcome respite for non-smokers. I’m sick and tired of dodging clouds of so-called vapour. Vaping produces much more smoke than traditional cigarettes. This crud hangs around in the air at office block entrances and on public walkways. Further, I don’t buy the argument “It’s safer than cigarettes.” People who utter such nonsense have no long-term studies to support their assertions. Moreover, you know what's safe - stop smoking.
Yes, I know, we will now see some revert to the traditional cancer-causing cigarettes. Meanwhile, vaping may get driven underground. As with other such laws, the challenge will be enforcement. On that score the Tobacco Control Office is ineffective. It’s staff need to be pro-active instead of responding to complaints weeks after a report. Smoking remains a blight on large parts of the city, plus I don’t see the police stepping up to the plate on this one. Nonetheless, Carrie dares to do the right thing.
The proposal to harmonise the cross-harbour road tunnel tolls is long overdue. Everybody understands the logic of the argument. Keeping one tunnel cheaper than the rest encourages drivers to go there. This approach creates congestion, air-pollution and underuse of expensive infrastructure. The Western Tunnel, in particular, is well below capacity even at rush hour. Continuing with this situation is illogical.
On the big issue of land supply, the government is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s beholden to vested interests which prevent movement without significant costs. No matter whatever you do, someone gets upset or displeased. At best building on the brownfield sites is a piecemeal option. It goes some way to helping relieve the housing shortage. While touching the Country Parks is out of the question. If this place is to keep any semblance of ‘quality of life’ the parks are inviolate. Never forget, Country Parks is our small contribution to combatting global warming.
Also, it's not surprising that many are calling the ‘Land Supply Task Force’ consultation a sham. The result was pre-determined. Having said that, I don’t see that any long-term alternatives. At least Carrie has a bold vision, although rising sea levels may yet swamp it.
On that environmental note, I must applaud the move to ban single-use plastics. We are having a terrible impact on our oceans with discarded plastics. Curtailing this must be a priority. Only legislation can change habits. We’ve had a success story with the plastic bag saga. Let's follow up.
A couple of other matters deserve including MPF offsetting and maternity leave. Both fall into the arena of employers, who will no doubt yell 'no concessions.' The MPF offsetting mechanism is a rip-off of workers - it’s as simple as that. It’s wrong on many levels and pure greed by employers. Neither should public money flow into the pocket of bosses to gain their support for changes. As a conciliatory gesture, our taxes will compensate them for up to 25 years.
None of this changes the fact the MPF scheme is a flawed policy, which needs wholesale reform. Its only beneficiaries are the finance houses, who charge high fees to hold our money. The MPF is a system you work for; it doesn’t work for you. Which is a pretty dreadful way to secure pensions for retirement.
Hong Kong ladies are not having babies. There are myriad reasons for this trend that's repeated across most developed societies. Japan and Singapore are amongst the places seeing the same decline in birth rates. I'd welcome anything reasonable that eases the difficulties of raising kids. Thus, more maternity leave is a start.
Unfortunately, the attitudes of employers remain Victorian. They will need dragging kicking and screaming into the modern world. Their many arguments against maternity leave are facile. I only wish they'd look around the world to see how Hong Kong is lagging. We need to catch up.
Of course, many issues remain unresolved. We still lack a coherent population policy. That appears some way off. Likewise, the government must take a stand against private cars. Our city can’t keep putting vehicles on the road without at least ensuring each has a parking space. Owners must provide proof of a car space before registering. That’s for another day.
The day wouldn’t be complete without the usual tiresome performance from certain legislators, who made a spectacle of themselves. These pathetic antics garnered them a few seconds of media coverage, and contributed nothing of importance.
So, well done Carrie. A pass mark for you. Yet, a word of caution. Given what she’s promised, keep a keen eye to see that she doesn’t break her vows.
Some people create their own storms, then get upset when it rains. The whole of idea of Hong Kong independence is a non-starter and a dead-end game. If you think that Beijing will entertain any discussion of the issue, you are either blind or provocative. That the Hong Kong Independence Party and the Foreign Correspondents Club now face a deluge is no surprise.
You can’t argue that they didn’t see this coming. One issue is bound to raise hackles in China, that is any mention of losing territory. This is understandable in the historical context of China’s treatment at the hands of the imperialists. Never forget that the bedrock of the Communists Party’s legitimacy rests on putting right the suffered humiliations. I’d venture that any political entity running the country would hold the same position. Hence the return of Hong Kong, and the higher goal of reunification with Taiwan.
The inevitable banning of the Hong Kong Independence Party came as no surprise. The party sealed its fate with calls for ‘armed revolution'. Even voices in the pro-democratic camp remained muted in response to the banning. Besides a few token utterances, common sense prevailed. The 'why-and-how' of the prohibition is irrelevant because the concept of independence is a delusion.
Let’s not forget that Hong Kong relies on the Mainland for water, electricity and food. Andy Chan Ho-tin, the leader of the defunct HKIP, appears blissfully unaware of these issues. It is almost impossible to overestimate the nihilistic nature of this young man. He's abandoned reason, facts and the overwhelming weight of history. His ill-conceived action is baffling. One can only assume he’s motivated by deluded self-interest, as he gains his 15-minutes of fame.
Did he seriously expect China to do anything but oppose the idea with all its might? I’ll give Mr Chan his due; he risks the loss of his liberty in a curious combination of reckless, naïve and foolish conduct.
Steve Vines, a Hong Kong-based journalist and past FCC president, is renowned for his anti-China stance. Even he expressed irritation and impatience with Chan for leaving too many questions unanswered.
Moreover, it's all a distraction. Independence is a no go, yet it sucks political oxygen from the broader debate. As an unwelcome hindrance, it snags the discourse on Hong Kong's development. In the process stirring up sentiment.
To those who assert the banning damages ‘one country, two systems’ don’t talk such arrant drivel. Seeking to take away territory from China is unequivocally a ‘one country’ issue. It’s important to reiterate the independence by its very nature seeks to split the country. Anyone who can’t see that should study what’s evolved in Spain in response to the Catalan independence movement.
Please don’t bring up Scotland. The name the United Kingdom tells you that several nations forged an alliance. The union of 1603 may yet be undone, as the nation of Scotland once again stands alone.
The FCC is also in the firing line. They gave the HKIP a platform to speak to the world. In the process, the FCC put up two-fingers to Beijing. Before Alan Chan’s speech on August 14, Beijing made representations to the FCC. They asked that Chan not be given the opportunity to spread his message of independence. Likewise, senior Hong Kong government officials spoke with the FCC.
Citing freedom of speech, the FCC proceeded with the event. Journalist Victor Mallet chaired the controversial talk. He made great play in his opening address about the opposing voices the FCC welcomed to speak at its events. Through this speech, he made his and the FCCs position clear. Beijing has now asserted its position. Mr Mallet's work visa is not to be renewed.
Beijing is clear “Any words and deeds attempting to separate Hong Kong from the rest of China will be punished by law. Any individual or organisation’s move to embolden Hong Kong separatists will meet the firm opposition of the Chinese people.”
While the Hong Kong government hides behind the usual excuse “we don’t comment on individual cases” everyone recognises this is payback. In turn, this move provoked a wave of indignation from journalists and others. The British government is audacious enough to demand that Hong Kong explain the reasons for non-renewal of Mallet’s visa.
Britain forfeited its moral authority on Hong Kong affairs when it removed the right of abode from millions of folks. In any case, does the UK explain its actions? Why the 2013 arbitrary detention of journalist David Miranda? He's held at Heathrow for nine hours, under the fig leaf of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
This year the Brits arrested journalist-activist Tommy Robinson. His crime was reporting on the trial of rape gangs in the north of England. The courts had suppressed reporting. He’s then held in solitary confinement for months until a judge orders his release. One feels pierced by this stark hypocrisy from the British government.
Perhaps Hong Kong should make demands. How about an explanation for the terrible treatment of the Windrush generation? Likewise, the nightmare that is Heathrow arrivals for Hong Kong folks travelling on a BNO. It works both ways.
I digress. No one who follows the statements of Beijing can express any surprise at these events. The consequences that have befallen the HKIP and the FCC are to be expected. As a matter of principle, I object to no platforming, but even this has limits. Calling for ‘armed revolution’ is one of those limits.
Anyway, unlike other jurisdictions, Hong Kong acted to nip this nonsense in the bud. No doubt we will hear the usual noises in the weeks ahead. Long Hair will march, the US and Britain will express ‘deep concerns’.
Meanwhile, Britain is busy tearing itself apart over Brexit, while the rest of the world is more focused on the Trump show. In a curious and unintended way, this whole episode will hasten the introduction of Article 23. I’ll watch that with interest.
For Christ's sake Prince Andrew, give it a rest, will you? It’s 2018, we've had enough of you flaunting the House of York as a rival to the Windsors - formerly Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
According to media reports, the Duke of York is upset with the BBC. Well, aren’t we all. He’s attacking the Beeb for not interrupting normal viewing to give us Princess Eugenie’s wedding to an alcohol salesman. It’s laughable. Of course, Andrew doesn’t come out to say this himself. As in all things Royal, messages emerge from the orifice of some supine flunky.
The wedding will take place at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 12 October 2018. Princess Eugenie as ninth in line to the throne is on a long list of spares. A line headed by Uncle Charlie, a man on history's most extended apprenticeship.
Let’s be honest here. The House of Windsor is on shaky ground, especially when Charles takes the tiller in the years ahead. The unshakable hand of the Queen has steered a steady course. I have my doubts about Charlie at the helm. Thus, these thinly disguised attempts to burnish another power centre don’t help.
Has Andrew no self-respect or sense of reality? Neither of his absurd hat-wearing daughters is worthy of anything other than ridicule. Neither has done anything of note. Sorry, not true. They provide excellent material for satire and comedy. No doubt supporters will trot out the usual tripe about charity work and ‘role-models’.
I’m told that Princess Beatrice wrote a book about bullying. Fair enough. She shared her terrible abuse experiences. I’m sure that resonated with the kids. You know those kids who've had their head shoved down toilets or taken a beating at the school gates. Trudging home in the rain, these damaged souls no doubt took solace in Beatrice’s hat pain.
At least, this self-flagellation that his ducal house does not enjoy support, demonstrates self-awareness.
For me, edited highlights of the wedding on YouTube, lasting about 20 seconds, would be too much. Except of course if Eugenie’s mother turns-up pissed, engages in a bit of toe sucking and then collapses in a heap. I’d watch that.
Also, there are questions of qualification here. In the modern world, we've moved beyond default genuflecting to royals. These days claiming privilege at least needs a token effort. Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry do their thing. Harry plays the mental health card. That's a solid winner for him. There is a solid seam of material to mine in his dysfunctional family. Granddad taking the child shooting on the day Mummy died. Then getting the traumatised boy to follow his mother's coffin through London wasn't such a great idea, was it?
Can I ask what Eugenie has done? Oh yes, paraded around like a twat in a hat that didn’t so much fit as arrive with a splat! (Sorry Doctor Seuss). I may give these kids some discount for circumstances beyond there control. Mummy was hardly the role model of decorum, while Daddy’s friends are an interesting bunch; a convicted paedophile, a gun-runner and a money-launderer. That covers most of the bases.
You can see that the empty sails of the Duke of York get fluffed by a passing breeze of resentment. None of this matters very much until you notice it's part of a relentless exercise to garner attention. He’d do well to remember the words of Shakespeare in Henry 8 Part 3 ... "For goodness sake, consider what you do, How you may hurt yourself—ay, utterly."
I hadn’t intended to spend a fair part of my day watching proceedings in the Kavanaugh Senate hearings. With a few household chores and errands to run, I couldn’t afford the time. Then, by slipping in a quick look here and there, I’m hooked. With a session exercising on the cross trainer, I managed some three hours viewing.
The whole process was a revelation. It gave a deep insight into US politics, their branch of democracy, and its checks and balances. A couple of things jumped out at me.
First, Kavanaugh, the nominee for the US supreme court, has undergone six background investigations. He’s answered some 2000 written and verbal questions in over 36 hours of testimony before the Senate. Thus it's surprising that these allegations have come to light at the last minute.
Second, the handling of the allegations by the Democrats is suspicious. One's drawn to the conclusion that they used Doctor Ford to ambush the nominee. In the process, they have destroyed Kavanaugh’s reputation. Yet, at the same time, without a hint of regret, they’ve exposed Doctor Ford to the most awful scrutiny.
Doctor Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, appeared credible. Her testimony was not shaken by the questioning she faced. This terrified lady seemed shaken by events. Let us not forget she never made the allegations public. A role was thrust up on she never sought. As a result, she’s under guard 24 hours, has moved her home and is at times separated from her family. I’m sure the experience is shattering for her.
I’m baffled by the conduct of the questioning. The Democrats focused on fart jokes made by teenage boys plus boasting about girls. These calculated questions appeared designed to discredit Kavanaugh. Yet everyone is asking themselves “did I do dumb shit when I was that age?” If you’re honest, the answer is a resounding “Yes”. Perhaps the intent was to extrapolate the fart jokes to rape. It didn’t work. All it did was provide the other side with an easy put-down, which they seized upon.
The Republicans proved no better. They hired Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, a sexual offence expert, to question Ford. This is designed to avoid echoes of the Anita Hill case. It also didn’t work. The questioner didn’t cast any new light on the allegations.
The most striking thing about the whole session was Kavanaugh’s demeanour. He alternated between calm, reasoned deportment to an angry man lashing out. He lashed out in several directions. His composure repeatedly slipped as his face contorted in indignation. He reprimanded senators, firing questions back at them in response to their probing.
His vitriol could be a response to his innocence. Put through this process, it's natural that any person would harbour deep resentment. Yet, here’s the rub. If he is to serve on the supreme court, you’d expect greater control and more rational responses. The role requires a unique clarity of thought. Then the ability to set aside emotion even in the most distressing of circumstances.
I’m sure I’d become bitter and frustrated if so accused of a crime. Then again, I’m not seeking a position on the supreme court where I’d wield exceptional power and influence.
If you are seeking to get to the truth of what took place between Kavanaugh and Ford in 1982, this hearing didn’t help. Despite the veneer of dignity, this was a nasty spite filled political show. It underlined the polarisation of the USA under Trump. Neither side can claim a victory. Neither side can assert they held the moral high-ground.
Having watched the proceedings, I'm none the wiser. In the end, it was a political show with "he said, she said" and no closure. All I'd say is I wouldn't want Kavanaugh in the job, and not because of the allegations. The man may be innocent; however, he lacks the gravitas and composure for the role.
Kavanaugh, even if he makes the supreme court, is forever damaged. Henceforth his every word and judgment will be seen through the prism of these events. Doctor Ford is equally traumatised. I suspect she will suffer the consequences of this testimony for the remainder of her life. As regards the politicians, they’ve affirmed the low status the public accord them.
A curse on both your houses
The UK is in a pickle. Six months to go. 759 treaties need resolving, with no closure in sight. The EU is playing hardball, and who can blame them. After all, the Brits initiated the whole thing. Moreover, the UK can’t agree on how it wants to exit the EU. Theresa May’s Chequers’s proposal is toast, whereas her cabinet is fighting themselves.
Outside the cabinet, in the broader conservative party, it's open warfare. The only thing stopping a leadership challenge to Prime Minister May is the possibility of triggering a general election. Fear that the conservatives may lose to Labour is putting the brakes on her opponents.
Meanwhile, Labour is holding their annual conference. Calls are coming in thick and fast for a referendum on the final EU deal. In the past, Corbyn has ruled such a vote out but is now leaning that way. At the same time, Labour is also beset by internal strife. It's far from a cohesive body, with fault lines developing in various directions.
I agree that you can't go back to the public to ratify the deal. I suspect any such vote may amount to another de-facto rerun referendum on membership. Such a move would be divisive. Anyway, what if the public rejects the deal. Then what?
Unfortunately, this week we saw the stark reality of Britains position in the world. In Salzburg, at a gathering of EU leaders, May’s humiliation could not be more public. She’s given 10 minutes to present her Chequers’s plan before being shown the door. She’s had to beg for respect, which is never a dignified look for a prime minister. I’m surprised she’s still there. I’d predicted her departure some time ago.
The EU signalled for weeks that Chequers was unacceptable. Nonetheless, May pressed on regardless. She’s like a driver stuck up a dead end, who can’t turn or reverse. Now she’s stuck.
The options for resolving this mess are all looking risky. A no deal exit from the EU is possible. How that plays out depends on who you speak with. To understand the scale of the issue, visit the Brexit treaty renegotiation checklist on the FT website. What happens when all those treaties suddenly stop?
On immigration, the UK would immediately have control over its borders. It sets its own migration policy. At the same time, UK nationals would lose their right to live and work in the EU. Depending on how the EU wishes that to evolve it's going to cause upheaval on a personal level for many.
The UK would exit the Common Agricultural Policy, which gives farmers £3-billion in subsidies. This would stop. Likewise, the UK will leave the single market immediately. This may result in chaotic customs checks on cross-Channel freight and at airports. Some suggest food and other supplies could face disruption although, again, it depends on how the EU responds.
The EU has the option to charge import tariffs averaging 2-3 per cent on goods. Yet up to 60 per cent for some agricultural produce. This would damage UK exporters. In turn, these tariffs would lead to price inflation on goods, hitting citizens the most.
In some sense, there is no crashing out because the UK could go to WTO trading terms. That may prove workable, although it will take a period to settle down. In the meantime, the trade will likely be disrupted.
The optimists see all the current noise as the final huffing and puffing before a deal emerges. That deal could take the form of the Norwegian or Canadian approach.
Norway almost joined the EU in the 1970s, but at the last minute opted against membership. Since then they’ve developed a close relationship with the EU through Sweden. That’s not without its downsides. They have full access to the single market, yet must follow specific EU laws but have no say in how those laws are made.
Importantly, they must allow free movement of people. Also, Norway pays money to various EU budgets. Thus, Norway gets some of the benefits of the EU on trade while relinquishing a degree of border control. I don’t suppose that will please the ardent leavers.
Canada’s deal with the EU is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). In effect, this has eliminated 98% of trade tariffs. Parts of CETA remain in dispute as the EU has yet to endorse it wholeheartedly. The appeal of a CETA type deals is that it maintains much of the current trade without having the UK too engaged with others aspects of the EU.
Again, the devil is in the detail, and it's not clear that a Canada style deal would be accepted by all EU nations. Plus, it took Canada eight years to negotiate its deal. The UK doesn’t have that time.
A last minute deal may yet pull the UK back from the brink. Although trust in politicians, which was never high, will dive to a new low if that deal is an unwelcome compromise. The merits of democracy itself will be on trial in that scenario.
The leavers are pinning their hopes on trade with the broader world. They cite the fact that about 95% of the world is outside the EU. Here are some other facts - there are over 195 countries in the UN. Of those countries, 35 are seen as 'advanced economies' by the IMF - 20 are 'emerging', and the rest are ‘developing’ (Zimbabwe, Nigeria etc.).
The reality is of those 35 advanced countries 27 are within the EU. Thus the “world is your oyster narrative” is untrue when the world is not as rich as you would like it to be. The bottom line is Britain needs a deal with the EU, either through WTO rules or some other arrangement.
Unless someone compromises, I foresee the UK crashing out. Besides trade and immigration, that may have significant political consequences as regards Scotland. The Scots voted to remain in the EU. Their independence voices will grow louder if the economic implications of Brexit are severe.
When and if that scenario arises, all bets are off as regards the outcome. The very existence of the British nation state will be at risk. Anyone seen David Cameron?
I have a love-hate relationship with the Guardian newspaper. Some of their investigative journalism is outstanding. Then they get bogged down in the daftest aspects of identity politics to spout puerile nonsense. Case in point, Jordan Peterson
The Guardian can’t make up its mind about the Canadian psychologist. Except they don’t like him, thus he’s in their sights. At the same time, he's generated a lot of copy for them. It's clear that Peterson has rattled the cage of the Marxist left, and the spin is on to discredit him. It's laughable to watch.
I did a search on the Guardian website of articles related to Peterson and his ideas. Believe me, there are plenty. Guardian writers cannot leave the man alone. They also appear to be somewhat confused about what or who he is and represents. Of course, the left loves its identity politics so Peterson must have a label. Then once he has a category, he's placed in the merit-hierarchy as either an oppressor or the oppressed.
Below is a slice of this year's articles the Guardian has run on Peterson. These show the confusion and attempts to label him.
On March 9 he’s ‘controversial’ and by March 16 ‘the self-help guru we love to hate'. On March 23 he's ‘full of rage'. To finish the month, Arwa Mahdawi on March 24 crowbars criticism of Peterson into a story on the New York City elections. It's a tight fit, but she's a game lady and gives it a go.
By April 2 Peterson is a ‘minor academic.' Moving into the early summer on May 14, he's ‘right-wing’. On May 23 he's ‘not very clever'. By June things get more interesting. He’s described on June 5 as the ‘academic-cum-pop-philosopher'. By August 5, he’s the ‘evangelist of the new right'. Then again on August 15, he's ‘far-right'.
This week on August 20, we're treated to criticism of Peterson’s diet. This comes from a professor of Irish performance studies. Yep, I had to read that twice before I fell off my chair laughing. What motivates a professor of Irish performance studies to lash out at Peterson? I’ve no idea. What's assured is that the Guardian is scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Besides these articles, I've overlooked the many that came out in support of Cathy Newman. Following her car crash interview with Peterson, media friends rallied in support. The main thrust of these pieces is that Peterson was at fault. How he was at fault is never expressed, except for being a white man. Although, any common-sense reviewer saw Newman's world-view challenged. Unfortunately, that level of honesty escaped Newman’s defenders.
By the way, how is the police investigation into the trolls who allegedly attacked Newman? Silence…
So why is the Guardian so inflamed about Peterson? It spends much time and energy seeking to discredit him. Even getting a ‘River Dance’ expert to slag off his dietary choices. Well, in my view, it's simple. Peterson contests the narrative that underpins the Guardian’s worldview. That's his first offence.
Further, he deploys science and rationality to support the propositions he makes. He's clear that someone's feelings cannot take precedence over science and proven facts. That's his second offence. Facts are difficult to dismiss. Hence the cognitive dissonance of Cathy Newman when confronted with Peterson’s assertions. She's intelligent enough to acknowledge the evidence, but can't reconcile it with her opinions. Gotcha! (Sorry, couldn't resist that.)
Much of the anger that leaps from the Guardian in Peterson’s direction is borne of frustration. They don’t have compelling responses; thus personal attacks are the easier option.
Also, I see another process of play. It sticks in the claw (a lobster claw at that) of the Guardian writers the Petersons ideas appeal to men. Especially a cohort of white men. Some in this group are struggling in the modern world. Peterson causes offence by seeking to help them. After all, in the world of the SJW, men, especially white men, are repressors. Peterson's self-help guide offends their sentiments. White men cannot be victims; otherwise, the whole simplistic postmodern victimhood hierarchy collapses.
I agree some of his advice is banal. But that doesn't detract from its value. The simple call to tidy up your room has profound significance. If it teaches folks to organise themselves better, then surely that's a positive thing. These small steps help on the road to being a better person. Thus, the sneering put-downs in many of the articles say more about the writer than Peterson.
In fairness, a few of the Guardian articles sought to present a balanced assessment. Yet, by my rough estimate, 80% are attack pieces. Plus much of the criticism is bereft of supporting evidence beyond opinions. That's the new norm in the postmodern world.
The Guardian's most significant mistake is to describe Peterson as right-wing. He's far from it. Calling anyone with whom you disagree ‘right-wing' is sloppy and contributes nothing to the debate. Any rational analysis suggests he's middle of the road.
But does dismantling and embarrassing some witless feminist makes you right-wing? It appears so in Guardianland. His assignment of right-wing status is more to do with the far left than anything he has to say. I suppose when you're sitting at the south pole all directions are to the north.
What's distasteful in the coverage of Peterson is the failure to engage with his ideas. Many of the Guardian writers instead take the easy option. Throw verbal bricks and ignore any merit in his views. This lousy approach defines them.
Moreover, while asserting its inclusiveness, the Guardian is demonstrating the opposite. Its relentless pursuit of Peterson reminds me 'the lady doth protest too much'.
Peterson has valuable things to say. He's also wrong about other things. But to level these falsified hit-pieces shows how far this once decent paper has fallen.
On the reverse side, Peterson does not instruct his audience to dismiss his opponents out of hand. He says talk to them at the level of detail because that's where they are weak. That’s his strength and the Guardian’s weakness.
Free-trade is good, right? You wouldn’t think so listening to Donald Trump. Depending on your viewpoint he’s affirmed himself as the anti-trade president. In a bizarre twist, China is now seeking to defend ‘free-trade’. If that assessment is true, it’s a remarkable reversal of roles.
The free-traders claim long-term positives outcomes across a whole host of social metrics. Less war, better life expectancy, greater wealth and even fairness. These are all cited as outcomes of free-trade. While we debate the merits of international trade deals, these folks see the benefits.
To them down the sweep of history, free-trade helped drive the great escape from poverty. This phenomenon defines the modern era. Along with the industrial revolution, trade drove that process. Granted, along the way there was a lot of nastiness, with disastrous outcomes for some.
At its fundamental, economic activity is a mutually beneficial process. It’s a positive sum game. I exchange my talents for money that allows me to buy food, a home and medical care. Someone provides those services to me, for which I pay. This allows specialisation and expertise to develop across human societies and borders. I don’t need to know how to grow rice because someone else does that. Likewise, the rice grower doesn’t need to know my job. He earns his money from providing to me.
At a local level, informal rules may be enough to guide this process. When you go international, it gets complex. That doesn’t distract from the fact that free-trade has the potential to make all humans richer in the end. Plus, and this is the crux, its claimed it makes us nicer people.
As economist Ludwig von Mises put it, “If the tailor goes to war against the baker, he must henceforth bake his own bread.”
Academic research is pointing to free-trade reducing the prospect of war between nations. The last 50 years has been a remarkable period of calm. At the same time trade has expanded exponentially. The cause and effect are disputed by some. Others feel that business is a significant factor in promoting world peace.
The great escape from poverty started in the 1800s with Britain's industrial revolution. Trade then gave the process a kick up the behind to spread out across the world.
In 1976 as one wag put it “Mao single-handedly and dramatically changed the direction of global poverty with one simple act: he died.” At that moment China shook off its inward-looking policies, opened up and started to trade. In the process, and in no time, it lifted hundreds of millions from poverty. Its a lesson in the power of market economics to generate wealth, food and a middle class. China in 2008, after 20 years of the open door policy, attained the same per capita income of Sweden in the 1960s. Breathtaking.
Planned economies without exposure to competition bring stagnation. Then in turn, if unchecked, famine. That’s the lesson from history.
Even so, free trade is not without a downside. Some workers toil in harsh conditions, while the environmental impact can be terrible. The anti-free trade lobby cites these adverse effects. In particular job loss, the economic impairment to countries, and the ecological damage. As underdeveloped countries cut costs to gain a price advantage, workers in these countries face low pay.
Unions have criticised free-trade agreements as harmful to workers. They also see such contracts as contributing to a loss of jobs. To them while workers suffer, the clout of multinational corporations increases.
Putting all these factors together, these critics of free trade fall on the negative side of the equation. To them, free-trade has terrible outcomes. That helps explain much of the resistance to free-trade. No doubt there is some truth in this negative view. But nobody can ignore the positives.
It seems clear that free-trade improves efficiency and innovation. Over time, free-trade works with market forces to shift workers and resources to more productive uses. This allows efficient industries to thrive. The results are higher wages and a dynamic economy that continues to create new jobs and opportunities. In the short term, some workers suffer, and industries disappear. That’s the painful part.
Most of all free trade drives competitiveness. It requires businesses and workers to adapt to the shifting demands of the broader marketplace. These adjustments are critical to remaining competitive. Hiding behind a protectionist barrier produces more expensive goods and services.
This brings us back to Trump and his spat with China and others. Some of what is vexing Trump is the perceived lack of fairness in the trading systems. As regards China, getting market access remains a challenge. Thus China’s proclamations on free-trade are disingenuous when protection of massive state-owned enterprises persists. These protected industries, cannot sustain themselves without reforms. Inefficiencies remain unchallenged when protected from competition.
On the flip side, what is the human cost of dismantling these entities by exposing them to market forces? These could be terrible, with the potential for social disorder. You can, thus, understand China’s concerns and its incremental approach.
I’m no trade expert, far from it. My knowledge of the intricacies of its mechanisms is sketchy at best. Yet, I know this much. I’d rather have the baker making bread to sell to his neighbour than bullets with which to kill. A simplistic view I know, but it covers a pivotal point. The record is clear. In the long-term, free-trade on a level playing field is mutually beneficial. Unfortunately, as always, the devil is in the detail, and much of the current shenanigans is all detail.
I'm sure we will come through to break bread together.
Hong Kong has suffered its worst typhoon on record. With sustained winds of 250 km/h, Super Typhoon Mangkhut hit this weekend. The damage is extensive and going to take some time to repair. People had windows blown in and the contents of their homes trashed. The only saving grace is few injuries and no deaths.
But, you wouldn't think we'd suffered much listening to our Chief Executive. In her statement today she asserted that Hong Kong is “largely unscathed”. Secretary for Security, John Lee Ka-chiu, proved forthright in his assessment that the damage is “serious and extensive”.
I’ve attached a few images and videos below - would you assess this as “unscathed”?
I must state my gratitude for the tremendous effort by the first responders. Police, fireman and staff from the Civil Aid Services worked under demanding conditions to ensure public safety. The police received 20,000 calls for help, compared to about 6,000 they receive on a typical weekend. The fact that no one died or sustained serious injuries is a testament to their work. Police officers were injured during the rescue work. I wish them a fast recovery.
Also, the public utilities continued throughout what was a frightening day. Telephones, internet, gas and electricity all uninterrupted except for a few specific locations. This allowed us to keep in touch with family to reassure them and to coordinate help for each other. The utility companies get a pat on the back for keeping the systems up. Especially electricity because without that everything else halts.
Today we woke up to thousands of trees blocking roads. Public transport struggled to get going, as sections of the rail system proved unusable. Bus couldn't access their routes. Huge crowds built at transport interchanges as folks struggled into work. Walking the streets broken glass crunches under their feet.
It is remarkable how localised the damage is. Central looks untouched, while a few kilometres away it’s a war zone. Thus in fairness to Carrie Lam perhaps that why she formed an erroneous impression. Yet, you’d think she’d be better informed or is she playing down matters? As per her usual approach.
In public statements, she made mention that overseas visitors are here for conferences. That millions of ordinary people struggled to get to work appears to be of little concern to her. When asked about a day-off to aid the recovery, she passed the buck. Staff and employers need to come to an arrangement is her lame response. How is that supposed to happen when the power balance rests in favour of the employers? Once again, Carrie displays her indifference.
Carrie Lam’s statements have a profound impact locally and overseas. Her priority today should be the people of Hong Kong. Instead, she is signalling the world we are open for business. Never-mind that we have destroyed homes and a faltering transport system.
Today was a moment to display leadership. Macau granted a day off to civil servants to ease the load on struggling transport systems. This simple act sets an example for the private sector that would contribute to Hong Kong’s recovery. Instead, Carrie Lam made excuses, wobbled and then passed the buck. She fumbled the leadership test.
Scathed or Unscathed - You decide?
Video of days events
The craziness that infects British institutions goes on unabated and is accelerating. Exhibit 1: the South Yorkshire Police. During the week they made this announcement:
“In addition to reporting hate crime, please report non-crime hate incidents, which can include things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person or in writing. Hate will not be tolerated in South Yorkshire. Report it and put a stop to it.”
Twitter and social media lit up to mock this piece of nonsense. To confirm their distorted thinking, South Yorkshire Police responded with:
“Incidents may not be criminal offences but can feel like a crime to those affected, and can sometimes escalate to crimes.”
I've been puzzling over this. This latter statement is revealing. Am I right to believe the police are stepping outside the fighting crime remit? They now want to get into 'thought policing’? I’d long suspected that ‘Big Brother’ had arrived in the UK. Is this the proof?
In effect, SYP wishes to know if your feelings get hurt by someone's words. They'll then be happy to investigate this. This is both laughable and chilling. Every self-appointed victim, who takes offence, is welcome to get the police involved in their charade.
There is a context to this situation. Let's not forget that SYP took part in the cover-up of Britain's most significant child sex scandal. Despite overwhelming evidence and repeated complaints, they failed to help over 1,200 abused children. Most of them white girls.
These children faced systematic abuse by gangs of predominantly Pakistani men. This occurred in and around Rotherham. The scale and methods of the violence are difficult reading. Gang rapes, girls doused in petrol and trafficking between towns.
All this went unchallenged by the SYP fearful of the racist label. To add to the victim's torment, the police cover-up blamed the girls. Both the local Labour council and the police had more interest in protecting their relationship with an ethnic community. The safeguarding of girls from rape was not a priority.
Further, indications are that the local social services were complicit. Citing ethnic sensitivities, they didn't act. In other words, they’re prepared to allow the rape of young girls because that’s part of the culture. That's the twisted outcome of a PC approach that shuts down free speech.
In a scramble to recover an 'in the toilet' reputation, the SYP flipped to virtue signalling. One can’t be anything but cynical about this.
Why? Well, for a host of reasons. First, and foremost, inviting the public to report hurt feelings is absurd. Further, it’s an assault on freedom of speech. How can we debate anything or discuss if one party or another can call in the police?
Second, how can South Yorkshire justify the manpower to deal with this? Crime is on the rise in their area, while the manpower is slashed. Since 2010 South Yorkshire Police lost 16% of their workforce. Meanwhile, in May this year, five people were murdered within 13 days in South Yorkshire. Again, the evidence suggests ethnic gangs are responsible for some of these deaths. See any pattern here?
SYP has a history of malpractice in its short existence. Formed in 1974 it came into being with the amalgamation of city forces. The miner strike of 1984 proved a testing time as the force faced an unprecedented challenge. Then SYP stood accused of the wholesale fabrication of evidence. Having arrested 95 miners for public order offences the case collapsed in court. When the court rejected all the police statements, officers admitted producing dictated evidence.
In 1989, the Hillsborough disaster exposed SYP to a raft of allegations. These remain before the courts. In short, the force bungled a crowd situation at an FA Cup semi-final. In a crowd surge, 96 people died, and 766 sustained injuries. Senior officers from SYP then fed outright lies to politicians and the media. They sought to divert blame for the poor handling of the crowds by blaming the victims.
The distorted judgment of officers in South Yorkshire was further on display in 2014. A raid on the home of singer Sir Cliff Richard played out live on the news, with the media brought along by the police. The whole show had undertones of turning an investigation into entertainment. It’s evident the force wanted to signal that it is taking the allegations against Sir Cliff as serious. So it puts on a show. Then the hubris backfires when the investigation turned up no evidence. Sir Cliff sued and won massive compensation.
Only now, decades later, are the terrible crimes committed by grooming gangs going through the courts.
Yet, the criminal justice system can act with swiftness when motivated to do so. The prompt action against Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) proves the point. When arrested for contempt of court, he's sent to trial that day and convicted to prison. Meanwhile, the men who raped young girls are still awaiting justice 20 years later. People are asking how come?
Whether you agree with Yaxley-Lennon’s agenda is irrelevant. The question remains why he's processed so fast? Could it be that Yaxley-Lennon is on the right? Identity politics, as it creeps into all aspects of life, classifies him as a white oppressor. In this new progressive orthodoxy is he's not afforded the same protection offered others? The appellate court agreed Yaxley-Lennon's treatment was unfair. He awaits a retrial.
With crime up and police numbers falling, I can only conclude that SYP has its priorities askew. No wonder the force is reportedly demoralised. Front-line cops are dealing with hurt feelings, while real crime goes unchallenged.
In July it emerged that SYP's management team will face an investigation. The inquiry wants to know why SYP failed to act on reports of rife child exploitation. I think we know the answer.
As one whistleblower revealed a senior officer at the time indicated to her that they prioritised car crime over child abuse.
The public knows the truth. One commentator notes:
“Thousands of young girls and children sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, they should be thoroughly ashamed.”
Yes, but we’re also missing a crucial point. Senior police officers must signal their liberal credentials by pandering to the new order. Then the gatekeepers will allow them to advance their careers. Real victims, lower down the postmodern victimhood hierarchy, face apathy. This weeks message from SYP accords that with virtue signalling agenda. Plus, SYP is over-compensating for past failings. Never-mind that the good people of South Yorkshire suffer.
That hurts my feelings.
I heard the word 'gweilo' within an hour of landing in Hong Kong. By the end of that first week, it had entered my vocabulary as a generic term for the expatriate. The full import of its possible meanings only come later. I’ve used the term to describe myself in front of locals because of its disarming impact. On occasions, in feedback, I’ve seen a few grimaces in discomfort, while others sniggered.
Thus it’s with some interest today that I read of Mr Francis Haden. He's claiming racial discrimination, in part, because folks at work called him ‘gweilo’. Haden is suing his employer, seeking HK$200,000 for hurt feelings.
There is a back story of course, although the details are sketchy. Haden works as a blasting engineer on construction sites. He’s alleging an underlying hostility towards non-Chinese with the use of ‘gweilo’ in a derogatory manner.
Lets back up a bit to consider the history. ‘Gweilo’ is the epithet used in Hong Kong for white people. The literal Chinese translation is 'foreign devil’. In Cantonese, the characters are Gwái ( 鬼) meaning "ghost", and lóu ( 佬) meaning "man". There are records of the term emerging in the 1800s during early encounters between local Chinese and European traders.
These days the word has morphed into general usage. It’s entered the Hong Kong lexicon as the common group name for white expatriates. It's a problematic term because of its origins. But many expatriates embrace it. The Galloping Gwais, an expatriate football team, enjoyed some success in the 1980's. As far back as 1958, the Hong Kong Police Dragon Boat team adopted the name ‘The Fan Gwais’ - the troublesome expats. Even the spelling of the word is contested. Take your pick - Gwailo or Gweilo?
In a sense, the white expatriates hijacked the term, flipped it in a lighthearted manner and de-weaponised it in the process. That’s kinda cool. So is the fact you can buy ‘Gweilo Beer’- it's an excellent brew.
But is the word racist or derogatory? That depends on how you understand the term, its usage and context. I’m leaning towards the view that context is critical here. How the word gets deployed makes a difference in deciding if it's racist or hurtful. In the interest of balance, I consulted an SJW acquittance, who came back with this response.
“Gweilo was never used to oppress a marginalised group. White expatriates are colonisers, and the word was used by colonised people to describe their colonisers.”
OK, that’s interesting. The reply infers that for the rich and privileged, labelling with racist language is fine and dandy. That response fits with the postmodern agenda of seeing all white people as oppressors. We are no further forward.
I can recall the term used to insult me. In a meeting, a local police officer took umbrage at my negative feedback for an idea he championed. He was fuming.
"You Gwailo's don’t understand.”
The room went silent. An unwritten rule was broken and a line crossed. He’d deployed the word to offend. I recognised that.
"I beg your pardon, Sir?"
He realised the offence caused, retreated and then apologised. That’s the distinction of context. Using Gweilo as a pejorative term has a sting.
I'd draw a comparison to the use of the n-word. This is fraught with danger as I’m stepping through a minefield of possible misinterpretation. Yet on a daily basis, black youth drop the n-word to each other in conversation, plus make liberal use of it in rap music.
But marvel at the reaction if a white person says the word. The consequences are serious; careers ruined, public and cyber attacks come piling in. Again context is the issue. Given black history white usage of the term is perceived as offensive and unacceptable. I get that.
Having said this, your average white expatriate in Hong Kong is not an under-dog nor repressed. Again, we circle back to context. How about 'Ah Cha' for the Indians and Pakistanis? This word is commonly used even today. I doubt this is helpful to community relations, said with or without malice.
Still, people in this town know the term 'gweilo' has an offensive use, and they sometimes deploy it as such. Likewise, it has applications that are more innocent.
Is another dynamic at play? These days for a subset of the population it's easy to see offence in any behaviour. Far too many people seek it in anything to garner victimhood. For example, the whole gender pronoun debacle is rooted in a victim culture. Yet, seeing the world through a lens of hyper-sensitivity makes us brittle. In turn, this gives us manufactured outrages with absurdity laid upon absurdity. Even the use of certain words can evoke claims of cultural appropriation.
While racism exists in Hong Kong, and that's not to be welcomed, the place is refreshing to be free of the postmodern nonsense that infects the West. The irrationality of identity politics, allied to deconstructionism, has left many intellectually bankrupt. For me, it is a dangerous slope to ban certain words or compel the use of others.
Anyway, we know that peer and social pressure is most effective in correcting behaviour to remove words or actions that society can no longer accept. After all, the law is a blunt tool that can produce undesirable outcomes. ‘Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names can never hurt you’ was the mantra when I was a kid.
Further, as that great philosopher, Mrs De Havilland points out.
“The English laugh at the Scots, the Germans and the French; in turn the Germans, the Scots and the French laugh at the English. Meanwhile, Hong Kong people look down on Mainlanders and vice-versa. It all goes around and comes around. Get over it.”
I don’t know the details of Mr Haden's case nor can I predict the outcome. But I’m watching with great interest to see how the court unties this knot.
As the British Caledonian Tristar swung into land at Kai Tak, I'm sensing something novel. Looking down on the crowded streets, the first hint of Hong Kong’s vitality transferring its energy to me.
Then later, moving through Kowloon, that energy wrapped itself around me, before permeating my body. The city gave off a vibration. Buoyancy hung in the air, with a zeal for getting things done. Get caught up in that can-do conviction - anything is possible.
It’s the early 1980s. Massive infrastructure projects are surging ahead. New towns grow out of the sea or cloven from the hillsides. The slope dwellers are switching precarious wooden structures for high-rise homes. Awaiting them are inside toilets and proper kitchens. Engineers are tunnelling, building to link remotes areas with the ambitious MTR project. Incised with tunnels the harbour is no longer a barrier. Kowloon and Hong Kong Island are one.
Meanwhile, former refugees are toiling away in factories, offices and on constructions sites. Anything is possible as 1997 is looming. People are tense, yet getting on with life as the politicians play their games. Some opt to move on, with Canada and the USA in their sights. The 1989 killings in Beijing drive that.
The government is efficient; it’s corruption-free by Asian standards. The streets are safe. Hong Kong has ridden through a few crises of confidence without a pause. As the negotiations for the handover drag on fortunes are made, others lose chances. The Vietnamese refugee influx stretched patience and resources but never overwhelmed. Hong Kong's glass is half-full.
Even as 1997 approaches, with 1989 shrugged off, a new airport emerges from the sea. Then Kai Tak dims its landing lights for the last time. All the while, the prospects of an emerging China enthrals many. Opportunities abound.
Then something happened. For reasons that remain elusive, Hong Kong’s confidence falters. I suppose no single cause can take the blame. The blows that had before bounced off the armour started to make dents. A few penetrated deep. The glass is looking half empty.
The existential Asian financial crisis of 1998 hit hard. The barometer of Hong Kong’s success is property prices. As these collapsed, it looked like game over. Chief Executive Tung was ill-equipped to deal with the situation. He faltered, rushing a housing initiative.
Then, as today, China stepped in to help shore up the economy. A sullen and ungrateful Hong Kong people did not display much gratitude. That China needed to act affirmed Hong Kong’s dependence on the Mainland. The vast majority of Hong Konger’s willful ignorance of this status runs deep.
The events of 2003 had an enormous impact on Hong Kong. Today the consequences continue to play out. SARS exposed the government to profound criticism. The initial lacklustre response suggested either a cover-up or sheer incompetence. In no time, Hong Kong people felt isolated and forsaken. Tourism collapsed. By April 2003, arrivals at the airport fell 68 per cent. At the same time, Hong Kong people found themselves unwelcome overseas. As an example, the Swiss barred a Hong Kong delegation from attending a Watch and Jewelry Fair in Zurich.
The mood was bleak. Travelling by MTR on a Saturday evening, I’m stunned to find the carriages empty. About town, everyone is wearing masks. In the end, the outbreak killed 299 in Hong Kong. It left behind a deep feeling of sadness, loss and anger. Some of that anger spilt over into the Article 23 debate. 500,000 people took to the streets on 1st July 2003. Organised to protest the national security laws, many joined to vent frustration at the government. This protest ultimately led to the fall of Chief Executive Tung. He stepped aside in 2005 citing poor health.
In the final analysis, SARS also had positive outcomes. Public hygiene standards improved, although it’s a lesson that needs constant reinforcement. Hong Kong people discovered that there is more to life than making money. In search of healthy pursuits, they took to the country parks.
Yet none of that could erase the damaging sense that Hong Kong was not invulnerable. Once that realisation dawned, attitudes changed for the worst.
In the broad sweep of events, I suppose the Occupy movement of 2014 comes next. I’ve written much on Occupy that can be found in this blog. On its consequences in the broader community, these are profound. Also, these impacts resonate to this day.
Occupy exploded in a massive release of pent-up energy in the autumn of 2014. By early December, it was over. A spent force. It collapsed in rancour, with fragmented groups tussling for control. The youth at the centre of the movement came away demoralised.
Given the differing generational-zeitgeist, it’s inevitable that Occupy would split society. Yet, the depth of that split cut through all sectors. You either supported it, or you didn’t. It’s a civil war moment. Father against son, mother against daughter; few people sat on the fence. That polarisation played into politics, the workplace plus education. No sector remained unblemished. On social media, it played out in unfriending on Facebook. People who'd been pals since kindergarten broke off contact. Then everyone sat in their silos, ignoring each other.
Another CE fell victim. Leung Chun-ying didn’t seek re-election in the wake of Occupy. He’s replaced by a humdrum career civil servant, Carrie Lam. Since Occupy, a political stalemate hangs in the air. Most folks sought to put Occupy behind them to get on with life.
In recent years, images of former senior officials dragged into court added damage to public sentiment. That a former Chief Executive and his deputy exploited their positions for personal gain affirms a particular view ... that Hong Kong is on a downward spiral. Coupled with this is the never-ending revelations of shoddy construction on infrastructure projects. Job after job is late, then over-budget.
It’s only natural that the public is questioning the integrity of our institutions. At the same time the wealth gap, high property prices and unchecked pollution remain a blight.
To be sure things have gone astray, but is Hong Kong finished as ‘Asia’s world city’? A reality check is necessary. Cutting through the media hype, the tribalism of attitudes, to consider hard facts. The trajectory of continuous decline is an opinion that is worth challenging.
First, Hong Kong has sustained consistent growth for decades. It maintains a surplus that is the envy of other places. The city’s fiscal reserves exceeded HK$1.7 trillion by December last year. Official statistics show the average annual growth rate of revenue from 2009-10 to 2014-15 was 8.5 per cent. Expenditure rose 6.2 per cent. In short, Hong Kong has massive reserves.
Many are questioning why more of that money is not spent on social welfare and care for the elderly. It remains a disgrace that the poverty-stricken elderly, must scrape a living collecting cardboard. After all, they toiled to build Hong Kong.
No one can argue that Hong Kong lacks jobs. If you want to work the opportunity is there. Likewise, if you're going to set up a business, the government makes it easy. The procedure took me 45 minutes. I filled in one form, produced my documents, and that’s it. Could it be any simpler? Hong Kong positively invites you to be entrepreneurial.
Second, Hong Kong is safe. As a father with daughters, I’m relaxed to allow them to venture out even on busy Saturday nights. I’m confident I’d be less sanguine residing in London, New York or just about any other major metropolitan city (other than Singapore). Also, not a single kid has been shot at school in all my 30 plus years in Hong Kong.
Third, Hong Kong’s public transport system is superb. Despite its recent setbacks, the MTR remains the benchmark for other places. The buses are frequent and cheap. Although the taxi trade is a mixed bag, the fares are reasonable: the quality of the drivers ranges from outstanding to neanderthal. Unwelcome cartel practices are keeping Uber out. A bit of competition would force the taxi trade to up its game.
Ending my not exhaustive list is the ready access to our wonderful countryside. All Hong Kong is in easy reach of the country parks, with walking trails that are accessible and challenging. You don’t need to be a wealthy expat or rich local to enjoy this stunning public space.
There are many reasons to criticise Hong Kong. It has its challenges. All I’m saying is lets put away corrosive fatalism that Hong Kong is in the toilet. It’s not and far from it. Would it not be better to strike a more balanced assessment? Then recognising the challenges, let's address them In that case, we can reignite some of that Hong Kong mojo.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.