"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"The two-week carbon footprint of the 25,000 delegates is estimated equal to that produced by Belgium in the same period."
If you believe the hype, delegates at COP26 in Glasgow will decide our fate as a species. The 14 day COP26 conference is described as the world's last chance to stop catastrophic global warming. Really?
About 25,000 delegates will attend. The Brits advised people to travel by train to Glasgow to avoid the unfortunate image of delegates arriving by polluting planes. Only one problem — the unfortunate British rail system. Trains are notoriously unreliable after decades of mismanagement and underinvestment.
And with no high-speed rail links, plus the usual lousy weather disrupting traffic, the whole shebang looks pretty chaotic before it begins.
Never mind, the organisers have electric vehicles to transport the VIPs but fell short on electric charging facilities. So they've resorted to diesel-fuelled generators. You couldn't make it up.
Add to that a lack of accommodation in Glasgow. The canny locals are charging an average of £6,000 for two weeks in Airbnbs.
With the Queen resting at home, the Prince of Piffle will be there. This sort of thing is right up his street. In 2019, Charles asserted we only had 18 months to save the planet. Recently he's cited ten years to doomsday. I suppose you lose track of time after the longest apprenticeship in history.
Anyway, it's essential to recognise the contribution made by the Royal Family. Prince Andrew has opted to remain at home for a while and forego any flights, especially those heading to America. That will help reduce his carbon footprint.
Of course, Greta Iceberg is there. She arrived on an eco-friendly motorised skateboard powered by unicorn tears. No doubt, the faithful will hang on her every word, amplifying her sound-bites to assuage their progressive guilt. You know the type, the sort of nutter who superglues their head to the road as an act of piety.
Greta has already decided that COP26 will fail. Brandishing an iPhone, she marched this week decrying air pollution. However, I'd take Greta a tad more serious if she bothered to set an example. Take that iPhone, for example.
Also, could she come up with a comprehensive, implementable and sustainable plan? I'm not holding my breath. These are vastly complex issues that touch on all aspects of human life, nationhood, geopolitics and the economy. Thus, I'm afraid trite chastisements from Greta and her crew will echo and fade off the wall of reality. It's easy to protest but challenging to come up with genuine solutions.
Meanwhile, Glasgow hosting COP26 has a touch of irony. The Glaswegians I know would welcome warmer weather.
Looking through all the guff about COP26, it appears the big goal is Net Zero, which means the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. That's relatively easy to achieve. You build loads of wind farms and close the coal-fired power stations. Everybody is happy.
Except, what happens when the wind stops blowing and your whole power supply is in jeopardy. Lets not forget that the UK came close to a complete shutdown earlier this year. When things like that start to impact the public, wait for the political fallout. A few grannies freezing to death without heat will soon swing sentiment to powering up the old coal burners.
Any proposals that come out of COP26 need to weigh against what unwelcome behaviours may arise. For example, Glasgow introduced a £35 fee to remove large domestic items and encourage recycling. But, immediately, fly-tipping increased as people dumped items in the common areas of buildings.
Cuts in the street cleaning budget, cuts in refuse collection and an ageing fleet of rubbish trucks created a perfect storm. Rats soon preyed on the piles of debris. To add to the fun, Glasgow's bin men have gone on strike for a week.
Lastly, the two-week carbon footprint of the 25,000 delegates is estimated equal to that produced by Belgium in the same period. So, what I find perplexing is that anyone believes this hysterical scam will make any difference.
Geopolitics, national self-interest, demographics and technology will influence the moves needed to limit climate change. There is a compelling argument that economic progress, with the emergence of affluence, does more to drive down climate change than any policy directives. Add to that falling birth rates, and then, hey presto, the job gets easier.
Self-important people blah, blah, blah in rooms will make no difference, and on that point, I agree with Greta.
In the meantime, I'd encourage more nutters to superglue their heads to the road in protest. It cheers me up no end watching this stuff.
"Given the rapid development in technology, how long so-called 'silent' submarines remain covert is debatable. Having spent vast sums and diluted attempts to denuclearise the world's military, Australia may get nuclear submarines too late."
Don't expect to see Ozzie nuclear submarines popping up in the Taiwan strait anytime soon. Although much of the media coverage around AUKUS - the new security pact between America, Australia and the U.K. - focused on the submarine issue. Yet, it's unclear when the Royal Australian Navy will get new toys.
By cancelling the agreement to buy French diesel-electric submarines, Australia hitched its fortunes firmly to the U.S.
The French then accused the Australians of stabbing them in the back and portrayed the U.K. as 'vassal state' of the U.S., going full 'your father smells of elderberries' mode.
The caustic French reaction fits their policy that seeks to break away from NATO. In 2019, President Emmanuel Macron issued a dramatic declaration favouring European independence from NATO. Instead, he prefers a European military organisation accompanied by a separate diplomatic role in the world. Thus, AUKUS undermines France's vision by reasserting U.S. dominance.
Meanwhile, without any nuclear industry nor expertise, the assumption is that the Australians will borrow a few spare submarines left lying around. They'll use these to build experience and capacity before getting their own.
And yet, estimates suggest they won't have those hand-downs operational anytime in the next ten years. While home-grown submarines aren't likely until the mid-2040s, if then, given the usual cost overruns and delays that such projects encounter. Regardless, Australia bet the house on lasting U.S. power in Asia.
In addition, military experts agree that stealthy nuclear submarines make little sense for homeland defence being more suited to an offensive role. And the target is obviously China, which can now spin this as modern Western gunboat diplomacy.
Then again, given the rapid development in technology, how long so-called 'silent' submarines remain covert is debatable. Having spent vast sums and diluted attempts to denuclearise the world's military, Australia may get nuclear submarines too late.
Of more significance is that the AUKUS and the QUAD alliance (US, India, Japan, Australia) feeds Beijing's narrative that the West seeks to stop the rise of China. Underpinning that mindset is Beijing's view of history: outsiders taking chunks of the country and exploiting its resources. The capture of Hong Kong at gunpoint to traffic opium, plus the seizing of ports by the Russians are examples.
That Australia opted to ally itself with the U.S. and U.K. while abandoning France, strengthens Beijing's rendering of these events - the Anglo-Saxon countries are seeking to keep domination of the world order.
So while the U.S. may speak of 'the rule-based world order', Chinese officials see these words as cover and tactics. For them, the West forfeited any claim to hold the moral high ground. They note with some alacrity that the U.S. follows the 'rules' when it accords with their aims; then abandons rules and principles when it suits national interests.
The Chinese cite the U.S.'s frequent interventions in other nations through regime change, Guantanamo Bay, rendition, waterboarding, and allowing social media corporations to censor a democratically elected leader.
How can Beijing interpret this web of actions and sentiments except to come back to a stance that 'might is right'. And as always, the Chinese are playing the long game.
Moreover, in their psyche, territorial integrity is a way of demonstrating strength and confidence at home and abroad. This means no Chinese leader, communist or otherwise, can allow history to repeat and hope to survive.
Current tensions revolve around Taiwan. But, again, in Beijing's mind, this is a Chinese issue as part of the unresolved aspects of the Chinese civil war. Interestingly, this month President Biden moved to reassert the One-China policy in a move to ease tensions.
Nonetheless, with hawks on both sides beating the drums of war, the potential for a mishap is real. In that context, Chinese flights in the vicinity of Taiwan are signals to the U.S. rather than the Taiwanese. Likewise, claims of violated Taiwanese airspace need treating with a pinch of salt. As many commentators have asserted, the delineation of the zones is open to debate.
Having travelled widely both on the Mainland and in Taiwan, I would say the people are good-natured, generous and hospitable. They enjoy a common heritage and kinship.
Today, Taiwan is one of the biggest investors in the Mainland. Between 1991 and the end of March 2020, approved investment in China comprised 44,056 cases totalling US$188.5 billion. In 2019, the value of cross-strait trade was US$149.2 billion.
That connection aids prosperity on both sides of the straits. In short, the people of Taiwan are prosperous and resourceful. Their economy is doing well. Likewise, the people on the Chinese Mainland are the same. Thus, away from the interventions of others seeking to stoke tension, a rapprochement between Beijing and Taiwan is possible.
A greater Fujian/Taiwan Cooperation zone would be a good start. In commercial practice, the groundwork and ethnic links are already there.
Such a development will take time and cool heads. Plus, it will be easier without warships, submarines and warplanes involved from both sides.
"The UK has had six MPs murdered in the space of 42 years; on average, one every seven years. For a group that numbers 650 at any given time, would you fancy the odds?"
So Jo Cox was 'murdered', but Sir David Amess 'passed away' or died. 'Passed away' — FFS, the poor man didn't fall down the stairs at work.
In truth, this was a political assassination inside a church by an Islamic extremist with a history of radical conduct. Amess was stabbed 17 times in a frenzied premeditated attack.
But reading and watching the initial coverage, you'd struggle to get the facts, which gives a fascinating insight into news spin, either by intent or unconscious bias.
When Labour MP Jo Cox was killed in June 2016, the media soon defined her attacker as a far-right white man. However, in the Amess case, the attacker, who waited in a church, is a British national of Somali heritage. Spot the difference? Excellent use of the word 'heritage'.
Granted, a few outlets had the decency to acknowledge the culprit's antecedents. Some even made it known he was on the radar through the counter-terrorist 'Prevent' programme.
The agenda of the 'don't normalise' hatred journalists would have some merit if they bothered to apply it across the board. But, instead, when a high-ranking member of the opposition, Angela Raynor, calls all Tories 'scum', that's fine. Her party leader, the chinless Starmer, dismissed this remark as "It's Angela being Angela".
Fair enough, because I don't buy the narrative that Rayner played a part in this killing, although a good portion of the internet is throwing blame her way. If the uncouth Rayner in any way influenced the killer, I'd be amazed. My point is that politically motivated journalists can't have it both ways. If certain words have power, as they claim, then surely that applies to all sectors of society.
The UK has had six MPs murdered in the space of 42 years; on average, one every seven years. For a group that numbers 650 at any given time, would you fancy the odds?
The mainstream media will continue to focus on the protection for MPs issue. Meanwhile, discussion of the underlying problem is verboten.
Sir David now joins a long list; Fusilier Lee Rigby, the kids at the Manchester Arena bombing, MP Stephen Timms, the victims of the London Bridge attack and many others. God forbid anyone should mention 'Jihad'.
Anyway, look out for how this murder is spun as a ‘lone wolf’ attack, entirely unavoidable, we stand united.
That’s enough, nothing to see here. Move along!
"Doing justice to the whole Dune epic storyline is difficult in the extreme."
As a Dune fanboy, I desperately wanted this movie to work. I read the books as a teenager during my science fiction phase— after I'd abandoned the von Däniken bat shit 'Chariot of Gods' genre. Unfortunately, despite von Däniken claims, the aliens weren't amongst us or at least they'd not made it to Hull.
Adapting science fiction to the cinema is always problematic because movies struggle to capture the depth of the culture, technology, and the breadth of the rich source material. As a result, some stuff gets skimmed over.
Thus, doing justice to the whole Dune epic storyline is difficult in the extreme, predominantly because author Frank Herbert paints a universe with textures that lends all the storylines and characters depth. Thus, we have the Emperor and his family, the Spacing Guild and the Navigators, House Harkonnen, House Atreides, the Lansraad, the Freman and the pivotal Spice Melange.
And that's for starters. To gather all the threads is a tall order, which is why this is only part one at two hours and thirty-five minutes.
Plus, Dune 2021 faces the double jeopardy of comparisons with David Lynch's 1984 version. At first, the critics panned Lynch's interpretation, which I thought unfair given the challenge.
Instead, in my view, it's a commendable effort, not a great movie - but a decent film that trims the story for easy digestion. Thankfully over time, Dune 1984 gained a cult following as people recognized its strengths.
I needn't have worried about Dune 2021 (Part 1). After all, director Denis Villeneuve proved his worth with Blade Runner 2049. Of course, it takes some audacity to reprise Blade Runner — one of the best science fiction movies ever made. Yet, he pulled that off with some flair.
Spoiler alerts! The arc of the Dune story looks like the archetypical hero's journey. Our protagonist, Paul Atreides, initially appears to be following the path of Luke Skywalker — off on a journey of discovery as another kid with hidden powers, facing challenges he didn't want.
It's classic stuff that usually ends with the protagonist triumphing. Except this is only part one, and if the sequel holds to the books, that arc is subverted. To quote Herbert, "I had this idea that charismatic leaders ought to come with a warning label 'may be dangerous to your health'"
There is a nod to the 1984 version in the esthetics, but then again, you can only portray a sand planet one way — with loads of sand. Meanwhile, the technology is all understated, worn and looks credible.
As this is Villeneuve, you expect superb cinematography. And he delivers in spades. The jaw-dropping set pieces of ornithopters flying, the massive space vehicles and the sweeping vistas are eye candy. This movie is the big-screen material only.
There are a couple of flaws. First, an awful lot of exposition looks like it's setting up for Part 2. Also, the repetitive dream clips need trimming because we get the message that Paul will meet the blue-eyed girl.
And while the casting is spot on, there is one notable exception. The fat Baron in Dune 1984 summoned up much more menace, creepiness and outright distaste. Stellan Skarsgård can't match the outrageous performance of Kenneth McMillan as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Skarsgård's manifestation of the Baron lacks a genuinely sinister edge.
At one point, for no apparent reason, we get a brief conversation in Mandarin. Is this a weak market-placement attempt? The audience thought so as it drew titters.
But for me, the absolute icing on the cake is the Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Visceral and intense, the music and sound elements carried the visuals to a new intensity. Wait for the soul-wrenching cry the Shadout Mapes exhales at the moment of revelation — disturbing.
Then bath in the whine of the distorted bagpipes as House Atreides parades on Arrakis; at once familiar and haughtily strange.
Where is Part 2? Well, not even in production yet as another victim of Covid. However, work is due to start in 2022.
So, did I like it? Yes. This movie feels like the beginning, and I'm ready for more.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.