About McPherson's Rant


McPherson’s Rant is an old Scots Folk Song about a Robin Hood Type Character who was hanged.

There is no connection, unless you count the “rant” part.  The world’s a strange place and sometimes a “rant” at absurdity and unfairness is just what’s required.

Here you can expect to find examples of stupidity, irony and idiocy , especially relating to Hong Kong, and with particular attention to the SCMP, and its’ letters page. A common problem with many blogs is their failure to find something new to say, I find the SCMP, and it’s letters page, provides plenty of ammunition on a daily basis and will reference them frequently. If you have your own letter not getting published, put it on our comments section.





Ferry Fears and Public Transport

….Oh well, trying to get this thing back up and running…again!

I’ve been following the Lamma Ferry fiasco with mouth agape, and thinly veiled smug satisfaction.  I used to live on Lamma.  I always stayed alert to what was happening on the ferry, as I never trusted these guys.  As a rule public transport in Hong Kong is excellent, especially the MTR, which although one could take issue with its overall mission, the trains, which are its primary function, are excellent.  Buses again, are inexpensive, frequent, and generally punctual, the only occasional problem being a bus driver who is a former taxi driver, but more on taxi’s later.  When I say buses, I do not include mini buses, regardless of their hue!  These mini buses are weapons of destruction, generally under the control of a tattooed fuckwit.  Green is better than red, but alive is better than dead and neither colour does much to inspire confidence.

Taxi drivers, are, with a very few noticeable exceptions, abysmal drivers, who are generally ignorant of the back seat occupants discomfort.  Taxi drivers in HK seem to have developed a twitch on their accelerator foot which leads to the passenger resembling a mental patient lolling back and forth in despair.  An 80 year old died last year whilst waiting on a fare, the cry from taxi drivers was this would become more common if the idling engine law was passed! Bullshit, ‘cos no one pays any attention to that law, but more importantly, WTF is an 80 year old doing driving a taxi?

And so to the Ferry’s.  Ok we don’t have the overcrowding like the Phillipinnes, but believe me, most ferries in HK are accidents waiting to happen, crew are poorly trained, vessels are poorly maintained. seamanship knowledge is generally absent and in an accident, don’t look to the staff for guidance.  But, that is not the main issue, it’s the failure to ensure the seaworthiness of the vessels that is the main issue.

Here a just a few details emerging from the recent tragedy.  The plating on the sunken vessel was thinner than was stated in the plans.  A bulkhead door shown on the plans was never fitted.  Seats were fixed to plywood with very little to keep them secure.  Not enough life jackets, none for children.  No evacuation planning prior to sailing.  Neither Captain followed the rules of the sea and turned to starboard, a universal collision avoidance measure at sea.

I’m sure there will be more, much more to come out of this event, and I’m pretty sure one of the Captains is going to jail, but I doubt very much whether the culture of indifference that masks a hidebound bureaucracy will ever change, I fear it’s cultural.

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The English Patient & The Atomic Bomb

Following on from yesterday’s post, and after a few beers, I remembered a rhetorical question posed in The English Patient, a book I read many years ago, it was a wonderfully literary book, if rather hard going. But don’t panic, I’m not going all literary on you.

There was a Indian character in the book, Kip, named Kip I believe as a contrast to another Indian Character, Kipling’s Kim. Both are compliant wee brown men working for the colonial master, except Kim remains so, whereas Kip has an epiphany, in the blinding flash of an Atomic bomb, Kip suddenly knows, it dawns on him, the realization that the colonial master would always win out regardless of how good a wee brown man you were, that to the victor belongs the right to write, and the right to re-write history.

This was the part of the book that stuck in my mind when I was younger, the young Indian Kip, has been working for the British, of course he knows that there is a an unjustifiable irony in working for the colonial master,  but he believes that the British represent progress and advancement and a climb out of ignorance, until he learns of the Atomic bombing of Japan and the massive destruction and death… If I remember correctly he gets on his motorbike and leaves the Villa where they had all been staying and makes a statement along the lines of: ” They would never have done this to Germany [he may have said a white country} regardless, the question deserves reflection.

Do you think that the US Government would have NUKED Germany?  For sure, they would have NUKED Nazis, but a city in Germany. At the time, it stopped me reading the book whilst I pondered the question.  In the end, I decided that I didn’t think that anyone would  drop a Nuclear Bomb on people like themselves. I remember a few drunk conversations in the pub expounding the point, before, I moved onto another book.

You could of course point to Dresden, 80% destroyed and around 100 000 killed, but the sheer devastation of a nuclear weapon is something else, Bomber Command’s losses over Germany were astounding, by some estimates over 50% of participants were killed, Enola Gay bombed with impunity, a one trick pony with at most, a mere nine lives at risk.

It’s always so much easier to kill the other, to demonize, to satanize, if you like, to emphasize the difference, rather than the sameness.  It makes it easier.  Gooks, Reds, Blacks, Northerners, Southerners, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Chinks, Pakis, Scots,  and now of course… infidels, non- believers.  It was ever thus.

Who Knows? Do you?

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Alternative Histories

Been a while and for that I apologize.  It’s not that I haven’t found stuff to bitch about, it’s just that there is so much crap in the SCMP I dunno where to start, so for now, am going to take a wee different tack.

I’ve been writing stuff for a while about the “law of unintended consequences” a favorite topic of mine, I suppose linked to the butterfly effect that everyone knows about by now, but again, this post is going off at a different tangent.  Yesterday was the 67th anniversary of the Hiroshima vaporization, 70 000 people vanished in a flash.  I’m going to offer you a valid alternative to an accepted facet of history and leave you to imagine what alternative reality you can posit had the Trueman administration not lied.

The commonly accepted argument is that the bombing was necessary as it saved countless American lives, it avoided the need to invade Japan and repeat the horror of Okinawa on the Japanese Mainland, I say Bullshit!

Japan was on it’s knees, it was already suing for surrender, the only sticking point was that America insisted on an unconditional surrender, but they knew the Japanese could never accept their Emperor being held responsible for any act of the War, they stupidly thought, still do in fact, that their emperor was/is Divine, so how could he be put on trial?

Germany had surrendered months earlier, Japan was being systematically bombed into the dark ages with hordes of B 29 bombers using conventional weapons, Tokyo was firebombed, in fact a host of cities were razed with minimal resistance.  However, strangely, four cities were left untouched, Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Kyoto.  Why?  Perhaps to see the effect of this new weapon on a virgin city!

General Eisenhower and Admiral Nimitz to their immense credit, declaimed the bombing as unnecessary, Japan was defeated.  Admiral Leahy, Trumans chief of staff went further and stated the bombing had no material effect on the outcome of the war.

I may seem to be repeating myself here, but Japan was defeated, they were asking for: “Peace, but please leave our emperor alone.”  Many in the US were asking why not just accept their surrender and allow Hirohito to remain free and assist in the rebuilding as a figurehead…  in fact the Amercians did just that, but after the dual atrocity.  Or should that be after the experiment.

And so it came to pass, a biblical Armegeddon, Hiroshima was destroyed, Kokura was next but the cloud cover was wrong so Nagasaki was added to the list and went the way of Hiroshima.  The Americans in their infinite mercy, spared Kyoto due to its cultural significance.

The National Review in 1958 stated that the: “Main purpose of dropping the atomic bombs on Japan was not military but diplomatic, and the the real target was not Japan but Russia…”

In retrospect it’s hard to avoid the obvious, the US wanted to prolong the war to test these new powerful weapons and send a message to Russia and the wider world: “We are the USA, look on my works, ye mighty,  and despair.”

Had the war ended sooner, Stalin may not have invaded northern China, and the whole discredited domino effect argument that defined US policy in Asia for the next 40 years would never have reared it’s ugly head, there may have been no Korean war, or in fact Vietnam war, East Timor, Cambodia…or perhaps you think different.

God Bless America, land of the free, home of the dead braves.

This post was motivated by a lengthy piece by Phil Strongman in The Independent Newspaper


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Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans!
Plans are what we make so GOD can have a good laugh!
The best laid plans of mice and men aft gang agley!

Three different statements, all telling us the same thing.
The first was by Lennon or McCartney or both, it doesn’t really matter, Lennon for sure had lots of plans, Mark Chapman had a different one.
McCartney too, losing Linda and being ripped off by Heather!

I can’t remember who said the second one, but the sentiment is the same, except of course, there is no God to laugh at us. As an aside, if you want to read the best story about what the empirical evidence suggests about a GOD, read “The Mysterious Stranger” by Mark Twain. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3186/3186-h/3186-h.htm

The last quote is by Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet, and author of many fantastic poems with a theme revolving around humanity and its trials and tribulations. “Aft Gang agley” means, often go wrong. The perceptive of you will note that John Steinbeck borrowed the mice and men part for his eponymous book. For sure Lennie had plans involving lots of rabbits, didn’t quite turn out that way!

So why the post? Its just that there was an obituary in the SCMP today, young women of 46, two children and although obituries can be somewhat hagiographic, this one was moving, she seemed to have been one of those people that many of aspire us to be but very few manage. Although it was left unsaid, I think she may have died of cancer, leaving two young sons and a bereaved husband.

I didn’t know the woman, but she left a legacy in the form of her sons and the charity she founded.
Life’s unfair, we all know that, her death is no less or more important that those massacred in Syria yesterday, but through her obituary I learned something about her. No one will write an obituary for the Syrian kids and adults, although she cared about the poor and set up her charity to help them, the poor alas still don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

The moral?  There is no moral, save; rich or poor, seize the day, because there might not be time to fulfill those plans of yours.

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Hong Kong governance Ha ha ha…

I’ve not finished today’s paper yet, but the little I read was enough to motivate me. Its been awhile.

“Teachers Pass rate for English writing just 35%.” This was only a small byline in the SCMP, strangely, I would have thought that the statistic was  worth at least a main article, if not front page, it went on to say 49.9% (a lie no doubt, just to keep it a minority) failed the spoken test.” Connection, connections.  International schools have been given a quota limiting the number of local Chinese that can be admitted to relieve pressure on their schools.(Inverse Racism?)  The ESF is constantly attacked as being a hangover from the colonial era yet more and more locals are trying to get in.  Can the Government not connect these dots?  I’ll do it for you, your teachers are shite! Hence your schools are shite. Parents want quality education, which the government cannot provide, the international schools and the ESF are providing it but government is forcing parents out of the system especially by screwing with the ESF.  Wankers

Second headline that got me was the saga over the Football Associations Chief Executive, Gordon McKie, who resigned after only six months, I think the first guy they interviewed ages ago, called the committee inept, unknowledgeable and disrespectful (2 members fell asleep during his interview, another one was on the phone.) The second guy refused to accept the job after being offered it, an indication again of what he thought of his interviewing committee, and now McKie has lasted just six months.  If you connect this to the saga over the repeated search for candidates, hiring’s, resignations and general mincing about over at the Kowloon Cultural desert hub;  perhaps you could include the hounding of Mike Rowse, or the resignation of Paul Morris at the Hong Kong Institute of Education and then I can see a pattern here, and there are more examples, I just can’t remember them as I’m on my fifth beer.

Residents of Hong Kong will be well aware of the internecine office politics that are endemic here, couple this with the destructive concept of face, then apply a dose of  ”we’re in charge now gweilo,” sprinkle with cultural inferiority and what do you get?  A bunch of incompetent self important arse-holes, in charge of our organizations, most of whom couldn’t spell impartial, or objective, or impersonal, in fact as evidenced by our local teachers, they probably can’t spell very much at all.  Who in their right mind would take a job with these lickspittle toadys?

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In my country…absurd and unbelievable

Some times we’re blind to that which we don’t wish to see.  Not all of us, not even most of us, but those that could make a difference find it inconvenient to speak out if it involves criticizing the big school bully. So plaudits to Chinese writer Murong Xuecun, who delivered the following speech in Oslo, an honest and earnest cry for justice for the disenfranchised in China, all those people whose history has never been written, and never will be written, trodden underfoot by a complicit West who just want their shit to be cheaper, and so collude with the evil-doers while paying lip service to Human rights.

It’s full title is “Caging a monster”, an apt title, and a article that should be read by everyone dealing with China.

“I am a Chinese writer. Allow me to say a few words about my country. Everyone knows that in the past thirty years China has built countless skyscrapers, commissioned countless airports, and paved countless freeways. My country’s GDP is the world’s second largest and her products are sold in every corner of the planet. My compatriots can be seen on tour in London, New York and Tokyo wearing expensive clothes, chattering raucously. My compatriots also fill up casinos and line up to buy LV bags.

People exclaim in amazement: China is rising, the Chinese are rich! But behind this facade of power and prosperity there are details of which many people are unaware, and it is precisely these details that make my country a very strange place. Living in China is like watching a play in a giant theater. The plots are absurd and the scenarios are unbelievable—so absurd, so unbelievable that they are beyond any writer’s imagination.

My country manufactures powdered milk containing melamine, feeds fish and shrimp contraceptive medications to enhance their growth, uses industrial alcohol in fake wine, preserves bean curd with human excrement, and produces “gutter oil,” the product of a notorious practice in which waste oil from gutters outside restaurants is recycled for human consumption.

In my country, the legal system works like this: countless laws are enacted, and then countless procedures are created, followed by countless enforcement regulations and detailed judicial interpretations, but ultimately it is up to the political leaders to decide who wins and who loses a case. In my country, many cases cannot be pursued in the courts. Even if legal action is taken, courts can refuse to hear a case. Even if the case is heard in court, the judgment is made well before the hearing start.

In my country, many innocent people disappear, and some people lose their freedom without ever being sentenced by a court. Some people attempt to have their grievances addressed at a higher level by following procedures prescribed in law. These people are branded “petitioners.” In my country, the word petitioner conveys the sense of a nuisance, a mentally ill person, a terrorist. To deal with these petitioners, the government mobilizes a huge amount of resources to herd them home, jail them, and in a particularly creative measure, incarcerate them in insane asylums

Recently a famous petitioner, a blind lawyer called Chen Guangcheng has attracted a lot of attention. Chen is an advocate for people’s rights and dignity. At this very moment, he is a prisoner in his own home. Many people, including myself, have attempted to visit Chen but all have been chased away by government employed thugs.

In my country, there are many peculiar ways to die in detention and officials are more creative than a novelist like me in coming up with explanations: died playing hide-and-seek;died while dreaming; died of psychosis; died sipping water. But in all cases the bodies of those who die in custody are covered in bruises and wounds.

In my country, every city has demolition crews equipped with bulldozers and truncheons. The bulldozers are for leveling people’s homes and the truncheons are for bludgeoning stubborn homeowners. To protect their homes, some homeowners beg on their knees, others cry, and some threaten to kill themselves or even actually self immolate. But nothing can stand in the way of the demolition crews and no official is ever brought to account when demolitions result in deaths

One woman in her seventies, for example, has been a people’s representative for over fifty years and yet she has never tabled a motion, and never once voted against a motion. Her  job is simple. All she has to do is raise her hand and she can live a comfortable life for  performing this task. In recent years some people have attempted to compete in these elections without receiving government approval. These people almost always lose and often suffer miserably for their actions.

In my country, government-run relief organizations engage in human trafficking;intellectually-disabled people slave away in factories and mines; pregnant women are coerced to have abortions and infants are taken by force to be handed over to orphanages. These infants then are sold to other regions and even foreign countries if their parents cannot come up with the cash to buy them back.

In my country, the job of the press and electronic media is to promote the government,not to report the truth. The education system is tasked with instructing the people to be loyal to the government and keeping the people ignorant, not with disseminating knowledge. As a result, many people have never grown up intellectually even though they are adults. Even today, many people in my country still are nostalgic for the catastrophic Cultural Revolution that ended over thirty years ago and still promote the cult of personality. Some people still deny that the unprecedented great famine of the early 1960s ever occurred, and insist that the millions of deaths by starvation is a fabrication.

In my country, every academic undertaking must serve the interests of the government. Academics must fabricate history in accordance with the government’s political interests. Economists must develop economic theories to support the government’s political agenda. In my country, leaders invent truths and their pronouncements are applied to every field of human endeavor, be it political, economic, cultural, or even animal husbandry.

In my country, the government claims to have eradicated classes, but in reality, class divisions are glaringly obvious. The highest class enjoys exclusively produced foods while the lower classes are left to consume contaminated and dangerous products. Children of the dominant class study at opulent private schools, while children of the second-class study at ordinary schools. The third class attend shabby schools for migrant workers and the fourth class, well, they don’t get to go to school at all.

My county takes delight importing the latest jet airplanes and providing aid to foreign countries, despite destitute beggars roaming the land at home, despite many of her people being unable to afford medical care, despite many children being too poor to go to school and despite a huge number of people living in poverty.

In my country, informing on others is encouraged. The government has a secret dossier on every single citizen which records everything about us until the day we die—from innocent remarks about us to unsubstantiated accusations as well as many things we don’t even know about ourselves. Secret agents in factories, schools and residential neighborhoods covertly record everything people say and do. The atmosphere is oppressive—people do not trust the government, employees do not trust employers, students don’t trust teachers, and wives do not trust husbands.

In my country, there is a strange system that rewards liars, and with the passage of time, people have become accustomed to lying. People lie as naturally as they breathe, to the point that lying has become a virtue.

In my country, writing is a dangerous occupation. People are sent to prison for writing essays, or saying a few words of truth. Writers are not allowed to talk about history, or to criticize the present, let alone fantasize about the future. Many words cannot be written, many things cannot be spoken, and many issues cannot be mentioned. Every book has to go through a rigid censorship regime before it can be published. Many books are banned in my country,and then become bestsellers overseas

My country is capable of launching a satellite into space but not of building a safe bridge across a river. My country is capable of building palatial government offices yet condemns children to substandard schoolhouses. My country provides millions of luxury cars to government official yet few safe school buses for children. Only two days ago in Gansu province in China’s northwest, 64 children were crammed into a nine-seat school bus. Then there was an accident and nineteen of them died. Most of these children came from poor families. They had never been to a Mcdonald’s, a KFC, or a zoo. Their lives ended tragically before they even started.

In my country, extravagant structures have been built one after another to host one extravagant event after another. However, many citizens considered “dangerous elements” are forced to leave their own homes in tears whenever such an event is held. Yet, government officials insist that these people leave their homes voluntarily.

My country has one of the largest bureaucracies in the world. Most of these bureaucrats are either bribing or taking bribes. Power is being abused in every way imaginable and turned into a money-generating tool. According to publicly available reports,enormous amounts of public funds are wasted on sumptuous banquets, luxury trips and expensive cars provided to these bureaucrats. We are talking about 900 billion yuan or over US$140 billion a year. Some may ask: Why don’t the taxpayers say no to this practice? I’m sorry, the concept of taxpayers’ rights doesn’t exist in my country. All we have is the term“the people.”

Some may say, well, this is nothing to get excited about, because corruption exists in every country, at any time. I agree. But still, I want to say that if there were degrees to measure the rampancy of corruption, then the difference between five degrees and a hundred degrees is not merely a difference in readings—the former shows minor defects, but my country’s rampant corruption means disaster. I also want to add: It’s wrong to suggest my compatriots should put up with corruption simply because corruption exists elsewhere

Chinese people don’t deserve a better life because “the quality of the Chinese people” is low.

Believe me, people who say this are themselves of low quality. The Chinese people should not be given too much freedom due to China’s “unique situation.” Believe me, people who say this are themselves perpetuating China’s “unique situation”. Stability is what China needs the most, not freedom, not human rights. Believe me, people who say this are themselves contributing to instability.

At the end of 2009 I infiltrated a gang of pyramid scammers. After spending sometime living with them, I realized that the world of pyramid selling is Chinese society in miniature. A Chinese scholar once defined this kind of society as being in a “primitive state,”a society that is comprised of three kinds of people: liars, the deaf and the mutes. The good news is that Chinese society is moving forward —now there are more and more liars and we’re running out of the deaf and the mute.

The English scholar Henry Maine refers to the transition from individuals bound by social status or belonging to traditional social castes, to a modern world where people are independent entities free to make contracts on their own, as the progression of “from status to contract.” If this progression is the benchmark for entering a modern civilized society, then China is still a nation in a primitive state.

My country was entirely a status-oriented society just over twenty years ago. What a person could do depended not on that person’s intelligence and competency. Rather, it depended on who that person’s father was. During the Cultural Revolution, if someone was deemed a “son of a bitch,” then his son would be deemed a “son of a bitch,” and many years later his grandson would also be deemed a “son of a bitch.”

Twenty years on, is there any progress? Yes, there is, but not much

In my country, the sons and grandsons of officials are still officials while second and third generation migrant workers are still migrant workers. All power, all business and all resources are monopolized. There is almost no hope for the sons of ordinary citizens to move up. There is no possibility of them ever becoming an Obama or a Steve Jobs.

In my country, just striving for a normal life is difficult. In fact, in recent years life has become much harder for the urban population due to the heavy tax burden, exorbitant housing prices, high inflation and low wages. Driving a taxi previously provided a good income, but a taxi driver recently told me he had not eaten meat for several months. He sighed as we passed a luxury residential estate. “More and more skyscrapers are going up,” the driver said. “But why is my life getting harder and harder?”

My country has become the world’s largest consumer of luxury goods. And now, even living and dying in my country have become a luxury. A popular song encapsulates people’s anxieties:

Can’t afford to have children—caesarians cost five thousand and more

Can’t afford to go to school—a good school costs at least thirty K

Can’t afford an apartment—more than ten thousand for a meter of floor

Can’t afford to get married—no house, no car, no wedding, she’ll say

Can’t afford to get sick—medicine costs an arm and a leg

Can’t afford to die—cremation costs are through the sky

Creativity never flourishes in a status-driven society. That’s why in every field of endeavor—industry, agriculture, commerce and culture—my country contributes few innovations and new ideas, but excels at counterfeits and imitations. I believe that without reforming this rotten system, China will continue to be a nation that contributes few innovations and new ideas to mankind. It may have a lot of money but there won’t be much culture left. It may become a mighty military power but it will still be incapable of making its people feel secure.

People in China have come up with a multitude of explanations for my country’s numerous problems. Those who want to hold onto power say China has problems because the Chinese are just a “low quality people.” Therefore, they have to be controlled and managed. Conservatives say China’s current problems result from the Chinese people abandoning traditional moral values. Some religious groups say China’s problems result from the Chinese not having any faith, and consequently commit evil because they do not fear the wrath of god.

In my view, everything stems from the rotten system. A system with no restraints on power can only lead to corruption; a system in which the law exists in name only turns the law into a deadly weapon high officials use to oppress the citizenry. In this system, the primary purpose of the police and the military is to maintain the political rulers in power and inspire terror, not for making people feel secure. In this system, no one takes responsibility for the past, present and future. In this system, people only care about short-term profits. In this system, not following the rules is the rule, and unscrupulous means are the only means in government and business so only the dirtiest players emerge victorious. In this system, everyone is a criminal so no one needs to repent. In this system, humiliation is felt by everyone, so no matter how much a“harmonious society” is promoted, the majority of people dream of escaping to a safe place.

This rotten system is the mongrel of Stalinist-Maoism and Imperial Chinese political culture, a crossbreed of the rule of the jungle with traditional Chinese trickery and communism. Decades later, this creature now has become a monster. This monster is vain,tyrannical and arrogant. It never admits to mistakes. It destroys people in the name of justice and rehabilitates them, also in the name of justice. It takes credit for everything positive, and blames others for all failures. It wants to lord over everything and only tolerates one faith,faith in itself. This monster only allows praise to one thing, praise to itself. It owns every newspaper, every school, and every temple. Without its permission, even flowers may not bloom.

This monster may be frail, but it is still resilient. It is terminally ill, yet it still possesses lethal power. It is dumb yet is also extremely sensitive—the slightest breeze can set off anxiety attacks, trivial matters can ignite a towering rage. This rotten system is like a festering tumor that is poisoning every drop of blood and every nerve cell of my country, and will ultimately drag the entire nation towards catastrophe.

Wars and man-made catastrophes over thousands of years have taught people one thing: Power is a monster that kills. Therefore, it must be caged. But rather than striving for a better system, many Chinese people are still dreaming of a wise and kind-hearted ruler—anot-so-vicious monster. I believe this dream will remain a dream because a monster will attack as long as it is not caged—it is the nature of the beast.

When this powerful monster roars, people become timid. They are content to be mute as long as they can survive. They neglect their own rights, and the rights of others. They stand by idly when their neighbor’s home is bulldozed. When their own homes are bulldozed,other people stand by idly.

In a speech I delivered a month ago I spoke about the responsibilities of the Chinese people. I said: As citizens of our country, we must know that every one of us is an owner of our country. We are responsible for both its goodness and its flaws. We must not pretend we have nothing to do with China’s problems. We all live on the same planet and no one can stand by idly. When one person’s freedom is deprived, no one is free; when one person’s safety is jeopardized, no one is safe. Some people say China is a nation that behaves as if it doesn’t have a bottom line. I disagree. I believe there is a bottom line— we are the bottom line. This rotten system persists because we all have contributed to it, in one way or another— we are the system. If the system improves, that’s because we have worked on it. If the system gets worse, that’s also because we have contributed.

To make this country a better country, we first must make ourselves better. A group of slaves can never build a great nation, but modern citizens can—citizens who are intelligent and responsible. They not only love themselves, but also their country. They not only care about their own rights but also the rights of others; they not only defend their own freedom, but also the freedom of others; they not only defend their houses, but also their neighbor’s houses. They will never evade their responsibilities and will speak out when everyone else is silenced; they will never stop advancing when everyone else halts in hesitation. To make ourselves better is an honorable process and we are bound to encounter setbacks and hardship. Despite hardship, more and more Chinese people now are aware of their responsibilities. They break the silence, speak the truth, and calmly make suggestions. Some are suffering for their actions but refuse to be cowered or silenced.

Over two thousand years ago, Confucius said one should only serve the state if it is righteous, otherwise one should eschew serving the state. However, to become citizens of a modern society, I say we should criticize the government if it does not do the right thing, and we should also keep an eye on the government even if it is already doing the right thing. This is my belief and this is what will I do for the rest of my life.

Finally, I hope you believe me that I am not a class enemy, nor an over-thrower of governments. All I want is to cage the monster. Yes, I am criticizing my country, but that doesn’t mean I hate my country. Rather, I love my country. I love her splendid mountains an drivers and her great civilization. I appreciate the suffering she has experienced. In fact, I love my country even more because of the suffering she has been through. Yes, I am criticizing her rotten system, but I do not want to see bloodshed while my country is improving herself. I hope the system will improve gracefully. I hope in the near future, in my country, flowers of freedom will blossom and children will smile without fear. I hope in the near future, my country, an ancient civilization, a land of suffering, will become a nation of prosperity, peace and freedom, for all.”

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Policing of the road is a hoot

There’s been a flurry of letters recently in the SCMP letters page offering valid insights into the pathetic policing of road users, ie car drivers.

A few letters highlight the indiscrimate use of horns by arseholes sitting static. A few more draw attention to illegal parking in many areas, and a very few bemoaning the chaffuers of the rich and famous sitting outside popular eateries regardless of the waiting restrictions and in one case mentioning that burly body guards have the audacity to block the pavement when their rich but thick bosses exit said eatery to enter their substitute penis of choice.

On most occasions, when there is implicit or explicit criticism of the police in the letters pages, a letter will materialise from the Police PR department, generally saying we operate without fear or favour. In this case…. nothing!

Before drawing a conclusion, a brief mention about the psycology of car ownership generally, and in Hong Kong specifically. Generally, car ownership is equated with freedom, the freedom of the road, the freedom of individual expression. In Hong Kong, it’s equated with self-esteem, face and a statement on behalf of the owner.

In practice, car ownership, serves to alienate the driver from his community. 10% of Hong Kong residents have a car. 700 000 cars,  yet transport policy bends over for car owners, hence roads, bridges and more roads.

I am writing this in a bar, where outside there are two tattooed tripods, with personal traffic cones, who cordon off the space outside a popular restaurant for HK’s elite. There are no legally sanctioned parking restrictions here, but woe betide you if you try to park, they will not let you, they’ll threaten and intimidate you, and I’ve seen bowtie soon to be unemployed Tsang being dropped off here.

Welcome to the new chinese Hong Kong

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Cowardly Ships Captains

So, it’s all gone quiet on the capsizing ship front.  It seems the Captain of the doomed Italian liner, Costa Concordia fell off the ship and into a lifeboat!  Francesco Schiettino says he was at the helm when disaster struck but later fell into the sea and couldn’t get back on board. He actually sat on the rocks and watched the rescue operation, so he didn’t run that far really, he swam I suppose.  But who are we to doubt the sincerity of his statement? Well me actually, being a cynic.

That’s old news, why is he ranting about that shit?  You may have asked!

“Cos I got to thinking about another ships’ captain who did a runner.   Dateline 1991, ships name Oceanis, sank off the coast of South Africa.  In this case the captain also left the ship before the passengers and you can watch the you tube video here.

The Captain was accused of abandoning passengers on the ship, Captain Yiannis Avranas had this retort though: “”When I give the order abandon ship, it doesn’t matter what time I leave. Abandon is for everybody. If some people want to stay, they can stay.”

Avranos later claimed that he returned to ship and that he only left so as he could get help and organize the evacuation from a helicopter, which in fact he did –  well he returned and watched from a helicopter at least.

Oh where was the spirit of the Birkenhead with these guys?  Was Capt. Smith the idiot for not treading on women and children on his way to the lifeboat as the Titanic slowly slipped to infamy?

Now it’s just not in my nature to offer a plausible explanation for the behaviour of either the Italian or the Greek, and of course I would never indulge in coarse stereotypes, I’d never rip both apart as incorrigible cowards and refer to a WWII rifle, never fired, only dropped twice.

If you’ve ever been involved in a traumatic situation where you felt your life was in danger, you may be familiar with a twitching in your leg, an increase in your heart rate, an increased awareness of all around you.  This is the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, a trait we inherited from our ancestors, mostly to save us from the ravages of a really scary predator such as Jehovah’s witnesses or an elderly Madonna, or even a raptor from Jurassic Park.  It’s located in the cortex, the reptilian part of our brain, and can only be overcome by training.

Is it just possible that both of these captains shit themselves, due to their innate fight or flight mechanism kicking in?  And that later, realizing the ramifications of their actions, both sought to get closer to the scene of abject failures, in Avranos’s case, by returning in a Helicopter, and in Schiettino’s case, by sitting on the rocks barely 50 meters from his failure.

Fight or flight, and the adrenaline rush it brings, can be controlled, but only through repetitive training and awareness of what is actually happening to the body, then it can be channeled and used, but without that training, we’re all putting on our fastest Asics and heading for the hills.

Should we judge them? Yes, because they are supposed to be above the naked reaction stage, that is left for passengers.





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HK was better under the Brits: Official from WSJ

Ok, I’ll admit, it, I’m being lazy.  I keep meaning to rant on about Hong Kong being run by incompetent, pathetic individuals, and I will, soon, but here is something from todays Wall Street Journal, which I hope, by giving the source and author, the WSJ won’t come after me, but with Murdoch, you never know. Anyway, from Todays edition.  I’ll elaborate at a later date.


Hong Kong

The slow-motion implosion of Henry Tang, Beijing’s pick to be Hong Kong’s next chief executive, brings to mind a speech given shortly before the 1997 handover by former Far Eastern Economic Review Editor Derek Davies. In “Two Cheers for Colonialism,” Mr. Davies attempted to explain why the city flourished under the British. Fifteen years later, the Chinese officials who are having trouble running Hong Kong might want to give it a read.

Hugo Restall says that Beijing’s fumbles in Hong Kong are making some in the city-state yearn for the British.

The Brits created a relatively uncorrupt and competent civil service to run the city day-to-day. “They take enormous satisfaction in minutes, protocol, proper channels, precedents,” as Mr. Davies described them, “even in the red tape that binds up their files inside the neat cubby holes within their registries.” Their slavish adherence to bureaucratic procedure helped create respect for the rule of law and prevented abuses of power.

Above the civil servants sat the career-grade officials appointed from London. These nabobs were often arrogant, affecting a contempt for journalists and other “unhelpful” critics. But they did respond to public opinion as transmitted through the newspapers and other channels.

Part of the reason they did was that Hong Kong officials were accountable to a democratically elected government in Britain—a government sensitive to accusations of mismanaging a colony. Still, local officials often disobeyed London when it was in the local interest—for this reason frustrated Colonial Office mandarins sometimes dubbed the city “The Republic of Hong Kong.” And for many decades the city boasted a higher standard of governance than the mother country.

Mr. Davies nailed the real reason Hong Kong officials were so driven to excel: “Precisely because they were aware of their own anachronism, the questionable legitimacy of an alien, non-elected government they strove not to alienate the population. Their nervousness made them sensitive.”

The communists claim that the European powers stripped their colonies of natural resources and used them as captive markets for their manufacturers. But Hong Kong, devoid of resources other than refugees from communism, attracted investment and built up light industry to export back to Britain. And as for taking back the profits, Mr. Davies noted, “No British company here would have been mad enough to have repatriated its profits back to heavily-taxed, regularly devaluing Britain.”

Most expatriate officials retired to Blighty, so they were less tempted to do favors for the local business elite. The government rewarded them with pensions and OBEs. A Lands Department bureaucrat didn’t have to worry whether his child would be able to find employment in Hong Kong if a decision went against the largest property developer.

Contrast all this with Hong Kong after the handover. The government is still not democratic, but now it is accountable only to a highly corrupt and abusive single-party state. The first chief executive, Tung Chee Hwa, and Beijing’s favorite to take the post next month, Henry Tang, are both members of the Shanghainese business elite that moved to the city after 1949. The civil service is localized.

Many consequences flow from these changes, several of which involve land, which is all leased from the government. Real-estate development and appreciation is the biggest source of wealth in Hong Kong, a major source of public revenue and also the source of most discontent.

In recent years, the Lands Department has made “mistakes” in negotiating leases that have allowed developers to make billions of Hong Kong dollars in extra profit. Several high-level officials have also left to work for the developers. This has bred public cynicism that Hong Kong is sinking into crony capitalism.

This helps explain why the public is so upset with Mr. Tang for illegally adding 2,400 square feet of extra floor space to his house. Likewise Michael Suen, now the secretary for education, failed to heed a 2006 order from the Lands Department to dismantle an illegal addition to his home. His offense was arguably worse, since he was secretary for housing, planning and lands at the time.

In both cases the issue is not just a matter of zoning and safety; illegal additions cheat the government out of revenue. But it’s unlikely Mr. Tang will face prosecution because nobody above or below him is independent enough to demand accountability. So now there is one set of rules for the public and another for the business and political elites. Under the British, Hong Kong had the best of both worlds, the protections of democracy and the efficiency of all-powerful but nervous administrators imported from London. Now it has the worst of both worlds, an increasingly corrupt and feckless local ruling class backstopped by an authoritarian regime. The only good news is that the media remain free to expose scandals, but one has to wonder for how much longer.

Hong Kong’s Chinese rulers have been slow to realize that the only way to keep Hong Kong the same is to accept change. It is no longer a city of refugees happy to accept rule by outsiders. And democracy is the only system that can match the hybrid form of political accountability enjoyed under the British.

Mr. Davies ended his appraisal of colonialism’s faults and virtues thus: “I only hope and trust that a local Chinese will never draw a future British visitor aside and whisper to him that Hong Kong was better ruled by the foreign devils.” Fifteen years later, that sentiment is becoming common.

Mr. Restall is the editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia.

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Lau Nai-Kueng.. arse!

This guy gets the Muesli onto the the Newspaper every morning, well afternoon actually, I’m not an early riser.

He writes an article in the SCMP 3 or 4 times a month, always, always licking the arse of Beijing, the concept of balance is alien to him, but just who the hell is he?  His byline states he is a member of the Basic Law committee of the NPC Standing committee and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development. ( Is there Strategic Development in Hong Kong? Could have fooled me, I thought they just did what they were told!)

I have meant to tear into him before as every time he leaves me speechless, or at least unable to type. This morning he was writing some shit about how the University of Hong Kong, his alma mater,  is dying, I have no interest in that.  At the end of his bullshit, he inserted this wee gem, I’ll repeat it here out of the context of the ramble because in fact, it was completely out of the context of the ramble: “Divorced from national suffering, history and humiliation since the opium war, there is no Hong Kong history, and subsequently there is no soul or salvation.”

So no history in Hong Kong! How’s about this Mr. Bejiing Running Dog, here’s a quote from, arguably, the founder of modern China, Dr. Sun Yat Sen:  “I saw the outside world and I began to wonder how it was that foreigners, Englishmen, could do such things as they had done, for example, with the barren rock of Hong Kong, within 70 or 80 years, while China, in 4,000 years, had no places like Hong Kong.” He then went on to say that Hong Kong, and especially its University, were his intellectual birthplace.  This is the same University that Lau attended and is the central subject of his article.

Hong Kong has a history, the British created an environment that allowed generations of Chinese to flourish and thrive, whilst on the Mainland their counterparts history involved mass state sponsored starvation, indoctrination and cultural suicide via the Cultural revolution.  These generations in Hong Kong, sought, at every opportunity, to help their families on the mainland with food and money to help them survive, all courtesy of their own hard work, again, in an environment solely created by foreign devils. On the mainland meanwhile 50 million people died because Mao was only 3/5th’s right, or was the 3/4′s or one tenth right!  Certainly while China’s great leap forward was going backwards, a juggernaut crushing the life out of countless millions, a few lucky millions were building their future prosperity in Hong Kong.

So I’ll rewrite the final paragraph for him: ““Divorced from national suffering, history and humiliation, Hong Kong thrived, and it’s subsequent history saw generations find salvation and create a unique chinese culture with its own soul.”

Every time he writes some shit I’m going to tear it apart, because he is just so easy to take apart.

Who he is! http://www.ideascentre.hk/wordpress/?p=1755&language=en

Here is another blogger commenting on another of his insane writings: http://sinocentric.co.uk/?tag=lau-nai-keung

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