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.





Tag Archives: Why HK F***ed

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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Plastic Bags

I see plastic bags are in the news again!
Seems we might be using more than before the ban, or then again, maybe not, for sure many people are buying plastic bin liners, a hitherto unneeded purchase.

I’ve sailed in many parts of the world, including the Med,which is choked with plastic bags, bottles and general pollution,not to mention the strange sight of discarded flip flops which seem to be everywhere。 It’s an obscene sight many of you will never get to see,but if you ask me does banning plastic bags make any sense at all,I’d have to say an emphatic no。

Lets be clear; banning plastic bags is the equivalent of putting your finger in the dyke; while ignoring rising water levels that are pouring over your head。 A Plastic bag ban is a placebo designed to fool the wider community and convince them they are making a difference while it’s business as usual for government and our monolithic corporations, notably our supermarkets, transport sectors, fast food and construction lobby, tycoons with multiple jet airliners and a shallow conspicuous consumption that crossed the good taste barrier long ago.

Ban excess packaging, Styrofoam, lunchboxes, encourage goodbuilding practices, switch all commercial vehicles to LPG and ban the 350 000 private cars that inflict direct pollution into the air and lead an incompetent, purely reactive and clueless government to build more and more roads for a mode of transport that is communally divisive and will soon be obsolete.

Never mind the costs.

This might, if we’re lucky, engage the whole community in demanding and working for a better environment where pollution is not killing 7000 people every year, How many plastic bags are killing people?

The alternative? Take up the fiddle and watch, with thinly disguised glee, an egotistical form of life, that has no concept of it’s own insignificance, fade into extinction. The whole paradigm has to change, a few less plastic bags, whether re-used or not won’t stop the inexorable slide to disaster.

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A Red Flag That Comes in Many Colors – New York Times:

“To its devotees the bow tie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, a fusty adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. Bow ties are worn by magicians, country doctors, lawyers and professors and by people hoping to look like the above. But perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.”

I knew cha cha Tsang was an arse, now the New York Times confirms it for me.  From Sir Donald Tsang, British acoloyte, to Donald Tsang, Motherland loving patriot.  His intellectualism is feigned and he just really wants to be noticed for something, anything, instead, he knows he’s inconsequential, but in the end, he doesn’t really care what you think as long as he does what he is told by the Politburo.

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I got arrested a few months back

And I was guilty.

Ok, I’ll admit to a few minor brushes with the Polis over the years, what self respecting Scotsman could get to my advanced years without having a blemish or two, or in other words aforesaid minor brush with the law. I should also mention that some of my best mates in HK are coppers so I don’t subscribe to the “fascist bullyboy thug theories”, and in each case it’s been more a case of high jinks getting out of control, never violence or anything I would term serious. So what happened recently?

Every day I get the bus in Central outside the Hang Seng Bank Headquarters. And every day for months I’ve been subjected to a cacophony of strident Cantonese tones broadcast through a loudhailer – pre-recorded messages, repetitive, painful and incredibly irritating? Something to do with Lehman’s, you may have heard these people in various sites around Central banks. Suffice to say, this particular day, I was a tad annoyed and took it upon myself to silence the source of my discontent – there were two loudhailers in operation that day – unsynchronized – discordant – and fucking annoying! I picked the first one up; seeking the off button, the batteries fell out, result! I wandered over to the second one, picked it up, couldn’t find the off button, no batteries fell out, and it fell to the floor with some momentum – and broke. Result! I rejoined the bus queue, a few supportive smiles, lots of eyes cast downwards, while the two protestors screamed, shouted and proceeded to film me. In the end along come HK’s finest, to calm the situation down. I explained to the inspector in charge what had happened and that, yes I was the guilty party, and that I was willing to compensate the owner of the megaphone. I offered HK$1000, a more than reasonable sum, but the old bitch demanded HK$50,000, and insisted to the Inspector I was an agent provocateur sent by Hang Seng to disrupt her legitimate protest. Long Story short. Court, plead guilty, ask to be bound over. Verdict. Bound over (No criminal record) Compensation HK$150. 
I left with a wee smile, especially as the two protestors were also bound over.

Points to ponder. It is illegal in Hong Kong to use a megaphone in a public place, anyone can find this under “noise ordinance” on the HK government website. It is a known fact that all the protestors are surrogates for the real individuals who were investors, the surrogates were paid HK$200 a day. Lets leave aside the whole concept of caveat emptor in relation to a very small percentage of, mostly elderly individuals who were ripped off, for the rest, you were greedy and stupid and deserved everything you got – of course, being HK, you actually got your money back. Which brings me to the whole point of this rant. The arresting inspector told me, that they get complaints everyday but are not allowed to take action as the government does not want to be seen, supporting the banks against the grass roots – ergo – the government dictates to the police what is and what is not a crime. So next time you see a rather strange decision by the police to drop charges or let someone off with a warning – rest assured you are assured of government interference and if they interfere with the police, what are they doing with the courts?

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There was a good paragraph in a letter in todays SCMP:  ” In its quest to become more like the mainland, an increasing number of laws are being passed in Hong Kong but ignored by the authorities tasked with enforcing them.”

So true, and like the smoking ban, this is a consequence of the Hong Kong approach to policy making.  Take a good idea, pop it in the consultation blender and what emerges is an unrecognisable piece of junk that is impossible to enforce, all because no one in government really wanted to piss anyone off.  Wankers.  Idling engine ban? Lets do it, but only for show!  Smoking Ban? Lets do it, but don’t enforce it!  Liquor Licencing? Lets show we are really strict by making it really difficult to get one!  But lets ignore the seven elevens!  Rules of the road! Stupid colonials… didn’t they realise Asians don’t do traffic regulations.  Consensus politics gives us a pile of shite masquerading as legislation so why do they bother?  ’Cos it’s all smoke and mirrors. They want to be seen to be doing something but in reality prefer to do nothing.  I call it the inverse swan scenario… on the surface everyone is rushing around like maniacs, supposedly getting stuff done, but underneath, or in the offices, everything is smooth and serene, cos everyone is doing nothing except posturing for promotional position.


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A Road To Nowhere

If there was a soundtrack to this town, it would be Talking Heads: “We’re On A Road To Nowhere”

It’s a tune that just about covers every aspect of Hong Kong’s government by consensus approach, or shall we say government by committees of vested interests. This incompetent approach to government is evident all around us, but is perfectly  illustrated  by the “rail link to nowhere.”

It’s budgeted to cost 70 billion for 26 kilometers though of course all major infrastructure projects in this town go over budget…way over budget…

and it ends 45 minutes away from where you would actually like to be…

you’d think for all that money they could buy a fucking compass!

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