Roundup for Week 9

Wednesday 9 March 2011, 10.49pm HKT


Belated roundup for the week of 28 Feb–06 March 2011.

—♦—

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

Handouts

Our craptastic government in Hong Kong says it will make a direct cash handout of HK$6,000 (US$770 or £472) to each and every adult Hong Kong permanent resident (i.e. domicile) this year, the first ever of its kind in our history. Be reminded that it’s only a proposed handout. Be reminded also that non-permanent residents (i.e. aliens) will get no handouts.

Prediction: All in all, it’ll all turn out to be a case of giving out on giving out on the right and taking back on the left. The government will institute eligibility preconditions. It always does whenever money is involved.

* * *

Object of desire for our handout money

Steve Jobs presents the new, equally thin iPad 2. Only thing thick needed is the wad of money to buy it.

* * *

Just think, you’re a criminal…

Thoughtcrime is coming to a government near you, if the government ever has its way in twisting or inventing links between neuroscience and criminality. What is otherwise a sensible piece of research on antisocial behaviour is clearly fair game for official exploitation (or ‘psyploitation’). We could just imagine the spiel from government spin doctors that “this research puts the causes of criminality on a firm scientific footing.” [via Ars Technica]

* * *

The Oscars

Whatever you might think of the Oscars, it’s good, clean, boring fun for the whole family. Choose the words you like best to sniff at it, but the fun is in its being live and total predictability at the same time. Those two qualities are what makes for a nice distraction from our everyday woes and the depressing drivel they call news. It can’t be all bad when the Oscars give us the chance to laugh at the utterly predictable, two-by-four-bit fashion prognostications from designers we’ve never even heard of. But, really, the thing that makes the Oscars so watchable is the smart-casual reporting by good-looking journalists who are no less sleek and sexy than the stars they interview. At last, Billy Crystal turned up as a guest host — a real host — even if it lasted only a few minutes.

* * *

Unrest rages across the Mideast

The Middle East is practically up in flames ever since Libya carried out airstrikes on its own people. Tunisians, Libyans and Egyptians are pouring out of their countries, fanning the flames of dissent in other countries. (03/3)

Egypt laid a travel ban on its ex-president while his wealth is being investigated. The Tunisian prime minister resigned, wisely so, since he seemed pretty close to being lynched Mississippi-style. Meanwhile, Gadhafi has been brazenly described as “disconnected from reality” and “unfit to lead” as pro-Gadhafi forces now control only the capital Tripoli and a smattering of inconsequential towns near it.

With two Iranian warships already crossed the Suez Canal, it’s pretty clear that Iran is taking an opportunist line to flex its muscle in the Levant. Carpe diem.

Civil war in Ivory Coast looks likelier by the day as violence there continues to rise.

* * *

Buy out, and keep buying out

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (through Goldman Sachs) made an offer of US$150 billion to buy out Facebook, upset at Mark Zuckerberg for letting the Mideast revolts get out of hand. Facebook is officially valued at only US$1 billion since it generates no profit. The king’s game plan is that he’s trying to cut things off at the knee. If the deal succeeds (and who knows how Mark Z. thinks?), everyone on Facebook would migrate to MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter — even Bebo, Faces.com, Fetlife, Friendster, Habo, hi5 or (heaven help us) Xanga! We could get the ‘socnet migrants’ to keep migrating from site to site just to deplete the king’s money for kicks! Wouldn’t that be revolting?

* * *

Handouts to fund your revolt

King Abdullah might have learnt something from Hong Kong: he too wants to make cash handouts totalling of US$53 million to his subjects in hopes of keep them from revolting. Did it ever occur to the King that, at the very least, the cash handouts would simply go to funding revolts? It would have been better had his hordes of minions actually tried to rule better in the first place. The King has just caught himself between hell and high water.

* * *

No administrative courtesy

As an example of atrocious administrative behaviour in Hong Kong, calls to the Water Supplies Department went unanswered all day after a 30-year-old freshwater main broke, making the entire district of Causeway Bay (pop. 1.28 million in 31 sq. mi./80 sq. km) go without water for a full day and a nearby district flooded literally ankle-deep in millions of gallons of water. Restaurants cleaned out all of the local supermarkets of bottled water to keep business going. (01/3)

* * *

Priceless speech

Sir Donald Tsang, chief executive (i.e. governor) of Hong Kong, had his speech disrupted when two idiots rushed onto the podium at him. (01/3)

Price: arrest and probably time for the two idiots.
Priceless: the look on Sir Donald’s face.

The look on his face was so indescribably funny and satisfying. I tell you, it would have been devastatingly comical if those two idiots were to have been women instead.

* * *

China airport overkill

China plans to build 45 more airports in the next five years, despite three-quarters of its 175 brand-new airports are losing money and barely used, some even without any flights at all. Many of the 175 existing airports are actually within miles of each other. The knowledgeable hint that local officials are highly incentivised to propose the projects in the first place because of the enormous opportunities for graft and skimming off the top. [via beyondbrics]

—♦—

ONLY I CAN SEE THIS

Thoughts and recollections from the past and present, sometimes even the future

Everything sounds fine now…

Governments around the world are learning to use the word ‘savings’ instead of ‘cuts,’ if this newspeak-filled BBC news report is any indication [link].

* * *

Food prices keep surging but still goes unreported

Which is scarier—food protests or anti-government protests? Food-price protests are starting to crop up in various places around the world and the news is eerily silent in reporting them because that really is the terrifying news. The Naked Listener has already mentioned about the worldwide surge in food prices [here].

Word has it that, last month, thousands demo’d at surging food prices in India, whose food inflation hit 20% in late 2010. India is the world’s biggest producer of food grains but banned wheat exports in 2007 and non-basmati rice exports in 2008 to preserve domestic supplies.

Governments and news agencies everywhere must surely be thankful for the Mideast violence as a temporary distraction from real news.

* * *

“If you tolerate this, your children will be next.” (English proverb)

GM/GE food and industrial agriculture are false promises. They won’t save us from food insecurity, droughts and climate change. In fact, they do exactly the opposite. They’re rum tales. All we need are biodiverse farms.

Indeed, GM crops don’t produce higher yields. Yield is a multigenetic trait, just like climate resilience. And reinforcing the plant’s herbicide/toxin resistance only increases the toxin yield, not of food or nutrition. C’mon, this stuff’s O-level biology.*

* For our American cousins, O(rdinary)-level is roughly junior/middle high school.

* * *

Changed forever, not for the better

Those who know me personally know I’ve been harping about this ever since day one of the current financial troubles, namely, that it’s like nothing we ever faced before and is changing our lives forever.

Now, the Governor of the Bank of England has warned that living standards (at least in the UK) may never recover from the financial crisis on a scale not seen since the 1920s. He added that he was surprised that there hadn’t been more public fury at the full impact of bankers’ mistakes. [via The Independent]

Thank you, Guv, for vindicating my point of view.

* * *

The next fireball

Oman looks like it’s going to be the next place to erupt into open revolt against the state. Word has it that there have already been demos in sporadic parts of this tiny Persian Gulf nation, involving the death of at least one protester by police weapons fire. If open revolt happens, oil prices would catapult to US$150 a barrel or more in a matter of days. Some facts that spell trouble:

  • the country is run like a Stepford Wives tale (overly neat and clean-cut)
  • half the people are under 21 (pop. nearly 3 million)
  • massive unemployment
  • unrelenting inflation
  • miserable wages for local Omanis
  • most jobs go to foreigners or Omanis in the capital Muscat
  • police personnel are Jordanian-trained, not exactly the paragon of law-enforcement virtues
  • the Sultan has ruled for past 41 years but is personally unhated
  • the elites under the Sultan are not objects of popular endearment

The only saving grace is that Oman practises Ibadi Islam: neither Sunni or Shi’ite and couldn’t be anything more different from either’s fundamentalist fanaticism.

* * *

A new model for anti-abortionists

We touch upon this briefly in the Week 7 roundup. It’s worrying. The Americans United for Life (founded 1971) is the pressure group advocating justifiable murder of abortion providers in bills put up in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa (all shelved) and in Missouri and Oklahoma (both successful). The worrying thing for anyone anywhere is their method for stopping abortions — by abusing the legislative process so as to enact laws that authorise and protect vigilantes (thereby legalising domestic terrorism) in the name of advancing the rights of the unborn. The cat is now out of the bag, so to speak, so that pro-life groups round the world are more than likely to emulate AUL’s ways in their own countries. [via AlterNet]

* * *

Lawyers are bastards, but do you know why that is?

Some people think lawyers (practising and non-practising) are vicious, malicious and all-round pricks. Didntcha evah noticed! But think of it this way: we spend three or four years in law school, getting harassed and abused daily by lawyer professors and judges to toughen us up in preparation for real courtwork, going through everything else to be lawyers, getting ourselves into enormous debt for that privilege of defending the undefendable or the indefensible later on — and you think we’re pricks??? Who’s actually the prick here?

* * *

What’s their game?

I’ve had it with those Old China Hands. More specifically, how they described the Chinese in their memoirs. It’s always the blanket “quiet, unassuming people,” whichever the province and whatever the regional Chinese. Worse of all, the Chinese themselves accept it without stopping to think that it bears no resemblance to reality. A case of wishful thinking, if you ask me. Take the Teochew (Chiuchow/Chaozhou) and the Hokkien (now Fujianese) — they’re bloody loud and raucous when they talk, positively deafening. The Old China Hands must have been stone-cold deaf or suffering from Alzheimer’s when they were recalling how the Chinese were in their locales.

No way the description could be so consistent, so frequent, so coincidentally identical from one Old China Hand to the next. I hate thinking like this, but these people probably did this on purpose so as to cause maximum negative culture shock for those who meet the Chinese for the first time. Whatever the motive or reality or coincidence, it’s deeply offensive.

—♦—

PARADISO e INFERNO

Heaven and Hell: happenings in and around my life, even away from it

The TV set’s on the fritz for a month. It’s basically had it. Friend gave me a hand-me-down HDTV. Exaggerating only a little bit, it’s about half the size of the wall. Groan. The friend busted the speakers by having metallic, probably magnetic, objects near it. Quick hack: plug in a pair of hi-fi speakers — Shazam! Super Sensurround sound! What a con! HDTV really isn’t high definition; it’s just magnified TV.

* * *

Charlady (BrE) / house cleaner (AmE) resigns the day after she and Råtta had a bit of a tiff. (Note that ‘a bit of a tiff’ is less than a tiff, which is already defined as a petty quarrel.) The charlady also had previous troubles with Rahel, although that’s entirely because of Rahel’s antics.

—♦—

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011.

2 Responses to “Roundup for Week 9”

  1. On the subject of government handouts- Australia led the world in handing out the spending money to the public at large. Stage 1 gave a $900 handout to all pensioners. The net result was that poker machines recieved a huge boost for about a fortnight. Following on that great success all taxpayers for the 2008/09 year were then given a similar handout, ostensibly to boost the economy with cash to spend on consumables. I spent mine on a month’s rent. The government proclaimed the success of the scheme based on the “fact” that Australia had mostly avoided a calamitous financial downturn- completely ignoring the fact that the financial bouyancy of the nation came as a result of China buying our mineral resources in record amounts. (Now the same government wants to tax the biggest mining companies to pay back the monies that it borrowed to hand out!!!) In the end it was an exercise in popularity aimed at getting the Labour party another term in office (successfully- but only just).
    On the topic of GM food- I couldn’t agree more. Instead of trying to thwart nature and design crops that are resistant to blights we should all be concentrating on greater bio-diveristy. Mono cropping is rampant here with immense farms that produce only one or two crops. Eventually the whole thing must fall apart- again. The time has most certainly come for the individual to have a greater hand in supplying themselves with the food that they eat and relying less on the food producing/marketing corporations.
    In the end I think that the governments of the world are out of their depth and due for a big fall- when that happens it might be a good idea to have a vegeie garden and a few chickens in the backyard (if you have a backyard).

    Like

    • What you described in Australia has happened in one way or another before in the UK – and the odd thing is that Hong Kong is roughly doing the same thing. It just makes you wonder what politicians and senior civil servants (in any country) are fed on every morning.

      About Australian mineral resources, I’m not suggesting all Chinese companies have an ulterior motive for buying up your country’s natural resources. However, having said that, of all the companies that could buy up your natural-resources companies, it had to end up being mainland Chinese companies – which (I have to say being a bit of an insider through my financial printing work) are not paragons of well-run companies, even the big ones.

      About food and crops, mono-crop farm was what exactly helped brought down the Roman Empire. That squeezed food supply, which in turn led to a plethora of laws, which that in turn really did in the Empire. Right now, we’re looking at repeated history of this in India, whose food inflation already hit 20% last year. China is fast approaching food-price hyperinflation, according to bits of news last week that said China’s food inflation hit 30% last year in urban areas. This shiz just got real for some people now.

      As for Hong Kong, wish we could have a backyard. It’s a flaming concrete jungle here. Surprising for most people to learn, it was as recent as 1955 that we had THATCHED farmhouses, fairly sizeable multicrop farms, two or three shipyards, and an industrial manufacturing sector. We see this in some locally made B-movies from the 50s (some with Bruce Lee as a child star) and our minds are blown just seeing these things on screen! Today, Hong Kong (like Singapore) imports over 90% of its food and other consumables. It’s just so sad.

      Like

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