Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Friday, 19 September 2014
So Andy Murray used the most vapid form of communication, the tweet, to finally enter the Scottish Independence debate (after voting had already started, note) and urge fellow Scots (but not those living in England like him, of course, who have no vote) to vote Yes to a future without much of a future.
I don't want to sound mean to our first home produced Wimbledon champion since Sir David Akers-Jones was a wee annoying mite, but I'm not sure if I were that one-trick-pony Alec Salmond that I would be too keen to have a Jock on my side who has slipped outside the top ten in the men's rankings for the first time since his last political faux pas and indeed lost all his form since parting with Czech coach Ivan Lendl and taking on Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo.
Does the bairn from Dunblane not understand that all attempts to get into bed with the Froggies against the Sassenachs have ended in tears? Think Hundred Years' War, think that trollope Mary Queen of Scots, think that halfwit Bonny Prince Charlie?
(At the time of writing, only Clackmannanshire and Orkney are in, and they have both voted No.)
Monday, 15 September 2014
Lewis's central thesis is that you can neither invent new systems of value nor pick and choose bits to "live by" (or, more pertinently in respect of the Hong Kong case, for your subjects to live by) from what has been passed down to you. If what Lewis calls - with a nod to Chinese civilisation - the Tao exists independently of us and is the sole source of all our value judgements, then any attempt to replace it with a new value system is self-contradictory, since any such system would consist of fragments from the Tao itself.
As if anticipating events half way round the world seven decades on, Lewis gives among his examples of values that totalitarian governments will be tempted to "arbitrarily wrench from their context in the whole" and swell "to madness in their isolation" from the rest of the natural law patriotic duty. The last refuge of a small bunch of unelected scoundrels, indeed!
On edit: I found some interesting reflections about freedom and democracy in a Lewis essay called "The poison of subjectivism": "The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is etrnally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind only so long as we are subject to one law."
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Tuesday, 9 September 2014
Monday, 8 September 2014
I am indebted to my logistics mole, who has not only spotted something rather special - even by Hong Kong standards - but also managed to do it in time for my readers to benefit.
Anyone eager to howl at the moon or desecrate the environment with red candle wax tonight need look no further than Hong Kong's prime lunar viewing site: the Tuen Mun Road Bus-Bus Interchange.
And who do we have to thank for this brainwave? None other than one of Hong Kong's proudest polluters, KMB, who have followed in the footsteps of other local luminaries such as HSBC by saving themselves the trouble of thinking outside the box by throwing the box away altogether.
This from their latest press release: "To further celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival...KMB recommends that passengers go to the upper level of the Tuen Mun Road Bus-Bus Interchange (Tuen Mun-bound) for views of the full moon complemented by vistas of the sea." It doesn't get much more picturesque or romantic than that, does it? All in a sickly shade of green, to boot.
The Romans were certainly onto something when they called those who get a bit too excited about the moon lunatics.
Friday, 5 September 2014
I seldom bother with the news (does it show?), but Tung Chee-hwa the other day was better than most sit-coms. He actually believes the drivel he utters, without - I believe - having gone through the normal intermediate step of knowingly lying. It takes a particular union of dumbness and patrician loftiness to manage that.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Thursday, 28 August 2014
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
While that bastion of common sense, fairness and lack of bigotry, the Daily Mail, calls for Malkay Mackay (the man who almost managed for Scottish football what Neville Neville managed for English) to be punished for sending text messages calling his chairman Vincent Tan a 'chink', and taking the mickey out of Jewish agents and black footballers, by being banned from football for a year and being forced to read the Daily Mail, the real question remains unanswered.
What gives anyone the right to be reading private and confidential communications from Mackay to a friend, let alone to be publishing them, let alone to be using them in an attempt to deprive him of his livelihood?
Whatever next? Community service orders for all those who call Americans and Germans 'gweilos'? Plus a year's subscription to Wen Wei Po, of course.
Thursday, 21 August 2014
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
Saturday, 16 August 2014
As avid readers of this blog will know, I’m a dedicated follower of the musings of David Eldon, who was until about ten years ago chairman of HSBC.
Having just got around to reading his recent ruminations, my attention was caught by his equation of those who draw salaries and bonuses as bankers with those who run a business. I had scarcely recovered from the novelty and daring of this idea when I was almost reduced to tears by his plea to whomever it might concern to sort out world terrorism (distinguished from rather than including the banking industry, in case you were wondering).
I imagine it was out-of-the-box thinking of this type that led the Koreans to make Eldon a Freeman of their capital city.
Friday, 15 August 2014
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
The university that reaches depths others can only dream of – Lingnan University, located in the hinterland between Shenzhen and Pillar Point Power Station – has plummeted below even its own low standards with a book advocating Singapore-style interventionism.
Prof Alfred Chan Cheung Ming, also known as the man who puts the I into APE and ASS as Director of the Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies (APIAS), has written a book with Dr Anna Tang King Yung, pro-Beijing District Councillor for Wan Chai.
Essentially, their book is an extended appeal to introduce a law in Hong Kong along the lines of the one in Singapore which makes it compulsory for children to give money to their parents. In reality, of course, given that children in Chinese society who a) don't absolutely hate their parents or b) haven't lost all their money gambling or c) aren't separated or divorced from their spouse and effectively supporting two homes will give HK$3-5,000 a month to their parents from when they first start earning decent money until their parents die, the sector that this cack-handed legislation will really benefit is lawyers and mediators. I assume it is merely a coincidence that DAB member Dr Tang is a member of the Hong Kong Mediation Centre.
If the text of the book is as muddled as its title, From Maintenance to Well-being: Negotiating Responsibilities in Supporting the Aged as in the Modern Chinese Culture, then I imagine it will be about as easy to read as the small print for one of HSBC’s credit card rewards schemes – with roughly the same number of readers. The one-page blurb on the Lingnan website certainly does a good job of balancing unreadability, banality and racialist claptrap.
Take this from Dr Tang: "while the traditional Confucian values of filial piety has (sic) imposed normative pressure for Chinese families to support their elderly members, the rise of individualism in Hong Kong as a result of Western cultural influence has substituted the traditional consanguineous relationship by relationship based on interest". And there was I thinking that guanxi or "relationship based on interest" was something that the Chinese had given to the world.
As for the attempt to smuggle in the idea that "the rise of individualism in Hong Kong [is] a result of Western cultural influence", I suggest Prof Chan and Dr Tang take a look at the 1988 book by Lau Siu Kai and Kuan Hsin Chi, The Ethos of the Hong Kong Chinese, in which the authors make the point that "egotistical individualism" is something that Chinese people can do very well on their own, thank you very much. Failing that, they need look no further than their compatriots across the border, who have managed to achieve all kinds of individualistic feats – husbands without the knowledge of wives, leaders of state enterprises without the knowledge of co-workers, unelected senior government officials without the knowledge of the people they "represent" – without one iota of foreign interference.
But it's when Orientals resort to multiple use of the word "Confucian" (without defining it – for that matter, has anyone ever seen it defined and survived to tell the tale?) that you know that they are winging it. Thus, the authors call for the establishment of "modern standards of providing for parents by reviewing the definitions of filial piety in Confucian traditions, and introducing family mediation to compensate the rigidity of the legal system in handling family disputes".
In case, like me, you can't make head nor tail of that, never fear – a magic wand is on hand to resolve everything by "taking into account the factors of consanguinity, rationality and legality" (I jest not) and defining filial piety. The result of just a single swipe by a "Hanny" Potter? "The clash between modern and traditional values in supporting elderly parents can be reconciled, thus ensuring the 'wellbeing' of the elderly through 'maintenance'."
Thursday, 31 July 2014
On my way to the office this morning, I passed a "rehab" style bus which was in the middle lane of Tai Chung Kiu Road at the traffic lights, while I was in the outside lane. (I hope you're enjoying the detail.) What this meant - the queue in the middle lane being rather longer than that in the outside lane - was that I was able to catch only the last part of two captions before I slid past.
One read "...Attention Home", while the other presented "...Complex for the Elderly" to view. Now, having lived in these parts for longer than you can shake a stick at, I had little problem getting my head around the first one. The oldies are being asked to turn up to those public forum events where Ann Chiang Lai Wan displays a breathtaking ignorance about every subject she talks about, and actually listen. No one has managed it yet - even the hecklers are always hopelessly off target with their catcalls.
But the second one took quite a bit of working out, and I pride myself on my ability to generate inferences from the most unpromising linguistic material, having once found some meaning in something Noam Chomsky wrote. I could only conclude that the Hong Kong Council for Social Service (and just why is it Service not Services? do they only offer Vita lemon tea and not Hi-C?) has been taking time out from its Caring Company campaign to give all the old biddies the city is awash with some meaning in life beyond standing on the heels of the person in front at 7-Eleven by giving them their own complex.
These were really popular in the post-war period when everyone was a psychopath or had dissociative this and that when everyone still believed all that Freudian guff, but surely it's all old hat now. Or, does the HKCSS know something the rest of us don't know? Or even Ann Chiang? There is - they say - a first time for everything.
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
charged myself and all the other government officials, who would run the country?
Thursday, 24 July 2014
Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Monday, 21 July 2014
There isn’t a lot about which David M Webb can talk without sounding as if he knows quite a lot about it. He was in sparkling form recently on RTHK in a performance where he deftly combined roles of shareholder activist, political commentator, scourge of the Jockey Club and master of the one-liner. Much of the credit, it should be said, must go to the interviewer, Stephen Davies, who, unlike some one might mention, seemed genuinely more interested in what his subject had to say than in what he could bring to the table by way of inane interruption and obtuse preachifying.
Hitting the ground running with a well-polished line about his former life (“I’m a reformed investment banker – I haven’t had a deal for many years now”), Webbie’s first topic was freedom of information – or, this being Hong Kong, the lack of it. Because nearly all large companies listed locally have a controlling shareholder (as likely to be the government – whether of the HKSAR (the MTRC) or Mainland China (passim) – as a distinguished family such as the Lis or the Kwoks), the tendency is “to reduce information flow to a minimum”.
Rather than establishing a freedom of information ordinance as first-world societies which pay at least lip service to the open society have done, Hong Kong brings us what it does best, a toothless fudge with a giant loophole, in this case, a code on access to information which is able to stave off most requests for substantive information by playing the ‘Price-sensitive Information” card. This suits the government fine (since they see themselves as a “self-contained entity” rather than as representatives of the people), and government-controlled companies such as the MTRC just fine too, as they can simply opt out of announcing the terms of the winning bids for their land tenders – probably just as well, suggests the Webbmeister, as determining who wins is “something of a subjective exercise”.
The next bunch of scoundrels the man who moonlighted as a student by writing games for the Sinclair Spectrum turns his microscope on is Hong Kong Jockey Coterie (oops! “Club”). “The charity thing is a fig-leaf to protect the existence of a monopoly gambling company” which funnels enormous sums in taxes to the HKSAR government, with just 1% of what gamblers lose going into the HKJC Charities Trust – “which sometimes spends it and often hoards it”. A situation mirrored just down the road at the Tamar central government offices, where the beneficiary coterie sits on its own swollen horde like a particularly self-satisfied if rather dumb dragon.
Webbie isn’t finished yet. Now it is the turn of the Functional Constituencies (“not a sensible way to construct your government”) to receive the treatment, introduced by another classic one-liner: “We don’t bother with lobby groups in Hong Kong because we give them a role in parliament”. Webb’s main point is that civic nomination being so much pie in the sky (and Occupy Central a “sideshow”), we need to dilute the FCs by the time the next LegCo elections come round in 2016 in order that we might have a more broadly based Nomination Committee for the election of the Chief Executive the following year.
And we need to get our skates on, as 1 July 2015 is the deadline for proposals to broaden the membership of the FCs, in such a way that, for example, all financial services workers get to vote for their representative in the same way that all teachers already get to vote for their rep. Webb’s argument is simple: since the Nominating Committee mirrors the FCs, broaden the FCs by giving everyone the vote and kicking out corporate voting.
Finally, with parting shots at the dictatorship in the PRC (an economic slowdown could trigger an “overthrow” of a government which has “bought the consent of the people”) and our own Chief Executive (anyone who is ushered in in 2017 with no electoral mandate as part of a “rigged election” will be welcomed by half a million protesters on the streets), Webb is off to update his list of dodgy directors and continue his fight against the cosy relationship between government, Hong Kong Exchange and Clearings and the Securities and Futures Commission.