Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back to Bad Habits

A few weeks ago I praised China's exemplary response to the Sichuan earthquake. I suppose it was too good to last.

Learning from Failure

"I know how to win wars"
--Republican Presidential candidate John McCain

For some reason, devout Republicans in the US seem to think that because of his military experience, their man McBush can be trusted to do a better job of defending the nation than Democratic rival Barack Obama. I am not at all sure why - how does fighting on the losing side in a war in which you spent five years as a PoW qualify you to win wars? However heroic McCain may have been during this ordeal (and unlike those in his party who smeared John Kerry's record during the last election, no one questions that), the key issue here is not courage, but political wisdom.

In the same speech, McBush came out with another classic line:
"Understand this: When I am commander -in-chief, there will be nowhere the terrorists can run, and nowhere they can hide."
Except, presumably, the Iraq-Pakistan border that exists only in his imagination.

OK, let's pass that one over as a slip of the tongue. What, you may ask, about McCain's years of service on the Senate Armed Services Committee?

Er, would that be the same Committee that endorsed the war on Iraq on the basis of "intelligence" reports supplied by a gung-ho President eager to flex his testicles? Reports that Barack Obama, I, and probably you as well, had no diffiulty recognising as lies, as indeed they proved to be? Reports that a credulous John McCain apparently swallowed whole?

Need I say more?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

All for the love of - a new telephone?

And another thing that puzzles me: why are people willing to spend several days of their precious life queuing to be the first to get their hands on the new iPhone? It's only a phone, albeit one with some nice gadgets. Why don't they just wait a few weeks till they can get it without having to waste time lining up?

There are a number of things I would be willing to queue overnight for, but not a mere tech toy. For example:
  • Democracy in Burma
  • A cure for cancer
  • An end to genocide in Darfur
  • A free trip to Mars
  • A workable Middle East peace settlement
  • A private dinner with Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu
  • The closure of the US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay
And last but not least:
  • Tickets to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live in Hong Kong (are you reading this, Bruce?)

A light in the darkness

Something that puzzles me: in police dramas on television, whenever the cops enter a dark building, especially the basement, they always walk in flashing their torches (flashlights for American readers) around in the darkness. Why don't they just switch the light on?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nowhere to go but down (with a little government assistance)

Apart from the odd RTHK offering, Hong Kong television seldom serves up any real investigative journalism. So all the more credit to ATV for their Inside Story programme on Tuesday night. I've often poked fun at ATV for their mistakes, but this was worthwhile viewing.

As you may have read, the ever so caring Hong Kong government is planning, without consulting taxpayers (many of whom have already made substantial personal donations), to spend HK$10 billion of our money to aid those made homeless by the recent earthquake in Sichuan. Meanwhile back home, ATV's programme revealed that the same caring government is waging an undeclared war; not on homelessness, which would be creditable, but on Hong Kong's homeless.

Hong Kong has never had a coherent policy towards the homeless. In the past, it has been common for the Social Welfare Department to hand out blankets to them during cold spells, only for another arm of the government to steal their bedding and dispose of it as rubbish the following day in order to tidy up the streets.

Now as if those who have already fallen off the bottom rung of the economic ladder didn't have enough problems already, in recent weeks the government has been making a concerted effort to drive them out of their traditional refuges, even though their presence there is not illegal. A playground in Mongkok that previously accommodated 50 street sleepers is now locked at night and patrolled by security guards. Spaces under flyovers are being fenced off or otherwise made uninhabitable, and their former occupants are being told to, in effect, go away and disappear.

Presumably this is all in the name of improving Hong Kong's image before the expected hordes of Olympic visitors start turning up in a couple of weeks, but a true "World City" would try to solve the problems of these people, not just sweep them out of sight like so much human litter. That would take money - for more social workers, affordable housing for the poor, better mental health care and more effective substance abuse treatment programmes - all of which Hong Kong could afford if it wanted to. That's if the government didn't prefer to spend our money on follies like the Donald Tsang's Ego Memorial Complex on the Tamar site, and the Central Bypass Shopping Mall.

But even before that, it would require seeing street sleepers as individual human beings of value with their own individual difficulties, not as an amorphous mass of garbage to be swept under the carpet. ATV's programme (which will be repeated at 12:30 tomorrow, Saturday 12 July, if you missed it) gave them a voice, but is anyone in government listening?

See Also: Homeless II - Photo Exhibition of Street-sleepers

Making It Better:

Street Sleepers Action Committee Limited


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Where can I get me some of them there juicy worms?

The current TV propaganda for the Olympic equestrian events in Hong Kong proudly informs us that 60 million earthworms are at work keeping the venue green. I'd like to get hold of some of those.

No, seriously, no kidding. After weeks of heavy rain, my little patch of garden in Taipo is a horrible mass of compacted heavy clay, where I've never seen a single worm since moving in five years ago. I reckon a few thousand earthworms would make a big improvement to the soil, but where do I find them? I don't suppose digging up the Olympic venue would make me very popular, but if the government can get hold of 60 million of the critters, there must be somewhere here that sells them. Anyone know where?