Saturday, October 30, 2010


President Barack Obama has, unfortunately, not done a very good job of cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor. America is still deeply embroiled in two distant wars that look increasingly unlikely (if they ever did) to achieve anything of benefit. And unemployment remains high following the financial crisis which resulted from the previous government's letting big bankers run wild. Even the Gulf oil spill, though it occurred under Obama, can be blamed on the lax regulatory regime instituted during the Bush ers - but Obama's administration is perceived as not having handled it well.

So how are American voters going to punish the Democrats for their ineffective handling of these problems? If polls can be believed, probably by handing control of Congress back to the very party that created all the problems in the first place, and has come up with no better plan for resolving them. Pretty smart, huh? I am reminded of Winston Churchill's maxim that "Democracy is the worst political system, except for all the others".

On the other hand, perhaps they may have been deterred from considering a possible third party vote by looking at Britain, where millions of people voted for the Liberal Democrats because they were sick of "New" Labour and didn't want the Tories back in, only to see their leaders jump into bed with the Tories in their greed for a share of power. In the end, another political maxim says it all: "Whichever party you vote for, the government always gets in".

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wake-Up Call

I added the Hong Kong Observatory to my RSS feeds a while back, then forgot all about it because it never actually fed me anything. Suddenly yesterday it's woken up and started actually feeding me local weather forecasts.

Perhaps this is a sign that there is hope for the Hong Kong government yet. Now I am waiting eagerly for other government departments to similarly stir from their slumbers and get on with what needs doing around here: rein in the big property companies, extend recycling, move quickly towards full democracy, fulfil the long-delayed promise to extend the North Lantau Country Park, clean up the air, reform the widely abused village house policy, conserve what little is left of the city's architectural heritage, spend police effort getting dangerous drivers off the roads instead of giving out unnecessary parking tickets, and a million other things.

Dream on...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Go to the mirror, boy

In its latest objection to the Nobel Peace Prize, China complained that awarding the prize to a convicted criminal "shows disrespect for China's judicial system".

Well, yes. Maybe they should ask themselves why.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hovering up and down

ATV's weather report tonight reported that the relative humidity today "hovered between 76 and 94 percent". I wonder if they know what "hover" means - if we see a helicopter hovering, we expect it to stay at approximately the same height above the ground. If its height varied between 75 and 96 feet above the ground, perhaps "yoyoing" would be a more appropriate term - or even "oscillating" if the variation is repeated regularly. Why don't they say "fluctuated" instead?

Alternative History

Beijing, 8 October 2010 - Foreign Office spokeswoman Jiang Yu, her characteristic beaming smile even broader than usual, today expressed the Chinese government's pleasure at the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. "The entire nation shares in congratulating Liu on the award of this great honour, whose tireless work for human rights and democracy in China has benefited and endeared him to so many of our people." Jiang said. "A prestigious international honour given to any Chinese citizen is a matter of national pride for China."

Sadly the above is of course not the way it went - instead the sour-faced Jiang delivered her usual predictable stern lecture about not interfering in China's internaal affairs, and how it was shameful that such an honour should be given to someone China regards as a criminal. (Curious how many Nobel Peace Prize laureates have been regarded as criminals by their own governments in their time - Nelson Mandela and the still imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi come to mind - and even former terrorists such as Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat.)

So the opening paragraph above can be regarded as a piece of alternative history - a genre which has always fascinated me. The Man in the High Castle, Pavane, Bring the Jubilee - these were all on my reading list as a teenager. The great thing about such works is that by presenting a different yet strangely similar world to our own, they invite us to think about how even small changes could transform the world we live in.
"Some men see things as they are and say why - I dream things that never were and say why not." - George Bernard Shaw

P.S. Actually it appears they may have used a different spokesperson yesterday - which means that my "reality" is yet another alternate universe. Oh well.

And what is all this stuff about "China's first Nobel Peace Prize winner"? Since China insists that Tibetans are Chinese, shouldn't that be the second? They should feel doubly proud.