AOB – 2022

31 December 2022

Another year done. Another year with little to commend it. Another year ending in difficult times. A battle for hearts and minds; a battle for land and historical retribution; a battle of liberal democracies versus various degrees of autocracy.

Me – I will stick with the liberal democracies – at least if you don’t like it you have the opportunity to do something about it; the opportunity to participate and in varying degrees the opportunity to protest.

But I also turned 65 this year and somethings are not what they used to be: my momentum; my enthusiasm for fighting injustice; my black and white sense of right and wrong…even my golf game!

Pele died. While his cancer had stricken him for some time his death was still both a shock and a huge loss to the world of football.

26 December 2022

So Argentina won the world cup – a strange final – France forgot to show up for 80 minutes – were 0-2 down and scored twice in the last ten minutes – into extra time – 30 fabulous minutes – finishes 3-3 and goes to penalties.

It was a strange world cup – some of the football was very good – but Qatar was bellicose and belligerent in defense of serious human rights concerns – and FIFA simply watched with its wallet wide open.

More importantly I spent the time watching the first three series of “For All Mankind” – the space race rewritten. Terrific television.

4 December 2022

England are back playing cricket in Pakistan for the first time in 17 years. It is long overdue. Though at least I was able to follow Pakistan while they played their home series in Dubai.

This quote from the Rawalpindi Express is so good: ‘The Rawalpindi Express’ remains the fastest bowler of all time and is delighted to welcome England back to Pakistan 17 years after he blew them away on their last visit. From The Spin in The Guardian.

“Let me ask you a question.” Shoaib Akhtar fixes me with those saucer eyes. “Tell me, truthfully, when were you happiest?”

“Erm, I’m not sure. The birth of my child?”

This feels like the right thing to say and I think might call the former fast bowler’s bluff. No chance.

“Right, increase that by a thousand and it’ll be somewhere near what it feels like to bowl truly fast. If you get a wicket after all that effort, when the ball hits the stumps, the sound of it goes inside your soul and explodes like an atom bomb. That’s true happiness.”

3 December 2022

Air Canada – Vancouver to Bangkok – four flights a week from 1 December to mid April 2023.
Flight schedule between 1 December 2565 – 17 April 2566

AC65 YVR-BKK 23.00-05.55 +2 (Day 1/3/5/7)

AC66 BKK-YVR 08.30-06.35 (Day 2/3/5/7)

11 November 2022

Visa extension papers filed for another year – it is a painful process – and there is always some sort of new requirement.

But done.

Was back at Sukhothai for two nights at Loy Krathong. The difference from last year was remakarble. The crowds were back in force – the park was 90% an open air food court. But there are still quiet spots and the combination of water and lights is mesmerizing.

Taking over the writing for the Chiang Mai FC English page has been mostly rewarding but also time consuming – and does mean that I rarely update my own web site except with match reports.

Sorry – dear reader. I should do better.

Huge shock last night – I recently asked one of old Reuters friends, Claude Green, what had happened to Patrick White who we used to work with in Peter Benjamins Special Projects Group.

Patrick was a lovely guy – incredibly smart – always modest.

We lost contact in 1988 when I moved over to Toronto. Patrick got married that year.

The Autumn update of the Reuters pension newsletter arrived yesterday. Patrick died on 31 December 2021.

An online search revealed little until I found this tribute from his wife. She is right. Patrick would never have complained. But he deserved a better, and less premature, ending.

7 October 2022

A recurring image this morning – a madman with a meat chopper butchering tiny kids sleeping on their cots; blood splattering everywhere. Just awful.

I was going to post Jonathan Head’s report for the BBC on facebook – but some people are uncomfortable with cameras recording family grief.

I think that the story has to be told – to help understand the appalling nature of the slaughter at the day care centre in Uthai Sawan and the impact on families and the local community.

Maybe their deaths will not be in vain. Maybe the Thai gun culture will change. Maybe there will be huge changes in police recruitment and management. Though I doubt it.

So this is the link to Jonathan’s report – he is visibly upset.

Already there are calls from at least one Thai government minister to arm school teachers. Insane.

Also from BBC Thai: Shooting at Nong Bua Lamphu : “I am hurt and angry”

6 October 2022

It has been a grim day in Thailand:

At least 37 people have been killed in an attack at a childcare centre in north-eastern Thailand – Uthai Sawan – about 40kms west of Nongbua Lamphu.

More than 20 children are among the dead, with victims as young as two years old.

The nursery usually takes 92 children, but heavy rain and the fact a shared bus had broken down meant only 24 children were present, the childcare centre’s head teacher says.

The attack began when a man armed with a gun and a knife stormed into the childcare facility in Nong Bua Lamphu province.

The attacker – who killed himself and his family as police searched for him – has been identified as former police officer Panya Khamrab.

He was dismissed from the police force earlier this year and was facing trial on drugs charges.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered an urgent probe into the attack and offered condolences to the families of the victims.

The PM will visit the local community at about 4pm on Friday – followed by the King and Queen at 8pm/

Jonathan Head for the BBC – “The police say the attacker arrived at the day centre at around 1pm, when the children were inside having a nap.

He was armed with a knife, a handgun and a shotgun, and began opening fire almost immediately, hitting teachers and parents who tried to stop him entering the building.

Police officers arriving after the attack were confronted with horrific scenes, the bodies of adults and children, some of them very young, lying inside and outside the centre.

The attacker hit several people with his truck as he drove away, and opened fire on them too, before going to his home, killing his wife and son, and then himself.”

“There’s a lot of activity here, people are trying to help the families of those affected.

But more than anything else there’s a sense of total disbelief about what could have driven this man to carry out such a desperately cruel act.

Nobody has any answers at this stage, it came completely out of the blue.

Thailand is not a stranger to gun crime but killings on this scale – involving children – are pretty much unheard of.

Everyone is looking for answers, but for now we’re simply left absolutely stunned and disbelieving about what took place here.”

30 September 2022

Tai was home last weekend – just a few days – including a visit to Chai Lai – which is doing really well at last with tourists now back in good numbers after the blight of Covid.

So green at the moment.

Mae Sapok

20 September 2022
Kirsty Young for the BBC at the end of an emotional day in the UK.

The Queen has been buried with her parents, husband and sister in the private chapel at Windsor.

The funeral service, procession and committal service at Windsor were dignified yet full of pageantry and meaning – the little moments like the two corgis waiting at WIndsor – or her pony by the side of the Long Walk.

Huge crowds – in the UK you do not have to order or pay people to attend – they just do. A massive security exercise. All looked faultless.

Maybe 80% of the British population have never known another monarch – she was the link to a different time; to the last of the wartime generation.

Whatever your, or my, views of the monarchy her life of unwavering service, while every move is watched through the eyes of the media, was pretty remarkable.

She can rest at last. Job done and even in death she gave her nation one last day to be proud of.

Kirsty Young signed off the BBC’s coverage of the day with the above monolgue – it was perfectly judged.

19 September 2022

Thai Ambassador to the Court of St James’s Pitsanu Suwannachot will represent the Thai Government at HM Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat on Sunday. There was no mention or word from the Palace as of press time Monday about why no senior member of the Thai Royal family is attending. When HM King Bhumibol passed away HRH Prince Andrew attended the funeral in Bangkok.

Strange (or deliberate?) that there is no royal family representation.

Also 16 years today since the 2006 coup that removed Thaksin Shinawatra and his government from power.

14 September 2022

The BBC is now known as Mourn-Gate. 24/7 coverage of the Queen’s death. Down to a long discussion about the corgis this afternoon. They really are running out of material.

9 September 2022

The Queen died yesterday afternoon UK time. The announcement coming as soon as the senior members of the Royal Family had arrived at Balmoral.

As an indication of the extent of her rule and of the old British Empire she was at some stage the monarch of every nation or territory that I have lived in until the latest move to Thailand….England, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UAE.

8 September 2022

As I write this Queen Elizabeth II appears to be in her final hours. Aged 96 she is a link to an older generation; to a time of Empire, Commonwealth and war.

She has outlived 15 Prime Ministers.

Continuity will see the ageing Prince Charles take to the thrown – the oldest person to become monarch in British history.

I may not be a fan of any monarchy but the historical significance is undeniable.

12 August 2022

A couple of notes on LIV Golf –

Lots of people arguing that by buying for instance oil we are supporting the Saudis and why is LIV any different:

This is the answer in a Brandel Chamblee tweet : “Saudi money is everywhere and if you buy ANYTHING you’re likely indirectly supporting the Saudis, BUT THAT IS massively differently than working directly for the Saudis to sportwash their human atrocities.”

Eddie Pepperell – the UK based pro golfer – “not everything a person does in life has to be about money. None of us will be here in 100 years, and nobody will care about your wealth. You’ll be remembered for what you achieved, believed and stood for.”
We complete the sale of my mother’s home today – from her estate.

It does feel a bit strange.

For all of our lives there has been a place in the UK that was always a family refuge – somewhere that we could go to when things got messed up and somewhere that was familiar – with familiar objects, memories and people – it did not matter whether it was in Bournville or Newton Ferrers – though Kings Bromley never felt much like home!

Now finally that is no more. A part of all of my life to date. Ends today.

2 August 2022

And just to add to the fun: The Royal Gazette on Monday night published a new order signed by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as head of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Admistration (CCSA) banning public protest and gathering in public which lead to COVID-19 infections.

Citing recurring small wave of new infections, violators face two years maximum imprisonment term and/or fine of up to 40,000 baht. The order is effective Monday Aug 1.

So does that mean we can or cannot gather at football stadiums from 12 August: Not exactly clear.

A bit ill at ease the last few weeks. And too out of sorts to type much here.

What a world we live in. China is making massive threats against the USA over the proposed Pelosi visit – more on that below.

LIV golf is making rich golfers richer while doing absolutely nothing useful to grow the game.

Singapore is carrying out state executions with a fearsome frequency.

Myanmar has joined in – but instead of execution drug mules they are executing anyone who confronts the ruling military junta. These are political executions and should be globally condemned. A few tut tuts from SE Asia are really not good enough.

England, at last , beat Germany in a major international football tournament. But it needed the women to do what the men could not do. Winning 2-1 in extra time in the final of the European Championship in front of nearly 90,000 at Wembley.

The joy in their sparkling celebrations was something special to behold.

Now back to Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi is the 82 year old Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Her brief tour of East Asia looks likely to include an overnight stop in Taiwan the first visit by a US House Speaker for 25 years. The Chinese are fuming. This was the FT leader this morning:

“The risks of Pelosi’s visit should not be underestimated. Xi Jinping, China’s powerful leader, warned US president Joe Biden last week that the US was “playing with fire”. According to Beijing’s official statement, Xi did not mention Pelosi’s name but said his government would “resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The visit comes at a highly-charged moment. Xi is seeking another (his third) term in office at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist party later this year. Yet internal tensions are high as the economy stumbles and Beijing’s “zero-Covid” policy attracts criticism.

It is not yet clear if China will launch retaliatory measures over Pelosi’s trip. In the mid-1990s, Beijing expressed ire over an unofficial visit to the US by the independence-minded Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui by test-firing missiles into the sea near the island.

Beijing warned last month that a visit by Pelosi would represent a “serious violation” of “One China” policy, under which the US recognises the People’s Republic as the sole legal government of China, but only acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China. Beijing’s assertion in the 1990s that Lee’s visit to the US breached the One China policy prompted the missile crisis across the Taiwan Strait.

There is, to be sure, good reason for senior US officials to want to show solidarity with Taiwan. Xi has been increasingly vocal in his insistence that Beijing has the resolve and means to achieve “complete reunification” of the island with the “motherland”. Beijing has stepped up military pressure on Taipei, including repeatedly sending warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

Pelosi has also done much to highlight China’s human rights abuses during her career, including unfurling banners in Tiananmen Square in 1991 in protest at Beijing’s 1989 massacre of civilians. Today, however, Taiwan represents a much more complex geopolitical issue. The risks of war across the Taiwan Strait, and that any conflict could end up pitting China against the US, are real.

Pelosi’s visit is in danger of being seen as a grandstanding act that will incense Beijing without improving the security of Taiwan’s 24m people. The dilemma for the Speaker now is that while going ahead with the trip carries dangers of retaliation by Beijing, not doing so would risk being seen as submitting to Chinese pressure and giving Beijing a say in how the US can engage with Taiwan.

If the trip takes place, China should think long and hard before unleashing any form of aggression in response. It should be aware that Congress and its Speaker are separate from the US executive, and Pelosi’s visit carries no official endorsement. Indeed, the White House made clear last month that US policy on Taiwan had not changed.

The US should in future focus on carefully-co-ordinated actions that have genuine value in shoring up Taiwan’s security. Washington should step up supplies of weapons, as provided for under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, and expand training. Such moves, undertaken without fanfare, are likely to be much more effective than high-profile but ultimately empty visits.”

But 1 billion angry Chinese on Weibo (and a few who are allowed on twitter) is a threat that should not be taken lightly.

21 July 2022

With Johnson forced out the Tory party leadership is down to a choice between Liz Truss versus Rishi Sunak.

The decision is made by a bizarre vote by Tory party members. As of 2017, their average age was 57. More than half are over 60 and more than 70% are male. They live predominantly in the south of England.

The UK’s leadership depends upon this tiny unrepresentative group. Parliamentary democracy at its worst.

Far better if the vote was simply by the elected Tory party MPs in Parliament. Those are the folk who were voted into office by their constituencies in 2019. They should choose their leader.

Sunak lacks experience, but his performance at the Treasury during Johnson’s nightmare premiership suggests a man of reasonable judgment, caution and competence. He is the preference of most of his cabinet and MP colleagues. He should be the next prime minister.

Perversely the polls suggest he will not be. Long on slogans but short of substance, Truss can appeal to a wealthy, white male membership base whose economic interests have long been secured. Shame about the other 99%.

The outgoing PM reportedly told his supporters to vote for “anyone but Sunak.” The only hope now is for Sunak to rise above this wretched fray and convince his party that he is its best chance of leading the economy through a looming recession and keeping Labour from power in 2024. It is a tall order. The outlook is grim.

6 July 2022

While not quite the night of the long knives Boris Johnson has been dealt the biggest blow of his premiership by the resignations of two senior cabinet ministers in the wake of his handling of the row over former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, health secretary Sajid Javid, four parliamentary private secretaries, the Conservative vice-chair, two trade envoys and the solicitor general all resigned on Tuesday evening.

Sajid Javid triggered the exodus, resigning as health secretary, followed a few minutes later by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak. Javid said: “I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience,” while Sunak said the government should be run “properly, competently and seriously”.

It appears likely the resignations of Javid and Sunak were coordinated. Most of the remaining members of the cabinet expressed support for Johnson to continue as PM. Johnson told Javid he was “sorry” to receive his resignation letter.

Education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, was appointed as the new chancellor.

Steve Barclay was announced as the new health secretary.

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said it’s “clear the government is now collapsing”. Starmer said government ministers have been “complicit” in the prime minister’s disgracing of his office. “They backed him when he lied. They backed him when he mocked the sacrifices of the British people,” he told reporters.

A snap poll by YouGov this evening found that 69% of Britons say Boris Johnson should resign. This is 11pts higher than when the pollsters asked the same question on 9 June.

Under current rules Johnson is safe from another leadership challenge until next summer. But the executive of the 1922 Committee can change the rules whenever it wants.

He has to go before he drags the UK even deeper into the mire.

But then who takes over – the Tory government is hardly the most talented of groups.


Golf Channel notes that week 2 of LIV is in the books, which means we’re learning even more about the Saudi-backed league.

We’re learning that some of the players’ excuses for joining the rival league are absolute nonsense. Brooks Koepka said that one of the biggest draws of LIV was that he could play less and be home more. That’s not necessarily true, of course. Next year’s LIV schedule is 14 events, plus the four majors (assuming he’s eligible to play them), and maybe even a handful of Asian Tour events if he needs to keep his world ranking afloat. All of a sudden he’s looking at a normal schedule with 20-ish events … only without the freedom that the Tour affords him. On the PGA Tour, he can play wherever he wants, and as much or as little as he wants. But with LIV, he is being told where to play and when to play, no matter how he feels, no matter the form he’s in, no matter the state of his battered body. He’s being paid handsomely (a reported $100 million signing bonus), and he better show up.

We’re learning that these guys are paid actors. We’ll get to Talor Gooch’s hilarious post-round comments below, but Patrick Reed, Branden Grace and Pat Perez all said something similar, along the lines of: This is the greatest thing I’ve ever been a part of! Of course it is – they’re being paid gobs of money to promote a product. They’re all propagandizing in their own way, and it’s our job to call it out.

We’re learning that this thing is ever-evolving. LIV officials have apparently been so encouraged by the progress of the startup league that they’re speeding up the timeline for their league format, from the start of 2024 to March 2023.

That’s a wise move, actually, because it will do two things:

  • It will eliminate some of the confusion surrounding the team format, which through two weeks has had both a draft party and also set teams.
  • And it will create a feeding frenzy later this fall. If there are only 48 available spots (and many have already been accounted for), then players considering the league will make the jump, lest they miss out on the chance for generational wealth or the Next Big Thing. As a result, the Tour will have to keep the full-court press on the biggest names deep into the fall.

And that brings us to the most important point:

We’re learning that, right now, the competition at the LIV events might be underwhelming, but it undoubtedly has potential.

They’ve attracted 100,000 viewers for the live stream (though it’s unclear how many are bots). They’ve proved the concept. They’ve demonstrated that the majority of pros don’t care about the shady source of the funding.

Officials have focused less on the roster of “all-stars” they have accumulated to this point, and more on what they eventually will.

They’ve tantalized us not with what the product is right now, but what it could be.

For its many faults, LIV clearly has something with the team component, especially once there are captains and predetermined teams. It’s simple for fans to follow. It makes for some intriguing weekly storylines. And there could be offseason drama, with player trades and the threat of relegation for those who underperform. It’s an interesting way to inject some intrigue into otherwise mundane regular-season action.

22 June 2022

Former PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee, 59, and now analysts, has always been outspoken on the topic of Saudi money coming into the game. He joined Sky Sports after watching players like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson in the first LIV tournament from London.

His comments followed the news that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has served current and future Saudi rebels with suspensions.

What Chamblee told Sky Sports: “When it comes to the richest sports stars in the world, Phil Mickelson is 11th. He’s ahead of Kobe Bryant, he’s ahead of David Beckham, he’s ahead of Kevin Durant, he’s ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

You’re talking about him being ahead of icons in sports that are far more popular worldwide than the game of golf. And yet why is it that golf has four of the highest paid athletes of all time?

Why is it that Phil Mickelson is 11th, in terms of the stratosphere he does occupy, as an athlete… that athletes who have made less money than him but play a sport that is widely more popular.

Why is that? It’s because of the image of the golfer. Because of their independent contract nature.

Because they show up and, generally speaking, play a game that is self governed and self policing. It is a game of integrity. It’s because corporations want to align themselves with these players. It’s because of the philanthropic aspect of the game of golf.

So when I hear these players say that they are ‘growing the game’… it makes me wanna puke. They’re destroying the game. And they are destroying their reputations.

This is one of the saddest days in the history of golf. Watching these players come together for money and show to the world…they are showing us that they are the greediest, most self serving, self interesting, wilfully blind players in the world of golf today.”

9 June 2022

Coming soon: Vietjet will fly from Ho Chi Minh to Chiang Mai from 1 September 2565 onward. 3 flights per week, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Played Artitaya on Saturday and again yesterday. 7 pars on Saturday. But yesterday played the A9 like a donkey before playing the B9 in a much more respectable 42. Funny old game.

On Monday I did my first medical since my flying time and my first xray and ultrasound since 2013. The usual – do more exercise and drink more coffee. Blood pressure a little high. Englarged prostate. Otherwise all normal. Which is good.

It was a strange experience – a bit too much like a sausage in a sausage factory – but the final review with the doctor was better.

Saw Top Gun: Maverick – my first cinema visit for over 2 years. Basically a remake of 633 Squadron. 58 years later.

And had a birthday. It was something of a non-event. When you turn 65 it really should be more of a celebration. Tai was home. We went out for lunch.

25 May 2022

Another school shooting in the USA. An 18-year-old man, identified by police as Salvador Ramos, opened fire in an elementary school in Texas. He killed at least 19 students and two adults at Robb elementary school in Uvalde, a mostly Latino community about 85 miles west of San Antonio near the Mexico border.

This is just week after the shootings at a Buffalo supermarket.

Numerous lawmakers and public figures spoke out on Tuesday by calling for action on gun control legislation. Nothing of significance is likely to happen.

Watching the last season of the BBC series “Spooks.” A twelve year old show that is still strong on current geo-political issues.

And golf this morning at Gassan Legacy – maybe the most difficult of the local courses. Lots of water. There is a real difference in the two nines – a long front nine – and a more straightforward and much shorter back nine.

24 May 2022

Bits and pieces:

Spaghetti Junction is 50 years old today. One of the great Birmingham landmarks.

Manchester City won the English Premiership – by a single point from Liverpool.

Proof indeed that money – and enough of it – can buy anything.

The war in Ukraine in 90 days old.

MonkeyPox – 21 days isolation. But the number of global cases appears to be less than 100. Enough.

For sometime you are not going to find me on twitter, facebook or instagram. I may have to find some other news/information sources – but taking myself away from some toxic social media sounds like the right thing to do.

What is interesting is that no one appear to have noticed that I have gone!

7 May 2022My level of disinterest and lack of connection is all to evident by a month’s silence on my blog…probably for  the first time in 20 years.

Twenty years! That is a lot of typing

5 April 2022

Sorry – three weeks since I last wrote here.

I did go to Phrae and Lampang for a football weekend. CMFC were playing in Phrae and Lamphun played out a thrilled in Lampang.

Phrae is a nice little town – rather quiet – and a bit short on places to eat later in the evening.

Oddly the football stadium is some 15 kms outside the town as apparently the club was unable to reach an agreement for the use of the central provincial stadium.

Otherwise it has been far too quiet around me.

So instead I am watching too much TV news. Depressing.

And finished the final series of Peaky Blinders. Pretty grim as well.

What has been on my mind – this might explain a rather deep-rooted funk.

19 March 2022

Mention Hong Kong’s Covid outbreak and suddenly the accusation comes that you follow too much Main Stream Media….that somehow you are being brainwashed.

Sorry – but maybe you should get your own news either from reliable news sources or from people that are dealing with this on a day to day basis in Hong Kong.

This denial is bizarre. This distrust of evidence based news makes no sense.

16 March 2022

Just a reminder that Hong Kong is a completely changed and muzzled city.

This week UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch said that Hong Kong’s Security Bureau has threatened its founder with prison and fines for allegedly breaching the city’s national security law….a law that criminalises anything perceived as dissent. Local authorities have accused the group of interference and said the law applies worldwide.

In the letter published on the NGO’s website, Hong Kong Watch is accused of colluding with foreign forces. Police warned that the founder could face up to life imprisonment and a fine of HK$100,000.

“Criminal investigation reveals that ‘Hong Kong Watch’ has been engaging in activities seriously interfering in the affairs of the HKSAR and jeopardising national security of the People’s Republic of China,” the letter read.

The Chinese Communist Party cannot tolerate a free press covering its demolition of Hong Kong freedom, so it slanders the city’s journalists as criminals and traitors. Apple Daily and Stand News were raided and closed down. Jimmy Lai languishes in prison. Nearly all of Hong Kong’s opposition leaders have been jailed or driven into exile.

Hong Kong is also suffering its first major Covid outbreak – which has seen 740,000 plus cases and 4,300 deaths in under three months — mostly inside the city’s care homes. Ms. Lam’s administration has been called out for low vaccination rates especially amongst the elderly and unclear messaging around potential lockdown and testing measures.

Pictures of body bags in hospital wards have put paid to the message of Hong Kong as Asia’s World City.

In just one year Beijing has remoulded Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image in 2019 including and a new “patriots only” legislature that vets anyone standing for public office for their political loyalty.

This year, 1 July, will be the 25th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China. One country, two systems, lived less than one half of its planned fifty years.

9 March 2022

There really is something amoral about the UK’s armed forces minister doing a full-on tv sales pitch for UK manufactured weapons that are being sent to Ukraine. (Please stop calling it lethal aid).

Yet looking after and providing refuge for those fleeing the Ukraine….the UK is clueless.

2 March 2022

Spent last weekend in Ao Nang, Krabi for Tai’s birthday.

Strange weekend. Weather did not help. Liked our day trip to Koh Hong.

We stayed at the Centara Ao Nang Beach. Really disliked the hotel. More Holiday Inn than Centara. Functional room. Ropey breakfast.

Neither of us at 100% at different times over the weekend.

And rear-ended by a car in Ao Nang on the first afternoon – and a 90 minute wait while we sorted out the insurance.

If you are going to get hit by another car makes sure you are in a rental with full insurance.

20 February 2022

But then our helper turns up – bright and cheerful – and she makes me feel guilty for complaining about my life being crappy.

Cannot remember feeling lonelier than yesterday. Spent the day on my own. Went to football on my own. Came home to an empty house with a frozen chicken and rice dinner from 7-11.

Highlight of my day – clearing up yet more cat crap from my lovely neighbours and then having Rochalia Management tell me that they need photographic evidence – two days after they said they had CCTV footage.

I do not know how much longer I can live like this….

18 February 2022

Alex is often wise beyond his years – and his interest in current affairs is unusual…

This on the trucker/anti-vax protests in Ottawa is on the mark:

“This whole anti vaccine/mask protest movement that’s been occuring in Canada, New Zealand, France etc is an interesting one to me. Obviously I disagree with the people involved and what they stand for; I think they’re idiots protesting against the minimum requirements for society to function again. At the same time though, I don’t know if I can say I fundamentally disagree with them protesting or even necessarily their methods. After participating in and supporting the 2020 Racial Justice protests in the US, I think it would be hypocritical of me to say that these protests need to be shut down just because I disagree with the message they’re trying to send. In the end, I think protests, even the disruptive ones, are a necessary part of a healthy democracy, no matter how much I disagree with what they’re protesting.”

Even better on the showdown between Russia and NATO on the Ukraine border:

“The saddest thing to is it feels like this could have all been avoided in the early 90s and 2000s. There’s an alternate world out there where Russia pursued closer ties with the EU, and used it’s relatively large population and vast supply of natural resources to become quite wealthy. It could have become the EUs big natural resource and manufacturing hub, and could have likely wielded sway over the EU second only to Germany.”

17 February 2022

“Notes the Economist: The news, for a moment, seemed encouraging. In a stage-managed television appearance on February 14th Vladimir Putin grunted a terse “good” to the proposal of his foreign minister that, despite warnings by the West of an imminent invasion of Ukraine, diplomacy should continue. A day later Russia’s defence ministry said that some of the 180,000 or so troops it has deployed at its borders with Ukraine are to be withdrawn to barracks, having completed their military exercises which, it has always maintained, is why they were there in the first place.

Officials, and the markets, breathed a small sigh of relief. Alas, open-source intelligence soon showed that, although a few units were moving, many more were preparing to fight. With the candour that has wrong-footed Mr Putin, many Western security officials accused him of lying, redoubling their warnings of a looming Russian invasion. Even if the troops pull back, this crisis is not yet over. And, whatever happens, war or no war, Mr Putin has damaged his country by engineering it.”

This standoff is far from over….and it will suit Mr Putin to drag it out for weeks and even months to come.

7 February 2022

Not a lot to report. Got through the weekend. Feels like a success.

3 February 2022

Weird dream last night – I guess white wine, pizza and ice cream shortly before bed are a bad idea.

I had been sent to some sort of highflyers conference – but no one is really doing any work – a professor type is talking but no one listens.

It is like one of those old Reuters America management conferences held at the University of Michigan in the 1990s.

We go to find food – I get cornered by a guy who starts to speak to me in all sorts of unlikely languages – one he said was Hungarian – the others a mystery.

I ask him how old he is – 21. WTF am I doing at a conference of twenty somethings…..

I want to go back to my own table….but then the same professor wants to talk – think he was looking for someone old. I want to eat.

Very odd.

31 January 2022

Electric from Theresa May to PM: “What the Gray report does show is that No10 was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public. So either he had not read the rules, did not understand them, or didn’t think the rules applied to No 10. Which was it?”

The UK Prime Minister still seems to think that the Government’s Covid rules did not apply to him or to any of the people working in Downing Street.

Guardian. “Johnson’s statement to MPs – verdict
Boris Johnson is famous for his reluctance to apologise. But in the past, under pressure, he has on occasion made an effort to sound apologetic or contrite about his conduct, as he did when speaking about partygate at PMQs almost three weeks ago. But today, when faced with a report showing that 12 events in Downing Street or the Cabinet Office, including one in his own flat, are under investigation by the police as potential “flagrant” breaches of lockdown rules (see 3.08pm), he could barely maintain the apologtic tone for more than about a minute. Instead he claimed the police investigation absolved him of the need to answer detailed questions, and he resorted to smearing the opposition and making hackneyed boasts about delivery.

Even by Johnson’s standards, it was tone deaf. “I get it and I will fix it,” he said in his opening statement. But he implied the problem was a machinery of government one, not one relating to leadership or standards. And the long-promised shake-up of No 10 sounded like little more than a change to the name at the head of the notepaper. (See 3.56pm.)

Perhaps the reporting in the Sunday Times yesterday about the threat of an imminent no confidence vote fading has lulled him into a false sense of security. Keir Starmer’s response may have sounded a tad pious to some, but it was compelling, and delivered with much more sincerity than Johnson’s initial apology. It was probably much closer to where public opinion lies.

Despite the support for some Tory MPs, on the basis of that performance Johnson’s position is probably less secure than it was first thing this morning. Perhaps the most worrying development for him is what we have learnt about the extent of the partygate evidence now sitting with the police. Sue Gray interviewed more than 70 witnesss, and the police have 500 pages of documents, as well as 300 photos. Allegations of law breaking are not going to go away soon.

Canada beat the USA 2-0 last night in World Cup 2022 qualifying. It was -5C at kick off!

Remember these names – and look at the clubs that they play for. The logistics of getting all the players together to train and play in Canada is a huge challenge.

Cyle Larin (Besiktas), goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrad) and center back Alistair Johnston (Montreal), along with the other three midfielders from September: Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Colorado) and Richie Laryea (Nottingham Forest).

Lille’s Jonathan David leads the attack. Also starting: Kamal Miller (Montreal), Steven Vitoria (Moreirense), Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge) and Jonathan Osorio (Toronto).

18 January 2022

This is a timely view shared and edited from the Economist:

To a great number of Chinese, their country has never been as impressive as it is today. They see it as self-evident that China—their increasingly strong, modern motherland—is a worthy host of uplifting global events such as the Winter Olympics, which are set to open in Beijing on February 4th.

At the very same moment, an opposite consensus is forming in the West. In many free societies, China’s rulers are increasingly seen as capable but cruel. They are credited with prodigious feats, whether that means girdling the nation with high-speed railways or sending rockets to the Moon. But they are seen as unbearably repressive, too, notably towards ethnic and religious minorities in such regions as Xinjiang. To Western sceptics, it is grotesque to allow the pageantry of the Olympics to be co-opted by such a regime.

The USA and Australia announced their diplomatic boycotts of the games, citing both China’s record on human rights and its use of economic coercion. Others, from Britain to Canada and New Zealand, are declining to send government ministers or high-ranking officials.

China has responded with scorn, anger and censorship. The Olympics are a party “by invitation only” to which American politicians had not been asked, the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying tweeted, though in reality each national Olympic committee issues its own invitations.

Ms Hua’s pugnacious deputy, Zhao Lijian, went further, warning of unspecified “firm countermeasures”.

Online, censors blocked most discussion of the boycotts.

These seemingly arcane official boycotts are a glimpse of a real-world diplomatic crisis. America’s government uses the gravest of terms, including crimes against humanity, to describe China’s behaviour in Xinjiang/

That stance is morally coherent. Even if China’s own policy papers and work reports, public procurement documents and official speeches are the only evidence taken into account, its government is indisputably committing horrors in Xinjiang.

At a time when many ordinary Chinese have rarely been so proud of their country, Western governments are telling them that they live in a form of pariah state.

Second, China’s management of the games is itself likely to provoke mutual incomprehension between the publics of China and the West. China has spent almost two years trying to eradicate the virus with ferocious testing and tracing regimes, by locking down whole towns when a handful of cases emerge, and by tightly controlling international borders.

Soon, many thousands will arrive from a world that is living with covid—though not foreign spectators, who are barred.

China plans to manage this threat by sealing games venues inside secure bubbles. But it is inevitable that some participants will test positive or have fevers on arrival. Under China’s rules, they will be hauled off to quarantine hospitals, and team-mates in close contact will be isolated in hotel rooms.

In Beijing foreign embassies are anxiously sharing tales from a Luge World Cup staged as a test event last month. The sporting facilities were stunningly advanced but pandemic controls were a shock, from the moment a charter flight with over 200 athletes and sports officials landed in Beijing. Because two athletes were flagged as suspect on arrival, their plane-mates were held on airport buses for hours, forcing some to pee in bottles.

On November 16th, diplomats relate, a German athlete was grabbed from the luge track by staff in hazmat suits after what turned out to be a false positive test, and isolated for two days before being declared safe. A Polish competitor injured by a faulty barrier on the luge track reportedly had to wait for a negative covid test before doctors would touch his shattered leg.

China’s controlling ways will extend to the press. A Western diplomat predicts “journalists will be kept like monkeys in a cage”, denied free access to athletes.

Yet if foreigners complain about a sinister “autocratic Olympics” many Chinese will be livid. They will see proof that Westerners are too irresponsible to control covid: witness the grumbling about being kept safe in Beijing.

Outsiders will sound all the more ungrateful because 100,000 Chinese volunteers and staff working in the Olympic bubbles face 21 days of quarantine, away from home, at the end.

Two worldviews are about to collide. The effects may be felt long after the final race.

Reality is, Covid or no Covid – Beijing should never have been given these winter games. Tokyo felt unreal. Beijing will be off the charts.

5 January 2022

This is a great description of what is happening in Sydney as the Ashes continue in Sydney despite the ongoing Covid crisis: Geoff Lemon writing in The Guardian:

“Sydney is complicated, a town built on blood and corruption from the first days of its colonial founding. It is beautiful, with a beauty bought by wealth and subsidised by poverty. When you walk its hills at night it can be disarmingly gentle, the humid air curling around you, distant lights on quiet streets, the leaves of the Moreton Bay fig trees or the white-gold petals of frangipani unbearably lush.

The harbour unwinds through the city’s core, unspooling in all directions, those waters captured in the words of Kenneth Slessor. To the east is the ocean coast and its storied beaches. To the west it becomes another city, growing ever outwards.

In the past year, Sydney has also become the centre of Australia’s viral explosion. By now nobody can remember which wave this is, but a country that successfully held back a global inundation for nearly two years has now given in. Political leaders have sold the idea of a harmless variant and the fantasy that everybody getting sick and getting better will mean an end rather than just another waypoint on a road that has miles to run.

For those in countries that have suffered worse and earlier, Australia’s situation may seem tame in comparison. But there has been an abdication of responsibility, leaving people to fend for themselves.

It is in Sydney, as cases leap by the day and as leaders find ways to stop counting, that the fourth Ashes Test will be held. It is safe to say that had this series been played at any other time in the pandemic era, in any other country, between any other two teams, it would have been called off by now.”

4 January 2022

Key points from a long thread by the FT’s excellent John Burn-Murdoch on Omicron>

1) With Omicron, share of cases going to ICU, ventilator or death will be lower than in past waves. Partly intrinsic, partly immunity

2) But sheer volume of people going to hospital with Omicron will cause intense hospital pressure

3) So rather than thinking “only for-Covid patients or vented/ICU matter, ignore with-Covid”, a better framework is “for-Covid and vented/ICU indicate the toll this wave will take on lives. With-Covid numbers indicate the toll on the health service”

4) This will play out differently in different countries depending on the level of existing hospital pressure Omi arrives into

5) Part of why we see more mild cases now is immunity — the unvaxxed continue to make up majority of ICU cases. Get boostered (or get primary vaxxed!)

3 January 2022

As this web site enters its 20th year I do wonder if anyone reads it or whether it is just a small personal account of the last two decades.

What started in Hong Kong in 2002 just to see how building a web site worked – has since been to Thailand, the UAE and back to Thailand – it has seen good days and bad…and still keeps plodding along.

The one major software change from MS Front Page to WordPress is still a problem in terms of updating the old pages. One day I will get around to it.

Thank you, dear reader, for staying with me all this time.