Yesterday felt like a Friday; today seems like an absolute impertinence. So I am minded (as people who like to ‘concur’ would put it) to issue a Fatwa declaring the weekend open here and now. Disregarding December 28-30 and the little matter of January 3-6, 9-13 and 16-20, we are now facing non-stop holidays running through Christmas and Gregorian and Lunar New Years right up to January 26, which, being a Thursday, is pretty much the start of another weekend – and, bingo, it’s February. The bad news is that Easter this year isn’t until August or something.
While we are twiddling our thumbs waiting for our last few hours of office toil to give way to resplendent Yuletide leisure, I have been flicking through AsiaSentinel. It is a well-intentioned, indeed worthy, on-line publication, give or take the occasional mind-numbing in-depth report on Australian wine. It is sort of a retirement home for seasoned old-school journalists of the sort that used to inhabit the Far Eastern Economic Review in its 80s heyday.
In what I fear may be an act of touching naivety – which can happen when the elderly get into modern technology – the site is now attempting to charge readers for access. The deal is that you can read several stories a month for free, and then have to pay. It may well be a perfectly good deal, but of course that’s not the point. Eke out your ration of free content among your home PC and your office one, and borrow the amah’s laptop for a few more, and you can read everything you would want to, gratis. They add only one item or so a day.
Still, there are probably worse ways for these writers to spend their twilight years than fighting a rearguard action against the forces of free content and de-professionalization. It doesn’t matter that 99.999% of the amateur journalism swamping the Internet is worse than the ‘real’ material that appears in established publications that cost money. Just a tiny proportion adds up to all you can read. Wrinkled old Rupert Murdoch rails against the idea of good writing being free on-line (by-passing his advertising revenue net, of course). Meanwhile, we browse Slate, the Daily Beast, Marketwatch, not to mention all the micro- on-line efforts of unpaid scribblers on various missions.
As that word ‘unpaid’ sets off alarm bells at AsiaSentinel, I might sneak in through the wide-open back door and read a piece by Cyril Pereira – a venerable old name. Hong Kong and Article 23.
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In that case, there is nothing for it. I declare the long weekend prematurely open.
Does Nury Vittachi count as Premium Content?
Go on. Who would pay to read you? Probably more than the Sentinel. But you would certainly get a shock if you tried charging. Journalists are like whores. They like to be paid. So stay free willy and watch them cringe.
You’ve not missed much. Cyril Pereira articles don’t set off a flurry of responses from outraged bureau’s of Government like a well written piece by Philip Bowring are known to do.
Now I am a frequent, long time critic of the Pro-China Morning Post however firing that clown Vittachi was a masterstroke that perhaps The Sub-Standard would like to consider. Perhaps they can fill the vacated space with an adoring portrait of Henry “We are Tomorrow” Horseman.
How “great minds think alike”
( or fools seldom differ ? )
Read Alex Lo today in SCMP – one of THE greatest op-eds I ever read
And as for Nury Vittachi : there is no-one in the world that I love and admire more than Nury for his wonderful sense of cross-cultural humour and teaching us how to laugh at the most ridiculous beings in the world : which is in most cases OURSELVES ( me included)
Happy Christmas to one and all I( and thanks to Nury aka Mr Jam for such a fun-filled year )
PS : If you cannot laugh at yourself after reading most of Mr Jam you have a SERIOUS personality problem
Dec 22, 2011
In just a week, the world has witnessed the death of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-il. Could there be two state leaders who were less alike – one you might happily drink a beer with, whereas with the other you might not live long enough to finish it?
Here’s an interesting thought experiment: try to pinpoint whether the two men had anything in common. Indeed they did: the US invasion of Iraq. That controversial war triggered the deepest soul-searching by the two men.
In To the Castle and Back, his quasi-memoirs, the former Czech president explained why he initially supported the invasion but later, by the same moral principle, he came to oppose it.
“A state is the work of humans, a human being is the work of God,” he wrote. “Defending human beings is a higher responsibility than respecting the inviolability of a state.”
Toppling Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime was therefore morally justified, but the preventable horrors that occurred after the invasion nullified its moral rationale. This section of the book, though it was on Iraq, is a profound discussion on what today we call “the responsibility to protect”, a doctrine used to justify Nato’s intervention in Libya.
As for Kim, the North Korean despot, Iraq prompted him to devote what meagre resources his dirt-poor country had to going nuclear. In other words, the survival of the state, no matter how much blood might be spilled, was paramount.
Hannah Arendt, the political philosopher, made famous the phrase “men in dark times”, a select group of brave souls who in every age and during the darkest hour, offer humankind a flickering of light and hope – through their deeds or words – that the harshest and most inhuman institutions cannot snub out.
Havel was such a man, fighting against the forces of darkness represented by men like Kim.
I thought I’d escaped Vittachi when I quit these shores in ’97”, but no. The bugger popped up in the KL free sheet “The Sun” a year or so ago. Ugh.
Nury V was funny in 1992. Since then he has gone off the boil, although I’ll grant you he makes the occasional interesting observation about life in Noodle land.
Nury ran out of funny juice many years ago, his retarded try hard attempts at humour these days are truly pitiful.
His plagiarising of roger’s profanisaurus on several occasions and the regurgitation of jokes from 10 year old chain emails clearly demonstrate the man is desperate.
He’s about as funny as finding a lump on your left testicle.
Nearly Versace. Only in Hong Kong. Thank goodness.
@ NO-ONE but to one and all
Sorry to jump back
But if you don’t find Nury really funny at least one day in three : its hard to hit things hard on the head every day – (even Hemmers has his off days) then I think you have a serious personality disorder
We are all over our heads who bother to comment on Hemmer’s website ( and it is a real good website and I do appreciate everything Hemmer writes, and all your comments )
So NO offence to one and all : just long live the Big Lychee
( Am I drunk or just on a Christmas festive High ? )
Hooray for the BIG LYCHEE . I would rather live here than in any other place in the world, and BIG BROTHER across the border is not such a bad place either ( It’s a damn sight better than the UK or USA and there’s 40 Million North Koreans who feel the same , not to mention the several hundred thousand ex-pats who have chosen to live here, despite our bad air and idiot politicians )
Let’s face it : even dimwit Henry the Horse has more between his ears than G W Bush.
We have the privilege to live in one of THE best places on earth, and if you can’t admit to that fact then move out PDQ to Singapore under KIM ILL Lee Kwan Yu …. or North Korea under KIM ILL UN
Truly wish you all the best for Christmas
PS : As a parting thought … if Jesus came back today and judged the Word’s Nations’ governments for what they really do for their people, given the constraints they are under, I think HK and China would come out both pretty high , despite our bad air
PPS : I must be drunk….
Yes, Jesus would love that China executes more people than all other countries combined, locks up Christians and bans worship of him except under strictly controlled conditions. And he would love that HK has the largest wealth gap on Earth. Seriously RTP, don’t drink and type; it’s embarassing.
We can relax. Jesus is an olive skinned carpenter of middle-eastern appearance. He would never make it through HK immigration.
WdH, Yes it was about May or June 1992 that, for a week or two, Nury as Lai See was brave enough to be funny. Since then, he’s avoided everything that might be remotely construed to be controversial by one’s maiden aunt in furthermost Guanxi — an anti-Hemlock in sum.
“RTP”, Hoping you don’t have too many parties like the one today.
@ Old Timer ( and some others)
Yes your are correct. China has one of the highest GINI factors in the world.
But China has raised the basic living standards of one quarter of the world’s population beyond anything any other country has ever achieved ( I do speak from experience because my business daily takes to me to the poorest regions of China where factory after factory is set up , and living standards improve by the month )
Yes : China executes more people than any other country , which is a horrible thing. But I think that the per capita execution rate % in Singapore is even higher. And I am sure that 99% of the executions in China are not people you would not want as your next door neighbour, still less as your business partner
Jesus condemned hypocrites in the same awful category as the Pharisees and Sadducees .
Old Timer : I am not against you , nor against anyone on Hemmer’s website ( especially at CHRIST-mass)
I just want to explain that in life sh1t happens when one runs a country as big as China ( or even a silly little ex- colony like HK where we have each chosen to live for our own respective reasons)
The Big Lychee still has a lot going for it, and so does Mainland China
And if you really cannot stand the heat in the Big Lychee, then GET OUT and live somewhere else e.g. Australia or the UK, or Greece, Ireland, Italy
For me : I have chosen to live here FOR LIFE and my second home is in China
Again : wish everyone a Happy Christmas
Jesus was a prick. Even the purportedly most huggy-bunny Jesus of the Gospel of Luke says some pretty nasty stuff and is generally unloveable.
Seasons “bah humbug” from yours truly, pre-Christmas holidaying in a Muslim country. I’ll happily take being woken up at 5am by the (f*cking loud) prayer call from the mosque next door over shopping centre Christmas carols any day.
Hemmers, old chap, a suggestion. With all of rhe disparate view expressed here would it not be an idea to organise a congregation/conflabulation/constipation/piss up (sorry I didn’t go to one of those schools where they taught dead languages) for us all to debate the ropics herein?
Just a thought…..
Grenville Cross sees little chance of better governance in Hong Kong if ministers keep being allowed to escape responsibility for failure
Dec 23, 2011
“The price of greatness,” said Winston Churchill, “is responsibility.” The idea that government ministers should take responsibility when things go wrong is embedded in the Westminster democratic tradition, and reflects a basic political virtue. After all, politicians are always quick to claim the credit for any success. For a minister to fall on his or her sword, when the situation demands, is both honourable and necessary, as the buck must stop with someone, and this should not be the civil servant.
In 1954, after an inquiry in England condemned the ministry of agriculture over the way it had treated the heirs of Lord Alington, whose land at Crichel Down had been compulsorily purchased by the government for war office use, the agriculture minister, Sir Thomas Dugdale, resigned. He said he took complete responsibility for his officials, although he did not agree with the inquiry’s verdict on their conduct.
In 2002, Tony Blair’s transport minister, Stephen Byers, resigned, not as a result of any single failure but because of ongoing criticism levelled at his policies and actions in the various ministries he had headed. Byers explained that he had become a distraction, and that “by remaining in office I damage the government”. This was a principled stance for a minister to take.
When the principal official accountability system was introduced in Hong Kong in 2002, it appeared to herald a new political age. The politically appointed ministers would henceforth be responsible for ensuring good governance, and would be held accountable when things went wrong. The chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, explained that “officials should be responsible for the success and failure of the policies for which they are responsible”.
However, since Tung left office in 2005, not a single minister has resigned over any mistake or policy failure, and this is certainly not because everything in the garden has been rosy. The community has, regrettably, witnessed egregious blunders at the top of government, for which heads should have rolled. However, errant ministers have leech-like, clung grimly to office, despite failures of the first order. Great damage has, in consequence, been done to the body politic.
The new system was always going to take time to establish itself, but the initial signs were positive. The health minister, Yeoh Eng-kiong, for example, bravely took responsibility for the government’s handling of the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic, and resigned in 2004.
However, when the HarbourFest project turned sour, following post-Sars attempts to revive Hong Kong, no minister stepped forward to shoulder responsibility, and a senior civil servant, Mike Rowse, was left to carry the can. This was hardly what the architects of the accountability system had envisaged, and an exasperated Rowse wrote to the then financial secretary, Henry Tang Ying-yen, to inquire: “Who is the minister for HarbourFest?” Unfortunately, these were not mere teething problems. Tung’s ministerial model has not, in more recent times, been allowed to achieve its potential.
In 2010, for example, the civil service minister, Denise Yue Chung-yee, was found by a Legislative Council select committee to have committed “a grave error of judgment” in having previously approved the employment by New World China Land (SEHK: 0917) of former housing director Leung Chin-man. Earlier dealings between Leung and New World revealed what was “plainly conflict of interest”, and the committee concluded that “Yue had neither given precedence to the protection of the public interest nor upheld the approval criteria of the control regime, resulting in the government’s credibility being damaged”. Damning words, but, instead of taking responsibility and stepping aside, Yue simply announced that she was “sorry”. Leung himself, however, had earlier had the decency to resign from his post at New World, and he was not even a principal official.
Recently, two ministers revised their plans following protests: environment minister Edward Yau Tang-wah on the plan for the Tseung Kwan O landfill in 2010; and the former constitutional affairs minister, Stephen Lam Sui-lung, on the by-election replacement mechanism this year. Both ministers had acted at first on the legal advice of the secretary for justice, Wong Yan-lung, to the effect, in Yau’s case, that legislators could not overturn an order of the chief executive to expand a landfill, and, in Lam’s case, that the removal of open suffrage as a basis for filling Legislative Council midterm vacancies was constitutional. But the advice was seen by some as fundamentally flawed. Again, after both ministers backtracked, no heads rolled, although the two episodes raised serious questions over the quality of the legal advice being made available to ministers who have to take important policy decisions.
However, the chaos surrounding the government’s last budget must surely rank as one of the great debacles of recent times. The financial secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah, spent months preparing his budget, yet it was dumped overnight, following protests, and replaced by something significantly different. This cast a massive shadow over the competence of the administration, and reduced the minister – who, as usual, did not resign – to a laughing stock.
Although the government asked the Central Policy Unit to seek the views of the public on the fiasco, the results were not announced, which speaks volumes for what they would, undoubtedly, have revealed.
The accountability system is, basically, a good one and should be allowed to work. It is not the faith that is currently at fault, but the faithful. When ministers are found to be seriously inadequate, they must go. A major challenge for the new chief executive will therefore be to enforce the system, as this will enhance good governance and raise public confidence in ministerial arrangements.
Grenville Cross SC, an honorary professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, has served as a legal adviser to governments in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom
As an internet sock puppet, I’m not in favour of a real life meeting of minds. I’m far less impressive in person than online, which is not saying much. Also, there would be no way to prevent the inevitable appearance of the unhinged guy who plagued the comments section before Hemlock introduced comment screening. Finally, I suspect RTP is even more verbose in person than on the internet.
I’m sure you much better in person than a sock puppet. False modesty peut-etre?
Since we have to leave our email addresses for Hemmers to screen us then he has the wherewithall to keep out undesirables.
Trust you all enjoyed the long weekend.
Would a sock puppet use his/her real e-mail address? No, he/she would just use the same one each time so that Mr Hemlock (hopefully) realises it’s the same person posting and not some sock puppet impersonator.
I would have enjoyed the long weekend more if I wasn’t forced to consult the HK tourism board’s horrible website. I was trying to find out if there were fireworks on NYE (I’m not amused by such frivolity, but some underaged visiting relatives will be). Could not find an answer. God help me if I was an actual tourist trying to find anything on that site.
The tourism board’s website is as bad as the HK heritage’s website. They had banners around advertising tours of a few historical buildings and included the website on the banner. However, when I tried to use the website to find the times for the tours of the Lo Pan temple in Kennedy Town, they had bugger all about that on the website.
Yours in grumbling and muttering…
Apologies TTF for not making myself clearer but ole Hemmers could send out the invite to the private emails as opposed to us having a geoexpat style “lets all meet in Bar George tonight” type of thing.
I strongly suspect one or two of us already know who we are even if we have to go under monikers for professional reasons.
Nury Vittachi is published on five continent s by some of the biggest publishers in the world . A few people are sneering at him on a blog . End of argument .