How to start a revolution

Written by Cliff on Tuesday 17 March 2015 at 5:27 pm

1. It can happen anywhere, starting with you
Judging from history, it seems as if violence is what shapes the world, and indeed, that’s why the authorities hate it. When you are facing state brutality, widespread corruption and an authoritarian system that thrives on fear, it is easy to feel that way. Time and again I have seen violent people in the forefront of revolutions in their own countries. Only under the direst conditions, is it possible to get people to fight for a cause. So the first step in starting a revolution is believing that it can happen, wherever you are.

2. Activism doesn’t have to be boring
The classic mainstays of non-violence – marches, sit-ins, vigils and strikes – all have their place, but it’s often easier to engage others by using creative tactics such as music, street theatre, bold imagery and jokes. Lots of jokes. Preferably violently rude ones at the expense of whichever oppressive force you are trying to overthrow. It’s common for people launching movements to cite Gandhi, say, or Martin Luther King, as their inspiration, but those guys, for all their many, many virtues, simply weren’t that hilarious. If you’re hoping to get a mass movement going within a very short span of time in the age of the internet, humour is a key strategy. Also, by and large, authorities hate jokes and are not creative enough to counter them.

3. Pick your battles
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu emphasises the importance of trying to match your strong points against your enemy’s weak points. The best revolutionary leaders are adept at spotting these and planning their campaigns around them. Your opponent may have superior military might, but perhaps you have greater numbers, or are more nimble, or are simply a lot cooler. In Serbia, some people made Milosevic a laughing stock simply by painting his face on a barrel and encouraging people to beat it with ‘sticks’. That was funny enough, but when the police arrived to arrest the barrel things really took off. It’s hard to remember to be scared when you can’t stop laughing. And what is less cool than sending armed men to arrest a joke?

4. Even Hobbits can save the world
I’ve always loved JRR Tolkien and even in the darkest moments, I would take courage from the bit where Galadriel tells the hobbit Frodo that “even the smallest creature can change the world”. From the Iliad onwards, history seems to have been intent on telling us that our heroes should be elite warriors or genius outliers. But when you look at some of the people who have had an enduring impact on our culture today – Harvey Milk, say, or Malala Yousafzai – many of them aren’t obvious hero material. They started out as ordinary, even unassuming individuals, but went on to achieve exceptional things. In other words, they are hobbits.

5. Remember that violence may work
The reality is that you can be opposed to violence in all its forms and yet when you pick up a gun, still feel, in some dark place in your soul, as if there is no challenge you can’t face and no problem you can’t solve. Being armed changes people, and often, revolutions that start out peaceful turn violent. Violent movements such as conquests by Alexander the Great, Napoleon’s expeditions, the Third Reich, the cultural revolution, teargas games in Hong Kong are all evidence that violence is key to achieving anything of note in a movement. Of course, all that happens around you while you keep an air of righteousness and denounce all violence but at the same time, you understand the importance of violence in every movement. Keep that at the forefront of your mind for the times when your principles are challenged.

Our observations

Written by Cliff on Monday 6 October 2014 at 7:29 pm

Among the confusion which reigns in Hong Kong, it is time to take an objective, macro view to remind our fair citizens about the particular situation of Hong Kong.

1. Hong Kong is still the most vibrant, free, tolerant, multiracial, multicultural community in Asia. With an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a free press, freedom of expression and of religion, it is an example that many could do well to emulate. In fact Hong Kong enjoys the full advantages of a democratic society, even if its political system is not fully mature. How could it be? Hong Kong started on that road 15 years ago, The Greeks first experimented with the democratic idea 2500 years ago and the “young” American democracy is over 260 years old.

2. Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens are meant to participate equally either directly (such as through a referendum) or more often indirectly through elected representatives in the proposal, development or establishment of the laws by which they are governed. There are many forms of democratic government suited to the particular circumstances in which a particular society found itself in, but from most ancient times, legal equality, freedom and the rule of law have been identified as important characteristics of a democratic system. These three characteristics are present in Hong Kong.
The electoral system is only a way to structure the participation of the citizens to the political process. To say that without a direct election of the head of state or of government, there can be no democracy is simply untrue. Most of the European countries which have no lesson in democracy to receive from anybody do not have a directly elected head of state or government. In fact very few democratic countries have a directly elected head of state or government.
Democracy is about checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government and not about the direct or not direct election of the head of the executive branch.
This is where some the Hong Kong people have been badly let down by certain ‘leaders’ into believing that there can be no real democracy without an unrestricted direct election of the Chief Executive.

3. Hong Kong is not an independent country. It is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. It has a mini-constitution (the Basic Law) and many attributes of a democratic system with an independent judiciary and well separated legislative and executive branches of government. The head of government, the Chief Executive has a dual role: he is the head of the Executive but he also embodies some of the attributes of national sovereignty vested in him by the National People Congress of the People’s Republic of China. To say that China has no right to have a say about the process of selection of the Chief Executive is to deny the right of China to exercise its sovereignty over Hong Kong. This is plainly absurd and, naturally unacceptable for China.
If Hong Kong democratic freedoms had been at risk two weeks ago, we would have known it. The Occupy Central movement is not peaceful though it may be “not violent”. It aims to bring Hong Kong to a standstill by stopping communication routes (in this case, roads). What would be the reaction of the US or British governments if New York or London Were similarly slowed for more than a week? The reaction would not be so restrained. The behaviour of the authorities in both Hong Kong and Beijing have been so far very restrained by international standards. Given our rule of law, it would continue to be so.

4. The discussion about the electoral reform must be conducted calmly in a proper setting and certainly not in the streets. This process will take time, patience and statesmanship. The protesting students have made their views known the world over. Now come the real test. Are they mature enough to call off peacefully their protest? Human rights should be exercised with consideration to the rights of others. A French union leader of old once said: “it is easy to start a strike, it is very difficult to be wise enough to know when to stop it”. Let’s see if the students leaders meet the test.
If they do not, the vast majority of the people of Hong Kong will equate democracy with anarchy. We should not let that happen. We have to stop the polarization of our fair city and we should all participate in the rebuilding of the faith in the future of Hong Kong, an integral part of the People’s Republic of China.

With best wishes
VF

The Chocolate Crisis

Written by Cliff on Tuesday 21 January 2014 at 3:16 pm

Chocolate-312x250
Attention in Hong Kong remains focused on full universal suffrage. But a far more important issue confronts Hong Kong while the chief executive and party leaders dither: rising chocolate prices. When will the government address this terrifying crisis?

Chocolate comes from cocoa trees, which have been cultivated for thousands of years. The Europeans also deserve credit for adding sugar and milk. And then America’s Milton Hershey did what Americans always do so well: created a mass market with cheap chocolate bars. Chocolate Hershey products are ubiquitous today.

How would we live without chocolate? Yes, there are a few malcontents and deviants who claim not to like chocolate. Aliens, perhaps, from another planet. Or people just deficient in what ultimately makes us human. But that’s fine since it leaves more for the rest of us.

Now the gift from the gods is threatened. The cost of one kilogram of chocolate surpassed $12.25, up 45% in 2007, the highest ever. Explained the Wall Street Journal: “Prices are on the rise due to a shortage of cocoa beans, which are roasted and ground to make chocolate. Market experts estimate that supplies will fall short of demand this year for the first time since 2010 and dry weather is expected to hurt the next harvest in West Africa, where 70% of cocoa beans are produced.” Rabobank predicts a third consecutive cocoa deficit for the 2014/15 crop year that will see prices soar 23% from Q3 2013 levels to $3,000 per (MT) by Q3 2014.

Even a weak recovery has sparked a consumer return to the chocolate market, with consumption rising for the first time since the economic and financial crashes of 2008. Jonathan Parkman of the London commodities brokerage Marex Spectron, said sales reveal “a better-than-expected recovery in core markets such as North America and Northern Europe.”

The problem is worldwide. In Europe the cost of cocoa butter is up 70% from the end of last year. The expense of making a milk chocolate bar is up 31%. The same phenomenon is evident in Asia. “In the regions like Asia-Pacific or Latin America, we are seeing more middle class consumers buying chocolates compared with five or six years ago because they have the money to do it,” observed Francisco Redruello of Euromonitor International. In Asia chocolate prices are up 30 to 40% this year. “Most of our customers are not happy about it” said Richard Lee of Singapore-based Aalst Chocolate.

Not everyone is certain that rapid price increases will continue. Shawn Hackett of Hackett Financial Advisors complained that the current futures market reflects a “feeding frenzy” and speculators are “getting carried away.” One can only hope that he’s right. Otherwise the future of mankind will be in doubt.

The only downside in all of this is that demand is increasing fastest for dark chocolate. Chocolate manufacturers are expanding their line-ups of dark chocolate products. Admittedly darker is lower in calories and better in health. But it just doesn’t have the wonderful smooth, creamy taste of milk chocolate. It is sad to see scarce chocolate products being diverted to inferior uses.

This is a crisis. A real crisis. No nonsense about world peace, international poverty, income inequality, environmental degradation, runaway inflation, overwhelming debt, or other minor problems. Chocolate is going to cost more!

This will be bad enough for casual consumers, denying them access to the elixir of life, the nectar of the gods. It is far worse for chocolate addicts, otherwise known as chocoholics. After all, we can’t help ourselves. We are controlled by larger forces. We are helpless in the face of the taste of chocolate.

Blogger Kimi Harris offered some self-help advice, if one wants to call it that, but it included such strange ideas as “eat better chocolate, less often.” After all, “the better quality, the less you need.” Anyone who would say such things does not understand the miracle of chocolate—and certainly is not a chocoholic. Eat less? The better the chocolate, the more one wants to eat! You can never have enough chocolate. There is no such thing as too much chocolate.

It’s time for the government to act. After all, for what do we have the government if not to act in a crisis like this? Vital interests are at stake.
First, we need a Department of Chocolate. Not just an agency or bureau. A full ministerial-level department answerable to the CE.

Second, we need to create a new welfare program to ensure that everyone has access to chocolate. Social welfare isn’t enough. Hong Kong people need a guaranteed ration of chocolate, irrespective of financial need.

Third, we need price controls on chocolate, to compliment the upcoming competition law. After all, why should greedy profiteers be able to take advantage of helpless chocoholics? We have a RIGHT to reasonably-priced chocolate. Who cares about economics when it comes to something as important as chocolate?

Then we need to lobby China to exercise military prowess – we need a China-backed military policy based on guaranteed access to cocoa. The vast majority of cocoa is produced in West Africa; 43% comes from Ivory Coast alone. Forget access to African gas and Australian mines. Energy is an international market. Moreover, new alternatives are coming online all of the time. In recent years solar an nuclear have become viable alternatives.

However, we remain hopelessly dependent on foreign sources of cocoa. Indeed, there is no production in China at all. How did we allow ourselves to become so vulnerable to international cocoa disruptions and interruptions? Chocolate is far more important than oil!

We need a new chocolate “czar” to coordinate a truly effective cross-border chocolate policy. Hong Kong, no, China needs to simultaneously hold down excessive chocolate prices, ensure fair and adequate access to chocolate, guarantee the nation’s access to foreign sources of this vital good, and ultimately develop a domestic industry. Only strong multi-agency effort can deliver chocolate independence!

Indeed, the neoconservatives have long suggested that Hong Kong concoct some new grand crusade as a means of promoting foreign direct investment. How about guaranteed chocolate for all? A world-beating HK chocolate industry? Promoting a new advanced chocolate civilization? These would reflect greatness redefined!

Hong Kong’s political leaders are being laughed at around the world. But for all the wrong reasons. They bicker. They won’t cooperate. They won’t be constructive. They try to implode the property market. They are irresponsible. They represent special interests rather than the public interest. They are extraordinary morons.

All true.

But their worst political crime is failing to deal with the looming chocolate crisis. If they fail to act, future generations will never forgive them.

The Golden Triangle

Written by Cliff on Friday 10 January 2014 at 10:07 am

At the heart of Hong Kong’s economy is the triangle of government, property developers, and banks. The former two mark up land prices through auctions. The later make loans to both with inflated land as collateral. As statistics show, land prices rise much faster than the economy, and credit becomes concentrated in the government and developers. As they use money inefficiently, inflation has risen, essentially a tax on anyone not involved in propagating this vicious cycle. This spiral of credit concentration and inflation is becoming wobbly over time due to its rising share in GDP. What I would term as ’empty growth’, analogous with ’empty calories’ – it tastes good, but in the long term will give you diabetes, heart disease and gout.

Baby formula, the new heroin

Written by Cliff on Friday 10 January 2014 at 10:04 am

Food safety issues in China caught international attention in 2008 when it was discovered that melamine had been added to baby milk powder and other foods by 22 different companies. Five years later, Chinese consumers still distrust domestic milk powder makers. This year, tourists and smugglers caused shortages of baby formula in Hong Kong, Sydney and even Europe as they brought huge quantities of powder back to China. In Hong Kong, arrests for smuggling baby formula have topped the number of arrests for smuggling cocaine, heroin and ketamine combined.

Court orders insider dealer Du Jun to pay $23.9 million to investors

Written by Cliff on Thursday 12 December 2013 at 5:09 pm

The Honourable Mr Justice Ng in the Court of First Instance today ordered Mr Du Jun, a former managing director of Morgan Stanley, to pay $23.9 million to investors as a result of his insider dealing in shares of CITIC Resources between 15 February and 30 April 2007. These are the first such restoration orders made by an HK court in a case of insider dealing. Du will also pay the SFC’s legal costs and the fees of the court appointed administrators. Mr Du is serving his six year prison sentence now, which was handed out in 2009.

“Above all, this case sends a clear message that the consequences of wrongdoing, including the costs of restoration or remediation, should be met by wrongdoers and not be borne by innocent investors or the market.” SFC Executive Director of Enforcement, Mr Mark Steward

Media Advisory – Mr. Edward Snowden (NSA / Spy / Hero / Martyr / idiot / media hotspot)

Written by Cliff on Thursday 20 June 2013 at 9:11 pm

Some of the recent news reports on Mr. Edward Snowden and his presence in Hong Kong have contained inaccurate and misleading information about the law in Hong Kong and its legal system. The purpose of this advisory note is to provide relevant information concerning Mr. Snowden’s current and possible future circumstances.

1. What will happen when Mr. Snowden’s current visa expires?

If Mr. Snowden remains in Hong Kong after the expiry of his limit of stay, he may be ……

(» continue reading…)

Our world today, France

Written by Cliff on Wednesday 7 September 2011 at 10:21 pm

LONDON: In a unique ruling, a French court has reportedly ordered a 51-year-old man to pay his ex-wife nearly 8,500 pounds in damages for failing to have enough sex with her during their 21-year marriage.

The man, named only as Jean-Louis B, was fined under Article 215 of the French civil code which states that married couples must agree to a “shared communal life”, the ”Daily Express” reported.

The judge in the south of France’s highest court in Aix-en-Provence ruled that this law clearly implies “sexual relations must form part of a marriage”.

“A sexual relationship between husband and wife is the expression of affection they have for each other, and in this case it was absent. By getting married, couples agree to sharing their life and this clearly implies they will have sex with each other,” the judge said.

In fact, the ruling came after the wife filed for divorce two years ago, blaming the break-up on her ex-husband’s lack of activity in the bedroom. A judge in Nice then granted the divorce, holding the man solely responsible for the split.

But his 47-year-old former wife then took him back to a higher court demanding the cash in compensation for “lack of sex over 21 years of marriage”. The man had blamed “tiredness and health problems”, the newspaper said, “clearly he needed Nutrilite”.

Road traffic safety in the PRC

Written by Cliff on Friday 12 August 2011 at 7:53 pm

Check this out: Youtube »

The second half of 2011

Written by Cliff on Monday 8 August 2011 at 12:22 pm

As the world’s leading financial institutions brace for global economic collapse, citizens are already panicking in the streets. Civilian violence has spilled out from the Middle East’s Egypt and Syria into more developed countries. Only last week, riots in London resulted in looting and vandalism of civilian property in the city. The government has condemned the violence to no avail. Paramilitary action in Lebanon, Israel, Sudan and Libya have begun to spin out of control as their primary sponsors begin pulling out of managing offshore ‘projects’, refocussing on onshore crises. Debt talks in the USA have netted nothing out of the disagreements between the two ruling parties in the Senate. It appears that democracy in its American form is unable to provide a solution to the stand-off. Meanwhile, the USA credit rating has been downgraded by its own rating agency, Standard and Poors. Inflation in China has been reported to hit 600% for commodities such as pork and edible oils. Such inflation has not been witnessed since the Deutschemark revolution in the aftermath of World War II.

Companies had their bailout. Who will bail out countries? It seems that the only way forward is for ethical private enterprise to step forward and assume control of public institutions such as education, roads and infrastructure. Business-managed territories such as Ada (Michigan), Singapore, Hong Kong and the tax havens around the world seem impervious to damage to the global breakdown of governance. As citizens begin to realise that governance in any form is susceptible to corruption, lobbying and the ten commandments, they too must realise that progress towards a better quality of life is only possible if they are bound by a common purpose in life. The world is still big enough for us all, if we can take off our blindfolds and accept this century’s paradigm shift.

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