The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Air Date: 
August 07, 2013

Photo, above: Incidents show police bias towards pro-establishment groups. Law and order appear to have taken a serious bashing in Hong Kong as a blind eye is often turned to thuggish activities. [See: Hour 1, Block B: Hung Ho-fung, associate professor at Johns Hopkins, on how Hong Kong is descending into violence.]  . . . The incident took place last month. The schoolteacher, Lam Wai-sze, walked past Sai Yeung Choi Street and saw the Falun Gong group being harassed by a member of the Hong Kong Youth Care Association. The police at the scene reportedly stood by and watched the Falun Gong members being pestered, but when bystanders tried to defend the Falun Gong practitioners and scolded the tormentors, the police formed a human barricade to segregate the opposing sides. On witnessing this, Lam joined in and scolded the police for their biased behaviour in protecting the tormentors. She subsequently crossed the human barricade and was told off by officers. In a heated exchange of words, Lam swore at the officers. A pro-establishment local publication taped the incident and posted an edited version online in a bid to present the teacher as the aggressor. As a result, Lam and the primary school where she teaches were forced to make a public apology.

Most surprisingly, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, which is supposed to protect the interests and welfare of teachers, only issued a simple statement on the case. But it was ridiculous to see the Junior Police Officers' Association and the Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association condemn the teacher, accusing her of inappropriate behaviour. Since the emergence of the so-called patriotic, caring Hong Kong groups, the city's law and order has taken a bashing. They have been going out of their way to interfere with ordinary peaceful public activities and forums organised by community groups and the pan-democrats. They act like thugs and appear to be out to cause chaos. The police seem happy to turn a blind eye and prefer to stand on the sidelines.


Hour One

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Susan Yoshihara, Senior Vice President for Research for Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, in re:  The State Planning Commission has decreed the death of countless infants –  336 million abortions, including 60 million live girl babies –  and is thinking of don-du: if both parents are only children, then the couple may have two children.   Need govt permission to get married in the first place! In villages, the Family Officer is the second-most-powerful official.  The work force has started to decline in 2010, or 2012, so the state will start to need more humans to be workers. One result of the current situation is that many couples are commuter-couples, adding to interpersonal stress. Huge problem with pensions funding. Deutsche Bank estimates that fertility rate could bump up from 1.45 to 1.66 – too little too late.  The bureaucracy knows when each woman has menses; state is deeply embedded in everyone's most intimate life. In Beijing, men in early twenties say, I have no hope of ever having a wife.  Women almost at term having their infant murdered.

China to ditch its one-child policy as ageing crisis looms.  China's new leaders are close to abandoning the country's one-child policy, belatedly moving to avert an ageing crunch as the work force goes into sharp decline.  The official news agency Xinhua reported that the Family Planning Commission is studying proposals to lift the ban on a second child, if either parent is an only child. The body's spokesman said aim is to "improve" family policy, confirming leaks to Chinese newspapers that a major shift is in the works. The new rules are expected to come into force early next year, and may be extended to cover all families by 2015. Jun Ma from Deutsche Bank said the new policies should shore up the pension system and inject stimulus as China's growth sputters. "As tens of millions of sibling-less people in China are now entering their child-bearing age, we expect this policy shift would induce a baby boom," he said. The one-child policy dates back to 1971 in . . . [more]

Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block B: Hung Ho-fung, associate professor at Johns Hopkins, in re: how Hong Kong is descending into violence. Police long have simply stood and watched as thugs beat up Hong Kong citizens; now, it's becoming serious.  Some are retired policemen, some connected to a sort of mafia, some hired by  CCP-related citizens in HK. A lot of pushing and shoving in the streets.  Many pro-democracy protestors are peaceful and calm, but some CCP factions are impatient and try to use thuggery to intimidate protestors: they succeed either by roughing up the protestors, or in eliciting return violence. Police know exactly who the thugs are – one is a cop only on vacation.  The thugs are very open about their identity.  C K Leung can’t say the truth: a lot of these organizations are run from Beijing. Hong Kong is built on freedom; Beijing is strangling that. The police force is no longer neutral – is biased in favor of the hoodlums. In university, when discourse is violently interrupted, and police are called, cops show up and do nothing.  

Beijing may be able to use the violence in the streets to initiate a massive crackdown in order to enforce theier centralized tyranny.

Timeline: summer of 2014 is a sort of deadline.

Teacher says sorry again for Mong Kok row - but not to police  Woman apologises to school while insisting officers were impolite in Mong Kok dispute. The teacher at the centre of a chaotic Mong Kok rally on Sunday has apologised for the second time to her school, pupils and their parents over remarks she made to the police two week ago.

       Alpais Lam Wai-sze said she hoped the row would come to an end - but she said she would not say sorry to the officers she flung foul language at because they were impolite to her in the first place.

Rally organiser Leticia Lee See-yin, of the Parents' Association, said Lam should apologise directly to the police. On July 14, police were called in after members of the Youth Care Association encircled Falun Gong members holding a rally near Sai Yeung Choi Street and displaying banners. Officers cordoned off the area but Lam slammed the way they were dealing with the dispute and was threatened twice with arrest. The heated exchange was recorded on video, and on Sunday, a full-scale row broke out between Lam's supporters and detractors in the pro-police rally. "I still think the way those officers handled the dispute was inappropriate," she said. "Their [way of expression] was inappropriate in the first place, so I won't apologise to them." But she regretted the trouble the incident brought to her primary school, the Pui Ling School of the Precious Blood in Fanling, she said, so she apologised again and hoped to put the matter behind her. "Enough is enough, and [the incident] should come to an end," she said. "Everyone should start a new life in peace." Lam praised police arrangements on Sunday, when officers formed a human chain to separate the two sides from further scuffles. "If [the dispute between] the Falun Gong and Youth Care Association had been handled in the same way, I believe I would not have shouted at anyone on the street that day," she said. Lee said: "It's Lam's choice to refuse to apologise to the officers on duty that day, but it means she thinks she was right." [more]

Viral video sparks political row dividing Hong Kong

I wanted to quit my job, says teacher in video controversy

Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, and Alan Hale, in re: comets.

NASA's Next Mars Mission Arrives at Kennedy Space Center for Launch Processing

There are critiques of Ferrin's paper: not everyone was in agreement with his calculations and theory, although some of the semi-high-quality websites are giving him lots of print space.   There are also some papers that provide different conclusions; much speculation about ISON may be premature.  We should know more about a month from now after it emerges into the morning sky after conjunction with the sun.

Comets making first visit into ORT cloud usually slow down – initially look real bright, then kind of shut down  Recall Comet Kohotek.

Comet ISON: It'll swing by Mars, then to Mercury, then visible to Earth. We'll start picking it up in morning sky at e end of August.


1 AU (astronomical unit) = average distance from Earth to Sun.

Comet composition varies: frozen gasses, ice, water, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia, formaldehyde, dust. Closer to Sun, ices sublimate, melt, kick off, become the coma (cloud surrounding the nucleus), some become the tail, then fluoresce – one ion, one dust tail: two tails.

All eyes on the sky that can do so will be pointing toward Comet ISON soon, as a massive international observing campaign gets under way to watch what could become the "comet of the century," scientists say.  Comet ISON was discovered in September 2012, and is due to swoop in close to the sun in November. When it does, it may become as bright as the full moon, visible to the naked eye even in daylight. Or, it may not.  What will happen to Comet ISON is an open question to scientists, who hope to learn more about what causes certain comets to flare brightly and others to fizzle out and evaporate under . . .

                  All eyes on Comet ISON: Earth, space telescopes to track its every move
These images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope of Comet ISON were taken on June 13, when ISON was 312 million miles from the sun.

                  Mighty Comet ISON: Space and Earth Telescopes to Track 'Comet of the Century'

Space- and Earth-based telescopes are teaming up for to track the mighty Comet ISON and its potential to be the 'comet of the century.'

Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block D:  Patrick Chovanec, chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management, in re:  Oil prices.  Implementing Obamacare [see below, end of schedule]. Economists, esp investment bank economists, believe that the ecnomy wil get better – but have consistently been wrong about the Chinese economy, had to downgrade. They’re not explaining what the changes are.  Imagine hat Chinese leaders decide to postpone [the moment of reckoning} again – kick the can down the road. Evident in Q1: old trick of releasing cash into the economy didn’t produce the expected bump. Now they speak of how much bad lending is acceptable.  releasing more money is supposed to create more bldg – but now, instead, goes into high-risk e investments.  Pouring money in used to get China's central bank 83 cents on the dollar return, now get 17 cents. Efficiency of capital has declined.  [See: WSJ China Real Time.] Premier Li says that China desperately needs a change of ec model, real reforms; but he's one person and not the real decision-maker.  World Bank thinking that China shd privatize one of the big state-owned banks. Shows what an uphill climb reformers have in accomplishing anything meaningful.  HSBC PMI skewed to smaller businesses; liquidity helps only the mega-corporations, state-owned.  Many of these new lend money to local govts to finance often-spurious projects, and many of them not commercial or likely to create a return.

Hour Two

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block A: Fraser Howie, co-author of Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China's Extraordinary Rise, in re: "Tokyo model" – a decade of financial stagnation/stagflation. China's model has run aground and out of steam. Next phase of growth needs major change. Japan's been stuck for ten years by choice – refused to changed; but is bigger ec than China and has a much bigger cushion, China: political system completely unable to change – the best future for China would be stagnation.  The idea of 8% for the next decade s wildly optimistic. The notion of China's genius leaders's being able to solve it all is delusional.  Even though the last decade went well in growth the difficult choices we rot made; now, in slowdown, much harder to make hard choices.  Japan has a buffer - Honda and Toyota, for example.   Japan has been able to waste two decades and remain rich, but China can’t do that. 

USSR: "Double the good news, halve the bad" in reporting to the population. Chinese devil's deal: "We'll give you growth, you give us obedience" – but the essential shift of that structure is impossible for the Party. What it can do is mitigate some of the worst effects (avoid a 1989-style Russian collapse), kick the can down the road. Will not allow a major state enterprise or bank to fail.  Watch: the confidence people impute to the leaders. When that breaks, its Katy bar the door – envtl issues, corruption, can’t guess in advance.

China’s Debt Surge Pressures Xi-Li to Avert Lost Decade  A Chinese lending spree of the magnitude that tipped Asian nations into crisis in the late 1990s and preceded Japan’s lost decades is putting pressure on top leaders to map out a strategy to tackle the threat. Half of the economists in a Bloomberg News survey say non-performing local-government and corporate debt will probably have a “significant impact” on China’s credit and economic growth. The central government will deal with bad loans at local governments in the next 18 months by expanding the municipal-bond market and letting localities refinance with direct bond sales, respondents said.  Avoiding a fate akin to Japan’s growth collapse of the 1990s hinges on Chinese officials’ ability to reduce debt and shift policy, JPMorgan Chase & Co. says. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, developing a reform strategy due at a Communist Party meeting later this year, may get input from a State Council-ordered audit of government borrowings and a World Bank-assisted study on urbanization. “The debt ratio is absolutely dangerous, there is no question,” said Yao Wei, China economist at Société Générale SA in . . . [more]

Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block B: Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director for The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, in re: Yongbyong: DPRK doubles the size of its nuclear enrichment facility.  Working on both uranium and plutonium processing – has about eight nuclear devices.  Will sell to rogue actors and also Pn enrichment is much easier to hide from aerial surveillance.  North Korea continues to threaten its neighbors. Iran's uranium program suggests that Iran will be interested. Uranium-based program; unlimited supply. Well-established collaboration between Iran and DPRK. Recall 2007 Israeli strike in Syria: North Korean experts on the ground then and the architecture was almost identical to that in Yongbyon.

North Korea: Two million have mobile phones. North Koreans may be isolated from the rest of the world, but it seems that they have more chances to talk to one another. The Egyptian company that holds the mobile phone license for North Korea says there are now more than two million people with mobiles in the country. Naguib Sawiris of Orascom Telecom told South Korea's Choson Ilbo newspaper that the North hit the landmark figure in May. After a brief and limited experiment with a Thai company in 2002-2004, North Korea set up Koryolink with Orascom in 2008. Subscribers rose sharply from an initial 1,600 to 500,000 in 2011 and a million last year, the firm says. Members of the ruling party elite are the main clients. Chinese phones are the most popular, although party grandees prefer . . . [more]  Koreans cannot call foreigners; a foreigner cannot even call his staff – the two systems don’t connect.  Having a cell system looks good outside the country; those who have phone are senior, trusted officials and elite, and those in import-export; and those who are active in North Korea's black market – a coping mechanism; govt can keep track of these sellers and extract the vig.

"Suppose you had an iPhone and it only called a monster." JB

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block C: Michael Auslin, AEI and NRO, in re: Is Chicago Next?  It’s on the road to Detroit-style fiscal ruin. My fear is twat Chicago will be the next domino to fall. Hundreds of billions of unfunded pension liability in Illinois; just downgraded three notches by Moody's (using a City Hall Rahm Emanuel report) – coming soon: un-meetable debt.

Censorship, aggression, predation in the new Chinese regime. Odd signs that not only is the denialism quavering, but there's been odd aggression: US news sites blocked on-off-on-off. In WSJ, only: the whole website is blocked.  Helicopter-carrying destroyer story is blocked - don’t want information it to seep into the population[?]. China going off the rails. Can't all be a series of coincidences. Fundamental rifts occurring in society.  To get to a real breaking point would take time, What we're not watching well enough is ht currents leading toward that. Does Washington know that China is no longer a happy-all-the-time story?  That its govt has no Act Two?   Sort of – but it hasn’t translated into policy.  State WH, Commerce, sort of grasp it, but do [foolish] things like Sunnyland Summit and other [witless] deeds. Washington is pretty schizophrenic about it.  Btw: what if the Chinese don’t want to be integrated into the international system?

Is this a fundamental change point - can Asia avoid what the West did in having two world wars and massive numbers of deaths?  If so, some measure of community will ensue. If not, then history will triumph; we will have bet on the wrong horse.

        China has blocked access to Wall Street Journal’s local language website, putting the US publication in the same position as Bloomberg and New York Times, which are also censored in the country. Update: Beijing Cream reports that the site is now unblocked, as of August 7.

A check for the Chinese version of WSJ — cn.wsj . com — on monitoring site shows that the URL is blocked as of this weekend, although access may have first been restricted within the last month. The English-language version of the site remains accessible, suggesting the aim is to disrupt WSJ’s reach in China rather than shut it off entirely.  GreatFire tests the availability of selected URLs once per month and, though it recorded “contradictory” results twice this year, this marks the first instance that WSJ has been unavailable in China.

      China blocks Chinese-version WSJ. . . The English-language version of the site remains accessible, suggesting the aim is to disrupt WSJ’s reach in China rather than shut it off entirely.

Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block D: Joseph Sternberg, WSJ Asia editorial board, in re: Miss Minami Funakoshi, WSJ intern and Yalie, writes about day care in Japan – a governmental fixation: if the govt could just provide good day care, more women could enter the workforce – but can’t d o it because the govt thinks it has to control every jot and tittle and make a mess of it. Already spending vast sums and Abe has promised to pour more money in; inexorable decline of quality; political bind: parents who already have children in daycare demand that it continue. Shows that the Abe govt doesn't really understand economics.  They talk about taxes in a narrow vein.

China Fines Milk Powder Suppliers Over Pricing  The punishment comes at a time when Chinese parents have gone to great lengths to buy foreign-made infant milk powder

Hour Three

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block A: David Feith, Wall Street Journal Asia in Hong Kong, in re: What's not moderate about Rohani is everything: a decades-long career in Iranian politics in the center of power, has led crackdowns of on student protestors; as Secy of security council for fifteen years. Was Iranian nuclear negotiator, providing fantastic diplomatic cover to his nuclear colleagues. For the West to call him "moderate" is disturbing.  As for Beijing being called "moderate" -  it matters not if Xi is personally mild; he's in a system, in a context, and he has to be what it demands. Rhetorically< look at November 1021 when Xi became Party leader and gave speeches; also, see when he rose to the presidency in March: a significant crackdown on lawyers, activists and human rights activists – particularly high-profile string of arrest and disappearances.   Maoist themes, "the China Dream" [nationalist], China grabbing territory from Japan, India, Philippines.  Folks arrested in the past weeks are hardly revolutionaries; are professors and lawyers asking the govt to be subject to the rule of law. A lot of money on the line as to whether or not the economic data issued are accurate.  Sat imagery: Yongbyon nuclear facility has greatly increased since last spring.  Materiel travels routinely over Chinese airspace to go to Iran; also, Chinese ports are used to transport nukes and weaponry. "See how moderates work together." JB

It's often easier to deny reality than to face it, so journalists and diplomats are still talking up the "moderation" of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani—despite his record of cracking down on student protesters, leading Iran's National Security Council as it exported terrorism worldwide, and providing years of diplomatic cover for Tehran's nuclear program. Now that Mr. Rouhani has been inaugurated and unveiled his cabinet on Sunday, we get to hear about the "moderates" populating his brain trust.

Early Look: China Seems to Be Stabilizing


 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block B & C:  Bret Stephens, WSJ Global View, in re:  Sanaa – a plot to kill foreigners by al Qaeda and its filials.  Same al Q that was about to be defeated in the last election? "Mission accomplished."

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block D: Francis Rose, Federal News Radio, in re: 2010 video surfaces; IRS's Lerner admits to political pressure She's been publicly quiet since taking the Fifth in front of congressional investigators in May, but IRS official Lois Lerner openly acknowledged . . .

     Internal Revenue Service documents. The IRS is taking heat from Republicans and Democrats for the drip drop pace at which it has been releasing documents related to the IRS targeting scandal to congressional investigators. That’s about to change. IRS acting commissioner Daniel Werfel has promised to roll out documents on a weekly basis to help appease the frustration from the House Ways and Means, House Oversight and Government Reform and Senate Finance committees. If the past is any indication, House lawmakers will release findings as they are discovered so we’ll still have plenty of IRS news.

     A Lois Lerner deal. It’s been more than a month since Oversight lawmakers ruled that the embattled former head of the tax exempt division waived her fifth amendment rights and we’re still waiting to hear when she will be hauled back in — and under what terms. It is possible Lerner would be offered immunity in exchange for her testimony and that deal could be announced at any time. But that’s not the only thing on tap for the highly controversial IRS employee. She’s been on administrative leave for nearly 10 weeks after refusing to resign her post. August could see an announcement of her departure.

Hour Four

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  John Tamny RealClearPolitics, in re: George Clooney naively ripped into Third Point's Daniel Loeb as a profit-focused "carpetbagger" who "knows nothing about our business."  Lost on Clooney is that if hedge funds force even more profit discipline on the film industry, the result will be more and better art. George Clooney Ought Clooney once observed about acting something that hard-nosed studio heads and investors had doubtless concluded long before him: it is 'paint.' To Clooney, the truly talented migrate toward directing; the latter job easily one of the most difficult in entertainment.

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block B: James Taranto, WSJ, in re:  Wetlands Protection  The Labor Department weighs in on workplace crying. 

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Joseph Rago, WSJ editorial board & Pulitzer Prizewinner, in re: Congress's ObamaCare Exemption  The President intervenes to give Members and staff a break.   Texas won’t enforce Obamacare’s insurance reforms. “Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming have all notified the federal government that they will not be policing the health law. John Greeley, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance, said his agency cannot enforce regulations tied to the federal insurance exchange or market reforms because it is not authorized to do so. The practical effects of the state’s decision are not entirely clear yet. In the first show of autonomy, Texas was not required to comply with a federal request for information about its insurance plans. Most states defaulting to the federal health insurance exchange had to submit that information by July 31.” Becca Aaronson in the Texas Tribune

White House touts slow increase in health care costs: Personal health care costs rose in the 12 months ending in May at the slowest rate in the last 50 years, as spending on hospital and nursing home services declined, the White House announced Monday.  On Friday, Maryland announced insurance premiums up to 33% lower than expected. Connecticut's plan includes an insurer that announced it would drop premium costs an average of 36% below its original proposal. And young people in Nevada will be able to buy catastrophic coverage for less than $100 a month. California and New York also have lower-than-expected rates.  An HHS report showed that silver health exchange plans, or the lower cost plans that uninsured people are most likely to buy, are already an average of 18% lower than expected in the 11 states the government looked at.  Not all states are reporting lower rates. Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who opposed the health care law while a congressman, released preliminary statistics showing rates would be 72% higher than current plans. But those numbers lumped all four categories of coverage together, including premium plans. The Society of Actuaries estimated that underlying claims costs could go up by an average of 32% by 2017.

 Wednesday  7 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block D:   Chris Gadomski, Bloomberg nuclear reporter, in re: End-of-July elections in Japan have solidified the pro-growth and pronuclear position of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who unlike his predecessor, favors restart of Japan’s nuclear fleet under more stringent safety guidelines and following a reassessment of seismic threats to individual reactors.

       As many as 10-12 nuclear plants may be restarted in H1 2014 based on applications submitted through the end of July to Japan’s by four of nine nuclear plant operators.  

        Japan says Fukushima leak worse than thought, government joins clean-up.  Highly radioactive water from Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is pouring out at a rate of 300 tonnes a day, officials said on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the government to step in and help in the clean-up. The revelation amounted to an acknowledgement that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has yet to come to grips with the scale of the catastrophe, 2 1/2 years after the plant was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami. Tepco only recently admitted water had leaked at all. Calling water containment at the Fukushima Daiichi station an "urgent issue," Abe ordered the government for the first time to get involved to help struggling Tepco handle the crisis.  The leak from the plant 220 km (130 miles) northeast of Tokyo is enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool in a week. The water is spilling into the Pacific Ocean, but it was not immediately clear how much of a threat it poses. As early as January this year, Tepco found fish contaminated with high levels of radiation inside a port at the plant. Local fishermen and independent researchers had already suspected a leak of radioactive water, but Tepco denied the claims. Tetsu Nozaki, the chairman of the Fukushima fisheries federation said he had only heard of the latest estimates of the magnitude of the seepage from media reports.

        The environmental group Greenpeace said Tepco had "anxiously hid the leaks" and urged Japan to seek international expertise. "Greenpeace calls for the Japanese authorities to do all in their power to solve this situation, and that includes increased transparancy...and getting international expertise in to help find solutions," Dr. Rianne Teule of Greenpeace International said in . . .  [more]

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Hour 1:    Shaolin.

Hour 2:   Road to Perdition. House of Flying Daggers.

Hour 3:   Beyond Rangoon. Flight of the Phoenix. Inception.

Hour 4:   Inception. The Ghost Writer.