Posts Tagged ‘in your head’

Rich and miserable, by graphs

November 15, 2011

Krugman highlighted a great site on his blog this week. And it is a great site, so here’s the link if you haven’t seen it.

The World Top Incomes Database has income distribution data for 22 countries, with more being added, over long periods of time. Go to the graphics page and you can call up series for different shares of the population for your favourite countries.

I went for the top 5 percent of tax payers in the UK, US and Denmark since 1900. The top 5 percent of earners in the US and UK have gobbled 25-30 percent of national personal incomes in recent years. In Denmark — the country which consistently tops out the rankings in European ‘happiness’ surveys — the percentage is consistently under 15 percent. (UK and US shares were of course lower until the well-known inflection point in the 1970s).

Unfortunately I can’t reproduce the graph here. But you can make your own.

Fragrant harbour

February 1, 2011

I make it five times that Stanley Ho has changed his mind over his inheritance… in the last week. It was ‘You can have it’, ‘No you can’t’, ‘Yes you can’, ‘No you can’t’, and yesterday, 31 January 2011, ‘Oh go on, take it and just leave me alone with my dogs.’ Today, glancing at the headlines, it seems he may have changed his mind again but, frankly, I can’t be bothered.

Instead, here is a bit of commentary on the three videos that have been released on YouTube by Stan’s lawyer (I have used the link posted by David Webb). Let’s meet Stanley at home:

Video 1. Stan opens with: ‘We must get back Lanceford [the holding company he held all his big stuff through]’, speaking like and doing a great facial imitation of the bad guy at the start of an episode of Flash Gordon. Then the lawyer, more on him anon, asks Stan about some further comment for the press to which Stan replies he’s game as ‘I want to make it [the story] very big.’ Stan is already laying into Pansy, the daughter who is seen as both the most capable in business and about whom the most malicious and serious gossip circulates (perhaps these two things go naturally together). Then comes the now-famous: ‘It is something like robbery’ quote. Stanley says he wants to go ahead with legal action. Note the furnishing of Stan’s time-warp mansion on the south-side of HK island. To the left you can just catch a glimpse of a hideous mock-baroque table. The staff, family and nurses sneaking by the camera are also good value. In the foreground is the mandatory Chinese tea flask (must admit I have been caught on film with one of those myself) and a glass of hot water. ‘I want a fair division among my family,’ says Stan, before appearing to be pained by some inconvenient fact inside his head (like he never organised a fair division?).   At around three-and-a-half minutes you get a look at the always-on television, the electronic tombstone of the fading godfather. Stan’s ex partner Henry Fok was a big soccer fan, so at least with him you would get to take in the football. Another of Hong Kong’s octogenarian big boys is a closet Arsenal fan, and even has comfy sofas. Many are the mysteries of Confucianism… At the end Stan thanks the lawyer for having ‘blown up’ the whole affair in the space of a few days. The lawyer jokes about a huge fee to come. Or let’s say he laughs while talking about the huge fee to come; it may just be coincidence.

Video 2. Here Stan is trying to explain why he just withdrew legal proceedings and announced he had fired the lawyer. ‘The problem is Pansy,’ he starts. At this point I begin to become more interested in the lawyer than in Stanley. For one thing, you might argue that the lawyer is leading his client at the point at which he responds to Stanley: ‘To which I say: “So what?”’ The lawyer, Gordon Oldham, has a faded (south) Irish accent, though his profoundly undetailed official biography says only that he arrived ‘from the UK’ in Hong Kong 30 years ago. After Stan says Pansy is the problem, a woman, who for me has a stronger Irish accent, says off-camera: ‘But he [Stanley] is not afraid of her.’ What is going on here? My wildly speculative first thought is that there has long been a wee Irish mafia connected with the dogs and the horse-racing in Macau, but this is indeed wildly speculative. I must check further. The only thing I learn quickly from someone who knows Oldham quite well is that he is ‘a clever fellow’. Meanwhile in the video it is subsequently, I think, the Irish-accented woman off camera who butts in again to say to Stan: ‘Gordon will still represent you, ok?’ I think this is right, but then an ethnic Chinese woman I do not know moves across camera right to left saying ‘They made him, they made him [Stanley sign documents against his will]’. Stanley says he was forced during his television appearance to read ‘the plaque’ [cue card] organised by Pansy and Daisy. The video ends with the lawyer saying: ‘Are you telling me that I can now go ahead with filing and getting back your interests in Lanceford?’ To which Stan responds: ‘I suppose so…That’s what I want.’ The lawyer gesticulates everything to Stan as if he is an idiot. But Stan isn’t an idiot, even at the age of 89. After all, he is the one looking at the silly gweilo. Upshot of video 2. I think the lawyer has definitely got some questions to answer. I find it creepy the way he refers to Stan as Dr. Ho, using the title he never earned. Stan’s slaves, like Henry Fok’s (‘Dr. Ho’s office’, ‘Dr. Fok’s office’!) have long done this, but a self-respecting lawyer does not need to. I would also like to see the written consent from Stan to post this stuff to YouTube; it should have been put up with the postings.

Video 3. Roll on to January 30. Stan says Pansy says he can have his shares back, but it is ‘only words’. Third ‘wife’ Ina, who’s got a bunch of stock, doesn’t want to meet. (Ina was the ailing first wife’s nurse when Stanley got the hots for her. If you have ever seen the UK sit-com Are You Being Served you’ll have a picture in your head at this point.) Note that Stan here is saying he wants to get all the share scrip back and ‘then decide what to do’; do you remember the fair division promised in video 1, Stanley? Not much of interest here. It ends with Stan pointing out what a stand-up guy he has been.

Video 4. (Not yet released). Stan sits in his favourite cardigan looking into a full-length mirror intoning the mantra: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has shagged the most among us all?’ From a pair of old speakers the voice of Michael Jackson responds: ‘You have Stanley, you have’, followed by a trademark yelp. At length Stanely picks up a hand-held mirror and quizzes it: ‘Mirror mirror in my hand, who’s the foxiest in the land?’. From another pair of speakers, the double-deep voice of Errol Brown (per his legendary BabyCham add)  replies: ‘You da one, you da one Stan…’ This continues indefinitely.

A note on the lawyer, February 2:

The verdict from various people who know Gordon Oldham, personally and professionally, is that he is by no means the most amoral lawyer in Hong Kong (a warm breeze wafts across the Big Lychee as Ron Arculli, Stephen Cheong, Charles Lee and pals breathe a collective sigh of relief). Perhaps the mid-point of the opinions is one that calls him ‘aggressive and innovative and he doesn’t give a fuck about anything’. The others range from ‘decent guy’ to ‘slipperier than a donkey’s dick’ (the last, I would stress, is from a journalist who has only seen Oldham’s press performances). Anyhow, there does seem to be some consensus that posting Stan to YouTube without publishing his written consent and a full explanation of what is being done begs various question; as — and several people have said this pointedly — does the posting of edited interviews. You will notice there are plenty of cuts in the tapes. Can we have the full tapes please?

Mr Oldham has not responded to an email to the contact address given on his firm’s site yesterday. I will send another one.

Other points of interest: it seems that Oldham has not acted for Stan on other cases (at least ones I know about). Of course Stan, being a godfather, has almost as many lawyers as girlfriends, and so this is hardly surprising. But it does maintain one’s interest in knowing how Oldham got on the roster for this job. Finally, one who knows Oldham claims the accent is northern Irish, tho it sounded poshed up southern to me.

As to Stan’s choice of lawyer, I think it is good. There is an illustrious history of godfathers using gweilos to front for them when they need to do something very public. Remember all KS Li’s public relations problems at Hutchison in the 80s when he paid himelf a huge special dividend he had said he would not take? That was when he hired Simon Murray. Isn’t it great that everyone trusts white people? I think it’s fan-bloody-tastic.

Psycho killer, qu’est que c’est?

March 16, 2009

Cambridge: The term is done. To celebrate, and inspired by the ongoing Umbrian struggle against freemasonary, witchcraft, sexual perversion and other matters diabolical, I attend a talk about psychopathy given by world-renowned psychopathy expert James Blair (no relation, though it is an interesting coincidence that various people have speculated — perhaps trying to make him seem more interesting than he is — that Tony Blair is a psychopath).

I make several learnings from the talk:

1. Psychopathy is correctly pronounced with the stress on the ‘o’, not on the ‘a’.

2. Contemporary neuroscientific research suggests that psychopathy is connected with insensitivity/low response in the amygdala and other parts of the brain that process emotional (as opposed to rational) response. This results in psychos not noticing the fear/distress/pain they cause to others. Mr Blair highlights an example from his own work of a psychopathic mugger who reasoned it was best to hit his victims over the head with a brick from behind, because this minimised the chances of them fighting back. The psycho failed to notice it also left his victims with stoved in heads.

3. Psychopathy is not to be confused with sadism. It is not part of the psychopath’s essential make-up that he enjoys causing suffering to others. He tends to be neutral on the question of the enjoyability of inflicting pain, and is afflicted instead with a sort of moral and emotional failure to empathise. The sadist is a different animal. An individual like sadism legend Jeffrey Dahmer, suggests Mr Blair, would likely fail to score the requisite 30 out of 40 points on the standard Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist.

4. If my children do not respond to my imprecations, and do not grow up as I intend, it could be because they are psychopaths. The news that there would have been nothing I could do is almost as comforting as the two glasses of red at the drinks reception after the talk. Of course, since only an estimated 20 percent of the prison population would score 30 on Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, it is unlikely that all of my children are psychopaths. Nonetheless, I have dozed through enough quantitative methodology classes to know that it is not impossible.

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