Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Come To Praise Caesar, Not Bury Him

Henry Kissinger hailed him as a great man. And he was a close personal friend, a fact that Kissinger considers one of the great blessings of his life. A world needing to distill order from incipient chaos will miss his leadership. That's from the same Kissinger who also said "Power is the great aphrodisiac.” (New York Times, January 19, 1971)

Exactly why Kissinger is a darling embraced by legions of elite media, government, corporate and high society admirers is best attributed to the quote released by Wikileaks,"the illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer".

Kissinger's most significant historical act was executing Richard Nixon's orders to conduct the worst massive bombing campaign of civilian targets in world history, covertly and illegally devastating thousands of non-combatant villages throughout areas of Cambodia. There is a word for the aerial mass murder that Henry Kissinger committed in Indochina, and that word is “evil”.

Kissinger the man will likely be remembered, if he is remembered at all, as the fellow best described by the novelist Joseph Heller in "Good As Gold":
 “It was disgraceful and so discouraging … that this base figure charged with infamies too horrendous to measure and too numerous for listing should be gadding about gaily in chauffeured cars, instead of walking at Spandau with Rudolf Hess ... Asked about his role in the Cambodian war, in which an estimated five hundred thousand people died, he'd said: ‘I may have a lack of imagination, but I fail to see the moral issue involved.’"

Closer to home, U.S. President Gerald R. Ford and Kissinger pre-approved Suharto’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, telling the dictator that "It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly." By the time the Indonesian occupation finally ended in 1999, 200,000 Timorese – 30 percent of the population – had been wiped out.

For a huge variety of well justified reasons, Henry Kissinger is believed by millions to be one of the single most evil individuals still living, or to have ever lived. So, if you want your praises to be sung, choose carefully.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Last Lap

Nice digs, staff of 90, $4 million to upkeep

Aha, the gun carriage denied to Ong Teng Cheong

Glass panels for climate control?

No ordinary land rover, must be a Mercedes

Looks like it's downhill all the way now

He ain't so heavy, he's just your grandpa

Goh has his last laugh, not so wooden after all

Seriously, bagpipes? Ummi drums cannot meh?

Someone please lock up after he leaves the building

Not exactly North Korea standard, but good enough

Back to place of work, after long absence

Last chance to note number plate for TOTO bet

Remember, chaps, you drop it, you pay for it

Phew! That wasn't too difficult, was it? 

Back to work, fellas, show's over.

The Soft Portrait

Whoever was responsible for the funeral arrangements, he deserves to be shot. The photograph chosen for the once in a life time event lacks gravitas, hardly the best portrait of a strong man who fought colonial masters, Communists and political opponents alike, with one hand tied behind his back. It looks more like one of those effete models pimped by Calvin Cheng for a living.

Alex Josey told author James Minchin ("No Man Is An Island") that when Lee Kuan Yew first saw himself on television, he was momentarily shocked into silence. He was appalled at the fierce and unsmiling figure on the screen, clearly spoiling for a fight. This was not the figure the political Lee wanted to present to the electorate, according to Josey:
"He set out to soften the image. The result is not an unqualified success: when he is not tensed up to rebuke or attack, he tends to appear bored or chemically over-relaxed and his official smile is not unlike that of a crocodile tenderly anticipating his prey."

If you are planning to capture your own enduring image for posterity at the Parliament House lie-in-state - the elites had their meet and greet with the stiff at the Istana, hoi polloi will have to make do with some place less exclusive - here's a couple of handy funeral photography tips:
  • Beware family members may object to your presence, don't take it personally –– it's about grief and loss, and respecting sensitivities trumps all. Put aside politics for the day.
  • Eschew the wide angle lens for a telephoto to help you to take long shots and keep your distance. What you don't want is a slug to the chin by an over enthusiastic cop in plain clothes.
  • Have plenty of tissues with you; it will be hard to stay unmoved, especially when so many grassroots worshippers will be on the prowl for a $2 company opportunity. Whatever you do, don't sell three packets for a dollar.
  • The indoor lighting may not be optimal. Choose a high ISO setting and a camera with optical image stabilisation like the iPhone 6 Plus. Low light situations can be improved with the use of a monopod or tripod, but it is unlikely Baey Yam Keng will get to use his selfie gear.
When all else fails, there is always Adobe Photoshop.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tales From The Crypt

Toh was founder Chairman of the People's Action Party in 1954
For those who are better informed, this is going to be one helluva gruelling week. Already the state television channels are playing the clip over and over ad nauseam, the one where the guy sheds crocodile tears after being tufted out of Malaysia.

Toh Chin Chye tells it different. Lee Kuan Yew, in his frustration with Malay rights, was becoming more and more anti-Malay in his speeches, particularly when he was abroad. All this was duly reported by Reuters and Cablenews and reached the ears of the Malaysian Government. Of course Kuala Lumpur reacted badly, some of the things he said were really insulting. He called them "Mad Mullahs" and all that.

It was Toh's turn to be frustrated. He told Melanie Chew, ("Leaders of Singapore", Resource Press (1996), page 97):
"He was crying,I don't understand him at all. On one hand, he worked so hard for merger. Having gotten the cupful, he shattered it. And then cried over it."

Lee held two successive conferences, and in both of which he cried. When he learnt from the press secretary, Lee Wei Ching (no relation), another was being scheduled, Toh had had enough. "You ought to tell the Prime Minister to go to Changi and take a rest. Call the press conference off! Another crying bout, and the people of Singapore will think the government is on its knees."

When asked if Lee was in a very emotional state because he felt he had made a blunder, Toh would only say, "You have to interview him on that. I cannot answer for him."

Chew's bulky volume is a good read, and contains interviews with every Singapore personality who had a hand in our nation building. Devan Nair, Goh Keng Swee, Lim Kim San, Rajaratnam, Ong Pang Boon, Lim Chin Siong, Lee Siew Choh, they are all included. With the significant exception of one Lee Kuan Yew. As they say, dead men tell no tales. Just don't expect the hard truth from the state controlled media.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Legacy Of Great Leaders

When Indonesia's former dictator Suharto finally gave up the ghost on 27 January 2008, it was 3 long weeks after being admitted to Pertamina Hospital in South Jakarta. Despite the gallant efforts of dozens of Indonesia's best doctors, he was done in by anemia and low blood pressure due to heart, lung and kidney problems.

And as he lay in hospital, kept alive by the scientific marvel of a life support machine, victims of his repressive regime fumed at the failure to prosecute him for mass murder of at least half a million killed during his 32 years in power. During the mid-1960s, Suharto supervised a purge of suspected Communists that saw between 500,000 and a million lives snuffed out in cold blood. Until the world learnt of the Khmer Rouge's atrocities in Cambodia a decade later, it was the bloodiest event in the region since the Second World War.

However, his children and business cronies waxed lyrical about his qualities, having reaped the bountiful fruits of his inglorious reign. Transparency International, the anti-corruption pressure group, estimated that Suharto amassed a personal fortune of between $15bn and $35bn, much of it through bribes and kickbacks. His wife was nicknamed "Ibu Ten Percent" for obvious reasons. Suharto also learnt to make effective use of lawyers, he won a $106m lawsuit against Time magazine after it suggested his family stashed away $15bn of state funds.

Quite naturally, not too many world leaders made a beeline to his bedside. The notable few who did: Malaysia's ex-president Mahathir Mohamad, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, and the then Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They lauded Suharto for promoting regional unity. Lee's cogent contribution spoke volumes about their shared values:
“Yes, there was corruption. Yes, he gave favors to his family and his friends. But there was real growth, real progress… What is a few billion dollars lost in bad excesses? He built hundreds of billions of dollars worth of assets. I think the people of Indonesia are lucky. They had a general in charge, had a team of competent administrators including a very good team of economists.”

Lee Kuan Yew died at 3.18am today at the Singapore General Hospital. He was 91.
Digital art created with AndreaMosaic