Friday, July 31, 2015

The Truth About The Leak

Desperate for an answer, SMRT's Desmond Kuek was obviously clutching at straws when he blamed a heavy downpour the night before July 7 for tripping the sophisticated train system. So obvious that he covered his own lie with a "could have, but then it is not something conclusive". Don't know, say don't know, lah!

The army general jetted in expensive experts from Sweden's Parsons Brinkerhoff and Japan's Meidensha Corporation - bill footed by Lui Tuck Yew's LTA - to check on the train power circuitry only to find that water ingress between the Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place stations had short circuited the electrical system. Of course the explanation is mired in gobbledygook:
"However, the weak resistance of an insulator can allow electricity to flow through the insulator to the ground, resulting in a higher than normal voltage difference between the running rail and the ground."

Engineers identify and resolve potential problems by use of diagrams. The one on the left illustrates the third-rail conductor system of the Ginza line of the Tokyo Rapid Transit Authority (TRTA). Their voltage is 600 or 700 V. The insulators - usually made of fast-drying non-conducting material such as glass, porcelain, or composite materials - support the current-carrying third rail at every 2.5 to 5 m. How such passive components can be easily "contaminated" as SMRT claims staggers the mind. Since we don't know, we can't quiz the engineering challenged CEO why all the 30,662 insulators of the North-South East-West lines have to be changed out, and ultimately charged to the long suffering commuters via fare hikes. Maybe they are all fakes sourced from a dubious vendor in China.

Can you spot the SMRT leak?
What we can ask is why a patrol officer had spotted the leak (Kuek uses "viewed" and "observed" to blur the distinction further) and could classified it as "non-urgent". Was the operator waiting for the ponding to rise to knee high level? Worse, the same leak spot had been "repaired" 2 to 3 times over the past 8 months. If their engineers can use cable ties to secure the claw for the third rail, why didn't they use chewing gum to plug the leak? Oops, almost forgot, gum is still banned.
Kuek's lame "gimme another chance" excuse is pathetic:
"So in this particular case and with all instances, as we categorise, we make it an effort to try and repair all leaks even though we might have longer time frame to repair those leaks, we try to repair them as quickly as possible."

Notice how Kuek and his army buddies always obfuscate the issues with pseudo-technical jargon. Occam's razor (or Ockham's razor) says that the more wild assumptions you tend to make, the more unlikely the explanation is. Credibility at our public transportation system is in dire need of a serious reboot.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hiccups At The Starting Line

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen thought he could simply call the shots for how the imminent general election would be run when he boasted on Sunday (Jul 26), "No Mr Lee Kuan Yew to tell us what's a better choice, no Mr Lee Kuan Yew to tell us, give comments on the choice that we make." He declared that new candidates will be formally introduced after National Day weekend, and the plan was for retiring members of parliament (MPs) to help introduce their successors.

Well, it would appear not everything is going according to plan. Indranee Rajah of Tanjong Pagar GRC introduced her "sister" according to her own schedule, officially unveiling the new face of Joan Pereira during a walkabout at Bukit Merah View Market on the very same Sunday Ng spoke. And Inderjit Singh had to post his farewell on Facebook way ahead of everybody else. Ng didn't take that initiative too kindly,
"We want to handle the retirement of our MPs more smoothly and I would prefer a more deliberate and a dignified manner.
You can post your retirement on Facebook, but I think as an MP who has served 15, 20, even 30 years - that's not the best way to do it."
The upcoming general election will be "watershed election" indeed, but not necessarily the way Ng intends it to be. The horrible person had already expounded his premonitions at the Singapore Global Dialogue (skip to 18:40) in October 2011, shortly after the electoral setback of the same year. Maybe Ng should listen carefully to the voice from the urn once more.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Drawn And Quartered

Robert-Fran├žois Damiens, who attempted assassination of King Louis XV in 1757, was the last person to be executed in France by drawing and quartering, the traditional and gruesome form of death penalty reserved for regicides (deliberate killing of a monarch):
"He was condemned to be tortured with red-hot pincers on four limbs and on each breast. His wounds were to be sprinkled with molten lead and boiling oil and his body was then to be torn in pieces by four horses, the remains being subsequently burnt."

If you saw the teary-eyed Lui Tuck Yew on television, you would have thought that's how he imagined the horrible fate of Moulmein-Kallang GRC, drawn and quartered to be scattered to the  four constituencies: Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Tanjong Pagar GRC and the newly-created Jalan Besar GRC.
“For me of course there is a sense of disappointment because I have been with the residents for so many years already and I’ve really come to become very fond of them and I will miss them dearly.”

About to be derailed
Of course it's all play-acting. Following the cue of Lim Boon Heng, who cried like a baby after being told he was being laid off, and next rewarded with a plum assignment at Temasek Holdings, the bawling is just audition for higher office. Outdo Lim's histrionic theatrics, and Lui could be the next elected president. Just as many have forgotten about SR Nathan's service record with the Japanese police during World War II, nobody will remember the mess Lui made of the public transportation system.

And if the intel in the sidebar is accurate, Lui will still be around for awhile. In case you're are fantasizing about hooking him to four trains running in opposite directions of the North-South and East-West tracks, don't bother. His armed forces buddies will simply arrange for another simultaneous system breakdown, and the submariner will resurface to make our lives miserable again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bad Behaviour

When TIME's Zoher Adoolcarim and Hannah Beech interviewed Lee Hsien Loong for the "Singapore's Next Story" article (3 August 2015 issue), they did not shy off from asking about the conviction of a 16-year old and the litigation against a blogger. While the Straits Times write-up produced edited extracts, and quoted from the online transcript and hard copy, one important line was missed out:
"In this case, he's a 16-year old, so you have to deal with it appropriately because of a young age."

It would appear to all and sundry that the hue and cry from local and foreign human rights activists, in particular the United Nations Human Rights Office for South-east Asia (OHCHR), have come to nought. Specifically, OHCHR had expressed concern that the criminal sanctions considered in this case "seem disproportionate and inappropriate in terms of the international protections for freedom of expression and opinion". And it matters not to the prime minister that Singapore had signed off on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

To understand the kind of horrible person that approves of the traumatic detention of a child and cruel treatment in a mental institute, one has to appreciate his ideas of bad behavior. When asked if he were ever a rebellious teenager, he gave this notion of unpardonable sin: "I never had long hair or wore bell-bottoms."

One veteran human rights activist was dripping with sarcasm when she put the status quo in context: "We are overly respectful of our politicians. Our laws demand that of us." Read and weep.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Battle Enjoined

"I think the playing field is level, if you do your work on the ground consistently," says the Deputy Prime Minister with the extensible Pinnochio nose. Explain that to Workers' Party's Yee Jenn Jong who literally walked the ground tirelessly for 4 years since the last General Election to recover from a narrow loss by 388 votes. If the dissolution of Joo Chiat is not a clear case of gerrymandering, what is?

The interesting aside to this is that Joo Chiat had always been a stronghold of Chan Soo Sen (GE2001: 83.5%, GE2006: 65%). Unfortunately his predilection for booze and karaoke was frowned upon by higher ups. They replaced him with Charles Chong for GE2011, the elitist who defended the $46,000 Le Cordon Bleu frolic of Permanent Secretary Tan Yong Soon with this:
“Maybe it made lesser mortals envious and they thought maybe he was a little bit boastful. Would people have taken offence if his wife (a senior investment counsellor at a bank) had paid for everything?”

For mocking the peasants, Chong barely scraped through with 51% of the votes. Meanwhile Chan, always a popular fixture (still is) at clan gatherings in the district, would bitterly complain to anyone within hearing range about how "they" had to bring in three civil servants to do his job.

Decades ago, E.W Barker was well known for sneaking off to the bar at the snooty Singapore Cricket Club to wet his whistle. But that didn't stop him from an illustrious career of 25 years in politics, serving as Minister for National Development (1965–75), Minister for Home Affairs (1972), Minister for the Environment (1975–79), Minister for Science and Technology (1977–81) and Minister for Labour (1983). Barker was a happy camper at law firms Braddell Brothers and Lee & Lee until the horrible person dragged him into parliament. Fortunately for him then, there was no sniffer dog with a sensitive nose for alcohol.

It remains to be seen how the 22,760 voters of Joo Chiat who were wiped off the electoral map  to be absorbed ignominiously into the folds of Marine Parade will react. If they are bitter about being thwarted in their balloting intentions, the outcome can only be ugly. Gerrymandering can cut both ways.