Wednesday, September 17, 2014

如斯好德如好色的人

The English translation of the subtitle does not quite do it justice ("Because I have not yet seen anyone who puts principles before licentiousness", Chinese: 微臣從沒見過 如斯好德如好色的人), but you get the drift.

The gravitas of the moment comes off best in the narration by Meher McArthur in his little book about the sage, "Confucius".

Confucius (a.k.a. 孔子 Kǒng Zǐ, literally "Master Kong") had received an invite from the wife of the Duke of Wei, a woman of questionable character. Nanzi was notorious for her sexual intrigues and immoral behaviour. A foreign talent from the neighbouring state of Song, she had been having an incestuous relationship with her brother before marrying the Duke. Confucius could not refuse for fear of offending his powerful host; he was looking forward to finding satisfactory employment in the Wei government.
"Shortly after his first visit, Duke Ling invited him to join him and his wife in some sort of procession that may actually have been held in Confucius' honour. Apparently , the Duke and his wife rode in the first carriage, with Confucius and Nanzi's eunuch escort in the carriage behind them. The people of Wei saw the incongruity of this display and shouted out, "Lust in the front; virtue behind!" (pages 128,129)

Confucius was deeply embarrassed, and made the very cynical observation, "I have not seen one who loves virtue as he loves beauty." Following, Confucius gathered his followers and left Wei in disgust.

Such is the state of affairs in the current governance. There's no beauty in a birthday bash for 50 or 91 years, when the needy senior citizens are robbed of access to their own life savings when they reach age 55.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Forgive Is Not An Option

First Came The Insult

Then The Abject Apology

This is getting tiresome.

The law makers want to jail Singaporean motorists - one whole year behind bars - for using their handset while at the wheel. As if that's not harsh enough, the Traffic Police fined 564 for changing lanes without signalling in advance - a simple warning was never in the cards. That's just for the first 6 months of this year. At $70 a pop for light vehicles or $100 for heavy ones, that should pay for the announced salary increases of the "Home Team".

No wonder the foreigners have the impression that we are pushovers.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Rotten Apples And Rotting Fruit

It was West Virginia University (WVU) who outed the fraudster, Anoop Shankar, former academic at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Shankar did not have a doctorate degree, and he did not graduate from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi as claimed in his resume. NUS confirmed that Shankar was employed as assistant professor with the Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine at NUS' Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine from 2005 to 2008.

All it takes is one bad apple to spoil the barrel, and that’s because the one apple that’s gone bad gives off ethylene, speeding the ripening of all the other apples in the same confine. But Shankar was not the only rotten fruit.

Thanks to an anonymous tip, in March 2011, the National University of Singapore (NUS) launched an investigation on one of its former scientists, the immunologist Alirio Melendez, for alleged research misconduct in two papers.

Melendez had joined NUS in 2001, and was awarded a prestigious "young researcher" accolade in 2007. In same year he moved to the University of Liverpool and the University of Glasgow in the UK, whilst maintaining his lab at Singapore until 2009. When the NUS investigation was still ongoing, Melendez resigned his position at Liverpool University in November 2011 (he was suspended from his role since April 2011, without prejudice, pending the outcome of the investigation). Glasgow University said it had concluded its own investigation in October 2011, but it was the university’s policy "not to comment on individual cases".

A blog called the Gigamole Diaries pointed out that the NUS deputy president connected to the investigation had co-authored two papers with Melendez:
"…the authorship list for Melendez papers reads almost like a Who’s Who in the medical school, and includes heads of departments, Vice Deans and prominent individuals in the office of the NUS Vice President. Interestingly Prof Barry Halliwell, who is NUS Deputy President (Research and Technology), and who has been cited as fronting the investigation into the Melendez publications is himself associated with at least 2 Melendez publications."

After 19 long months, the NUS in December 2012 finally reported that it had determined one of its former scientists, the immunologist Alirio Melendez, had committed “serious scientific misconduct”. The university found fabrication, falsification or plagiarism associated with 21 papers. It added that no evidence indicating that other co-authors were involved in the misconduct. But the university would not identify the papers retracted, nor release the report of the committee that investigated them. The list of retracted papers, a correction and an expression of concern, are available at Retraction Watch.

It's the same old story, what to do, done already. Please move on, nothing to see here. It’s “standard operating procedure” to sweep inconvenient truths under the carpet, so we’ll just keep doing things our way, thank you very much.

Just as Dr Intan Azura Binte Mokhtar spoke up in support of the carpetbagger Yang Yin, Associate Professor Koh Woon Puay of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School maintains she has not found any reason to question Shankar's credentials, "Personally, I did not have any reason to suspect at that time that he was not trained in epidemiology or statistics to carry out his research." Koh is co-author of three papers they had worked on. One blogger explains the method for the madness:
"In the NUS, I am told, there is a scheme of apportioning glory and credit for scientific publications. This is for the purpose of chalking up points for promotions and other 'rewards'. The lead and the corresponding authors get 50% of the credit each. All the other co-authors stuck in between get 10% each. On this model, one published paper with a mass grave of 10 co-authors can chalk up a total of 180% credit."

Friday, September 12, 2014

ICA's Hot Potato

Some pictures are really worth a thousand words. The body language of each player could have such a rich story to tell: the immigrant made good (trying hard anyway), the sneering driver going about his job (having lost the last better paying one to a foreign talent), the lawyer pondering if justice is really blind (after blowing his parents' savings for an overseas degree). There's enough material on the canvas for Tan Pin Pin to craft another award winner, albeit one that will not undermine the security of the nation. If the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) says okay, it must be okay.

The hot potato has landed on ICA's lap. The story of yin and yang (yīn 陰 or 阴 "shady side" and yáng 陽 or 阳 "sunny side"), hard steel of greed preying on the soft heart of an old woman. What's on the lips of everyone is how a tour guide from China was granted an employment pass. The ICA website says any foreigner interested to work and has a job offer in Singapore may apply for an Employment Pass. The applicant will need to earn at least $3,300 and possess acceptable qualifications.

The guy first came in on a 4-week holiday in 2009. He was employed by a company set up in his own name and that of the retired physiotherapist. As a director of Young Music and Dance Studio, he may have been free to set his own compensation package, an unfettered practice indulged in by some politicians. Although the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI) has challenged the claim of directorship, ICA may have considered other acceptable qualifications. Photographic images of Kodak moments with key political figures may have carried the weight of an imprimatur. A letter of support from a standing member of parliament may have sealed the deal. Which could add up to explain the accelerated award of Permanent Residence status by 2011.

Recall in 2009, ICA was having a whale of a time, issuing entry papers like it was going out of style. The auntie hawking alcoholic beverages at kopi-tiams island wide lost their jobs to more lithe versions from the Middle Kingdom. The PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) will have their own taste of the bitter concoction a few years later. Not content with their place in our land of opportunity, some imported talents stalked senior citizens, targeting a soft spot with their sob stories of hardship back home.

While clearing the personal effects of a relative who passed away recently, we came across an entry in his notebook. He was a thrifty person who always saved for a rainy day, and actually had some money to leave behind for siblings. But not before some China crow got to him first. "Damn China girl," he wrote, "cheated me of $8,000."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Telling It Like It Is

Just like the National Library prefers to pulp books instead of burning them, the Media Development Authority (MDA) chose to slap a NAR rating (Not Allowed for All Ratings) instead of an outright ban on the award winning film "To Singapore, With Love". Producer Tan Pin Pin won international accolades for her effort, including Best Director at the Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary Awards at the Dubai Film Festival 2013, and put our budding film industry in the limelight. In 2007, "Zahari's 17 Years" was actually banned by the government, but that caused such a stink that MDA must have learnt its bitter lesson about showcasing draconian methodologies.

When MDA declared that its contents "undermined national security", there was a glimpse of hope we may finally get to see how Mas Selamat climbed out a toilet window, giving future detainees a sneak preview of how to exit a supposedly secure detention facility with the greatest of ease. Nope, they objected to "untruthful accounts of how they came to leave Singapore". They meaning exiles who had to flee for their personal safety, like Tan Wah Piow who was let out of the prison gates only to be thrown straight into the clutches of the armoured division. The Singapore armed forces that we know doesn't exactly have a pristine safety record. Young lives are crushed under "parked" military vehicles, limbs severed in naval exercises, asthmatics snuffed out by smoke grenades, etc, etc.

The except from Berlinale (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin) starts like this:
"Some places are better observed from a distance if you want to grasp their inner essence. For this portrait of her hometown, the tropical economic powerhouse of Singapore, Tan Pin Pin decided on a strictly external perspective. She meets with political exiles in London, Thailand, and Malaysia who had to leave the city thirty-five or fifty years ago – and who are to this day not permitted to return unless they die and their relatives bring back their ashes. The protagonists of the film fought for increased democracy and for Singapore to be freed from colonialism."

There must be more truth in that paragraph than the storyline that required 62 script revisions for the upcoming "1965" propaganda movie that will cost taxpayers $2.8 million. They must have had lots of problems with the part about collaborating with the Japanese occupiers when Singapore was Syonanto.

MDA is insisting the movie is wrong, that former CPM members "can return if they agree to be interviewed by the authorities on their past activities to resolve their cases". Even if they were never card carrying members of the Communist Party of Malaysia? Chia Thye Poh was never a member of the CPM. He lost the best years of his life just because one man said so. And that's the hard truth.