Friday, August 1, 2014

No Sex Please, We're Singaporeans

Referring specifically to Astonishing X-Men Issue No. 51, the Media Development Authority statutory board spokesman said: “The MDA takes a holistic view in assessing content and considers all factors, including the context, presentation and language.”  The presentation on the cover of the comic is a graphic illustration of two full grown men, not penguins, about to suck face. MDA had had actually assessed the particular X-Men issue way back in 2012, two whole years before raising hell about “And Tango Makes Three”, “The White Swan Express” and “Who is in my Family?”

The Kinokuniya Singapore main store at Ngee Ann City had the presence of mind to have it wrapped in plastic and labelled “Unsuitable for the young”. After all, we hardly want young impressionable minds to be misled into thinking that it is perfectly a-okay to smooch passionately in full view of a conservative public. Even when Jack Neo was carrying on with his couch casting extra curricular activities, he had curtains installed in his vehicle. Whatever happened to "Go get a room"?

What boys and girls, boys and boys, and girls and girls do in private is their personal affair. Even the cops have promised not to barge into bedrooms to enforce section 377A of the law. But you really have to draw a line when amorous couples embrace so openly and explicitly that your kid will start to doubt the stock-brings-babies version of procreation.

The spokesman added that there was no breach of content guidelines, “which allow for the balanced depictions of same-sex relationships if they do not encourage or promote alternative lifestyles”. The new normal seems to be promoting promiscuity, so long as it's pro-family. Tell that to Lawrence Khong, whose daughter was played out by the cad who got her into trouble, who never contemplated to start a family in the first place.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hard Of Hearing

You would have thought they heard the strident voices of a people by now, resonating with similar demands on the discredited Central Provident Fund (CPF) system:
  • We want our money back at age 55 (as contractually promised);
  • We want the returns due us, not the conjured pathetic rate;
  • We want transparency so that future generations will not be hoodwinked (like the present lot).

Instead, they are commissioning a new study to find out what the people want, for retirement, and for health needs. Latter must refer to the hated Medisave component of the CPF scam. The market research firm appointed, at taxpayers' expense of course, "The Nielsen Company" may not be a $2 company - unlike Action Information Management (AIM), they actually have qualified staff onboard - will be conducting face-to-face interviews. Anyone familiar with survey work will recognise that data gathering is only the icing for the final report and recommendations. A clever accountant, especially the hired gun type, when asked what is one plus one, will be quick to respond with "What do you want it to be?"

But they are not taking chances with this exercise. The respondents for the interview have been pre-selected, just like the first batch of compliant participants for the National Conversation. As incentive to give the "right" answers, this anointed lot will be receiving supermarket vouchers worth $50 cash (not Medisave top up or utility bill subsidy). To seal the deal, even their spouses can get vouchers worth $25. Was it George Yeo who said pork barrel politics was invented by the Americans?

When they have a working formula, you betcha they won't tweak it. Even though the public uproar is all about tweaking the CPF ponzi scheme.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tit For Tat

So who fired the first salvo? While it's not exactly raining missiles like in the Middle East, the trade of tit for tat has to cease. If the paper generals are trying to justify the purchase of the flawed F-35, they had better come up with a better excuse.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) slapped a hefty increase in Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) fees for foreign-registered cars, from $20 to $35 with effect from August ("Higher entry permit fees for foreign vehicles"; ST, July 2). True to character, the money grabbing behemoth tried to downplay the revenue generation exercise by claiming that 9 in 10 of the 13,000 foreign-registered cars will not be affected by the fee increase as they enter and stay in Singapore during VEP-free periods. VEP period runs Mondays – Fridays, 5pm – 2am. Simultaneously, the Goods Vehicle Permit fee for foreign-registered goods vehicles will be raised from S$10 to S$40 per calendar month. Singaporeans will just have to brace themselves for a price hike in vegetables and other foodstuff trucked across.

Naturally, our neighbor in the north did not take things lying down. As expected, Prime Minister Najib Razak soon announced that his government would go ahead with the introduction of a levy on non-Malaysian vehicles entering the country via Johor, selfie or no selfie. The Malaysian Highway Authority made it clear it will start collecting tolls from cars entering and exiting at the Sultan Iskandar checkpoint from next month (this Friday). Cars will be taxed S$6.50 (RM16.50) for a return day trip to Singapore, compared to the current one-way charge of about S$1.10 (RM 2.90). Buses will pay S$5.20 (RM13.30), while taxis will be charged S$3.20 (RM8.20) per two-way trip. Malaysian politicians from both sides of the bench lament that the hike will impose a heavy blow to their countrymen who commute daily to Singapore for work.

Determined to have the last word on the subject, LTA countered that if there is a new, or an increase, in toll charges by Malaysia at the Causeway, Singapore will match them in due course. It has always been Singapore's practice to peg its tolls to match those set by Malaysia at the Causeway and the Second Link, so they say. Notice that when the politicians settle scores, it is the ordinary citizen, Malaysian or Singaporean, who suffer the consequences. The Swahili saying goes like this: “When two elephants fight, the grass suffers; and, when the same two elephants make love, the grass also suffers.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Mother Of All Distraction

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on Singaporeans to keep victims of the ongoing conflict in Gaza in their "thoughts and prayers" and to continue supporting fund-raising initiatives for humanitarian assistance. Before you could shoot up your hand ("keechiu!) to point out that according to Human Rights Watch's World Report 2014, despite controlling an overwhelming majority in Parliament, the Singapore government continues to impose wide-ranging restrictions on core civil and political rights. Singapore is also among the only 10 countries in the United Nations like South Sudan, Tonga, Myanmar and Brunei, which received a “red card” for ratifying 4 or less out of the 18 International Human Rights Treaties. Even countries like Afghanistan, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea and many African countries ratified and signed more International Human Rights Treaties than Singapore did. Still, the sheeple gathered at Hong Lim Green to protest on cue.

For the sake of a unbiased perspective - not easily available from the lowly ranked local paper - this is gleaned from the Economist's summary of the development at the Gaza strip:
The current violence was triggered by the murder of 3 Israeli teenagers, snatched on their way back from study at a yeshiva in an Israeli settlement in the West bank. That led to the the arrest of hundreds of Palestinians, including some prisoners recently released under an American sponsored scheme to boost peace talks with Abbas. In retaliation, and outraged at the murder of a young Palestinian, militants fired rockets into the heart of Israel. The Israel Defence Force responded with lethal force. A military spokeswoman told AFP that since the July 8 start of the military operation, over 2,000 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza hit Israel, with another 492 intercepted. A scenario that could have played out at the Little India enclave if the disgruntled foreign workers there had more effective projectiles at hand than trash cans and beer bottles.

In his facebook post, Lee said that while the Middle East is far away, Singaporeans still empathise with the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people, because of our common humanity. As if it's inhuman to empathise with the long suffering of our very own local born and bred.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Entitlement Notification

After Raymond's kids moved out to set up their own homes, he decided to downgrade from his landed property and move into a small condominium unit with his wife.  Maintaining his own house was getting to be quite a chore for his creaking bones. The extra money would make retirement a bit more pleasant, as it was tiresome being asset-rich and cash poor. Although he had no fixed income, the Annual Value (AV) of his property probably resulted in his receipt of $100 per annum for the 5-year Medisave Top-Up a.k.a. "Benefits from Budget 2014". That's less than $10 per month.

Lim was retrenched at age 58, and never managed to secure steady employment since. He decided to sell his 3-room flat and move in with his daughter as she has only one child, and there was an extra room. The proceeds from the sale should take care of the evening years for him and his homemaker wife. The son-in-law was never excited about Lim's retirement plans, and would express his unhappiness every so often. Since he is now asset-less, Lim was entitled to $200 for his 5-year Medisave Top-Up, plus his $250 (GST Voucher-Cash) and $250 (GST Voucher-Cash: Seniors' Bonus).

The irony is that Raymond had been a life-long supporter of the current regime, and had always been voting for the "correct" political party. A civil servant from first job to retirement, he felt short-changed. Lim was one of those embittered uncles who would rant to anyone within hearing range of his "kopi-tiam kakis". You would too, if your private sector career was ruined by a cheaper foreign talent import. Besides going on about the evils of GST, he is equally vocal about CPF Life and the Minimum Sum.

The Permanent Secretary (Finance)(Performance) who signed off the GST Voucher letter wrote:
"We hope that this letter has been written in a way that is clear to you. If not, please let us have suggestions on how to improve this letter at gstvoucher@cpf.gov.sg."

What is clear is that GST is still regressive, with or without the "permanent" GST rebates. One suggestion is to bring the letter to the smallest room in the house. First it is in front of you, then it is behind you, then flushed away with a copious amount of water.