Saturday, April 30, 2011

In The Heat Of The Battle

If seasoned politician Low Thia Khiang can't figure it out, neither can we. What the fish was George Yeo trying to say when he claimed that Aljunied voters have to choose between "enlightened self-interest" and the "opposition's interest"? He can't be serious to suggest that the guys who vote for the PAP will be doing so for selfish reasons, such as covered walkways for their own block - who cares if the other dwellings will be turned into slums. Yeo must be one of those cocky salesmen who thinks they can tell you to go to hell and expect you to thank them for the good advice.

He was supposed to be the Brainiac of the bunch, always giving fancy speeches in high falutin language. Trouble is, when others see through his hypocrisy, less intimidated politicians like the Taiwan foreign minister did not hesitate to call the country he represented at the United Nations a "piece of snot". The original dialect version is more colourful, several notches better than the Little Red Dot sobriquet bestowed by Habibie.

Maybe, like those others who sneaked into parliament via  the GRC without the baptism of fire of a honest electoral fight, he is just not battle hardened to handle the rough and tumble of the hustings. After all, this is just another desk jockey brigadier general who's more at home with the pen than the sword.

Fighting the good fight
Goh Chok Tong laughed at the opposition last night, saying they shoot randomly, hoping to hit a hot button issue with a stray bullet. Maybe he should have been at the SDP rally at Jurong Stadium. Those guys were downright viscereal. While Low and his dream theme appealed to logic, Tan, Ang and Gomez et al went for the jugular. Stories of a man who lost his job to a foreigner, a student asked by his principal to take a year off so the O level results for his cohort will not be pulled down, a teacher who had to seek psychiatric help, etc, all spiced up to fuel the simmering dissatisfaction of the down trodden. Emotional dilemma? George Yeo should really get down on the ground for a taste of the raw unfettered emotions. Like the hiss of venom that echoed throughout the packed stadium at the mere mention of Vivian Balakrishnan's name.

Affordable Housing Is In Sight

Sorry for scaring all you folks about the cost of housing with data from the Ministry of National Development (graphic was from the state paper) . The bad news is that the 25- to 30- year repayment schedules are all true. The good news is that houses in opposition wards are cheaper.

 Outdoing the Goh Chok Tong football tactic of kicking in his own goal, MM Lee Kuan Yew said last night at a PAP rally that homes in Hougang cost less than similar ones in neighbouring areas because they belong to an opposition ward. Suddenly, young voters in Aljunied GRC may not have to lose sleep about being able to afford their first HDB flat after all. All they need to do is check the correct box on the ballot paper on May 7. Hallelujah! May all the Gods (Christian, Buddhist, Malay, Indian) be praised!

Of course the old guy was trying to salvage the land-cost-to-reserves sleight of hand claims of Mah Bow Tan. The torpedo was aimed at the opposition's proposal of pegging new flat prices to median household income levels, but you can't aim too good when you are approaching 88. The dimming eyesight, quivering hands and wobbly gait don't exactly make for good marksmanship.

The volley about the "two unknowns" in the Workers Party's dream team also landed outside the fairway (his drive must be off since his gave up golf). So what do we know about Puthucheary except for his famous father? Other than the nonsense about saving babies lives being equivalent to serving NS? Who's to say Heng Wee Keat has the track record to be a credible Finance Minister? His only "relevant" experience was being PPS to MM Lee before being appointed managing director of MAS. Have you seen prices reduced by the MAS policy of strengthening the SingDollar? So will the Istana guys who hand him his hot towels for his aching bones, on time, at the right temperature, be made ministers too? Did you see the sickening live TV coverage at Tanjong Pagar GRC nomination center, with Lee following after the political virgin Chan Chun Sing like a lovesick puppy dog? "But I guarantee you you will not do better than the PAP candidates" surely must sound real hollow in the light of what we have seen and heard.

Whatever happened to the Lee Kuan Yew that was admired and looked up to? Even dead Michael Jackson is more highly regarded, despite his special attention for younglings.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Chicken Little Election Strategy

Dark Clouds Predicted On Horizon
The PAP candidates started off their battle for the people's heart and minds with their predictable weapon of choice - their supposedly impeccable track record. Unfortunately, in the context of today, that is looking more like a laundry list of systemic defects. Higher costs of living, suffocating housing repayments, congestion in transport systems, crowding out by foreigners, erosion of social mores, complacency of governance, etc - the checklist length is matched only by the number of zeros in a minister's paycheck.

Hence the switch to the "dark clouds" strategy. No less than 5 ministers, including PM Lee and DPM Teo Chee Hean, are suddenly portending a future of political and economic upheavals. Not too long ago, George Yeo dismissed the Middle East turmoil, smug with his own assessment that "it is less likely that the changes in these countries will be disruptive." Suddenly, Teo Chee Hean is scared of his own shadow, "All these could impact our growth, stability and security." Problems with the radioactive fallout in Japan, debt headache in Europe, government finances in the US, are miraculously washed ashore our little island. They are now yapping away like Chicken Little, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

Half a century of research has shown that fear is one of the most politically powerful emotions a candidate can tap, especially when the fears have a basis in reality, e.g. Mas Selamat embarrasses Wong Kan Seng again and does a reprise of the toilet break to really blow up something spectacular. The politicians who have exploited voters' fears and anxieties figure they can grab attention in a way that other appeals, such as those to experience, competence, vision or even anger do not. Balakrishnan's attempt to toy with the fundamentalist and homophobic hot buttons fizzled out in a hurry.

"In politics, the emotions that really sway voters are hate, hope and fear or anxiety," says political psychologist Drew Westen of Emory University, author of "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation." "But the skillful use of fear is unmatched in leading to enthusiasm for one candidate and causing voters to turn away from another."

Stay the course, stand by the incumbents, we will steer you clear of the hidden dangers as before, is the new mantra of the ruling party. The hiccup here is that when Charlie Rose asked Lee Hsien Loong why Singapore was not sunk by the 2008 crisis, Lee said, "“I think firstly we were lucky.  The world picked up better than we expected.  I think the American team, Paulson and Bernanke, Geithner did a good job and we are beneficiaries." See, nothing to do with skill, knowledge or experience, it was pure dumb luck.

Four Legs Good, Two Lees Bad

Were you taken for a ride?
Low Thia Khiang's response to Shanmugan's co-driver analogy was a real crowd pleaser at the Workers' Party kick-off rally in Hougang last night. He reminded the record turn-out, in English, Mandarin and Teochew, that wistfully hoping that the driver will bring you to your destination is not enough, "A co-driver is essential, especially as road gets tougher to navigate. The co-driver is there to slap the driver when he drives off course or when he falls asleep or drives dangerously."

Numerous studies have been made about the dangers of talking on a handphone while at the wheel. Interestingly, one finding is that carrying on a conversation with a passenger in the car does not have the same level of distraction. One conclusion is that the passenger tends to vary his communication according to the traffic conditions, thus prompting the driver to adjust according to the changing situation on the road.

MM Lee himself warned of a government on auto-pilot, blind to the realities of the moment. Wong Kan Seng is singing the tune that a terrorist on the loose was no danger to the country, just because he wasn't slapped out of his complacency stupor. Mah Bow Tan repeats ad nauseam that public housing is affordable, while omitting the inconvenient truth that a 30-year mortgage results in zero balance at the twilight years of retirement. Assuming that he can count, Vivian Balakrishnan must have known the expenses for the YOG were busting the budget, but there was no one there to restrain his intoxicated spending. Teo Chee Hean is having a field day distorting an opposition member's remark that spending $60 billion for the people is small change, but did anybody whisper to his ear about the 50 billions lost by GIC alone? And the 59 billions blown by Temasek? Lee Hsien Loong himself is holding on stubbornly to his Workfare solution for the poor, blinkered from the sights of little old ladies carting used cardboard to stay alive for another day. How will their suffering be salved by the snake-oil of Workfare? All these characters operating with tunnel vision, setting their sights solely on the GDP bonus, are running amok simply because the co-pilot's seat is empty. They may bleat in unison four legs good, two legs bad, but two Lees are definitely lousy for the country. Especially when one of them is way, way past the use-by date.

"Unless we have checks and balances in our political system, we cannot claim to be a First World country," Low summed up accurately.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gone In 35 Seconds

Sshh...quiet down, will ya? He's about to do a Marlon Brando impersonation of the Godfather, complete with stuffed cotton balls in the mouth.

Please do not assume that you can change governments.
(You) Young people don't understand this.
"Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac".

How can we be late when we were in the hall before 12 o'clock?
Of course, we wuz robbed!

They may have submitted the forms on time, but that does not mean
the forms are accepted on time. In the Army , we call it
the hentak kaki maneuver.

Of course it was good strategy, at least they didn't reach for
the Vivian Balakrishnan bag of dirty tricks.

From zero to MP in 35 seconds, that's how the GRC system works!
That's the way, ah-ha, ah-ha, I like it!

Just Look At The Scary Numbers

The graphic was supposed to illustrate how affordable Mah Bow Tan has priced HDB housing. In the first place, note that "hardly any cash outlay" in the title head is misleading. Besides the extra $36 in the example needed to top up the monthly mortgage, cash is required for the town council charges, season parking, utility bills, and servicing of the miscellaneous loans for renovation and furnishing. Even if you skimp on the airconditioning, electric fans are not packaged with the flats. Planning on getting married and raising kids? Even if CPF were allowed for that (it's not), the housing loan has eaten up all the funds.

The real killer is that all 23% in the Ordinary Account is tied up for 30 long years. After ORD, and 4 years to save up for the down payment, the ordinary Singaporean male will all likelihood be staring at a zero balance in his CPF account at age 55. And that's assuming a smooth career path through 3 decades, immune to vicissitudes at the work place and/or economic upheavals. There's no welfare system in Singapore, the CPF was supposed to be the safety net for retirement at twilight years. Oh, we forgot, the powers that be have decreed that retirement is no longer an option.

Based on the Numbeo ( largest free Internet database about cost of living worldwide) 2011 House Price to Income Ratio rankings, Singapore ranks below major cities like Tokyo, Barcelona, Milan, Dublin, Toronto, New York City, Geneva, Oslo, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Sydney, Vienna, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Zurich, Copenhagen and Berlin.

House Price to Income Ratio is the basic affordability measure for housing in a given area. It is generally the ratio of median house prices to median familial disposable incomes, expressed as years of income.  According to Numbeo, the statistic for Singapore should be 17.13 years (It's 6.69 for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 4.69 for Perth, Australia). Which means 30 years for a HDB flat is just too damn long.

It's not like Mah does not know that there's a whole lot of senior people who are going be broke at retirement time. But his solution is guaranteed to make your blood boil: "Move into your children's flat and rent out your old one."

It's Honourable To Screw Up

First his father said it was honourable to lock up people without trial. Now PM Lee Hsien Loong says it's perfectly honourable to screw up a national election by swapping candidates at the last minute like changing soiled underwear. "We're honourable people... Steve Tan is honourable, and we are. And we decided that, awkward as it is, we just have to go through with this  and make the last minute change and explain to the people." According to earlier official spiel, these characters had started planning for this year's polls 5 long years ago, right after the last GE in 2006.

Chia Shi-Lu, 40, who morphed from zero to Member of Parliament in matter of minutes was asked if he felt like a football player introduced late in the match. You decide whether there's honour in his reply, "It doesn't mean someone who comes in late is of lesser value."

The drop out who was the source of the royal screw up was not exactly honourable enough to enlighten the nation with his "personal reasons" for throwing the spanner into the (used to be) squeaky clean works. He refused to comment if his withdrawal was due to nefarious allegations on the internet, not dissimilar to the nasty stuff about Balakrishnan at London in 1993(?). "My conscience is clear. My wife is fully aware of this and I have her support," was all he was prepared to reveal. Okay, at least we know it has to do with "conscience", "clear", "wife", "aware", and "support". All the right ingredients for a Jack Neo block buster.

Moved from Tanjong Pagar GRC to Tampines at a lurch, at least Baey Yam Keng was sufficiently honourable to be upfront about his feelings on the debacle. The man said he never saw it coming. The managing director of public relations agency Hill and Knowlton recognised the PR meltdown straight off. "It's unfortunate this happened", he observed, and quickly switched to official party line, "Nonetheless, I don't think there's a lot of damage done and I'm actually quite surprised some of the residents recognise me." Er, the people recognised the white-and-white disguise, Mr Baey. By now, even the most daft must know that an orang utan draped in the same cloth can be sent to parliament on a GRC ticket.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Now A Word From The Sponsor

Cheering for the foreigners home team
The typical image of a cheerleader is a short skirted lass executing gymnastic moves and waving colourful poms-poms. Not a geriatric guided and steadied in his locomotion by a phalanx of security officers, at state expense. And since articulating distinctly to be understood  by an audience is becoming too much of a physical effort, he has to rouse the troops through the printed media via a "Statement from Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew".

Yes, we are mindful of the first generation of leaders of his contemporaries were men of integrity and high capabilities. Men like Goh Keng Swee and Lim Kim San, builders with a passion and a heart for the people.  But today's crop includes the degenerate Vivian Balakrishnan who delight to wallow in the mire of gutter politic, invoking both the religion and homophobic cards, and endangering the delicate fabric of civil society. Or the obstinate Mah Bow Tan who is laying the foundation for Singapore's own variant of sub-prime crisis, by committing future generations to indentured servitude for a 99-year lease. Lee was boasting about how he removed the right of seaside owners for compensation for loss of their foreshores so that the Government could reclaim land without high cost of compensating the owners of seaside properties. And not shackle the public housing programmes of Lim Kim San with prohibitive market rates. How things have changed.

Just how far capabilities of officers have fallen through the years is best illustrated by the complacency of Wong Kan Seng, who is crowing during his walkabouts that he won't be voted out because of letting a terrorist slip through the bathroom window. Similarly, swaggering generals with barely one year of military service at that rank are posturing like Montgomery at the Battle of El Alamein, with an out sized ego to match. They are cocky in the knowledge that the iron girdle of the GRC will be shielding from the electorate.

Lee claims they combed the whole of Singapore society to field candidates of proven character and high calibre. Then how did they miss Chen Show Mao and Nicole Seah, currently second most popular politician on Facebook, only falling behind Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew? Instead they scrapped the bottom with Janil "Putus Chinta" Puthucheary (a father's heart is a fragile thing) and a fool 'em all Stanchart executive. Right, we are not living in Disney World, not with people still being hanged and a presidential pardon that cannot save lives when it matters. A place where significant regrets of an aspiring politician include missing out on a trip to Sentosa's Universal Studios.

In the heat and dust of this election, Lee cajoles us, do not risk your assets, property values, job opportunities. Don't fret your 87-year old mind, with the misfiring neurons, voters will definitely be thinking about the orchestrated asset inflation, the mockery of subsidized housing by The Valuer, and all those jobs going to the favoured foreigners, when they march to the polls. But thanks for the reminder anyway.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Biting Off More Than He Can Chew

Since Vivian Balakrishnan was too lazy/cowardly/sneaky to identify the "suppressed" YouTube video he adopted as a personal WMD (Weapons of Mass Distraction - from inflation, housing, foreigner issues etc), mainstream media has outed the above clip. In it Dr Vincent Wijeysingha is heard quoting Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." That must have been the awkward moment for the Minister. Maybe it was that very reference of people power that made the Minister squirm, and soil his designer white pants.

This is one insecure sorry excuse for a politician who went through great lengths to explain how he was given a girl's name:
"My father chose the name.  He was a law student at that time and he was attending a lecture by a visiting Indian judge whose name was Vivian Bose. And if you look strictly in the literature, V-i-v-i-a-n is a boy's name. There is the cricketer Vivian Richards, there was the explorer Vivian Fuchs, and obviously there was this this person who gave a lecture who so impressed my dad that he name me after him. But in more modern times, people usually associate that name with a girl's name. "

Not anyone can play the kind of ad hominem attack that is the trademark of Lee Kuan Yew gutter politics. To do that, one needs a certain degree of gravitas, the type that wusses can't manage too well. Through innuendo and snide remarks, Balakrishnan recently sniped at Wijeysingha ("Eventually, they will have to come out of the closet" - Straits Times, 20 Apr 2011) and Ang Yong Guan (" 'Strange bedfellows’ in SDP team" - Sunday Times, 24 April 2011). Ang himself declared today, "I'm a Christian, but my personal view is that I will respect a person's sexual orientation."

The label “fundamentalist” (even just the term “Christian”) in mainstream Singapore society unfortunately still carries negatively charged connotations of being anti-gay, never mind if Lee Kuan Yew himself has publicly broadcasted his own personal view that some people are genetically destined to be homosexual.  In what could have been construed as a rebuke on Section 377A of the Penal Code (that criminalises sexual relations between men, but not women) Lee actually told a April 2007 weekend meeting with the youth wing of the PAP, "Let's not go around like this moral police ... barging into people's rooms. That's not our business."

Just because Balakrishnan has openly challenged the Oracle doesn't necessary mean he has the cajones to prove his genetic make-up. For all we know, his father was not too convinced about the presence of the Y-chromosome at time of his birth, and decided to err on the side of caution. He has fallen flat on his face before, raging rabidly about how bar-top dancing can kill, only to see it approved by government shortly after.

It is a no-brainer to infer from past actions of the PAP, Christians and gays have been treated as polarised groups, and marginalised as such.  However, Balakrishnan is as good as shooting himself in both feet, if he decides to play the religion card and the homophobic card at one go. Bottomline, is he man enough to declare he doesn't need any of their votes?

Monday, April 25, 2011

War Without Words

Er, I think Seet Ai Mee said it was a pork seller, not fish-monger
PM Lee Hsien Loong told the voters yesterday that this General Election is not about winning the argument i.e. vote first, think later. That's a far cry from what his papa said at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum held on 31 January 2005, "There is nothing to prevent you from pushing your propaganda, to push your programme out either to the students or with the public at large... and if you can carry the ground, if you are right, you win. That's democracy. We're not preventing anybody" .

Still, it's an improvement over Ng Eng Hen alluding to the dire consequences of a freak election result; in party parlance that means an opposition win at the polls. Catherine Lim asked the rhetorical question once, "Suppose a freak election took place; what would the PAP do? Would MM send in the army?" Her query is not that facetious, given what the old man actually articulated, "Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it." (Reuters, 16 Sep 2006)

Ng makes it blatantly plain, "Every election, it is never about just alternative voices in Parliament." Like the son, Ng rubbishes the proud historical moments of our once charismatic leader, "If we say we believe in democracy, if we say that the fabric of a democratic society in one which allows the free play of ideas, which avoids revolution by violence because revolution by peaceful methods of persuasion is allowed, then, in the names of all the gods we have in this country, give that free play a chance to work within the constitutional frame-work. If you do not, then you will face outright opposition, an armed revolt, and eventually an armed victory.  Then the whole social fabric of this society, will collapse." (Hansard, October 4, 1956, Lee Kuan Yew deploring the arrests of trade union and civic leaders)

It is no comfort that Ng, a non-military man, is rattling the sabers instead of his stethoscope. What more to expect from the prima donna generals in their ranks? Like that General Patton wannabe of a brigadier-general, strutting on stage like a North Korean demagogue, who says we won't last longer than the Langfang republic (which happened to be slightly longer than a HDB 99-year-lease). Hello, that was a bunch of coolies working the gold and tin mines of 18th century Borneo. If mighty Qing China could not repel the British Royal Naval warships dispatched by Lord Palmerston, did he really expect them to overwhelm the Dutch maritime command? No wonder PM Lee is asking the voters to stop listening to the crap.

A Test Of MM's Standing

Is that my MP allowance in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?
No, the guy in the picture is not trying to pick MM Lee's pocket while PAP newbie Chan Chun Sing distracts him with an extended hand. Rather, he was helping the 87 year old to stand steadily on his own two feet. There's another on the octogenarian's left rear, waiting to catch the world's oldest candidate running for office, in case he should topple on that side. So much about keeping fit by running (treadmill), cycling (stationary bike) and swimming (private pool).

Chan may need to rephrase his statement when he said, "I don't think we need an election to test MM's standing." He was responding to Socialist Front chief Ng Teck Siong explanation that he had formed a team to contest the Tanjong Pagar GRC to give the residents a chance to vote and "find out the standing of our MM there". MM as in Minister Mentor and not the multi-coloured chocolate candy - latter's popularity is indisputable. This GE 2011 will be the GRC's first contest since it was formed 20 years ago in 1991. Before the series of walkovers that followed the formation of the GRC, in 1988 Lee polled 81.6% against an Independent candidate Gnaguru Thamboo Mylvaganam. Anything less will be a indication of how his fan base has meandered.

Chan was also off the mark when he said elections are not a popularity contest. The guy still thinks he is on the parade ground, where the troops have to salute him even though they are cussing him with expletives like one 24 year old lady caught in an unmoving traffic jam. He should listen real hard to an older and wiser veteran who has been in the trenches. In a moment of candour, Lim Hng Khiang let out, "if the electorate don't vote for us, it's not because we've been lazy or not doing our job, it's because they don't like us. And if they don't like us, then so be it." Give the man a Heineken for his honesty.

Lee himself was seemingly detached from reality when he mumbled, as if his mouth was filled with chocolaty M&Ms, that the 900,000 foreign workers doing jobs that Singaporeans are not willing to do are causing much discomfit. No siree! The real unhappiness is with nice paying jobs that go to foreigners instead of equally qualified local born and bred Singaporeans, for a plethora of lame excuses such as they are handicapped with the demands of reservist training. Ask any recruiting outfit that is honest about their hiring practice. The types that are not afraid to tell the emperor he is not wearing clothes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Behold The Valuer

Commanding more dread than the exorcist, The Valuer cometh
Eyebrows were raised when National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan first announced that government was going to spend $400,000 to come up with a new name for Marina Bay. Mah justified the expenditure by waxing lyrical that it was a process akin to that of parents deciding on the name for their child. There had to be a sense of identity, a strong personality and a feeling of pride, or so claimed the minister then.

Jaws dropped to the floor when the new name was revealed to be Marina Bay. That was after the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and global branding expert Interbrand, supposedly spent countless hours meeting with developers, retailers, restaurateurs and other stakeholders, during which over 400 potential names were considered.

"We started off with (the name) Marina Bay and after looking at everything, the name that really tugged at the heartstrings was in front of us," Mah later explained. "The name itself is not new, but what has been used informally so far has endeared itself to all parties."

A marina is just a basin that has docks, moorings, supplies, and other facilities for small boats. Bay is just a body of water forming an indentation of the shoreline, larger than a cove but smaller than a gulf. What's so endearing about two generic words put together?

Just when you thought you had enough of Mah's version of Orwellian doublespeak, the Minister set heads spinning again by invoking the existence of The Valuer who alone decides how much HDB has to pay for land. In general there are three groups of methodologies for determining value, cost approach, sales comparison approach and the income approach. We are not told what accounting principles The Valuer is guided by, or how market conditions are determined. All we know is that The Valuer is appointed by the Selected President, whose tenure depends on the guy who gave him the recent $890,700 pay rise. At the sole discretion of The Valuer, large sums end up mysteriously in The Reserves, another Secretive Entity. The only part of the web spinning that is transparent to the electorate is that public housing owners are stuck with near private property sticker prices.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Close Encounter Of The Nasty Kind

The Economist (April 23rd-29th 2011) wrote that "the usual triumph of the PAP does not disguise the fact that Singaporeans do feel dissatisfied." The author ventured to say that the PAP may have to revisit some of their long standing policies, "Otherwise the rift between the aspirations of the electorate and the composition of their representatives in parliament may become too wide."

We know too well of the bad policies that cause so much pain and distress, and we suspect PM Lee is cognizant of same. “I think 66 per cent is a very high number. Whether we’ll reach that I can’t say,” lamented the once gung-ho BG, no longer riding on cloud number nine. The Economist predicted the number could dip below 60%. Grasping at straws Lee lashed at the unconverted, "Are you carried away by somebody who’s got a silver tongue but is unsound?"

The reality is that his own Ministers are as much to blame. Silver tongue soothes, acid tongue bites. Read how Lui Tuck Yew single handedly orchestrated an epic fail when he was supposed to work the ground for support.

A Moulmein resident was merely asking why the Minister deserved his vote, when Lui inexplicably flew off the handle, "shot me a look of pure anger, waved his hand about in the air", and "then swung round and stormed off". The worried resident wrote Lui a follow-up in email in case it was a matter of miscommunication, the irony being that the short tempered fellow is actually appointed Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts.

Read what the Minister wrote in reply:
Dear [Name Redacted] ,

i am sure this may not apply to you given that you have now taken the trouble to write this note but unfortunately I encounter some people whose minds are made up and whose main intent seem to be to slow us down in our outreach. And nothing, we say, no explanation we give whether to do with cost of living, etc will ever be good enough.
The pragmatic way to deal with this is simply to disengage at an opportune moment.
Dont worry, it didnt leave a sour note with me nor a poor impression of you.


Lui Tuck Yew

Notice there's enough evidence in the missive to suggest that the belligerent rear Admiral is still on the war-path with anyone who refuses to be cowed by his omnipresence. Note also his strategy when confronted by an adversary, "The pragmatic way to deal with this is simply to disengage at an opportune moment." Which reminds one of the Italian joke: Why do Italian tanks have 5 reverse gears and 1 forward gear. Answer: The forward gear is for when the enemy attacks from behind. Guess Lui bought those submarines for the Navy so that he can hide underwater while the war is raging on above.

Pictures Paint A Thousand Words

The Straits Times is a “state newspaper”, says the Associated Press. The report was carried by Yahoo News Singapore. So what else is new? Day after day, copious articles are produced by partisan writers, who don't even bother to disguise their political slant. Pictures, however, paint a thousand different words.
Here are samples from this morning's rag:
A foretaste of Meet-The-People-Sessions to come
Parting is such sweet sorrow, even for Zorro
Growing older and accepting lower paying job
If you repeat the lie long enough.....
Spoken from the heart.  Thank you, citizen

Friday, April 22, 2011

More Good Years For Foreigners

Maybe he doesn't hear too good. Maybe he has a wad of ear wax the size of the blockage in the drainage canal that Yaacob Ibrahim claimed was the cause of the Orchard Road flood. With Singaporeans already seething with anger about the 1-in-3 proportion of foreigners taking up train space, housing, school/university places and good paying jobs in the market, surely 4-in-10 is not a ratio to be proud of.

PM Lee Hsien Loong was rattling off statistics about the new wafer fab facility, without a clue to the salt he was rubbing into the wound of the festering xenophobic. Of the 1,200 workers at IM Flash Singapore, 6-in-10 are Singaporeans and PRs, and 4-in-10 are foreigners. Discounting the number of jobs that went to PRs (number not disclosed), local born and bread make up only 5-in-10 or half the employment force - or worse. Which means that when you walk into the Woodlands plant, the likelihood of running into a Singaporean face is 1-in-2, or less. That's what he means by calibrating the influx of foreigners? Increase the number of foreigners coming into the country instead of reducing it?

Top of everybody's bitch is not about foreigners, it's about rising prices that seem to refuse to be curbed by the MAS strategy of "deliberate appreciation" of the SingDollar. While acknowledging that cost of living (issues) has been there a long time, his own recollection is that it was not at the top of every body's mind in 2006. Hah! That explains why train fares, electrical tariffs, GST, property tax ecetera were hiked after the 2006 election. Makes you wonder who supplies him the rose-tinted-glasses he is gazing out of.

Despite of being in the cabinet for umpteen years, all the man can offer is that "We're doing what we can." Looks like the PAP newbies riding coattails into parliament are not the only ones undergoing on-the-job-training  - at taxpayers' expense.

Suddenly, the words of Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang sound so very ominous:
"But if the PAP makes a wrong judgement, you get the wrong person to be Prime Minister, we are all in trouble."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Toxic Assets of Mah Bow Tan

Minister of National Development Mah Bow Tan may not appreciate it, but when he states that lowering the prices of new HDB housing will impact the prices of existing one million flats, he is opening a can of worms. He was responding to Workers' Party's stand against the present government's asset enhancement policy and blaming HDB for pushing up flat prices.

First a primer on the US subprime crisis which triggered the financial meltdown of 2007-2008. Borrowers with weak credit histories and dubious repayment capacity were encouraged by financial institutions to take on difficult mortgages. The sweetener was long-term trend of rising housing prices, and risks of a market downturn was never in the equation. Like everything else, the property market has boom and bust cycles. When home prices did fail, consumer wealth evaporated, and pulled down the banking institutions and their fancy refinancing cocktails.

What Mah Bow Tan has been flogging to the market is the housing equivalent of the toxic Lehman products, instruments packaging financial risk in esoteric derivatives and complex collateralized debt obligations. Seduced by promises of high returns of a resale market, potential home owners ignored or were ignorant of the risks of housing and credit bubbles. The scam is more pernicious in the Singapore context since the CPF fund which is the lifeline for retirement is depleted by 20 to 25 year loan repayments. Asset rich, cash poor, those caught in the ponzi scheme can either starve to death in the highrise pigeon holes or head for the MRT tracks. Now you know why LTA are in no hurry to install the safety barriers.

For the new HDB pricing to work, the current resale schemes may have to be jetisoned, hopefully along with the Minister. After all, HDB flats are on lease, outright purchase was never in the contract in the first place. HDB flats should be for residential purpose, not speculative intent. You want o gamble, go to the casinos.  If the flat owners decide to the relinquish the unit, say for an upgrade to accommodate a growing family, it can be resold to HDB at cost plus interest, equivalent to what CPF demands when the loan quantum is returned to the CPF account. And what kind of numbers can we expect? According to a link provided by a reader, the average cost to build a flat unit ranges from $110,752 (Jian Huang Construction, 465 Dwelling Units at Jurong West) to $179,314 (Tiong Seng Contractors, 1072 Dwelling Units at Punggol West). Which is significantly different from Mah's number of $300,000 a flat. The Workers' Party's proposal is definitely worthy of consideration.

Separating Pearls From Swine

“He now turns up and asks Singaporeans to elect him as a Member of Parliament. Surely, voters have a right to know... if such a candidate can identify with the aspirations of Singaporeans and has a stake in our future?” When he wrote that, Ng Eng Hen was not referring to the newcitizen doctor who thought lightly about his father's illegitimate incarceration or the corporate vamp who had her citizenship approved "within weeks, .. no,no, within days". (“Writer’s query on Chen reasonable, says PAP”, ST 19 April).

We'll let Ms Sylvia Lim set the record straight:

"The fact is that Show Mao’s roots are here. His parents have lived here since 1972. His only sibling and her family are here. He attended our schools, and voluntarily underwent National Service as an infantry officer before he became a citizen. Though he has been abroad due to the nature of his work, he has returned to Singapore typically 4 to 5 times a year, and made contributions to Singapore such as serving on the Advisory Board of the Singapore Management University Law School. He has also said that his wife and children will be joining him in Singapore permanently, and has committed to continuing political work here, regardless of the outcome of the elections.
By again raising the question of Show Mao being outside Singapore for a long time, is the PAP signaling to Singaporeans that the return of a successful Singaporean is not welcome? Or is his loyalty being questioned simply because he is with WP?"

Even George Yeo tried to run down the WP candidate, saying "I listened to him and asked myself, if I were away from Singapore for 30 years..." Yeo forgot that his paymaster has been in Singapore most of his life (except for those years in overseas universities which were counted as part of his career years in the SAF), and still the guy didn't know cockles are never served with mee siam. That's the difference in calibre between the party candidates. You can bet Tan Wah Piow or Chia Thye Poh knows more about the aspirations of Singaporeans than these PAP groupthinkers.

Reflecting on the 2006 episode with James Gomez, Yeo said "I think the PAP overplayed it, and overplayed it to Aljunied GRC's cost." Expect more of the same, some guys just never learn. It has to be the arrogance that is blinding them from  the damage they have wrought with cost of living, housing/transport issues, foreign workers, and general incompetence in governance. Not an enviable track record at all, at Aljunied or elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Legacy Of SM Goh

At Hainan, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was asked by China's CCTV if he had inherited his legacy from his predecessor Lee Kuan Yew, just as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong inherited his. Goh Chok Tong said LKY never talked about his legacy and "I never talk about my legacy". But his own goal, when he took over as PM in 1990, was "to keep Singapore going and going". Well, people like Seet Ai Mee may remember differently: "He scored his own goal".

On the eve of announcement of the Polling Day, Goh declared "Ground may not be sweet for GE". In a nutshell he admitted that the government has failed to address the rising cost of living, despite all the talk about keeping the Singapore dollar high to fight off imported inflation.

He even criticised his own party's manifesto unveiled on Sunday, which was painted with such broad strokes that it spelled out no clear solutions for our country's ills. "I frankly would like an elaboration on the challenges facing Singapore, because I do believe we are going into a period of uncertainties." He was quick to highlight that the manifesto, the strategy, the new media campaign, messages "are all done by PM and his team," neatly absolving himself responsibility for the end result.

He washed his hands again in saying that the choice of PAP's "rather lightweight character" (his descriptive) was due to the "process the ruling party employs in selecting candidates." Summing up his assessment, Goh said "Will she be an asset or liability? I won't know until the results are out." Not exactly the ringing endorsement you expect from the leader of the GRC team she's being field in. Worse, he claims "the opposition is going to find the weakest link". Netizens may have critiqued her fashion fetishes, but they never stooped to call her weak.

On the issue of importing foreign talent, Goh confirmed how the policy was kept secret from the public, "So this trade-off (number of foreigners versus Singaporeans being squeezed out of good jobs) is made, but people won't know." Goh also said the Government allowed the Singapore dollar to strengthen, "despite knowing full well that it would affect the country's export industries and growth." Enough already, which side is he on anyway?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Day In The Life

Vivian Balakrishnan claims that just because some volunteers stick around him at grassroots events, he's no fraud, "If I'm a fraud, or if I'm selfish, or if I'm incompetent, they're are not going to hang around with me." What this emperor with no clothes on fail to fathom is that the folks that do hang around him are those in desperate need for a handout. Like the grassroots volunteer who spent hours accompanying him for block visits, only to tell him afterwards that his wife was in the hospital with advanced leukaemia - you can bet the doc didn't reach into his own wallet to help the man out with the bills.

On incompetence: "I can tell you honestly on the ground, it's not an issue," was his take on the charges of YOG being riddled with incompetence and mismanagement." Sure, people are now concerned largely with rising cost of living and the impact of foreign workers invading our shores, but they sure haven't forgotten about the $300+ million blown away. If he can't handle a one-time sports event, how can he be entrusted with longer term national issues?

On being selfish: How many times did MP Lily Neo had to badger him before he would relent on an extra $40 per month for the destitute? Q.E.D.

On being a fraud: One definition goes this way - A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities. For simplicity's case, let's focus on we get for the millions invested in a minister (about $5,000 a day), specifically the productivity output in a typical day:
4am: I'm up to feed my 5-year-old.I've done the night feed for all 4 of my children.
7am: Up again, to send third child 18 to school. Read newspapers, clear first round of e-mails.
9am: Meetings at the MCYS office.
12.30pm: Lunch - sometimes with out friends. My friends are used to getting SMSes at the last minute... I make it a point to stay in touch.
1.30pm: Parliament
5pm: Parliament adjourned, rushed home. I try to spend some time, either tea or early dinner with the family.
7pm: Head to constituency for meeting with grassroots leaders, followed by Meet-The-People Session.
12:30am: End of MPS. Head home. My wife staysp up for me. (At night) I surf the Internet, clear a few more e-mails. Sometimes, if I have time, I go running, 5 to 8 km around the neighborhood.
2am: Sleep

The typical taxi driver must feel real guilty about driving only 10 hour shifts to pick up fares. Or the chicken rice seller standing on his feet the whole day, day after day. Even the Ah Soh picking up empty cans and cardboard must surely shed a tear for the hard working minister.

Monday, April 18, 2011

About Time To Come Clean

It was Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang who first pointed out that profits from land sales for construction of HDB flats end up at the Singapore Land Authority. The money from land sales on long lease is not included as part of the budget for current government spending, but goes into the mysterious reserves of the balance sheet, Low cited a previous official reply in Parliament, the black box that President Ong Teng Cheong was not allowed to query.

On Saturday, Mah Bow Tan explained the mechanism in play, “This is because all land is sold at prices set by the Chief Valuer, and the land sale proceeds go into the reserves. When he says that I’m going to finance this by lowering the value of land, basically what he’s doing is taking money from the reserves. It is not a matter of left pocket to right pocket, it’s a matter of taking, dipping into the reserves.” The administration of these national reserves remain opaque except to some undisclosed individuals.

The prices set by the Chief Valuer are presumably at or close to market rates. This was a precedent set by Dhanabalan when he was Minister of National Development, using his perverse logic that land allocated for public housing could have been easily sold to the private sector for pure profit, the difference representing a market opportunity cost. This is a far departure from Lim Kim San's original noble mission of providing affordable housing for the masses, with land acquired at zero or nominal cost.

The question that arises from Mah's revelation is where the profit for the land sales is posted. As it appears, HDB is made to look like paying a high cost for land, with the huge profits shelved to SLA, the large sums of which must be mighty tempting for its officers, especially those with a predilection for fast cars. Either way, if the effect is to boost the GDP statistic, we can see where the slippery road leads. As Ministers are paid a bonus pegged to the GDP number (8 months if the GDP grows by 10% or more), they have a vested interest to make this figure look good.

While the analogy may not be perfect, the games accountants play have a horrific parallel in corporate history.

The collapse of Enron was due to the finagling of Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow who used mark-to-market accounting whereby anticipated future profits were tabulated as if real today. An accounting entry referred to as Special Purpose Entity (the black box, a term CEO Jeffrey Skilling himself admitted) was devised to misrepresent earnings and modify the balance sheet to portray a favorable depiction of its performance. The artificial earnings boosted share prices, translated into bonus payouts for its directors and executives. Enron's shareholders lost $74 billion in the 4 years before the company's ultimate bankruptcy.

When Wall Street Analyst Richard Grubman complained that Enron was the only company that could not release a balance sheet along with its earnings statements, Skilling had replied "Well, thank you very much, we appreciate that . . . asshole." ("Conspiracy Of Fools: A True Story", Kurt Eichenwald). It is imperative, for the sake of the people and the nation, that HDB's books be opened for public scrutiny. The alternative is just too ugly to contemplate. The only upside is that a Minister could move to Changi Prison.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Do As He Says, Not As He Does

Singapore's resident population grew from 2 million in 1979 to 3.7 million in 2009. Add 1.25 million non-residents and 0.53 million PRs, and there's 4.99 million on 720 sq km of space in 2009. The planners think the population can go up to 6.5 million by reclaiming about 15 percent more land. For economic and demographic reasons, we are told, it's breed or die. The problem started when the present government, without consultation with the people, did their own thing and shipped in foreigners on the quiet. The impact of this policy took centre stage in the Chinese edition of the Question Time With The Prime Minister.

Lee Kuan Yew says we must accept that whoever joins us is part of us, his definition of a Singaporean, an American concept. An acceptance of multiracialism, a tolerance of people of different races, languages, cultures, religions. That's what will stand out against our neighbours. That's our job. Personally, he has his own set of rules, as recounted to the writers.
"Supposing an African black were to marry your daughter, what is your reaction? You will cheer or you will tell your daughter, look, think again, right? I have no qualms in telling you that I'll tell her "you're mad".

In fact a Jewish doctor wanted to marry my daughter, when she was working in MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was working as a neurology resident). So my wife said, are you sure that will last, an American Jew? She thought it over and she said, "Yes, that's true." It will last for a few years, then move on.

Supposing it had been a Chinese doctor from China or from Taiwan. Well, my grandson, the PM's son, brought home this young lady. She was on her way to Japan on a scholarship, so it's more or less committed, you know, coming to Singapore to meet the family. He brought her to meet me. We say, "OK, that's not bad." There's no unhappiness.

Supposing he'd brought home a white girl. Are you sure you want to do that? But what woudl be my reaction be? I'd say, think it over carefully. It's so much of a struggle. Right? I mean, it is an instinctive reaction."

At his 80th birthday in 2003, Kwa Geok Choo said of her husband, "I read somewhere that 'few elder statesmen can command as much respect and condemnation simultaneously as Lee'. I will leave it to these writers to argue which one has most misunderstood Kuan Yew." Judging by recent utterances, in print or on American television, the fog of misunderstanding, if it existed at all, has been dissipated. The issue now is whether the electorate can stomach any more of his Hard Truths.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pork Barrel Politics Not Halal

Plain porridge or abalone?
SMU Law student Koh and Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Liu both raised the topic of discriminatory upgrading at Opposition wards again at the Channel NewsAsia's "live" forum. This time, albeit without the mockery of dismissive laughter, PM Lee Hsien Loong stubbornly reiterated his unwavering stand: education, healthcare and defence cover everybody. Since these national programmes are also funded from the same pool of public funds as is the upgrading programme, does it mean taxpayers resident in Opposition wards will also be allocated the bottom of the queue for education, healthcare and defence after the election is over?

Baby boomers recall it was Teh Cheang Wan who first riled Singaporeans with the threat to withdraw emergency lift services if citizens from those wards check off the wrong box in the ballot paper. Lee Kuan Yew rose to his defence in parliament, saying that the Minister may not be able to string a complete sentence in grammatical English, but he "had a good mind". That was before Teh was investigated in November 1986 by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau for accepting two bribes of $400,000 each in 1981 and 1982. Too bad the good mind was applied to personal asset enhancement.

Then in 1996, despite being returned to power on polling day thanks to a convenient walkover, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong threatened to turn other constituencies into slums should their votes go against the PAP. The foul was so vile, US Secretary of State Madeleine Korbel Albright sent off a note of rebuke.

When PM Lee insists that "there must be an incentive to vote for the Government", he was resorting to what is termed "pork barrel politics". It refers to spending that is intended to benefit constituents in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes. The principle is the same, the "pork" involves funding for government programs whose economic or service benefits are focused on a selected area but whose costs are borne by taxpayers all across the land.

In the Philippines, legislators are allocated large sums of the annual national budget in a program called the Priority Development Assistance Fund. Politicians often misuse their allocations for selfish purposes, particularly through "kickbacks" and commissions from their projects.

The Finnish politician uses siltarumpupolitiikka (culvert politics) in reference to national politicians concentrating on small local matters, such as construction of culverts and other public works (our equivalent of lift upgrading and covered walkways) at the politician's home municipality, and Romanians have "pomeni electorale" (literally, "electoral alms"), while the Polish kiełbasa wyborcza means literally "election sausage". The Czech předvolební guláš (pre-election goulash) refer to free dishes of goulash served to potential voters during election campaigns. Ah, so that's where the idea of free abalone porridge came from!

The second volume of Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs was called "From Third World To First". Maybe the next volume will be titled, "From First World To Third".

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Indians Are Coming! The Indians Are Coming!

A participant at the TV "Live Forum" asked PM Lee Hsien Loong a simple question, if foreigners are integrating well into Singapore society. In typical evasive mode, Lee replied that the PAP regime is "controlling" the rate of influx of foreigners and "monitoring" how well they are integrating into local society. The fellow never gives a "yes" or "no" answer.

The kopitiam crowd knows it, Minister Mentor confirms it, the enclaves are already in place. The new arrivals are thumbing their noses at government initiatives to spread them out. MM minced no words: if they congregate, they buy second hand homes, resale homes and stick together, that will be a problem. Having said that, he concedes defeat, "But when the Indian immigrants buy condos in the East Coast, we can't stop them. So there will be a disproportionate number of North Indians among dwellers in the East Coast." Stories abound of Indian middle managers owning 2 or 3 units, hoping to flip them for a quick profit. So what happens if the property market takes a dive? "We'll just go back to India!" said one IT "specialist". The government which enforces integration with a heavy hand via the quota system in the HDB heartlands are giving up without a fight when it comes to the "high class" Indians.

The lesser mortals of local Indians speaking Tamil will have to contend with Little India, while uppity foreign Indian types will be conversing in Hindi at the up-market side of town. And never the twain shall meet. So much for social integration. If you still have doubts, listen to what MM said: "The Indians come from the north and even those from Tamil Nadu consider themselves superior to the Singaporean Indians. So again there's no mix."

And then there's this serious threat to social cohesion when super rich foreigners, the crowd the government is most eager to import, indulge in ostentatious displays of wealth. The water front homes at Sentosa Cove, the F1s races, all these were never meant for the homegrown Singaporeans struggling to cope with HDB loan payments. Still, MM wants to rein them in, he even has bosom pal Ong Beng Seng "trying hard to get more of the jetsetters to attend them F1".

How PM Lee can claim Singaporeans understand the "rational argument" for foreigners but not the "emotional buy-in" is beyond our comprehension. Perhaps he should provide real data how much tangible growth, for Singaporeans, was generated by these aliens - and we don't mean the spike in property prices.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shedding Tears For Singapore

Pass the Kleenex, please
 The reporter was merely expressing Singaporeans' worry that there might be group think coming out from policy makers, and addressed the question to the 3 spanking new PAP candidates on display. But Lim Boon Heng decided to take it on himself, and stated vehemently there was no group think in the casino decision.

The tears came like a flash flood after uttering the words, "For me it was a very difficult process to accept the casino". He also said he saw wages stagnating for the lower income group, some even falling, due to implementation of globalisation policies. Perhaps the Minister had personally witnessed a relative, or friend of a friend, haplessly snared by the social evil of gambling. Or someone caught in the double whammy of job or income loss, and had to resort to the casinos as would a drowning man grasping at straws. Only a cold hearted heathen would fail to be moved.

Then again, he might have interpreted "group think" as an euphemism for "yes-men", given the unsettled debate about diversity in the party ranks. At age 63, Lim would surely feel sullied if his 31 years of office should go down in history as a mendicant lackey. On the other hand, with Goh Chok Tong making threats (Straits Times, April 6, 2002) like, "If you sing Jailhouse Rock with your electric guitar when others are playing Beethoven, you are out of order. The whip must be used on you," Lim had little choice but to fall in line if he valued his paycheck. Besides, what does a Minister Without Portfolio exactly do to earn a performance bonus?

Han Fook Kwang presented the recurring issue to Lee Kuan Yew in this way: "One concern is that with such high pay, ministers will become beholden to the PM and afraid to go against the PM's wishes because there's too much to lose." We get a hint about the possibility when Lim said, "The trouble is that if you have a public debate on some matters that are very sensitive, somebody will have to lose face." No prizes for guessing who that thin skinned somebody might be.

Lee Kuan Yew's counter argument to Han was that if a prime minister uses his patronage to keep a minister obedient, he will end up with a dub Cabinet. That's the Hard Truth (page 125), and that should explain the proliferation of duds over the last few years. Really, Singaporeans should be doing more of the crying.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Watch His Lips

The book, launched on January 21, was based on a series of interviews conducted between December 2008 and October 2009. It includes a DVD of edited video clips.

In the aftermath of a storm of protests from Singapore’s Malay-Muslim communities, the following statement was issued on  8 March 2011:
"I made this one comment on the Muslims integrating with other communities probably two or three years ago. Ministers and MPs, both Malay and non-Malay, have since told me that Singapore Malays have indeed made special efforts to integrate with the other communities, especially since 9/11, and that my call is out of date. I stand corrected."

The astute among us noted that there was no clear apology. It smacked of Wee Siew Kim's first meek attempt to make amends, and turned out to be taking sides with and justifying his daughter's venom.

The latest interview of 28 March 2011 with Charlie Rose confirms the betrayal of the trust which Singaporeans, of all races and religions, have placed in his words.

LKY: “I said in that book (“Hard Truths”) that I think that Malays, that Muslims should be relaxed and eat together with the others.”
CR: “And it created a firestorm and your son said, the Prime Minister, differed with you.”
LKY: “That’s right.”
CR: “So, were you right or your son?”
LKY: *laughs*; “He has to be right because he is the Prime Minister.”
CR: “But … but?”
LKY: “But you ask the average person in the street whether what I’ve said is true.”
CR: “And they would say?”
LKY: “You ask them.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Elites At The Party

When Samantha told Radio 91.3 deejays that heartlanders should stay out of Holland "V", many were reminded of another piece of caustic verbiage from the daughter of MP Wee Siew Kim (Ang Mo Kio GRC): "please, get out of my elite uncaring face."

The RJC student castigated blogger Derek Wee as "one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country" when all he did was to express empathy for the fallen fortunes of a taxi driver ferrying him to the airport.

But the real atrocity came about when daddy "apologised" for her "rantings of an 18-year-old among friends":
"What she said did come across as insensitive. The language was stronger than what most people could take.
I think if you cut through the insensitivity of the language, her basic point is reasonable, that is, that a well-educated university graduate who works for a multinational company should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.
Nonetheless, I have counselled her to learn from it. Some people cannot take the brutal truth and that sort of language, so she ought to learn from it."

Well the brutal truth was soon unleashed on him, and he had to apologise a second time, this round directly and without reservation to Mr Derek Wee and members of the outraged public.

Not exactly the kind of epithet to be treasured for posterity. But that's about all he had to show for two whole terms in parliament. The irony is that PM Lee, in announcing the premature departure from politics of the 50 year old, sang his praises as one who can provide "help for those in need of encouragement to stand on their own two feet." Tell that to the taxi driver.

But you needn't worry about his economic prospects, not with his track record in ST Engineering - president of Europe division 2001-2002, defence business 2002-2004, and deputy chief executive 2004-2009. If ever there was a classic example of a part-time member of parliament, this has to be it.

His daughter's blog is no longer in existence, but preserved on the net for nostalgia and as a reminder of how these elites think:
Thursday, October 19, 2006
mom's friend sent her some blog post by some bleeding stupid 40-year old singaporean called derek wee (WHY do all the idiots have my surname why?!) whining about how singapore is such an insecure place, how old ppl (ie, 40 and above) fear for their jobs, how the pool of foreign "talent" (dismissively chucked between inverted commas) is really a tsunami that will consume us all (no actually he didn't say that, he probably said Fouren Talern Bery Bad.), how the reason why no one wants kids is that they're a liability in this world of fragile ricebowls, how the government really needs to save us from inevitable doom but they aren't because they are stick-shoved-up-ass elites who have no idea how the world works, yadayadayadayada.

i am inclined - too much, perhaps - to dismiss such people as crackpots. stupid crackpots. the sadder class. too often singaporeans - both the neighborhood poor and the red-taloned socialites - kid themselves into believing that our society, like most others, is compartmentalized by breeding. ridiculous. we are a tyranny of the capable and the clever, and the only other class is the complement.

sad derek attracted more than 50 comments praising him for his poignant views, joining him in a chorus of complaints that climax at the accusation of lack of press freedom because his all-too-true views had been rejected by the straits times forum. while i tend to gripe about how we only have one functioning newspaper too, i think the main reason for its lack of publication was that his incensed diatribe was written in pathetic little scraps that passed off as sentences, with poor spelling and no grammar.

derek, derek, derek darling, how can you expect to have an iron ricebowl or a solid future if you cannot spell?

if you're not good enough, life will kick you in the balls. that's just how things go. there's no point in lambasting the government for making our society one that is, i quote, "far too survival of fittest". it's the same everywhere. yes discrimination exists, and it is sad, but most of the time if people would prefer hiring other people over you, it's because they're better. it's so sad when people like old derek lament the kind of world that singapore will be if we make it so uncertain. go be friggin communist, if uncertainty of success offends you so much - you will certainly be poor and miserable. unless you are an arm-twisting commie bully, which, given your whiny middle-class undereducated penchant, i doubt.

then again, it's easy for me to say. my future isn't certain but i guess right now it's a lot brighter than most people's. derek will read this and brand me as an 18-year old elite, one of the sinners who will inherit the country and run his stock to the gutter. go ahead. the world is about winners and losers. it's only sad when people who could be winners are marginalised and oppressed. is dear derek starving? has dear derek been denied an education? has dear derek been forced into child prostitution? has dear derek had his clan massacred by the government?

i should think not. dear derek is one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country, and in this world. one of those who would prefer to be unemployed and wax lyrical about how his myriad talents are being abandoned for the foreigner's, instead of earning a decent, stable living as a sales assistant. it's not even about being a road sweeper. these shitbags don't want anything without "manager" and a name card.

please, get out of my elite uncaring face.

Sour Grapes

It started when Goh Chok Tong said that ideally, MPs should serve at least 3 terms, but with MPs who are ministers serving 4 to 6 terms, it was difficult to meet the party's renewal target. As a result, some MPs who served 3 terms or fewer would have to retire to make way for new candidates. So what is he implying? Good guys are let being go before their official retirement age, while deadwood are allowed to cruise on past their expiry date? Goh admitted that, despite its efforts, PAP has not been successful in getting people from the private sector. "We should have 1 to 2 people from the private sector in their 40s, then there's diversity," he said.

As Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng is a 6 term relic, going on 7, it was natural for him to go on the defensive. Although 9 of the 15 PAP candidates unveiled are from the public sector or labour movement, Wong insists Goh is wrong and claims diversity still can be found in the ruling party's line-up. Instead of facing up to the public versus private discrepancy, Wong attempetd to redefine diversity as people with different experiences. However, when he mouthed, "Certainly people from the private sector will play an important contribution. But when we choose people, they too must be willing to come in," Wong inadvertently confirmed what Goh revealed - the PAP cup of tea was a turn off for those in the private sector.

Lee Hsien Loong tried another angle in damage control by asserting that those in the private sector may not be able to adapt to the thinking and culture of the civil servants. Their contacts may also be different from those of the bureaucrats, or so he said. Sounds pretty much like the fox in the Aesop's Fable who was not able to reach the grapes and declared them to be sour, beguiling itself of its disappointment by saying, "The grapes are sour, and not ripe as I thought."

Meanwhile the opposition parties seem to be faring better in gathering the juicy fruit, and will probably be just as successful in producing new wine for the people.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Insurance Definitely Required

When Milan Fischer from Canada, 68, surely one of the oldest YOG volunteers in the Olympic Village, was taken to the medical station for a leg cramp, he would end up costing the Singapore taxpayers a nifty sum . He had a 4-hour open-heart operation for an aortic dissection,  remained in hospital for two weeks, and stayed with wife Beata at the Fairmount Singapore for about a month to rest before flying home. We were told all medical expenses and lodgings for the extended medical holiday were paid for by the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee, presumably signed off by Vivian Balakrishnan.

Meanwhile 14 -year-old Thai student Peneakchanasak Nitcharee lies in Tan Tock Seng hospital, both young legs severed by a MRT train. Her parents have to make their own way from home town Trang in southern Thailand, and catch a plane from there to Singapore. Transport Minister Raymond Lim is keeping awfully quiet about the lack of safety measures at the Ang Mo Kio station which contributed to the amputation of both limbs. He's probably afraid to admit liability and having to pick up even part of the hospital tab. It would appear not all ministers have equal access to the cookie jar.

That kind of disparity should knock the wind of DPM Teo Chee Hean's arguments about the need for an insurance policy. Teo was attempting to belittle the Workers' Party call to vote opposition as an insurance against the failings of the PAP. This is one premium Singaporeans are willing to pay, considering the financial exposure of the one party dominance which allows them to dispense taxpayers' funds without accountability. The list of abuses is long, and the YOG over budget is but one glaring example. Not forgotten is Mah Bow Tan's extravagance of spending $400,000 to rename Marina Bay. Lee Kuan Yew claims that the present team costs less than what Mindef paid for an F15 fighter jet, but exactly why we need such a fancy plane was never up for debate. Do you know that RSAF purchased 400 aircraft to to protect 710 sq km of land? Wanton profligacy is only one issue, how they came up with the magic population number of 6 million without provision of supporting infrastructure is another. You don't even want to get started on affordable housing for the masses.

Retired top civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow once called for an alternate leadership that would keep the current leaders on their toes and stave off inevitable decline. Accusing fellow civil servants of "a particular brand of Singapore elite arrogance" and "believing our own propaganda", he said that unless Lee "allows serious political challenges to emerge from the alternative elite out there, the incumbent elite will just coast along. At the first sign of a grassroots revolt, they will probably collapse." If an insider has such concerns, is there still doubt for an insurance policy to be in place?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Greed Is Good, For Some Guys

In 1989, Goh Chok Tong was explaining to parliament why it was difficult to attract talented youngsters into politics. Senior bankers make about US$60,000 a month, he claimed, while the Prime Minister himself made only about $10,000 a month. Singapore would be in trouble, Goh said, if ministers could not equal the pay of bank directors. (Derek Davies, foreword for "Confucius Confounded: The Analects of Lee Kuan Yew).

Fast forward to 2011, when PM Lee Hsien Loong quoted Chief Justice Rehnquist as supposedly having said, "You are going to have a very serious constitutional problem because the senior judge sitting on the bench hearing the case with junior lawyers arguing in front of him is paid less than the junior lawyers on Wall Street. Where do you think the talent will go and what do you think the consequences will be for our system?"

Frankly, Wall Street bankers, or lawyers, are hardly the role models for young, idealistic youths starting out on a career. Unless the intent is to groom a generation of Gordon Gekkos, the junk bond trader who's best remembered for his infamous mantra, "Greed Is Good". Wall Street lawyers, and their ethics, were also richly featured in the collapse of Enron.

Lee Kuan Yew had problems figuring out Paul Volcker (former chairman of The Federal Reserve, 1979-1987, chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board under Obama administration). By Lee's own assessment, he's a very able man. He had a very small salary. Lee once asked him, "Why do you do this?"  He said, "In Princeton we were nurtured to be of value to our society." ("Hard Truths", pg 123)

Apparently even when Volcker retired, he didn't go and make money (write books, lecture circuit, all the things that PM said Americans do after office). He's on the board of the LKY School for free. In Indonesia he was on the advisory council, chairman, with Lee, for free. (Lee did not disclose how much he himself was paid)

Paul Volcker must be an enigma for characters like the Father, Son and holy(cow!) Goh. They probably won't be inviting him for tea any time soon. His principles could be more contagious than H1N1.

Paul Volcker commenting on atrocious Wall Street pay checks

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's All About The Money, Really

She is too young and innocent for the brawl of the hustings, so her minders ("handlers" may infer she's some kind of female dog, not nice) are teaching her to reach for the Party bag of dirty tricks. Specifically, the recent amendment to the Parliamentary Elections Act in March to include a penalty of a fine or jail term of up to 12 months, or both, for anyone who publishes false statements about the personal character or conduct of a candidate "for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate." A good example would be labelling Tang Liang Hong (Chinese: 邓亮洪; pinyin: Dèng Liànghóng) as anti-Christian, a Chinese chauvinist, and a dangerous man during the epic Cheng San electoral battle of 1997.

Lee Kuan Yew has his own attitude about such niceties. One former detainee recalled that he had challenged the Prime Minister, to whom he had been quite close, for describing him in public as a communist while knowing full well he was not. Apparently, Lee's reply was a lame "You shouldn't be upset - that's politics". (James Minchin, "No Man Is An Island", pg 217)

More interesting is how Lee feels about the Internet "noise" referred to derogatorily by George Yeo, Lui Tuck Yew, Shanmugam et al. What's most illuminating about the following exchange on the subject in "Hard Truths" (pg 89-90) is that all those lawsuits against The Economist, International Herald Tribune etc, were motivated by monetary considerations:

Q: You talked earlier about how, you know, if the mainstream media continues to publish untruths you will go after them if it's libellous.
A: Yes, of course.

Q: But at the same time, what's already out there on the Internet is defamatory, far more damaging.
A: What's out on the Internet everybody knows can be utterly scurrilous and no action can be taken, because it's very difficult.

Q: Some of them are very open about their identity.
A: But they are worthless people, they've got no money. You take them on, you waste money and then what will you get in compensation? Nothing.

Q: But doesn't what they say chip away at the credibility and the integrity of government?
A: No, I don't think so. After a while people understand it's just rambling and ranting on the Internet.

Q: Precisely because people know the record of the PAP government, do you need to nail every lie to protect your reputation at all cost?
A: Put that question to the new leaders. I defended my position tooth and nail. I succeeded. I fought against the media in Singapore and internationally. I won because I've persuasive powers. I can speak to the people over the blather of the media. In a way, I'm like a local Ronald Reagan. And I deliver. When I say I'll do something, they know I'm going to do it. So when I say I'm going to fix that guy, he will be fixed. Let's make no bones about it. I carry my own hatchet. If you take liberties with me, I'll deal with you. I look after myself because when you enter a blind alley with the communists, only one person comes out alive and I have come out alive. So, I'm not afraid of going into an alley with anybody, let alone the foreign press. What can they do to me? Can they influence my votes? They can't.

Stupid As Stupid Gets

The segment you may have missed out on national tv
Mr Seah Yin Hwa, NUS engineering student, prepared his ambush well. He started off by restating the injustice we all know too well: opposition-held wards are denied upgrading funds sourced from a common pool of taxpayers' contributions. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, graduated with First Class Honours form Cambridge University etc, etc, bit the bait: "Your question is, why is the opposition ward not treated at least as good, or maybe better than the PAP ward? And the answer is that there has to be a distinction. Because the PAP wards supported the Government and the policies which delivered these good things."

Then Seah delivered the T.K.O.: "So, having said that, can I pay less tax, and maybe take one or two years off my NS?"

Stumped for a couple of seconds, Lee tried to wipe the pie off his face with canned laughter. Words need not be wasted on his ridiculous riposte about prioritised defence - coming from a brigadier general at that. Rescue had to come from the non-combatant moderator, "Okay... Can we have the next question?"

In one significant moment, the duplicity of his line of politics was laid bare. No amount of lipstick on a pig will whiten the party's uniform again. As Lady Macbeth would lament, "All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand."

One is reminded of how Goh Chok Tong was also rendered speechless by student Mr Lim Zi Rui's utterance at the NTU Ministerial Forum on night of 29 October 2010, "I feel that there is a dilution of the Singapore spirit in youth... We don't really feel comfortable in our country anymore." Even Goh had to admit, "If this is happening, it is very serious." The message affected him sufficiently to add, "If the majority feel they don't belong here, then we have a fundamental problem. Then I would ask myself: What am I doing here? Why should I be working for people who don't feel they belong over here?"

The $64 question is whether Lee has half the EQ of Goh to appreciate what transpired at the NUS Forum.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lie-To-The-People Sessions

Victim of budget constraint?
A member of parliament earns his keep by attending the meet-the-people-sessions (MPS) , and showing up for televised parliamentary debates. The television cameras should be aimed at the MPS instead, where the true character of the elected representative is often unmasked.

Riverdale Drive resident reported the problem to the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council one year ago, about water dripping on residents collecting mail from letterboxes. The HDB representative had inspected the premises and told them it was toilet water from a second floor. Asked why it still rains shit water, MP Michael Palmer outright lied,"sometimes, due to budget constraints, projects take time to implement".

The 16 town councils manage more than $1 billion in sinking funds. Prior to the financial meltdown of 2008, Aljunied Town Council alone had $84 million in its sinking fund. It stashed away so much cash, they parked $44 million with investment bankers, an increase of about 33 per cent over the $30 million in 2005/2006. Rather than meet mundane contractors to fix leaking ceilings, they preferred to convene with (and be feted by) fund managers about esoteric derivatives and Collateralized Debt Obligations. Holland-Bukit Panjang and Pasir Ris-Punggol parted with about $12 million and were taken to the cleaners with troubled structured products like Lehman Minibonds and Merrill Lynch Jubilee Series 3.

But oh, were they were prompt to take a man to court for S&C Arrears of $432! In 2009 Mr Lim Beo Thiam, a 52 year old out of job for 18 months and missing part of a leg through diabetes, wrote to ST Forum (30 September) about how Jalan Besar Town Council piled on court penalties and late payment charges that ballooned to excess of $3,000.

The Marina Bay Sands gambling joint was completed months ahead of time, Vivian Balakrishnan spared no expense to ram through his pet YOG project, and town councils have a "budget constraint"? Surely Palmer has to be stretching the limits of his party's credibility. Next, Transport Minister Raymond Lim will be saying budget constraints delayed the installation of screen doors at the Ang Mo Kio MRT station. Tell that to the parents of the 14-year-old Thai national who fell onto the tracks. To date, only 15 out of 36 above-ground stations are installed with half-height platform screen doors, because SMRT claims "installation work is limited to just 2 to 3 hours each night".