Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The SAF Scholar Who Fell From Grace

It's the kind of morality tale that makes you scratch your head and ask aloud, why? The army captain's route to a four month jail sentence started with the desperate need for $28,000 to repay a bank loan.

This guy was a SAF scholar (like PM Lee), he studied at Cambridge (like PM Lee), he received training at an overseas US military institute (like PM Lee). After Imperial College, he went on to a master's in philosophy at Cambridge, and a master's in Defence Technology and Systems programme at Temasek Defence Systems Institute. After all that studying, he traded classified information for cash right after school, during his stint as a weapons staff officer between 2007 and 2008.

As a SAF scholar, he was already on a accelerated escalator ride to a glorious future. With all those pieces of paper collected, he could easily end up as a general, an early retirement for a juicy CEO appointment in a government linked company (GLC), and/or possibly a seat in the cabinet.

So why did he decide to come to Jesus and tell the people interviewing him for promotion to major about his indiscretion? The clueless SAF had already sent him for courses after courses, all paid for by the taxpayers, and resulted in his spending more time in classrooms than in field training (like PM Lee). Did all that mollycoddling go to his head?

Apparently his weakness was gambling. He had reportedly racked up about $100,000 in debts on board cruise ships, the floating casinos of choice for those who prefer not to be spotted at the land based MBS or RWS dens of iniquity (built by PM Lee). As for his spontaneous confession, one assumes it was his human conscience and not his brain capacity that was at play. Perhaps he had a spiritual awakening, a realization that all the monetary attractions of mammon pale in comparison with being right with God. One thing's for sure, all those fancy degrees, masters, and doctorates won't be as deserving of adulation as before. Just look at the example of the PhD who connived his way for a 12-year disruption of his NS obligation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Only Half A Loaf

The Deputy Public Prosecutor wanted to know if they should allow access to the defence only the material the prosecution was aware of ("narrow interpretation") or all the material pertaining to the case ("broad interpretation"). This may sound weird to civilised countries, but the police in Singapore is known to refuse defence lawyers' simple request for a copy of the statements recorded. The request to seek clarification from the Court of Appeal is a follow up of the Ismil Kadar travesty, whereby his death sentence was overturned by diligent discovery of unreliable evidence.

Justice V K Rajah ruled that the prosecution must disclose to the defence any material it was not using to prove its case, but which was reasonably credible and relevant to the guilt or innocence of the accused. The ruling should be hailed if it had stopped at the comma, but the "reasonably credible and relevant" qualifier still provides an escape clause for the prosecutor to withhold material which may be critical from the defence's view, but dismissed as unimportant by the prosecutor. Once again, the scales of justice have been tipped to favour one side. Even Criminal Procedure Code 2010, which introduced the regime for reciprocal disclosure, is not applicable for "simpler cases". Big brother still reserves the right to decide what is simple, what is not.

No wonder they have to double the pay for lawyers assigned to defend low-income people or foreigners accused of crimes punishable by the death penalty. Currently those who cannot afford lawyers have to resort to volunteers in the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (Lasco).The Law Society said the paucity of truly experienced lawyers in the pool was related to "the limited payment of honorarium". If pecuniary consideration is an impediment to putting up a robust defence, the lack of a level playing field must surely be more daunting.

In response to the clarification judgement, the Chief Prosecutor of the Criminal Justice Division said the decision has "effected a small incremental development in the nature of the prosecution's disclosure obligations." Be grateful for small mercies, half a loaf is better than no bread.

Monday, August 29, 2011

We Wuz Robbed

Despite an initial lead by Tan Cheng Bock, phony Tan stole the presidential sweepstakes with a pathetic 0.34 percent of the votes, shaved from an earlier 0.35 margin. That's gotta be déjà vu. In May this year, Lee Kuan Yew's ragtag posse snatched Tanjong Pagar with a walkover due to a paper shuffle delay of 35 seconds. Only the thick skinned can declare a victory under such contentious circumstances. Somebody ought to take a serious look at the "spoilt" votes. Somebody truly independent.

The number of spoilt votes was 1.76% of 2,153,014 cast. That's 37,826 people who could have made mince meat of the 7,269 deciding margin. If a ballot paper, with a cross on TCB and a moustache over TT's mug shot, was considered a spoilt vote, a recount would surely yield quite a different result. But not by the same civil servants manning the counting centres, those who know which side of their bread is buttered. At some centres, they went home instead of conducting the recount. It's our shameful version of the hanging, dimpled, and pregnant chads at the Florida election recount of 2000, which made George "WMD" Bush president.

It did not escape any casual observer that 65 percent of voters did not cast their ballots for the PAP candidate. Now that's quite a swing from the 60 percent "mandate" the party secured from the electorate with their usual assortment of campaign tricks, courtesy of sycophants in the PA and grassroots network. Although the presidency was trumpeted as a non-political role, the poll had turned into a direct referendum on the PAP - The Washington Post called it a barometer of voter discontent - thanks to Tan's close links with the party and blood ties with the Lee family. Tony Tan is a distant cousin of the late Kwa Geok Choo, which makes him an uncle of Lee Hsien Loong.

Under the PAP, Singapore's GDP grew to nearly $50,000 per capita in 2010, one of the highest in the world, with the fat going to the top few percent. As of March 2011, World Bank ranks Singapore's Gini Coefficient at 0.44, grotesquely high for a developed economy. Unfortunately real wealth is not trickling down the income ladder anytime soon. A Japanese expatriate aptly described Singapore as "North Korea that works."

PM Lee declared the election has produced an unambiguous winner. Since the nail biting result came in at 4.30 am, he must have been fast asleep at the wheel, and the exuberant celebration probably written a week earlier. The incoming 7th head of state wasn't too encouraging when he said, "I don't think it's fair to describe, for example President Nathan's tenure as being in an ivory tower," signalling that his reign won't be too dissimilar. If he wants to be more convincing about a change of agenda, given the oceanic swell of soaring housing prices, a surge in foreign workers and rising income inequality, he would have to dye his hair black.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Bard Was Right

The four horsemen galloping to the finishing post are eminently qualified, if compared to the clueless individual squatting in the Istana - the clod actually titled his memoir "Why Am I Here?" But the way they are scrambling for the top slot brings to mind the lament of a Filipino friend.

Sipping a latte at Shangrila Makati, he reflected on how an American colleague accurately described the failings of his countrymen. The American had said they behave like crabs in a basket. The moment one manages to climb to the top of the pile, the others pull him down. The analogy is not lost here, seeing how the Tans sling mud at their own clansmen.

The joke is on them.

The elected president's "powerful" veto, be it exercised in connection with reserves or key appointments, can be easily be neutered by the non-elected 6-member Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA). Each and every one appointed by the sitting Government, waiting to twist in the dagger it with a mere two-thirds vote in Parliament. Even if the president has the heart to save a soul from the death row, the Constitution, as it still stands, stipulates he must act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet. They want only the battery operated pacemaker, not the flesh and blood version.

The rare instance of where the president has some semblance of power is when he gets to over rule the Cabinet should it disagree with an ISA decision to release a detainee. Dr Lim Hock Siew must be ROTFL on this one. Hell will surely freeze over before the ISA advisory board unlocks the cell door without first eliciting an induced confession to the satisfaction of the "main culprit". Just ask Dr Lim.

In the end, the elected president's...
.... but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's All In The Family

The proverb, "the apple does not fall far from the tree", is apparently of Eastern origin, it is frequently applied to someone with obvious failings, asserting that the problem was simply passed along from parent to child. Peter, 45, Patrick, 42, and Philip, 35, have joined their father in refuting allegations of special treatment during National Service stints.

White Lie, Not White Horse
Tony Tan was technically correct when he stated that "We fulfilled all obligations in accordance with the rules, regulations, and deployment policies of Mindef." What he was less candid about was how, like all rules regulations, and deployment policies in Singapore, they can be bent to suit the privileged and the favoured.

It is crystal clear now that Patrick Tan started his private sector career as a researcher with the Defence Medical and Environmental Research Institute, when he should have resumed wearing his army uniform after an unheard of 12-year disruption. For many Singapore males, one of the key disadvantages of NS obligation is the opportunity loss of 2 years in Temasek green, when they could have embarked on their working life sooner, helping to pay the family bills. Mindef - Tony Tan was the Defence Minister from 1995 to 2003 - was roped in as accessory to the storyboard when they stated that 86 NSFs were allowed disruption for overseas medical studies, without highlighting that Patrick flew off for a PhD, not an MD. You betcha none of those 86 stayed away for 12 long years.

Technically, Peter and Philip also "fulfilled all obligations", except that these combat fit boys had a cushy time behind a desk, instead of learning how to charge up a hill to defend the nation. Those unfortunates without connections will have be put in harm's way, either blown up by a faulty made-in-China grenade fuse or run over by a Land Rover because of flaky Army safety measures. All these happening during peace time. Need we add that it's cooler in the air-conditioned office than under a blazing sun?

Of course Tony Tan never gave explicit instructions to the effect, neither did the kway teow hawker receive an official memo to add extra egg in the serving. Cedric Foo told parliament in 2003, "Prior to year 2000, the term 'white horse' was used to identify sons of influential persons to ensure such enlistees were not given preferential treatment." What the fool - who inadvertently confirmed the rumoured existence of white horses - did not explain was why Mindef did away with the system after year 2000, if it could indeed "ensure such enlistees were not given preferential treatment".

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Battle Royale II

Why don't they like me?
Ha! Greenhorn Desmond Choo, defeated PAP SMC candidate at the polls, knew better than to rumble with veteran Low Thia Khiang - with a 20-year tenure as MP for Hougang under his belt - who provided a point by point rebuttal of "untrue accusations." And a windfall opportunity to remind in public the PA had yet to pay an outstanding fine for not dismantling tentage several days after a function at a senior citizens' corner, and ignoring reminders from Hougang Town Council to boot.

"The way I look at it is... it seems to me the case that some Residents' Committees behave like the king in their own kingdom... They expect to be treated with priority." Mr Low's choice of words bring to mind countless examples of white horse type abuses, such as "ordinary MPs" who still enjoy state sponsored frills like personal security officers and press secretaries. There's wisdom in the old saying, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

And Desmond couldn't have chosen a worse partner in Lim Hwee Hwa for the mud slinging contest. After being dethroned by the people of Aljunied, Lim had announced that she will not contest the next General Election in 2016, signalling an end to 15 years in politics, and that's a "reasonable" stretch (her own words). So why is she one of 5 grassroots advisors at Aljunied? Why need FIVE advisors at all? One can hear the kopitiam joke now: How many people are needed to change a light bulb at a PAP run town council? - a legion of grassroots leaders plus 5 advisors.

Mrs Lim should remember what she articulated 4 days after being ignominiously kicked out of office, that Singaporeans now feel that the PAP is not listening to their opinions and is making policies without their considerations in mind. She should listen to her own speech, "Because they are not being listened to sufficiently...the party continues to make policies, and using its own intellect and reasoning and sometimes does not seem to listen and occasionally seems to be arrogant and not wanting to listen even when views are offered." Her words, not ours.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Strike Two

Last Wednesday, 17 August, a northbound train was vandalised with graffiti and fencing at Bishan Depot tampered with. Nearly a week has passed, SMRT has yet to reveal how security was breached. Initially subcontractor Evtec Management Services was fingered, but they knew the blame game has its limits. Pinnochio's nose can only grow so long.

Whatcha gonna do about it?
Proof of how blur the management can be comes no better than this: "All MRT trains, inside and out, will now be inspected visually by SMRT staff before being deployed on their daily operations," said Ms Saw Phaik Hwa, the highest paid CEO in the history of the transport operator. Hello missy, you mean to say, for all these years, not a single technical staff has been deputed to make a visual check of the train before it rolls out the depot? Mercifully there has been no incident of mechanical failures, a loose under carriage component would have killed someone easily. On 16 August 2002, a 13.4 kg safety wheel fell off a train and hit the head of pedestrian David Cheliah, a journalist, walking under the Kuala Lumpur Monorail viaduct at Jalan Sultan Ismail. Dealing with heavy rolling stock is not the same keeping stock of lip gloss at a DFS outlet.

In spite of spending some $6 million for "security enhancements", such as sturdier welded fences, a Fence Intrusion Detection System and more lights and CCTV cameras, someone still managed to waltz right into the depot and decorated their car with a leisurely spray painted "Jet Setter's". Barely 15 months ago, Swiss national Oliver Fricker and Briton accomplice, Dane Alexander Lloyd, had also expressed their foreign talent creativity on a parked MRT train. Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, underscored the severity of the security lapses: “If relatively unsophisticated vandals seeking thrills can gain unauthorised access to our trains, trained and determined terrorists with far sinister aims could do so as well.”

Saw's haughty dismissal of another slap-on-the-wrist $50,000 token fine is evident in her insouciance: “If LTA decides to fine us, so be it.” Emboldened by her patron, The Daughter-In-Law, she can easily give LTA's Lui Tuck Yew the one-finger salute. Besides, the puny fine is more than compensated for by the recent 1% hike in train fares, courtesy of the compliant sycophant, Gerard Ee of PTC. Assured of her immortality, she boldly promised, "We cannot have another incident." Remember, three strikes and you're out. Let's see if she lives up to her word, or blame it on "likelihood of human failure" when third time comes around.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dangerous Thoughts

It must have been hellish for Dr Lim Hock Siew to be detained for 19 years without trial under the infernal Internal Security Act, but it had to be the absolute pits to be called a terrorist as well. “I heard on the internet Dr Tony Tan trying to relate terrorism with all those who are arrested. I challenge Dr Tony Tan to categorically state that we are terrorists so that we have the opportunity to bring him to court and sue him for slander.”

In the wake of calls for a Commission of Inquiry to look into the gross injustice of 25 years past, a peek inside the paranoid mind of the "main culprit" may yield useful input:
"A small group of English-educated pro-Marxist activists made use of the Workers' Party's in 1985, writing articles for the party paper, the Hammer, and helping to produce it from behind the scenes.

The group included some University of Singapore graduates associated with Tan Wah Piow. a pro-communist student activist who had fled to London in 1976. Others in Tan's group had gone to China to work for the CPM clandestine radio. The ISD considered these pro-Marxist English-educated activists an incipient security problem, and in 1987 recommended that they be detained. I accepted the recommendation." (LKY, "From Third World To First", pg 137)

A Tan Wah Piow Collectible
What? Tan Wah Piow a commie? Contemporaries of that era swear he was just another excitable undergrad taking up the cause of the down trodden American Marine workers. His misfortune was to run into PAP MP Phey Yew Kok, the blue-eyed boy of the day, and protege of S R Nathan who groomed him for the union powerhouses of SILO and PIEU. While under investigation for pilfering union funds, Phey was conveniently allowed to keep his passport and fly out of Changi Airport. Maybe he wasn't prepared to do the honourable Chinese gentleman bit and swallow a poison pill like PAP Minister Teh Cheang Wan did.

Notice the "incipient security problem" allegation. Surely apprehension of criminals based on foreknowledge was the realm of fanciful movie making like Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report"? If you haven't read the Philip K. Dick short story, this system is called "Precrime", where 3 guys can predict crimes before they actually happen. And you thought "A Few Good Men" was a stinker.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Politics 1, People 0

In his National Day Rally 2011 speech, PM Lee said Singapore has to keep a twin focus – address the stresses and strains that people feel (politics) and keep our long-term strategies right (policies).  "And to get both right, you must start with the politics, which is what I will do, " spoken like a true political animal. Somehow the message seems to miss out the most important element - we, the people.

He reiterated his point when he said the country is too small to afford political paralysis. Trouble is, his People's Association is making darn sure that a harmonious political system will be next to impossible to achieve.

Workers Party's Chen Show Mao wrote how the PA messes up a friendly neighborhood gathering to celebrate the annual 7th Month festivities:
"The organizers as in previous years had planned to hold the festivities on a hard court in the HDB estate, but this year were told by the Paya Lebar CCC (Citizens' Consultative Committee under the People's Association) that, as a condition for receiving CCC approval to use the venue, they may no longer invite their MP to the event. Future approvals will be withheld from errant organizers."
Click to view the apology note
Notice the qualification "may no longer invite", confirming common knowledge that MPs of other political affiliations have been welcomed with open arms at previous events. Maybe the Hungry Ghosts will soon be gazetted as political entities, and they better not receive foreign funding for their burnt offerings.

While veteran grassroots leader Lee Bak Lee confirms that the CCC "has not and will not impose such a rule (about inviting politicians to dinner) on residents", the PA is reiterating its "longstanding policy" that activities held on its premises have to be non-political in nature.

Somehow, Mr Chen and similar will have to come up with a politics-free way of sharing a meal with fellow Singaporeans. Even eating curry has been confabulated up to send a political message to the PRC family who won a Pyrrhic victory over their Indian neighbor's kitchen practice. Heck, even the dull presidential election is exploiting the spice to juice up a boring campaign. We look forward to the day when we have to declare our political persuasion before being allowed to visit the public loo. Come to think of it, didn't something like that happened during the May 7 elections?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Laju Screw Up

You've heard of the notorious ISD, there was also the SID. Then S. R. Nathan was Director of Security and Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence. This little nugget doesn't get much airing in the mainstream media.

On 31 Jan 1974, the Shell Oil Refinery on Pulau Bukom was attacked by four terrorists, 2 from the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and 2 from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Thereafter they hijacked the ferryboat "Laju" and held the crew as hostage.

Japananese ambassador Uomoto met with Lee Kuan Yew and cabinet acceded to the demands - safe passage, two hostages, and exit flight to an Arab country. A wrangle arose between the Japanese and Singapore Government concerning who should provide the plane.

Spokesman Tay Seow Hua, Permanent Secretary to the Home Affairs Ministry, laughed when asked why SIA could not help, "Why? Why can't any airline do it? Because no man likes to have armed men on board." Japan Air Line officials agreed to send a DC-8 only if both Governments guaranteed the safety of the crew and the aircraft. The party of guarantors would include S.R. Nathan, director of SID, and a 12-men-team (4 SAF Commandos plus 8 government officials).

Through the Singapore government, the hijackers had sought the help of the North Korean government to escape to any Arab country - except Damascus, Baghdad and Aden. However, Singapore's consultations with North Korea led to nowhere. The acting North Korean Consul General, Mr Pak Gil Yon, said: "I am not in a position to say anything on this matter." Yet the plane departed despite urgent but fruitless consultations with North Korea via a special "hotline" to Pyongyang. (ST, 9 Feb 1974)

With 15 minutes of fuel left, they discovered they could not land in Kuwait - Baghdad had refused permission. Writing in "The Little Red Dot," a compilation of essays by Singapore diplomats by Tommy Koh and Chang Li Lin, Nathan admits he lied to the Control Tower he was a special emissary of the Prime Minister of Singapore ("which I had no prior authority to say", page 22) and avoided mention there were four hijackers on board. The Kuwaiti Defence Minister who met him on the tarmac was none too pleased. Negotiations then proceeded with the Minister, the Japanese ambassador from Teheran and a PLO representative from Baghdad, leaving Nathan out in the cold. Nathan tried to reason with the hijackers to let him leave and fly back to Singapore. Finally the Foreign Minister of Kuwait came, and met with the hijackers. Nathan said his words were that "we get lost" until their flight out that evening.

Reflecting on the cock-up at the Kuwaiti airport, Nathan's last words were on the need for close co-ordination and follow up by different branches of the Government. Salaries for civil servants have increased astronomically since 1974, but some things just don't change.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Lion Has Fangs

The tiger bared his fangs: "I think this is... to be fair,when one says this has been used against political opponents, I think this is a very serious charge." Lesser men would have crumpled at the undisguised  threat, but political opponent Tan Jee Say was either too naive or simply caught unawares by the ferocity of Tony Tan's naked challenge. Moderator Sadavisan tried to save one of the Tans from being hauled off to the slammer, and the other Tan from morphing further back into his ruling party mold. Well, that must be as exciting as the presidential election will get. The ISA blunt instrument has that kind of calming effect on spirited souls.

The question from Maruah, the human rights group, about the 1997 1987 arrest of do-gooders labelled falsely as Marxist conspirators and detained without trial under the notorious Internal Security Act, will never be answered while the protagonists are still alive and kicking. The standard response was given by Tan Cheng Bock earlier, he believed the blatant violation of human rights was justified "based on the information provided then." The guy who is campaigning under the "Think Singaporeans First" slogan is obviously still giving precedence to his former political master. Tony Tan - who actually soiled his hands in this well documented rape of justice - said he is keeping mum because of the Official Secrets Act. These guys intend to keep the cabinet discussions on the subject more closely guarded than the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. As for using it in "in the most extreme circumstances", such as terror threats, all one needs to do is take a look at Chia Thye Poh, and wonder what the Tony gang was smoking when they called in the goon squad.

As the draw down date for the $4 million sweepstakes approaches, expect more circus acts to take centre stage. One Tan said he'd donate a portion of the generous salary to charity, one Tan said he'll give away half, another Tan said he never said nothin' about pledging to donate anythin'. The quietest Tan on this subject is obviously planning to bank in the whole paycheck. Do whatever you want guys, just stop stuffing the mailbox with crap.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Really Useful Apple App

Mr Philip Yeo was guest speaker at the Fullerton-St Joseph’s Institution leadership lecture in May 2010 when he said those who bought games and other programs Apple’s iPad were wasting their money on "all sorts of useless applications". His personal advice for his own flesh and blood: "I always tell my daughter, make products and services to sell to the dummies." After the inevitable furor erupted, he claimed he used "dummies" to mean "laymen, which is the major market".

Laymen who aren't dumb were quick to appreciate the usefulness of a free iPhone app called "Summon Auntie". In essence, a motorist would log his position with the aid of the built-in A-GPS function in the Apple device after parking his vehicle without displaying a valid parking coupon as required by law, and count on a similarly minded citizen to send out a warning upon spotting the traffic warden within a 200 m proximity. From then on, it's a mad sprint to the vehicle before the warden - typically a white-uniformed middle aged female - records the licence plate number.

Interestingly, a Land Transport Authority spokesman has said the enforcement of parking offences is meant to safeguard road space for safe and smooth traffic flow, explaining "We are not in the position to comment on applications that alert the public to the presence of parking enforcement officers." What a cop out! If a vehicle is safely parked and does not impede smooth traffic flow, why is the owner then slapped with a hefty fine?

The other interesting point to note is that the people behind the free app received a $50,000 grant from Spring Singapore to develop a tool to evade parking fines. Obviously, they must have some other revenue generating ideas to repay the free money handled out by Spring, a government agency that "develops and promotes an internationally-recognised standards (sic) and quality assurance infrastructure that builds trust in Singapore enterprises". With a minor tweak, and we have just the thing for the pimps at Geylang to forewarn the proximity of cops on prowl. Drug traffickers from Russia to Columbia will be able to foil arrest. For that, surely they have Spring Singapore to thank.

BTW, auntie has been unfairly maligned for being a heartless creature. After she scans your vehicle with her own electronic gizmo, you have a 10 minute grace to cough up a valid parking coupon. Apparently she has a quota to meet, scan a certain number of vehicles a day or her kids will go hungry. Save your venom for her employer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Curry Wars

At a media briefing held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday 16 August, Minister Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam said, "We must affirm our Singaporean identity and must protect it. (But) at the same time, let's not turn this into a xenophobic attack on foreigners in general." Right there, he used the "x" word. Hold on, mister, don't confuse nationalism with xenophobia.

Ernest Renan in his 1882 lecture, "What is a Nation?", defined the nation as a "daily referendum", dependent on the will of its people to continue living together. For 46 years, regardless of race, language and religion, Singaporeans have co-existed side by side in harmony. In the course of doing so, we seen the evolution of a unique language (Singlish), customs (rush for the exit before the last curtain call), foods (curry fishhead, curry chicken, curry prawn - there's even a "Singapore-Style Curry Powder" acclaimed by World Spice Merchants in Seattle, WA). That will to continue living together can only be vitiated by external elements.

In borrowing the "melting-pot" model of the United States, we are also adopting their civic nationalism, a non-xenophobic nationalism compatible with liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights. Our nation is not based on common ethnic ancestry, which we have none, but a political entity whose core identity is multi-ethnicity. And in that core identity, a fragile nationalism has quietly blossomed. Ironically the "polarisation" of the watershed May elections may have provided the catalyst for a spur in this development.

The foreigners that have been brought into the mix hail from different origins which historically subscribed to ethnocentric protectionism or ethnocentric supremacy. Like India and China. They boast of caste systems with social stratification and social restriction, and lineages traceable to the reign of kings and emperors. Unless they are made to recognize that multi-nationality in a single state is contingent upon the equal right to express and exercise of individual identity, even by minorities, the fissures will render our young nation asunder. Today it's about curry, tomorrow burnt offerings of the Seventh Month could be the new conflagration.

Nationalism can turn nasty and reactionary, calling for a return to a national past, however brief and ethereal, and snowball into a chorus for the expulsion of foreigners. Europe seems to have forgotten valuable lessons from the 1930s when a depressed German economy ignited xenophobia which morphed into racism, hatred and the annihilation of 6 million Jews. Just think what jobs, housing and education grievances can do to us.

Since gun ownership is illegal in Singapore, it is just as well the clarion call to arms is a rattling of pots and pans, not muskets and rifles. Instead of cordite, the smell of battle will be of cumin, cardamom, cayenne pepper, coriander and turmeric. Picture Robert Duvall: "I love the smell of curry in the morning. You know - that curry smell... Smelled like... victory." Food fight! Food fight!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Govt Staff Say Yes To Everything

A hospital patient hurled vulgarities at a doctor when he did not get medication he did not need. Truth or fiction? Be careful who you call a liar, since it was PM Lee himself who quoted this instance of how "harsh and uncompromising" Singaporeans can be with front-line government employees.

Contrast the picture presented by a popular bloggerwho had the misfortune of meeting the public sector doctor from hell:
"At 11:45am I made my way back to clinic D and after more waiting was called to see the senior consultant again. He conducted some more tests on my eyes and again I felt he was rude, curt, brisk and very impatient. He was also loud. At one stage he was practically shouting at me as he examined my eyes. “Look at my ear! Look at my ear! Left! Left! Left! Right! Right! Right! Right is here! Right is here! This is right! That is left! Keep quiet! Don’t talk!” He even touched my head to push it down and touched my chin to jerk my head up."

Goodness gracious me, such uncouth violence! What will they resort to next? Rectal examination with a cattle prod?

The other negative instance quoted about Singaporeans during the National Day Rally speech was about a member of the public who was applying for something at a government department, telling the officer serving him that his job was to ensure he qualified as a special case; he wanted the officer to "find the right rule" to make sure this happened. PM asked the audience, "What should the doctor do in this case? If he gives in to the patient's demand to avoid trouble, it would go against professional ethics and even harm the patient."

Suddenly, it's crystal clear how Patrick Tan secured a 12 year disruption from full-time National Service to pursue a non-medical academic course. Suddenly, we can see clearly now how Tin Pei Ling was let off for her transgression of the cooling-off day rules. Suddenly, it makes perfect sense why China gal Xiao Yifei is entitled to dual citizenship, and qualified for a President Scholarship to boot. The magic, people, is to "find the right rule".

So next time you feel like thumping on the service counter and demand, "I also want the special rules", just pause and rephrase the request. "Hey bro, you know what to do, right? My surname also Tan." Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The New Sheriff In Town

Engaging the public via the new media will be difficult, said PM Lee, because it is "given to circulating many negative views and ridiculous truths". He referred to the growing cyber communities derisively as "cowboy towns". The way he tells it, five years ago, the only challenge to the sheriff was "only the popular blogger Mr Brown."

In "China Inside Out" (Wiley & Sons, 2011), author Bill Dodson narrates how daring cyber citizens took down a government official from Shandong Province. The man tried to force a little 11-year-old girl into the washroom of Plum Garden Seafood Restaurant on October 28, 2008. After she narrowly escaped to the safety of her outraged parents, a CCTV clip recorded the audacity of the abuser, "I did it. So what? How much money do you want? Give me a price! I will pay it!" He boasted of his connections, "Do you know who I am? My level is the same as your mayor!"

But he failed to reckoned with the power of the Chinese social networks. With the video clip online, Chinese Internet users mobilised a Human Flesh Search Engine  (Chinese: 人肉搜索; pinyin: rénròu sōusuǒ) to identify the potential child molester's name, address, position and current workplace. Soon, the Search announced his name as Lin Jiaxiang, party secretary of the Shenzhen marine affairs bureau. The angry posts in online forums echoed sentiments like this one, "Dammit Shenzhen Nanshan District Police!!! The entire country's masses will be watching how you handle this!!!"

A post on popular China web portal explained why Human Flesh Searches appealed to the Chinese:
"Human Flesh Searches is an embodiment of the common people's right of expression and right of supervision. One reason this kind of embodiment has big impact upon some people in society is because the common people do not have a better channel embodying these two rights."

Recently our own cyber sleuths uncovered the preferential treatment meted to an ex-Minister's son and a molly-coddled female politician. Plus details of a disturbed racist-in-the-making who was dumb enough to publish his mobile phone online. We definitely have need for better channels than the mainstream media who refused to print a word of the ugly truth. Now's a good time to make friends with your PRC classmate or colleague - he may teach us a thing or two about how to use the Human Flesh Search Engine vigilante tool. Aren't you just dying to find out if the mysterious "Denise" character is a "he" or a "her"?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where's The Beef, Mr Prime Minister?

Even when he was handling out the Kool-aid - such as the graduate mother policy - his father used to do it with panache. Who can forget the gee-whiz graphs, the tables of statistics, the powerpoint slides. Critic or supporter, each one in the audience would have carried away an indelible imprint of the message's keynote. In contrast, last night's messenger fired lots of rounds but none seem to hit the target. Just like the time he embarrassed himself on the Brunei range in 1987, when  the prime minister had scored direct hits with the weapons whereas his soldier-son had "washouts" (page 117, Seow, F. (1998), "The Media Enthralled: Singapore revisited")

The one graph he did show is a real downer. University places for Singaporeans increased from 9,000 in 2001 to 12,000 in 2011. That's 3,000 in a decade. He promised to bump the number up to 14,000 by 2015. That's 2,000 more in 4 years' time. At least we have a set goal to measure his performance. Problem is, a huge 18% of the cohort is set aside for foreigners. Assuming the 12,000 is all Singaporean, PRs excluded, and constitutes 82 percent of the pie, the foreign student population is about 2,600. Why not half the alien enrolment now and do away with the wait for 2015? Does he even know how many families have had to sell their houses to finance an overseas education because places at home are taken away by outsiders? Notice the numbers for 2002 through 2010 are missing. Surely the universities have the data, what is the guy hiding? That progress for Singaporeans comes about only when the opposition dig a spur into their hides?

Let us see empirical confirmation of how foreign students contribute to the nation. Who will you be proud of most, a startup comprised of all Singaporeans, or two fifths diluted by foreign content? Surely he must have gotten the message by now, no one roots for the ping pong players because the team members are China's leftovers.

While reiterating a "Singaporean First " approach, he conveniently avoided mention of a President Scholarship recently awarded to a dual citizenship holder. Meanwhile Singaporean males are deemed flight risks, and have to post a hefty bond before heading for Changi airport.

The ISD plant in the mainstream media, namely Chua Mui Hoong, found the tone of the National Day Rally speech too conciliatory. Her younger colleague went further to deem it condescending. Showing video clips of a Transformer Bumblebee instead of the BBC footage of fiery London says it all - the driver definitely needs to wake up. BTW his excuse for the bad marksmanship at Burnei was he had "tried for a more difficult target behind the target in question."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Tin Pei Ling Defence

Or is it the Richard Nixon defence? Tricky Dicky made Haldeman and Erlichman take the fall for paying the hush money to the Watergate burglars through Colson. Was "Denise He" the sacrificial pawn for the MarineParadeGate cover up, and was any MP allowance used as hush fund? Whoa! We don't want to go there! And if we do go that route, the CPID would have to be called in, not just the Elections Department. The British police can also help by teaching the daft SPF how to use the hard coded IMEI numbers to track down the real culprit, the way they caught the looters in London. Would "Denise He" still be prepared to serve jail time like Colson?

No less dramatic, Joachim Gay Chao Hui has come forth to be the sacrificial lamb for his filipino wife, claiming it was he who posted the derogatory remarks under the name of Rachelle Ann Beguia. Viva la romance! Such gallantry, truly rare in today's modern age. Rarer still in the species which was recently labelled by the tutor at Tampines Junior College as "moronic", with questionable codes of "loyalty" and "patriotism". This is a guy who took the MIW's advice to heart to embrace the foreigners - maybe too literally - and even produced a cute little tyke to address the nation's declining birthrate. From the break in his scholastic resume, between 1995-1996 (NJC) and 1999-2000 (NUS), one assumes Gay did fulfil his NS obligations. Or he was training with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Zamboanga, Philippines. Latter is not so far fetched when you read some of his milder postings:
"Singaporeans are the ugliest human species ever to graze God’s green earth…..really. I am a Singaporean myself but I am an exception. Everyone I see on the streets of Singapore are so damn ugly and out of shape!!"
“Those of you who had viewed the Miss Singapore Universe competition on television who have been amazed…. yes, amazed by the depressing standards of the contest. All the contestants look so……. ‘deformed’ and the eventual winner Jessica Tan looks like my autistic friend.”
“I am Chinese Singaporean but I despise Chinese Singaporeans the most….really KIASU and a bunch of maid abuses. Hail the Filipinos screw all you SINGAPOREANS! From what you described, as a Singaporean (am very embarassed to be one and have disavowed any association with this nationality).”

During the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, US Marines were shocked to come across John Phillip Walker Lindh as an enemy combatant on the Taliban side. Born in Washington and raised a Catholic, Lindh was captured by Afghan Northern Alliance forces after his Al-Qaeda foreign fighters unit surrendered at Kunduz. Do we have a similar Benedict Arnold in our ranks? If we do, blame it on the "kee chiu" generals who can't tell where their men are pointing the SARs. Hey, we even have elected MPs who don't give a hoot about the national anthem. Soon, we will be finding out if the National Heart Center has been compromised too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thanks, But No Thanks

No money, no talk
No one will doubt Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins are foreign talents in the true sense of the term. Unlike Bangladeshi construction workers, Indian IT technicians or PMETs, no local can easily step into their shoes. But like all foreigners, they also stay for mercantile motivations. In a sense, they are no better than the nocturnal denizens of Gelyang. No money, no honey.

The husband and wife team of cancer experts left the National Cancer Institute in the United States after 20 years there to join Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) because of "generous funding". After a short 5 year stint, both are moving off to Houston, Texas, where "a generous funded state programme has proven a draw for heavy weights in cancer research." And we thought the United States was going broke.

Both declined requests for a interview and an opportunity to tell their story. The scientists still here talk about red tape and the pressure to focus on economic outcomes, the same parameters ordinary Singaporeans have been subjected to for 46 years. One researcher hinted a veiled threat, "If people are unhappy with the situation in Singapore, they will vote with their feet. It is not about money, it is about vision and how science is viewed". Lucky he, globetrotting for greener pastures under the guise of a noble cause. Not for him the obligation of bearing arms to defend a country, where we are born and have taken root.

Neal and Nancy are not the first brand-name hires to quit. British scientist Alan Colman, who helped clone Dolly the sheep, came to Singapore in 2002, and left for the Stem Cell Centre at King's College London in May 2008. Coolman's exodus followed news in September 2007 about the departures of two other top British scientists, David and Birgitte Lane, giving credence to the World Bank's criticism that Singapore's biotech drive was overly reliant on "footloose" scientists who could leave at short notice.

"I'm speaking out as "citizen Lee," not as MM's daughter, or PM's sister," clarified Dr Lee Wei Ling, when she called for a reassessment of Singapore's biotech strategy, saying billions of dollars have been spent without achieving significant results. The target of her scrutiny, Philip Yeo, formerly of A*Star, had coined the term "whales" for the foreign imports. He probably meant it as an euphemism for "prize catch", but his recruits obviously had a whale of a time here while the going was good.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shrewd Observation By A Filipina

For reasons best known to her, filipina Rachelle Ann Beguia Riko put in her two centavos' worth to lend support to the beleaguered MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Penny Low, of Malaysia origin. Ms Low was seen on national television totally engrossed with her mobile phone while loyal Singaporeans were solemnly singing the national anthem. Low has apologised, saying she was carried away with "sharing that moment of pride" on Facebook with her residents.

The filipina's post may be disturbing, and some may conclude her diatribe is downright divisive:
“These moronic ‘Singaporeans’, their code, their morals, their ‘loyalty’ and ‘patriotism’… all dropped at the first sign of trouble… just ask any of them if they want to be excused from serving NS and they will be the first to raise their hands… Require any of them to serve an extra month of NS and they will riot in Singapore… Ask them to fight a war, almost all will declare they are ready to pack up and run."
"… But when foreigners like Bangladeshi, Thais and Indians come and provide labour for building flats and roads, you didn’t seem to have complained about it…. if tomorrow the government decides to hire foreigners to become soldiers and no more serving of NS for all men let’s see if you will make the same comment… By the way, if foreigners can come and snatch your jobs and flats it only shows one thing…. how incompetent you are."

For a newcomer Rachelle has pretty strong opinions about the natives. She got that part about NS right - who wants to defend the country if 1/3 has been handed over to aliens like her on a silver platter? But she fingered the wrong incompetent party. A competent government would have ejected mercenary misfits like her at the port of entry. Rachalle said of herself, "yes I like to bootlick it benefits me what are you going to do about it?" The "population czar" who made entry for a clerk like her so easy has already been kicked out of office. More should be following his exit route - those allowing them to snatch away jobs and flats - unless they plan to populate the country only with bootlickers and sycophants. Fortunately for Rachelle, Singaporeans are not a vengeful people, we just aspire for wisdom of true leaders like Abraham Lincoln to prevail,
"We are not enemies, but friends.
We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained,
it must not break our bonds of affection."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One System, Two Justices

Wait a minute, who's under investigation here? The caption implies that the Parliamentary Elections Act was breached not only by Marine Parade MP Tin Pei Ling, but also by her target of abuse. Is the police even acting on the report filed?

It is now abundantly clear why the Singapore Police Force took so long to come to a conclusion about the "Wow, I think tears in parliament is worse than ANYTHING ELSE!" post on the Kate Spade MP's Facebook page. They were going over Nicole Seah's own Facebook account with an electron microscope to dig up anything, anything at all, remotely incriminating. This must be the first time anyone comes across their "smoking gun": that "Scrutinise the PAP manifesto one more time! Cooling off period starts now!" comment. You got to have an IQ less than 75 to deem that "election advertising". It sounds more like a public service announcement. Maybe the cops took it that the mere mention of "Cooling off period" is grounds for prosecution. Perhaps a scrutiny of the police report about this particular post may be more enlightening? If one exists at all?

So Denise He exists, it wasn't a figment of Ms Tin's tinsel imagination, or so we are told. So why not let us see her ugly mugshot? After all, they simply took Tin's word for the gospel truth. They quoted no proof in the electronic signatures, in the mobile phone record (from which the offending post was supposedly made) or in the log of the Facebook account. One doubts if any cyber forensic investigation was done at all.

The whole charade reminds one of the Chan Sek Keong ruling about Goh Chok Tong and company not breaching any election law by being inside the Cheng San polling area, but not within 200 meters of it. But does the bo-chap PM care? He didn't even bother to speak to the people live for the National Day message. Instead, he pre-recorded it one-week in advance. Now wonder it sounded so hollow, so unreal, so utterly disconnected with the turmoil that saw STI tumbling by 110.78 points and $18 billion wiped off the 30 blue chip components stocks. With such blinkers on, no wonder he is deaf to the protestation about the SMRT fare hike. Come next year, we may see a body double showing up for at the parade. Why even bother?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Losing Focus On Social Obligations

Tan Kin Lian let it be known that he was kicked out of the NTUC he led for nearly 30 years because "the board wanted NTUC to be more commercial", whereas he wanted NTUC to be "more cooperative".

I don't hear too good
In response, Lim Swee Say maintains that NTUC has never lost focus of its social mission of doing good and in supporting workers. He said the NTUC cooperatives' aim is to be competitive so that they can continue to serve the people. Lim said: "I was actually quite puzzled... about that the board wanting the cooperatives to be more commercial because to the best of my knowledge, I think to become more commercial, to become more professional are two different things."

Lim is not exactly the best person to discourse the finer points of the English language, or explore the nuances of semantics. More pertinent to the exchange is the evolving character of NTUC. A cooperative is loosely defined as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations. In our context, NTUC was supposed to serve Singaporeans and had its humble beginning in the noble cause of providing affordable food essentials. Along the way, they have meandered into a myriad of diversification like the insurance business Tan had helmed. The dominance of the profit motive over social obligation in such activity is hard to pin down, but a clearer example is seen in NTUC Fairprice.

NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd was founded by the labour movement in 1973, with a social mission to moderate the cost of living in Singapore. FairPrice has grown to become Singapore’s largest retailer, with a network of more than 230 outlets, and the economics of scale to secure best prices and offer the bargains to the people. Of late, they have encroached into the upmarket territory of Cold Storage and the like. Retail space for cheap rice is taken up by displays of fresh oysters air flown from New Zealand. At NTUC Finest supermarts, the clientele flaunting vast expanses of cleavage crowd the aisles. The humbly attired Ah Sohs retired to Sheng Siong's outlets, where they feel more welcomed and price tags are better suited to their budgets.

"My understanding is that the board has always wanted NTUC Income to become more professional in a sustainable manner," Lim said. The devil in the details is whether the profession is focusing on its original social mission of doing good, or maximising profits. Those practising the oldest profession in the world are plying the lorongs of Geylang, surely that's not the direction to go.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

46 Years Of Story, Not History

Senior writer SW Cheong started her piece on Tommy Koh with her subject looking down on the slums of Singapore from an aeroplane window in the 60s, wondering how the tiny country could ever thrive.

There was another aeroplane story about three guys flying home from some Commonwealth meeting. Rajaratnam opined that if he threw down a $10 note, it would make someone very happy. Lee Kuan Yew the smart aleck said ten $1 bills would make more people happy. Economics whiz Goh Keng Swee countered with 100 ten-cent coins, and they started to argue about happiness associated with quantum of monetary windfalls. Tired of the ruckus, the pilot walked over from his cabin and said, "If you guys don't shut up, I'll throw you out and that should make 1 million people very happy." This is obvioulsy a very olde story, way before some crazy bureaucrat tried to cram 6 million humans into our Little Red Dot.

Challenged by Cheong that our National Museum is not the world class flagship Nation Heritage Board (NHB) embarked on to build 9 years ago, Koh admitted that it received complaints about the approach to tell the Singapore story through the perspectives of fashion, food, film and photography.

The original inspiration was good, claims Koh, but "there is official history and there's people's history." Now that's another rude reminder of Winston Churchill's shrewd observation, "History is written by the victors ... There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.” See if you can find a reference to "mee siam mai hum" in the food perspective of the National Museum galleries. And don't bother looking for Martyn See's "Singapore Rebel" in the film section either.

"The bureaucratic instinct is to be defensive but my instinct is the opposite." With that kind of sentiment, it is easy to understand why Tommy Koh is not joining the $4 million race. That, plus the fact his surname is not Tan.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Things People Say

If you don't say what you mean, how can you mean what you say. We're not talking about what Eliza Doolittle learned from Professor Henry Higgins here, but the integrity of a trained lawyer who's profession depends on the accurate usage of words. In court or out of court. Law minister Shanmugam told reporters, "I wasn't suggesting that only Government-endorsed candidates can be influential . I want to be absolutely clear that any such suggestion would be wrong." Some of the guys taking down notes must have soiled themselves with trepidation, whilst speculating who will be charged for quoting him out of context.

So what did he actually say? At a Institute of Policy Studies forum. Shanmugam on Friday, the Law Minister spelled out how the advice of a "highly influential" wise and knowledgeable elected president can be rubbished: "If he is someone who commands little or no respect of the Prime Minister, then of course, the influence is limited." Earlier, he alluded to another qualification that the elected president, even if he had substantial experience, must be "trusted and respected by the Prime Minister." No wonder many Singaporeans are confused as to what the Elected Presidency is all about. If all the guy wants is a pet poodle - think George Bush and Tony Blair in the Iraq war WMD charade - why not cut to the chase and say so?

Asked whether it was correct of the Government to endorse candidates, for instance, by painting pretty pictures about one candidate as if he was silver haired Gandalf coming to the rescue of Helm's Deep, and ignoring the hidden skeleton of his son's shady evasion of his National Service obligation, Shamugam replied, "I'm not quite sure that amounts to active endorsement. The Prime Minister can say what he likes about any particular candidate, or for that matter, ministers." Okay, it is getting clear that he is no authority on etymology, not bothered about modern understanding of linguistic evolution and the relationships of languages, but he should at least be cognizant of the political IED equivalent of kicking in own goals. Like how Goh Chok Tong torpedoed the ministerial careers of Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim (not that we miss this lot of over paid incompetents anyway) by singing the praises of saint George.

The irony of of the wordplay in session is that Shanmugam actually proffered this advice to the candidates, "Just make sure that what you say to the people is consistent ... Don't say things you can't do." To which we may add the Clintonesque repartee, "Define consistent".

Friday, August 5, 2011

Your Study Or Your Money

Since the outing of a certain heir's CV, talk has touched on why some need two, or more, scholarships. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, defines a scholarship as an award of financial aid for a student to further his or her education. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria usually reflecting the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.

Keywords are "purposes of the donor or founder of the award". True altruism aside, there exists a mercantile business element, for want of a better word, described as reciprocal altruism. A favour done today - food offered, shelter given - brings a return favour tomorrow. On a higher moral plane, scholarships are generally recognised in many flavours:
  • Merit based - to recognise academic, artistic , athletic or other abilities. Most common merit-based scholarships recognize academic records or high scores on standardized tests.
  • Need-based - to sponsor a student's financial needs, in due consideration of the expected family contribution and cost of attendance at the intended institute of learning.
  • Student-specific - scholarships which quality applicants by gender, race, religion, family and medical history. More commonly meant to assist targeted minorities, like aboriginal groups in Australia or Canada.
  • Career-specific - given to students pursuing careers in high-need areas such as education or nursing, or by private corporations as recruitment incentives.
Whatever the basis of award, the financial package is a reflector of the value of the scholarship. The status accorded and recognition associated have their own intrinsic contribution in social stratification. Somehow, a bursary fails to carry the same weight in padding a resume, even if was was similarly earned through academic, artistic or athletic excellence. For some, the money seem to factor most.
"The other two boys - Ho Ching's children - are both bright. One has taken a scholarship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The other doesn't want a scholarship even though he could easily get one... It's a different world because his father can pay, and so that is not important.

If I were the father, I'd say, no, you better take that scholarship and come back. Why should I spend $300,000 or $400,000 for nothing? I can put down half the payment for a house for you! "
(page 421, "Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going")

Thursday, August 4, 2011

They f**king did it!

WARNING! This post is expletive expansive, and an exercise in prolific practice of the "f" word. NTU valedictorian Trinetta Chong, rapped for the effusive exuberance of her youthful years, ain't seen nothin' yet.

The f**king sun shone through the f**king window, and the f**king birds were chirping away in the f**king trees. There was hardly f**king time to polish off the f**king toast done to a f**king crisp by the f**king generic brand kitchen device - just to save a few f**king dollars because of the f**king inflation heading f**king north.

As usual, the f**king morning paper was full of f**king crap, 4 Tans and 1 K gunning for the f**king $4 million job opportunity. What the f**k! Another NSman died during some f**king navigation training. No wonder the f**king wimp of a scholar opted for f**king research instead of f**king field exercises. And rehired teachers get f**king 30 percent less for going back to work! Looks like the f**king re-employment law is another f**king scam for f**king slave labour. Plus the f**king CPF contribution for seniors is already f**king discounted!

It's almost a relief to f**king board the f**king crowded bus and head for the f**king office. At least the f**king chatter of the DJs on the f**king radio makes more f**king sense than the f**king newspaper. Then, as we rounded the f**king corner near f**king Botanic Gardens, through the dissipating veil of the dawn mist, we saw the young couple lying on a grassy slope, making love.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Same Old, Same Old

Apology not withstanding, PM Lee has reiterated that his Government will remain open to investments and talents. Whatever mistakes he was referring to at Boat Quay in May ("Well, we’re sorry we didn’t get it exactly right, but I hope you’ll understand and bear with us"), it sure wasn't about jobs going to foreigners, be it operating a fish soup stall or running a national bank. Maddox, Murdoch, and even Gaddafi, will certainly be given the key to the city, so long as they fly in with suitcases of cash.

Astute investors who saw the writing on the wall at the last General Elections had asked whether the Government will be changing direction because of the political realities on the ground. If PM Lee didn't spell out what he "didn’t get (it) exactly right" at the election rally, the occasion of the Economic Development Board's 50th anniversary dinner would have been a good platform to flesh out his real intent. He made it crystal clear, "We will continue to make ourselves an international hub, open to global investments and talent." So much for his oratory about distancing from his father's "spurs are not stuck into the hide" attitude. The apple indeed does not fall far from the tree. It looks like a dismal future of more years of subjugating ourselves as second class citizens, squeezed out of the job market, school places, affordable housing. No wonder the flags are not fluttering in the wind, with August 9 just round the corner.

They say the extensive fat marbling in slices of high-grade wagyū beef is attributed to massaging the cattle or adding beer or sake to their feeding regimen. Those animals get a better deal than us human fodder for the economic machine of Singapore Inc. Since nothing much can be done about the current status quo, we might laugh about it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This Is Real Daft

So who's being daft here? For persistence in unravelling the fictional account of one privileged son, a blogger labelled as daft those who had put themselves in harm's way for 2.5 years, sweating in Temasek green for the country they are asked to defend. Real danger, as in being drowned in by sadistic commando trainers, as in being crushed in the steering compartment of a navy vessel, as in being rolled over by an army truck, as in falling to death when the rappelling rope is prematurely released from a helicopter. Or, like 21-year-old Specialist Cadet (SCT) Percy Toh Cheng Kai, getting hurt firing a 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher when the round prematurely explodes in the weapon. Compare that to a paper cut hazard doing research in the National Cancer Center. OooOoooOoooh, melioidosis is so scary!

Was Martin Luther daft to nail his Ninety-Five Theses on the Door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517? Was Rosa Parks daft for refusing to surrender her seat in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus on 1 December 1955? More currently, is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi daft for being faithful to Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence despite the open oppression and corruption of the generals lording over Burma? Do we need a Norway gunman type shooting rampage before the white horses and their irk ilk get the message?

Morality may be a hard concept to grasp, but it can be quickly acquired. A kindergarten pupil will learn it's improper to eat in the classroom, because the teacher said so. If the rule is lifted and eating is approved, he will happily much to his heart's content. But if the same teacher says it's okay to shove another pupil off a queue, a moral child will hesitate. Some kids will actually shove to get their way and won't feel particularly bad about it - unless he gets caught. See how easy to go down the slippery slope? It is said the deepest foundation on which morality is built is the phenomenon of empathy, the ability to co-experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or feelings of another without them being communicated directly by the hurt party. A lack of empathy is manifested by a poor sense of communication that fails to understand the perspective of the audience. The phony Tans, father and son, have a lot to learn.

Even if one is equipped with an iota of moral programming, the software has to be booted up before moral behavior is in action. One powerful community tool for enforcing group morals is the practice of shunning. O.J. Simpson may have thought he got away with murder with his dream team of highly paid lawyers, but society turned its back on him, denying him work, expelling him from his country club, refusing him service in a restaurant. "Human beings were small, defenseless and vulnerable to predators," wrote Babara J.Kings, biological anthropologist at College of William and Mary and author of the book Evolving God. "Avoiding banishment would be important to us." What we don't want is a reprise of the Seng Han Thong incident; paint thinner is a petroleum based product that costs money and attracts GST.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Trying To Keep Cool

If you want to give a present to a guy who has everything - especially power and money, lots of it - nothing can beat chilled Y-fronts! At the height of his reign, Lee Kuan Yew's office was famous among visitors for its arctic air conditioning (probably will still be, carbon foot print be damned). The room temperature of his office is kept at 22 degrees C, and that of his bedroom at 19 degrees C. Government initiatives encouraging people to reduce usage of air-conditioners or to at least set the air-conditioning temperature to be 25 degrees Celsius or higher obviously do not apply to this energy hog.

According to research by scientists Wyon DP, Andersen I and Lundqvist GR, moderate heat stress is believed to affect mental performance by lowering levels of arousal.  36 male and 36 female 17-year-old subjects were exposed in groups of 4 in a climate chamber to rising air-temperature conditions typical of occupied classrooms, in the range 20--29 degrees C. The maximum rate of rise was 4 degrees C/h. Each group performed mental work during three successive periods of 50 min with 10-min breaks between. During each break the air temperature was reduced by 3 degrees C. Sentence comprehension was significantly reduced by intermediate levels of heat stress in the 3rd hour. A multiplication task was performed significantly more slowly in the heat by male subjects, showing a minimum at 28 degrees C. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis of reduced arousal in moderate heat stress in the absence of conscious effort.

Fortunately, conscious effort can counteract this effect. In most experiments, raised temperatures are perceived at the start by subjects and can act as a stimulus to exert conscious effort. That's reason why Rommel, the Desert Fox, was not encumbered by the soaring temperatures during epic tank battles that knocked out Monty for six. Still, some will argue that Mao, operating from the cooler  climes of his base camp in the Jinggang Mountains, could outwit Chiang Kai Shek sweating it out in the warmer south because of the temperature difference.  Maybe that's why Patrick Tan decided to serve his NS obligation in the National Cancer Center instead of donning Temasek greens in the tropical heat of the training grounds. After after all, his father made such a case about the importance of his research work on melioidosis, also known as "soil disease". To hear from them, MINDEF is so concerned about it affecting soldiers in the field, it is deemed "a potential bio-terrorism threat". Ours must be the first army that will be allergic to dirt on the ground. Recall Tony Tan is the same guy who cut our CPF because he swallowed the PERC findings about Singaporeans being paid more highly than Americans or Australians. Tan should remember that when it comes to the crunch, the rifle is the only real defence from being killed in a war. Throwing test tubes at the enemy won't do much good when push comes to shove.