Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Buying Democracy (or subverting it)

In 2010, Obama commented on the Citizen's United (2010) ruling:
“Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limits in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”
His comments were drawn from Justice John Paul Stevens’ powerful dissent in Citizens United, which noted that many U.S. corporations have foreign parents that could, after the ruling, funnel unlimited amounts into American campaigns through U.S. subsidiaries. In the 2016 campaign, it’s not clear if it was Russian “companies” — or the Russian government — that was funding the efforts, but U.S. corporate subsidiaries have not yet been shown to be the intermediaries.

The simple fact is Citizens United was a poor decision, and Obama was right. It opened the US Democracy to the highest bidder.

And Putin bought the Presidency for Trump.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Thank you Malaysia

Singaporeans have had it too good.

Malaysia is here to remind us that we live in a world where silly things can happen.

Perhaps they are worried, we are not following the silly antics of Trump.

So they have a localised version just for us.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Living next door to an imbecile

In 1991, Malaysia in an abundance of diplomacy, political rectitude, prudence, maturity and wisdom decided on an operation formally called "Malindo Darasa". The airborne assault exercise was codenamed "Pukul Habis".

It was, from various opinions, analysis, and assessment, an obvious and asinine attempt to test the new SG government and PM (Goh Chok Tong had just taken over from LKY).

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Taiwan midterm elections results – lessons for Singapore?

The Broad Outline: The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), President Tsai Ing-Wen’s party lost big. The DPP is seen as “pro-independence”. There were scepticism about the conduct of the elections, with accusations that China was manipulating social media to undermine the DPP and their candidates, to create an outcome favourable to China’s interest, and to lead to the eventual ouster of President Tsai.

Saturday, 24 November 2018


Recently (12 Nov, see news extract below), Dr Mahathir visited SG, and because he was here, being interviewed by the local media, he said nice things about us.

In particular, he mentioned Malaysia being Singapore's hinterland:

Malaysia and Singapore are like twins, but one is older and bigger than the other: Dr Mahathir
12 NOVEMBER, 2018
SINGAPORE – On his first official visit to Singapore since becoming Malaysia’s Prime Minister again, Dr Mahathir Mohamad described the two countries as “twins”, although one is "older and bigger" than the other...
Singapore has got no hinterland but must regard Malaysia as its hinterland. On the other hand, for a very long time, Malaysia had to depend on Singapore for its exports and imports because Singapore has developed into a great port that is comparable to any of the greatest in the world,” he said.

Interesting, I thought.

When Singapore merged with the Federation of Malaysia, we did speak in terms of lacking a hinterland, and needing a hinterland, and how Malaysia would be our hinterland.

Which got me wondering about the etymology of the word, "hinterland".

So I googled. And found:

late 19th century: from German, from hinter ‘behind’ + Land ‘land’.


"Hinterland" is from German and means "behind land".


Monday, 12 November 2018

Who will replace PM Lee?

The S.I.A. (Short, Irreverent Answer) is "Who cares?"

The Long Polite(r) Answer (L.P.A.) is as follows.

Is there a difference whether Heng Swee Keat, Chan Chun Sing, or Ong Ye Kung becomes PM?

Or for that matter, if Tharman takes over?

Invisible Heroes

Today has A Big Read on Invisible People. This refers to cleaners, security guards, petrol station attendants, and other low-wage workers who are often "invisible" to us.
People simply walk past them without greeting or talking to them, and they are not shown the respect they deserve or treated with dignity.

Long used to being given the cold shoulder, it did not take much coaxing for these low-wage workers to lay bare their suppressed frustrations and unaddressed hurt in interviews with TODAY.
Then I saw a video from the South China Morning Post reported on free drinks for the City's "Supermen" - delivery workers, cleaners, and police officers. This is not exactly a new video - it's about 3 months old. But a friend just shared it. Coincidence?

Friday, 9 November 2018

Being Right and Being Effective

Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that said the world needs to take drastic and unprecedented steps to hold global warming to a moderate but still devastating level. Every country will need to increase their commitment to reduce carbon emissions under the 2015 Paris Accord.

Also recently, Oxfam release their Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index that ranked Singapore very low (in the bottom 10) of countries making efforts to reduce inequality. Note that it does not assess that Singapore has inequality that ranks it at the bottom 10 countries. With a Gini index of 45.9, SG is 35th. US is 39th with a Gini index of 45. Philippines is 44th with 44.4. South Korea is 93rd with 35.7. (The lower the Gini Index, the less inequality.)

The point is not that SG’s inequality score Gini index is anything to crow about. But neither are we the worst. There are 34 countries with more inequality. But yes, we could do better in that. The issue is that the report simply castigates Singapore for not doing enough. And “enough” is defined solely, simply and only by Oxfam. Which to Oxfam means taxing the wealthiest, and giving money to the poor. You know, so that there would be less inequality.

And SPENDING a lot of money on Education. Regardless of whether that spending is having an impact. More on this later.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

How to read the news critically

You could almost hear the breathlessness. "Singapore is one of the 10 worst countries for efforts to reduce inequality"!

Notice the first giveaway in the headlines: It't not that SG is WORST in inequality. That is measured by the Gini Coefficient.

Note that Oxfam's beef with us (geddit? OX-fam? Beef? nemmind) is that we are worst for EFFORTS to reduce inequality.

I would be interested to know if a country with very low inequality, and so therefore would make very little efforts to reduce the already low inequality would fare better or worse than a country with very high actual inequality which has a lot of efforts to redistribute wealth.

Monday, 1 October 2018

A brief comparison of race politics in Malaysia and Singapore:

[A post I started writing in August 2018]

A brief comparison of race politics in Malaysia and Singapore:

Circa 1965 "Malay Malaysia" from KL. "Malaysian Malaysia" from SG/PAP. Singapore evicted from the the Federation.
1970: President Yusof Ishak pass away. There would be no Malay President for Singapore over the next 47 years.
1971: Malaysia implements the New Economic Policy/Bumiputera policy.
1972: Gerakan, a predominantly Chinese political party that won the most seats in Penang, was brought into the Alliance, which later became the Barisan Nasional (BN), the ruling coalition of ethnic political parties. BN includes the MCA, MIC, and of course UMNO.

News from Malaysia - Lessons for Singapore

[This post was first written in June 2018. So it's a little dated. So, I've cleaned it up and here it is.]

GST 0%. Sales Tax coming back. And oh, brother can you spare a dime... or RM1trillion?

Riding on the euphoria from the GE, the new govt is asking Malaysians to donate to the Hope Fund.

Things going through my head...

1 - So instead of "Hope and Change", their slogan would be "Hope (you can spare some) change"?

2 - Revoke 6% GST, reintroduce Sales and Service Tax. And ask for donation. Give with the right, take with the left. Or give one drumstick, want a whole chicken in return.

3 - "A fool and is money are soon parted" - after many Singaporeans started pledging (at least on FB) to donate to the Hope fund.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Banning plastic

[This post was started in Oct 2017.]

There is another "environmentally conscious" writer advocating the banning of plastic bags. For the sake of the environment.

This is an example of the green movement not taking its own philosophy. Or rather "socially conscious" Singaporeans not being conscious in all other sense of the word.

"Think Global. Act Local."

From the article: "Today this (restricting the use of plastic bags) has become a global practice to save the environment. "

Oh so it's a "Global practice"? Well we should copy them then so we don't appear backward.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

"If you cut us, do we not bleed? If you praise us, do we not go crazy?"


Is this for real? Readers get ‘political’ over Nas Daily’s videos on Singapore

21 September, 2018

National pride. Anti-government sentiments. A population who loves to complain and is ungrateful and negative. Credibility of online content. Freedom of speech. No, it is not Our Singapore Conversation in session, though it might as well be with the range of topics that surfaced after travel vlogger Nuseir Yassin, founder of Nas Daily, hit back sharply at those who questioned why he was "so effusive in his praise" of Singapore in various videos, challenging him to take up citizenship to see what it is like to live here. Mr Yassin labelled his critics "crybabies", sparking a social media storm.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Minister Shanmugam comments on Singaporean "Activists" inviting Mahathir to promote Democracy in S.E. Asia

Minister Shanmugam has "described the whole conduct of the Singaporeans involved as "a little sad" and "a bit regretful". " They had met with Mahathir, and invited "Dr Mahathir to take a leading role in promoting democracy, human rights, freedom of speech in South-east Asia."

Which prompted a whole lot of support and some disagreement from Singaporeans (my impression was that most comments were supportive, but I could be projecting), and this sarcastic comment:
As usual PAP misses the point and the opportunity.
What PAP (and Minister Shanmugam) should point out is how egalitarian SG society and politics are.
In the US for example, you have to be a candidate for President (and eventually POTUS), before you can invite a foreign leader to intervene in your politics and your election.
In Singapore, you don't even need to be a billionaire or a presidential candidate, let alone be President. Or even an MP.

Now THAT'S what I call Free.
Or as Singaporeans would say, "too free, ah?"

Friday, 31 August 2018

Safe City Index - Singapore ranked 2nd

The Safe Cities Index 2017 is a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit. The website provides the Executive summary and Introduction, or about 7 pages of the 44 page downloadable report.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Thoughts on the NDR 2018

I had my wish list for the NDR.

China-US Trade War

For the US-China trade war, one potential PM-to-be had spoken about it. But he was speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce, and his message was for the Americans:
"Your choice of where you put your investment, your choice of where you make those strategic moves for your company, will cumulatively build up a picture of what the US stands for in this region… The choice you will make individually will collectively inform Washington where their priorities will be."
There was no message for Singaporeans.

The better message was from Bilahari Kausikan.  But his message was more on the idea of a Singaporean identity, and the Singapore Reality resisting the imposition of the Chinese (China) framework and identity on Singapore:

Monday, 27 August 2018

Singapore's public transport system among best in the world: McKinsey report

There was a CNA report from McKinsey that ranked Singapore's public transit one of the best in the world.

Immediately, the disgruntled conspiracy theorists suggested that this report was paid for by the Singapore govt.

You know, to make the PAP look good.

This is the summary of the report in a chart form:


Monday, 20 August 2018

HIP 2 is not hip and not a real option.

First reaction to the NDR 2018.

Home Improvement Programme 2 is supposed to work hand in hand with VERS. At that time, owners of 70+ year old flats will be offered 3 options.

1) HIP 2. This will cost money. For a flat with "decaying" value. You will also suffer the inconvenience of improvement works.
2) Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS). This will give owners some benefits.
3) Do nothing, and run out the lease. No costs. No benefit.

Option 1 is to "motivate" owners to choose VERS (option 2).

So faced with the three options, what would you choose? 

Option 1? 

I don't think so.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

NDR 2018 - What will PM Lee speak on?

I feel that the National Day Rally speeches by PM Lee has less gravitas than those of his father. So I am not going to harp on it.

Instead this is what I think he should talk about. And maybe he will.

China-US Trade war

"When elephants fight, grass gets trampled." US and China are "elephants" in terms of their economic weight.

Singapore is so much grass to these elephants.

PM Lee should address this, and spell out the risks, and how we might try to deal with it.

Maybe there is nothing we can do about it. Grass cannot move to a place where the elephants are not fighting.

But maybe tell us what to expect. Tell as the worst case scenarios, and the best case we can maybe hope for.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

That Old Lament

CNA posted this on FaceBook sometime in May 2018:
"Glen Goei goes On the Record about what ails the arts in Singapore "Now that Singapore is the most expensive country in the world, it’s even harder to choose the arts. There’s no money in it and therefore there’s no future." Director, actor, filmmaker, Glen Goei goes #OnTheRecord."
It is to promote their TV interview with Glen Goei on CNA.

CNA didn't misquote Goei.

But Goei's response was more nuanced than that soundbite CNA posted on CNA.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Lease Decay Issue - One Obvious Answer. One Easy Solution

If you have not heard about the Lease Decay issue, here is a brief summary.

HDB flats are on 99-year lease. That means that when you buy a HDB flat, you "own" the flat for 99 years. At the end of the lease, the land reverts to the state, and your flat has no value.

[Here is an excellent and clear explanation of what it means to own a freehold property, and own a leasehold property. HDB owners own a lease. That imbues the HDB flat owner with certain rights that a renter/lodger does not. But because it is a lease, there is a definite period to the end of the ownership.]

This is not a problem for the original buyers. Assuming they bought the new flat at age 25, by the time the lease runs out they would be about 124 years old.

Most likely dead.

The lease decay issue was highlighted because there were many couples buying old flats with short remainder of leases left.

News React

Ben Davis

They are all very good points. On either side of the argument. Therein lies the dilemma. Yes, Country over Self, precedent, fairness to other young men who serve, who put their dreams on hold, all that is valid.

Similarly, window of opportunity, short career, chance of a lifetime, talent, a dream to chase. All equally valid and compelling arguments.

Whatever his decision, I shall not fault him. I have not the talent to face that dilemma at his age. He has to live his life, he has to make a choice, and he has to live with his decision, whatever he decides.

I hope he makes the best decision he can, and I hope he finds happiness with his decision, and I hope he does not pay too high a price for his decision. 

(Ben is considering renouncing his Singapore Citizenship to pursue his dream.)

Monday, 16 July 2018

Water, Water, Everywhere...

While most Singaporeans defended SG against "threats" by Mahathir to review the water agreement or "suggestions" by the Chief Minister of Johor to re-price water, there were some Singaporeans who tried to be ... "reasonable" (to be generous) or were downright "disloyal" (from their comments).

This post addresses the implied question from the reasonable, or faithless, Singaporeans:

Why is Singapore such an arsehole when it comes to the water agreement with Malaysia?

There is so much uninformed comments on FB regarding this. But then again, that's one of the two things the internet is for - Uninformed comment. (The other thing of course is Porn, but that's another story).

Before you comment on anything related to the water agreements, first know your history. A quick primer would be Water Talks.

If you have not read it, I GUARANTEE you at some point you will make an ass of yourself. Those who do not know history, will inevitably make an ass of themselves when they try to be clever or original. Or think they have a solution that no one else had ever thought of.

Yes, you might dismiss it as pure propaganda on the part of Singapore (cos, faithless Singaporeans), but know that Malaysia NEVER rebutted the facts within the booklet. Mahathir was of course discombobulated, and said something about Singapore not being "nice" to publicised his "love letters".

Know also that recently, the Crown Prince of Johor has called SG a good neighbour and friend. Why? This article shows how we have been friends. And it shows that accusations that we were profiteering from supplying water to Johor is patently false. If the price were too high, would they buy more than they had contracted to? If the price is too high, shouldn't they find alternative options?

And for a summary (if I may toot my own horn or blogpost), I would suggest this blogpost. "Sui Pian" also has my speculation as to why MY kept shifting the goal posts, and why MY is losing money on the water agreement.

Monday, 9 July 2018

This is how we raise productivity.

One evening, we were shopping at NTUC at Blk 95 Toa Payoh.

This is a new NTUC (well, a few months old) and it was "state of the art" in terms of technology and labour saving.

One thing you'll notice is that the cashier will ring up your purchases, but WILL NOT TAKE YOUR PAYMENT.

That's automated.

Facing the customer at the checkout, are two slots for you to put in your coins, and your notes. And the machine will make any change automatically. Presumably, there is also an option for cashless payment options, but I did not notice because I pay in cash.

There are two checkouts.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The other shoe drops - a $4 Bata sandal

Bata Sandals, RM11.99, Mahathir's choice.
I had mixed feelings when Pakatan Harapan won, and Mahathir became PM of Malaysia again.

I don't trust Mahathir.

But then again, I didn't think Najib could continue. Or should continue. He was bad for Malaysia.

I'm not sure that Mahathir is that much better. But people seem hopeful.

And Anwar is waiting in the wings.

Certainly Mahathir tried to assure sceptics that he was totally focused on getting the job done.

The two years later, Anwar takes over. So, hope.

Mahathir was supposed to be the "cleaner" - take out the Najib trash, start to clean up corruption, terminate bad contracts with China.

And Singapore.