30 December 2004

Twiddledum and Twiddledee are now one!

As 2004 ends, the Singapore media market enters into a phase of rationalisation.

The orthodox line, as proclaimed by the authorities and the media players, is that there is too little space in this tiny city of 4 million for even 2 media/news networks. The decision to remerge Twiddledum and Twiddledee is a rational, economically-justified one. In other words, it's yet another one of Singapore's "done deals" that the authorities hope the populace won't analyse too deeply and start picking on the flaws.

Instead of asking whether the merger was inevitable, we should be questioning: under what circumstances and actions would this outcome be considered inevitable?

I will forgo the details of the Prisoner's Dilemma, and instead treat the Twiddledum and Twiddledee situation as a similar game.

Picture, if you will, the situation in June 2000. Dum and Dee, the state-owned monopolists of the print and tv media, have been granted licenses to operate in each other's domains. There are two strategies open to both players, namely, S1: Beggar thy neighbour by lowering advertising prices in your papers, magazines and broadcasts below fair prices, in order to bankrupt the competitor out of the market; and S2: Grow the pie by innovating and introducing new, different programmes and formats.

Here's the table of outcomes:

Dee (S1)

Dee (S2)

Dum (S1)

-50, -50

100, -50

Dum (S2)

-50, 100

50, 50

Evidently, if one player adopts the nice-guy strategy, he'll be competed out of the market (and possibly his previous dominant position) if the competitor plays the beggar thy neighbour cards. The "win-win" outcome is achieved if both players in the media market had adopted S2. Both would have some gains, as advertisers would buy airtime in two tv networks with very different programming.

And if both players adopt S1? Both of them might go bust. There would be a mediated outcome, courtesy of the government, to return both players to their previous monopoly decisions, rescind the market liberalisation, and declare the experiment a failure.. And it's not the most optimum outcome, given the wastage of resources from both sides when they employ the beggar-thy-neighbour strategy.

However, this is the most likely outcome. The Nash Equilibrium. Both players, not knowing the strategy of the other, will rationally pick the strategy that pays off the most for itself (S1). Nash Equilibrium refers to the strategies where "no
player can benefit any more by changing her strategy while the other players keep their strategies unchanged", and the corresponding outcomes or payoffs. And here, the Nash Equilibrium is the lose-lose outcome, as with the Prisoner's Dilemma, where both players get heavy jail sentences because they both choose to confess.

We should note that mutual cooperation (S2, S2) is not an equilibrium point: a player can obtain better results for himself by playing mean while the other still cooperates...

Sometimes rational decisions aren't sensible.

Notes: it is a fact that is acknowledged, but rarely discussed - Twiddledum and Twiddledee had record year-on-year increases in advertising volume in the period June 2000 - present, yet their advertising revenue had plumetted completely in the same period. Beggar thy neighbour indeed.

If they had been less rational, both media players could've walked away with spanking profits, just that they wouldn't be the sole players on the hill.

28 December 2004


A national survey in China reveals that barely half of the population can communicate in Mandarin Chinese.

So much for Singapore's Speak Mandarin Campaign slogan, "Chinese language for Chinese people"?

The China Daily even says:

"A standard, commonly used spoken language is also in the interests of the country as it helps promote national identity and cohesion..."

"Promotion of putonghua should not necessarily mean stifling other spoken languages. We must respect dialects. This is the unswerving policy of the country. Dialects carry culture."

And so much for Singapore's "Chinese language carry Chinese Culture" or even its "More Chinese, less dialects" slogans as well.

In fact, Singaporean businessmen will find that dialects and local knowledge would go a longer way to seal a deal than speaking Mandarin and having an understanding of elite Chinese customs.

23 December 2004

Where oh where is the honest debate?

The final post

Singapore inches inexorably towards the casino. Don't let the 'thorough deliberation' in Parliament fool you.

Let those who have eyes, see. Let those who have ears, hear. And those who have patience, read.

The casino debate is anything but honest. We have mentioned that the only 2 sides, the only 2 mentionable positions sanctioned for public consumption, are the economic pro-casino and the moral anti-casino views. There is no reconciliation between the two (and would be very dangerous if a researcher manages to reconcile both considerations logically, like the NTU economic professors), and that just suits the theatricity of the debate fine.

What happens when you have two irreconcilable sides to a dilemma? You argue the hell out of each other, drive everyone to sleep while repeating the same points and making no concessions or improvements to the debate. Then everyone who the casino affects will lose attention and stop thinking about it. And that just serves the theatricity of the debate fine.

The decision's been made anyway

It's plain for people to see. Which side has to make a case for its views? Which side has to defend its assertions?

I don't see the economic pro-casino side having to give actual figures to justify the "positive economic returns" of the casino. They've been given a free pass. It's the anti-casino side that has to prove its case that the outcome is negative on the balance, that the social costs outweigh the social benefits. And of course, commentors in the press and media are muzzled from pointing out that it's possible to object to the casino on econometric calculations instead of pure morality.

Which side is so guaranteed of victory that it's making (lame) promises and concessions (that won't be upheld) as part of the normal debate, instead of arguing on the merits of the casino?

Let's look at the promises and concessions and laugh at them

1. "We'll just let the top 10% of Singaporeans enter the casino. It'll be for the rich and the foreigners."

The recognition here is that almost all casinos are bad for the lower classes; they are a tax on the poor. It is the poor and the middle classes that are more easily hooked and lose more (as a proportion of their earnings) at the gambling table.

Hence the concession: make the casino ultra-exclusive.

We predict the concession will be dropped the moment the casino is approved. It's a no-brainer that the majority of casino revenues come from the everyday low/middle classes who have the compulsion to spend 3 nights of every week just gambling.

Take away the bottom 90% earners. You have a nearly empty casino, devoid of the hustle and bustle. And who would go there?

2. "We'll run a referendum on the issue"

We predict they never will. A very slim majority of the Singaporean public is against the casino, and the only way to push it through is in Parliament.

But it creates a believable illusion of choice, doesn't it? A freedom to choose for the casino (of course, not against it, preferably).

It's as palpable as the lifting of the party whip so the 97% PAP-dominated Parliament is free to vote their conscience instead of pushing it through using sheer numbers.

Behind all this freedom is this implication: the casino deal can be forced down the throats, against the will of Singaporeans. However it will be so unpopular that it may jeapordise the ruling party.

Hence the need to let this be a 'free debate'. What we should look out for is whether the pro-economic side will take the hardline stand that this casino concerns the economic survival of Singapore, therefore making the vote subject to the party whip. While the cabinet realises the self-defeating essence of this strategy, it is nonetheless inching towards it, with its refusal to justify the economic returns and insistence to just say the casino is economically necessary.

All bets are off if there is a referendum at all. The last time we had one, the issue was a union with Malaysia, and the wise pro-merger leaders decided to count all blank and spoilt votes as Yes votes.

3. "We'll make the casino as inconspicuous as possible."

No kidding. In his National Day Rally speech, MiniLee said it would be possible to develop Sentosa as a family-focused destination with all kinds of educational, leisure and entertainment activities and installations... just that in the middle of it will be, well, you know... that inconspicuous thing that really, is just a small, tiny part of the overall family-oriented Sentosa.


An inconspicuous casino! Trust Singapore's leaders to seriously consider that, and trust Singaporeans not to snigger or call him out on that one. It's a no-brainer, but the free pass the media and the public gave MiniLee on that lamest excuse is worse than a no-brainer.

Our prediction

The casino idea will just - and only just pass with a tiny majority, with a 'strong' dissenting vote from PAP's backbenchers.

Taking the dissenters into consideration, Parliament approves the plan, but authorises Temasek to take a substantial or even controlling stake in the casino (which of course will be a monopoly. You think they'd want 2 or more casinos?).

MiniLee will swear it's all so Temasek can exercise social control and oversight to rein in possible excesses of the casino. It's not in it for the money, really.


21 December 2004

After one too many walks down Orchard Rd

've been to Orchard Rd five times this month already. And that means walking down the entire stretch, from Plaza Singapura to Borders or Tanglin Mall.

I see lots of traffic jams on the road, and wonder why the passengers won't get off their buses and walk - they look pissed enough staring out of their windows, to think "I can walk faster than this bus goes!"

I also see the very weird street performers our wise, arts-supporting civil servants have approved this year to grace our streets. Lots of stiltwalkers, carnivallers, heavily-made-up women (or men - it's hard to tell), acrobats... It just looks like our Very Wise Civil Servants were thinking more of "Mardi Gras" than "Christmas" when they selected all these people? I don't see any Santas around, surprisingly.

I see lots of human jams on the walkways of Orchard Rd, and wonder why some crowds gather at certain spots and just stand there, staring at spaces that are cordoned off by tape... in the totally opposite direction from the performer/street person walking past them. Pathetic.

Directly across the road, some crowds gather and stare at the people here who are staring at nothing, thinking if they stayed long enough, they'd find out what the other people were staring at. Even more pathetic.

It must be my rotten luck: I don't see any squads of grim-faced, semiautomatic machinegun-wielding policemen ("elite squads") marching down Orchard Rd at all. I'd feel much safer in the crowds if they're here...

Question: aside from that very famous photograph in the newspapers and the news on TV, has ANYONE seen these squads of grim-faced, heavily-armed policemen anywhere on Orchard Rd this month?

20 December 2004

A different type of test

Yes, the gweilos always complain that we Asians - Chinese, Japanese, Korean - all look the same.

Sometimes that comes across as racism, arrogance, or pure indifference. However, I urge all of you to take this test to find out if it's true.

Can Asians tell the difference between themselves?

18 December 2004

We interrupt this series on God with a breaking announcement

From the Associated Press:
Secret Iraqi Prisoner Died of Torture

SAN DIEGO - An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA (news - web sites) interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture — suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press

The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that the death had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances under which the man died were not disclosed at the time.

The prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," the documents reviewed by The AP show. It is unclear whether that position was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations.

The spy agency, which faces congressional scrutiny over its detention and interrogation of terror suspects at the Baghdad prison and elsewhere, declined to comment for this story, as did the Justice Department (news - web sites).

Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib — prisoners being held secretly by the agency.

His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. One of those guards was Pvt. Charles Graner, who last month received 10 years in a military prison for abusing detainees.

Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information, according to the documents, which consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA's Inspector General's office.

One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets," according to a summary of his interview.

Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al-Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth "as if a faucet had been turned on," according to the interview summary.

The military pathologist who ruled the case a homicide found several broken ribs and concluded al-Jamadi died from pressure to the chest and difficulty breathing.

Dr. Michael Baden, a distinguished civilian pathologist who reviewed the autopsy for a defense attorney in the case, agreed in an interview that the position in which al-Jamadi was suspended could have contributed to his death.

Dr. Vincent Iacopino, director of research for Physicians for Human Rights, called the hyper-extension of the arms behind the back "clear and simple torture." The European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of torture in 1996 in a case of Palestinian hanging — a technique Iacopino said is used worldwide but named for its alleged use by Israel in the Palestinian territories.

The Washington Post reported last year that after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the CIA suspended the use of its "enhanced interrogation techniques," including stress positions, because of fears that the agency could be accused of unsanctioned and illegal activity. The newspaper said the White House had approved the tactics.

Navy SEALs apprehended al-Jamadi as a suspect in the Oct. 27, 2003, bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12 people. His alleged role in the bombing is unclear. According to court documents and testimony, the SEALs punched, kicked and struck al-Jamadi with their rifles before handing him over to the CIA early on Nov. 4. By 7 a.m., al-Jamadi was dead.

Navy prosecutors in San Diego have charged nine SEALs and one sailor with abusing al-Jamadi and others. All but two lieutenants have received nonjudicial punishment; one lieutenant is scheduled for court-martial in March, the other is awaiting a hearing before the Navy's top SEAL.

The statements from five of Abu Ghraib's Army guards were shown to The AP by an attorney for one of the SEALs, who said they offered a more balanced picture of what happened. The lawyer asked not to be identified, saying he feared repercussions for his client.

According to the statements:

Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot.

There, the interrogator instructed guards to attach shackles from the prisoner's handcuffs to a barred window. That would let al-Jamadi stand without pain, but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be stretched above and behind him.

The documents do not make clear what happened after guards left. After about a half-hour, the interrogator called for the guards to reposition the prisoner, who was slouching with his arms stretched behind him.

The interrogator told guards that al-Jamadi was "playing possum" — faking it — and then watched as guards struggled to get him on his feet. But the guards realized it was useless.

"After we found out he was dead, they were nervous," Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus said of the CIA interrogator and translator. "They didn't know what the hell to do."

10 December 2004

Casino Royale

It's hard work compiling logs of icq conversations between Alvarny and myself. And very tiring to read the pseudo-debate rage in the Singaporean press and so-called media, where they skip around the issue.

Part III, where we bitch about the absence of actual analysis in the debate

A public violation of an unstated rule goes a long way in establishing or reiterating to spectators the existence of the rule and the deviant status of the act and the person performing the act. In short, this is what happens when someone speaks out of his place.

Exhibit A: NTU adjunct economics professor, as reported in the Today newspaper and the Business Times on 2 December.

2 NTU professors release an abstract or a literature review saying US studies that show casinos will bring more costs than benefits. And quantified it in concrete terms as well: for every dollar of tax revenue gained from the casino, 3 dollars of state or community programmes were required to address the negative social problems from the casino.

There's something about NTU economics professors. They don't play by the rules of responsible academia as typified by NUS dons: never present evidence that contradicts policy directions of the government.

But the statement from the NTU professors really show what's missing from the entire pseudo-debate on the casinos. If there are economic benefits and social costs that cannot be separated at all from a casino, then where are the studies showing that there is a positive balance? And better yet, showing that in monetary terms?

Now in order to present a figure that will close the casino debate, you have to calculate the estimated economic benefit from the casino. Somehow, the MiniLee cabinet has neglected to provide the figures, or even commission unbiased studies to produce the figures. Yet we read in the papers about the gaggle of casino operators preparing papers or presenting preliminary plans to the Government...

Exhibit B: The fait accompli

In any pseudo-debate, there are facts that must be taken for granted as a matter of faith. There are questions that should be left alone, issues that a responsible critic should pass over.

In this case, the fait accompli is the economic success of setting up the casino in Singapore. No voice in the debate has asked for proof, because its success is a foregone conclusion.

Yet responsible economists in the US and UK show that several things have to be considered.

Does the casino draw its main customers from the locality or from abroad?
Does it divert revenue from competing overseas casinos or does it divert from domestic spending?
Does it make the economy grow, or will people just end up substituting normal economic consumption with gambling?

It is not a foregone conclusion, and we are very much in peril for thinking it so.

And of course, it does bring home the question: Where are the grown-up researchers? Where is the responsible debate?

03 December 2004


This time round, I'll be trying something different. The following entry is co-written with Alvarny in a series of discussions over the week.

Casino Royale

Part the First, where I bitch about the responsibilities of intellectuals; or
Where are the grown-up philosophers?

There's this debate going on for several weeks now in Singapore's policymaking circles about the wisdom of granting a casino license. The positions are getting entrenched between the Economic pro-casino legislators apparently headed by the Prime Minister and his cabinet, and the Moralistic anti-gambling coalition of some backbenchers and the general public.

On 18 November, just months after Mini-Lee tried to float the casino idea in his National Day address and subsequent flogging (or yes-manning) of the issue on the pro-side by the Straits Times and then debates in parliament, finally an academic spoke out on the issue. And it was the head of the Philosophy department in NUS too.

At the Institute of Policy Studies forum, Prof. Ten Chin Liew said:

"Individuals freely choose to gamble, it is no business of others to interfere with how they spend their legitimately acquired money."

"Freedom to gamble can thus be seen like freedom to engage in religious practices - as in a tolerant society, a majority does not impose its practices on a minority."

"Otherwise, many public projects of great value, such as expressways, would have been condemned right from the start because they affect some people adversely."

That's the head of philosophy from Singapore's national university for you, channelling the ghost of John Stuart Mill.

And e-props to all of you who went "WTF" reading the don's third paragraph.

Yes, someone along the line, the professor switches from an argument on absolute freedom to... public projects??? We are unable to discern the logic here, since the defense of public projects (for the greater good, but will inconvenience some people) is clearly a utilitarian argument.

It's an inept, toss everything into the salad bowl and mix and hope no-one notices the ingredients don't go together argument. From the head of the Philosophy department, nonetheless. And since the don hasn't bothered to write to the press demanding corrections, it's not a case of a paper hastily truncating a reasonable argument into something very incoherent (which it does occasionally).

Part the Second, where we bitch about the usefulness of intellectuals

What is galls us so is the complete irrelevance of this don and his argument. For starters, the issue is not about gambling. Gambling is already a legal activity via Singapore Pools, the Stock Exchange, and the donate to a TV charity show and stand to win prizes scheme).

No, the issue is about whether there should be a casino. And Prof Ten's "freedom to gamble" argument doesn't even address it. Although he does serve the function of a state-sponsored intellectual doing the noble service of public miseducation (or disinformation) for his masters.

The real issue is whether having a casino would generate greater negative externalities than Singapore Pools.

The concept of externalities is simple enough: any activity generates externalities. A conversation with my friend over the cellphone drives other passengers in the same train compartment nuts even though the social transaction is solely between my friend and me. Laying cables to expand the national cable TV grid generates externalities by depriving drivers of an optimal road, for instance.

In a casino where individuals 'freely choose to gamble', their actions have knock-on effects on their family budgets should they lose more than what they can really afford. That's just one of the tamer negative externalities for you.

Again: the real issue is whether having a casino would generate greater negative externalities than Singapore Pools. Where are the grown-up intellectuals who will actually discuss it?

24 November 2004

Not Quite the Reading from Psalms

My undeclared 2-week vacation has come to an end (I don't know if the readers would actually want to hear about my private life) and before regular programming resumes, here's your moment of Zen, via some evil creative posters at DFA. Language purists, don't flog me or them on the mangling of Middle English.

The 23rd Sigh

Bush is my shepherd; I dwell in want.
He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.
He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.
He restoreth my fears.
He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war,
I will find no exit, for thou art in office.
Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me.
Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion.
Thou anointest my head with foreign oil.
My health insurance runneth out.
Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy term,
And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.

10 November 2004

As it was in 1967...

Chomsky denounces Washington policy consultants in think tanks as abrogating the responsibility of intellectuals.

It's nicely written, combining the best of Pol. Sci. and historical analysis.

Scary how the lies, justifications and modus operandi of 1967 New Frontiersmen and the 2001 Neoconservatives are so identical.

05 November 2004

What I Want to Know

Is how it's possible that the major newspaper in Singapore, the Straits Times, can jovially report that the unemployment rate in Singapore has fallen to from 4.5% to 3.4%, yet hide the fact that there is a rising trend of graduates below age 30 remaining unemployed?

In fact, the only mention of it is in an obscure website here.

And how is it possible that no media outlet here dares to report the numbers of young graduates who are now underemployed?

What is our Labour Minister going to do about this unemployment problem?

Our War in Iraq is Going Well

Yes, the Republicans have won the election. President Bush was legitimately elected this time by a huge turnout of gay-bashers, bible-thumpers, and people who apparently believe that the war in Iraq is going well.

Here are more signs to strengthen their belief:

1. Human Rights Watch has just released a report pointing out that crucial evidence for the trial of Saddam has been either lost or seriously tainted.

Evidence that could easily be used to convict Saddam Hussein of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity have been LOST, no thanks to clueless American troops who failed to secure not just Iraqi museums, research facilities, weapons depots, and also... mass graves.

Seriously, people! Saddam butchered so many people and left mass graves all over the country. There are as many mass graves as oil wells in Iraq and you tell me that the mass graves were not secured? The troops actually lost evidence that was scattered all over Iraq?

Wonderful. Of course if Saddam is convicted in the end, it'll be because the court's decision (whether run by the US or its Iraqi puppets) is faith-based rather than evidence-based. Nice precedent for conducting trials in the post 9/11 era, eh?

2. An elementary school in New Jersey was bombed with 25 rounds of ammunition yesterday by a National Guard fighter.

Colin Powell claims that irrefutable evidence has been found that the traitorous state of New Jersey is either developing WMD, harboring Zarqawi, or voted for the terrorist John Kerry.

The General said in his speech to the UN Security Council that the elementary school wasn't really an elementary school, but either a terrorist training camp or a bomb factory.

Powell also denied reports that the fighter plane bombed the school when a wedding was under way.

27 October 2004

Not at the top of the world

or, we love polls that show Singapore is number one!

The 3rd annual worldwide press freedom index from Reporters Without Borders ranks Singapore at 147 out of a total of 167 countries.

Small consolation: Iraq comes in at 148th place.
Sore points (for some readers): Malaysia has a freer press at 122 and Indonesia at 117. The hell, even RUSSIA (140) has a freer press than Singapore...

That should be some food for thought or cannon fodder for students taking their GP exams soon. I don't even think our national newspapers will dare report this finding...

Like any other responsible study or poll (and you'd be surprised there are MANY irresponsible studies - mostly the ones that put Singapore as no 1 in something or another), Reporters Without Borders releases an explanation of how the data was compiled.

Note the final clarification on that page: "The index should in no way be taken as an indication of the quality of the press in the countries concerned." That means you still can have a press that reports what is (mostly) factually true, but is still unfree.

22 October 2004

Poetry as Criticism of Life

Istana Park

so much depends

how fast you walk

this short green carpet

a little red


If you live in Singapore long enough,
you start noticing strange details.
Like the trees.
You can't escape
the trees in the Garden City.

Looking at them
you start to wonder how people here think.

Notice the less shade a tree gives
the higher its status and prestige.
Palm trees, coconut trees, shrubs -
Our architects fall over themselves to plant them outside the holy sites:
embassies, state buildings, malls and condos.

Trees serve a decorative function.
For shade, please use a sheltered walkway
or an underground tunnel.

Green Plan

Docile, domesticated
garden is nature denatured
colonised for human living.

Come, let us draw lines
to fence in nature.
Let us tear up the forests
pave the ground with concrete
then plant midget shrubs between the cracks!

For this is our green plan:
"We will keep nature as long as possible,
even as we cater to a growing population."*

* quote from Ms Juliet Hang, Asst Dir Public Affairs for Ministry of National Development and Ms Angeline Yap, Asst Dir Corporate Communications for Ministry of the Environment, in a letter to the Straits Times forum page on 10 May 2003.

20 October 2004

Republicans for Stem-cell Research

or, Boycott the Salvation Army Now!

The Salvation Army will NOT be getting any donations from me this year, next year, or any year. It is not a Christian organisation when it refuses to support life-saving scientific research, when it shuns people who have good reason to speak for life-saving research, when it deceives the public about its true stand on stem-cell research, and when it cancels contracts without due recompense.

From the New York Times:

Patti Davis, an author and the daughter of President Ronald Reagan, has filed a lawsuit against the Salvation Army accusing it of backing out of a speaking agreement because it objects to her support for embryonic stem cell research.

Like her mother, Nancy Reagan, Ms. Davis supports research on stem cells taken from human embryos because it may lead to a cure for neurological diseases like Alzheimer's, which afflicted Mr. Reagan. Antiabortion groups oppose such research because the cells are harvested from fetuses.

But the lawyer for the Santa Rosa, Calif., chapter of the Salvation Army, which initially expressed interest in hiring Ms. Davis to speak at a dinner next month, said its change of heart was not related to such research.

The lawyer, Michael G. Watters, said, "There was not a binding agreement, and it just didn't work out for a variety of reasons." The Santa Rosa chapter, Mr. Watters said, "categorically denies that the fact that this thing didn't work out had anything to do with stem cell research or her position on stem cell research."

The Salvation Army's position on the therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells is unclear. A spokesman, Maj. George Hood, at the national headquarters of the organization, in Alexandria, Va., did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. A search of news articles failed to reveal a public position by the organization, an international Christian charity based in London.

In the suit, filed Oct. 4 in State Supreme Court in Manhattan and made public yesterday, Ms. Davis asserts that the Salvation Army "breached" an agreement for her to speak in Santa Rosa on Nov. 19 at the Annual Dream Big Dinner for the Kids.

Ms. Davis seeks a $7,500 cancellation fee and punitive damages of $22,500 to be paid to the Greater Talent Network, her booking agent.

Mr. Watters implied that the deal killer was Ms. Davis's abilities as a speaker. The Greater Talent Network, Mr. Watters said, "sent out a demo tape or a copy of one of her TV shows or something, and people here said that we're not sure she's for us."

Lawrence Fabian, the lawyer for Ms. Davis and her booking agent, said Salvation Army officials in Santa Rosa "saw some television program - whether it was 'Primetime' or 'Dateline' I just don't remember - back in August, and Patti Davis talked about stem cell research."

Officials then told the Greater Talent Network that such a position was "not acceptable to them and that they would have to cancel the contract," Mr. Fabian said.

The booking agent is "not naming names at this time but they know the names, obviously," Mr. Fabian said.

Mr. Fabian emphasized that Ms. Davis's planned speech was about "The Long Goodbye," her book on her father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease, set to be released next month.

"We've tried to make this a very simple matter that they breached the agreement with her and that this is the cause of it," Mr. Fabian said. Ms. Davis is "not trying to make a cause célèbre of this particular lawsuit."

In August, Ms. Davis appeared on ABC's "Primetime Live." She said: "My family watched as Alzheimer's conquered my father. Thousands of families deal with Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and diabetes. Stem cell treatment could be the miracle we've been waiting for."

19 October 2004

Global Limits

Oil production is nearly at its peak. Yet that shouldn't worry most readers today: the more pressing problem is the US military, which has clearly peaked and reached its limit.

Item 1: US military persuades UK troops in the south of Iraq to move up to the north, where most of the action is. Parliament will debate on this issue during the week (and I'll be updating on it).

Item 2: The elite force of the US army has just been despatched to Iraq. It's a little like sending your Top Henchman into battle after all your goons are slaughtered by some gung-ho fighter. Or sending Captain Freedom to finish off Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Running Man, because the entire cast of heroes have been killed...

As the Los Angeles Times puts it,

For years, The Box has been a stage for the Army's elite "opposition force" — soldiers expert at assuming the roles of enemy fighters, be they the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents. Their mission is to toughen new soldiers with elaborate simulations — staging sniper fire, riots, suicide car bombings and potentially dangerous culture clashes.

Staging such scenes has long been the work of the fabled 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, or Black Horse Regiment. But starting next month, the 3,500-member unit will begin shipping out to Iraq from the Ft. Irwin National Training Center, near Barstow. Deployments are nothing new in the Army, of course, but there is a special sense of urgency about dispatching the Black Horse to tackle situations that it has trained roughly 500,000 soldiers to handle since 1994. Now the bombs and bullets they encounter will be all too real.

"No one ever thought the Black Horse would be taken out of the National Training Center; they are just too valuable here," said Maj. John Clearwater. "But the Army is stretched too thin, and Iraq is a big mission."

The bottomline: a draft is imminent in America. It will happen regardless of who wins on 2 Nov. But maybe Kerry would have the decency to beg the United Nations and the Arab League to send in their soldiers.

17 October 2004

The Job of the Year 2004

or, Why oh why do we have such liars serving as government economists?

In 2002, at the height of Singapore's grand "transition into a mature economy" (where do the mandarins in our civil service come up with crap like that?), and when our then-PM Goh lauded graduates frying chestnuts and selling porridge at hawker centres as entrepeneurs (and how did this piece of crap manage to float to the top of the civil service?), the Job of the Year was: Insurance Agent.

In 2003, when our government economists proclaimed that Singapore had grown marvellously despite the SARS outbreak (presumably, one has to admire their talent for looking for silver linings in very dark clouds, and ignoring the countless people who lost their jobs), the Job of the Year was: Multilevel Marketer.

For 2004, let's give a loud cheer for the 9% growth rate (projected)! It is a growth rate that shouldn't slide below 8% despite the dramatic slowdown in the last quarter! Indeed, as our government economists put it, even if the economy does come to a complete halt, we'll still have at least 8% growth, huzzah! Ah, the wonders of starting from a very low base: any improvement becomes spectacular. And the Job of the Year is: Telemarketer (aka Direct Marketer).

Do you hate it when telemarketers call?
(Link courtesy of Edward)

The Direct Marketing sector regards the telephone as one of its most successful tools. Consumers experience telemarketing from a completely different point of view: more than 92% perceive commercial telephone calls as a violation of privacy.

Telemarketers make use of a telescript - a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance.

Why make life difficult for telemarketers?

Well, because they do make life difficult for us. Like making us ponder the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything:

1. Where did you get my contact from?
2. When on earth did I ever give my contact to your company? (especially if I haven't even heard of your company in my life)
3. Which company did you buy my contact from?
4. What makes you think you're not annoying me by calling at x pm?
5. What makes you think I'll give you my email address at the end of your unsolicited sales attempt?

But mainly because telemarketers are just one step above email spammers.

10 October 2004

Rejoice, for I have returned to the Internets!

The philosopher and deconstructionist Jacques Derrida is dead; he shall live on forever.

The Fafblog has a very appropriate entry celebrating Derrida and his philosophy.

18 September 2004

Black Humour

A Uniquely Singaporean Edition

Singapore's National Anthem is Majullah Singapura (Forward, Singapore!).
It is ruled by a conservative party whose slogan is Incremental Change.

16 September 2004

Hall of Shame and Notoriety

Flip Flopper Number 1

Via DFA 2.0, which identifies the most outrageous flip-flopper in American politics.

It was Dick Cheney, but not as you know him. Thirteen years ago, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney gave the keynote address at the Washington Insitute's Soref Symposium. The speech was titled "The Gulf War: A First Assessment" and you're not going to believe some of what he said.

"Should we have gone in to Baghdad? Did we leave the job in some respects unfinished? I think the answer is a resounding "no."

"I think the proposition of going to Baghdad is fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, and once we'd done that we'd have to put another government in its place."

"It is vitally important for a President to know when not to commit U.S. military force. How many casualties should the United States accept in (the) effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?"

"It's my view that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq."

This is the man who makes hopes to win an election by portraying Senator Kerry as a "flip-flopper." Read the entire transcript from the Washington Institute.

Flip Flopper Number 2

During the Legislative Assembly Debate on 15 September 1955 the Great Leader, then an ordinary assemblyman, said:

"If it is not totalitarian to arrest a man and detain him, when you cannot charge him with any offence against any written law - if that is not what we always cried out against in Fascist states - then what is it?"

The same Great Leader, upon assumption of power in 1959, went on shortly to jail without trial, launch defamation suits, and bankrupt all his political opponents for almost 50 years.

06 September 2004

More on flats and singles

I had the feeling, two posts ago, that MiniLee had promised more than what he could give in his National Rally speech. Under the laudable initiative of liberalising Singapore, the new leader made several sweeping pronouncements which, in the course of just a fortnight, were "clarified" and nullified by himself, his ministers, and even the Police Entertainment Licensing Unit (an Orwellian name, if there ever was one).

On further consideration, I realise that the "clarification" by Mah Bow Wow on flats and singles issue was not even coherent. Let's take a look at it again, this time, in depth.

Rally Speech: "We originally allowed singles to buy flats if two of them paired up and were aged above 35 years... this year we have gone further and said you can buy 4-room, 5-room or bigger flats anywhere on the resale market."

Mah Bow Wow's clarification: Singles can grants (i.e. subsidies) to buy any public housing as long as they don't earn more than $3000 a month. The old limit was $8000 a month.

A detailed explanation of my original point: It doesn't take much for middle-class singles over 35 to earn more than $3000 a month. If we take 2004 as the benchmark, the average middle-class single over 35 would've spent an average of 15 years in the labour market. If you're middle-class, PBEM, and white-collar, it's very likely that you'd hit over $3,000 a month? The amount of subsidies left behind is substantial, and does affect the capacity to afford your new home.

And singles of this profile have been the usual buyers of public housing under the old scheme! Of course with the old limit of $8,000 only the ridiculously well-off singles (who should be bonking with each other and passing their filthy rich 'sucessful genes' to produce new generations of Singaporeans!) were excluded from buying public housing.

The government can and will quibble over just how many singles have been left behind with the new limits. In fact, it will quibble over the numbers (if challenged publicly by critics like myself) without feeling the need to produce hard numbers of its own. So the point is moot until we or some economist critic can construct the figures.

But we've missed something big that the government won't have a defense to.

Old scheme: Singles are free to be filthy rich, it doesn't matter what they earn, but they can only buy a small 3-room flat.
New scheme: Singles are free to buy any flat what they want, but they won't receive any subsidies or waivers if they earn more than $3K.

Well, just tell me what flat you can really afford if you earn less than $3,000 a month. And tell me how you can afford a flat if you earn more, but are now ineligible for the subsidies?

Perhaps the only way to mock this incoherent scheme is to take it very literally, very seriously and ask:
"What if I get a raise 2 years after I buy the flat? Will the government kick me out of my flat and make me pay back the 'subsidies'?"
"I plan to get my flat under the singles-over-35 scheme, then marry someone 2 years later. Will I get to keep my singles flat subsidy? Will we be able to apply for a new flat under the married couples subsidy?"
"What if I get myself temporarily underpaid. Will I qualify for the scheme then?"
"I'm the CEO of my company. If I pay myself $5,000 in terms of company shares and only receive a cash salary of $2,500 will I still qualify?" etc.

(It's a parody of the Encyclopedist who, under religious censorship, managed to poke fun at the concept of the location of hell by taking it far too literally and seriously)

05 September 2004

Living in a Police State

Via Keywords: When the RNC crashed into New York City, they turned it into a Police state with arbitrary arrests, police brutality, spying on citizens, and a refusal to set protestors free after the maximum 3-day holding period.

Kerim's article:
Indiscriminate Arrests

That's the number of people they are saying were arrested in New York during the Republican convention. A judge ordered that 500 of them be released immediately:

A judge ordered the immediate release of nearly 500 protesters Thursday - just hours before President Bush's speech at the Republican National Convention - and then fined the city for refusing to comply with his order.

The NY branch of the ACLU has set up a special web site for reporting on police misconduct during the RNC. In their latest report they raise concerns about the following violations:

* Pre-emptive arrests: On a couple of occasions, massive arrests followed right on the heels of a negotiated agreement on the terms for a lawful march

* Indiscriminate arrests: The NYCLU has received reports from members of the press, legal observers, medics and even passersby who found themselves caught in the Spiderman-type orange mesh netting the police used to make arrests.

* Dangerous tactics: At one demonstration, the police suddenly charged into the crowd with metal barricades and a squad of plain clothes officers later drove their scooters into the crowd. Some arrestees and bystanders reported being kicked, punched or hit with batons by police. Some reported the incidents to local precincts and had their bruises photographed by police officials.

* Dangerous conditions at the Pier 57 detention facility: Having announced for months that it was prepared to handle over 1000 arrests a day during the RNC, the City chose to detain arrestees in this dank, filthy bus depot where people had to sit or lie on the floor covered with soot and quite possibly toxic automotive fluids. The conditions left many with rashes and respiratory problems during their detention stay and after they were released. The NYCLU is in the process of testing a sample gathered by a medic who was part of a sweeping arrest, although he was doing nothing more than monitoring a protest event.

* Excessive delays in processing arrestees: The criminal justice system ground practically to a halt as people – including hundreds whose arrests the police know were unlawful – were routinely held for 36 hours or more on minor offenses before receiving desk appearance tickets or being brought before a judge.

* Pervasive police surveillance: The pervasive videotaping and use of surveillance cameras to record lawful protest activity raises the specter of a return to the bad old days of the “Red Squad” and the keeping of political dossiers on critics of our government. A number of activists with a history of lawful protest activity also report being followed by individuals who appeared to be government agents. These practices appear to be designed – and certainly have the effect—of intimidating people from exercising their right to dissent.

Perhaps most troubling is the increased use of the term "preemptive" to legitimate arrests, wars, and other acts of state violence. Its like watching a bad science fiction movie, except its real.

UPDATE: The story in the Village Voice.

04 September 2004

Time for some Clarifications

A Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them Edition

How are all of us doing, 2 weeks into MiniLee's dynamic reign of Singapore? Despite the lack of details in his speech, some critics gave the new emperor the benefit of the doubt, and some were even overwhelmed by his apparent reformist bent and wrote tearful letters to the Straits Times forum page...

Yet 2 weeks is all it takes for every major point in MiniLee's National Day Rally to be "clarified" by all the King's men and horses.

In no particular order (since every major 'promise' laid out in MiniLee's speech has been clarified), let's look at the lying lies and the liar who told them.

1. Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom!

Rally speech: MiniLee promises that there will be no need to apply for licenses to speak or even hold an exhibition at the Speakers Corner in Honglim Park.

"One: for indoor talks — we are going to do away with licensing."

Clarification: The Police Entertainment Licensing Unit (PELU) declares a few days later that talks that have foreign speakers or are held by organisations affiliated to foreign NGOs still have to apply for a permit to hold a talk.

2. Let a Hundred flowers bloom! pt 2

Rally Speech: "The second thing we are going to do is to open up the Speakers' Corner where you can go and make any speech you like and we are going to say, 'Well, if you want to go there and have an exhibition, go ahead.'"

Clarification: PELU declares on the same day that although you don't have to go to the police station to apply for a permit to hold a speech or an exhibition at the Corner, you still need to go to the police station to register. And you can only have the speech/exhibition between 7am and 7pm, where everyone else is still at work. And you still can't use any megaphone or microphone.

3. Let the Singles go!

Rally speech: "We originally allowed singles to buy flats if two of them paired up and were aged above 35 years... this year we have gone further and said you can buy 4-room, 5-room or bigger flats anywhere on the resale market."

Clarification: Singles can buy any public housing as long as they don't earn more than $3000 a month. The old limit was $8000 a month.

My beef: Do the math. The ceiling has been lowered by more than 50%. IF our omniscient MiniLee and Mah Bow Wow are confident that "not many singles will be affected", they should release full figures to show just how many singles are left behind. As a former sociology student dealing with actual figures in my university, I can assure you at least 25% of singles eligible (under the old "pre-liberalisation" scheme) have now lost their right to buy a home.

4. Making Babies

Rally speech: The government has a solution for everything! The new 5-day workweek will solve our underpopulation problem!

Clarification: New scheme unveiled just yesterday aims to solve Singapore's population problem by making it EVEN EASIER for any foreigner to get Singapore PRship and citizenship and jobs.

5. We welcome all post-1965 Singaporeans to join the political process!

Rally speech: "We want you to be part of our team. We don't mind if you have different views but you must have some views."

Clarification 1: Goh Chok Tong sternly states that MiniLee "will not change just to please the Western-influenced liberals who desire to apply their concept of democracy, pluralistic politics and freedom of the press unthinkingly to Singapore. He will take a practical approach of what works for Singapore."

Wonderful. Presumably they will listen to you as long as you apply MiniLee's concept of democracy...

Clarification 2: Opposition MPs were not invited to the rally speech. That's akin to opposition MPs getting shut out during the SOU address. Presumably, "Opposition MPs have never been invited to the National Day Rally as they cannot be expected to help the Government rally the ground to support its policies". At least MiniLee's saying this himself, and not through a proxy like Mah Bow Wow, Goh Chok Tong, Wong Can't Sing, or PELU.

What do we make out of this?

The summary of MiniLee's leadership so far:

1. Make a big speech that promises the sky and claim to be an inclusivist leader.

2. Get your cabinet ministers to explain the very fine print in the weeks to come.

Doesn't this remarkable leadership style remind us of some other great leader in the world right now?

01 September 2004

Another Link Day

(and no, I'm still not talking about that hot elf)

Liberals have had a bad name in the mainstream press. To call someone a "liberal" is akin to uttering either a curse or a vulgar phrase. Yet most of the world as we know it depends on battles that liberals fought hard for, and won.

Sometimes rowdy, unmanaged forums throw up the best writing. In the spirit of Ralph Linton's essay "The 100% American", the original poster at DFA 2.0 has written this marvellous defence of liberals, which I title...

The Average Conservative

Joe gets up at 6:00 AM to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot with good, clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan. Because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast -- bacon and eggs this day. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

Joe takes his morning shower, reaching for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labelled with every ingredient and the amount that it contains because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and the breakdown of its contents. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree-hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer meets these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he'll get worker's compensation or an unemployment check because some liberal didn't think he should loose his home to temporary misfortune.

It's noon time. Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dad's; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification (those rural Republicans would still be sitting in the dark).

Joe is happy to see his dad, who is now retired. Joe's dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to. After his visit with dad, Joe gets back in his car for the ride home. He turns on a radio talk show. The host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees, "We don't need those big government liberals ruining our lives. After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

In the years to come, Joe's life will change dramatically. The U.S. dollar will be devalued as a result of our huge deficit, our living standards demolished, our standing with the world diminished and our social security gone...all because some conservative republican made sure he could take care of himself and his buddies.

29 August 2004

Sustainable Development

And now, we're out of water as well.

I told you so here. Not only is the world running out of oil, it's running out of water.

Before you say I must be more nuts than the cranks who rave about Peak Oil...

Well. This isn't so funny now, is it?

27 August 2004

The End of Teflon Blair?

An Impeach them, impeach them NOW! Edition

Tony Blair has survived 2 official inquiries, 1 vote of no-confidence, and a Labour Party conference. For that, he deserves to inherit the Teflon Leader crown from Clinton.

But wait... what's this about Blair being impeached?

Proceedings have begun to begin formal impeachment process against Blair shortly. Just like Clinton's impeachment, Tony Blair is expected to survive easily. However the impeachment process will surely force the PM to submit to yet another debate and even further scrutiny from his critics within and without the party.

But is he really that unassailable? Some people, while not baying for his blood, are clearly sharpening their knives.

Bush's "coalition of the willing" dwindles by the day. Spain and the Philippines have withdrawn, Japan is hesitating to send more troops, while his most ardent cronies in the UK and Australia face serious political challenges in the coming months.

24 August 2004

Language as War

The Speak Mandarin Campaign Edition

Random Errata (i.e. it helps to think all these are random!)

1. Had to conduct an interview in Mandarin with an artist last week. I, apparently tried to speak with such careful diction and the proper neo-Beijing accent (overcompensation for marginally passing the subject in school) that my interviewee added 6 years to my age.

I just sound too sensitive or refined when speaking Mandarin. And OLD.

I'm going to speak less Mandarin from now on.

2. I watched the National Day rally speech by the newly-crowned Prime Minister. He speaks Mandarin much better than his predecessor, which is a blessing to my ears.

I timed his speeches.
The speech in Malay took 15 minutes.
Speech in Mandarin took 25 minutes.
There was no speech in Indian Tamil, but it will be a 5 minute broadcast by a cabinet member at a later date.

It's a good deal, considering that the "offical race demographics" taught in Singapore schools have the Chinese as 70%, Malays as 10%, Indians at 8%, and "others" making up the rest.

Now, the CIA World Factbook - which has more accurate (i.e. less faked) statistics than what our newspapers and schools teach - puts the Chinese population as 76%. Now you know how meritocratic our immigration policy is - there's a good reason why hundred of thousands of nationals from China have been given Singapore citizenship or permanent residence over the past decade.

3. There's a really fun programme on Channel U called 北京你好吗, which translates to "Bejing, how are you?" or "Greetings, Beijing" (or Peking, whichever romanisation tickles your fancy). Being the Mandarin chauvinists Channel U are, the title in English is "Beijing Ni Hao Ma".

But I digress. This entertainment programme aims to promote Chinese culture and Mandarin language, and does so by sponsoring Chinese Singaporean celebrities who can't speak much Mandarin on an immersion tour to China.

There, it's a matter of teaching the celebrity useful Mandarin phrases, making sure they use the language instead of English, and deducting cash bonuses the more mistakes are made. (I wonder why the celebrity contestants really need cash prizes...)

It's all in good, clean fun. Yes, some Chinese people can't speak Mandarin, but instead of kvetching about this deplorable state, why not inject lots of humour as we laugh with and at stage and TV actor Adrian Pang as he heroically mangles (unintentionally, of course) Mandarin?

It's harmless fun, unless you consider that the producers who have absolutely no guts to make alternate and equally arbitrary versions like:

a. A humourous programme about teaching English to Chinese Singaporean celebrities who can't speak much English. I mean, the population of Singaporean Chinese actors who can't speak English far outnumbers the population of Singaporean Chinese actors who can't speak Mandarin...

b. A humourous programme about teaching Malay Singaporeans to speak Mandarin.

Realistically speaking, they'd be accused of insensitivity and language-Nazism if they tried to pull off (a), and racial insensivitiy if they tried to pull off (b).

Let me rephrase: are you sure this Beijing Ni Hao Ma programme is harmless fun? What makes it harmless and fun now, when it clearly won't be considered so if the variables were tweaked just slightly? Do the Chinese population and Mandarin language hold some special position in Singapore?

4. Anyone who still thinks the race/language policy of our government is coherent and rational should read this. But our government is of the view that if the system it creates doesn't fit an individual, that individual is the one to blame.

22 August 2004

Searching for Bobby Fischer

The Flag of Convenience Edition

Remember Bobby Fischer? The greatest chess player of all-time appears to have failed his legal challenge to halt Japan's extradition procedure, and is now considering a final solution: marrying the president of the Japan Chess Federation and applying for Japanese citizenship.

If Mr. Fischer fails, Singapore should seriously considering offering him citizenship on the condition that he takes up the post of head coach for chess in the country.

After all, Singapore's tried and tested approach to building entrepeneurs, artists, sportsmen, the economy in general... seems to consist of hiring the foreign guy and giving him citizenship, a nice landed property, and some cash.* If the foreign talent policy could work so consistently the past few years, why not invite Bobby Fischer now?

While he may have retired from competitive chess, this just means he has all the time in the world to analyse current chess competitions (instead of merely preparing for them), and coach young chess players here towards the goal of say, achieving a grandmaster rating for a Singaporean by 2010, and a FIDE or PCA championship contender by 2020. We might even surpass Cuba in the chess world!

* Factoid of the day: Did you realise Hongkong comedian Stephen Chow - yes, he of the Shaolin Soccer fame - was a Singapore PR for a grand total of 3 years in the early 90s? Offered a cool figure, the comedian sensibly accepted (Hongkong's movie industry was in a slump then, and he didn't make any movies in that period) and bought a condo here as part of the PR deal. When the time came to renew the PRship, the sensible Stephen Chow sold off the condominium and returned to Hongkong to make his greatest film to date...

21 August 2004

The War on Journalistic Quality

An I told you so edition

I wasn't too surprised that the Straits Times eventually reported on the growth of the biotech industry in India.

As usual, they are 1. slow to report on any new trends, and 2. when they do, they leave out the most important points.

Because it's way too sensitive to claim that India's biotech industry is capable of outpacing Singapore's in just a few years, the article concentrates on local Indian pharmaceutical companies who are starting to get 'into the game'.

No mention of the billions of dollars US pharmcos are moving to India's biotech outsource companies, in fact, no mention at all of any biotech outsourcing. Why? Because that one word would set off all the alarm bells in Singapore.

But it is obvious that there has to be a vast amount of outsourcing from foreign pharmcos, in order for a huge pool of locals interested and skilled enough to amass and build their own pharmaceutical companies.

One of these days, I will explain why outsourcing is not just a matter of free trade, why it hurts job markets, and why it needs to be regulated.

17 August 2004

The War in Outsourcing

India is poised to be an outsourcing powerhouse in the next 2 years... in biotech.

1. I predict the end of Singapore once this happens. There's too much our leaders have invested in this industry, too much to lose once someone starts outsourcing biotech in a big way, the only way the Indians are capable of.

2. More importantly, this is a battle worthy of the Iron Chef. Whose vision of how to build an industry is superior? Whose biotech shall reign supreme?

On one hand, the mandarins in Singapore continue to insist the only way to build up an industry is to airlift several aging, over-the-hill 'experts' in the field to transplant in local soil. Throw them enough money and hopefully they can build Singapore into a biotech hub.

What can I say? It's a tried and tested approach? Substitute foreign 'biotech expert' for foreign 'sportsman' and you have Singapore's Olympic and football strategy. Substitute with foreign 'artist' and you have Singapore's arts policy. And so on...

On the other hand, we have the Indians, who believe that a strong industry can only be built from the bottom up, not from the top down. And with local labour too.

3. Much more interesting is the idea of sustainable development. Both Singapore and India's biotech industries are ultimately driven by foreign capitalists. These industries will produce goods that are relevant not for the local population or economy, but for the North American First World.

Contrast that with the recent biotech breakthrough: the DNA sequencing of the coffee plant in Brazil.

It's a classic question: Do we really want to produce millions of Rebok shoes that will be exported immediately, or use the same resources to produce goods that our people need to use?

16 August 2004

Sustainable Development

Peak oil and Olduvai Theory neatly explain the phenomena of soaring oil prices, Shell's recent debacle, and the US interventions in Sudan, Afgahnistan, Iraq, and Venezuela.

If you think it's bad enough that the world is running out of oil (no more electricty to power the Internet!), think of how bad it will be when we run out of water.

14 August 2004

Discussions and Discourse, a Discourse on Discussions and Other non-Discursive Formations

As Chua Beng Huat pointed out a year ago, not all discussion is discourse. Never substitute the word 'discourse' when you just mean 'discussion', he warned. So, when is discussion not discursive?

I present to you the creativity of Singaporeans in killing off meaningful discussion.

1. The Non Sequitur

Usually a one-line reply that is either very tangential to the original discussion or completely irrelevant.

Like: during a discussion on the mechanics of water usage and ecological friendliness of bathing using showers vs. soaking in bathtubs vs. scooping water from a tub, X replies: "When Bathers get violent they hit the Showers, lolz!"

2. The I Don't Care

I don't care who you are, I don't care where you come from, all of you have no right to comment on X issue, and all of your concerns are irrelevant.

3. You have launched a personal attack!

Yes, personal attacks are unfair and should not be used in a civilised discussion. Instead, lots of people call every argument they don't like a "personal attack", and then use it as an excuse to launch a real one of their own.

What constitutes a personal attack? I'm in a charitable mood today (being on heavy flu medication helps), so here's a list.

An ad hominem fallacy refers to when someone makes an attack "on the person", and not the merits of the argument.

It begins by making a negative assertion of a person's character, state of mind, morality, or circumstances. Because of the imputation of the person, their argument is invalid and wrong...

Examples: "You are a thief, therefore your arguments against the DCMA are invalid." Or, "Michael Moore is an anti-Bush fanatic. Of course the documentary he makes will show Bush to be a nincompoop."

It is, however, not a personal attack to pick out in detail every single logical flaw in a series of statements or a process. The person who made the statement or oversaw the process may feel personally hurt to suffer such scrutiny, but it DOES NOT constitute a personal attack.

4. You are just an armchair critic!

Usually in the form of: Because A is just an armchair critic (i.e. denied power to effect change), A has no right to criticise B (the activist, the president, whoever's running the show)...

And usually followed by a challenge to A to offer 'constructive criticism' and provide 'real solutions' and alternatives to B...

We must learn to reject this "armchair critic" argument. It doesn't matter who the speaker is; what matters is whether his criticisms are logical and correct. Whether or not there are alternatives makes no difference to the merits of an argument or process under scrutiny. I would even suggest that if people took the time to refine their 'solutions' with more inputs from critics, they wouldn't end up with such disastrous results.

5. Blah, blah, blah!

Could possibly be accompanied by the speaker sticking their fingers in the ears while uttering the words.

It's disappointing that people, even - and especially - adults in real life, often do react in these 5 ways in discussions.

13 August 2004

The National Day Speech by a Prime Minister

In lieu of a State of the Union address, Singapore has its annual National Day Speech and a National Day Rally Speech, usually given by its PM.

(Factoid alert: I'm told that mostly Communist countries celebrate National Days, whereas most of the free world (even in Africa) celebrate Independence Days. Can someone verify or falsify this claim?)

I find a most interesting and incomprehensible issue about these two speeches: that the Prime Minister (or a member of the cabinet) delivers them in English, Mandarin, Malay, and Indian Tamil. The 4 speeches are not identical to each other; instead, the main speech in English consists of mostly economic and political content whereas the rest of the shorter speeches have to do with emotional content.

On one hand, clear-headed and disinterested analysis of the State of the Nation (Mostly disinterested until he calls for able men to join politics - read PAP - to serve the nation); on the other, a babying and pandering of the various official ethnic communities.

Like most features of the most unique state of Singapore, the normal people have taken it as granted, as common sense - certainly not unquestionable, but if pressed, no questions are raised about it...

In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf asks why men have a fetish for uniforms, and another fetish for sticking medals up their uniforms to signify some status. Why not women, sprucing their gowns with sprigs of broomsticks? Or children, marking their shirts with symbolic blobs of ink to signify "scholar"? How ridiculous and arbitrary! But yet, so is the idea of sticking medals and pins on a uniform.

In the grand Virginian tradition, let me deconstruct the National Day speeches and rallies. Why shouldn't the PM divide his speech differently, like having separate speeches for

a. atheists, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.
b. The lower classes, the middle classes and the elites ("People call you the elite but I call you my base!")
c. civil servants, Temasek-linked servants, and everyone else in the private sector.
d. The Singapore-born, the naturalised, and the foreign talents (of course no mention about the quitters).
e. members of civil societies, private companies, the Churches, and the think-tanks
f. Men, women, and children

and so on? All these are equally effective as demarcators of the population, some even more so than just 'race' or 'ethnicity'.

What is it about race that makes it THE paramount divider of Singapore society, that the PM must have separate segments for his National day rally and speech?


Why is the PM so intent on dividing Singapore society on the principle of race (instead of say, class)?

Many people would point out that it's such a no-brainer: Singapore's National Day speech and rally are conducted in the 4 major languages as a nod to racial harmony. So here's a poser: what in the name of racial harmony allows the Chinese speech to be twice as long as the Malay speech, which is in turn usually twice as long as the speech in Tamil?

Perhaps the Malay community has lesser concerns than the Chinese?
Or smaller racial communities = less talk time on tv?

That's supposed to help racial harmony, how?

08 August 2004

Sports is War!

Not the World Peace Edition

Sports facilitates world peace. Nations across the world put to rest violent rivalries in favour of civilized competitions. And the last time anyone believed in those two lines were...?

We need a more realistic way to talk about sports. That way, much heartache can be prevented. Just like how even children outgrow their beliefs in the infallibility of Santa Claus, the President and the Church, we owe it to ourselves to wean adults from the myth of sports.

1. Sports is big business.

A. Witness the amounts of corruption and jockeying at the IOC even as they choose a city to host the Games.

B. Witness the amounts of illegal sports betting that accompanies sports.

2. Sports is about winning.

It really is an old story, but people don't seem to realise sportsmen and sportswomen are mostly in it just to win. At any cost. Granted, we hardly see females swimmer grow beards these days (aside from the Chinese swimming team), but doping is now a big business involving top athletes and pharmaceutical companies.

3. Sports is war between nations.

Seriously, if you were to organise a sports competition that tried to reconcile nations, the first thing that comes to mind would be to organise it as a competition between nations?

Most recent case in mind: The Asian (soccer) Cup. Apparently the Chinese fans kept jeering at the Japanese team in all their matches in China. Even at the final match, the guests were booed during their national anthem, during every pass and goal. When they won despite the hostile crowd, the Chinese started a riot.

So much for sports facilitating peace.

The other lesson of the day? Apparently no matter how incompetent or unpopular the dynasty ruling China (Ming, Qing, Communist...), the rulers can always count on xenophobic patriots rising up to defend the nation, and even slaughtering a few foreign devils in the process.

Many such patriotic movements have done so throughout China's history, with the more recent examples being the White Lotus Cult and the Boxer Rebellion.

In a way, if I were an incompetent ruler, I'd want to turn a blind eye and hope the patriots get caught up in their anti-foreigner nationalism instead of getting interested in the corruption of the government.

03 August 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 Opens in Singapore on Friday

Things to note:

1. The film is rated NC-16 for "war images and coarse language".

No kidding.

They'd have to put the NC-16 rating for all news broadcasts too, to be consistent. And with Channel12/CNA's use of direct feeds from CNN and FOX 24/7 during both wars on Iraq, did any of that have to go through the censorship board for rating approval? They even managed to show Band of Brothers on national TV (not cable or PayTV) here at primetime, and I didn't see any huge PG or NC-16 rating for that.

2. Is there any way to find out which scenes have been deleted by Singapore's film censors? There has to be an official list somewhere.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I BET that 99% of the deleted scenes in the Singapore release would have nothing to do with violent war images or coarse language.

01 August 2004

Do You Live in a Fascist State?

Here's a fun checklist you can go through in your free time! From "Facism, Anyone?" Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, p. 20

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

How Facist is your country?

30 July 2004

Featured Link of the Day

The editors from The Poor Man are relentlessly funny.

"What if the Iraq war was a game of poker?"

The Editors: We'll take three cards.

Dick Cheney: Give me one.

Sounds of cards being placed down, dealt, retrieved, and rearranged in hand. Non-commital noises, puffing of cigars.

TE: Fifty bucks.

DC: I'm in. Show 'em.

TE: Two pair, sevens and fives.

DC: Not good enough.

TE: What do you have?

DC: Better than that, that's for sure. Pay up.

TE: Can you show us your cards?

DC: Sure. One of them's a six.

TE: You need to show all your cards. That's the way the game is played.

Colin Powell: Ladies and gentlemen. We have accumulated overwhelming evidence that Mr. Cheney's poker hand is far, far better than two pair. Note this satellite photo, taken three minutes ago when The Editors went to get more chips. In it we clearly see the back sides of five playing cards, arranged in a poker hand. Defector reports have assured us that Mr. Cheney's hand was already well advanced at this stage. Later, Mr. Cheney drew only one card. Why only one card? Would a man without a strong hand choose only one card? We are absolutely convinced that Mr. Cheney has at least a full house.

Like I said... the Poor Man is an excellent website! You should click on the link to read more.

28 July 2004

What do People Consider Weird?

An edition where I do not call for the impeachment of Bush II or MiniLee

I own a portable fifth dimensional bag. Things get lost once they're inside... (on occasion, they REALLY get lost there for months!)

This could lead to "wildly entertaining" scenarios.


Gets on the bus. "I remember my wallet's in the bag... It HAS to be!" Rummages in bag for an entire minute before locating wallet in previously unknown compartment behind the fourth zipper. OR: Finding wallet in PANTS POCKET after 10 minutes of searching bag.


At the queue to get into cinema. The tickets are with me and my portable fifth dimension!

Check in pants pocket. Wallet easily located. The ticket, apparently, is in none of the 5 pockets of the wallet. Darn.
5 minutes gone. Entire contents of wallet are emptied on floor, just in case.

Is it in the multidimensional bag? 10 minutes gone. The entire contents of the bag are arranged on the floor, but no luck.

Or the OTHER pants pocket? No.

Then, in horror, I realise the tickets are in my SHIRT POCKET.

26 July 2004

The Great Internet Firewall of Singapore

Officially, Singapore had migrated to server-side automatic proxies (aka "transparent proxies") more than 2 years ago, and no one needs to set the manual proxies on their pc.

However, about 4 months ago, Singnet subscribers complained that they were redirected to some very odd webpage whenever they tried to access any blogspot page. Unless of course, they manually typed in their proxy settings to proxy.singnet.com.sg.

I guess Singapore's ISP must be experimenting with more advanced censorship and usage-snooping technologies, causing a few very visible hiccups.

Singnet users, this is yet another chance to experience censorship technology from the Lee dynasty's favourite ISP.

Try this:

1. Disable your browser's manual proxy settings and change them to automatic or none.

2. You should be able to surf most websites normally.

3. Now, direct your browser to google or gmail.

4. Observe: no loading.

5. Change your proxy settings to the singnet-approved one.

6. Reload your browser to google or gmail.

7. Switch and repeat if insufficiently convinced.

8. Take bets on how long the 'hiccups' will continue.

And maybe, just maybe... wonder how to beat this very weird system.

25 July 2004

The War on Intellectual Honesty

A special "Remaking English" edition

"A Defining Moment - How Singapore Beat Sars" is destined to hit the local bestsellers list for fiction. Droves of Singaporeans are snapping up the 204-page coffeetable book and depleting stocks at major bookshops.

I say to them: save your money.

Let's backtrack.
A year ago, after the first SARS epidemic died down in Singapore, the Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts (read: Minister for Propaganda) approached Prof Tommy Koh to publish a book to document the story of SARS, under his Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) think-tank. The Prof is a rare PAP man who is accepted as 'neutral' and independent - something that the credibility of his think-tank relies on.

Prof Koh agreed, on the one condition that "the author should have access to all relevant people and information, and the book should be intellectually honest".

From today's papers, it appears that the judicious use of that phrase has played an important role in the buying decision of the crowds. They see it as "objective and worth a read". After all, Tommy Koh is seen as an objective and fair person who is allowed to disagree with the PAP.

There are several problems.

1. The Author

So, after the Minister for Propaganda commissions Prof Koh's think-tank to publish a book, the IPS hires Chua Mui Hoong to do the research and write it.

Even though Ms Chua is a 'journalist', people SHOULD know that she is a "senior correspondent" who writes political analyses and social commentary on the op/ed pages. Most of the time, she defends the authoritarian system and the ruling party.

She also happens to be an ex-employee of the Internal Security Department. An ex-spook. In case you don't get the point, the ISD spies on Singaporeans, opposition parties and politicians, and recommends who should get detained without trial.

How would hiring Ms Chua ensure Prof Koh's clause of intellectual honesty?

2. The Context

So you have written a record on SARS in Singapore. The best way to keep it intellectually honest is to embed the book in the national-building discourse.

It is no surprise then, that the book is launched 2 weeks before Singapore's National Day. Or that the PM and all his cabinet ministers come out during the launch to say how important the book is.

Several forewords are written by PM and gang in the book itself, proclaiming that SARS is "a defining moment for Singapore", that "many (national) heroes emerged in the (national) crisis". During the launch, Prof Koh remarked that the book was also a "tribute to a leader who remade Singapore".

The point is, there is NO NEED to enmesh the record of SARS with a nationalist message. But they choose to politicize SARS, to escalate it into a National Event, a Moral Event, a Singapore Epic.

It's almost like how Bush II cynically uses 9/11 commemoration events for his re-election.


So one needs to ask... Was Prof Koh blindsided and coerced into making concessions on the appointment of the author, and did not have any control over the reception and his ruling party's publicity for the book?

Or was he complicit from the start?

Remaking English

The utility of the questions really depend on what we understand when Prof Koh said he wanted an "intellectually honest" book.

Suppose none of us are walking dictionaries and encyclopedias. If asked to consider the meaning of the phrase in its context, we might guess it means "unbiased", "truthful", or perhaps "ethical". And looking at the entire story thus far, we might further guess that being "intellectually honest" might not necessarily mean "emotionally honest".

This is how our leaders Remake English. Key phrases signifying important technical, philosophical, or academic concepts are regularly given the PAP treatment (read "bastardisation") and either mis-interpreted or completely refashioned to mean what our leaders want them to mean.

What does the rest of the world really think about "intellectual honesty"?

The phrase originates within the academy (examples here and here). It really has to do with avoiding plagiarism, using original work, proper citations...

It doesn't have anything to do with being objective or unbiased.

Let's look at Prof Koh's words again: ...the author should have access to all relevant people and information, and the book should be intellectually honest.

Did he use the phrase, knowing that it would be passed on from the Minister for Propaganda to the papers? that it would be misconstrued as meaning "unbiased and honest"? Because if he really meant what he said and nothing more... his sentence just means "the author should do proper research". Nothing more. And nothing profound. And nothing that boosts the credibility and unbiasedness that his think-tank needs, to be taken seriously.

23 July 2004

The War on Error

Creative Capital Edition

Cultural theorists - both American and international - tend to study and formulate theories that take for granted as a starting point that the US
1. wields cultural hegemony over the world (Hollywood, MacDonald's, but not Starbucks...?)
2. is at the forefront of global creativity

This leads to an embarassment of recent major research trying to find out what US educational policies, immigration policies, and urban policies contribute to the "Creative Class" that we assume is a uniquely American phenomenon.

Cultural/political theorists, please consider the following list, and then explain your creative research to me again...

(not an exhaustive list...)

La Femme Nikita (France) vs. Nikita (US)
Abre los ojos (Spain) vs. Vanilla Sky (US)
The Seven Samurai (Japan) vs. The Magnificent Seven (US)
The Office (UK) vs. the Office (US, in production)
Absolutely Fabulous (UK) vs. Absolutely Fabulous (US)
Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK) vs. Whose Line is it Anyway (US)
Iron Chef (Japan!) vs. Iron Chef (US)
Ringgu (Japan) vs. The Ring (US)
The Eye (Hong Kong) vs. The Eye (US, in production)
Queer as Folk (UK) vs. Queer as Folk (US)

18 July 2004

The War on Chess

The Searching for Bobby Fischer Edition

Fodon has beaten me to the announcement of the arrest in Japan, of chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, in accordance to the US-Japan extradition treaty.

In 1992, Bobby Fischer went to Yugoslavia for an exhibition match against an old foe, Boris Spassky. Incidentally, these two men are the most imaginative and creative chess players of modern history. Fischer, on account of having defeated Spassky in the 70s in the great US-Soviet chess showdown, deserves to be called the greatest chess player of all-time.

"Bush I had imposed economic sanctions on Yugoslavia at that time, and as a result, Fischer's involvement in the chess competition made him an internationally-wanted criminal."

We need to rephrase the previous line in order to bring out the true facts of the case, since many stupid, uninformed newspapers will be parroting this line for the entire news cycle, and claiming that Fischer knowingly broke the law and got what he deserved.

1. Bush I signed an "executive order" to impose economic sanctions on Milosevic's Yugoslavia. An executive order is not a law. Only Congress and the Senate pass laws that can result in criminal prosecution.

2. Bobby Fischer is a chess player. Ergo, a sportsman. Under US and international law, Sports events are exempt from economic sanctions, for example, the one Bush I signed.

3. Bobby Fischer did NOT become an international fugitive because he broke the law, and spent 10 years on the run.

4. Fischer went on the run because Bush I signed another "executive order" demanding the arrest of Bobby Fischer.

5. What is not known is that the US Chess Federation did break Bush I's economic sanctions, by importing $500,000 worth of chess books to Yugoslavia under a contract with the government of the day.

6. As far as we know, the USCF was not prosecuted for their actions.

What is happening to Bobby Fischer, is an entirely baseless and illegal criminal indictment. It must be stopped.

Fodon has a neat theory that Fischer is arrested by Judas Japan, in exchange for letting Jenkins walk free. Such a deal can only be hammered out and approved by the highest offices in both countries.

We must impeach Bush II now.