26 February 2004

Oh captain, my captain!

If transplanted to Singapore, this great fallen leader will begin by saying,

"I represent the People's Wing of the People's Action Party!

"WHAT I WANT TO KNOW.... is why there aren't any overseas job listings in the job sections of the local newspapers?


"WHAT I WANT TO KNOW... is why most job ads demand a 2-5 year work experience, and demand that fresh grads Need Not Apply?

"WHAT I WANT TO KNOW... is why the Labor Minister can claim there are enough jobs for all Singaporeans?"

What I want to know... is why don't we get leaders like that here?

25 February 2004

Featured Blog of the Day

Model Singaporean Employer

Ladies and gentlemen, no kidding.. Icepearlz takes great care to insist she is NOT a "model Singaporeans employer", by tabulating a calculus of all the nice things she's done for her ungrateful maid.

The model Singaporean employer was shocked that her maid had unreasonably asked to have every Sunday off! That her maid had the temerity to ask to be let out of her house from 8am to 7pm on Sundays, and from noon to 6pm on Saturdays! The horror! The betrayal of a previously trustworthy maid!

Since the maid said she wanted the long hours out on Sunday because of church activities, the model employer has decided to inform the pastor of the situation, to keep an eye and ensure that the maid is indeed doing what she is claiming...

Now, she claims the maid doesn't know what's best for her, that Icepearlz's the best and most liberal Singaporean employer who's treated the maid "the best I can given the circumstances", that she's in no way inferior to an expat employer.

Really? If the maid is indeed released from Icepearlz's contract in September, I would like to recommend her a Singaporean employer immediately. A certain teacher of mine is not very nice to his students (especially when they're deemed too dense for him), his colleagues (when they're deemed his intellectual inferiors), and even the leaders of this country (openly and publicly criticises their policies)... yet he's capable of treating his maids with more class than this employer will ever have.

Mr. X insists that his maid stop work by 6pm every weekday. Just cook the food, and he and the missus can heat up the stuff when they return from work. Maid is free to get out of the house, and is encouraged to get out of the house after work hours, provided she's back by 10. Saturday's a half day and she's free to go out and stay out, for the whole of Sunday.

Despite his eccentricities and attitudes towards others, Mr. X has his head screwed on correctly here. Because a maid is a contracted employee. Employees are allowed to GET OUT OF THE OFFICE after work hours. They are allowed to take ALL Sundays off, not just public holidays that come 10 times a year. It's a basic human right, I think, not to be imprisoned in your workplace after working hours. The last time I checked, what you do after working hours are your own business too.

No matter how much trinklets you throw at a maid ($400 PCs??? She eats the same food that we eat? She *can* order the same food we do when we eat out?), the fact of her imprisonment within your home, the loss of one of her most basic freedoms, will continue to weigh on her. Regardless of the nice PC you installed in her room. It's just like decorating a hamster cage...

24 February 2004

Failing Tests

A. Some holidays are rainy, and
B. All rainy days are boring.

Which of the following statements can be deduced?
1. No clear days are boring.
2. Some holidays are boring.
3. Some holidays are not boring.

The correct reasoning will be completely unexpected, despite the relative simplicity of the question.

19 February 2004

Queer Eye for Chief Justice

This has nothing to do with gay marriages that are conducted by SanFran state officials in defiance and as a test against current laws.

This has nothing to do with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy either, but it's pretty close =D

Singapore's Chief Justice Yong Pung How undergoes radical makeover!

That's right... His Honour, Mr "Double Their Sentence", the appeals lawyer's worse nightmare, has done it AGAIN. Today will be the second straight day in a row that the judge has HALVED a sentence in his apeals court. (First case: Halves sentence for conviction on oral sex. Second case: Halves sentence on internet fraud.)

What gives? Short of a conspiracy theory - i.e. CJ really had a makeover from the wonderful Queer Eye crew, I can give only one sane explanation...

Elected Presidency 2005. The election is yours to lose, baby.

14 February 2004

Not since Henry Kissinger

We must be living in some kind of alternate reality.

Some right-wing politican in Norway has nominated Bush and Blair for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, for their "decisive action against terrorism".

Twiddledum and Twiddledee, the architects of the illegal invasion of Iraq, the self-proclaimed "War President" and his attack dog... Their infamous speeches in the UN Security Council... Their escalating warmongering and empire-building project (first Afghanistan, then Iraq. Tomorrow, Pakistan and North Korea?)... Their cluster-bombing of urban centres in Baghdad that needlessly took the lives of civilians...

These two people have been nominated for the Nobel PEACE prize. Which, in the words of Alfred Nobel, should be awarded to "the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." And that describes all the actions of Bush/Blair since 2002?

Forgive me for believing that we live in an alternate reality, that the world we experience now must be a dark reflection of a True World that is lost to us.

I urge as many people as possible to sign the various online petitions and protests against the Bush/Blair nomination on the net.

Some of there are at : http://www.eskimo.com/~cwj2/actions/bushblairnobel.html
and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1801773.stm

11 February 2004

Today in History. Or Literature. Just anywhere but reality

Imagine this: your kingdom used to be a global power, but those days are long gone. As its leader, you understand your true position in the world: somewhere near the bottom, with the Has-beens... You will do anything and say anything to be with the winners, and end up dating 2 successive leaders from the current superpower (and some say, the SOLE superpower), dumping the old one when he became unviable, and hopping into bed with the new guy as soon as he got elected. And trying to seduce the third guy, who looks set to take over any time soon...

Who are you, and what country is this?
A) Cleopatra, last ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt. Dated Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. Tried to talk Octavius into an alliance.
B) Tony Blair, PM of UK. Best buddies with Clinton, posed with Bush II in cowboy hats. Will try to persuade President Kerry that he was also fooled into voting for the war.

Cleopatra committed suicide by kissing an asp when she was finally rebuffed by Octavius.

I'm looking forward to the day when Tony Blair has a self-inflicted bungee-jumping accident from the top of the London Eye

08 February 2004

The Liberal George Yeo

I've been away for some time. Was sucked into the US Democratic Primary campaign, and checking out all the candidate blogsites constantly, being the political junkie that I am.

I'm back now, with some interesting news to tell.
Tomorrow's blog entry will be called
Bangladeshi PhD thesis outsourced to Singaporean BA grad

Today though, I'll be aiming some potshots at our favourite "Philosopher-King" of the PAP, the greatest long-winded, tendentious and facetious bore and intellectual whore of all-time, BG George Yeo.

Most of you will be too young to remember that during the 1980s, Yeo was the person who pronounced, in Parliament, that media control and information control was important to Singapore, because foreign ideas can be good and yet very dangerous, so "we cannot let the flies in". Few years later, of course, we pretend that he's one of the more "liberal" and philosophical ministers, only because of his long-winded speechmaking...

Here's his latest nonsense.

Trade and Industry Minister urges Singaporeans to venture abroad is what the headlines had it, half a month ago. It all sounds very mature, wise, liberal, and open-minded, yes?

"Individual Singaporeans themselves to take the plunge and their chances [overseas]...

"Our minds must be much larger than our geographical confines"

"If we are too home-bound in our thinking, we will fail."

So why am I slamming and sliming this decent maverick?

General Yeo said: "Indeed, we should try to alter our social climate here so that those who do well overseas are admired, while those who prefer to stay home all the time are suspect.

Here's my beef: What are the list of countries that have a social climate that admires people who go overseas, and suspects people who prefer to stay at home? Answer: These countries are the major labour-exporting nations in Asia - The Philippines, Bangladesh, India, some southern provinces of China. You see their major exports every day in Singapore, working on construction sites.

Mind you, I'm speaking here as a researcher who's editing someone's doctoral thesis on international labour...

Most researchers on labour migration point out that very few of these migrant workers break even, and recoup their intial investments and costs of air travel to the host country. Yet, even if these workers finish their contracts with a big deficit, they'll still apply to work overseas again after a short rest home.

Why? Because in their countries, there IS a social climate that admires people who work overseas, and suspects people who stay at home - the very same social climate that Philosopher-King George Yeo wants to see in Singapore. The very same social climate that some researchers call migration mania, an irrational belief that the overseas is a source of riches and prosperity while the home is a source of stagnation...

It's irrational on 2 counts:
1. Most of the temporary migrants end up poorer
2. Most families WILL willingly go into debt to fund at least one member to work overseas.

So, why are the leaders in these labour-exporting countries not unhappy? Because the migrant workers will send back remittance money to the home country every month. Because, even if the poor worker is suffering overseas, he'll dutifully send back money, a small percentage of which gets taxed by the government before it lands back in the home village.

Why is it really so irrational? Because:

3. In reality, cost-benefit analysis by economists studying this phenomenon show that the migrant workers will actually have made MORE money (or at least made some profit) if they had settled for construction jobs in their own countries, instead of going overseas (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Middle East) for the same construction jobs...

Why don't they do that? Because in their countries, there IS a social climate that admires people who work overseas, and suspects people who stay at home.

4. Just look at the history of Singapore. Why is Singapore majority-Chinese? Because during the founding years, hundreds of thousands of "temporary migrant workers" from Southern China flocked to Singapore, where they found that after so many years of work and sending remittance money back to their families in China, they couldn't afford to go home.

People who CANNOT afford to work overseas should not be forced to go overseas. Why doesn't George Yeo argue for improving and reforming Singapore, for making it a place where we can proudly live and work again?

The economies of the major labour-exporting countries (Philippines, rural southern China, Bangladesh, some parts of India) have not made ANY improvement despite decades of migrant workers - unskilled or otherwise. If we listen to George Yeo today, Singapore will end up looking like these countries in a few years...

People who think Singapore has gone back to the bad old days of the 1980s recessions are wrong. We are going all the way back to the bad old days of the 1880s, with policy-makers and philosophers like George Yeo running around, shooting their mouth off, masquerading as liberals and mavericks, and offering what appears to be sensible advice.

01 February 2004

Today, we talk about the bird flu

It was here that I out-predicted China's admission of bird flu, but anyone could've seen that coming. Today, I put forward the case for Singapore.

No, this isn't out of spite for the Most Expensive Newspaper in Singapore, which boasts that "Singapore is prepared for the bird flu". Emergency plans have been drawn for an effective mass culling of chickens (See related: "Snap General Elections"), and switching from imports of Malaysian chickens to frozen Brazillian poultry.

Interesting plans, but hardly "preparing Singapore for bird flu", and hardly combating the real problem of bird flu. The H5N1 virus is uncontrollable. In the months since April, the virus has had time to spread from poultry to pigs in China. My prediction: a further, belated revelation in the weeks to come that this piece of speculation from scientists will be confirmed.

Consider: the natural reservoir of the virus resides in wild migratory birds travelling North-South between Russia, China and Indonesia, Australia/NZ. As silent carriers, most of the natural hosts will not exhibit any signs of flu. Even if the poultry farms are all culled, in April the migratory birds will fly back North, reseeding the virus.

What does Singapore have to do with this? A fair number of these wild birds use Singapore as a nesting ground during the October - April season. The birds are here among us, on our mangrove swamps, as guests in the Jurong Birdpark and various Gardens, on the golf courses, on the lush green grounds on the NUS and NTU campuses =D

Yet, for all the evidence of where the virus resides, we do not hear any news of researchers in Singapore taking stool and blood samples from these "visitors", or taking pre-emptive action by culling all birds here. Part of me is outraged at the double standards from the ENV, which crazily started killing stray cats at the peak of the SARS panic, despite the fact that "Civet Cats" (the culprits in China) are a breed of mongoose, and look more like rodents and racoons than felines.

Now, in an ideal world, the best way for Singapore to prepare itself against bird flu is to eliminate the natural reservoir of the virus, aka kill the birds:

1. Make use of our RSAF white elephants for once, and fire all missiles at any wild migratory bird daring to enter our airspace. Take care not to aim anything at Johore.

2. Forget about not aiming at Johore. Shoot Johore for harbouring the terrorist avians and brand it a rouge state.

3. Get the ENV in action. Not just the teams of sharpshooters who practise their skills on crows. Let's push the war further, confiscate all the coffeeshop ah-peks' birdcages and shoot those birds, just to play safe.

4. Remember the silly RC-approved messages on the notice boards in HDB flats? "Do not feed pigeons. They spread bird flu" is how they can help spin the message in a convincing way.

5. Get the Senior Minister on TV. He will threaten to break bird heads, it'll send out a really clear message.

6. Shooting birds to be included in Rifle Range tests for all NSmen.

7. Mah Bow Tan to head the new initiative for Singapore to win gold medals at the Olympics for air rifle and trap shooting events. Clubs all over Singapore to be set up, and practise on real life birds.

8. Mini-Lee revealed by The Straits Times as an excellent shooter during his student days, to inspire people's trust in his leadership and "human-ness". He will be nominated to be the honorary head of the shooting clubs that Mah will set up.

9. KFC is taken over by Long John Silvers.

10. NUS scientists and the Life Sciences industry collaborate to genetically engineer birds that glow in the dark when infected by H5N1.