Wednesday, August 27, 2003

{{{Tempest in a teacup}}}

You know the best thing about them? They're not life-threatening or earth shaking or world shattering or another but they sure feel that way don't they? =P

Question from Ally McBeal: "What makes your problem so much bigger than other people's"
Answer from moi: "Um...because they affect me?"

For the NS guys out there, you know the sensation when you got a last minute arrow? Now increase that exponentially till you get a harpoon and you get the idea ya?

So here's the Top Ten list for today.
{Top Ten Reasons to be in NS}

1. Tekong BMT: Exercise regime with free food and board and constant incentives and motivations from your friendly commanders

2. Camo cream: The ultimate in facial, ranks up there with SPF 100000 protection and those mud spas you pay a fortune for

3. For that perfect fresh look: 10-11 litres of water per day. Detox thru hydration!

4. House-husbands to be: Learn to wash, sweep, mop, iron and its all totally free!

5. Weapons, weapons and more weapons and you get to fire them too!

6. To my brother medics: After 16G nothing much fazes you anymore ja?

7. Inter and intrapersonal skills: Learn to use various 'motivation' speechs and tools to get your men moving

8. Linguistic skills: Wanna brush up on your chinese, singlish, dialects? Here's the place to be. You can learn to swear in german and Russian even =)

9. Effeciency: DO more on LESS sleep...alot less sleep

10. No. 4 Fatigues: Unless you've worn my alma matta's uniform, there's nothing more water, chemical, stain or fire resistant.

Cheers ya?

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Just remembered that cheerios are a kind of artificially flavour cereals... What immediate bearing this has on my life, I cannot happen to think of one =P

Okay, Angel, here's my little way in aid of the NUS debate club/society/cabal.


This saturday (230803) is Kickstart, which as the name suggests kickstarts the debating year. It starts around ten and knowing debaters, the gods know what time it will end. To the best of my knowledge, it will comprise of ice-breakers and then debate.

And why, you might ask, would I want to join debate since it's like NATO, no action talk only, and without all the cool weaponary the USA and various other Eastern European nations have.'s the Top Ten Reasons to Join Debate...

1. You'll learn all the cool stuff the Eastern Europeans have e.g. the Czech have their SOF, the Slovenian (or is it the Slovakians) have this whole series of radar dishes...

2. You'll learn the meaning of cool phrases (and more importantly, how to use them to sound smart) like *ahem*...Derogation of Rights (Article 29 and 30 of the UN charter as well as Justice Holmns)...Comparative Advantage...Global moral paradigm shift...Soft budget constrain....the 4 tenets of justice...etc...

3. Inteliigent conversation...well...most of the time...sort of...anyway...NEXT!

4. A captive audience... It's considered very very very very bad form to walk out of a debate... So for all you people who like the sound of your voices but can't sing......

5. You are allowed to abuse your long as you do it wittily and with no malice intended...

6. Improvement of speaking skills... So for those who dream of being the next leader of the free world...or dictator or Csar..well here's your chance to practice your inaugral speech (Bow before me my minions....) or the best way to go about achieving your nefarious ends...

7. Debaters are nice people...*snigger snigger*

8. Debaters sometimes keep cute pets who you get to meet

9. Debaters are sometimes cute....=P

10. Debate supporters are sometime cute too

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

*Ahem*...*clears throat*...

I'm getting an all expenses paid trip with free food and lodging to the commune with nature over the next few days. Those who went through NS should understand what I mean ya?

Anyway, there will be no post over the next few days...not that I'm a regular poster of course...=P

So, if you SMS pls be aware that replies might not be coming depending on the cloud cover and the screams of the injured...


Wednesday, August 06, 2003

~Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Editorials~

Mr Andy Ho's portrayal of the NTU incident as analagous to a Monet painting has not just enlightened me to the intricacies of impressionist art but has at the same time has raised a rather large number of points that we as the general public and electorate (nevermind that some of us will probably never get to cast a ballot) ought to consider and take to heart as well.

Firstly, in refernence to the infamous quote above (without the editorial bit), it goes for both sides of the house. After all, statistics can be pretty much manipulated to suit each and every and any case, including why every organisation ought to adopt the latest management fad even though the chaos and havoc it would cause would not even have run its course before the next fad starts its roll call on the New York Times bestsellers list. After all, like a bikini, it isn't what statistics reveal that is interesting but what it conceals...=) The NTU dons do not seem to have committed anything more serious than a possible over-extrapolation of data from know facts. A larger survey sample might change the numbers but as Miss Chua has shown through some nifty maths (the number vacilates between 4:5, 9:10 and 1:1) and clear, cold logic (something I didn't think she showed during the last elections....yes I'm being evil...but please don't sue me...8>) it doesn't really render the conclusion null and void as the survey sample the dons used excluded particular fields where Singaporeans in general do not really compete with foreign workers i.e. construction work.

If the NTU stats are off, it similarly allows us to cast a more jaundiced view of MOM's (wonderfully apt name I personally think!) data. After all, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander as well. Which hopefully explains the joke, it isn't that Singaporean workers are paid low wages but just that we're too dang productive! (Check out the actual comment made by our very favourite opposition member and then Acting Minister for Manpower 8>)

At any rate, the most major lesson learnt from this debacle is that we need more information (of course it requires people to think, but I have faith in my fellow not all those current in NS...particularly those on the very sunny island of Tekong...) and that in turn means we need to reduce a seeming asymmetric information flow that seems to pervade our society. As my brother points out, isn't it remarkable that his Social Studies text book keeps pointing out the need for the drive to further transparency? If it's in an official textbook, Members of the House, it must be true (technically anyway...)

One thing we all hopefully learn from this incident (other than Impressionist Art Rulez!) is that we should place less credit worthiness on Authority of whatever form (like say...oh...incredibly accurate economic forecasting that leaves the other economist in the dust..., or like having been in power since independance), and more on the discernable and not so discernable facts at hand (unless it is classified than...see above for need for transparency ya?)

A moment of silence for those injured, directly or indirectly, physically or otherwise by the Jakarta bomb blast.

May we never forget the need for toleration and moderation.

Monday, August 04, 2003

{{{Boogie on the head of a pin}}}

Here's something to think about, and I'll make no bones about its rather controversial nature...

~Economics, NS, Citizenship and Govt. Where to and what next?~

The one question that inevitably pops up in all social science is, what is the role of a government? Is the government suppose to be the enbodiment of the state? Is it reflected ultimately in monarchies where the head of the state is the state through his divine right ot rule. Is the government suppose to be a composition of men(or women) best able to read the will of the people/society and express it in a tangible form as in Facism? Is a government that governs least, governing the best? Should it, in the words of our SM, stay out of areas where the family (as a basic unit of society so the belief goes) is better able to provide the individual for? A studied form of non-intervention in both economic and social terms? Or should it amnifest itself in Big Government, its laws and statues laid out in most areas of society to create some form of societal welfare?

Events in the past half a decade has shown up certain weaknesses in the social contract of many an Asian country. And in many parts of Asia, the major problem is that of poverty, drawn along and execerbated by racial and religious lines. Once the economy enters a major slump, these fissures rise to the surface and you get tragic incidences like the Anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia. Even since the Asian Crises, life long-employment is now no longer a certainty and has become somewhat of a dream. Pre-emptive layoffs is the new catch-phrase to hit our sunny island, hitting especially hard when they come form what people have come to see as our national champions and worst of all, breaking a fundamental handshake between employers and employees that no layoffs would occur when the company is still making money. Economics before politics was a thread that bound most countries together. Citizens were willing to put up with a certain amount of illiberalism and lack of political participation in return for a rise in their standard of living. Where governmental refusal to put up societal safety nets was once accepted on the premise of secure employment and jobs with a 'stake' in the rising economy, the crash tore quite a few veils from the eyes of those directly and indirectly affected when they realised that it was worth nothing more than an optimistic promise in optimistic times.

There is now a reversal of Kennedy's thinking. The question asked is what can our country do for us? To take an example, a recently ORD 2LT demanded for discrimination of jobs based upon service to the country.

Even at first glance, it wouldn't be too hard to find people with some sympathy for the idea, for at least some of the time. I'm one of them. After all, why should males in this nation have to serve two and a half years in the army and have no tangible future to show for it when they ORD? Even if it discriminates against females, NS is in itself a form of discrimination. Consider the fact that this time constitutes a massive opportunity cost when compared to a female of his age. Factor in the utter lack of choice (Ladies, having a baby does not constitute national service for it is still fundamentally a choice, at least until the government legislates a two baby policy that is) in this matter and you begin to sense a fraction of the resentment at the perception that having spent all that blood, sweat, tears and time for their nation, they are not even going to be guarenteed a job at the end of the day. What then, goes this line of logic is the point of being a Singaporean when the government does not seem to do much or care much for the welfare of the people. Where is the social contract?

Thus, it is all too easy to fall into a sense of xenophobia/rage when the perception is that foreigners (i.e. those who have not served like they have) are taking their 'rightful' jobs and you have a potent mix. As an economist, I know that much of the supposite dicotomy between local and foriegn competition of jobs is pure bunk but as a citizen facing an uncertain prospect...? It is hard to be swayed by numbers or facts when your job and your livelihood is at stake. Where once a scholarship has seen as a presitgious tool for advancement and the bond as a chore, it's all too easy to see of it now as a secure job and future.

The cheese has been moved some time back...but it seems we're only starting to make sense of it.

p.s. The coherence is a little missing at times and I apologise for it. This is actually an amalgation of a number of essays and themes that I was exploring.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

{{{Boogie on the head of a pin}}}

Aside: I'm finally caved in and got onto the broadband wagon since last thurdays. Theoratically this should mean that my post get more frequent... I repeat, SHOULD...=)

Okay...was reading the cover story for new paper today and the one thing that stuck me was the two page spread on that JC girl Ruo Mei. What got me interested was two things. One, who much of the story is representive of the real person. I've have had two friends interviewed by the papers and had their own news spread. in both cases, they said that the report bordered on the unethical...=) Well guess when our newspapers with their absolute monopoly need to gain the interest of their audience... And two, what exactly did she say in both of the outings she has chosen to highlight.

To be honest, I'm hardly impressed by what she has said. In my view, she has simply skimmed the surface of the issue on both accounts. On the iraqi issue, 'nuff said, don't think I need to repeat what exactly is wrong with her question to the DPM. On the Dr (yes, that is his title) Chee Soon Juan issue, the fact is, even if he were wrong over the amount and exact nature of the loan (apparently it's not a loan but a guarantee that we would provide one in the event Indonesia need it), the fact is there were a number of issues raised that were only 'answered' when he brought the incident up. Among them, the power of the Executive, the power of the President as guardian of our reserves and certain things about tax revenues and fiat accompli.

*Shrugg*...would be nice if debaters get a (positive) spread in the news too... Ah well...