Saturday, September 30, 2006

Art Teacher loses job after kids see nude sculpture

Sigh….at the risk of my Stumble tag continuing to be at sexuality (for what reason I absolute cannot comprehend because not only is my focus on the politics of it but also it's just one of my "hot button issues").

Anyway, award winning art teacher on the urging of the Principle brings Elementary (Primary) School kids to the museum. Parents all sign consent forms. They (kids) see nude statue. Protest raised. School board decides not to renew her contract after she had been there for 28 years.

Oh boy.

My feelings on this issue should now be more than evidently clear given the whole stream of blog post on this issue. But I'm going to try to see if there's some way of saving and salvaging this situation. I think there are but the arguments are fairly weak on balance.

Firstly, there arguably is no direct causal link between the protest and her contract not being renewed. It may well be a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because B came after A doesn't mean A caused B. And it may well be a pretext to not renew her contract. But despite all that, a court in civil suit is going to use an objective test based upon the theoretical legal reasonable person and whether s/he would believe that the non-renewal was based upon this particular incident.

Another argument would be based on the fact that it's not a firing. Theoretically, the School Board ought to be within their rights like any other educational institution to determine whether a teacher ought to have their contract renewed. A firing must be with cause. I'm not certain a non-renewal needs to be, although again they may be an implied term in any employment contract of mutual trust and confidence i.e. that the employer would not act unreasonably in the determination of whether to renew contracts or in their general behavior towards the employee. There is an entire corpus of such implied terms but I not certain if they apply here in the US. But I think it wouldn't be a stretch and again, I think a reasonable person would think that this incident could not justify a non-renewal.

But I might well argue at this point that all the parents are consenting to is a trip to the museum and that the teacher has the duty of ensuring that the young innocent minds are not exposed to something unsuitable for their age i.e. the teacher has been negligent. The consent form here is a huge nail in the coffin and I think the teacher ought to be allowed to rely on those consent forms to believe that the parents had indeed consented to the freaking trip to the museum and yes, that should include viewing the exhibits in there. And thus, if they don't do their jobs as parents and determine what they are consenting to, that's their problem not the teacher's.

Similarly, even based upon a fiduciary duty (i.e. one of good faith and loyalty and higher than duty of care), I really don't see that the standard has been breached. Because I personally think art nudity in this circumstance is not unsuitable in any regard. It's art not pornography for goodness sake! But arguably if this had been some of Goya's more disturbing and nightmarish paintings I might well decide otherwise.

But let's take the last point. Is my feelings on this matter based solely upon my worldview i.e. nudity is less harmful (or heck better) than violence? In such a situation I would argue that reality has a liberal bias and that the studies have been fairly clear that nudity has a non to negligible impact on young minds as opposed to violence.

Anyway, let's hear your views on this matter. I'm off to do readings on Sales.


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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

*Freedom of Expression and Speech*

One of the classes I'm taking this Fall (acculturation by assimilation of their jargon and usage of terminology) is that of US Constitutional Law: 1st Amendment (actually somewhat misnamed because it was actually the 3rd amendment proposed, the first two did not receive sufficient state support).

Anyway, the discussion this week was about Incitement and the big discussion in class today was the following quote from Justice Robert Bork (yes, where the term Borking came from i.e. to impede the confirmation of a US Supreme Court judge) where he argues that there should be no Constitutional protection of speech advocating the violation of law. As a bare statement like that, it is arguably too extreme (but nevertheless a view held by at least 2 members of our class). And having not read the actual paper, I cannot necessarily comment on his argument and definately not on its nuance.

But what I want to do is basically examine my own personal stance and stand and hopefully come to a principled decision behind it.

First, I believe in JS Mills harm principle i.e. actions ought not be sanctioned unless it causes third party harm. My own personal spin on this is to assert that it ought only be physical harm and that mental anguish or torment ought not to be a criterion because down that path lies offensiveness as harm and the problem that entails when the violence hypersensitives cripple freedom of individual action.

Second, I believe in act utilitarianism i.e. the greatest happiness for the greatest good. But the question of whether I would allow 10 guilty persons to go free to save one innocent or to kill one innocent to save say the world must not be examined purely in that isolated example but must be examined as to whether as a rule, it is a good idea to do both or neither or either.

Thus, no freedom is absolute and definately no that of speech or expression. Where I personally draw the line is if the speech incites (as opposed to merely provoking) actions that create third party physical harm. Or is it really that simple? But nevertheless, keep in mind the above.

Let's turn now to an examination of the earlier bare statement.
1. Does speech have an intrinsic value?

I think it does (as vindication of personal autonomy and self-realisation), which is why I favour speech protection. If speech has no intrinsic value except insofar what societal utility it can bring (say an aggregation of individual utility although some may argue that it's too narrow and reductionist), then one may well and truely legitimately question what utility there is in advocating the violation of laws in a system that allows for changes in the law through the democratic process, which in turn is dependent on the free exchange of ideas which necessitates speech i.e. a liberal democracy

If so, then the advocacy of the violation of laws in this scenario undermines the sanctity of law by undermining the respect for law, creating and generating a greater propensity to dismiss and violate the law as well as undermining the liberal democratic process of fostering change and thereby jepodising the system.

I think the problem with that argument is that it assumes too much and erroneously conflates advocacy (even assuming it is effective) and the actual carrying out of the action (which is punishable anyway).

But furthermore, it is cultural specific and presumes a general right that societies have the right to self-preservation and perpetuation. The most immediate counter-example would be that of a totalitarian society.

At the same time, it might well be argued that if you have a society worth preserving which is contingent on the system not be perverted against itself, then a restriction on speech which advocates and actually incites people to destroy one of those prongs may then well be justified.

Let's concretise it into something more tangible. Where speech is made that:
a) goes beyond mere advocacy of an abstract theory (say a particular religious precept is incompetible with democracy) into
b)actual advocacy (you should do the following...) of
c) an actual violation of the law (the government must be overthrown by force and you should start by intimidating or hurting say A, B and others of their class) and
d) where the law in question is fundamental and inimical to the (liberal democratic) system (so advocating that people should not wear their selt-belts would be protected) and
e) it is clear that such an action would indeed be carried out beyond a reasonable doubt
f) within the near future (say maximum of half a year),
Then I think that such speech ought not to be protected. On a related note, I think that actual advocacy should not simply mean "go do so-so" but also the innuendo of King George type i.e. "will someone take care of this troublesome priest".

I don't think that this is indeed a complete analysis, there are things that I left out including whether a democracy really needs or should insulate/protect itself in that fashion or that it needs to rise beyond the fray in the self-same assurance that Fukuyama exhibited in The End of History. Or whether this merely corrects the imperfections in the freemarket of ideas such that it does not become a fishmarket. Or the value of civil disobedience etc.

Anyway, I hope this marks the tentative stage of my return to serious blogging.


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Monday, September 25, 2006

*Culture Shock*

The following ranks up there as easily the biggest cultural shock that I've ever accounted (together with how big a role the student union actually played at UQ). I simply cannot imagine such an email being circulated back in NUS.

This message is being sent to all Faculty, Staff, and Students with approval
from the Office of the Provost.

Dear Colleagues,

As the political season gets into full swing, it is a good time to remember
the state's "zero tolerance" for using University facilities for campaigning
and review proper computer use more generally.

1. No Campaigning

While the Executive Ethics Act permits occasional, very limited use of
phones and computers for personal purposes under certain conditions, it is
illegal to use UW email, phones, internet, web, or other property or
services to help get someone elected, or to get a ballot issue passed or
defeated. The Washington State Executive Ethics Board has prepared a useful
FAQ on this and related subjects at:

The Attorney General's Office also has written a detailed explanation of the
campaigning restrictions at:

2. Privacy

Employees who have access to confidential or private University data are
reminded that you have a responsibility to protect that data from
unauthorized disclosure. This is especially true of all "personally
identifiable information," as defined in the UW Privacy Policy found at:

3. Other Computer Policies

Individuals are, of course, also expected to use the internet, email, and
other computer resources in ways that reflect civility, good judgment, and
ethical conduct. Specific policies are found at:

Although, having thought about it, here's very a quick and dirty analysis of why I found the idea that NUS might actually send out such a email shocking.

1. The novelty factor.

Considering how depoliticised our campus is (notwithstanding special interest groups i.e. the Environmentalist lobby have generally been pretty strong as have Women Interest Groups like AWARE and female issues e.g. child and women trafficking), the notion that such a email might actually be needed is certainty novel. That is, it's generally inconceivable that a student will actually want to do this.

2. The lack of a need.

Arguably the regulations dealing with internet campaigning deals with this and given the fairly extensive coverage you get in the press, there is arguably no need for such an email.

On a similar front, it could be argued that the ruling party doesn't need access to our details (go figure out the reason yourself) but they get good press is all I want to say. And generally political parties aren't allowed to do the above anyway.

But anyway, go figure. Here's to more cultural shock.



Sunday, September 24, 2006

*Climate Change*

Sorry, it's not about Global Warming but a personal adaptation to a vastly different climate over here. S is a tropical baby and likes the heat very much. That is a good thing when his home climate consists of a) hot and humind or b) rainy and humid.

So once again, S and CL present to you yet another dramatisation.

(Chatting about inconsequential things like the prospect of democracy in Thailand and the uproar of Chavez's comments at the UN when the topic turns to the weather)

CL: So how's the weather been over there anyway?

S: Not bad. It was sunny today, which made a very nice change from the rain on Wednesday and Thursday, which plunged the temperature to low 2 digits.

CL: Uhhuh. Well keep warm then.

S: Yup. Although I have to say, if Fall is already this cold, I'm so not looking forward to Winter.

CL: *beat* are aware that you actually do still have one week of Summer left right?

S: *beat* Bu...what...? *long pause* You's not even Fall yet?!!!

CL: Uhhuh. One week more.

S:'s the Fall Quarter!
Translation: How could it still be Summer if I'm attending the Fall Quarter of the year (spot the logical fallacy in that)

CL: Yeah but the Seattle Times says it's still Summer
Translation: You silly fool, just because it says it's Fall doesn't necessarily make it so.

S: I'm so screwed......


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Friday, September 22, 2006

*Dang Pagans!!!!!*

So true to my usual slothful ways, I set my alarm for 7 a.m. but only really get out of bed at 10 a.m. And after bumbling about my room and the bathroom freshening up, I figure what better way to start the day but to partake not only in my drug habit but in a place that is the classic Seattle stereotype/landmark. Yes that's right the Seattle Coffee Cafe just across the road.

Figuring that it was just across the road, I decided to lug my laptop and my International Law textbook (Is International Law really law? How do we analyse International Law? Talk about joyful reading for the day) to the cafe.

Humming a happy tune, I approach the door only to read, "The shop is closed early for the Soltice".

*Expletive expletive expletive*

Note: The title is a piece of satire and is meant to be ironic, and yes it's a gross generalisation as it's entirely possible that people need not be Pagan to decide to close early for the soltice.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

*We are the Path of Least Resistance...Resistence is Fultile*

Just some quick background so my patient readers have some context to which to place this post in.

In the past 5 months, I have astonishingly managed only to be in Singapore for less than 2. But even within those 2 months, I (as most of you would no doubt be aware) shifted from the Western Wastelands (to be fair, it's been suburdianised to a huge extent from when I actually shifted in) to the Desolated North (there's almost nothing there except HBD flats and isolated enclaves of shops).

But after that when a hop, stick, jump and an incredibly cramped 14 hour flight to Zurich (NEVER EVER sit next to David and another tall person, especially if you're of above average height. There will be absolutely no leg space left). Followed by a week of the St Gallen Symposium. Then an hour train journey back to Zurich and a 14 hour overnight train to Rome for 2 days before a whirlwind 11 cities, 9 countries, 13 day tour of Europe.

Then back home where due to our top two female speakers being unable to make it for the AustralAsian Debating Tournament, I was forced after 2 and a half weeks (well closer to 3) to fly off to New Zealand for the tournament where I was told that I had a permanent scowl affixed to my face (I had some good reason by the way, most of which was becuase I was in an Misanthropic mood i.e. my I-hate-all-people-mood).

Back to Singapore after a moderately successful campaign. Before I could get back into the swing of things, other things cropped up and before I knew it, I was in full panic mood and hey, back in the air to Seattle.

And oh, I had to shift again from the dorm to my current place.

And between that and all the crazy administrative stuff I have had to do and the hoops I had to jump through to get registered, it's been a fairly hectic past week.

Which FINALLY brings me to the point I was going to make. It's going to be a while before serious blogging begins in earnest. In particular, the serious stuff like commentary on the Thai coup (and the interesting role of the Thai Monarch which lends credence to the theory that he sees himself as a benevelont monarch that protects his people from things, whether military regimes or democracy) and the interesting Supreme Court race in Seattle that has been called the nastiest in recent history.

And so the style and content of this blog is going to change fairly drastically for the next few months.


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Monday, September 18, 2006

*Trials, Travails and Tribulations in Off Campus housing search a.k.a. Dante's Comedy*

As earlier promised, here's the blog post on how my search for off-campus housing went and in particular, where it really went like Dante's Comedy i.e. it started off in hell, then purgatory and finally heaven (it's all relative to me anyway).

A quick recap is in order here. Back home, Law is an undergraduate degree, presumably, in accordance with our policy of early streaming, it's perfectly alright to jump straight to a professional degree without first having a basic degree. Whereas, here in the States, it's a post-graduate degree.

Personally, after having done the freaking debate before, I personally couldn't give a dang primarily because they both have their strengths and weaknesses and it's nigh impossible to determine on a CBA which is naturally and necessarily the better programme. Hence, in a debate, the importance of framing comes in huge. Depending on what the "real" issue is, that's how a team is going to win.

But, aside aside, as a result of my ostensible (and technical) 'profession graduate' status, my priority for campus housing basically was the lowest of the low (with some variation for single student apartment but I stupidly did not apply for it till sometime later i.e. every room had been taken up). Thus, I didn't have manage to get any campus housing.

As such, I faced the prospect of being sleepless (and homeless) in Seattle, until granted a reprieve by having temporary housing. Oh, and the best part? Two days later, they emailed me to inform me that I shouldn't even be there, but that they magmanimously decided not to kick me out onto the streets until a couple of days later i.e. when I was supposed to have to move out anyway.

One last thing. I spent two and a half years of my life in the army in various living conditions. I have lived in a dorm like setting of 40 to a bunk of 4 and everything and anything in between. So no privacy. And it's Singapore, space is at a premium so I can live without it somewhat.

So here goes Shaun's Comedy...Staring with Hell.

Day 1 (120906): Arrived in Seattle at 7 p.m. after being unfortunately delayed in Taipei (Chang Kai Shek Airport, newly but still underoging renovation. Oh and I lost but managed to retrieve my camera.

But regardless, I got to my dorm room and finally settled in at around 10 plus. So no room search that day.

But I have to say, UW's dorms have been ranked the 16th most dungeon like dorm in the entire States and now I know why. Thank goodness in our little room, we had two Singaporeans and a Hong Konger, so we can live through the severe lack of space.

Day 2 (130906): Registration. Loads of running about all over campus (beautiful one by the way with a startling clash of different architectural styles, in particular the buildings surrounding Red Square.). Eventually settled into a inconspicuous corner in the basement of the Undergrad Library Building and made calls for appointments to see places.

Decided to go preview first place. It was atrocious, bad, crap, dismal. The place was seriously runned down and fairly dilapidated. And it wasn't the neighbourhood. It was just THIS ONE FREAKING HOUSE. But I took some consolation in the fact that it may be a lot nicer inside than it was on the outside. And thus I awaited the morrow.

Day 3 (140906): Some more running around on campus. Although I can't for the life of mine remember why. I blame memory repression.

But finding myself with time, I decided to go around and hopefully scope out another place. And by sheer happenstance I found myself outside an apartment building that was advertised in UW for students (and sanctioned by the school no less). And oh, I found out that was where all the NTU students stay for their Global Immersion Programme, although it seems that they're going to be out of luck as the manager can't find enough spaces this time round.

But it was very very very nice. And the communal kitchen was seriously kickass. The stuff I could have done with their oven was simply insane. I mean with all the pre-mixes out there, even I can make fluffy pancakes (helped along by the fact that I don't mind using real butter and cream). But it was just kinda pricey although I figured that worse comes to worst, I had this fallback position.

So comes the time to go view the first place. I was there early and this Mainland Chinese guy comes cycling up to me and attempts to converse in English with me. I mean, his English wasn't bad but it was like my Mandarin.

But here's the kicker, after I conversed with him in Chinese, he actually thought I was from Mainland China. Okay...I mean I'm fairly used to having my English "complimented" (most of which goes along the lines of "Hey, you speak good English, where're are you from". Most people think England although there was a cab driver that thought I was Malaysian) but never have I managed to pass off as a PRC. Although apparently the PRC in NUS think on first appearance that I'm from there. Until I open my mouth that is.

So I asked him how the place was and what the environment was like in there. And with a grim shake of his head, he told me it basically sucked. Yup, hell. And it didn't get better when the landlady came round and showed me around. It seriously was in a bad condition. Although to be fair, it was in the process of a major renovation so at least it was being brought up to code.

But what really threw me off was the presence of a couple of scruffy guys and what I presume was a streetwalker next door in the other room. I got so desparate to get out of the place that I think it showed in my entire body language. Not unlike I suppose US troops in Iraq. Or the Kurds under Saddam.

I figured she noticed as she decided to show me another place. This was better but undergoing serious renovation that would not be done for another month. And it was in the basement to boot. So once again, that was a no go.

But at least we were accending out of hell.

So she brings me to the last place, where she promises that it's in a nice neighbourhood and occupied by other students.

It was all that. But it was fairly filthy.

So with forced smile affixed to my face, I promised to call her the next day and with a heavy heart.

After all that had happened, my expectations were seriously depressed so it wasn't with fantastically high hopes that I went for my last appointment. Anyway, the landlady told me to go to her place first before she showed me the place for rent. And I figured that seeing her place would be a good way of deciding what the place she rented out would be like, although opn the flip side, the fact that she did not stay at the place she rented out was probably a negative, it meant that she could afford to not keep it as up to scratch as compared to the situation where she actually had to live in it.

Regardless, this nice old lady openned the door and showed me to her house. It was warm, cozy and there was this guy who read the New Yorker and the Economist so that gave me a good impression as it was.

But to cut a long story short, he showed me to this gorgeous old house. It was a tad messy as they were renovating the bathroom and clearing stuff out but I could live with that. And the room I eventually leased is seriously lovely. The furnitures are antiques and sure it doesn't have much of a view but I don't get any back home anyway and most of the time I draw the blinds because the Ponggol flats are built seriously close together with full floor-to-wall glass windows.

It's very walkable to the law faculty (it's all glass and light which is really lovely) and the area is nice. So there I am now.

Anyway, if you want addresses or numbers, just drop me a mail.


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*Settled in*

Ye gods. I have been travelling and moving about so much I don't know where I feel I am anymore.

Anyway, after some trials and tribulations with regards to finding an off-campus place (more on that soon. It's worth an entire post by itself. It's acutally that funny.) I'm finally settled somewhere into the Univeristy District. It's a nice neighbourhood and I'm across a fairly famous cafe.

Tell me if you want my address and number etc.


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Sunday, September 10, 2006

*Temporary Housing in Seattle*

Eh heh heh heh. *Sigh* okay, the funny is wearing thin on this one.

But to all my faithful readers, one of the contributors will soon be off to the University of Washington - Seattle to do a one year exchange programme in Law. He'll be leaving on Tuesday and will be back sometime in June next year.

Anyway, he's not exactly homeless in Seattle anymore as he got a bit of a reprieve for the school has managed to scrunch up temporary housing which will keep him off the streets for about 4 days.

In the meantime, this blog will still be up and running and watch out of a possible name change and different slant as it will likely become more of a personnal blog to keep in contact with the people here.

But for those who come to this blog for snark and logic enforcement, don't worry, these posts will still be forthcoming but not likely at the usual rate as the author struggles to find accommodation


p.s. Free shipping within the US for online shopping. If you want stuff, mail me.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

*We're back but Homeless in Seattle*

The contributors are back from Krabi.

One of whom is now working for the Civil Service (I was going to say government, but the Civil Service is suppose to be impartial on the presumption that the government or more accurately the governing party changes. See Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister for a hillarious take on this.)

The other is suppose to go on an exchange programme to Seattle but due to one of the quirks of the education system(s) with regards to reading Law, while he's an undergraduate here, over in the States, he's classified as a graduate student which means he gets shite priority and gets thrown to the housing wolves.

So yes, he's going to be both Sleepless and Homeless in Seattle the upcoming Tuesday.


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Saturday, September 02, 2006

*Off to Krabi*

The contributors of this blog are off to krabi over the weekend. We'll be back middle of next week.