Saturday, July 21, 2007

Is there any reason left to remain as a Singaporean?

I remember way back when i was in primary school, my chinese teacher was discussing the benefits of being a Singaporean. Back then i was just a kid and my life was just school and play and it was the first time i had any exposure to such a topic. My chinese teacher, an elderly gentleman in his late 50s told my class this: The most important thing about being a Singaporean is that you will be treated as a 1st class citizen in your home country. Sure there will be some sacrifice involved, like serving NS for example, but such sacrifices should be considered a small price to pay when you can have a prosperous country in which you could call home. A home shared by you fellow countrymen where we can "achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation" as depicted in our national pledge.

That discussion certainly left a deep impression on me and my teacher's pride on Singapore easily rubbed off on me. A country where we are 1st class citizens indeed.

Let's fast forward to present day. Are we still first class citizens?(I'm assuming that we were.) Should we still be proud of Singapore?

Here's what i think of Singapore now.

1) A country which citizens have their rights stripped in the name of economic prosperity.

2) A country which low income earners such as cleaners are unable to make ends meet despite having a job. In Australia, cleaners, construction workers, garbage collector,miners etc. earn as good a wage as anyone else. No one looks down on people holding such jobs. Totally unlike Singapore.

3) A country which leaders haggle over a misery increase for welfare benefits for the poor while catapulting their own sky-high pay to out-of-this-world levels. (Where high pay = moral authority)

4) A country which males are so severely disadvantaged by national service and the subsequent reservist trainings that companies prefer to hire foreign workers with no NS commitments. And if you died or became disabled in the midst of "protecting you country", the compensation dished out by the state is peanuts. Not Mrs Goh's kind of peanut though. Fat hope.

5) A country which funds most of it's foreign students' tuition fees. Amazing isn't it? In other countries, foreign students pay tuition fees of up to SGD$50,000 a year to subsidise the local students over there. To add insult to injury, it seems that Singaporean taxpayers are funding foreign students at the expense of local students who cannot get places in a local university.

6) A country lacking in social grace. Think about all the Singaporean-who-refused-to-give-up-seat-to-elderly-or-pregnant cases

7) A country in which suicide by jumping on MRT is gaining popularity

8) A country in which most charitable organisations are turning out to be scams.

9) A country full of "stealth taxes" in the form of cars, ERPs, GST, excessively priced HDB flats.

10) A country which education system is dumbing down its students by stifling creativity, placing excessive emphasis on memory work, discouraging critical thinking and fostering too much respect to authority. (Remember how your teacher told you he/she was right because he/she was the teacher and not because his/her facts were right?)

11) A country in which you have to work long hours till an old age, leaving you with little time to spare for your family.

Not a very nice place to live in right?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Places in Local University

What a turnabout of events. When it was first reported that 4.3%, now they have clarified is it close to 20%.
Let's look at the report closely.
"The three local universities will provide 14,685 places this year, a 10 percent increase from the previous year." From the first report.
"In fact, out of the 23,000 foreign students who applied for local universities, the actual number admitted was 4,218." From the second report.
So, the percentage of foreign students in Singapore is 28.72%. which means that slightly more than 1 out of 4 students in our local university is foreigner.
"Full fees for foreign students enrolled in non-lab courses in local universities are about S$26,000 a year.
This year, nearly 19,000 foreign students applied for local universities and did not get in, which translates to over S$480 million in lost revenue annually."

Hey wait. Look at the first sentence. "
The three local universities will provide 14,685 places this year" Let me think. Isn't 19,000 more than 14,685? I guess not, in the eyes of our journalist here.
Let's read more into the line. If i am not wrong(disclaimer), locals include PR. Not that i have anything against PRs, but then i would like to think being a citizen should get some privileges, especially those who serve National Service.
"In Singapore, the priority of universities is to meet the demand from local students."
It has capped the number of government-subsidised foreign students in Singapore at 20 percent because it does not want schools to expand too quickly.
However, this cap makes it difficult for universities to take in more full fee-paying foreign students."
After reading this this all makes sense. So 20% of the foreign students are subsidised and that is the cap, if there are more foreign students with us, it means they are paying full fees, which means there is no effective cap at all, contrary to popular belief. This is only an opinion express and may not reflect the actual situation though.
If the priority is to meet the demand of local students, the economics of the situation should not be taken into consideration.
"Foreign students bring diversity to the university. Can you imagine a university classroom (with) 100 percent Singapore students? Too homogenous a group is not going to create that diversity in learning," said Professor Tan Chin Tiong, Deputy President and Provost of Singapore Management University. "
We are not against having foreign students but more than 25% of them in a cohort at the expense of local students, isn't it a bit too much? And remember, the priority is to meet the demand of local students.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How not to argue against homosexuality part 2

Preserve marriage as an institution

I REFER to Mr Janadas Devan's article, 'Can mum, mum and kids make a family?' (ST, July 7), and Dr George Bishop's letter, 'Special-needs kids thrive, thanks to mum and mum' (ST, July 11).

Both writers had used anecdotal examples of children having been raised by same-sex parents and, based on the high divorce rates in the US, suggested that children of same-sex couples were not worse off in any way. They argued, therefore, that the idea of same-sex couples having children, whether by adoption or otherwise, should be tolerated, indeed even legislated.

Such a line of argument is flawed. Using similar logic, one might say that since we might know of some smokers who are still alive and healthy, and there are a number of non-smokers who still develop lung cancer anyway, smoking should therefore be tolerated, even promoted.

It has long been known by human intuition and affirmed by studies, that the presence of both a nurturing mother and a nurturing father play a critical role in a child's well-being. Children are best served when raised in a home with a married mother and father. In addition, the parental, mother-father relationship provides children with a model of marriage - the most meaningful, enduring relationship that the vast majority of individuals will have during their lives.

The fact that many marriages are 'unhappy' or 'on the rocks' does not mean that marriage in itself is a faulty institution. We need to look into the varied reasons that plague marriages today, notably so in many 'tolerant' Western countries.

Let us use an analogy. A doctor may give the best and most well tried medication to his patient to treat an illness. If the patient is not doing well despite the medication, the doctor does not immediately dump that medication and try a new one, especially so when it is one that is risky and hardly tested at all. The good doctor looks into other reasons for the patient's poor response: Has the patient been taking the medication as instructed? Has he taken to habits that are detrimental to his health? Has he been mixing the medication with other concoctions?

The same goes for marriage. The fact that many marriages are threatened today does not mean that it is losing relevance. Rather, we should as a society examine ourselves and see how it has been misused, indeed abused, in recent times. As a bastion of civil society, it has served us remarkably well, and it will continue to do so, as long as we put right our values that must necessarily complement it.

True creativity lies not in blindly aping all the values of the West, but rather in acknowledging those that help promote the public good, and integrating them with our own in a way that continues to build upon the important pillars of our country, an essential part of which is the family, founded upon the marriage between a man and a woman.

Dr John Hui Keem Peng

Now, what's wrong with this letter this time round?

"Both writers had used anecdotal examples of children having been raised by same-sex parents and, based on the high divorce rates in the US, suggested that children of same-sex couples were not worse off in any way. They argued, therefore, that the idea of same-sex couples having children, whether by adoption or otherwise, should be tolerated, indeed even legislated. "

Yes agreed. Anecdotal examples are seldom conclusive of anything. BUT BUT BUT .......... similarly, anecdotal examples of how homosexual couples make bad parents or provide an environment with negative effects are also not conclusive. So far in the letter, there's no conclusive evidence cited by the author that suggests that homosexuals should not be allowed to have children.

The 2nd paragraph just elaborates a rather redundant point made in the first paragraph. Let's skip to the 3rd paragraph.

"It has long been known by human intuition and affirmed by studies, that the presence of both a nurturing mother and a nurturing father play a critical role in a child's well-being. Children are best served when raised in a home with a married mother and father. In addition, the parental, mother-father relationship provides children with a model of marriage - the most meaningful, enduring relationship that the vast majority of individuals will have during their lives." (Emphasis mine)

First, Dr Hui talks about making decisions based on the magical/never wrong/always right HUMAN INTUITION!!!!!! I expect something better than that seriously. Gamblers in casinos after all have "INTUITIONS" that after a long run of "SMALL" on the Big/Small table, it is unlikely to be small for the upcoming round. Shows you how reliable intuitions are.

Next, the phrase "affirmed by studies, that the presence of both a nurturing mother and a nurturing father play a critical role in a child's well-being." is rather carefully worded. What it says is a mother and father is critical in the well-being of a child. It does not say that homosexuals parents are detrimental to the well-being of a child. Nor does it says male-female parents are better for a child's well-being than same-sex parents. The rest of that paragraph is just meaningless ramblings of personal opinions.

"The fact that many marriages are 'unhappy' or 'on the rocks' does not mean that marriage in itself is a faulty institution. We need to look into the varied reasons that plague marriages today, notably so in many 'tolerant' Western countries."

True. But does not in anyway support why same-sex marriages should be forbidden. The next 2 paragraphs are about his analogies again. This fellow likes to use analogies to explain points that are of no value towards arguing against allowing homosexual parents. Seems like he's using the false dilemma fallacy, that heterosexual parents must either be better or worse than homosexual parents and that if heterosexual parents are good then children, homosexual parents must be detrimental to the children.

"True creativity lies not in blindly aping all the values of the West, but rather in acknowledging those that help promote the public good, and integrating them with our own in a way that continues to build upon the important pillars of our country, an essential part of which is the family, founded upon the marriage between a man and a woman. "

In the final paragraph, he attacks western values but not the arguments for allowing homosexuals to have children. That's like trying to discredit your opponent by attacking his character when u are unable to attack his arguments. As for the "public good" part, i don't see how by practising discrimination is for the public good. And the idea of "an essential part of which is the family, founded upon the marriage between a man and a woman" sounds very christian to me. Don't you think so?

And finally, take a look at this research article i found on the web. I copied the abstract below. It is unable to conclude that homosexual parents are detrimental to the well-being of children. I suggest for those who are interested in finding out the fact to search the net for the many studies done on this subject, come to your own conclusion based on those studies instead of making baseless assumptions all the time.


Twenty-three empirical studies published between 1978 and 2000 on nonclinical children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers were reviewed (one Belgian/Dutch, one Danish, three British, and 18 North American). Twenty reported on offspring of lesbian mothers, and three on offspring of gay fathers. The studies encompassed a total of 615 offspring (age range 1.5–44 years) of lesbian mothers or gay fathers and 387 controls, who were assessed by psychological tests, questionnaires or interviews. Seven types of outcomes were found to be typical: emotional functioning, sexual preference, stigmatization, gender role behavior, behavioral adjustment, gender identity, and cognitive functioning. Children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers did not systematically differ from other children on any of the outcomes. The studies indicate that children raised by lesbian women do not experience adverse outcomes compared with other children. The same holds for children raised by gay men, but more studies should be done.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How not to argue against homosexuality

I WRITE in response to Mr Janadas Devan's article, 'Can mum, mum and kids make a family?' (ST, July 7) and Dr George D. Bishop's letter, 'Special-needs kids thrive, thanks to mum and mum' (ST, July 11).

The main thrust of their letters are that lesbians and homosexuals can and are a normal family unit and can take care of children just as well as any other family unit and thus should be allowed to get married and be one.

The basic building block of society has always been the family which is defined as a married father and mother with children. Without strong family units, society will be fraught with problems. Our Prime Minister has rightly stated that the family unit is the core of our Singapore society.

Now homosexuals and lesbians want to redefine 'marriage' and 'family'. Why so? There is an inherent need for them to be accepted by society that their sexual behaviour is not abnormal but just a variation of normal sexual activity.

Do we want a Singapore where same-sex marriage prevails? If so, one might ask why not incorporate the following as diverse families.

1. two brothers;
2. two sisters
3. a brother and sister (case in German courts)
4. a man and a horse (film 'Zoo' shown in Sundance Film Festival - bestiality)
5. why not a combination of three or more?
6. why bother have a marriage or a family?

All these questions are not too remote; because those pursuing a perverted lifestyle must have the endorsement of society to secure their very identity, and the only way to achieve this is to go down the slippery road to establish that perversion is normal like incest is normal; bestiality is normal.

It is an issue of self-autonomy. Self is god. The point made is not academic but it has already happened and will continue to happen. This may be seen in the case of the four legislators in Massachusetts who followed up 'their success at legalising homosexual unions by pushing for softening laws against other forms of sexual deviance' including bestiality viz reducing the penalty to a fine (See First Comes Gay Marriage then comes Bestiality in Massachusetts )

The four Democrat legislators 'are all vocal supporters of abortion, homosexual unions, and are all endorsed by all three of Massachusetts' gay lobby groups. Family lobbyists opposed to the re-definition of marriage were frequently ridiculed for their warnings that dissolving the natural basis of marriage in law would end with legalising and normalising a host of sexual perversions, including incest and bestiality. The case of the Massachusetts legislators is in point.

Following this, 'the media has quickly picked up on the trend of acceptance for any and all sorts of conditions that before the 1960's sexual revolution and the politicising of the psychiatric profession, were universally recognised as serious psychological disorders. New terminology has been established, calling those persons interested in having sexual relations with animals, 'zoophiles' or 'zoos' for short, and a campaign has been discretely under way for some time to reduce the public 'stigma' against 'zoos'.

We, in Singapore, want to conserve our marriage institution as one between a man and a woman so that the needs of our children for a father and a mother are catered for. We abhor any regression into perversity which, as history has shown, has led into the decline and fall of a society.

Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang


Let's dissect this piece of rubbish step by step.

"The basic building block of society has always been the family which is defined as a married father and mother with children."
A completely baseless assumption. So who defined that a family consist of a married father and mother with children? How about unmarried father and mother with children? Or single parents with children? Or aunts and uncles caring for their nephews and nieces?
"Without strong family units, society will be fraught with problems. "
Cite me a research study that shows your claim. Otherwise it will be another one of your baseless assumptions.
"Our Prime Minister has rightly stated that the family unit is the core of our Singapore society."
Using the appeal to authority, a logical fallacy. PM Lee is not an expert in the field of determining if the family unit is the core of a society. To argue in this manner is similar to saying "My dad said so, therefore it is true."
Next, the rest of the argument gets even more ludicrous.
"Do we want a Singapore where same-sex marriage prevails? If so, one might ask why not incorporate the following as diverse families.
1. two brothers;

2. two sisters
3. a brother and sister (case in German courts)
4. a man and a horse (film 'Zoo' shown in Sundance Film Festival - bestiality)
5. why not a combination of three or more?
6. why bother have a marriage or a family? "
Total bullshit of an argument. Besides appealing to fear and the slippery slope, it's all empty. It has failed to show any evidence or reason why homosexual marriages should not be legalised. The analogies given are useless, like comparing apples with oranges. Angalogies seldom make good arguments. Let's take apart the rest of the bullshit.
Why marriage between sibilings is illegal?
I really can't think of a proper reason for criminalising same-sex marriages between siblings other than the it is not in-line with "social-norms", "disgusting" and "perverted", all weak arguments. Keeping in line with social-norms is seldom a bright thing to do. You just need to think of slavery and the discrimination of women in the past.
As for a marriage between brothers and sisters, there is a possible victim. A child borne to siblings are at greater risk of having genetically recessive diseases. Dr Alan Chin Yew Liang, if he is a medical doctor, ought to know it better than me.
Why beastiality is illegal?
Animals are unable to give consent. Homosexuals can. Otherwise it's mainly a "we think it is disgusting and perverted" issue.
Why bother have a marriage or a family?
For the marriage part of the question, it is mainly once again a "social norm". Not a particularly good reason. Perhaps it started out in the past to protect women. Nowadays it's more like a trap for men. Families can still exist without marriage. For the family part of the question, it's a no brainer you twit of a doctor. All animals seek to procreate. Haven't you done basic biology? Never heard of evolution?
Why do we have laws in the first place?
It is to protect individuals, society and the interests of the powerful ;). So have we proven that homosexuals choose to be the way they are? Have we proven that homosexual families are detrimental to children brought up in such an environment? The answer to both questions is no. Show me a study that proves otherwise. If homosexuals did not choose to be the way they are, one cannot argue that homosexuals pose a threat to society by delibretely hampering the continuation of the human species. Even if it were to be shown that having same sex parents for children is detrimental to them in anyway, why single out the homosexuals? How about the drug addicts, abusive families and the poor who can't afford to feed their children? I do know that two wrongs do not make a right. But i can't help to point out the prejudice and bigotry some people have shown towards homosexuals.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Alternative medicine

What exactly is western/conventional medicine? Why do i trust it so much? Why do i oppose Chinese and alternative medicine so much? Am i biased against alternative medicine because of my training in western science?

First of all, i am not specifically against alternative medicine treatments for diseases. I couldn't care less what type of medicine is used as long as it works. Before advocates of alternative medicine jump at this opportunity and point out that certain treatments under alternative medicine are indeed efficacious, let me say that while certain type of alternative treatments do work, this does not mean that alternative medicine as a whole is effective. It's like saying all dogs are animals and since all dogs have four legs, all animals have four legs. That's a logical fallacy known as Hasty Generalization.

The reason why i am opposed to alternative medicine is because it is used without sufficient evidence to prove it's safety and efficacy. By proof, i do not mean anecdotal evidence. That in itself is also a logical fallacy know as Proof by Example. An example of that would be by saying

"I've seen a person shoot someone. Therefore, all people are murderers. "

When one tries to use anecdotal evidence as proof such has knowing people who have been cured by alternative medicine or hearing stories about such beneficiaries, even if we play the devil's advocate and assume that the people who told such stories did not lie, one should consider the following:

1) Would they have recovered without any treatment in the first place?

2) Could it be the placebo effect which has been proven to be pretty powerful indeed?

3) How about those who died and hence were unable to tell you how "effective " those treatments were?

4) Is there a biased that enhances the circulation of such sucess stories? Eg. Those that benefited from alternative medicine seeking out others who have similar experiences and then spreading such stories together?

So proponents of alternative medicine might be tempted to attack western medicine by using the same arguments as i have put up above. To answer the question of how scientists determine if a particular drug is useful indeed, scientists frequently use a method of testing called a Double Blind test. The following description of a Double Blind test is taken from Wikipedia:

"Double-blind describes an especially stringent way of conducting an experiment, usually on human subjects, in an attempt to eliminate subjective bias on the part of both experimental subjects and the experimenters. In most cases, double-blind experiments are held to achieve a higher standard of scientific rigour.
In a double-blind experiment, neither the individuals nor the researchers know who belongs to the control group and the experimental group. Only after all the data are recorded (and in some cases, analyzed) do the researchers learn which individuals are which. Performing an experiment in double-blind fashion is a way to lessen the influence of the prejudices and unintentional physical cues on the results (the
placebo effect, observer bias, and experimenter's bias). Random assignment of the subject to the experimental or control group is a critical part of double-blind research design. The key that identifies the subjects and which group they belonged to is kept by a third party and not given to the researchers until the study is over.
Double-blind methods can be applied to any experimental situation where there is the possibility that the results will be affected by conscious or unconscious
bias on the part of the experimenter.
Computer-controlled experiments are sometimes also referred to as double-blind experiments, since software should not cause any bias. In analogy to the above, the part of the software that provides interaction with the human is the blinded researcher, while the part of the software that defines the key is the third party. An example is the
ABX test, where the human subject has to identify an unknown stimulus X as being either A or B."
So would you choose to believe anecdotal evidence or a randomized double blind test?
Have all alternative medicine treatments undergone such rigourous testing before it is deemed to be effective?
Have they been all tested for safety/toxicity?
Say if such treatments are rigourously tested and are proven to work, i would be most delighted to accept them. I'm not closed minded, taking the stand that anything unconventional is bad. But the fact remains that alot of alternative treatments have yet to be tested rigourously. Let's see what happens when those treatments are scrutinised.
According to the article Acupuncture: Nonsense with Needles (1993) by Arthur Taub, M.D., Ph.D. a neurologist and clinical professor of anesthesiology and a lecturer in neurology at Yale University School of Medicine
"In 1974, I was a member of the Acupuncture Study Group of the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China. Our group visited the Acupuncture Research Institute in Peking as well as traditional medical hospitals in the Shanghai region. There I observed one patient receive acupuncture treatment beginning two weeks after a stroke. Patients of this type tend to recover spontaneously and gradually. In fact, this patient, who had received acupuncture for six months, recovered no more and no less quickly than would be expected with no treatment or with a minimum of physical therapy. Several young women I examined had monthly migraine headaches associated with nausea, vomiting, spots before their eyes, and sensitivity to bright light. They told me that monthly acupuncture treatment limited their headaches to several days per month. They apparently did not know that this is the usual state of affairs without treatment."
This is his view on anesthetic accupuncture
"Acupuncture is not widely used in China as an “anesthetic.” A reasonable estimate of the total use of “acupuncture anesthesia” is approximately 5 to 10 percent. During our visit to China, the Acupuncture Study Group was able to substantiate a number of previous reports that almost all patients operated upon under “acupuncture anesthesia” received other agents in addition. This almost always included phenobarbital (a sedative) and meperidine (a narcotic painkiller) before and during the operation. Local anesthesia was also used liberally. I personally witnessed operations in which local anesthesia was used from beginning to end, but which were nevertheless classified as done under “acupuncture anesthesia.”"
And his view on accupuncture for pain relief
"It is reasonably clear that acupuncture cannot cure any disease. Does it relieve pain? My clinical experience with acupunctured patients suggests that any pain relief following the procedure is short-lived. Formal studies have shown conflicting results. In most instances, acupuncture produced no better relief than was produced by a placebo. In other studies, acupuncture did produce some degree of difficulty in distinguishing a previously painful stimulus from a nonpainful stimulus, but this relief was minimal, of short duration, and not at all comparable with the degree of relief claimed for conventional acupuncture therapy. In 1990, a trio of Dutch epidemiologists analyzed fifty-one controlled studies of acupuncture for chronic pain and concluded that “the quality of even the better studies proved to be mediocre. . . . The efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic pain remains doubtful.”"
And here's one of the many dangers of accupuncture.
"Stimulation of the so-called Ya-men point is recommended for the treatment of nerve deafness in children. Scientific study has demonstrated that this technique is useless. The Ya-men point is located directly above the most sensitive part of the human nervous system, the junction between the spinal cord and the base of the brain. A needle entering this sensitive area can produce instant paralysis of arms and legs, stoppage of breathing, and death."
This is a list of articles done on the subject of accupuncture with proper referencing done so that in case you dispute any more the claims made in the papers, you can refer back to the original study done that brought about that conclusion.
And a piece of news from BBC
While there are many studies suggesting alternative treatments are efficious, i can say that most of not randomised, double blind and reproducible. This is not to say that i deny accupuncture has zero benefits at all. The question is are the benefits due to inserting needles at the right acu-points? Are the benefits the same as those needles inserted at random points? Are the benefits due to the placebo effect? Are the benefits due to experiment bias?
So why western medicine? This letter to the Straits Time will explain it much better than i can.

DR ANDY Ho, in his article, 'The metaphysics of existence' (ST, May 25), has confused the whole issue between science and religion.

First of all, to describe the difference between them as an adverbial one - between a 'how' and a 'why' - is very superficial.

All 'how' questions finally lead up to the 'why' question. Science is ultimately interested in the 'why' questions, the biggest of which is, 'Why is the universe the way it is?' In the broadest sense, this includes the question, 'Why does it exist at all?'

Both science and religion try to find answers to these same questions. There can be no comforting division of labour by which the areas of enquiry of the two endeavours can be kept nicely separate.

Because all the big questions are ultimately interrelated, the answers to the questions of value, meaning and purpose can only be glimpsed at through a proper understanding of how and why things are the way they are.

Science and religion differ on how they approach these questions. The processes they follow are diametrically opposite to each other.

Science follows a particular methodology for explaining the reality around us - the methodology of induction and deduction. Induction is based on data, and deduction on logic, which is formalised in the language of mathematics.

In fact, science is defined by this methodology, and not by the subject matter it studies, nor by its specific findings. As the scientist, John Casti, puts it in his book, Complexification, science is more of a verb than a noun.

Religion, on the other hand, has nothing to do with data or logic. Its approach to explaining the reality is based on speculation, dreams, mythologies, visions and subjective mysticism.

Dr Ho has got it completely wrong when he suggests that science defines reality by what can be studied by its method, that anything that cannot be so studied is denied existence, that all religious claims about transcendental non-material reality are 'defined away' and are 'not allowed' to exist.

This is a bad distortion of the scientific approach. In fact, Dr Ho turns the scientific epistemology on its head.

Science does not compartmentalise reality into that section which is amenable to its method, and that which is not and then 'define' away the latter. There is no reality, as experienced by human beings, either directly or indirectly, that cannot be studied by science. But it has one dogma. It will only follow the method of induction and deduction - data and logic - in trying to understand this reality.

But, why this dogma? What is so great about induction and deduction? Well, it is the only method that works. We survive in the real world (and have survived throughout the whole history of our existence on this planet) by applying consciously or unconsciously a myriad of technologies ranging from the simplest, such as a twig from a tree to scratch my itching back, to the most complex, such as the computer on which I am writing this.

All of these technologies are the result of understanding the nature of reality by applying the methods of induction and deduction, sometimes, almost intuitively, as in the case of the twig, and sometimes more deliberately, as in the case of the computer.

In contrast, there is not one single evidence of an alternative explanation of reality, through, mysticism, the supernatural, et cetera, actually working in the real world. There are millions of anecdotes, brilliant myths, evocative literature, but not one piece of verified evidence.
Now, in applying the principles of induction and deduction, there are many speculative hypotheses about the existence of various entities which do not pass the test - entities such as ghosts, angels and transcendental supernatural beings.

In this list could also be included things like unicorns and aether. Science does not believe in ghosts and spirits and God, not because they are not amenable to the scientific method, but because there is no evidence, empirical or logical, of their existence.

Science does not believe in unicorns and aether (any more), not because they are outside the scope of science, but there is no evidence of their existence. The supernatural is not 'ruled out by fiat', as Dr Ho says, but by lack of evidence.

Actually, the protagonists of religion and the supernatural are acutely conscious that they cannot stand up to the scrutiny of induction and deduction. So, they make out as if they are playing a different game, where the rules of induction and deduction do not apply; where a different epistemology rules.

They just postulate the existence of the supernatural and go on to build elaborate, but vague, speculative structures of concepts, not needing to be constrained at all, either by the demands of data or logic.

They package all that up in some obfuscating verbiage and call it a special kind of reality which science cannot penetrate, thereby hoping to gain legitimacy for their unbridled speculation. Dr Ho's article is another exercise towards that end.

Now, anybody has the right to withdraw from the real world and create an artificial construct for his own pleasure. It is like playing Monopoly with its make-belief currency and special rules of property ownership based on the throw of a dice.

Everybody is entitled to such indulgence. Enormous trouble would arise, however, if the player attempted to use the Monopoly money for real-world transactions. Unfortunately that is what happens when religion claims to have explanations for the real world phenomena and thereby provide answers to questions of values, morality and purpose.

A quick word about the Anthropic Principle that Dr Ho touches on. It is only the Strong Anthropic Principle that hints towards a purposeful universe created by an ultimate 'first cause' with a purpose of its own.

But, hardly any scientist of note believes in the Strong Anthropic Principle. Most recognise the Weak Anthropic Principle, which does not require the postulation of a God-like being. There are various interesting attempts to solve the riddle of the fine-tuned 'cosmic constants' which make us, human beings, possible. Current 'Inflationary' theories are also attempting to answer the first cause question using the rules of quantum fluctuations. But the moot point is that all of these theories are subject to the harsh scrutiny of induction and deduction. Only those that pass will have a claim to reality.

Dr Ho ends his piece by advocating humility on both sides of the debate. Here also, let us take a reality check. Science is the most humble and humility-generating human endeavour. Since it relies on data which are ever changing, all scientific truths are 'contingent' - till such time as contrary data do not overthrow current truths.

There are no absolute truths which are unquestioned for all times to come. No matter how exalted the position of Einstein, one verified evidence of contrary data, no matter how lowly the student or research worker who generates it, will overthrow the theory of relativity, and replace it with some other that is better able to explain the new data.

Science is the only human endeavour that progresses by trying to prove itself wrong. It accepts a theory only if it has failed to do so - and even then, temporarily. The only absolute for science is its epistemology - data and logic.

Contrast this with the posture of religion. All religions claim absolute, universal, eternal truths which can never be questioned. Even though different religions propagate different wisdoms, they all claim that their truth has come directly from God. How much hubris is required to claim that a book that was written 2,000 years back has the answers to the problems of life today! There is no humble egalitarianism in religions. All religions arrogantly claim special dispensation from God for their adherents.

So, how should we deal with religion then? With great respect. Everybody should study religion - all religions. But only as history; as a part of mankind's brave striving to make sense of his reality.

It does not matter that the religious explanations of this reality do not hold water any more in the light of modern scientific epistemology. The subsequent invalidity of a hypothesis does not detract from the glory of exploring it in the first place.

Ptolemy and Newton are no less revered figures today, even though their schemes were overturned at a later date. The problem arises when religion is yanked out of its setting in history and is made to masquerade as an explanation of eternal reality and a prescription for modern life.

All the views expressed in this note are far better explained in Richard Dawkin's latest book, 'The God Delusion', which I strongly recommend to all readers.
Shyamal Ghose
Western medicine VS Alternative medicine is not simply a "my belief is better than your's" kind of debate. From molecues to cells to organs to systems to your whole body, western science provides an explanation, backed by data from experiments all the way. It does not claim to be true because it has been used for the past 3,000 years. Mankind after all believed in ghost, witches, Sun revolving the Earth, Flat Earth for thousands of years after all. Besides believers in alternative medicine ought to take this perspective : Since alternative medicine has been around for thousands of years, why is it still not the dominant form of medicine?
And if you want to compare how effective Western medicine is compared to alternative medicine, just consider the following:
1) What wiped out small pox from the face of earth?
2) What dramatically increased the life expectanty of humans
3) What dramtically decreased infant mortality rates
4) What allowed the diabetic patient to live a much longer life than in the past?
5) What allowed the mentally ill to live relatively normal lives?
So you ask me: Why is Alternative Medicine so popular?
Perhaps it is can be explained by the seer-sucker theory: No matter how much evidence exists that seers do not exist, suckers will pay for the existence of seers.
When there are people who believe in the effects of alternative medicine, there will be others who will provide supply to such demand. Astrology, psychics, geomancers, gods, UFOs, lochness monsters etc. And speaking of geomancers, this incident illustrates why you should be taken in by unverified claims on the basis of "it might just work, no harm done"
Or perhaps most of us are gullible, unable to critically analyse the claims of others which is compounded by a lack of knowledge. After all when you know nothing, it is rather hard to refute the claims of others.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A can of worms

SAF acts after email complaint

PM's son among four reprimanded


A SINGAPORE Armed Forces (SAF) officer has been charged with and reprimanded for emailing a letter of complaint, which he had addressed to Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, to hundreds of other military personnel.

The letter, which also found its way into cyberspace and prompted numerous postings on forums and blogs, was written by 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Li Hongyi (picture) — the second son of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The 20-year-old signals platoon commander accused one of his superiors – a regular officer with the rank of Lieutenant — of going Absent Without Official Leave (Awol) on two occasions.
2LT Li detailed the circumstances in a more than 2,000 word letter, sent out on June 28, via the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) intranet system.

The email was also addressed to the Chief of Defence Force and the Chief of Army among others.

A Public Service Commission Overseas Merit Scholar, who is due to disrupt to read economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 2LT Li stated that he had reported the matter to the Lieutenant's supervisors but no disciplinary action had been taken.

Last night, Colonel Benedict Lim, Mindef's director Public Affairs, said in a statement to Today: "Arising from 2LT Li's complaint, an investigation was conducted and appropriate disciplinary action has been meted out to the officers who are the subject of the complaint.

"The officer, who was found to have been absent without leave will be court-martialled and two supervising officers have been issued letters of warning for poor judgment in administering inappropriate disciplinary action."

However, Mindef also punished 2LT Li — pointing out that there were proper channels within the SAF to address grievances or concerns.

"2LT Li was found to have contravened the General Orders of Mindef by broadcasting his letter of complaint to many other servicemen — almost all of whom were neither directly under his command, nor in an official capacity where they could deal with the matters contained in his letter of complaint.

"2LT Li has been formally charged and administered a reprimand after a summary trial," added Col Lim.

Stressing that the military takes a serious view of misconduct by any serviceman, Col Lim explained: "To maintain organisational discipline, all SAF servicemen with complaints or grievances should take them up through proper channels for redress, to ensure due process and to protect confidential information.

"All complaints, which are not anonymous are investigated and dealt with properly."

It is understood that after 2LT Li's email found its way into cyberspace, another message was sent by one of his superior officers instructing soldiers not to circulate the email.

Soldiers in his unit were also briefed about the importance of following the "chain of command".

In his email, 2LT Li, who was one of more than 400 officers commissioned last December after
a 10-month Officer Cadet Course, questioned the "quality control of officers" in the SAF and the process by which senior officers were selected.

Calling the Lieutenant's continued service in the SAF "an embarrassment", he criticised the decisions of the battalion headquarters in accepting "lower standards of discipline".

He also wrote: "I was told that one of the reasons this was so, was that they did not wish to ruin his career with a summary trial.

"However, the SAF is not a charity organisation and does not owe anyone a career."


In addition, the original email by Li Hong Yi also claimed that the Officer-in-Charge failed to dish out the appropriate disiplinary measure against the Lieutenant was either gross negilence or corruption. In his own words from the email:

"Even if you attribute the lack of punishment to extreme leniency, the decision to not inform the battalion is even more suspicious. Especially in a _____ unit such as _________ where the importance of being on duty cannot be over emphasized, to not even inform the battalion of the occurrence is to send a signal that there is nothing wrong with his actions. If it was unintentional it shows gross negligence for something which is clearly an important matter, and if intentional shows a level of corruption that I need not elaborate on. "
Well said indeed.
Suppose Li Hong Yi wasn't the PM's son. Just a nobody. Would that person have dare to email Teo Chee Hean and hundreds of other SAF personel? In the first place, many NSF would not even have an email account. What are the avenues from which they can they seek redress when they have suffered injustice? SAF hotline? A complain to the commander of that unit? Will the use of such "proper channels" work? Does the apparant widespread "officers covering for officers" which is the common belief held by all NSFs indicate that such "proper channels" are essentially ineffective?
Let's analyse this from the "everyone seeks to serve his self-interest" pespective. Suppose your Platoon commander, who's a regular in the SAF, commited an error. Perhaps an error such as failing to ensure that you have had 7 hours of sleep, which is an SAF requirement. You are pissed with your officer for depriving you of sleep and decide to lodge a complain against him to the OC, another regular in the SAF. Why in the world would the OC give a damn of your precieved minor complain and sour his friendship and working relationship with his fellow regular by punishing him. How much does an NSF mean to the OC afterall. The NSF would have ORDed in less than 2 years time, whereas the PC could very well be his colleague for years to come. Furthermore if the PC has been displaying outstanding performances in his work, the PC could very well be the OC's superior in the future. The lowly CPL NSF on the other hand is deemed to be of no practical value to the OC.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the OC would most likely brush aside the complains of the NSF.
So the next step that you, as a rule abiding soldier can take is to lodge a complain to the next higher ranked officer in the hierachy, perhaps the officer in charge of that unit. As in the previous case, the officers are highly likely to cover-up for each other. The officer might even make veiled threats to you, intimidate you into dropping the complains and fall into line as a good soldier should. You might even be warned that should you continue to cause trouble to them, you might find youself facing a trumped up charge. That's rather easy to do given the current system SAF has in place. An officer recommends a charge against you to the Disiplinary officer and viola, you find yourself in Detention Barracks.
One would wonder about the following:
1) If the above scenario is likely to happen, doesn't it imply that such corrupt practices in SAF is widespread given the ease of supressing complains and the presence of a situation in which there is a conflict of interest?
2) Why isn't that control procedures which ensure such corrupt practices do not happen? As Li Hong Yi puts it
"But one thing that cannot be tolerated is a reputation for having bad leaders. Such a reputation would compromise Singapore's defence credibility far more than using refurbished tanks or old training manuals."
3) And if the credibility of Singapore's defence has been shredded, someone ought to be held responsible. After all $10.7 billion a year has been spent on defence. And what we get is an Army with no credibity? Surely not.
Looks like both of daddy's feet have been shot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Medical care in a Golden Age Country

I got the news late. I just manage to watch the news clip for the pregnant lady who died due to loss of blood and the inflexibility of the medical system. You can watch it here. I have never watch a piece of news and felt so much like crying. A life of a fellow countryman loss, just like that, when they could have saved her by going that extra mile. In this country, people are brought up this way. We learnt to be driven by self-interest, to always go by the rule. Those who have the oppurtunity should watch "Just Follow Law" by Jack Neo, everything is revealed there on how it works. It is laughable that we are being taught how to be courteous, how we should speak more proper english, how we should speak more chinese now that China is the upcoming market. Everything is driven to serve the economy and every effort has been spent on things that will attract foreign investors.
We have reached a "world class" country, but sadly, that does not include our morals. Just recently, i was on board a packed train to work with my gf. An obviously pregnant lady was standing in front of a lady, who was seated under the label "Please give up the seat for those who need it more than you", yet, she could be so blind to continue reading the newspaper. I approached the lady to give up the seat to the pregnant lady in return for a glare for her, as she has lost her treasured prize, a seat, where she could rest till she reach the station. I am appalled by this behaviour but i have gotten used to it. It truly pains my heart to see the direction the country is going.
Back to the topic of the lady, she has given birth to 4 children, and now, left them all to her hubby to pick up the pieces through no choice of hers. I would hope for a change in a system but that's all i have hope. Cause our voices are not heard in this inclusive society.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

1 in 432 million

I have a friend who's a braggart. He's a egomaniac and has delusions of grandiosity. No doubt that he's very successful in his career but he ought to mount a better display of humility. After all, i believe, luck plays a part in our achievements. The greater your achievements, the greater the role luck has in it. Try telling that to my friend. He would have absolutely none of it. "I have superior genes and hence great intellect" is his rebuttal of choice. As evidence, he would use his 3 children as an example. You see, all 3 of his children have been awarded the highest awards by the State for academic achievements. According to him, that's irrefutable proof of his superior genes.

Here's some proof of mine. Nah, i can't claim that it's proof. At most it's just food for thought.

Suppose Mr Egomaniac's IQ is in the top 0.1 percentile of the population.
Suppose IQ is the sole determinant in the academic awards given out

Given these, what would you do to ensure that you latter generations are of superior quality?

That's right. Go sniff out a wife with superior IQ as well. It doesn't matter if she's ugly or what.

Now let's say you have a 50% chance in finding a wife with superior IQ.
Assume that IQ has a heritability of 50%.
Assume that the chance of you providing the optimal environment to realise the potential in your children is 50%.
Assume that 15,000 other students are vying for top awards with each of your children.
Assume that 15,000 other teenagers are in the same cohort but did not show enough promise to take the National Exams. (So all the smart ones are in the 15,000 that did take the National Exams)
Since just about all those vying for the Awards obtained perfect scores (ie. they all have excatly the same grades), assume that the chance of not getting the Awards even though u are the smartest and most talented is only 50%.

So let's do some math now.

1/2 chance of finding a clever wife X 1/2 chance of your child inheriting all your intelligence X 1/2 chance of providing your child with the right environment X 1/300 (your child got to fight it out with 300 other students with excatly the same grades as him) X 1/3 (you've got 3 children) X 1/2 chance that the panel giving out the Awards did not make a mistake in distinguishing the Chosen One


1 in 432 million!!!!!!

Now 1 in 432 million is the same chance as...................................

Striking toto, a 1 in 8 million chance event 3 times in 3 tries!!!!!!!!

Now is that luck or what?

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

So often we have heard about stories regarding the decline of real wage in the lower income group as well as the stagnation of salaries in the middle income group in Singapore. I took a look at the GDP per capita figures supplied by the Singapore Department of Statistics, instead of just the GDP numbers to negate illusion of economic growth solely due to an increase in population.

Per Capita GDP at Current Market Prices

Year S$
1998 35,115
1999 35,371
2000 39,683
2001 37,014
2002 37,762
2003 38,434
2004 42,833
2005 44,738
2006 46,832

From 1998 to 2006, the increase in GDP per capita was around 3.5% per annum.

Feeling sceptical, i decided to look for an alternative source of information, the International Monetary Fund website, for similar data. The below was what i found.

Per Capita Gross Domestic Product, Current Prices

Year S$
1998 35630.2
1999 37533.5
2000 36818.3
2001 36753.9
2002 40720.3
2003 38594.5
2004 38853.7
2005 39682.8
2006 41068.3

Based on these figures, the increase in GDP per capita from 1998 to 2006 was about 1.8% per annum.

My understanding of the term "Current Prices" is that inflation has not been taken into account yet. Please correct me if i am wrong. If we were to take the inflation rate to be at 2.5%, this means that Singaporeans as a whole are poorer. Furthermore with the stratification of the income distribution, you can see the sorry state of affairs the working class in Singapore are in. No wonder casinos have to be built. No wonder the retirement age has to be raised. No wonder cheap labour in allowed in to fill the coffers of the business owners. No wonder commiting sucide by jumping onto MRT tracks is getting popular. No wonder those who see through this charade have migrated and hence the brain drain.

The future doesn't seem as rosey as the Straits Times paint it out to be.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

What a crazy world!!

A crazy world! That's the sort of world we live in. It's a combination of mindless imitation, irrationality and the lack of knowledge that turns masses of people into idiots. Frequently, someone will laugh all the way to his bank, gloating at how the madness of the crowds made him rich. The following are some examples of the inexplicable behaviour exhibited by hordes of people:

1) Ownership of cars in Singapore: Instead of spending $80,000 on a car, why not invest that money? A return even a misery 5% PA would give you $333.33 a month, enough to cover you daily public transport fares. Is the cost of a perceived lowered social standing that great without a car? Perhaps we are all filthy rich in Singapore.

2) Vitamins: Having a balanced diet absolutely eliminates the need for vitamin supplements. The drug companies are good at marketing indeed

3) Free range eggs: Welfare groups turning crazy, successfully lobbied for the banning of caged eggs in Europe on flimsy grounds of welfare concern. Free range chickens actually suffer a higher mortality rate than their caged counterparts. Free range eggs also mean that prices of eggs will double due to inefficiency in production. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

4) Colostrum as a protein supplement for body building: Colostrum, also known as cow's first milk, tastes yucky and is deemed unfit for human consumption. As a result, colostrum is typically considered as a waste product. However some marketing genius managed to turn this waste product into an expensive protein supplement.

5) Fund managers: Very few funds manage to outperform the market in the long run, ie. 30 years time span. You are better off throwing darts to choose your own diversified portfolio of stocks to invest in and you don't even have to pay management fees.

6) Luxury goods, jewellery, and collectibles: Pure snob value and totally devoid of economical value.

7) Religion, seers, alternative medicine: Believers just want to believe. Tell them that it cannot be scientifically proven, they will come up with some hogwash concepts outside the realms of science and explain it with their alternative logic. I wonder if they do not believe in science, why are they using the products of science in their everyday life.

8) Slimming centres: The only way 2 ways to lose weight is to consume more calories than you eat or to undergo liposuction. Either exercise, eat less or pay your plastic surgeon, not the slimming centres.

9) Singapore's first world status: The homeless are labelled as "sleepers". Many do not have enough to retire at age 62. Call me biased but I'm one who believes that if a citizen is willing to work as a cleaner or construction worker, the wage earned must be sufficient to afford basic necessities.

Peasants' retirement age to be increased?

A report taken from ST

Finland's senior citizens happy to delay retirement

Pension reform and flexible work schedules help older employees extend their careers

HELSINKI (FINLAND) - FINLAND, the European country with the most rapidly ageing population, has succeeded in convincing its workers to delay retirement, setting an example for the rest of Europe as well as farther afield.

Often dubbed the 'Japan of Europe' because its population is ageing so fast, Finland introduced a pension reform in 2005 that initially appeared to be a bitter pill to swallow, but that has in fact gone down easily.

Workers are encouraged to work longer in order to earn more, thereby easing pressure on the state pension system to support the growing number of retired people.

Last year, 16 per cent of Finns were aged 65 or older. The figure is expected to soar to 26 per cent by 2030.

Since the pension reform was introduced, the average retirement age in Finland has increased from 60.1 years in 2004 to 60.7 years last year.

The employment rate for workers aged 55 to 64 is also now more than 50 per cent, 10 points higher than the European average.

'We are on the right track,' said Mr Ismo Suksi, project manager at Finland's Social Affairs Ministry.

According to a poll published last month, 65 per cent of people aged 50 years and older were in favour of the pension reform.

Up until 2005, Finland set the legal retirement age at 65, and taking early retirement was popular.

The financial ramifications were minimal, with a significant part of a worker's pension based on the salary earned during the last 10 years of employment.

Now, after the pension reform, employees can take full retirement any time between the ages of 63 and 68, and early retirement is penalised with lower pensions.

Work-related pensions are based on contributions from both the employer and the employee, with the former contributing about 20 per cent and the latter about 80 per cent.

The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) agrees that the reform has been generally well-accepted, though some compromises were necessary to get the Bill passed, including more flexible work schedules and work conditions for the oldest seniors.

At lock company Abloy, workers older than 55 are entitled to exercise on work time in the company gym. They can also choose to work part-time and enjoy extra paid vacation, starting with six days a year at age 58 and 20 days a year after the age of 63.

Oras, a company that manufactures plumbing fixtures, is a forerunner when it comes to elderly workers.

'Experiences have been good,' said Oras human resources head Merja Helkelae, adding that the company had raised the average retirement age from approximately 59 to 63 since 2001.
The world's largest mobile phone maker, Nokia, has no special programme for seniors, but the company offers them special working conditions if they do choose to stay on.

'Part-time pension is an option, and employees can also, when possible, work in two shifts instead of three if they have health reasons,' said Ms Paeivyt Tallqvist, a spokesman for Nokia.
Unions are quick to point out that not all companies have adopted special programmes, and senior citizens are the first to suffer when there are cutbacks in the social welfare system.
In addition, most seniors who choose to extend their careers are those who are already financially stable and have stimulating, fulfilling jobs.

'Those people who want to continue working after the age of 63 do not think much about money. Most of them have a nice working environment and an interesting job. They like working,' said SAK adviser Kaija Kallinen.

Ms Marianne Roennberg, a 56-year-old former businesswoman who now works for a pensioners' association, said she wanted to stay in the workforce 'as long as they will have me'.
'You feel better when you are working as long as there is no stress. It is idleness that makes you sick,' she said.

Finland aims to prolong careers by an average of two or three years by 2050 to raise the average retirement age to 62 years.

Experts noted that the rise in the number of working seniors coincides with Finland's strong economic recovery after a stormy period in the early 1990s.



Looks like the decision for peasants to retire at age 65 has already been made. The sacred cow finally is going to be slaughter, the strongest indication that things do not bode well.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pricing of HDB flats

Suppose you come from an average household, with an average income of $5000 a month. I shall use the average income which is higher instead of the median, which stands at $3600, just for argument's sake.

Suppose you and your wife want to have an average family. 2 children. A $350,000 HDB flat. Your dream of a happy family. Will $5000 a month suffice?

Of your $5000 monthly salary, 34.5% of it will go to your CPF contribution. In addition, 4.33% will go to pay the tax man (based on a $60,000 annual salary). After such deductions, you would be left with a take home wage of $3060.

So now you decide to take a bank loan to purchase your dream home. A $350,000 bank loan at 4% interest for 30 years would mean a monthly repayment of $1671. Since you've completed your national service and spent 4 years to pursue your degree, you would probably be 26 years of age, you would be 56 years old by the time you paid off your loan.

To meet the minimum sum of $100,000 in your CPF account, assuming the retirement age is at 62, you would need to make sure a positive cash flow of $231.50 every month going into your CPF account. This means that of the $1725 that is suppose to go into your CPF account, $231.50 goes towards building up your minimum sum, $345 (20% of $1725) goes towards your medisave account, leaving a balance of $1148.50. Since your loan installment is $1671, after using the remainder $1148.50 to pay part of your installment, you would need to top that up with $522.50 from your take home wage of $3060, leaving you with $2537.50.

From that remaining $2537.50, you would need to deduct $200 for utility bills, $500 for transport ($125 per person in a family of 4), $1200 for food ($300 per person), $100 per month for doctor's fees. That would leave you with $537.50 per month. With that remaining sum of money, you still have to clothe your family, buy furniture, pay your children's school fees etc. And if your wife is working, you'd probably need to send your children to a childcare centre or hire a maid.

Mind you, we are not even talking about purchasing cars, overseas holidays, fancy laptops, luxury items. We are only talking about basic necessities. Doesn't it seem hard to make ends meet?

So is this the kind of life an average Singaporean drawing an average pay living in an average flat lives?

This should ought to make you wonder:

1) Why are Singaporeans willing to pay so much for their flats to the point they can't make ends meet? (We been told HDB prices are solely determined by market forces)

2) Who's the largest land owner in Singapore

3) Can the prices of HDB flats be rigged?

4) What's the motive in doing so?

5) Where does the money from HDB sales go to?

6) If HDB prices are high would private property prices be high as well?

7) Who are the ones that lose out?

8) Who are the ones that gain in such a situation?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Scholars in Singapore

Ex-defence chief Ng Yat Chung joins Temasek
By Bryan Lee
FORMER defence chief Ng Yat Chung has joined the senior management of Singapore investment company Temasek Holdings. Lieutenant-General Ng, 46, took up the position of portfolio management managing director on Sunday - a newly created role, The Straits Times understands. Temasek confirmed the appointment on Tuesday but declined to provide further details. The appointment comes less than four months after Lt-Gen Ng stepped down as Chief of Defence Force and handed the baton to then Major-General Desmond Kuek. It mirrors similar movements of other military leaders to civilian positions. Lt-Gen Ng's predecessor, Lt-Gen Lim Chuan Poh, for example, is the chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research. A career soldier since 1979, Lt-Gen Ng was awarded the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Overseas Scholarship in 1980 and has since held many key command and staff positions. Before taking the helm of the SAF in 2003, he was Chief of Army. He has also served as director for joint operations and planning and Chief of Staff (Joint Staff). During his four years at the head of the SAF, Lt-Gen Ng was credited with improving the SAF's operational readiness and steering it into the next generation. Outside the military, he is a member of the board of trustees at the National University of Singapore, chairing its campus planning and development committee.

Lt-Gen Ng is a Cambridge University graduate, has an MBA from Stanford University and recently completed the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard University.

Why would people think that Singapore is an elitist society? Look at Lt-Gen Ng. Look at his credentials. He is more than qualified to be Managing Director of Portfolio Management in Temasek Holdings. A Cambridge University graduate, MBA from Stanford University and Advanced Management Programme from Harvard. Wow wow wow.
Hey wait a minute. Isn't Lt-Gen Ng the Chief of Defence? And this is the post for portfolio management managing director that was newly created? How does the jobscope fit? Don't you all know that Chief of Defence controls how many soldiers in the military. Humans are resources, resources are money, therefore humans=money. He has the experience of controlling so much resources, of course he will do a better job controlling portfolios.
There is no iron rice bowl/pension schemes in society now, so please don't think that he got his job just because he was a scholar. He got it on merit and based on his job experience. He is a highly sought after individual who took 4 months to consider his numerous job offers before deciding on working in the management of Temasek Holdings.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Creative problem solving

Homes breeding mosquitoes will be fined: Dr Yaacob

SINGAPORE: Singapore is ready to fight dengue should the situation worsen in the hotter months of July and August, according to Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim.

In an interview with MediaCorp Radio, he also said agencies like the Land Transport Authority and National Environment Agency are ready to deploy more resources during this period.

But it seems the weakest link currently, are Singaporeans.

The NEA found mosquitoes breeding in flower pots and other areas in the home, despite continual public campaigns.

Dr Yaacob warned that households found to have mosquito breeding sites will be fined.

There were 295 cases of dengue infections this week, bringing the cumulative number of cases this year to 3,216. Dr Yaacob said the dengue situation has become a national concern. - CNA/yy


Fine peasants for breeding mosquitoes? How did this decision come about? We can only stretch our imagination in order to gain what little insight as to how these decisions were made.

Minitoot : Expert !!!!! Why isn't the epidemic subsiding?

Expert : Sir, i'm not exactly sure. We've already implemented all those measures. But at the rate the epidemic is exploding, it wouldn't be long before we attained the rank of No.1 in the world for number of Dengue Fever cases per capita!!!

Minitoot : KNN!!!! Don't talk cock can?

Expert : Sorry Sir! I've got this suspicion that the Aedes mosquitoes are showing signs of resistance to the Organophosphates (some type of insecticide lah) that we are using. Maybe we should do tests on the mosquitoes to determine, if any, the level of resistance in those mosequitoes. Then we can switch to other insecticides such as Neonicotinoids or synthetic pyrethroids because they have a longer duration of action.....

Minitoot : Sounds good! Continue expert!

Expert : But the cost of these chemicals will be significantly higher........

Minitoot : WTF!?!?!? Do you have a brain? As if i'm gonna spend more money to save these peasants. They die their business ok? All we need to do is to spend the least money to achieve some results. The result need not be good. But they must be there so that we can show that we are actually doing something. And after that, we can magnify what little results we have achieved by using statistics.

Expert : -_-'''

Minitoot : By the way what's the other chemicals you recommended? I wanna buy some to use for me and my family. Hehehhehehehe

Expert : But Sir!!! To control the epidemic it is of utmost importance that the mosquito population be controlled. The mosquitoes can easily fly over from tekong, ubin, johor, bintan........ so our current measures of getting all the citizens to reduce mosquito breeding sites may not be sufficient. What we need to do is to knock out the current adult population of mosquitoes right now.

Minitoot : Dun be stupid lah. If we do that the public will ask why i nv do that earlier. Then it will become my fault already you twit!!! I tell you what. We'll fine all those peasants who breed those mosquitoes. Spread the news on the news. Hahahahaha. Only a genius like be can come up with that idea. I truly deserve my million dollar salary. Firstly it will make the epidemic seem as though as it is the peasants' fault. Secondly, we don't have to spend a cent. We even make money!!!!

Expert : -_-'''''''''''''''''''''

Minitoot : I can truly think out of the box indeed!!! MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Disclaimer: The above conversation obviously did not occur in reality and you should not interpret it as "mischievous". There is no such thing as a minitoot or an expert. All similarity to living and dead is purely coincidental

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Property in Singapore

Time to open the gates?
(Today 26.6.07)

Lift curbs on sale of landed properties to foreigners, says Goldman Sachs

Joseph Yadao

IN THE eyes of some, at least, there may never be a better time to slaughter one of the sacred cows of the landed home market.
The idea of owning a nest in Singapore is becoming increasingly attractive to foreigners. The Government, too, has been effusive in its efforts to draw foreign talent here to build the economy.
So why not relax restrictions on the sale of landed property to foreigners — and satisfy both needs at one go?
Making this controversial proposal in a report released on Sunday, Goldman Sachs — one of the world's largest investment banks — cited suggestive figures.
The proportion of foreigners buying private homes here climbed to 26 per cent in the first quarter of the year, up from 21 per cent in 2005. But as of May, foreigners were involved in only 8 per cent of landed property transactions this year — compared with 29 per cent of apartment transactions. The average price of a top-end bungalow falls short of that of a luxury condominium unit by about 35 per cent.
"We think this price gap could narrow to parity, or very close to it, should restrictions on foreign ownership be relaxed," said the report, adding that "foreigners would like the flexibility of greater housing choice and the positive signal of Singapore's open door policy emanating from such a move".
But the argument will be a thorny one for the Republic to swallow, given the socio-political barbs of such a move. And going by industry players' reactions, the debate is likely to remain an academic one.
Since 1973, the Residential Property Act has restricted foreigners and permanent residents from owning private residential property without prior official approval — and for good reason.
"The restrictions on foreign ownership of landed property is unlikely to be eased because it is an emotional issue. It involves (putting) a tangible, physical part of Singapore in foreign hands," said Mr Colin Tan, director for research and development at Chesterton International.
"Landed properties should not be priced out of Singaporean's reach (or) it could lead to disgruntled Singaporeans, which would be a cause of concern for the Government," said Mr Charles Chong, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment.
Even so, a concession was made in 2004 for Sentosa Cove (picture), where potential foreign buyers were given fast-track approval. Of the 36 landed transactions at Sentosa Cove, 44 per cent involved foreigners. A seaview bungalow plot within the luxury enclave set the record at $1,308 per square foot.
But that is most unlikely to herald any universal lifting of control over landed property ownership in Singapore, say property analysts.
Goldman Sachs argues in its report that removing such restrictions would not hurt the national objective "of giving Singaporeans a stake in the country"; neither would it price them out of the market.
It reasoned that the public housing market met the needs of 80 per cent of Singaporeans by making affordable homes available. The report also conceded that any policy change could be limited to selected types of landed property, such as good-class bungalows.
But Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore, argued that the influx of buyers would give landed property owners the upper hand in this land-scarce environment. "It would be a sellers' market. This will definitely have an immediate impact on prices," he said.
According to forecasts released by property firm CB Richard Ellis yesterday, home prices are estimated to have risen by 4 to 6 per cent between April and June, and they are expected to climb by another 3 to 5 per cent. One driving factor: The limited supply of new homes in the $600 to $800 psf price range.
Mr Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy, said: "Prior to the Residential Property Act, rich Indonesians snapped up properties, pricing Singaporeans out of the market. Today, high-end property prices are up. That is starting to filter down to the mid-tier properties."
He added that keeping certain privileges of home ownership for citizens only "encourages foreigners to commit to Singapore, to sink their roots here".
Chesterton's Mr Tan added: "Some things have to be preserved for Singaporeans. Landed property ownership is one of them. It is the privilege of being Singaporean."

My thoughts after reading this article is fear, a fear that landed properties will no longer be within grasp of Singaporeans as opening up the market will push up the price of the land. Currently, we are still able to purchase freehold landed properties outside the city area at a reasonable price of 1 million and above, depending on size and location. However, if this was to be open up to foreigners, i believe the prices will be pushed up to the level of prices currently seen in the property market, which is mostly fueled by foreign buyers.
The influx of capital flowing into our country can be seen as a good thing as it boost our economy, however, if in the long term, properties are held mostly by foreigners and we have to rent from them, the capital outflow will far outweigh we have received today. Singaporeans would have no choice but to stay in
"the public housing market met the needs of 80 per cent of Singaporeans by making affordable homes available"

Non-replies and salaries

Can NSmen keep their hair during 1-week ICT?

I ATTENDED my first reservist In-Camp Training (ICT) last week. I trimmed my hair before the ICT, making sure it did not reach my collar and ears, and my fringe did not reach beyond my eyebrows.

On the very first day, to my bewilderment, a warrant officer ordered me to hand over my civilian IC. His reason was that my hair was ‘not in line with SAF standards’. I was then told to join the long queue to get my hair cut.

When my turn came, the barber went through every strand of my hair with the shaver and left me with a crew cut, not much different from a recruit’s.

During the next few days of the ICT, I was surprised to see many NSmen with long, sloppy fringes. Then there was one NSman with dyed golden-brown hair.

Were the barbers instructed to trim every NSman’s hair so that they look like fresh recruits, when trimming the sides and the back would suffice?

If the warrant officer was there to check NSmen’s attire and hair, how was it possible that many with floppy and even coloured hair managed to escape his notice?

During ICT, shouldn’t the focus be on refreshing the NSmen’s skills to make them effective soldiers, rather than on the length of their hair?

How about those NSmen who have civilian careers which require them to keep their hair? Can they obtain permission to do so when they go for their ICT?

Even as we fulfil our national obligation by going for ICT, we have wonderful civilian careers where our physical appearance plays an integral part.

Take the media and entertainment industries. An actor may get to play certain roles based on his looks and appearance, and this would determine his career path.

In the competitive corporate world, where first impressions matter and we are more likely to do business with people we like, one’s looks may just make or break a deal.Do we have to sacrifice our looks just because of a one-week ICT?

Lim Chin Yuen

All servicemen in ICT require decent haircut

I REFER to the letter, 'Can NSmen keep their hair during 1-week ICT?' by Mr Lim Chin Yuen (ST, June 21).

In keeping with military discipline, all servicemen, including NSmen attending in-camp training (ICT), are required to observe SAF regulations for neat hair.

Specifically, this means a hairstyle where the hair does not touch the ears or the collar, any fringe is kept above the eyebrows and any sideburns are kept short. Short hair is necessary for reasons of hygiene, as servicemen are typically involved in field training. The SAF does not usually exempt NSmen from this requirement to keep their hair neat and short, unless there are exceptional grounds to do so.

NSmen are required to report for ICT with hair that meets SAF regulations. If their hair does not conform with SAF regulations, they are required to get a haircut. To facilitate this and ensure the haircut meets SAF standards, barbers are available in camp to provide this service. We have contacted Mr Lim to clarify the situation and have verified that he was not given a recruit's haircut.

Colonel Benedict Lim
Director Public Affairs
Ministry of Defence


I ought to be used to the typical non-replies given my government agencies. But this one really is a stunning manifestation of either stupidity or indifference. Not only does it fail to address any of the querries put forward by that hapless NSman, it is also totally devoid of logic. Let's dissect what Colonel says.

"In keeping with military discipline, all servicemen, including NSmen attending in-camp training (ICT), are required to observe SAF regulations for neat hair."

So how does having "neat hair" relates to disipline? Does having "neat hair" somehow magically makes one more disiplined and less likely to misbehave?

"Specifically, this means a hairstyle where the hair does not touch the ears or the collar, any fringe is kept above the eyebrows and any sideburns are kept short."

Wasn't this standard for a "neat haircut" excatly what Lim Chin Yuen conformed to? Why wasn't the warrant officer's actions explained?

"Short hair is necessary for reasons of hygiene, as servicemen are typically involved in field training."

Oh....but i don't see the girls in my class made to adopt a "neat haircut" for their virology laboratory practical lessons. They are simply told to tie up their hair in case their hair come into contact with the viruses they handle and is subsequently ingested. Furthermore i'm sure the viruses we handle are far more dangerous than........ NSmen's sweat? Soil ?

"The SAF does not usually exempt NSmen from this requirement to keep their hair neat and short, unless there are exceptional grounds to do so. "

What are the "exceptional grounds"? Some medical condition that will lead to the death of certain NSmen if they cut their hair? For work purposes? Isn't that one of the points Lim Chin Yuen brought up? How does one decide what work purposes constitutes "exceptional grounds"?

"NSmen are required to report for ICT with hair that meets SAF regulations. If their hair does not conform with SAF regulations, they are required to get a haircut. "

A case of blindly obeying silly rules?

"To facilitate this and ensure the haircut meets SAF standards, barbers are available in camp to provide this service. "

Did anyone accuse SAF of not providing free haircuts?

"We have contacted Mr Lim to clarify the situation and have verified that he was not given a recruit's haircut. "

Whether it was indeed a recruit's haircut or not is totally irrelevant. Besides what Lim Chin Yuen said was "When my turn came, the barber went through every strand of my hair with the shaver and left me with a crew cut, not much different from a recruit’s." "Not much different from a recruit's (haircut)" is not the same as "a recruit's haircut".

Looks like it's time to raise the salaries of Colonels in SAF. After all as the famous logic goes, you get monkeys if you pay peanuts.

Coincidentally, i read this piece of news on the Channel News Asia website today. It was tittled "SAF remains final guarantor of Singapore's independence"

Think about it. Since SAF is so vital to the existence of Singapore (which is why our defence budget amounts to around SGD$10.7 BILLION) i think Generals and Colonels must be paid million dollar salaries. Otherwise once we have a good dose of incompetence in the army, our women in Singapore will end up as maids.

I guess the senior officers in SAF are grossly underpaid. Otherwise it would mean that SAF is not so vital to the survival of Singapore, which would in turn mean that the government is wasting money on defence, which in turn means that our ministers do not deserve their out of this world salary? Impossible!!!!