Promise

Posted: January 29, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
3

Just a random thought tonight.

I hope that our opposition politicians today can promise one thing, even if they cannot promise any other. That is, one day, when they have succeeded in taking over Singapore from the PAP, they will not forget the cause they started with. I hope all the opposition parties will make it a point to put it on records, that they will never, never ever, in the future, forget that they started off by fighting for true democracy, the only form of which there ever is. Do not become another bunch of animal farm's pigs.

José González - Crosses

Posted: by fievel in Labels:
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One of my favorite songs of the moment...



Don't you know that I'll be around to guide you
Through your weakest moments to leave them behind you
Returning nightmares only shadows
We'll cast some light and you'll be alright
We'll cast some light and you'll be alright for now

Crosses all over, heavy on your shoulders
The sirens inside you waiting to step forward
Disturbing silence darkens you sight
We'll cast some light and you'll be alright
We'll cast some light and you'll be alright for now

Crosses all over the boulevard
Crosses all over the boulevard
Crosses all over the boulevard
Crosses all over the boulevard

The streets outside your window overflooded
People staring, they know you've been broken
Repeatedly reminded by the looks on their faces
Ignore them tonight and you'll be alright
We'll cast some light and you'll be alright

Let the truth be told

Posted: January 28, 2010 by fievel in Labels: , ,
31

Most democratic governments around the world watches two socio-economic factors very closely - namely inflation and economic growth. Hence you get the the likes of RBA hiking rates repeatedly recently to pre-empt unnecessary inflation (predominantly housing inflation) in Australia, and the US Feds trying to balance their imminent hawkishness on interest rates (also to temper inflationary pressures) with continued dovishness to spur economic recovery and growth.
Heck, even a communist country like China is recently reigning in bank lending by increasing reserve ratio to bring down housing inflation, a problem faced by more and more Chinese citizens in recent years, to prevent any political hiccups due to social unrest.

Cutting the story short >>> high economic growth + low inflation = GOOD ECONOMIC GOVERNANCE. Singapore recently experienced the biggest spike in housing inflation during its worst economic downturn. That is bad economic governance, plain and simple.

Singapore's current leaders, instead of owning up to a bad performance, attempts to do their job using the cheapest instrument - words. They insist repeatedly that housing is affordable on one hand, against everyone's common sense, and yet they also claim that the rapid climb in Singapore's housing prices is a positive and purposeful result of PAP's good work in growing our economy and that is where your wealth and your kids' future wealth will come from. (Remember that when the economy is not doing so well, the fault is put squarely on global economies.) To dive into explaining that our recent growth has been merely a result of the blatant increase in population (hence no real net growth) will be asking too much of me at this late hour.

And to top it off, Lee Kuan Yew put forth the assumption that should Mah Bow Tan be ousted from Tampines GRC, everyone should sell their flats because it will become worthless???? I beg you, the reader, to spend some thoughts on how ridiculous the whole situation is..in any case, 80% of us live in HDB flats; what percentage of us have a second investment property? Can you really cash out on your expensive flat? Where are you going to live? Who benefits from property inflation? Your kids? Or millionaires with multiple real-estates in Singapore and their kids? Think.

Maybe it is time for Singaporeans to reflect upon why Singapore's current leaders run our country with such different approaches as the rest of the democratic societies. Are our collective intelligence really this low? Can you imagine an alternate reality where Singaporeans are able to build up their wealth by saving and not by betting most of their hard-earned money on further asset inflation down the road?

I hope our ministers can start giving some honest and intelligent answers that are not merely aimed to stem the loss of support votes. Let the truth be told, and maybe we can find some redemption.

James - Out to get you

Posted: by fievel in Labels:
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I'm so alone tonight
My bed feels larger than when I was small
Lost in memories, lost in all the sheets and all old pillows
So alone tonight, miss you more than I will let you know
Miss the outline of your back, miss you breathing down my neck
All out to get you, once again, they're all out to get you, once again

Insecure, what ya gonna do
Feel so small, they could step on you
Called you up, answer machine, when the human touch
Is what I need, what I need is you, I need you

Looked in the mirror, I don't know who I am any more
The face is familiar, but the eyes, the eyes give it all away
They're all out to get you, once again, they're all out to get you
Here they come again

Insecure, what ya gonna do
Feel so small, they could step on you
Called you up, answer machine, when the human touch
Is what I need, what I need is you

Let me breathe, if you'd let me breathe
They're all out to get you, once again, they're all out to get you

Taxi Driver Patrick

Posted: January 27, 2010 by fievel in Labels: , ,
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Yet another taxi-driver encounter I have on my hands to report.

Tonight, I met a taxi driver in his 50s who used to be a manager in the hotel industry. He lost his job in the hotel industry during the SARS crisis. Unfortunately for him, he bought a 5-room flat in Bukit Panjang in 1996, a period of time when housing prices was at its then peak.

According to him, his flat was relatively new on the resale market and it cost him $420,000. When he lost his job, he turned to driving taxi to feed his family and their $1600-a-month mortgage.
Currently, he earns $2,000 a month on average. I mentioned the casinos and IRs and how he should be able to get back into his true profession finally.

He turned back to me and said, "No chance. I am now 50+ and have been out of the game for too many years."

He says he still owes HDB $30K and both his wife and his CPF ordinary account are completely "kosong", zilch, zero. Their income can only sustain their expenses and so he is facing the possibility of getting evicted by HDB by not paying up on the loan.

His daughter is a recent graduate with 2nd Upper Class honors degree from NTU. She is still jobless and luckily enough, she secured some scholarship from some Asean association which pays her a mere USD700 a month for doing research in Korea. She is living off that research contract now in Korea and hoping to land a job proper eventually.

I do not have a proper ending to this story as I had arrived at my destination. All I can say is - don't think you have it all figured out just because you have no problems right now. The problem with social problems is that by the time the people involved get knee-deep into their situations, they are usually too caught up with trying to survive to be able to speak up anymore. Try telling them "they are to blame for not having the spurs in their hide". Try.

Complete denials

Posted: by fievel in Labels: , ,
3

I do not take to Singapore's latest minister of law, K. Shanmugam, on some very instinctive levels, and that is a fact. Maybe it's cos he is the guy at the helm of the legal infrastructure of our sans-freedom-of-speech "democracy", or it could be his preposterous self-assumed national right to declare to the New York State Bar Association that "Singapore is a city, not a country" that did it for me.

In the current run up to the coming elections, our national media has been churning out an increasing amount of politically-correct announcements, policy changes and proposals to pander to the bruised egos of Singaporeans which might yet end up as decisive in the election result.

I have noticed, however, that the solution PAP came up with to solve the run-away housing inflation is a method I used when I was a 5 year old and adults were asking if I had eaten the cake on the table. It's called "complete denial at all costs".

I wonder in my little thick skull if there was ever a conversation between these millionaire-ministers over their whiskies one fine day where they all decided that the housing problem is going to be too tough to own up to, "so let's keep saying 'it's still affordable' for the next few decades until they buy it, figuratively and literally."

A recent Straits Times issue devoted a lot of writing space to Shanmugam, parts of the contents are as follows;
MIDWAY through a 11/2-hour dialogue with Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Sunday, 58-year-old Wee Kai Fatt stood up and gave voice to the claims of many coffee shop pundits here.
The senior engineer complained about the foreigner-fuelled population boom, saying he was shocked when he heard there were five million people living in Singapore.
This influx of foreigners, he added, had caused HDB home prices to rocket.
Taking it all in, Mr Shanmugam took pains to clarify what he said were several misconceptions in Mr Wee's statement.
The Law Minister's key message: Do not cast foreigners as the villains driving up the prices of HDB flats.
Speaking at the end of his three-hour visit to Yew Tee constituency in Hong Kah GRC, he said: 'The first misconception is that somehow there are five million people and that is putting pressure on all of us. It doesn't.'

"It doesn't" ?? That's it? I scorn at the pathetic mandate or stance that PAP has decided to stick to - a complete denial of any wrong-doings.

The fact is that Shanmugam has in this instance admitted the partial truth that housing inflation is becoming an issue.
Then PM Lee Hsien Loong appears this morning on Straits Times (read here) to imply that while resale prices are running rather high but yet that is not PAP's fault because they are not responsible for resale prices, being only able to control new flats' prices.
All these statements are appearing at the same time when Mah Bow Tan, the minister in charge of national development, is stating that PAP should be credited for ensuring that our property prices have gained in value and hence serving the citizens as a worthy form of investment.

Are they all speaking the truth or is it just a string of poorly collaborated denials? I let you, the thinking reader, decide for yourselves.

Talking about a revolution

Posted: January 26, 2010 by fievel in Labels: , , ,
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I've noticed in recent months that the mainstream media really have started to report in a very reactive manner.. They are always reacting to news which have already been published in alternative media...especially those from The Online Citizen and Temasek Review; I feel that this is the result of the continuous mass migration of readers to alternative media and no longer placing their trust in the mainstream media, hence "forcing their hands"...

Now that even our "mainstream" politician PM Lee is changing his stance and tact to the same ones as those of our opposition parties at the recent "Perspectives Forum", saying stuff previously unheard of in the PAP camp like - “Our own population is growing slowly, and we cannot indefinitely expand our workforce by importing more and more workers from abroad.” - I can finally sense the earth beneath Singapore's political scene shifting.

Damn...I have been saying this to my friends nearly 2 years ago when I first heard of PAP's intention to ramp population up to 6.5 million in our country.. Singapore cannot think she is Canada. Immigrating our way to GDP growth targets is such a juvenile and simple-minded strategy that I cannot for the life of me understand how it is possible these scholarly politicians could have not realized. I've also said to my friends before...hey, look, the Japanese and Germans will always be renowned for their automobiles, the Swiss for their watches (and recently Ricola sweets =P ), the Finnish for Nokia phones and Swedish for Ericsson phones and Volvo and Saab cars...heck even the Belgians for their chocolates - but what do we have? You might say, hey, look we were just a fishing village 50 yrs ago ok? Well I have news for you. Of the four "Asian dragons", the South Koreans now have Hyundai and Kia brands, the Taiwanese have successfully moved on from Original-Equipment-Manufacturing (OEM) days to becoming Own-Design-Manufacturers (ODM) and even more recently Own-Brand-Manufacturers (OBM) now..that's where we get brands like ASUS laptops, HTC phones...as for Hongkong, it is difficult to compare because of their peculiar proximity to China serving as its hinterland.

There are many more things Singapore could have established itself as, if there were better ideas coming out of our leadership. Ideas are free. But because the political scene has been stifled, and many industries are often semi-nationalized through Government-linked Corporates, we have sat on our bloody laurels themed after low-cost manufacturing and low-tax banking industry for waaay too long. What did we do when low-cost textile manufacturers shifted away to Shenzen in the late 80s and early 90s? We went to pursue low-cost manufacturing in other product areas...
It doesn't take a scholar to devise such simplistic economical cures. All it takes is some political competition for better ideas to start flowing...

What could we have been without PAP hovering over the nation as the one and only almighty power? We could be still a fishing village no doubt, but maybe today Singapore would be known the world over for being the best at high-tech fish-farming for example. We need to stop with the "le-long! le-long! cheap! cheap!" economic mindset of the past 50 years and play catch up with the rest of the world now. We need to start thinking more socialistic for the good of the poorer citizens and we need to start thinking more happiness and less dollars and cents. We need to have less speculation, more real growth, less social unfairness, less media policing, more critical thinking in school. We need to re-do so many things around here! It is long overdue and I am glad now any Singaporean with a brain and an internet-connection can have a voice to be heard!~

TALKING ABOUT A REVOLUTION - TRACY CHAPMAN



Don't you know you're talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don't you know they're talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

While they're standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don't you know you're talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

Poor people are gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people are gonna rise up
And take what's theirs

Don't you know you better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run
Oh I said you better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run

Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution
Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution oh no
Talking about a revolution oh no

While they're standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don't you know you're talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

And finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution
Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution oh no
Talking about a revolution oh no
Talking about a revolution oh no



Click-to-help Haiti (It's free)

Posted: January 21, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
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If you have 30 seconds today and every day, you can make a difference for the people of Haiti.

Care2 just launched their new, free Click to Help Haiti, partnering with respected international relief nonprofit Oxfam to help fund emergency water and sanitation services for survivors of last week's devastating earthquake in Haiti.

I'm now reading that the death toll in Haiti could be as high as 200,000, maybe more. That's two percent of Haiti's total population. The scale of this disaster is almost beyond our comprehension, but what is crystal clear is this: Haiti will need every global citizen's help now and for a long time to come to recover and rebuild.

Please click today to help the people of Haiti: http://www.care2.com/go/z/e/AFt0H/zkf6/bsWHB

Matt Weinstein - What Bernie Madoff couldn't steal from me

Posted: by fievel in Labels: ,
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Rachael Yamagata - Reason why

Posted: January 19, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
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Car Wash

Posted: January 18, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
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Beck - Lost Cause

Posted: January 15, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
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I'm tired of fighting
I'm tired of fighting
Fighting for a lost cause

Words of wisdom from a 59 year old taxi driver

Posted: January 12, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
5

I think it's been quite established by now that Singapore has some of the most over-qualified taxi drivers...tonight I met one taxi driver whom I had a nice conversation with.

To me, old taxi uncles are the best keepers of Singapore's local history. They tell you the stuff you cannot find from google or Singapore history books; and so I really relish every chance meeting I have with a coherent, logical and wise old taxi driver, such as this uncle tonight.

He wears a sporty cap over his crew cut head of white hair. His face looks weather beaten and slightly tanned but sturdily strong for a 59 year old. He speaks good English and he is not a myopic creature - which to me means somebody who knows about the world outside of Singapore.

He asked me, "Wah you get off work at such a late hour ah?"
After explaining to him the reasons we got off to a little chat about different time zones in the world and that got him started on telling me how he was once working in Saudi Arabia as an aeronautical technician for Saudi Airlines...not sure if it is exactly called Saudi Airlines or some other form of that...but anyway, the topic quickly got me interested, as I am always interested in taxi drivers' beginnings, especially those who seemed to have once had it better.

Well let's call him Uncle T. Uncle T says he joined SIA as a technician after NS in 1972 and worked there till 1978. He was paid in the region of $600+ per month. He moved on to join Saudi Airlines in 1979 when they first bought what he recalls as the "Jumbo plane" from SIA and needed good, hardworking Singaporean technicians.

"They wanted to recruit about 30 of us, 20 of which were Malays for obvious reasons, and the rest of us, we had to pretend to be Christians because they didn't like other religions like Buddhism. I had to get Christian friends' ICs to photostat and so on...because they got baptise and all that..." He explained.

"Why leh? I don't understand about the Christianity part.." I replied.

"Because they don't like Jews..." he added without a thought, leaving me curious to wonder if I was so ignorant as to not know some sort of a link between Judaism and Buddhism...ANYWAY, I let that thought hang for the time being.

He added that his wife and kids used to get 4 tickets per year per person to visit him there.
"The Saudis are so rich that is nothing to them lah.."
"That's nice...but is there anything they can do there?" I asked as I pictured a 1970s version of the land of the Saudis.

"You know, Singapore only started having all these huge shopping malls in the recent years. The Americans were there in Saudi back then and they had all these mega huge shopping malls even then!" He quipped.

So anyway, he went on to tell me they were paid SGD 3000 a month worth of basic salary for 8 hours work days, and every extra hour they worked it was an additional 1% of their basic salary, which pretty much allowed him to earn a total of $6000 every month, not counting a $10,000 per annum allowance. He did this for 5 years, and he decided it was time to return to Singapore.

Back in Singapore, he had the means to pay off his 5 room flat in Bedok Resevoir which cost him $70,000 at that time. He tried to join SIA but decided to snub them when they offered him only what a fresh recruit would be getting. He decided to take on taxi-driving, which he further explained was rather profitable back in the days of 1980s. He was bringing home about $2k-$3k per month.

At this juncture we started talking about his kids who are about my age and how today's housing costs are horribly out of sync with earning power. Today, a graduate earning $2k to $3k starting salary is very much the average statistic, and yet our 5 room flats in Bedok Reservoir cost up to $400,000 and more at the time of writing.

I told him I am saving up to escape this crazy island and he said he regret not being daring enough to move to Australia back when his friends were asking him along. He also has a brother-in-law whose entire family migrated to Canada almost 10 over years ago and are not regretting a single bit of their decision.

He ended his story saying, "no doubt they pay higher taxes there if they are working, but if they are not, they get welfare in return...I liked talking to you, I'll try to come round to spot for you again and we can talk again..I wish you luck" He gave a wise old man-ish white stubbly chinned grin and patted on my shoulder as I took the change and receipt.

Peter Reinhart on bread

Posted: January 11, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
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This post is for my wife, whose passion for bread and shoes makes me suspect banking or any derivatives of it is not her true calling for a life-long career...even though it might be tough seeing the point in Singapore. Maybe this will help connect the dots...who knows..

How to live before you die - Steve Jobs

Posted: by fievel in Labels:
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"Keep looking, don't settle."

Please read...

Posted: January 7, 2010 by fievel in Labels: ,
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Something to read and ponder upon, for my politically "neutral" Singaporean friends out there.

A Wake Up Call for Singaporeans

Golden rice bowl

Posted: January 6, 2010 by fievel in Labels: , ,
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The recent admission by Mah Bow Tan about housing prices in Singapore went something like this...

Speaking to MediaCorp, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan acknowledged it has been an exceptional period.




He said: "Nobody, no matter how prescient, no matter how clever, would have been able to predict that this is what is going to happen this year. All of us were caught off-guard... I did not expect the prices to go up. But the point is, are we able to respond to this change. And the answer is yes." 


Mah Bow Tan does not seem to have an ounce of grace nor integrity to admit his oversight which resulted in the current hyper-housing inflation situation in Singapore.

I had done a bit of research on supply and demand numbers a few months ago and you can revisit that post titled "Who let the dogs out" here.

As a quick summary, we were incepting an estimate of 70,000 new PRs and 20,000 new citizens in 2008. The number was about 50,000 new PRs and 15,000 new citizens in 2007. These figures do not take into account the natural demand from, for the lack of a better term, original Singaporeans. Yet, HDB gave the nation a measly supply of 2,000 to 3,000 flats per year as compared to former averages of about 8,000 to 9,000 new flats in the bygone years.. BTO supply was ramped up for 2009 only in the final quarter when prices were starting to worry as it got to a heated level, becoming a point of contention for Singaporeans' approval for PAP in the coming election.

Mah Bow Tan holds a Master's degree in Operations Research from UNSW in Australia [Read Wiki here]. Supply management should be child's play to him. Such utter mismanagement cannot be excused, million dollar salary or not. Either that, or the quality of UNSW's Master's degree in O.R should really be questioned, which for the record I do not purport to be the case.

Why is it that he does not get checked by other ministers or higher powers that be? Where is the accountability? Why isn't PM Lee making any statements about this problem? Why is MM Lee still saying it is a good thing that prices continue to rise? This is one reason why a lack of opposition is bad for you and me. Today, the problem is in housing. Tomorrow, it could be woeful economic policies or national investments or anything else going unchecked. The problems will be different, but the underlying cause for concern will be the same.

It's decidedly a very disappointing show of abilities for all the national ministries and ministers involved, and once again there is no need for heads to roll. "Golden rice bowls" indeed.

Pete Murray - Summer at Eureka

Posted: January 5, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
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I think this song ranks top for Pete Murray...enjoy





Baby I've been a fool on time
But it's always been in my way
And I don't know or understand it now
So darlin' summer's almost gone
And I've been cold and along my way everyday
I'm calling out in overload

Just to save you for it's the only time we know
Yesterday is so far and I can only begin to say

I've been winging it here
But time's just a killing my day
Yearning for to touch your ways
Now any time you feel it inside
Don't be lonely in your sleep
Dream me there cause it will always keep us bound

It's the same old laws that we learned on yesterday
It's your way I'm calling out
And how God has blessed me
How long this time will have our way
Just the same spring is gone and your summer's on its way

Feel it now
Don't worry what's going down
'Cause everything we ever had is always here.

Pete Murray - So beautiful

Posted: January 1, 2010 by fievel in Labels:
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