Saturday, May 23, 2015

Please Let Them Go

It has to be clearest signal to date that the rare sighting of a member of parliament walking in your neighborhood is imminent. Health Minister and Minister-in-charge of Ageing Issues Gan Kim Yong announced yesterday (Friday 22 May) that more than 700,000 senior Singaporeans will receive a SG50 Seniors Package.

In line with party philosophy that trampolines are preferred to safety nets, even Ah Kong strickened with dementia has to solve the Cheryl type mathematical problem to earn the freebies.
  • Complimentary admission to Gardens By The Bay is good only from June to August;
  • Complementary admission to Jurong Bird Park good only for month of June;
  • Discount for selected performances at the Esplanade good only from August to November.
  • When will the General Elections be held?

Last night Lea Salonga performed beautifully to a sell out crowd. Mostly filipino fans. Even if you were one of the outnumbered Singaporeans lost in the spectacular sneak preview of People Power - it was as if the Esplanade was teleported to the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) - you are unlikely to enjoy a discount for the two night engagement.

Unless Salonga comes back again - in August to November window - to sing what she called the "ubiquitous song of 2014". She invited the rapturous audience to join in an impromptu karaoke session. The lyrics of the Frozen princess sing-a-long are all too familiar, but we thought it sounded awfully like:

Let them go, let them go
Can't tahan them anymore

Let them go, let them go
Turn away and slam the door
We don't care
what they're going to say
Enough of the wayang already.
We're determined to VTO anyway

with apologies to Lea

Friday, May 22, 2015

Think About It

The first generation leaders were not afraid of contrarian ideas, and sparring with intellectual equals. For instance Toh Chin Chye, although over ruled, always maintained that health care should be free. What we have today is the perversion of preaching to the choir, preferably with a select audience with double digit IQs. "Let's Think About It - Episode 2" opens up with a million dollar minister driving a small Japanese make. Maybe the Mrs has the other car, or COE has breached the stratosphere. Whatever, it really sets the stage for the credibility level.

This guy pays $1,800 for "professionals" and expects daft Singaporeans to respond in droves. Are we even on the same planet?

"Salaries are being compressed" - right on, brother. He may not be invited on another panel but truth, expressed with rare honesty, is always refreshing.

"To hire a foreigner is not cheap" - so why descriminate against home grown? Clue: predilection for aliens, even married one.

30% to 40% of his nursing staff are foreigners - and he wants more. He is probably tired of scolding Singaporeans for their “poor upbringing” just because some patrons did return their trays after dining at hawker centres.

Her half of Singaporeans won't slave long hours like her half of Vietnamese staff - Saigon has been renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Why not rename Singapore as Little Red Saigon?

"When was the last time we had a serious recession" - how the hell does he know? This fellow had a kevlar plated iron rice bowl since day one. Maybe when he is kicked out like George Yeo's GRC team, he will appreciate what it feels like to be displaced by foreign talents, armed with a resume padded with degree mill certificates.

"I foresee a day when Singaporeans may have to adjust" - not contented to play the movie role of a horrible person, this character starts to behave like one, talking down to a fellow Singaporean who dare justify hiring a domestic help to look after grandparents, parents and the kids while husband and wife slough it out in the workplace to make sure the Medishield Life premiums will be paid on time.

Fortunately, it's Friday and we don't have to put up with any more crap for the week. Instead, we can sit back and listen to Lea Salonga singing for her supper, with well-loved favourites from Miss Saigon, Les Misérables and Frozen. That's the way it should be, foreigners performing for us, not the other way round.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Betting The Future

Astrologer Joan Quigley claimed in her memoir titled "What Does Joan Say?" that it was a question that the former president habitually asked Mrs Ronald Reagan. In an interview with “CBS Evening News” in 1989, after Reagan left office, Miss Quigley said that after reading the horoscope of the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, she concluded that he was intelligent and open to new ideas and persuaded Mrs Reagan to press her husband to abandon his view of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” If Nancy Reagan employing the services of a professional astrologer sounds a bit weird, she's not alone.

Someone else seems to be putting much faith in a third party researcher to shape the future of our country. Blackbox Research's "YouKnowAnot" bulletin of April 2015 has been quoted as saying, "Our survey findings indicate that current community sentiment points to much greater prospects for an early election."

The interesting factoid is that Blackbox reported that "overall satisfaction with the Government has risen eight points from a year ago." While not exactly annus horribilis, the past year has hardly been smooth sailing, so that finding has to be debatable.

Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah seems less optimistic, sharing that “I don’t speculate on outcomes and things like that. As you can see in the British elections, one should not really try to second guess what will happen."

Whatever happens, the prime minister has told the media that, apropos of speculation about timing of the General Election that must be held before January 2017, "the baby has already been conceived earlier on." If the choice of analogy is accurate, the nine month clock has started ticking. As any mother knows, the outcome can be a successful birth or end in tragedy, such as a spontaneous expulsion of the fetus due to unforeseen developments. Even Nostradamus would hesitate to bet on a blackbox.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hard Talks About Singapore

...your system is coming to a crossroads or a turning point...
It was not the kind of soft balls lobbed by a compliant press that Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was accustomed to. At the "An Investigative Interview: Singapore 50 years After Independence" segment of the 45th Gallen Symposium, host BBC HARDtalk presenter Stephen Sackur was pulling no punches.
  • Do believe in Singapore exceptionalism?
  • You know what, Singapore's gone as far as it can go, there are other places we can put our money and see it bear fruit better than Singapore in the future.
  • And being constant, does that mean that Lee Kuan Yew's family will always be in charge?
Taking in the cue that Sackur might not be slammed with the Protection from Harassment Act - the weapon of choice these days - others joined in the feeding frenzy. A member from Mexico steered straight into the hornets' nest:
Given your determination to control immigration, could that run into a clash with your desire to see foreign companies headquartered in Singapore, developing their operations in Singapore, because one might run against the other?

A member from Uganda invoked the spirit of Harry Truman,  admired for his plainspoken common sense, his zero tolerance policy for bullshit, his sharp wit, and blunt honesty:
Does Singapore today consider itself a developed country in the Harry Truman sense of "developed" and "development"?

The member from Armenia probably heard stories about our civil servants veering on the side of the political wind:
Is it (Singapore development) thanks to the political will, or did it start from the bottom civil or economic level? And what is the level of democracy between the political right and the economic right?

And then there was the surprising lesson from China. Their representative, despite not having visited the country, saw through the smokescreen - one haze issue we can't pin blame on the Indonesians - mouthed the Amos Yee question:
But you mentioned something like you would actually make life harder for people who are not willing to work in Singapore...  you know if your society works this way, won't you deprive the freedom of people who just want to be wild and anti-establishment?

Sackur must have been losing patience with the "official lines" that Tharman was obviously regurgitating, especially when his pointed question about a social safety net was parried with another "clever" one-liner. Sackur, at wits' end:
I believe in the sometimes simplicity of yes-or-no answers. What about this this idea of a safety net? Does Singapore believe in the notion of a safety net for those who fall between the cracks of a successful economy?

Tharman's answer ("I believe in the notion of a trampoline.") has to those heartless responses that is worthy of 3 weeks' jail for a tight smack. So what happens to those who are physically or mentally unable to climb onto the trampoline without assistance, and can't possibly survive a leap into the air without incurring further damage to the body or mind? Sackur surmises it best: "You mean you're a bit more ruthless. Is that what you're saying?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mocking God

Whilst a graduate student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Jason Rosenhouse was surprised when his active Christian friends were uninterested in accompanying him to hear the famous evangelist Luis Palau preach. The incongruity of the outspoken unbeliever - Rousenhouse is a "nonreligious mathematician" and author of "Among the Creationists, Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line" -  trying to persuade his believing but reluctant friends to see a world-renown preacher in action was one for the books.

Rosenhouse wasn't impressed with the Bible-thumping sermon, and was surprised to see at least a dozen people going forward in response to the inevitable altar call at the ending. While he was wondering if something was wrong with himself for feeling unmoved, one of his Christian friends who did accompany him to the tent meeting said, "I hate this part, pressuring people to make a public display of faith."

Palau's histrionics were, for his friends, a caricature of Christianity, wrote Rosenhouse. Whereas he found the proceedings slightly silly, they found them offensive. It was his introduction to very different facets of modern American Christianity.

We have our own homegrown oddities, one who cajoled heartlanders to "give until they bleed", one who dabble in magic tricks to preach about real miracles, and one who perverted a good Samaritan role into a Dominatrix charade. The mother who believes that her son is "a fantastic child, perhaps born in the wrong country" should take heart that there is still a compassionate God. It's the misguided charlatans who give him a bad name.