Expat@Large

Ah, Melbourne…

Posted in Australia, fascism, police, politics by expatatlarge on October 21, 2011

At #OccupyMyerDepartmentStoreCBD in Melbourne Victoria. At least the cops didn’t shoot, as they are wont…

Photo by one Jason South, ripped shamelessly from The Age.

This is not Singapore, this is not Syria, this is not Libya, this is not Egypt, this is frackin’ Melbourne! As the crowd was chanting “the world is watching,” four hundred (400, count ’em) police and riot squad moved in on ONE hundred (100, count ’em out) sit-in protesters to drag them away and demolish their tents.

Aiyah.

Could mean the end of the current Liberal (as in conservative) party government – I hope.

E@L

Hemlock on Singapore, E@L on Singapore

Posted in politics, Singapore, WTF by expatatlarge on May 18, 2011

[Another post that no-one will read, except maybe the Gahmen spies.]

Here is a brief paragraph on Singapore and LKY from the blog of Hong Kong legend Hemlock (some big-rich-dude’s paid blogger allegedly), Big Lychee and Various Sectors:

It looks like the sort of shallow, vindictive, spiteful and constitutionally and ethically dubious bit of electoral jiggery-pokery Lee Kuan Yew would have come up with, had opposition legislators existed in meaningful numbers back in the days when the carrier of the world’s mightiest human DNA was single-handedly carving Asia’s pinnacle of civilization out of a garbage-strewn wasteland of undisciplined, gum-chewing, inferior humanity.

Hemlock is about to analyze/demolish a constitutional change in Hong Kong in which:

As of 2012, if a democratically elected (as opposed to the other sort) Hong Kong Legislative Council member resigns or otherwise leaves his seat, there will be no by-election: the runner-up in his constituency will automatically replace him.

It does sound very much like a PAP (Lee Kuan Yue’s People’s Action Party) stunt doesn’t it? If only LKY had thought of it. Hang on, maybe he did? Someone want to check that?

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This fiery prose has of course inflamed E@L – he is fired up over the political system here in Singapore thanks to a slew of head-slapping activities before the recent election. If he is not blogging for the next few years, check the dank, dark, fetid basement of Singapore’s equivalent to Stalin’s Lubyanka prison.

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Compared to Hong Kong (or so I believe), the structure of some of the Singapore electorates is already set-up in such a way that it is very difficult for an opposition party to make inroads and get candidates into parliamentary seats in the first place, let alone have them worry about what happens when they resign or retire hurt.

The Group Representation Constituencies (GRC )system in Singapore was set-up initially to allow minorities (like Malays and Indians) the chance to become parliamentarians. However, since the GRC was introduced, it is claimed that the ratio of minority groups (in parliament) has decreased!

How do the GRCs work (approximately)?** Groups of up to six candidates from each party stand in the GRC representing up to the six individual electoral wards that are now contained with the GRC. Each of these contained electorates may be contested by opposition party candidates and they may even win! But the seats in Parliament go not to those who won individually, but to the group of six (three, four, five) candidates from the party with the highest aggregate of votes across the GRC. WTF? So opposition candidates may win several electorates within the GRC, but still not get into Parliament, whereas their dumb-ass, wife-of-a-minster’s-principal-secretary opponents from the PAP ride in on the coat-tails of a popular PAP candidate (like said minister) who calls in a huge number of votes and thus takes the GRC with him. Essentially a GRC is a way to stuff the parliament with PAP members with a minium of fuss. Why not just make all of Singapore one single GRC? Fair question.

Electoral borders for GRCs and electorates are carefully gerrymandered, building by building, floor by floor, flat by flat, bedroom by bedroom [joking! almost], so that, when the boundaries are announced only a few days before the election, the opposition is scrambling to work out where they should have been campaigning for the contest. The decision on GRC boundaries is in the PM’s department’s bailiwick. Any surprise there?

To top this off, voters in the electorates which vote against the government, even those electorates within PAP held GRCs, are outrageously harassed with threats of second-class treatment when it come to infrastructure works, such as the upgrading of HDB lifts (some of which only stop every second floor).

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Somehow with the PAP vote dropping to 60%, from 66.6% last election and the lowest ever, they still managed to lose only one seat (from 82 of 84, to 81 of 87) although the percentage changes slightly due to the extra seats and the WP win. One must wonder what is going on. 60% of the vote and 93% of the seats, you do the math.

Yes, you heard right. There was an amazing turn-around this election, two ministers and four other parliamentarians were defeated in the GRC of Aljeneid by contenders from the Worker’s Party. The now former Foreign Minister George Yeo (about the only competent guy in the PAP, I hear) is gone. Amazing.

And to find talented people to replace him, the PAP will be up against it. Their members have never had to battle hard to win. Despite being extremely well paid the Singaporean parliamentarians (there is a thread viraling [new word!] FB and forums that the 30 most highly paid politicians in the world – not among the top 30, but THE top 30 – are Singaporeans) they have never had to seriously defend any of their policies against any strong opposition questions. Some can hardly speak in public, like blatant coat-tailer (but cute) Tin Pei Ling. In short they are lacking depth, talent and experience, whereas the opposition parties are bulking up their leaders with new blood.

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LKY, his PAP and Singapore: A city, and part of a continent. No true democracy. Why? Which is it? Not enough talent for a two party system, as PM Lee Hsien Loong says, or is all of Asia not ready for Western-style Democracy, as the received wisdom (received from Tunkul Mohammed Mahatir, or was it Uncle LKY?) had it when the Tiger Economies were in that boiling and bubbling cauldron prior to the 1998 crash?

In response to this essentially Chinese attitude, alleged Malaysian sodomite (not that there’s anything wrong with that) Amwar Ibrahim made some plangent comments about Confucian values versus Western attitudes to government a while ago. These comments were discussed in an article on the Singapore Democrats website last year:

Anwar Ibrahim, former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and the leader of Partai Keadilan in Malaysia maintained that there were still apologists, diehard sceptics and proponents of autocracy who say that democracy is not meant for all cultures because it is largely a Western construct and certainly not the only system for the rest of the world. “Asian values[“?], for example, are said to be inherently incompatible with liberal democracy. The argument goes that the fundamental teachings of Confucius place great importance on filial piety and submission to state authority. He said that in Asia leaders of opposition parties and dissidents were incarcerated under draconian laws and no effort was spared in the war against ‘subversive elements’ and the ‘enemies’ of the people. He said that that the Asian values’ argument and ‘we-are-not-yet-ready-for-democracy’ excuse as nothing more than a doctrine for the justification of authoritarian rule. “There are still governments that are founded on the perpetuation of power not by free and fair elections but from arbitrary succession from the father to the son, or from one military clique to another, or even from one power elite to the next. And there are those who appear to have all the characteristics of a liberal democracy in so far as their domestic governance is concerned but they continue to violate human rights with impunity.”

No wonder they wanted him out of the way. He tells it like it is, allegedly.

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With the way the Singapore elections are set-up, it is not the success of the Tiger economy style of Asia (free markets, expensive politicians) nor the people’s support for paternalistic and serf-like Confucian values which contribute to the ruling parties winning again. As Ibramin says, it is blasting opposition members into bankruptcy and jail, detaining rebels – who refuse to apologize to LKY – without trial for up to 23 years (Communist Party member Chia Thye Poh is the longest political detainee in the 20th century, longer than Nelson Mandela, longer possibly than the Man In The Iron Mask), last-minute gerrymandering, and the vote-stacking system of the GRC that so far have enshrined the dynasty of the Lee family.

Dynasty? The Great Man, Lee Kwan Yue and his son(!), Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong are Chairman and Deputy Chairman on the Board of Directors of the Government Investment Corporation (GIC) which runs Singapore’s foreign reserves around the world (about US$330 billion), and Hsien Loong’s wife(!) is a director of Temasek Holdings which handles investments primarily in Asia (about US$186 billion).

Dinner table conversation must be interesting.

“Have we fucked up any major investments lately, dad? What about you, honey?”

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Enough. Apologies for the bad logic, grammar and typing. No time fix just yet.

E@L

** This paragraph amended.

Ploo Sar Sharnge, Ploo Cellar Mem Shows

Posted in Bangkok, LongGun, politics, Thailand by expatatlarge on May 26, 2010

Dear oh dear. If only the King would step in and sort it out again – report from the frontlines – Soi Cowboy, Long Gun, Bangkok, 2006.

Both parties are fronted by corrupt businessmen as I understand it: the hidden motivation of the protest seems to hinge on the fact one is a lot richer than the other and the other wants to catch up…

But obviously the Thai’s royalty loyalty is weakening…

E@L

India – Reality Check

Posted in books, economics, India, politics by expatatlarge on December 16, 2009

If you want to find out about the shaky lower storeys upon which India’s skyscraping supposed economic boom is built —

More about Listening to Grasshoppers.
Listening to Grasshoppers

Even if you don’t, it’s still a sobering (shocking even) look at how that sacred cow (ha ha) of Globalisation, the word ‘Democracy’, can hide a multitude of sins… and crimes.

The discussion in these essays, while specifically about how India’s various warring religions, sects and tribal/racial groups are able to commit atrocities and gloss them over afterwards with ‘an election’, thus soothing international concerns, speaks of lessons not learned that could be applicable pretty much everywhere in the developing world; don’t be corrupt, don’t hate those you falsely see as Others, don’t rape (gang-rape), pillage (historical sites) and burn (people), even if you can easily get away with these crimes against humanity, don’t think elections are the panacea they are promoted to be by the globalisation buffos.

Democracy = two lions and a lamb deciding what’s for dinner.

The lions have to be caged.

For example, despite (or because of) the alleged boom, the disparity of incomes in India has actually increased in recent years, and that is not only because of the obscenity of two of the world’s 10 richest men being Indian, are shooting the top level so high, but also because the poor really are getting poorer and less well fed.

They have less access to grains and cereals available than they had in the Second World War. As those lions of industry Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Mittal dine on fine lamb cutlets in their private jets, “Forty seven per cent of India’s children below three suffer from malnutrition… an average family eats about one hundred kilograms less food in a year than it did in the early 1990s.” (Roy, p31.)

I’ve spoken about the Indian famine in Goa before, when million of tonnes of grain were in trains passing by the starving farmers who had grown it all, bound for the profitable markets of Europe and England. In the current situation, that grain is actually destined to feed livestock, which are more important than humans it seems.

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However, what are you going to replace democracy with? A benign dictatorship?

NNNNOOOOoooooooo…! Scary!

E@L

Accounting, For Tastes

Posted in economics, politics, stuff I should shutup about by expatatlarge on October 13, 2009

“I reclined on a sofa reading TGWKTHN for the last three hours, I am placing the piece in a place of honour (for pot-boilers)…” James Joyce. Well he said it about “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, so there’s obviously no accounting for taste, what?

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I just had to get up and come here to write this as a) I am sick of sitting on the sofa (recliner chair actually) and b) I had to pass on a bit from the book. This will not involve any spoilers (we all know Salander survived obviously or there wouldn’t be a third book!) but this is about a relatively minor sub-plot (or so it seems at the moment, who can tell?).

There’s this great little snippet about Erika Berger, who has left Millennium, and is now at the helm of some staid daily paper in Stockholm (known as S.M.P.) that need rejuvenation due to drastically falling revenues and circulation. It has been propped up and has maintained something like profitability by a continued and drawn out series of staff and wage cuts that have sapped the vitality of the paper and turned the journalists sour*, while the board members continue to reap their dividends and the shareholders hold their cyber fortunes. Sound familiar? She is being told by members of the board that more staff cuts are required… Instead of acquiescing, she rips them a new social democratic asshole!

“The board approved your measures [at cost-cutting], of course they did, because you guaranteed them a dividend each year. That’s what has to stop, and now.”

“So you’re suggesting in all seriousness that the board should decide to abolish dividends and bonuses. What makes you think the shareholders will agree to that?”

“I’m proposing a zero-profit operating budget this year… If the newspaper were stable and bringing in a tremendous profit, then pay out as much as you want in bonuses. But this is no time for you to be increasing your own bonus. I propose cutting all management salaries by half.”

“What you don’t understand is that our shareholders bought stock in the paper because they want to make money. That’s called capitalism. If you arrange that they’re going to lose money, then they won’t want to be shareholders any longer.” [Well duh, then they could sell their shares to some other sucker. Sorry. E@L]

“I’m not suggesting that they [the shareholders] should loose money, though it may come to that. Ownership implies responsibility. As you yourself have pointed out, capitalism is what matters here. S.M.P.‘s owner want to make a profit. But it is the market that decides whether you make a profit or take a loss. By your reasoning, you want the rules of capitalism to apply solely to the employees of S.M.P., while you and the shareholder will be exempt.” pg272.

All I could think about was the book, The Divine Right of Capital which, I believe – so therefore am probably wrong – argues for what they call “Economic Democracy”. Who said that the shareholder is the most important person in the company? Where did that come from? How has that become the last unassailable right in the world? Why did we allow The Shareholder to replace The King in such an all-powerful, all-hallowed role?

How do they suggest fixing this? Speaking of accounting (for tastes, remember?) – by placing the employees and the shareholders on the same side of the accounting equation. Just another little flip in the spreadsheet in order to a) give EQUALITY to workers and shareholders and b) to give them the FREEDOM OF SPEECH to have their say in running of the company that after all means much more to them, being often their sole source of income, than it does to those profit-hunting day-trading shareholders who’ll flip their “ownership” to someone else at the beep of margin-call. Hardly any loyalty or commitment there. The idea too, is to prevent the widespread and enormous corporate corruption that has been exposed recently – SHOCK HORROR – but which of course is part of the unspoken mainstay of the capitalist system, at least once the company gets to a certain level of capitalization, and usually shrugged over as just another way to make money.

It’s the “capitalism with responsibility” theme that is so important in the above quote. Corporatism and monopolisation and the inevitable exploitation that such one-sided power ushers in crush the meaning out of that phrase. No wonder people like me (and frequent commenter Mark), who have seen something of the world, balk at the damage done by the lack of freedom in the core of all unregulated free markets.

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* Which reminds me of what I was reading about in The Economist about the horrendous plague of suicides affecting French Telecom and about the tug between the demand for that overwhelming loyalty (something I never bought into at that crap-hole Philips where I worked for several years) modern companies seem to expect, and the worker’s awareness the company doesn’t give a flying fuck about the welfare of its employees when it comes to maxing up the Profit/Headcount Ratio (a genuine metric in Philips, I swear to Darwin) come dividend time. No wonder I was so cynical there. I spent half my time filling in forms about what I was doing, but nowhere on the forms was there a place where I could say that I had spent half my time filling in forms.

A more subtle problem lies in the mixed messages that companies send about loyalty and commitment. Many firms—particularly successful ones—demand extraordinary dedication from their employees. (Microsoft, according to an old joke, offers flexitime: “You can work any 18-hour shift that you want.”) Some provide perks that are intended to make the office feel like a second home. But companies also reserve the right to trim their workforce at the first sign of trouble. Most employees understand that their firms do not feel much responsibility to protect jobs. But they nevertheless find it wrenching to leave a post that has consumed so much of their lives

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Yes, indeed. And at the moment my previously wonderfully paperwork-free-zone company is going through a certification process due some clause about us importing medical products, even if only for demonstration, and so I spent most of today writing up my own job description, rather than doing anything that is actually ON that job description.

I was about to leap from the window with the panoramic view of the east end of Sentosa myself until I received a hint from boss-san: only put down stuff that you can actually prove with documentation… Well, that’s a lot easier! Nothing!

Plus it sounds a lot like a book I am currently reading…

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Speaking of Brand Loyalty, I will give this to Philips, they make crap TVs…

But if you used to work there, or if know someone who still works there, or even someone else who USED to work there, you can get cheap deals on the ex-display stock from their Tao Payao showroom. I’m picking up a 42″ LCD for SGD$600 to replace the old 42″ plasma (SGD$1300 three – or was it four? – years ago), which is starting to go on the blink again – only got a pure red colour first thing this morning. Not only is old one about to kark it, it doesn’t take digital signal. Might need that one day if I get a Blu-ray player. Or a game-console. When my shares dividends come in.

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Speaking of shares,etc – just want to let you know that the Hong Kong restaurant I invested in hasn’t returned a cracker in the last 18 months. I’m in it for the long haul. At least that what my investment advisor keeps telling me.

OK, enough rambling, time to get back to The Book.

E@L