Saturday, October 29, 2016

Antibiotics: Docs as culprits

Just read this PBS report early in the morning. Aghast to learn that those who ought to know best aren't doing their part. At least top down they are not satisfied and will correct this dangerous situation. Those participating in animal husbandry need to use antibiotics responsibly too.

I strongly suspect doctors prescribing antibiotics has a lot to do with their commercial interests than good medicine. Therefore working on doctors to do the right thing might not be good enough without succeeding at patients education as well.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Philips LED lighting

LED lighting have come a long way in a very short time. This bulb ($9.90) for my desk lamp does not cast sharp shadows. Gives off a very pleasant and calming warm daylight.

What a welcome replacement from the 7W CFL.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Waiting for Brexit to bite

I am watching for foolish consequences of Brexit to be felt by the British public. The sooner the better so that public opinion might have a change of heart before Article 50 could be issued.

The world can afford to let the UK indulge in this foolish experiment and learn at their expense but not if America was experimenting as well. Good to see that Trump chances of winning the Oval Office has become very small. He is the worst of the four or five candidates.

It is sad to see how gutted the UK political class have become but I think there is no way for them to learn their lesson except by the hard way. Of course on paper we are at least if not more vulnerable than the UK. There is no guarantee that we will not quickly trip up ourselves. We have a tricky time navigating the complex changes happening now. I think this government notice what is going on but I am not sure if they are making sense of all the developments. They are still good at framing the questions but I am not as confident about them coming up with the answers. At least never be wishful and weak like their British counterparts.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Some good advice from Nassim Taleb

Nassim Taleb is spot on here. Unfortunately there are lots of people like those Taleb advised avoiding. To be practical you often cannot avoid them but keep a healthy distance from them. Confine yourself to at worst to only a professional relationship.

This blog post is for my children. Note that your uncle, aunty and parents have lived by this dictum for a very long time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Political Pressure from the Christians

I do not feel sorry for the religious right in America. Finally they are getting their comeuppance for messing with politics. Trump as the Republican standard bearer had been very useful to reveal the true character of these Christians who have failed to accept Jesus telling Pilate that his kingdom is not like those of this world.

Closer to home I am concerned if the Christians might eventually grow from signing online petitions to pushing their agenda on the government through the power of their members' votes.

Singapore cannot be run on single issues which such types are apt to do. See Sarah Posner article.

Anker Cordless Mouse

Long story. I first ordered this on eBay but it never arrived and the merchant refunded my money. By then every seller seemed to have sold out their stocks and those on Qo10 were asking for more than $50. No choice, I bought the corded one which arrived quite quickly. Then the cordless version became available again and I bought it at the good price (USD 21). It arrived today when I was advised the earliest date of delivery is the 21st :-)

Very good mouse. Now I alternate between this mouse and my Logitech to minimize the risk of RSI.

Update: October 4, 2017

A year later this Anker mouse is limping. The scroll wheel no longer work properly. When I scroll down it sometimes moves up. I wanted to get a replacement but they are all over priced on eBay. So now I am trying my luck with something else.

I really wore this thing out through heavy use.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

On Trump: The heart directs the mind

Yahoo republished this from The Atlantic, "A Tale of  Two Trumps"

I am using this to explain that our minds do not think independently or impartially. The mind is directed by the desires of the heart. For example, see this from the article.

That is how one former US marine, a Trump supporter excused Trump horrific speech and probably attacks on women.

This Christian marine desperately want to see conservative judges fill the supreme court bench even when to many of us it is doubtful that Trump were he to become president will give them such judges. Meanwhile he needed to find reasons to excuse the inexcusable from Trump.

Our hearts direct our thoughts. There are limits to persuading people on logic. Closer to home the ministers' effort to persuade Christians about legalizing and limiting online gambling was foreordained to fail. The WP recognized there is much support on the ground against online gambling and duly took advantage of it. Political opportunism.

The ways human hearts lean against logic and empirical evidence is the Achilles heel of Democracy. As and when the conditions are suitable, demagogues will seize power and bring on the age of darkness and repression. Pray Trump does not succeed Obama.

After Trump has failed we can count how many bigots live in America. That number will define the future of the world.

Update: 10:20 pm

Shame on that ex-marine who dared to involve Jesus Christ and Christian values in all these. NYT Nicholas Kristof has made it easiest for me how blind people must be to support Trump (See If Hillary Clinton Grope Men). By the way, Kristof avoided to mention the danger of allowing Trump near those nuclear launch codes. To support Trump is to risk apocalypse.

It is not just double standards but blatant hypocrisy as well.

Risk to our Democracy: lesson from the US elections

This post isn't about the US Presidential Elections. That election is almost as important as ours but we have no say in it. For better, for worse the world has to accept whomever the Americans choose. But the Americans excel at studying themselves and this Vox article makes the scholarly findings of two Princeton political scientists accessible to more people. Here the book blurb.

Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels deploy a wealth of social-scientific evidence, including ingenious original analyses of topics ranging from abortion politics and budget deficits to the Great Depression and shark attacks, to show that the familiar ideal of thoughtful citizens steering the ship of state from the voting booth is fundamentally misguided. They demonstrate that voters--even those who are well informed and politically engaged--mostly choose parties and candidates on the basis of social identities and partisan loyalties, not political issues. They also show that voters adjust their policy views and even their perceptions of basic matters of fact to match those loyalties. When parties are roughly evenly matched, elections often turn on irrelevant or misleading considerations such as economic spurts or downturns beyond the incumbents' control; the outcomes are essentially random. Thus, voters do not control the course of public policy, even indirectly.

So far our elections are mostly issues based but we have been warned that it is actually unnatural and therefore a temporary state of affairs that can only be made permanent if at all with herculean efforts.

In fact we can see entropy growing already. Just consider the legalization of restricted online gambling. Many Christians suspend rational and logical thought for a misplaced Christian ideology which was only appropriate in a different time and place. That ideology is still and I hope will always be relevant in their Christian homes and communities but they have no moral authority to force that on a multi-religious society like ours.

Many Christians fail to understand when they are fully capable of doing so that restricted online gambling has nothing to do with approving the habit but realistically managing an evil habit which we cannot eradicate. Inexplicably they could accept the same impossibility of banning prostitution or eliminating the Aedes mosquito. Dr. Achen and Bartels research try to get us to accept that this is simply how humans behave and I regret to say that it is already in the Christian holy book the Bible as well! They fail to see themselves in the mirror of their Bibles reflecting their own sin and hypocrisy. Instead they use their Bibles to legitimize living in a bubble. Then they try to defend that bubble instead of becoming increasingly inclusive in the spirit of Christ.

This presidential elections show up clearly how many American evangelicals are spiritually and morally gutted. Proves that they are not followers of Christ but extracting from his Bible some derivatives to build something which is essentially exclusive and ugly. Now that scum has materialized in their candidate Donald Trump. I have yet to read about James Dobson from Focus on the Family rescinding his endorsement of Trump.

How the Christians behave over the issue of online gambling is yellow alert portending a possible trend that is inimical to our democracy. One day but unthinkable at the moment, we will vote for personalities instead of issues and policies. That day would be the end of this place. Right now we are midway stuck at the ideology milestone which is impossible to unstuck from because of obeying God stricture against gambling. I think it is nothing more than their wild imagination from hearts that never love Christ.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bob Dylan awarded the Literature Nobel Prize.

Sotong me! Didn't even know something so basic, this song was by Bob Dylan! Many were surprised that he was honored with the Nobel for literature. I thought it was only for writers.

I used to play this song on my guitar.

Looks like SL Square but not

The escalators of this place kinda of reminds me of our Sim Lim Square but this is actually an electronics bazaar in Shenzhen. I think it would be fun to visit but I could only read about in an article.

I buy IT stuff off eBay all the time and that is why this article is so fascinating to me. It gives me an idea of where and how the goods I ordered is prepared and sent to me :-)

US Politics: Going low before going high

The Economist graced its cover with this picture. I have added a poor imitation of Natgeo yellow window in case people stray into my corner, see this and is too obtuse to understand. By the way the elephant is the US Republican party or the GOP.

Michelle Obama put it best when she said, "when they go low, we go high" That is a strategy of optimism in the American people, the acme of skill which Sun Zi would be proud of. Letting the enemy destroy himself because he keeps digging his own grave or buying more rope to hang himself.

In any society there will always be a minority who cannot be persuaded to avoid a stupid course of action. These people can only learn the important lessons the hard way. America's advantage is that it has the wherewithal to allow such lessons to be learned and bounce back. Not so for us. In this sense I do not share the Economist pessimism.

If the GOP lost both the House and Senate next month, we know the learning process has gone farther and faster. Otherwise we would simply have to be more patient.

Update: Oct 17 12:45 pm

This is what The Donald excels at: going lower. If you dare to bring him down, he will respond by going even lower. In a way he is daring you to go there but Michelle Obama is right that each time we must go higher. He is simply making more people disgusted with him and they will talk to him with their votes against him. Just watch and see.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Syrian White Helmets and Online Gambling here

Just come across this: the Syrian White Helmets. Their job is to save Syrian lives amid the devastation of the civil war.

This is a job best done by those who live there. Of course outsiders can try to help but you must be prepared to risk you life. See TIME story.

But why am I blogging about this? It is about the NCCS and the Catholic Church opposition to legalizing online gambling in Singapore. But where is the connection?

Don't tell the government what to do about online gambling as that is easy. Stop your church members from online gambling. Help to solve the social problem by helping to make online gambling here less profitable and then unprofitable and then socially unacceptable.

Do not fall into the same error like Dr. James Dobson and his ilk at Focus on the Family. Instead of helping their own kind be better citizens by becoming better Christians they went to politicize their religion instead. In the process they are making the grave mistake of backing Trump for President.

The Christians here are failing to understand the simple logic the government has given for legalizing online gambling. They are so caught up with the symbolism of offence in the act of public online gambling. They fail to recognize that it is nothing but sanctimony. Therefore it is hypocrisy. It is making the Christian faith unattractive and misrepresenting what it truly stands for.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Anker Mouse arrives

Anker vertical mouse arrived. Pity it isn't the wireless version. I ordered that but was somehow lost in the mail. This corded one is to make up for that failure. Cost about US$18 ordered off eBay. Amazing number of reviews at Amazon for this mouse.

Now let's see how long this mouse can last under my use. I have broken countless number of them. Perhaps it also show how hard working I have been?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

China going beyond words with us

The last two paragraphs in the story tells me the MP Joan Pereira doesn't get it. I quote from it.
Referring to Yum’s predicament, Tanjong Pagar GRC Member of Parliament Joan Pereira, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for defence and foreign affairs, pointed out that the “risk to trade and business is real”.
“This makes it important for the Government to clarify the misreporting in the Global Times, which is exactly what our Ambassador has been doing,” she said. She reiterated that in the South China Sea disputes, as well all international issues, Singapore’s national interest “lies not in taking sides but in supporting a rule-based world order”.
Come on, we are not dealing with America. Minister Shanmugam can go to DC and publicly lecture them about the importance of the TPP but never try that with China, it must always be spoken politely even if firmly behind closed doors. Ambassador Loh response to Global Times was SOP from Singapore but that was never going to be effective or useful unless you are prepared to escalate the argument. We should know by now the Chinese will insist on having the last word. The Chinese are not Chinese Americans!

Anyway China doesn't care about the rule of law unless it suits them. China doesn't care what is Singapore's national interest. If we get in their way, they will just roll over us. Period.

Dealing with another country is all about leverage. If you don't have any you better find something or be prepared to hurt bad.

At this point we have no leverage over China but if they keep pushing this the situation will change and additional options will become available to us. Whatever it is going to get worse before it gets better. This government must know that the Chinese do not care for the facts or the truth. They first decide what they want and then invent the facts and truth to legitimize their action. Trying to agree on facts on the ground with the Chinese is a waste of time when it is against their interests regardless of their legitimacy.

To the Chinese the natural order of things is that since we are an overwhelmingly Chinese majority nation why aren't we a satellite Chinese nation? They will never understand that and they cannot accept that we have stopped being Chinese either and that is because we haven't.

The Chinese strategy against us is both audacious and simple. They want to destroy voters' support for the PAP government. They have observed that the PAP is only afraid of voters. So if they can frighten us perhaps we would pressure the government to lean towards China. In return we would be rewarded. They never understood us and refused to anyway. They assume absent Lee Kuan Yew we would become more Chinese because that is only natural, and if we aren't then we have been diseased by western influence and they can help us through re-education. They saw what western ideas had done to Hong Kong and infer we caught another strain of the same disease.

China cannot be resisted in the way we had fought other diplomatic battles in the past. The Cabinet must have wished if we could have another early China type opportunity with India but life is seldom so convenient.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Dealing with the Chinese Bully

When LKY passed away I blogged that after he is gone other countries will test us and Israel did us a favor by being the first to do so in a friendly way. Others like China are different.

Today I read about our PM working visit to India. What to do? We can only hope to diversify. It would have been better if we could do this more quickly but I think we are already driving diversification as quickly as we could.

From time to time our foreign investments would suffer losses not for business but geopolitical reasons. This is something we have to bear in mind and cope well.

Peh Shing Huei wrote a very accessible article which everyone ought to read. Thus far what my late dad had warned about China is so much more spot on compared to folks like Wang Gungwu. LKY had also warned us some years ago a rising China might chose to turn assertive before it is ready. This is a foolish thing to do but rarely do leaders put their long term national interests ahead of their personal desires. Xi Jinping is first and foremost a leader with the mentality of a great Chinese emperor. He will model himself for achieving greatness like those in history. Most likely he would go for a third term and isn't he been busy creating support for that to be possible?

I think our leaders placed great hopes in the TPP but that is unlikely to be ratified by the US Congress is this de-globalizing climate of what is left of Obama's time in office.

Meanwhile we need to be clear and firm with China so that they would not be hopeful that if they make things economically difficult to us we will cave in to their wishes. Look at how they hurting Taiwan at the moment. They could punish our many investments in China or more likely dry up the visitors of their citizens here.

Religion in US elections

This reminds me of a book I read so long ago I could no longer remember its title except that it was a collected sayings of Abraham Lincoln. The story was his generals were telling him that they will prevail in the civil war because God is on their side. Lincoln replied that he is more worried if they are on God's side. More than pious prayer is needed to be on God's side. You have to know and do the right thing beginning from living right and treating others with honour. If you don't, well you can still be on God's side but not because you have navigated yourself there, it wss his exceptional grace to you.

In the picture Donald Trump being prayed over by church leaders in a Las Vegas church. I would have preferred for the Republicans to keep their religion indoors. A very bad idea for politics to be mixed with religion.

Believe it or not their nominee for President needs all the prayers he can get eh? I think this is pointless. The Trump we got to know is unfit to be President and there is no time for him to be genuinely Presidential. That does not mean he is sure to lose though. Elections are inherently unpredictable and I just don't get it why people are so eager to predict them.

Mike Pence Christian Witness

American Presidential elections attract a global following. Pope Francis publicly rebuked Donald Trump and so distance the Catholic example from what Trump stood for. Trump faked being a good Christian to sign on as many Evangelical supporters as possible bagging along the way the likes of James Dobson from Focus on the Family and Wayne Grudem nicknamed "The Brain" for theology because he wrote that important book: Systematic Theology. Most significant, Trump managed to get Mike Pence as his running mate. Sadly the VP debate crushed the Christian witness of Mike Pence. I didn't follow the debate live or online but here is Frank Bruni write up on it.

People got to live up to the reputations they give themselves or lose credibility. Mike Pence in his words, "

He has always worn his religiousness conspicuously, even flamboyantly, introducing himself time and again as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

by the end of the debate as Bruni explained, most independent viewers would have concluded.

Never has he taken Trump to task or taken a stand for “basic human decency.” He seems to have reversed the order of those three adjectives in his identity. “Republican” now comes first and “Christian” last.
Maybe he’ll atone and make amends in another post-campaign “Confessions.” God knows he has plenty of material.

Might as well Pence be a Christian more privately. A very bad idea to wear your religion on your sleeve you know. No one is well served that way.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

How to live with Duterte

It is a given this Ah Beng President cannot be anything else but Ah Beng. The Filipinos love him and they have every right and privilege to do so but how do other countries learn to live with him successfully? He has no manners, he doesn't use language in ways that is acceptable. We don't understand him and so cannot fathom his intentions.

I think it is best never to take him at his word and let his interlocutors explain how his words ought to be taken after the heat of the moment when words are exchanged more calmly.

Personally I do not think he will be a successful President and the way for a foreigner to find out is simply wait for time to tell. Whatever he had learned to do well for Davao he might be able to repeat that across the archipelago more successfully that Aquino e.g., fighting crime. Beyond that he is clueless. Running a country is very different from running a small city. Just look west at India and witness how hard it is for Modi to get anything done as the PM than when he was just running a province. He could also look south and see how difficult it is for Jokowi to achieve results as mayor of a big city vis a vis on a national scale.

Lao Zi explained why Duterte would fail in the end. Like the more studied and so better known Trump, Duterte is not a master of his own character. In time his enemies and foreign governments will study and understand his character and know exactly the buttons to push to get the response needed from him to manipulate him. This guy in many ways is the Asian version of the American Trump. As they bait Trump, so if they even bother or is keen to bait Duterte. This movie is still being played and it is difficult to see how in the end the Philippines will be better than when Rodrigo Duterte took office. Something tells me I am putting this too mildly as well.

The stupidity of China's hardliners

This article by the SCMP is more insightful than most I have come across so far because it could deal with motivations behind behavior.

The hardliners are obviously in control of Global Times and these blokes are shy to reveal who they are. The doves are what we do business with but we talk to all of them up and down the hierarchy.

Hardliners typically oversimplify issues just like the naive neo-conservatives in the US had also and led them into the disastrous longest war in Iraq. It is almost a given that great powers will always have such a faction and we just have to figure a way to deal with them successfully.

Hardliners are known more for their bull headed adherence to ideology than seeking truth from facts, i.e., they interpret facts through the lens of ideology and invent any missing facts to complete their conspiracy as in the latest example of what happened at the NAM meeting.

Chinese hardliners are only capable of seeing Singapore as either for them or for the USA. The reality is we are only for ourselves and also expect any half intelligent or better country to do likewise. These dumb folks are not open minded enough to to grasp that our foreign policy is consistently geared toward expanding the pie. We choose to advance our interest at the same time benefiting others as well. That is the pragmatic foreign policy of a small state in a dangerous world. We always want to contribute to a safer and more peaceful world.

So our advice to China is that its rise is practically inevitable and they ought to do so gradually and naturally so as to get buy in from everyone. Taking this path would lead to the best outcome. The myopic impatience of the the hardliners will only serve to hurt China and along with it everyone as well.

So what is happening will over the short term only prove this point eloquently: Again the tiny state of Singapore is wiser than you the Giant China. Even the militarily far more powerful Americans understood this in Obama's strategy of strategic patience. Faithless short sighted American strategists lack imagination and clarity about how to shape the future went hand in glove with short sighted editors to ridicule their President's foreign policy in the media.