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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, November 06, 2004

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. - Abraham Lincoln

Random Playlist Song: Haydn - Sonata in C Major - Allegro con brio


Someone: I should add a folder to my Favourites: Blasphemous articles contributed by Gabriel

i realised i've been bookmarking ur blasphemous articles for future reading but..... the future ain't here yet

as in those things like Did Jesus Christ Live n Atheist on Judgment Day
interesting stuff

Nice to see that my efforts are bearing fruit :)


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Wowbagger responds vehemently to NUS being the 18th top university in the world:

The int'l students scores is very high, but it's not just that.

The "int'l faculty" scores are hilarious. NUS beats Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, CalTech, Stanford, Princeton, Chicago, UPenn, Columbia and Cornell, amongst others. Is there any "international" academic who would pick NUS over any of these? Note that the Brit universities rank the highest for this category --- do they hire a lot of international faculty?

I'm also wondering what "peers" were interviewed for "peer review" to place NUS above CalTech, LSE, Imperial, UT Austin, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell and Johns Hopkins. Perhaps they only interviewed regional "peers"?

Since this study is so obviously screwed, it may not be advisable to draw much from non-NUS related scores. But the citations/faculty column is more objective --- harder to unfairly skew than the rest, so it may be informative that no British universities scored above 50, while CalTech, which is tiny compared to the average size of its peers, scored a whopping 400. And NUS is placed in its right place with an 18.

Student/faculty score is also poor, but it is in the normal range for public universities.

Full report at

Sure enough, the academics were asked to nominate "the geographical areas on which they felt able to comment". So the rankings are probably only accurate when comparing institutions in the same region.

Yes, but it also says that:

"QS surveyed 1,300 academics in 88 countries. Each was asked to nominate both the academic subjects and the geographical areas on which they felt able to comment, and QS sought other respondents to balance nominations in academic discipline and location. The academics were each asked to name the top institutions in the areas and subjects on which they felt able to make an informed judgement." [Emphasis mine]

I'm not sure that, in a globalised world, geographical boundaries are such potent barriers in academia. And at the very least, the Premier Institution of Social Engineering measures up well when compared with other asian universities.

It must be noted, though, that since Singapore is so small, a disproportionate number of our faculty will necessarily be of international origin. But "int'l faculty score" is only 10% of the grade, so.




see the latest chick tract...paranoid, insane, hateful...just the way we like them!

this is another tract, hawks the "Mohd is a paedophile" tagline...

i love the fact that Chick uses a recurring his early days you had Bob Williams, now you have Little Suzy, whose grandfather is George, the Judge that Bob saved in "The Last Judge"...

what can i say, Jack Chick must be credited for his world-building capabilities to rival the minds behind the superheroes..."

My favourite is the one where the World Court bans christianity and where the New Age Healer looks like a comic book supervillain! (


For those who haven't tired of them, more articles on the RIAA and copyright:

The Internet Debacle - Al Alternative View - "Free works. I've found that to be true myself; every time we make a few songs available on my website, sales of all the CDs go up. A lot... the music industry had exactly the same response to the advent of reel-to-reel home tape recorders, cassettes, DATs, minidiscs, VHS, BETA, music videos ("Why buy the record when you can tape it?"), MTV, and a host of other technological advances designed to make the consumer's life easier and better. I know because I was there.... I am objecting to the RIAA spin that they are doing this to protect "the artists", and make us more money. I am annoyed that so many records I once owned are out of print, and the only place I could find them was Napster. Most of all, I'd like to see an end to the hysteria that causes a group like RIAA to spend over 45 million dollars in 2001 lobbying "on our behalf", when every record company out there is complaining that they have no money."

Fallout - a follow up to The Internet Debacle - "Water is free, but a lot of us drink bottled water because it tastes better. You can get coffee at the office, but you're likely to go to Starbucks or the local espresso place, because it tastes better. When record companies start making CD's that offer consumers a reason to buy them... we will buy them. The songs may be free on line, but the CD's will taste better."


Apparently the reasons sentences in Singapore are (almost) always upped on appeal to the Chief Justice are that the public good takes precedence over the private good, and also for consistency in sentencing. But that raises questions with regard to:

- judicial discretion in deciding sentences (eg mitigating factors, compassionate reasons)
- the question of rehabilitation vs punishment (or indeed, societal vindictiveness). What if people come out of prison more criminal than ever, thanks to their prolonged exposure to prison life?
- fairness to the criminal (just because you happened to have committed a crime does not make you sub-human, and indeed animals too have rights)
- and proportionate punishment ("My object all sublime,
I shall achieve in time-- To let the punishment fit the crime-- The punishment fit the crime")

The public good is one thing, but after all society is made up of individuals.

Anyhow, this seems to go against the spirit of the Yellow Ribbon campaign - how do you expect to re-integrate former criminals if you come down overly hard on them?

Interesting pages from a textbook used in Singapore till the mid-80s:

"What do girls do???

Siew ling is skipping along the lane
She sews a dress for her sister
She washes the clothes every other day
She cleaned the table just now
The girls cleaned the house themselves"

Some people criticise rationalism as a model for finding and defining truth. However, while it is said of some disciplines that they're like being on a boat in the middle of the ocean and rebuilding it plank by plank, surely this is like being in a submarine at the bottom of the Marianas Trench and trying to reconstruct it plate by plate. If one succeeds in discrediting rationality, then one's own argument against rationality becomes invalid.

I've finally seen someone with both hoop earrings and a ponytail.


You can't teach, and you can't add value to law students much, because they come into law faculty thinking they know everything.

The university also insists that you have a test. What they call a 'quiz'. I don't like the word.

Unfortunately we will not be doing the law of defamation. It is also a tort. Although there are lots of interesting cases. As you know Singapore is the leading country in the law of defamation in the common law world. And it's one of my areas of forte. But I won't be doing that, because I think out of this whole class probably 2 or 3 of you might become a Minister of State or a Minister. And maybe Prime Minister, and then you'll be interested in the law of defamation. The rest of you, I don't think you'll be interested. (practise of the)

I would like to appeal to all my students, scholarship students from India. Because historical records show, not all of them - many of them are very good - but some of them only turn up for my last revision lecture... I think you should attend even if it means that you've had a very late friday night. Just come here, sit down and have a good snooze, because something that I say will get in there. Because I want to avoid embarassing you on the last day... Why is it that I can spot you? It's very difficult to remember the non-chinese, so I may not recognise if you came or not... But Indian faces, I can remember. (even if, non-Indians)

Nowadays when they appear in court... the young magistrates or districtor judges actually pull out, I don't know whether it's a black book or a yellow book, they maintain a book where they have all these sentences decided by the Chief Justice, so they say: oh this is a molest of the shoulder. 2 years, 4 strokes. He doesn't even think! *laughs from audience* There's no more the thinking process, there's no more judicial discretion because he feels bound.

[On sentencing] He doesn't even have the strength of heart to raise his head and look at the accused person. Not all of them lah, some of them, to be able to say: I am now exercising my discretion, but he doesn't even say. He just looks down, because he's reading his book, and he says: I am, this is a very sad case... a very sad case, but what has been done is a very serious offence - he has to say something right? Otherwise *laughs from audience* otherwise why do you pay him for?... 'In spite of the excellent mitigation plea, unfortunately, I am bound by the benchmark', and these are the words... He, in his heart, wants to impose a sentence of 1 year, 2 strokes, but the CJ has said: molest of the shoulder, doesn't matter whether it's 12 year old or 40 years old, makes no difference. Remember, judges. It is 2 years, 4 strokes. Doesn't matter whether it was because, heavy rain, you had to put your hand on her, on the other lady's shoulder, all this is immaterial... I'm told that they have every different part of the body all listed out... The idea is you administer the criminal justice system, the rule of law, for the public good. That's what the CJ says. Public policy overrides individual rights or liberties. (discretion)

[To a foreign student on Singapore law] We can't change. Anyway you'll be going back to your country and you'll be happy.

[On blocking laws] In India, what do they do? They kidnap some of the members of parliament *laughs from audience*

[On retrospective legislation] There was this famous lawyer. His name was Kenneth Edward Hilborn. He had been practising for many many years in Singapore... Ken Hilborn was quite a maverick, but he knew his law very well... He knew that no legislative sanction by way of [an] Act of Parliament had been passed for the purposes of collecting revenue. So what did he do? He had a sports car, a Volvo sportscar... That fine morning, he drove through the gantry. The police, of course, promptly stopped him. And this happened near the Istana. The gantry near the Istana. The police stopped him and he told the police officer, the policer officer said: I want your particulars. He said: I refuse to give you my particular. He said: No you have infringed the law, you don't have a coupon... Ken Hilborn said, I didn't infringe any law, there is no such law. But of course you don't argue with the police in Singapore. And he was promptly charged in court for the criminal offence of driving without the necessary coupon. And who do you think was his lawyer? The famous barrister JB Jeyaratnam. Jeyaratnam appeared for Mr Hilborn and unfortunately for this particular young magistrate, who had just returned from Cambridge... the case came up behind him... 'Retrospective legislation is bad'. So all this fairly idealistic... as long as there is no law there is no law. [He] Made the decision and said that Ken Hilborn was right and acquitted him... There was an emergency convening of Parliament... In the same day... all three sittings - Parliament sat - first reading, second reading, third reading - the law passed. Retrospective legislation. Law passed to take effect so many months before... What happened to ken Hilborn? He fell out of favour. What happened to Mr Jeyaratnam, you all know.

Parliament cannot tell the Courts what to do. A Member of Parliament can't call up the Chief Justice and say: I want you to decide the case in this manner. [To someone] You're smiling. Theoretically speaking, they can't. *laughs from audience* But I don't think it happens in singapore.

Can I see the class rep please? No class rep? This is the first time I've heard that.

[On someone with elaborate home experiment setups] Ikea is your friend.

[On testing a home project - earphones] Are you playing Elvis [on your laptop]? [Someone: Are you kidding?] You'll get higher marks.

[On rule-utilitarianism] 'But she's old. I could kill her and distribute her money to the poor'. No! It's not a good idea.

Now this sign, as you can see, has been cunningly photoshopped by me, but it used to be a real sign.

[On Socrates] So if you learn one thing in this semester, learn that - this is true science - hemlock is poison. Don't drink hemlock.

'We were not suddenly transformed from customers to consumers by willy manufacturers eager to unload a surplus of crappy products'. You're not allowed to say 'crappy' in your paper but this guy said it in his book so I had to say it on my slide. (put)

[On Isaiah Berlin] He says, there are over 200 senses of liberty used in the history of the subject. I think he's, I think he's bluffing. I don't think you could come up with more than 12.

The thing that struck me about this passage was that each of our thinkers: Plato, Descartes, Mill, Berlin - would in a sense, would in one sense agree and in another sense disagree with the passage. Very strongly, in fact... and if you can see what that point of agreement and disagreement is, you'll understand why I call my module 'Reason and Persuasion' now. There is a sense that the storyline of the course can be run through the, ah, passage. And so you get a big A plus if you can write a nice summary about why it was so wise of me to call my course 'Reason and Persuasion' because that was the secret logic behind, er, why I picked it. Especially if you're my student, and you thereby flatter my sensibilities.

I tried looking for anti-Buddhist websites, but I couldn't find [any].

If you take section 301 for example, can you see how many lines or how many words before a full stop? Do you know why lawyers or legal language was in this fashion and in old form? Because in the olden days lawyers got paid by the number of folios. That means the longer the sentence, the longer the pages, the more the lawyer got paid.

In 1994 I wrote to the Chief Justice... 'I think we should have a plain english movement for lawyers in Singapore'. I was prepared to receive a very curt letter saying 'Mind your own business'.

The marriage certificate is a very important document. That's a reason why the Registrar actually gives it to the lady and not to the man. Have you noticed that at the registration ceremony the Registrar very religiously gives it only to the lady, he never ever gives it to the man. Because men hardly keep any documents carefully. And it's more useful and more protective for the woman. Women's charter, don't forget.

After a few years, he tells you say, let's assume in the 7th or 8th year of marriage he says: 'I think it's about time we have kids' and so on. 'I think you can't continue even though you're now the head of some engineering unit in Motorola. You need to be a good mother. Government encourages all these tax perks, all the tax breaks. Forget your 4 years of engineering study, you are a fanastic student, but nevermind. I think you need to sit at home and procreate'. What a sad indictment, to tell all our ladies to sit at home and procreate.

The queen ag'ceeded (acceded)

Unfortunately, gentlemen I have to tell you, that the family court in Singapore... unfortunately it is manned almost exclusively... by female judges, and I don't think you're gonna get very much indulgence... I happened to attend one of the hearings... and there was this case of a husband who was a taxi driver, unemployed, had lost his job and was trying to get a taxi license again and was trying to get another job, and there was a maintenance order made to provide $500 to his wife and child. He had failed to make the payments. He asked for indulgence, he paid, after the order he paid again then he fell into arrears again and the wife went to court and asked for a maintenance order again to enforce, and this female judge who I shall not name, did not want to hear the pitiful plea of the husband. 'Look, I am trying my level best. I can't find a job.' This is recession Singapore, 1997. 'I honestly cannot find a job. Why do you think I would not want to support my own child?' The judge didn't want to believe him at all and sent him to jail.

Women are gaining much more in divorce, when it comes to men. And recent examples in New York... Women are gaining much more rights and privileges, even more than men. Men are always - I don't think you're saying born losers right? But they appear to be born losers. Unfortunately that's the law... It is not that the law goes out, sets out to make life difficult for men. I don't think judges go to the family court and say: Okay, how many men am I going to today, make their lives miserable?... We are going to make the lives of men very miserable. (than)

You may find your dinner 'shiok', which is mar'lay, for example (malay)

[On essays in exams] I've had people who've written that as a sort of explanation: 'I'm sorry Sir, I didn't have enough time'

instairbility (instability)

He patterns drug A (patents)

This thing, I don't know why it's here, but it comes in handy for me to use as a, as a example. Okay, here ah, by the way this is Singapore FHM ah, okay. I don't why is it here, it's not mine. (an)

literally work (literary)

write a no'vearl (novel)

If you are a budding songwriter or a musical guy... if you think you can make money here you're pretty much wasting your time. You should, er, you'll make more money by being an engineer.

co-incidentally (coincidentally)

If you call your produce 'triple A', and then your mark is 3 As ah, one on top, two at the bottom, designed in a particular way, ah. Ah, that can be registerable. But not if you just use three As standing side by side. That, apart from being such a moronic design, is so common that the, the registry will just say that you, you can do better than that.

[On peddlers of illegal goods] What can he [the company] do? Don't know?... Recruit? Oh recruit him to sell your product? That's a very no'vearl way of doing things. A good idea. (novel)

[On a lecture on sexuality and gender where the LT was the most full it had ever been, with people sitting cross legged on the floor even] I love doing this lecture. We always get great turnout... You get the football club, all of these guys show up. 'Oh great, talk about sex'.

How many people in here have ever had sex? It's all right. It's the last class. No need to be shy.

How many people in here are male? [Few guys raise their hands] It's not a test. How many people in here are female? Interesting: the girls know who they are. A few people at the back raised their hands twice.

[On treating different sexes differently] It's very different from one of my female colleagues, whom I won't punch and grunt with. Talk about, I don't know, the weather, the new cooking.

How prevail'lent this is (prevalent)

It made me so mad when my sister said that GI Joe was just a doll. He has a parachute, machine gun... He's an action figure. I proved it. GI Joe went into the room. He stabbed Barbie with a knife, tied her up.

[On pages from a textbook used in Singapore till the mid-80s reinforcing gender stereotypes] It sounds like it'd make someone a good maid one day.

[On it being in vogue to enlarge noses and breasts in Singapore, but the reverse in the US] You can come here and make them larger, go back [to the US] and have it reduced (them)

[On adventures in Sumatra] I hired a tour guide to take me to a Minangkabau village. My tour guide was a Minangkabau too. Strangely, his name was Elvis. I asked Elvis...

[On a Papua New Guinean tribe where the males oppressed the females, but not for sexual ends, thereby debunking the Collins-Conflict Theory/Brawn Theory] The male Egna are terrified of sex. When a female comes around: 'Come here, come here', they scream and run off

I'm going to amuse you, and myself. I'm going to explain this course in terms of the Matrix, just for fun.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Here's to another 4 years. Hopefully the USA and the world won't be ruined by then.


litfreak: don't pay through your nose to get that OED subscription - use the NUS
lib account! Lib page -> databases -> search by title -> OED

Since litfreak did not leave a return email address or URl, I shall have to respond here: I went to the library page but didn't find the OED. Do I have to do it in campus?

[Addendum: She with dyed hair and an attitude problem but disavows the title of "ah lian" has kindly sent me the link:]


NUS is ranked 18th top university in the world by 1300 academics from 88 countries (click on: Graphic: World's top universities at the bottom)

I suppose it's because one of their criteria was: "a university's success in attracting foreign students". Since we import PRCs, Vietnamese and Indians by the bucketload truckload, I can see that we probably aced this category. And "quality of life" wasn't a factor, only things pertaining to academics.

People are expressing their disbelief:

"nus is ranked better than columbia. this must be a sick joke"

"Come on, NUS ahead of Columbia...piece of BS...must have bribed the paper or something..."

"nus is above cornell eh
wah above cmu also
better than ivy league schools arh

then why do government give scholarship to the brightest brains to go abroad and study
why not study here in singapore at better uni

Update: Since the Times has decided to be a bitch and remove a link to the short ranking from their page (though it is still available if you know the URL), I have, ah, procured the full ranking breakdown for your perusal. (

NUS only scored 46/100 in the International Students Score, whereas LSE got 100/100 and Imperial College London got 51/100, so no, it's not just that we import PRCs by the truckload.

Peer review score (the best institutions in the fields the academics felt knowledgeable about): 266/1000
Int'l faculty score (success in attracting internationally renowned academics): 35/100
Int'l students score (success in attracting foreign students): 46/100
Student/faculty score (ratio of faculty to student numbers): 10/400
Citations/faculty score (amount of cited research produced by faculty members): 18/400
Final score: 385.9/1000

NB: This is the Times of UK, not the Straits Times.


Faith at Work

Don Couchman, a dentist in Colorado who has made his dental practice a workplace ministry, related a story not long ago about how in the middle of performing a root canal, the Lord spoke to him and told him to go on a pilgrimage to Argentina. I interrupted to ask how he knew it was the Lord. ''The sheep know the shepherd's voice,'' he said. (Some workplace Bible-study groups, including those at the Riverview bank, feature training in how to distinguish between God's voice and random thoughts.)


A novel perspective on the caste system:

This brings us to the Hindu concept of caste. On no other score is Hinduism better known or more roundly denounced by the outside world. Caste contains both point and perversion. Everything in the discussion of this subject depends on our ability to distinguish between the two.

How caste arose is one of the confused topics of history. Central, certainly, was the fact that during the second millennium B.C, a host of Aryans possessing a different language, culture, and physiognomy (tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, straight-haired) migrated into India. The clash of differences that followed burgeoned the caste system, if it did not actually create it. The extent to which ethnic differences, color, trade guilds harboring professional secrets, sanitation restrictions between groups with different immunity systems, and magico-religious taboos concerning pollution and purification contributed to the pattern that emerged may never be fully unraveled. In any event the outcome was a society that was divided into four groups: seers, administrators, producers and followers.

Let us record at once the perversions that entered in time, however they originated. To begin with, a fifth group - of outcastes or untouchables - appeared. Even in speaking of this category there are mitigating points to be remembered. In dealing with her lowest social group, India did not sink to slavery as have most civilizations; outcastes who in their fourth stage of life renounced the world for God were regarded as outside social classifications and were revered, even by the highest caste, the brahmins, from Buddha through Dayananda to Gandhi, many religious reformers sought to remove untouchability from the caste system; and contemporary India's constitution outlaws the institution. Still, the outcaste's lot through India's history has been a wretched one and must be regarded as the basic perversion the caste system succumbed to. A second deterioration lay in the proliferation of castes into subcastes, of which there are today over three thousand. Third, proscriptions against intermarriage and interdining came to complicate social intercourse enormously. Fourth, privileges entered the system, with higher castes benefitting at the expense of the lower. Finally, caste became hereditary. One remained in the caste into which one was born.

With these heavy counts against it, it may come as a surprise to find that there are contemporary Indians, thoroughly familiar with Western alternatives, who defend caste - not, to be sure, in its entirety, especially what it has become, but in its basic format. What lasting values could such a system possibly contain?

What is called for here is recognition that with respect to the ways they can best contribute to society and develop their own potentialities, people fall into four groups. (1) The first group India called brahmins or seers. Reflective, with a passion to understand and a keen intuitive grasp of the values that matter most in human life, these are civilization's intellectual and spiritual leaders. Into their province fall the functions our more specialized society has distributed among philosophers, artists, religious leaders, and teachers; things of the mind and spirit are their raw materials. (2) The second group, the kshatriyas, are born administrators, with a genius for orchestrating people and projects in ways that makes the most of available human talents. (3) Others find their vocation as producers; they are artisans and farmers, skillful in creating the material things on which life depends. These are the vaishyas. (4) Finally, shudras, can be characterized as followers of servants. Unskilled laborers would be another name for them. These are people who, if they had to carve out a career for themselves, commit themselves to long periods of training, or go into business for themselves, would founder. Their attention spans are relatively short, which makes them unwilling to sacrifice a great deal in the way of present gains for the sake of future rewards. Under supervision, however, they are capapble of hard work and devoted service. Such people are better off, and actually happier, working for others than being on their own. We, with our democratic and egalitarian sentiments, do not like to admit that there are such people, to which the orthodox Hindu replies: What you would like is not the point. The question is what people actually are.

Few contemporary Hindus defend the lengths to which India eventually went in keeping the castes distinct. Her proscriptions regulating intermarriage, interdining, and other forms of social contact made her, in her first prime minister's wry assessment, "the least tolerant nation in social forms while the most tolerant in the realm of ideas." Yet even here a certain point lies behind the accursed proliferations. That proscriptions against different castes drinking from the same source were especially firm suggests that differences in immunity to diseases may have played a part. The presiding reasons, however, were broader than this. Unless unequals are separated in some fashion, the weak must compete against the strong across the board and will stand no chance of winning anywhere. Between castes there was no equality, but within each caste the individual's rights were safer than if he or she had been forced to fend alone in the world at large. Each caste was self-governing, and in trouble one could be sure of being tried by one's peers. Within each caste there was equality, opportunity, and social insurance.

Inequalities between the castes themselves aimed for due compensation for services rendered. The well-being of society requires that some people assume, at the cost of considerable self-sacrifice, responsibilities far beyond average. While most young people will plunge early into marriage and employment, some must postpone those satisfactions for as much as a decade to prepare themselves for demanding vocations. The wage earner who checks out at five o'clock is through for the day; the employer must take home the ever-present insecurities of the entrepreneur, and often homework as well. The question is partly whether employers would be willing to shoulder their responsibilities without added compensation, but also whether it would be just to ask them to do so. India never confused democracy with egalitarianism. Justice was defined as a state in which privileges were proportionate to responsiblities. In salary and social power, therefore, the second caste, the administrators, rightly stood supreme; in honor and psychological power, the brahmins. But only (according to the ideal) because their responsibilities were proportionately greater. In precise reverse of the European doctrine that the king could do no wrong, the orthodox Hindu view came very near to holding that the shudras, the lowest caste, could do no wrong, its members being regarded as children from whom not much should be expected. Classical legal doctrine stipulated that for the same offense "the punishment of the Vaishya [producer] should be twice as heavy as that of the shudra, that of the kshatriya [administrator] twice as heavy again, and that of the brahmin twice or even four times as heavy again." In India the lowest caste was exempt from many of the forms of probity and self-denial that the upper castes were held to. Its widows might remarry, and proscription against meat and alcohol were less exacting.

Stated in modern idiom, the ideal of caste emerges something like this: At the bottom of the social scale is a class of routineers - domestics, factory workers, and hired hands - who can put up with an unvaried round of duties but who, their self-discipline being marginal, must punch time clocks if they are to get in a day's work, and who are little inclined to forego present gratification for the sake of long-term gains. Above them is a class of technicians. Artisans in preindustrial societies, in an industrial age they are the people who understand machines, repair them, and keep them running. Next comes the managerial class. In its political wing it includes party officials and elected representatives; in its military branch, officers and chiefs-of-staff; in its industrial arm, entrepreneurs, managers, board members, and chief executive officers.

If, however, society is to be not only complex but good, if it is to be wise and inspired as well as efficient, there must be above the administrators - in esteem but not in pay, for one of the defining marks of this class must lie in its indifference to wealth and power - a fourth class, which in our specialized society would include religious leaders, teachers, writers, and artists. Such people are rightly called seers in the literal sense of this word, for they are the eyes of the community. As the head (administrators) rests on the body (laborers and technicians), so the eyes are placed at the top of the head. Members of this class must possess enough willpower to counter the egoism and seductions that distort perception. They command respect because others recognize both their own incapacity for such restraint and the truth of what the seer tells them. It is as if the seer sees clearly what other types only suspect. But such vision is fragile. it yields sound discernments only when carefully protected. Needing leisure for unhurried reflection, the seer must be protected from overinvolvement in the day-to-day exigencies that clutter and cloud the mind, as a navigator must be free from serving in the gallery or stoking in the hold in order to track the stars to keep the ship on course. Above all, this final caste must be protected from temporal power. India considered Plato's dream of the philosopher king unrealistic, and it is true that when brahmins assumed social power, they became corrupt, for temporal power subjects its wielder to pressures and tempations that to some extent refract judgment and distort it. The role of the seer is not to crack down but to counsel, not to drive but to guide. Like a compass needle, guarded that it may point, the brahmin is to ascertain, then indicate, the true north of life's meaning and purpose, charting the way to civlization's advance.

Caste, when it has decayed, is as offensive as any other corrupting corpse. Whatever its character at the start, it came in time to neglect Plato's insight that "a golden parent may have a silver son, or a silver parent a golden son, and then there must be a change of rank; the son of the rich must descend, and the child of the artisan rise, in the social scale; for an oracle says 'that the state will come to an end if governed by a man of brass or iron.'" As one of the most thoughtful recent advocates of the basic idea of caste has written, "we may expect that the coming development will differ chiefly in permitting intermarriage and choice or change of occupation under certain conditions, though still recognizing the general desirability of marriage within the group and of following one's parents' calling." Insofar as caste has come to mean rigidity, exclusiveness, and undeserved privilege, Hindus today are working to clear the corruption from their polity. But there remain many who believe that to the problem no country has yet solved, the problem of how society ought to be ordered to insure the maximum of fair play and creativity, the basic theses of caste continue to warrant attention.

--- Smith, Huston, (Excerpts from the chapter "Hinduism" in) The World's Religions, New York, HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

America has voted for the warmonger. Look forward to more altercations.

Monday, November 01, 2004

More Weird Shit

This was labelled "Dairanger Exercise Video". I think it's a joke. I hope it's a joke.

The title screen. Pretty ordinary. For now.

There's no hint of the horror that is to follow.

Then they start making fools of themselves.

Jump in the air! Jump!

It's Morphin' Time! Oops. I meant 'Henshin!'

Reminds me of ACES (All Children Exercising Simultaneously) Day

Let's act like ducks!

And flap our wings like chickens!

Pull up our tights (or the knee socks underneath)

Shoot the sky!

And what Sentai would be complete without posing?

"I have long been of the opinion that if work were such a splendid thing the rich would have kept more of it for themselves." - Bruce Grocott

Random Playlist Song: King's Singers - The Pirate King (from The Pirates of Penzance)


Low redefinition is often more brazen and without any good justification. When people say "chocolate is an addictive drug, "everyone is bisexual" or "altruism is ultimately just self-interest", they are in each case broadening the meaning of the central concepts to make what would otherwise be an outrageous claim plausible. In order for low redefinition to be a legitimate argumentative move, we need to know why the broader meaning is preferable to the usual, narrower one. Otherwise, it's a bad move. (Bad Moves: Low redefinition, By Julian Baggini)

"People who tell you they're not superstitious are lying." - Frankie Dettori, Jockey, Observer Magazine, 5 January 2002.

Dettori... believes that everyone is superstitious. The problem is, of course, that some people claim not to be. If, however, he adopts the maxim "People who tell you they're not superstitious are lying," then no such avowals count as evidence against him. Accepting you are superstitious supports his thesis; denying that you are simply shows you are a liar, and again fits the thesis.
(Bad Moves: Immunisation against error)

HWMNBN seems to commit a lot of bad moves.

And an interesting argument against political correctness/censorship for fear of offence:

As John Stuart Mill persuasively argued, mere offence cannot be the basis for a restriction of action, or else we'd have to ban anything that anyone takes offence at. Which given the variety of human responses means just about everything. (which does need qualification, but I shan't bother)


Something I posted in a comments box on marriage:

"From a realist’s perspective, marriage is really a holdover from the old days when society needed people to form childbearing units for the good of society. Now besides contraceptives we have, if anything, too many people.

Even if you want to talk about commitment and such, I’d argue that marriage actually demonstrates a lack of commitment. It is easy to sign your life away on a piece of paper, chaining you to some other person, but to actually put in the effort to make a relationship work, and stay with your partner through thick and thin over decades – now that is what I call commitment.

A silly analogy might help for those who are befuddled – if you lock someone in a room and he doesn’t leave, you cannot say that he was staying the room of his own free will. But if you leave the door open and he doesn’t leave, you can then truly say that he didn’t want to leave.

Marriage is really just symbolic (unless you want to apply for a HDB flat). What’s in a name?"


The Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense: A Guide for Edgy People

Book Description
Have you ever wanted to impress your friends with your erudition and sophistication? Are you edgy enough that you could pass muster as an innovative and original thinker, if only you knew what to say? If so, this is the book for you. Within a few short minutes, you’ll have learnt all you could surely want to know about the thoughts and language of the world’s most fashionable intellectuals. Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, even Alain de Botton, they’re all here.

The world, of course, is full of fashionable nonsense. Feng Shui, pilates, Naomi Campbell, Pop Idol, Manolo Blahnik footwear, the list is endless. However, this dictionary is concerned with one particular species of fashionable nonsense, the kind found in certain unswept corners of academia.

Have you ever wanted to know what phrases like scopic drive, subversive performativity, hegemonic discourse mean? No? Well that’s sensible, and fortunately this book won’t tell you. What it will tell you, however, is how to salt them into your conversation should you ever be trapped at a party with a crowd of trendy academics.

So here you have an ironic user’s guide, a slim volume of cod pedantry. It offers an array of ludicrous, exaggerated, self-contradicting definitions and explanations of jargon popular amongst trendy academics and intellectuals. The result is very funny. But there is a serious thought here; much of the language in question is in the service of ideas that are not only silly and wrong, but also bad and harmful. This book is a contribution to the fight back on behalf of reason and truth.

For decades academics in many universities have been churning out fashionable nonsense, creating entirely new academic disciplines such as difference feminism, deconstructionism, the sociology of knowledge. Common to all is clotted jargon, tortured syntax and an unreadable style hiding the fact that these writers are not actually saying anything. In The Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense two of Britain's leading cultural commentators provide a handy, accessible guide to the various trendy "discourses" that have steadily eroded our culture's foundation of reason.


Eton or the zoo?

"The discovery of a new species of human poses exciting questions about who we are. How would we treat this close relative if one were found alive today?


His very existence among us would make us question all over again, what it is to be human.

We are not used to this because our ancestors successfully killed off all our close relatives.

This has created a chasm between us and the other animals, a chasm so big that religion went as far as to say that we are not even related to them. Humans have souls and they do not.

Darwin put a stop to this nonsense with his theory of evolution, but amazingly the blindingly obvious truth he discovered is still resisted by large sections of the human population.

They stubbornly continue to insist that we are some kind of special creation.

The arrival of "Mini-Man" is going to give them nightmares.

How can he be "semi-special"? That won't make sense. He can't very well have a semi-soul.


Personally, I long to be told that he can talk.

It will make him a much more effective bridge between us and the apes, forcing religions to re-examine many of their basic beliefs.

In theory, the existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion, but I can already hear the fanatics claiming that he has been put on earth by the Devil simply to test our faith.

Which brings up an even more intriguing question: does Mini-Man perform special burial rituals and does he therefore believe in an afterlife? "

Those who wrote in to contest that mini-man will destroy religion forget that most religions claim that we, humans, are special in some way.

Mini-man does not just prove evolution (yet again), it challenges the presumption that humans are special, and specifically the presumption by the followers of the three main monotheistic faiths (which aren't actually representative of most other religions) that we were created to rule over all other species.


Abortion row fears over eye cure - "US scientists have successfully restored a woman's vision using eye cells taken from aborted foetuses."

Mark Henderson: Junk medicine: Anti-vaccine activists - "Homoeopathy is not the only source of magic and miracles in which McTaggart believes. She is also keen on spiritual healing, psychic powers and other paranormal bunkum. The reasons are spelt out in The Field, a triumph of pseudoscience purporting to chart discoveries that “seemed to overthrow the current laws of biology, chemistry and physics”. The Universe, she argues, is pervaded by a field of vibrations “like the Force in Star Wars”. This connects human minds and bodies in “a packet of pulsating energy constantly interacting with this vast energy sea” and explains the supernatural phenomena she accepts as real. There is no evidence for such gibberish, which rests on misconceptions about quantum mechanics. This bit of physics is so weird that the great Richard Feynman famously pronounced that nobody really understands it — but it is often invoked by believers in the paranormal. About the only thing experts agree on is that quantum effects do not support homoeopathy, extra- sensory perception or any of the other nonsense in The Field."

Colostrum Cookies (Colostrum - The thin, human breast milk produced shortly after delivery and before the regular breast milk is produced. Colostrum is rich in protein and immune factors that can help the infant resist infection.)

Thanks to "Zero Tolerance", You are Not Safe - Zero Tolerance is reminiscent of the SAF's security policy.

Board game cheats keeping children on their toes - "All young people need preparing for the outside world and playing board games with tricky adults is a useful introduction to that."

Nipple Piercing Led to Lactation - "Doctors in Boston report that a young woman began producing milk, apparently because her nipple rings stimulated her breasts into thinking she was nursing. This is believed to be the first time that anyone has reported a connection between body piercing and lactation."
This makes Milkmen: Fathers Who Breastfeed just about plausible.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home." - Sir Winston Churchill


Muppets - Upidee

A silly song is silly sung
The words are weird
The rhyme is wrong
If you don't like it that's okay
'Cos we will sing it anyway

Your foot is in my pumpkin pie
Underwear with ham on rye
Chicken lips and silly things
We're unemployed so let's all sing

If all the maidens said 'sha boom'
My belly button left the room
The northern mill's can fix me stray
But we are fools so what the hey


First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller


One of my sister's many superstitions is that tea tastes better if the milk is poured into the cup first. I don't care what famous scientists or the British Standards Institute might think - short of using a mass spectrometer, no one is going to be able to tell the difference if you pour the milk in later.

Ever since coming to know of my sister's strange insistence, I've been wanting to conduct experiments to see if she can tell the difference, for even though, unlike my brother-in-law, she is capable of distinguishing between durian and pear, I doubt her taste buds are refined to that degree.

I last tried something of this nature last year in a youth hostel in Wales, but she forgot to drink the tea, it became cold, she refused to drink it and my brother-in-law told her of my grand scheme, so that was the end of that. Yesterday, I was making myself a rare cup of tea, and she asked me to make one for her too, so I saw my chance.

I presented two apparently identical cups of tea to my sister, one of which was made with the milk poured in first and one of which had the milk poured in last. After some protest, she took a sip from each cup, then lamely pronounced the tea "too tannic", even though I had put the teabags in for only 2 minutes (and even though one of the self-proclaimed experts on tea-making recommends that the tea be allowed to brew for 3 minutes). When I pointed the former point out, she claimed that microwaved water tasted different from boiled water, so she couldn't tell the difference.

Today, I was reminding her to tell me if she wanted a cup of tea, and when she was making hot drinks after dinner, I asked if she wanted a cup and she declined. Then I noticed that she was preparing a cup of tea for herself, so she had already conceded defeat. Bah.

My sister is very anal about pronunciation - even more so than me at my apogee (or nadir, depending on how you look at it). However, though her pronunciation might be almost impeccable (she always ignores me when I correct hers), you cannot trust her to tell you if a certain pronunciation is wrong.

Many a time, she claims that my pronunciation of a certain word is off, yet when I check the dictionary, I find that it is correct. Some examples that come to mind are "modem" (mow damn), "arctic" (are tick) and "leisure" (lee sure). Of course, what she does is claim that the dictionary is wrong, so what I do is set the WAV file of the pronunciation on loop, and she complains that I'm being howwid (sic).

I'd get an OED, or a subscription to its online version, but I'm pretty sure that she'll claim that the pronunciation listed there is wrong too, since in her book only she is right and everyone else is wrong, so.


As those who have been unfortunate enough to cross swords with him know, The Associate aka He Who Must Not be Named aka mindgame aka nw.t. has a uniquely perverse style of argument. First, he thoroughly debases himself, pulling himself down as low as he possibly can. Then he argues that you are a hypocrite, and tries to drag you down to, if not past his level, then somewhere near it. A case in point would be instructive.

The Associate argues that all who hold moral principles are hypocrites, for it is never possible to adhere to them totally, and compromises have to be made in the face of logic, reality and extenuating circumstances. Principles are thus never applied in totality to their fullest extent.

For example, in his book a deontologist (someone more concerned with principles than consequences) should always ignore the consequences of actions and only care about the principles behind them, whilst a consequentialist (someone more concerned with consequences than principles) should always ignore principles and only look at the consequences of actions. To do otherwise would be rank and vile hypocrisy. He himself is free of this so-called hypocrisy, so he claims, because the guiding principle in his life (so he claims) is self-interest.

However, one problem with following principles to the ends of the earth is that if two principles take one in opposite directions, one must compromise some way or other - and be labelled a hypocrite by nw.t. This sort of argument, though, is analogous to saying that since one cannot live forever, there's no point in trying to extend one's life and so one should just kill himself as soon as possible. Since nw.t cannot become the ruler of the universe, he might as well sell himself into slavery.

Another problem is that everything can be justified ultimately by citing "self-interest". Even actions not overtly in one's self-interest can be found, one way or another, to somehow be in one's self-interest, if for no other reason than one's liking them. Thus, self-interest is not a moral principle per se, but more of an end; one could just as well claim that doing what one feels is "right" or "good" is one's moral principle. This isn't wrong in and of itself, but he should stop lambasting people for hypocrisy when it is not immediately apparent that his moral positions are on any firmer ground.

[Ed: HWMNBN says he has modified his stance with regard to self-interest (though he is silent about so-called hypocrisy) which now is that everyone should recognise that self-interest, whether aggregated or individual, has been the basis for all past morals and should be the basis of future morals, and people should recognise that. Or something like that. So the above will stand as a rebuttal of his original position.]


Someone: but, like I said, I don't drink much tea. ; )

Me: coffee person?

Someone: used to be.. ; )
not anymore though.

Me: you're a seventh day adventist!

Someone: oei! : (


"Strong armies do not [necessarily] mean war. Strong armies can mean peace" - someone on Singapore, whose identity I forgot, being interviewed on the radio

This person might seem to think that mutually assured destruction is a viable defence strategy, but in the Singapore context, his meaning is probably that Singapore enjoys peace because of our strong army. Be that as it may, having the strongest army in a region stirs up a good deal of resentment (see Israel) and could possibly catalyse an arms race, so this strategy is not as foolproof as it might seem. Besides which, it costs a lot of money. On the other hand, I can't see us in an EU-like union with Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

But then, since Singapore has no natural resources besides its harbour (which can be ruined with the sinking of a few well-placed ships) and its location as an air hub (a role that can be fulfilled by KLIA), and a war would destroy our infrastructure, kill our people and cause all our Foreign and Local Talent to flee, there can be no economic gain in invading Singapore. An invasion would have to be for the purpose of playing to a local audience. Either that, or in the pursuit of some vaguely strategic aim.


I was in Chatterbox trying to spend an hour working on my second Philosophy short paper when a friend and her friend ambushed me and tried to convert me (if you need to ask to what religion, then just think of the one most obsessed with capturing new adherents, as opposed to gaining them through demographical change), so there went my hour. I do not care to transcribe the details of the hour long debate, but suffice to say that neither party was convinced. It was the first time I'd debated about this sort of thing in real life against a fervent opponent for an extended period of time, so I suppose that explains my disappointing performance, as did my lacking of my laptop with my favourite concordance site loaded. Ah well - I have many causes, and it is impossible to be the foremost advocate of each one.

Naturally, I think my side came up on top, because the other side either ignored my arguments and points, made bland, unqualified and unsubstantiated assertions, tried to prove the bible using other parts of the bible (ie beg the question) or kept shifting the goal posts without good cause (or indeed any cause). An example of the latter might illustrate my point. I alluded to Mark 11:24, where it says that whatever you pray for, you shall get, and the response was that there were certain premises that one had to satisfy before that promise would hold. What those premises were, and more importantly, how and why they were now suddenly needed, was not explained. (See also: Are There Really Any Contradictions in Star Trek?, which uses "tried-and-tested apologetic methods honed and refined over thousands of years to [prove that] Star Trek contains no contradictions at all!". Moral of the story: Given enough time and brainpower, anything can be explained away, even if ingenuously)

In fact, about the strongest point that the other side made was about exorcism, and even then, when I pointed out that other religions also had exorcism, and that the signs of possession were very similar to those of mental illness, all I got was a bland assertion that exorcists of other religions "didn't work", and only Christian exorcisms did, and I didn't see the point of replying with an equally bland assertion.

For some reason, I also got psycho-analysed regarding my raison d'etre. I didn't accept the argument that if there's no reason for one to live, one should kill oneself, for if there's no reason to live, that does not mean that there's a reason to kill oneself.

Friend: i notice ur last message to me starting with "oh god. A friend's trying to convert me." :) am i reading too much into the first two words of your sms? ;)

Me: ... don't be facetious

Friend: :p jus† s†uck a† a programming assignmen† and clearing ou† my sms inbox so pls forgive me if my pos†ings are some sor†a crazed.


Friend: oops...


I have come to the conclusion that Law is stupid.

Essentially, Law is a codification of common sense. One might argue that this codification is necessary to provide a firm base for society to function and commercial transactions to be carried out, but really it all boils down to common sense. In fact, the Law is not all that firm a base: law can be made through precedent, and judges' rulings change the principles of law. When judges extend and clarify the law by making precedent-setting judgments, all they are really doing is exercising their common sense. It's quite ridiculous, really: to be binding legally, common sense has to be supported by a judge's ruling.

So really all you should need to do is to be able to argue your case based on common sense - except that the law makes you justify this common sense with a whole heap of principles, past cases and rulings, which essentially still boil down to the same thing - common sense.

Furthermore, even though Law tries to codify principles, some things cannot be defined. What is "reasonable", for example? To define what is "reasonable" in a case, lawyers seek recourse in yet more dialetic, rhetoric and common sense.

I say that it's just a way of creating demand for lawyers since normal people do not have time to plough through all this mass of extraneous and ultimately pointless information which gets more and more unnecessarily complicated every year. Very sneaky, this.


Contrary to popular belief, weaving in and out of traffic recklessly isn't the quickest way to your destination. It is, however, the quickest way to an accident. So if you value your life, don't speed.

- Traffic Police advertisement displaying faulty logic at Kent Ridge Bus Terminal

They'll do and say anything, even if logically implausible, in the quest to stop people from speeding.

Trust the English Teacher to ask: 'I think 'speed' is the error. It's a transitive verb, yeah?'


I saw a copy of Cosmopolitan in a booth at the Forum (in school) marked "not suitable for the young". Bah.

I had a Watermelon "Milkshake" at the Engineering canteen, and it was basically watermelon juice with evaporated milk dribbled into it. I feel so ripped off.

Next semester there's a USP module on Evolution. I wonder if any believers in Creation 'Science' will be taking it, and if they will pass if they attempt to use their pseudo-scientific theories.

The existence of racial stereotypes in Singapore is blamed on colonial rule. But then stereotypes endure because very often they are true; false ones die out with time. Though one can argue that the initial imposition of the stereotypes caused the races to believe in them and perpetuate them.

Apparently the image of the state as the maintainer of order, without which the unwashed masses will split along racial lines and start killing each other is another part of the colonial inheritance, like the Sikh exception for uniforms and hair in the Slave Army, corporeal punishment and unnatural sex laws.


[On a very mathematical model of price-wage increases] If you go on to third and fourth year, they might show you the model. So that's an incentive to do third year economics.

We are back in square one (to)

After you've done Economics you'll come out into the world as economically literate students, and we'll be very proud of you. Singapore needs more economically literate students so we can carry out sensible policy discussions.

Singapore has one of the most volatile economies in the world. In 1999, GDP growth was 10.1%. In 2001 - the recession, it was negative 2%. The GDP spread was 12%. That is a world record. Singaporeans like to boast that they are number 1 in the world. You don't see this reported in the press.

[On useless construction] I see them digging the roads here and then patching them up. Maybe they're following Keynesian theories... It's marvelous. Singapore is an example of [implementing] Keynesian remedies.

The recession is elevated (alleviated)

[On supply shocks] Unless OPEC can engineer a 5% increase [in oil prices] every year. But they won't dare to do that. The whole world will bomb them, they'll be invaded by the USA. Not just the USA. All the non-OPEC countries.

Apart from the fact that I can't shut up, and go through life talking and generating all this verbiage.

Win friends and influence graders. Write clearly.

Mill and Berlin are very clear. Well, no. They're clear to me because I've read them a million times.

[On the Hotel New World disaster] We had to sue the owner of the hotel. Of course, the owner also died. He was found... in that car park.

Celebrating the Pondicherry polis... It says 'vive la Pondichéry Police', which is not very grammatical French, but it is French after all. (police)

Of course there's the eternal conundrum - what race does Michael Jackson belong to?

[On what country the Andaman Islands belong to] I'll give you a clue. It's a very bigt country. It's not Singapore.

There are often people walking around in the corridor whom I think are Chinese or Malay, but they have blond hair... Vikings.

[On flying from Singapore to the USA] Your racial category changes simply because you took a bloody plane.

My aim is to offend at least 2 people every lecture... I want to offend at least 10% of the people every lecture... or at least to get 10% of the people thinking about things that they've never thought about before.

Race, ethnicity - questionable. Racial purity - garbage.

[On an essay topic about coming up with a general moral principle] One of the reasons I gave you that was to impress on you how difficult it is, so that when you came to read Mill you's feel sorry for the guy.

I made this passage into an MCQ passage for the exam last semester and people died like flies because they couldn't figure out what it meant.

[On social mandates] Why don't you get up and come to school dressed like a, like a Confucian scholar with one of those winged gauze hats? Why do you want to look like other people?

Why does the exception prove the rule? You should try it out in your lab sometime. You get a result - 'this is the exception that proves the rule'. No no no no no. That's not how it works.

If your friend is deluded and thinks that all Adam Sandler movies are great, you are right to take him aside and say: Look, there's other things. There're much better things out there. Things you should not do: You shouldn't burn his Adam Sandler video collection. You shouldn't force him not to go to any more Adam Sandler movies (there're)

If you want to do an MBA, I wish you good luck because there are lots of people walking down the streets with MBAs and no jobs.

Now I've double masters. I am doing my third. I think it is very hard to take me on.

'Not during'. You see: famous legal drafting. Always drafting in the negative. Why do you start by saying 'not during', when you can simply say 'during the term'? But you must put it in the negative so ordinary people don't understand. *laughs from audience* Then lawyers become very important people.

I normally don't give revision lectures, do you're lucky. This year I'm in a compassionate mood.

[On Open Economy Macroeconomics] Taylor is an American. He writes for an American audience and all they care about is whether Bush or Kerry wins, not about Singapore.

If you can find a demand curve in Economics that is upward sloping, let me know.

The government doesn't care about the supply of apples. Sometimes it cares about the price of eggs. If not housewives will complain.

It is one of the most boring questions in economics. I get very irritated when, during lunch at the arts canteen, one of my colleagues asks me... where do you think the Sing dollar is heading?... They want to go on holiday. Send their kids overseas for university.

[If] you don't believe me - when you graduate, you go and become a foreign exchange trader. Either you earn a lot of money or you get your fingers burnt and jump down from a tall building in Shenton Way.

[Lecturer: We are very visual today. A heap of photos and videos.] Time to run away.
Security in the SAF

I actually posted this 2 weeks back on Days Were The Those, a blog on stories of Slavery, but so far only one comment's been posted there. Perhaps I'll get a better response here.

NB: To the author's best knowledge, all of the below is true. Clarifications and corrections are welcomed.

A grand unifying theme in almost all of the SAF's policies and actions is their unceasing commitment to the core values of Stupidity, Sadism and Senselessness. These 3 values are clearly demonstrated in the SAF's attitude toward security.

Security is important in Armed Forces and other such places to prevent important information from falling into the hands of enemies. However, there are aspects of the SAF's security policy that appear curious to the untrained, who naturally believe that security policy is meant to prevent important information from falling into malign hands. All is made clear, though, when one realises that 'security' is a sham, used by the SAF to oppress and cow lowly slaves (ie Recruits, Privates, Lance Corporals, Corporals and even Third Sergeants). A look at some examples would be instructive.

Culture of secrecy

Slaves are warned not to tell third parties of any heinous abuses that occur within the system, or otherwise of what goes on beyond the walls of the concentration camp. However, there is a small complication in that in countries that practise conscription, if you draft at least half the male populace (many of them unwilling) much information, albeit mostly of the mundane and unimportant kind, is going to leak out. Like any good Armed Forces though, the SAF prefers to ignore this fact and continues to proclaim that soldiers are not to divulge any information regarding their military activities to third parties.

Dangerously, this leads to a lack of accountability. If third parties do not know what the armed forces are doing, there is much potential for abuse to occur and inefficiencies to result, and indeed that is what has happened, as all who have been slaves before know. For example, take the murder by drowning of Second Sergeant Hu Enhuai during the Combat Survival course. A not insignificant number of people knew about the questionable training practises that involved mock drowning, but it took someone's death (but more importantly, the rapid spread of this gossip through the medium of the internet, making a cover-up operation futile) for this gross abuse to be revealed to the public and debated in Parliament and by the populace at large.

As a friend adds: I believe there was a similar case in the ninties where a guy was killed (combat engineers) due to the negligence and stupidity of his superior officers. But, this case was not at all publicised. Why is this so? The govt likes to cite 'national security' as a blanket excuse, but I think that as citizens of an (ostensibly) democratic country, we have to right to know. Plus, there is almost no way for ordinary citizens or even MPs to have a say in how the SAF is run. In other countries which practice conscription, the military is expected to be fully accountable to the public. (This is with the exception of places like China and Russia, but well, let's not go there).

The SAF dictates that slaves are required to follow the chain of command: first report their problem or issue to their superior, then his superior, then his superior's superior and so on until the unit's Commanding Officer (CO) is reached. However, just who is a Private supposed to go to if he has a complaint about his Company's Officer Commanding (OC)? The OC himself? Surely not. And what about if he has something to say about his CO? Who then can he approach?

The SAF says it allows for such eventualities, and says the next step is to write to the Armed Forces Council or call the SAF Counselling Hotline. However, if a slave has already complained to his CO before calling the hotline, he is sure to be a marked man and there will be hell to pay. Besides which, who is the Armed Forces Council (presumably composed of senior officers) going to side with? A private? Or one of their own?

As for the SAF Hotline, it is more for counselling than anything else, and is widely reported as having little or no power to aid slaves in dire plights. Besides which, slaves are often told that employers have access to the SAF's records on them, and that those going to local universities will be unable to enter them if they offend the SAF or declare themselves to be stressed and/or depressed (and thus possibly be sent to see the SAF psychiatrists) and so many might be afraid of being perceived as stirring up trouble or revealing the depths to which their state-sanctioned torture has taken them. Furthermore, even assuming that these 2 channels are efficacious, they are sure to take a long time to make their weight felt.

To its credit, the SAF is trying to change this by fully bringing matters such as Hu Enhuai's deaht into the public (though that is also due to the power of the Internet) and having a safety hotline, but the problems remain nonetheless.

Digital Media

Take the SAF's policy on digital media, for example. Diskettes, Thumb Drives, CD-Rs, CD-RWs and the like are all contraband items. The rationale for this is that computer data is easily compromised by means of digital media, which can then be brought out of camp. However, all diskette drives in SAF camps are locked (or meant to be locked, at any rate), SAF computers (excepting I-Net computers, which have no access to the MINDEF Intranet) cannot recognise thumb drives (since they use Windows 95 or Windows 98 First Edition) and there are no CD-R or CD-RW drives in SAF computers (and external ones would require drivers and be harder to smuggle in anyway), so it would be impossible to transfer information out using them anyway. Anyhow, even if there were CD-R drives in SAF computers, CD-Rs can be written to only once, so pre-burnt (and finalised) CD-Rs should be legal.

Going by this logic, pen and paper should be contraband items in SAF camps too, since they can be used to smuggle classified information out of SAF camps. Hell, they should just subject all soldiers to mind wipes before they book out. As for the danger of infecting SAF systems with viruses, what self respecting virus would infect Microsoft Mail (1993)?

Meanwhile, those who enter camps in cars (ie many or most people of higher rank) are subjected to only cursory checks of their boots and undercarriages. Cars are a great way to smuggle contraband into SAF camps.

One of the SAF's favourite mottos is that "The greatest threat to security is the belief that there is no threat". Perhaps, but surely the next greatest threat to security is a morbid obsession with imagined or inflated threats (read: CD-Rs and Camera Phones). Indeed, guard duty personnel (or whoever checks bags when people book in) are told to look for such things as pirated CDs (not because they are a security threat but because they are illegal), camera phones and CD-Rs, so that people who bring those items into SAF camps can be made to sign extra (do extra weekend duties) or otherwise punished. In this crazed pogrom, it is a sure bet that other, more dangerous items like plastic explosives, bombs and such will be missed, not to mention the amount of time and energy expended in the fruitless witch hunt, whose true purpose is to stop slaves from bringing in luxury items, pictures to look at or games to play so as to make their years of indenture less intolerable.

Unnecessary classification

"Hell, boy, didn't you ever work for the government? They'd classify sex if they could. There doesn't have to be a reason; it's just their policy."

- Chuck Freudenberg to Daniel B. Davis. The Door into Summer, Robert A. Heinlein

What was true in Heinlein's day and country is equally true in ours. How else can one account for the rampant classifying of such National Secrets as a Guard Duty list ('Restricted') and the guidelines for holding a military wedding (also 'Restricted'). To get a documents true security classification, it is thus necessary to downgrade its security classification by one: Restricted documents become Unclassified, Confidential Restricted, Secret Confidential and Top Secret Secret.

During my period of full-time slavery, someone who had gotten his ticket of parole (a reservist) commented that "Restricted stuff will embarass the SAF if it is leaked". Indeed, innocuous material is classified merely to avoid the scrutiny and gaze of the public.

Classification of innocuous material also means that people monitoring security have more material to oversee and protect, and thus impedes them in their quest to prevent real security breaches.

Overseas camps, Mindef and CMPB

Overseas camps, Mindef and CMPB provide an instructive contrast with other SAF camps in their implementation of security policies.

In overseas camps, laptops, digital cameras, CD-Rs, pirated CDs and what not are not only not banned but are practically SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) items - everyone has them. This is so even though there is arguably more at risk - the compromising of the details of SAF training areas and methods, and other materials from the SAF Intranet (since overseas camps are connected to Singapore's SAF Intranet). Among other reasons, this is because there is no Military Security Department (MSD) to bother them, and to prevent the permanent staff (permstaff) from going mad with boredom, and to cajole gullible NSFs into going for year-long overseas attachments.

Meanwhile, computers in Mindef and CMPB have both internet access and floppy and disk drives (how else do you think all those inane games and semi-pornographic airbrushed pictures of post-implant Japanese lolitas in near-compromising positions get into the SAF intranet?)

Rank and Security

Despite the SAF's senseless policies on security, it is easy to get around them if you have rank. In theory, no one should breach security, but as with all things in the SAF, rank makes everything (well, almost everything) possible. After all, is the Lance Corporal Regimental Policeman (RP) going to report the Second Lieutenant's bringing of a laptop into camp? Even if he does, will his Sergeant let him? And if by some miracle, this breach of security is reported to the Second Lieutenant's OC, is he going to punish him? After all, as everyone knows, rank makes people smart and sensible - enlistees don't know how to think for themselves (and thus prevent a breach of security), only commanders do.

Interestingly, it is precisely those of higher rank who are more likely to leak classified information. The nameless enemy nation is not going to buy out a private and ask him about how his SAF platoon flanks the enemy - it is going to bribe a Captain into revealing the specifications of the latest prototype weapon being tested.


With sufficient thought, more useless and self-defeating aspects of SAF security policy could be thought up, but I trust the above will suffice to show that the various senseless and draconian 'security' measures of the SAF are thus as air for those with rank. Security and the various policies cooked up to protect it is a sham - used to terrify, intimidate and oppress lowly-ranking NSFs, or perhaps a way for the MSD to justify its existence.
Some thoughts by students in the Reason and Persuasion (PH1101E / GEM1104) module:

- I'd just like to say that at the end of this module, I'm still hopelessly confused, that I feel I know nothing. In which, I think that Socrates has achieved something and made me wiser by realising that I know nothing.

- I would just like to add that it is true that at the end of this module, I too realised that I've ended up with feeling i know nothing and worse still, by confusing myself more by finding ways to reason and persuade. Every questions and answers just seem to go around in circles with no specific answers and no absolute solution. Should we settle for such or should we try to reason more and end up confusing ourselves more... Hmmmm.. I have to sit down and think again... this is adding to the workload for my brain... and to finish off, i do not deny the fact that my brain cells are dying... but nevertheless this is one interesting module.. warning, it's only for deep people... (anyone going to play Socrates here?)

- i feel utterly lost and wonder aloud what philosophy is all about. maybe this was what socrates and descartes all planned to accomplish.. confuse the aspiring individuals who wish to understand philosophy.. maybe that is the gist of philo.. to confuse and to be confused. :)

- how is philosophy practical in today's capitalist world?What would a Philosophy major do once he comes out into the corporate world?The fact remains that Philosophy is in danger of becoming an 'extinct' subject..much like the dead language of Latin.This is one reason why I definitely am not considering a major in this.Not because i am lost in it but simply because Philosophy is going to find it very difficult to pay my bills.Would any kind soul care to enlighten me?

- In china, the philosophy textbook tole me that "philosophy contains all kinds of sciences."
It is a kind of science which can make you more clever."
We learned 'dialectical materialism'.The contents are mainly the relationship between materials and consciousness, and how should we deal with the things in real life according to such kind of world view.
But now the philosophy is totally different. I think sometimes it is like sophism. It made me confused but not clever.
Why there is such a difference of philosophy between China and Singapore, since it is not related to politics?

- What I didn't like about this module was how it forced me to actually think and how, by that, made me realise how extremely dumb I am. I feel my positive freedom being limited here. Grrr...

One thing that I realised is that if you are looking for answers, philosophy is certainly the last place you should go. So far this module has made me aware of methods of discourse and arguments that I never considered before or knew of. I don't know if that's going to help me find those answers but heck, it's been a really interesting semster.

PS. I still hated how it made me feel dumb. Or maybe... I was already dumb and this module just brought that little fact into focus, helping me uncover the true "me", the dumb "me"? Aargh... See what PH1101E has done to me?!?

- My geo lecturer once told me that,in FASS,they dont teach us specific skills like accounting or medical skills..but one of the things that we will learn in FASS,is to think critically about things that you had never thought of in the past..Although you may find that you are getting dumber day by day but the fact that you know that there is something you dont know is a form of new knowledge... isn't it?

- I was made to chase the wind during every lecture whereby the profoundness of the lecture(including the lecturer) made it very hard for me to comprehend what was actually going on. I think it will be the most confusing and profounding module that i will ever take in my whole life.
Til the last few lectures, i was still unabe to figure out what good it will bring by reasoning and arguing our way through the situations.

- Well, I must, too, admit that I am all more confused after taking this module, with all those readings! ha!... For sure, I will never employ any of the arguments and reasonings that I have learnt in this module to my daily life (in my argument with friends, etc).. I just think that it would make us all just as confused.

- Frankly speaking, i took this module without knowing much about it. I was told by a fellow friend who took it that this module teaches you how to argue.

After 3 months of philosophy, i am still very much at square zero. Simply because, this module has done nothing but to bring me in circles and i felt i have accomplished nothing out of it at all. In short, it's too abstract for me.

There are many many more, but I don't care to read all the 115 (at last count) of them.
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