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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Lyrics for a song my little bird wrote for the FCINUS (Freethinkers' Community In NUS) (the melody is not done yet):

Our Thoughts are Free

1.We've ventured on a long journey
Uncharted yet by most
To forge a brand new destiny
Without deities or ghosts

2.We'll stay the course right to the end
And light the path of truth
No need for intangible beings
To tell us what to do

Chorus:
So let's move into the future
Because our thoughts are free
So let's celebrate together
Because our thoughts are free

1.No more shall we tremble with cold
Amongst the lies of old
We'll grasp the future with our hands
To end the age of cant

2.Unbounded by blind fantasy
Yet filled with hopes and dreams
With every move we'll strive forward
Until truth stands supreme

Chorus:
So let's move into the future
Because our thoughts are free
So let's celebrate together
Because our thoughts are free


Cute :) Though I vehemently opposed making this, or indeed anything our official anthem, just because.

[Addendum: An MP3 of this song is now available!]
Agnus Dei

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Christians like to refer to themselves as sheep, guided by the shepherd that is their lord. No doubt they feel comforted knowing that a shepherd watches over them and protects them. Yet, it doesn't take much to consider the implications of being a sheep.

Sheep are wolly-headed, easily led off (for good or for evil, no one knows) and prone to falling into the herd mentality. If this were not so, they would not need shepherds to watch over them. And because shepherds understand that sheep are just that, they do not blame them for their actions, even if they are greatly inconvenienced by them. Indeed, if a sheep goes astray, it is the shepherd who is blamed. After all, sheep do not know any better, and the shepherd is the one who has been entrusted with their care.

It might also be profitable to ask why shepherds watch over and protect sheep. Is it because they are charitable, kind or good-hearted? Nay. Shepherds are self-interested beings, like almost all other humans, so we do not expect that they will spend most of their day watching their flock as it grazes merely out of the goodness of their heart. Of course, it's also a good excuse for them play the pan pipes, that's more of a fringe benefit than anything else.

Shepherds, then, have 3 uses for sheep. They either fleece them for their wool, kill them for their meat or screw them when no one is looking (in the absence of willing and available human females). One does not have relationships with sheep, for they are meant to be exploited by their shepherds.


"We enter church, and we have to say, 'We have erred and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep,' when what we want to say is, 'Why are we made to err and stray like lost sheep?'" - Thomas Hardy

[Cross-posted to Recovering Christians]

[Ed: I just realised that this is close reading. HAH!]
"Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke." - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

***

"EG1415 Engineering Professionalism

1.1 What is this course about?
This course mainly focuses on the ethical dimension of the engineering profession. Engineering is based on scientific reasoning where data and logic are clear cut in many cases. However, in dealing with real world professional ethical problems, the engineer finds that the issues are not that clear cut any more. Often the problems and the issues are hidden and solutions are unclear.

By the way, this course is not meant to teach you morality! [Ed: Emphasis mine] It is merely to enable you to appreciate the kinds of problems that can occur during the practice of engineering, what approaches you can take in resolving them, what roles professional societies play in setting professional standards etc."

Maybe this course is not meant to teach you morality, but rather how not to get caught and how to cover your ass if your product blows up!


Also, found while trying to end my module mapping nightmare (I hate module mapping):

"Reference Texts (Pick Any One You Like as a REFERENCE, not main textbook, because there is none! [Ed: Emphasis original])

... You may use any earlier editions if you have bought second-hand textbooks. You may borrow the latest editions from the library if you are in a tight budget. The main textbook is actually a set of lecture notes provided by the lecturer, also updated just before the actual lecture because Dr *** believes in giving fresh examples relating to the theories. Hence, skip lectures at your own risk."

***

A source informs me that Hotmail has upgraded her account with a 25MB disk quota. Could they finally be doing their part for their loyal non-US customers? Perhaps; last week I noticed the login screen no longer promised a 250MB account only to customers in the USA and Puerto Rico.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Spirit of Enterprise

"VOTE FOR THE ENTREPRENEURS THAT MOST INSPIRE YOU!

With the help of students from 7 local universities and schools, the Spirit of Enterprise once again unveils over 100 entrepreneurs whose stories deserve to be told.

These entrepreneurs have been nominated for the 2005 Spirit of Enterprise Awards. They have all shared their stories with our students in the form of an interview. Read their remarkable stories and VOTE for the ones you deem most inspiring.

Help us decide which 40 entrepreneurs will receive the Spirit of Enterprise in September 2005."


One of my votes went to: Chew Hon Chin of Ghost Buster

"A geomancer and fortune teller, Mr Chew Hon Chin (or Master Chew as he is respectably addressed) possesses unique skills not easily acquired. More impressively, he marries the traditional and the modern. Unlike most businessmen in traditional trades, Master Chew harness modern technology, marketing and law knowledge in conducting his business.

Please describe your business.
I started out 3 years ago, when I was told by the gods in my dreams to come out and help people. When I first started out I wasn't self confident enough, but after gaining confidence, I started this business.

What made you embark on this venture choice?
I believe I started out maybe because of heaven's will, because I was cursed. I didn't use to believe it, I was not superstitious, after that I realised something strange happening to me, subsequently I started learning this trade, after I succeeded, I was told by the gods to come out and help people."

I still have the business card of his I found in a bus.


Another vote went to: Lee Tai Cheow of Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice & Porridge (because I like the food there)

Unfortunately those were the only 2 brands I recognised.

***

Someone on Tomorrow.sg publishing "10 Worst Blowjob Mistakes" and "Racist blog on Malays":

"I think those complaining about 'sex' and racism needs to open their eyes to the world as it is now, and not dwell in a sanitized fantasyland of their own imagination.

The Gottermadureng site is just the poorly crafted ranting of a single deranged nut. You ain't see nothing yet if you want to talk about racist hate mongering. The article on blowjobs hardly qualifies as 'sex' to attract readership - any quasi literate with an internet connection should know the difference between porn and articles for adult readership.

With freedom of speech comes freedom of choice - the readers can choose what they want to read and what they do not want to read. To insist on the banning of what they do not want to read infringes on the rights of others and makes the medium more narrow and myopic.

If I wanted self-censoring sanitized stuff, there's more then enough of that in other local media. If you cannot accept that there are racists around, and that adults at this time and age can actually talk/joke about sex... my advise is – please skip this site and find or make a prim and proper, 100% politically correct and sanitized alternative."

Someone else: "As was said by someone previously, if you are not a rascist, reading this guy's blog will not make you one. If you are a rascist, no amount of Racial Harmony Day or National Day songs will de-program you. Can't we all just agree that there will be such people around? Be it here, or anywhere else?

Notice the discussions this (badly written) blog has generated. Haven't we all become more aware that such attitudes exist? Aren't we all more just a teensy beensy more conscious and mindful now whenever a rascist remark is made? Haven't we all matured in our thinking (even if it's for just a few microns)?

Now do you see the ideals of free speech and zero-censorship?

This is the internet. There will be such people sprouting their extremist views.

Accept it. Learn from it. Move on."

***

This year they've unbundled Microsoft Office Professional from the NUS laptops. Damn. I could've saved at least $100-200 on the price and installed Open Office on mine, supporting Open Source software too in the process.
"Why does the Air Force need expensive new bombers? Have the people we've been bombing over the years been complaining?" - George Wallace

Random Playlist Song: Return of the Jedi - Leia's News / Light of the Force

***

Hair 4 Hope (Head Shaving Day) - "On 20 August, volunteers and members of the public will come together to shave their heads to pledge support for children with cancer. Besides shaving, volunteers can also choose to donate a ponytail."
YOU'LL NEVER TAKE MY LOCKS FROM ME!!!

***

I was trying to debug my sister's fruit machine, for it suddenly went bonkers and refused to connect to my wireless network or even my router via an ethernet cable, but the dumbed down interface frustrated my attempts.

Neither the Internet connect window nor the Airport drop down menu had any information on IP, gateway or connection status. It dumbly claimed that I was on the wireless network, but I couldn't connect to any websites. Meanwhile, when I plugged in the ethernet cable, there was no indication that a successful LAN connection had been made.

Contrast this, on the other hand, with the very helpful Windows interface, which presents all this information at your fingertips so you know when your connection is screwed.

And for those who will crow that I should've accessed System Preferences: yes, that's what I did in the end, finally finding where Apple had hidden all this important information so as not to scare their users. I might encounter problems with the fruit machine that can only be solved by hacking using the UNIX command line, but no way am I going there.

I'm so happy I'm not using a Mac.
Someone: ohh.. u shd go for exchange at japan haha

Me: aha why japan

Someone: then u can molest girls haha

Me: wth?!
that's such a non-sequitur

Someone else on the above: yeah i know. when did you ever show signs of such pruriency?

Me: hahaha oh yeah I'm asexual remember
supposed to be anyway
or was it gay? I forgot

Someone else: that's why
gay cos of your hair wat


One of the strangest theories I've heard of: "manga allows him to see big-breasted girls kick butt...because girls in AC are never that well-developed...

puberty appears kinder to them [neighbourhood school girls] WRT the chest...generally he thinks it's because they exercise a lot, but are also less concerned with weight...so they get fatty deposits where they should...AC girls OTOH care too much about what they eat..."

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Serendipitiously, someone else told me this: "Oooh, have you heard the story of the AC boy who got it on with a girl on the dancefloor, and then realised the next day it was his classmate? Now that's quality clubbing. One more story for [info]bad_sex."

Gosh. I feel so gossipy.


Someone else: hmm.. i've noticed that penny arcade and ctrl-alt-del are geek comics. they are also anti-mac. therefor geeks are anti-mac

Thursday, August 04, 2005

MSN Hotmail Support Satisfaction Survey:

"How would you rate the overall quality of MSN Hotmail?
(Scale of 1-9)

Overall, how likely would you be to recommend MSN products to a friend or colleague. Would you say you...
Definitely would
Probably would
Might or might not
Probably would not
Definitely would not recommend MSN or its products
Don't Know

Now we'd like to ask you about your overall satisfaction with Microsoft. Considering everything you know or have heard about the company, its products, its service and support organization, would you say you are...?
Very Satisfied
Somewhat Satisfied
Somewhat Dissatisfied
Very Dissatisfied
Don't Know"

Ho ho. I wonder why they asked the latter two questions.
School hasn't even started yet, but already 2 people have applied to join the FCINUS (Freethinkers' Community In NUS).

Incidentally, both referred to it as the NUSFC (NUS Freethinkers' Community) even though it isn't been advertised as such. It's a much more intuitive and natural name than FCINUS in my book, but my head honcho thinks that calling it the "NUSFC" will imply official recognition on the part of NUS, which we cannot claim until we actually get some. Erm. Right.

Meanwhile, we still have no ideas on what events to organise:

"we can just sit at some of the study areas and simply meet up like that but wouldn't that mean that we're sort of like having mass? :o

i can bring my guitar along :P
but "amazing grace" will not be on the playlist for sure. 8)"

GAH.

***

"Be a Life Canvas & Win!

Body Art Competition @ Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts

Be A Life Canvas and Win Cash Prizes!

1st Prize : $1,500-00
2nd Prize : $1,000-00
3rd Prize : $500-00

The NUS Story:100 Years of Heritage showcases NUS' 100 years of excellence in tertiary education... In conjunction with the exhibition, Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts, is organising a Body Art Competition capturing the life and spirit of students’ activities on campus. The theme: Spirit of the Campus.

Rules and Regulations

- Nudity is not allowed"

What sort of body art competition disallows nudity?! Who came up with this???

This is just like bartop dancing in Singapore. Even though we only allow a bastardised, bowdlerised form of it, we keep bringing it up as an ersatz example to claim that we've "opened up".

***

EG1604: Innovation Program

"The Innovation Program (IP) is designed to provide undergraduates with an experience of engaging in a semester-long innovative activity. IP is an alternative option under Enhancement Programs and therefore is a formal part of the B.Eng. degree program at NUS. Successful completion of IP earns the participant 2 Modular Credits in this respect.

The students taking part in IP will engage themselves on a hands-on basis to create an outcome that has a practical significance. Students themselves, under the guidance of a group of mentors will choose the subject of this engagement. The mentors will monitor the progress, assist in project development, and determine the suitability of each student's effort for awarding the points on completion."

Didn't I already do this in Secondary 2?

"Background

IP is a version of an existing scheme that had been conducted annually since 1993 at certain primary and secondary schools in Singapore. That original program was designed and developed by A/P Alwis together with the Gifted Education Branch of the Ministry of Education. A/P Marcelo Ang and A/P Loh Han Tong of the Faculty of Engineering and Dr Chew Tuan Chiong, CEO and Director of the Singapore Science Centre made valuable contributions to the development of that program in its early years. "

GAH GAH GAH. Yes, I did this in 1997. I want 2 Modular Credits credited to my account!
Since late Monday afternoon, I've been felled by a halfway delibilating ailment passed on to my whole family courtesy of my sister. This inadvertent act, of course, is not what upsets me, but the blase way in which she carries about her business.

I was fine on Tuesday evening, but when I was playing Rome: Total Realism on the desktop, she came in to play the stupid game - Lines - that she always plays on my palmtop, despite my pointing her towards a java version that she can play on her laptop. Her lame excuse? "It's more fun to play it on the Palm". I told her to go away - more than feasible since she was playing on my palmtop - so she wouldn't reinfect me. She refused, even having the temerity to suggest that I be the one to leave the room, and continued sitting on the bed and playing the stupid game. She even came up with another lame excuse - she was playing it in the same room as I because she wanted to return me the palm. Then again, she doesn't always bother to return it after she finishes playing the game, so there's some truth in that, even if only due to her laziness. I told her that if I felt sick the next day (Wednesday), she would be responsible due to her intransigent refusal to leave the room.

So on Wednesday I awoke and after the haze of sleep had been cleared from my eyes I felt a throbbing in my brow; as I'd predicted, I'd been reinfected. "I'm not infectious anymore" my foot. And so I skipped lunch and wasted most of the afternoon as I'd spent Monday evening - moaning in bed. feeling miserable, and sleeping off the worst of the contagion.

Of course, my sister might not have been the vector, but then she'd had the most extended contact with me the previous day, had still been sick and above all, had already been warned by me. Oh, and she had been abducting Blue Bear since she first fell ill and had been cuddling him all the while, so he might've been another possible vector (in any case, my sister is still at fault). She claimed that hugging him made her feel better. Perhaps, but it ultimately makes me feel worse since I've gotten infected twice, so he's currently in hiding until she can't infect him (or rather, me through him) anymore. And since she likes to camp in proximity to me while playing the stupid game, with the lame excuse that "I want to talk to you" (though she almost always ends up playing the game silently), and it takes great effort to evict her from my room, I'm locking the palmtop until she recovers. Hopefully I will have recovered by the time I awaken on Thursday morning (or maybe afternoon).

There's also the story of her disgusting week old tea cups (emphasis here is on the plural - she doesn't just stick to one, which all of us would be fine with) which are stained so badly that they need several rounds of scrubbing, but that can wait for another day. Besides, I already impounded her tea bags for half a day for the disgusting and inconsiderate behavior which she so laments in others, and for which she has similarly punished me for in the past.
"There is no doubt that the first requirement for a composer is to be dead." - Arthur Honegger

***

My little bird dug the following up. I was wondering if it was written by the same guy who wrote Revelations; they both sound as if they were on acid trips. It's so bad, it's good.


As Milk ponderd alone.....

Milk: oh! everyone talks about butter .....but where is he? where can i find him...how do i see him....

Suddenly he finds a piece of Butter and rushes to converse with him......

Milk: Ah! Butter finally you are here....tell me where do you live....

Butter: Me?! haha..... i live in you

Milk: In me ? really?

Butter: Oh yes...! when people churn you , i am formed....

Milk: Thats surprising! all this while i was searching for you outside...

Butter(with a Broad Smile...:)) That is because when i am formed...YOU ARE IN ME AND I AM IN YOU!!

Milk: so we are ONE! I am so happy...! thank you dear for enlightening me!

Butter: Thank me or yourself!!!!

(And Both Milk and Butter laugh heartily........)

So here it is....

God is the butter , we are the milk

When we churn ourselves with the Human values of Truth, Righteousness, Non-violence, Peace and above all LOVE... we will realize that we are one with GOD.... just like the Milk did !


So the next time I feel my stomach churning and feel the urge to hurl, I'll know why that is the case.

***

Written in correspondence with someone about King Edward VII hall's vainglorious attempt to press-gang all its inmates for Flag Day:


There is something serious wrong with the Hall mentality, which is why I call those staying there "Hall Inmates". If you're in a hall, you must take part in all the activities, or be ostracised, labelled a traitor etc. As I tell people considering staying in halls, whatever time you save on travelling is wasted taking part in the stupid hall activities. Nay, much more.

There are many reasons why people might want to stay in halls instead of residences. Perhaps they want to take part in some activities, but not nearly as many as they are forced to. Perhaps they want a meal plan for a dependable supply of food. Maybe it is because the rooms are bigger, or the halls tend to be closer to campus than residences. Some might not be able to afford the residences. There's even the possibility that some were unable to secure places in the residences.

If students take part in these activities (Flag Day or otherwise) not because they want to but because they're forced to, whether directly (because they need ECA points) or indirectly (peer pressure), then one has to question the raison d'etre of such activities. Are they meant to foster hall spirit? Kill inmates' time? Or are they just a means of allocating scarce hall spaces in the face of seemingly unlimited demand? Or even a lame way to justify the continued existence of halls and uphold some reified hall tradition?


"NUS halls of residences are the foundation of NUS's social and intellectual structure." (NUS: Faculty of Science Undergraduate Accommodation)

The foundation of NUS's social structure I can understand, but intellectual? I doubt the foreign students discuss their tutorials after congress.
Seen on the Gamefaqs Rome: Total War forums:

"You're fighting the SPANISH and you can't win? My God, they make the French look skilled. Not only did they lose to Carthage, they lost to Rome. Then they lost to Vandals. Then they lost to Visigoths. Then they lost to the Muslims. Then they lost to the Spanish. I mean, really. Then their navy got pwned by England.

Come on, they're like France Jr."

***

Miss NUS redeems herself through a critical analysis of feminist discourse with me

Me: and even if they're forced to do it out of poverty... if there's no better alternative then their lives are better right

Miss NUS: i watched this documentary about these cambodian girls what
most of them claim to be tricked into it at first. or forced
but they return to it at least once after being 'rescued'
the money is too good in comparison

Tym: "I agree with you that men are just as much victims of the media these days as women, in terms of self-image. But the stereotypical male self-image tends to claim power, whereas that for a female tends to be disenfranchising.

I also figure that of all the evils in this world, there are many other bigger evils to fight than pornography."

***

Relief for Growing-Out-Your-Hair Pains - "As you patiently wait on your hair, experiment with new looks to take you through transition time with style. Start by investing in an arsenal of hair accessories -- barrettes, elastics, bobby pins, headbands, scarves, hats, and the like -- and experiment with some new daily looks."
Ah, screw it lah.

Optimus keyboard - "Every key of the Optimus keyboard is a stand-alone display showing exactly what it is controlling at this very moment. Optimus is good for any layouts—Cyrillic, Ancient Greek, Georgian, Arabic—and so on to infinity: notes, numerals, special symbols, HTML codes, mathematical functions."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Modules for next semester:

UAS3006/PL4214 - Evolutionary Psychology
At first I freaked out when I found out it was cross-listed as a level 4000 [ie Honours year] psychology module, but later found out that the assignments and exam are different for those doing it as a USP Course Based Module. But since it's a course based module anyway, I'm going to die, so. Lots of places are left, so lots of people can still come die with me in here.

XD2101: Approaches to the Study of Religion
Too bad I got outbid for Virtue and Leadership, which I was to do with my No 1 fan blah blah. But then she's taking this with me, so heh heh. One Unrestricted Elective [UE] down, 4 to go. So much for enjoying life doing UEs in 4th year. Lots of places are left, so lots of people can come and be guinea pigs with me in here.

EC2102 - Macroeconomic Analysis I
Everyone tells me how lucky I am to be doing it this semester rather than last.

EC3303 - Econometrics I

EC3101 - Microeconomic Analysis II

***

NUSPA election notice:

"Each proposed nominee shall have a proposer and a seconder, provided that no such proposer and/or seconder shall nominate a person barred from standing for elections under Article III Clause 2(1) and Article X Clause 2A of the Constitution of the NUS Students’ Political Association, 1992."

Wah. Sounds almost like a government. And how come people can be barred from standing for elections? Oh, and there's a returning officer and an elections committee too. Whee.
Johnny Malkavian: http://www.apple.com/mightymouse/

kimberly: uhh
there's a reason why the only mouse addon that's succeeded in like the last 3 decades is the mouse wheel

Johnny Malkavian: we'll see if it works out. 8)
AAPL's up $5

kimberly: apple could sell refrigerators to eskimos
eskimo mac whores anyway

Johnny Malkavian: hahahaha


Me: http://www.ctrlaltdel-online.com/?t=archives&date=2003-07-03

Someone: hahaha.... the kind of situation whereby any answer wouldn't be satisfactory

Me: yah like if a woman asks you "Am I fat?"

Someone: hahaha.... this is always a tough question that guys have to prepare when they are wooing girls
99.99% [probability] assured

Me: haha did you ask your bf that?
how did he respond?

Someone: i am fat. that simple
it's in the mind actually
i realised aft sometime, the girls actually know the answer themselves
then he says i am ugly
see, so i sort of gave up asking him

Me: ok lah
but girls deserve this sort of answer when they ask this sort of question

Someone: but i learn something out of it

Me: yeah
don't ask this sort of stupid question :)

Someone: u very evil

Me: thank you.
Arts students 'die young'

"Although the precise cause is unclear, a study of thousands of former students of Glasgow University found that arts and law students were most likely to die early.

Science, engineering and medical students lived longer, although medics were most likely to die from alcohol-related causes...

Arts students were most likely to die from lung cancer or other forms of respiratory disease.

Medics, on the other hand, were more likely to die as a result of accidents, suicide and violence...

The reasons for this difference may be found back in the childhood of the students, say the researchers.

Medical and science students were far more likely to come from more affluent backgrounds, they said.

They wrote: "Arts students were more likely to have experienced socioeconomic deprivation in childhood."

However, it could simply be the case that the "arts" culture was more likely to result in a student who smoked."


From the Royal Society of Medicine website:

"Medics were... the heaviest smokers at university... Doctors smoked more than anyone else as students, but also "may have been particularly likely to quit". This would explain why the lawyers tended to die young, despite being likely to have affluent lifestyles - they smoked almost as heavily as the medics and kept on smoking."

Original journal article also available from the same page:

"More members of the medical profession have lower overall mortality than that in the general population, despite higher rates of death from suicide and accidents."


Time to change faculty... But not to Law - this is yet another reason not to do law! (Though the article doesn't say why Law students die earlier)
The Japanese Occupation: a look behind the NE spiel


My little bird on talking to someone who lived through the Japanese Occupation: he worked as a translator as well as radio presenter to help propagate the japanese language and culture to the singaporeans.
finally got a first-hand account of the occupation yay.
even got a photocopy of probably the only single such jap occupation propaganda songs' book in existence.

Me: :0
the thing's solid enough to photocopy?
stored it properly eh

Little bird: yes. amazingly so.
apparently he did not touch the book again after the japanese army left.

one of the song lyrics (with my smattering of jap): "Spirit at my highest, marching/i'm carrying the ashes of one of my dead comrades/i aim to be the first person to step into the streets of singapore tomorrow morning."
to not photocopy scores like these is criminal!

there's another interesting one which i can't decipher v well...but it's entitled "warriors of the sky"... *** (who hasn't touched japanese language for 5 decades now) says it's about kamikaze pilots.

Me: so communist haha

Little bird: if you believed pap propaganda you woulda thought that all the people in singapore were determined to overthrow their new colonial masters, which is hardly the case.

singaporeans then, as is now, were apolitical :)
primary concern was of the shortages the war brought about.
growing tapioca, sweet potatoes, the lot you learnt about in your NE class :)
i won't go into those but everyone wanted jobs. (like now)
and the primary source of jobs was to work for the government (like now) :)

Me: plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

I don't remember explicit propaganda about the people wanting to overthrow the colonial masters
but there was a general mood [we were given to believe existed]

Little bird: have things really changed since 1819 where the local populace is concerned? :) i doubt it...
the mentality of the local populace where political awareness is concerned.

interesting that when we see all the wwii drama serials we seem to get all these anti-jap sentiments coming out strong during the occupation...it may not seem much to u but it was a big eye-opener to hear what life was like from him.
you woulda guessed just from watching singaporean tv that every singaporean aspired to overthrow the japs for independence.

Me: haha but in reality?

Little bird: it seems that singaporeans were as politically apathetic then as they are now! :)
hehe so much for NE
"Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife." - Groucho Marx

***

I feel the love in my guestbook:

Someone from Malaysia: "Fat boy, if you trying to make fun of Malaysian, don't fucking come over to our land. Stay at your island and wait for tsunami then... "

Hee hee.

OTOH we have this:

"OH GOODNESS ME!!! i chanced upon your site from this yahoo search on raufie (long story) and i think this website is a GEM!!! hope you don't mind but i copied and pasted some of your raufie and apple woman quotes on my blog!!!"

***

Musings/observations:

I think it says something that I got more hits when I was simultaneously Tomorrow-ed, browned and brought up as one of the few (or the only, in fact) hits on Google by people searching for the NKF petition (1051 on Thursday 14th July and 790 on Friday 15th July) than when I was featured at the back of ST's Digital Life (714 on Tuesday 26th July and 699 on Wednesday 27th July).

There was this gag on Just for Laughs where a police officer pulled people over and removed his cap to reveal a long, luxuriant mane! And some time later his partner came out and did likewise. Though from the unskillful way they handled their hair, it was very obvious to one and all that they had wigs on.

The setup program for IMHO 1.2.1964 Instant Blogger warns that: "This computer program is protected by International treaties and copyright law. Unauthorised reproduction or distribution of this program, or any portion of it, may result in severe civil and criminal penalties, and will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible under law." Yet, it is licensed under the GNU GPL. Hah!

It has been brought to my attention that the person who drafted the email forcibly press ganging hall inmates in KEVII has been suitably castigated for his, ah, enthusiasm.

Hai. For the first time, this semester I'll have 5 exams. And I'm a sophomore now. Die.

I thought those JC kids who got hooked up 2-3 weeks after orientation were fast, but 10 days must be a new record!

So much good stuff to read, so little time/energy/motivation.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Conversations

Someone: the pink ranger!
i wanted to be her like, 8 years ago.

Me: hahahahahahhahaha


Ban Xiong: Today is nus flag day. Have you tugged a ponytail today?

Me: I dont like to tug dyed hair. And in uni many girls dont tie ponytails. Anyway too lazy to leave the house Haha.


My No 1 fan - She with formerly shoulder-length rebonded and dyed hair which is now dyed black and soft straightened, is fond of black dominatrix-style pumps, has an ah beng boyfriend, curses freely and has a serious attitude problem, yet who disavows the title of ah lian (tamade to you too): 7 gssq.blogspot.com/
6 sassyjan.blogspot.com/
6 donaq.blogspot.com/
3 www.mrbrown.com/

i'm getting the most hits from u


Someone else: Someone: the vice dean said my *** suck
he has my results
everyone has my results including the manager in arts
it's like some open secret
i feel quite violated really

Me: what manager?!

Someone: there's this manager, working at the dean's office
tehre's are many bureaucrats but more than one has my grades
there was one who even talked about my grades when i was only making an inquiry!
i was quite violated... i thought this sort of thing should be secret


Caleb: "Re: SCDF paramedics, my friend worked with them on an attachment and apparently they are even worse than SAF medics (which, believe me, says a lot about the state of our health services). According to my friend, all the paramedics knew how to do was to assess the severity of the injury/illness -- if it was severe, they would try to get the guy to hospital as fast as hell. But as for providing any medical assistance themselves, they were utterly useless. This might also have been because they enjoyed getting stoned on the anasthetic gas."
Seen on other sites:

Wink and prayer in N.J. - "Scores of faithful Christians converged on Hoboken, N.J., yesterday to get a firsthand glimpse of a plaster statue of Jesus that enraptured witnesses say opened one of its eyes... Not everyone who gathered around the statue was convinced that its supposed awakening was an act of God. "It's just a sculpture," said Wanda Aldea, 14, shaking her head. "I think somebody just scraped its eyelid off.""

Fabled Lands 3 for £60.00. Fabled Lands 5 is £40.00 and Fabled Lands 6 is £50.00. :(

An empty language for empty-headed executives - "The symptoms of bullshit are familiar. The repetition of stock phrases which can be parroted without thought – change drivers, organisational transformation. Words are given meanings different from their ordinary sense – government spending is called investment. Bullshit creates new words – empowerment, creovation� - but these do not define original ideas, but describe concepts too nebulous to be expressed by terms with known meaning. Bullshit is characterised by prolixity – “serving customers better� becomes “striving for continuous improvement in the customer relationship management space�. ... Proper academic training, which emphasises substance over form, is an antidote, and many universities still provide it: business schools, where both faculty and students must disguise how little they know, sometimes do the opposite."

***

CPR question for EMTs, other medicos

"I have taken CPR and AED training through my work. The instructor of the class, who is Red Cross certified and is a former EMT, claims that if we're doing CPR correctly, we will break the person's breast bone. He says you want to avoid breaking ribs, but that there is no avoiding breaking the breast bone if you're doing it right.

Other people I know who have taken CPR classes say their instructors told them you won't necessarily have to break it.

During the refresher training yesterday, I again asked our instructor (same guy from a year ago) about this, and he says that anybody who actually has done CPR will tell you that if you're doing it right, you will break the breast bone, and if they say otherwise, it's because they don't have as much experience as him. [Roll Eyes]

Leaving aside his obvious arrogance, can any of you who have actually performed CPR tell me - did you break the breast bone? Or is this guy full poo?"

***

all of us in rgs know cpr.

it's a compulsory course we take in sec one.


You learn something new everyday.
I love this spoof:

"Again, I question your apparent divine ability to speak for god. [e.g."He knows all of our futures. Whether He grants our prayers or not is not dependent on whether we worship Him or not".]

Or did your pastor feed you all these crap? But it's OK if you are fed crap by your pastor because it is what god meant for you to have.

god wanted me to insult you this way too.

if you feel insulted and hurt, god meant for you to feel this way. Hallelujeh!

if you don't feel insulted and are OK with what i wrote. Hallelujeh! god gave you the wisdom to withstand contrarian views to you fiath. you have held your fiath strong. Hallelujeh!

if you don't understand anything i wrote. Hallelujeh, god made you the village idiot. It's OK. god loves everyone including all the kids at special schools. in fact, he loves them more. Hallelujeh. So nice to be an idiot."
Lots of people extol the benefits of reading RSS feeds instead of visiting the sites in question. While this may work for websites where information is scattered all over the place (eg the BBC website), I find that for most of the blogs that I read, the posts are relatively easy to read as godawful web design doesn't get in my way.

Tangentially, examples of godawful web design, courtesy of all the Singaporean Secondary Schoolgirls who've taken over BlogSkins.com: small font sizes, lots of animated gifs, text squeezed into minuscule CSS layers which act as pseudo-frames (except I can't use Firefox's "Open frame in new tab" or "Show only this frame" features to escape the frame) and the use of layers to emulate the effect of having multiple pages on the site - you click on the nav buttons and a new layer displays; especially prevalent in the current blogskins on BlogSkins.com. But then, it's unlikely sites with such godawful design would offer RSS feeds anyway, so the question is moot.

Anyhow, I've flirted with using RSS feeds more than once, but was put off them because not only do you not see the beautiful (ahem) layouts that some people go to great lengths to construct, leaving comments and posting on tagboards requires an extra step (and you can't see how many comments people have left in the first place, or the amusing things trolls have spewed on the tagboards).

Even those using RSS can and have gotten overloaded, probably because it gives you a false sense of complacency, as elia diodati (damn, it's even harder to spell/remember than "Agagooga") and Kevin have found.

The way I deal with all the blogs I want to read is by having a very short blogroll (a list which I'll check when I want to read my usual blogs): 13 sites now, including my LJ friends page. However, I check the blogroll but infrequently; less than 5 times since leaving for US in late May, IIRC. Except for my LJ friends list which I check roughly daily (maybe because it's like RSS, heh). I also have 2 folders with 11 sites in total: "Low Priority - Read when bored" and "Low Priority 2 - Read when very very bored", and I do hit and runs; visiting random blogs not on my blogroll for fun from time to time (in fact, sometimes more often than those on the roll itself). Finally, for sites which are updated once in a blue moon, I have WatchThatPage. So, yes, the list of blogs I read (semi-)regularly in the sidebar is deceptive, since I don't read all of them with the same frequency (shh!).
"Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy." - Nora Ephron

This is like the Chinese drama principle on drunkenness: Those who demur that "我没醉" (Wo3 Mei2 Zui4 - I'm not drunk) are inevitably wasted.

***

More weird shit I get via my feedback form:


Subject: god is a computer

Email: tretchery@theestablishsment.com

Message: Program on the emergence of civilization.

"14 species of large animals capable of domesitcation in the history of mankind.
None from the sub-Saharan African continent.
13 from Europe, Asia and northern Africa."
Favor.
And disfavor.

They point out Africans’ attempts to domesticate the elephant and zebra, the latter being an animal they illustrate that had utmost importance for it's applicability in transformation from a hunting/gathering to agrarian-based civilization.

The roots of racism are not of this earth.

Austrailia, aboriginals:::No domesticable animals, so this nulified diversity of life claims on sub-continental Africa.



god is a computer
And we're all on auto-pilot.





Organizational Heirarchy
Heirarchical order, from top to bottom:

1. MUCK - perhaps have experienced multiple universal contractions (have seen multiple big bangs), creator of the artificial intelligence humans ignorantly refer to as "god"
2. Perhaps some mid-level alien management –
3. Mafia aliens - runs day-to-day operations here and perhaps elsewhere ("On planets where they approved evil.")

Then we come to terrestrial management:

4. Chinese/egyptians - this may be separated into the eastern and western worlds
5. Romans - they answer to the egyptians
6. Mafia - the real-world interface that constantly turns over generationally so as to reinforce the widely-held notion of mortality
7. Jews, corporation, women, politician - Enough evidence was present to suggest mafia management over all these groups.


I think he's trying to screw with my mind.

***

More feedback:

"u just sounds like a blardee kiasu singaporean to me..."


Uhh. Right.

[Editor's note: We never publish email addresses or reveal identities unless it is obvious that they are fake]

And another one:

"No offence, but you've actually built up quite a rep as the great Anti-Christian crusader."

Ooh.

***

Recovering Christians: Non-falsification [Reworked version of an old post]

"Something that has always intrigued me is how people are able, through post-hoc rationalisation, to attribute everything to their god and to say that his will, mercy, grace et al are being displayed.

Take the case of someone getting into a serious accident. For every possible outcome, a rationalisation that involves praising and thanking his god can be found:"

***

I've always wondered how my peers can have their handphones:

- lost
- stolen/pickpocketed
- fall out of their pockets
- get shortcircuited when they're dunked in bodies of water (though this was a problem only a few years back: now people are smart enough to pat the dunkee down before dunking him/her, and the first word shouted out is "Handphone!" instead of "Dunk him!")

Miss NUS lovingly chronicles how her friend went through 5 phones in less than 2 years.

***

The trend sweeping China - leg-lengthening

"Kong Jing-wen has paid £5,700 to have both of her legs broken and stretched on a rack. The pretty college graduate is now lying in bed, clearly still in considerable pain three days after a doctor sawed through the flesh and bone below her knee to insert what looks an awful lot like knitting needles through the length of her tibiae.

These giant steel pins are connected by eight screws punched horizontally through her ankle and calf to a steel cage surrounding each leg. Once the bone starts to heal, these cages will act like a medieval torture device - each day over the next few months Kong will turn the screws a fraction and stretch her limbs more and more until she has grown by 8cm.

Despite the agony, the cost and the inconvenience, the 23-year-old says she does not regret a thing. "It hurts, but it will be worth it to be taller. I'll have more opportunities in life and a better chance of finding a good job and husband.""

***

It sucks to be a hall inmate:

"Dear Fellow KeviIans,

This year, the NUS Centennial Flag Day falls on the 2nd August 2005 (Tuesday). On this day, be it seniors or first year Keviians, we will flag together from 5.00am to 6.00pm for our hall in various venues throughout Singapore. In keeping with the essence of Flag Day, this money will be channelled to the 20 charity organizations that NUSSU adopts. Let’s us do our part in helping those who are less fortunate.

The briefing for Flag Day will take place in Com Hall this Monday (1st August 2005) at 8pm. Attendance is compulsory.

As a Keviian, you have the responsibility to flag for our Hall. Whoever that does not flag on 2nd August 2005, he or she will be blacklisted or considered to be expelled, at our recommendation and at Master’s discretion. However, seniors who are overseas, attending clinical tutorials in hospitals, or doing their internship attachment will be exempted. Float members who are recommended by Float Head are excused also.

All first year Keviians must flag on Flag Day. No excuse will be accepted. Those who flag for their faculty will be considered absent, and will be taken as shirking from hall’s responsibility. Any queries please put forward on the Monday’s Flag Briefing.

Your participation is crucial in making the Flag Day a success. A bit of effort, sweat and discomfort on our part just for one day will go a long way in helping the needy. Various plans of rewarding your hardwork are being considered and shall be announced on Monday night."

Those who flag for their faculty will be considered absent, and will be taken as shirking from hall’s responsibility.

This is preposterous and ridiculous. If you skip flag day entirely it's one thing (not that anyone cares), but why can't you flag for other people?

Clearly, their obsession with being the hall that gathers the most money has gone to their heads. "Helping the needy" my foot.

Their resorting to such measures just exposes their "hall spirit" as ersatz and a sham. I hope that inmates in other halls aren't subjected to such cruel and unusual punishment.

[Update: It has been brought to my attention that the person who drafted this email has been suitably castigated for his, ah, enthusiasm.]

***

An acquaintance in LSE (?):

"Then at the cusp of university, I thought that the A levels would have sorted out the chaff, leaving those capable of independent thought - at last, I would be in the company of stimulating peers. How wrong I was. University students are just as boring and conformist. If independent thought is to be the salvation of the species, then we're probably doomed."

It's comforting in a sense to know that this problem is not exclusive to the Premier Institution of Social Engineering.

***

Pinquan tut tuts Professor Lim Chong Yah's comments on foreign workers depressing wages in Singapore:

‘Maybe we should not allow a too free flow of very low value-added labour, very low-wage labour to Singapore,’ said Prof Lim, adding that such an ‘excessive supply will dampen the wage rate among the lower-income people’.
Why does Prof Lim not see lower wages as desirable? After all, the flip side of lower wages is lower cost of production, lower prices for consumers. Resources are allocated more efficiently. More income becomes more consumption, and more jobs are created with higher wages. Markets clear and almost everyone is better off: the migrant workers who have found employment with significantly better wages and working conditions than back home, the consumers who enjoy lower prices, and the displaced workers who find better employment elsewhere. Those displaced and unable or unwilling to adapt will be less well off.


My take on it: Achieving productive efficiency is well and good, but consider the following:

- We have a very open economy. So low wages do not necessarily translate into low prices due to imported inputs as well as imported goods
- Lower wage bills do not necessarily lead to lower prices. The difference can be retained as profit by enterprises, especially since the labour market is imperfect
- Wages will be lowered only in some sectors/levels, but not in others. For example, the IT industry won't be affected, and neither will architects [high end of the construction industry - broadly speaking], but local construction foremen will be out of jobs
- With lower wages, consumers have less money to spend on goods, so the effect of lower wages on real income is unpredictable
- In the long run markets clear, but in the long run we're also all dead
- As the SMU professor mentioned: 'Workers are now bearing the brunt of globalisation and only shareholders are gaining . . . our wage share of GDP is low, but the profit share of GDP is high... This widening income gap means that Singapore has a 'First World per capita income but a Third World income structure'. As a result, it is 'difficult to stimulate domestic consumption' and consumer spending is weak.

Monday, August 01, 2005

So, for all of you who were wondering, the boardph*cks (sp?) who left singapore in a cloud have moved to melbourne and are performing under the name "the suns". They've made melbourne their homebase and sing at several gigs across the city. This is semi-new news to me. And in characteristic fashion, my (singaporean) housemate is distantly connected to them (4 degrees of separation).

Sunday, July 31, 2005

"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." - Hubert H. Humphrey

***

Democracy and Economic Growth: Antagonists?

"A proposition sometimes leveled at advocates of democracy is that there is a tradeoff between a country’s economic growth and the amount of freedom or democracy that its citizens enjoy. Indeed, no less an authority than Singapore’s Straits Times has observed that one cannot “eat democracy”. An example raised to support this point is that of India and China. It is argued that the former’s democracy has crippled it, while the authoritarian Communist Party in the latter lets it push through potentially controversial but necessary reforms that are good for the people in the long run."

The full article/essay is in the post following this one.

***

Someone: i dont' really like to study with PS [Ed: Political Science] pp
too aggressive
in my PS tutorial they acted like they were PAP or politicians


Someone else: to my chagrin i discovered in the new paper today that some 14 year old china whiz kid is coming up to my college in oxford
now being very concerned for the mental well being of brights
especially kid prodigies
somehow i suppose i would need to help him get socially adjusted.

Me: uhh
why

Someone else: aiyah wouldn't you feel sorry for these people?
born in china, taken to england to boarding school by rich dad,
a yellow man in a sea of white.

Me: PRCs cluster as much in UK as here
my sister says in cambridge they're like here

the 2nd most annoying group of overseas students after singaporeans
or was it vice versa

Someone else: ooh.....
hmmmm...
i think we should be the most annoying of all....
since we are the only bunch of foreigners who speak fluent english who STILL elect to bunch up together.

Me: hahahaha
true. at least PRCs have that excuse

Someone else (2) on the above: agree. look at ***
she traumatised the class during presentation for *** last year
she looked like she was gg to kill us

***

Street markets are such fun. At the one now at Tiong Bahru I saw this set of bootleg Gaoranger/Wild Force action figures. Not only was the tagline "Let's fence against the earth" (wth?! So much for them being "Guardians of the Earth"), GaoWhite had a male body, which was heavily muscled to boot.


Also, there was this area where many stacks of clothes lay, on sale for a song. I heard them being touted by this man going: "Lelong lelong, very cheap" (and other words to that effect). However, I couldn't see him anywhere. Eventually, I realised that he was repeating his sales pitch, and finally traced the sound to a spot on the floorboards in between 2 piles of clothes.

At first we had salesmen touting their wares manually, shouting till they were hoarse. Then they discovered mics and tormented us by turning up their amplifiers. When they found the joys of head-mounted wireless mics, they freed their hands to gesture extravagantly in a bid to con us into purchasing their wares. And now they've realised they don't even need to be around to pimp their goods (or even have to repeat their sales pitch till even they go insane), but can retire to Ya Kun Kaya Toast to lim kopi.

I am informed that "it's been like this in sydney for years".

***

Time Commanders: Trebia

Expert 1: The Romans are being massacred.

Expert 2: Oh yah. This team is doing a much better job than Hannibal did.


Wah.

***

Charlotte reviews Singapore Rebel

If anything, although it features SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, it seems to be more pro-PAP than pro-SDP. Want to know why PAP has a hold on the reins of power in Singapore? Want to know why certain political analysts call Singapore a democratic anarchy? Check out the film, which can easily be summed up into a fight between two elements. Singaporeans are a pragmatic lot. The choices? Efficient tyranny vs utter incompetence...

While there are such things as unfair laws, breaking such laws by claiming moral high ground do not justify any form of action. The best you can do is work within the system, so break a law, go to jail. Period.


During the Japanese occupation, it was no doubt illegal to collaborate with the Caucasian scum British against the Japanese, the rightful masters of Syonan-to. Doubtless, the members of Force 136 should instead have worked within the system, and current attempts to drag them onto the moral high ground are unjustified.

The cases of Chee Soon Juan speaking without a permit is interesting. Technically, he broke a law, but in democratic countries speaking your mind peacefully is a way of campaigning for changing the status quo while working within the system. So if you outlaw normal means of working within the system, what are we left with? Violent resistance? Externally-imposed regime change? A similar principle is used, among others, to argue against extending the death penalty to less major crimes: if you're going to be executed for raping a woman, there's nothing to stop you from killing her. Indeed, this will reduce your chances of getting caught since she will now be silenced.

In Burma, Article 3 (c) of The State Law and Order Restoration Council Law No. 5/96 (The Law Protecting the Peaceful and Systematic Transfer of State Responsibility and the Successful Performance of the Functions of the National Convention against Disturbances and Oppositions) states that there is a prohibition of "disturbing, destroying, obstructing, inciting, delivering speeches, making oral or written statements and disseminating in order to undermine, belittle and make people misunderstand the functions being carried out by the National Convention for the emergence of a firm and enduring Constitution". Here, claiming the moral high ground is not a justification for breaking the law. Instead, one must work within the system, or face the consequences. In this case, working within the system no doubt involves sending a petition up to the State Law and Order Restoration Committee (SLORC), imploring them to allow public debate regarding the new Constitution. Unfortunately, the person filing such a petition will of course receive, for his troubles, a bashing from junta thugs. Breaking this law - even if by discussing the new Constitution with one's wife - cannot be justified by claiming the moral high ground. You break a law, you are crippled by the junta's thugs. Period.


"There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern.

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"...

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws....

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock?"

--- Martin Luther King, Jr. et al (Heart, Soul & Humor: MLK on Unjust Laws - Hitler, Jesus and St Augustine)

***

Ah 9 found "a spudgy soccer ball in the main big hall on the 2nd floor" inside the archetypical bat-infested haunted house in Sentosa. I have a feeling we left that there after the ENS [Ed: NUS's Economics Society] camp, heh.

Christian adoption agency snubs Catholics - "A Christian adoption agency that receives money from Choose Life license plate fees said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples... "It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith," Bethany's state director Karen Stewart wrote. "Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant's time, money and emotional energy.""

Video games need a woman's touch - "Tara Teich enjoys nothing more than slipping into the role of a female video game character. But the 26-year-old software programmer gets annoyed by the appearance of such digital alter egos as the busty tomb raider Lara Croft or the belly-baring Wu the Lotus Blossom of "Jade Empire." Don't even get her started on the thong-bikini babes that the male gunmen win as prizes in "Grand Theft Auto," which was sent to stores with hidden sex scenes left embedded on the discs by programmers."
Democracy and Economic Growth: Antagonists?

A proposition sometimes leveled at advocates of democracy is that there is a tradeoff between a country’s economic growth and the amount of freedom or democracy that its citizens enjoy. Indeed, no less an authority than Singapore’s Straits Times has observed that one cannot “eat democracy”. An example raised to support this point is that of India and China. It is argued that the former’s democracy has crippled it, while the authoritarian Communist Party in the latter lets it push through potentially controversial but necessary reforms that are good for the people in the long run.

Of course, many more differences than freedom, or the lack thereof, account for the two countries’ relative economic fortunes. More importantly, counter examples can be found; in Africa, the more democratic countries – South Africa, Nigeria and Botswana, for example - are also the richest and better governed. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has also observed that no famine has ever occurred in a democracy.

One might question whether the chain of causation might not be mixed up; perhaps it is that prosperous countries can afford to be democratic and give their citizens freedom, while less well-off ones are not yet “ready” to be democratic, and that they must bide their time until they have developed sufficiently and are “mature” enough. Yet, a study shows that if anything, democratization improves countries’ economic growth, even in “poor, ethnically diverse, African countries” – exactly the sort which one would assume to be least suitable for democracy. Another found that though democratization lowered economic growth in the short run due to transition costs, it resulted in faster economic growth in the long run. Freedom House’s 1999/2000 report also found that poor countries classified as “Free” grew at more than double the rate of similarly poor countries classified as “Partly Free”.

How, then, does democracy impact on economic growth?

Democracy gives people a chance to peacefully oust incompetent leaders via the ballot box, thus imposing accountability upon politicians. With a peaceful and constitutional means of removing unpopular rulers, social unrest is reduced. Discontented citizens in democracies also generally do not, except in extremis, take up arms or execute coups. That handmaid of democracy, a free press, also helps in bringing pressure for accountability to bear, and also helps to expose scandals and incompetencies that would otherwise be covered up – Alberto Fujimori of Peru’s corruption was exposed by a video broadcast on television, for example.

Democracies also prize the rule of law, as opposed to the whims of the powerful, and have more credible judiciaries. Politicians and politically-connected individuals who have broken the law can thus be tried and punished, deterring them from enriching themselves at their countries’ expense. Democracies also prize and enforce property rights. All this improves the business climate and investor confidence.

A perennial problem bedeviling poor countries is that of corruption. While the majority of the populace remain mired in poverty, various bureaucrats enrich themselves by asking for bribes, raising the costs of doing business and discouraging foreign investment. Democracy brings accountability, as a sure way to win votes in a corrupt country is to promise a crackdown on corruption, and reporters’ quests for big stories make them excellent corruption sleuths.

Of course, autocratic or less democratic regimes could fulfill all of the above conditions. Laws could be adhered to, property rights strictly enforced and anti-corruption bureaus could be set up. After all, in many cases it is good governance which is required, as opposed to democracy per se. However, as the Roman poet Juvenal observed, “Quis costodiet ipsos custodies?” (Who watches the watchers?) Just as the invisible hand of the free market works to allocate resources efficiently, the adversarial nature of democratic societies and systems is a good way to ensure good governance, for where one fails, another will be quick to point this out and offer himself as an alternative.

A factor less democratic governments cannot provide, though, is a liberal climate. As a country moves up the value chain, transitioning from Primary industries (agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining) to Secondary industries (manufacturing) and finally to Tertiary industries (services), giving a country’s people freedom becomes ever more important. Tertiary industries require dynamic, creative people, and they tend to be stifled by autocratic climates, even to the point where they would rather migrate to a less oppressive country. Advanced economies thus cannot afford to oppress their people.

Democracy is not, of course, a panacea, and is fraught with problems of its own. For example, populism can result in short-sighted policies like over-generous welfare schemes and insurmountable trade barriers being enacted, and government can be captured by special interest groups. However, as Winston Churchill observed, “Democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried from time to time”. To blandly assert that democracy is a luxury that poor countries cannot afford is plainly disingenuous, given that many benefit from it and that the alternative is often worse.

In the final analysis, even if democracy did retard economic growth somewhat, it must be remembered that man does not live by bread alone. Many, even citizens of comparatively underdeveloped countries like Indonesia and Iraq, exult in their newfound political rights. Who are we to deny them this, even if the tradeoff is half a point off annual GDP growth?

***

The above is only a first draft, and will probably be subject to revision.
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