Friday 30 September 2011

We did it, now beat it

In the same week of the trial of Doctor Conrad Murray, for the alleged manslaughter of Michael Jackson, Al Qaeda chides Iran over 9/11 'conspiracy theories'

Outspoken controversial Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been told by Al-Qaeda to stop his conspiracy theories claiming that the U.S. was to blame for the 9/11 attacks.

The terrorist organisation has reportedly sent a message to the Iranian president asking him to stop spreading his 'ridiculous belief' about the 2001 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people.

According to the Guardian, Iranian media reported on Wednesday quotes from Al-Qaeda's English language magazine, criticising Ahmadinejad's latest comments.

The Iranian leader caused a U.S. delegation to walk out of his UN general assembly speech last week when he cast doubt over the official version of the 2001 attacks by referring to 9/11 as a 'mystery'.

Delegates from several other countries, including Israel, Ireland and Fiji, also walked out while Ahmadinejad was still talking.

According to Iranian media, the article in Inspire said: 'The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that Al-Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the US government.

'So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?'

The Guardian reported that the Al-Qaeda article insisted it was behind the terror attacks, before criticising Ahmadinejad for discrediting the terrorist group.

Monday 26 September 2011


"Opinions are like backsides - we've all got them but it's not always wise to air them in public."
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy

Saturday 24 September 2011

Singapore: A capital choice for the world

As the age of empires fades, Edward Carr argues that the world needs a federal capital.
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, September/October 2011

Have you ever been to Canberra? Dull and safe and good for nothing but politics, it’s as if an alien had taken up town planning. Its lakes, bridges and low-slung offices are triumphs of sterile coherence which cannot begin to match the soft beauty of Sydney Harbour or the ethnic hum of Melbourne. And yet, Canberra is the ideal capital for a federation of rival states, each jealous of the others. Were Sydney the kingpin, New South Wales would have too much power. Were the government in Melbourne, Victoria would once again rule Australia.

In the age of empires, the world’s capital was inevitably the Imperium. Rome, London, Paris and Washington, every dome had its day. But the age of empires is fading. If you think London and New York are too Western to be the world’s capital, that is because the West needs to make room for the rest. If you are not convinced by the claims of Washington, Beijing or Delhi, that is because no one country looks able to conquer its way to global supremacy. Increasingly, the world is a federation of rival states that all guard their independence and all expect their say.

Friday 16 September 2011

Tuesday 13 September 2011


Meritocracy is the only way to tackle inequality fairly
Dr Khor Swee Kheng (ST Forum, Sep 13, 2011)

MRS NURHIDAYAH Hassan-Le Neel made two arguments against meritocracy last Saturday ('Address the problems of meritocracy').

According to her, meritocracy is flawed because it does not work in Singapore's rigid class system that is based on economic and cultural clout.

Second, meritocracy demoralises those who fail to climb the social ladder.

Both claims are untrue. Meritocracy is the only way people break out of a rigid class system fairly and proudly, as affirmative action discriminates against another demographic group.

While failure can demoralise, could this be a chance to encourage hard work and some government intervention to equalise opportunity, rather than an excuse to throw meritocracy out the window?

Singapore's Gini coefficient - a measure of income inequality on a scale of 0 to 1, with 0 denoting perfect equality - of 0.45 does indicate that there is a gulf within its society.

How to correct this is the first dilemma: meritocracy or affirmative action?

Redistributive justice is a difficult concept, but meritocracy is not mutually exclusive from the Government helping the poor. If a child of a taxi driver is poor but talented, one offers him all the opportunities he needs, not the outcome one thinks he deserves. Opportunities or outcomes, that is the conundrum of the second dilemma.

Should we aim for equality of opportunities or outcomes?

Communism tried to achieve equality of outcome, but we now know that it bred poverty and gross inequality.

A government's role may simply be to provide the tools and ensure equal access to opportunities.

What happens next is as much nature as it is nurture, although this, admittedly, is a subsidiary debate in which the answer is likely to be a bit of both, plus diligence and luck.

The final dilemma is when to stop. Societies will always be unequal, with a bell curve of income and cultural capital.

Let us concentrate on moving the curve to the right, instead of focusing on making the curve narrower.

Micromanaging an entire country detracts from the proper focus on a rising tide that lifts all boats.

I call it compassionate meritocracy, which is still a government's best way to ensure equality of opportunity.

What happens next is up to the kids.

Wednesday 7 September 2011


Alternative voting formats not the answer
Chen Junyi (ST Forum, Aug 30, 2011)

MR FOO Chee Choong ('First-past-the-post system unfair in multi-cornered contest'; yesterday) argued against the first-past-the-post voting format, offering the options of giving each voter two votes, and a run-off by the top two candidates after the first round of voting. However, these do not address the issue of fairness, nor can they prevent slim margins between the winner and runner-up.

Each voter has a fair chance to decide for himself which candidate to support, or none at all through spoiling his vote. There is only one vacancy for the office of president. If the voter knows who he wants as president, even if given two votes, he would still cast both to the same candidate. An indecisive voter who splits his votes is ceding the advantage to others who are decisive.

Saying president-elect Tony Tan has 65 per cent of the voters against him does not stand up to scrutiny.

First, going by that 'logic', the other candidates, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Mr Tan Jee Say and Mr Tan Kin Lian, have 66 per cent, 75 per cent and 95 per cent, respectively, voting against them.

Second, the election is to vote for the president one supports, not who one is against. Anyone who chooses to act otherwise does so at his own peril.

Having elimination rounds does not do justice either. Why should a voter who has chosen a candidate be compelled to vote for another in a subsequent round? Such coercion cannot be construed as genuine support to the second-round candidates, making hollow any claims of majority backing.

Without the coercion, it is possible that no candidate may be able to garner more than 50 per cent of the votes. Even with the coercion, there will be voters who would rather cast spoilt votes than vote for a candidate they do not support.

Resentment occurs even if the candidate wins more than 60 per cent of the votes in a single round. All sorts of arguments can be made against a winning candidate who captures anything less than 100 per cent of the votes, in which case there would have been no contest in the first place.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

It is right to curtail Web anonymity

Doing so would result in not the curtailment of freedom, but the expression of it
by John Gapper, 
The Financial Times, 2 Sep, 2011

One of the founding principles of the Web - not only the technology but the culture that has grown up with it - is that, as The New Yorker cartoon once put it: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

The policy that people are free to interact online anonymously - or at least using pseudonyms - is now under attack from social networking companies. Both Facebook and Google, which in June launched a competing service called Google Plus, have cracked down on people trying to use pseudonyms rather than full identities.

"The Internet would be better if we had an accurate notion that you were a real person as opposed to a dog, or a fake person, or a spammer," Mr Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman, said at the Edinburgh International Television Festival last week. He was echoing Ms Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook's former marketing director, who declared earlier this year that, "anonymity on the Internet has to go away".

These arguments are half right. Anonymity should not be banned in every corner of the Internet any more than it is in the physical world in democracies - it would breach civil liberties. But there are good reasons to discourage it. Most users would gain if anonymity were the exception rather than the rule.

Thursday 1 September 2011

President Tony Tan

Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, 71, was sworn in at the Istana as the Republic's seventh President, and the third to be elected.

The passing of the baton from Mr S R Nathan, 87, to Dr Tan was witnessed by Members of Parliament, senior civil servants, foreign dignitaries and grassroots leaders at a stately ceremony held at the Istana.