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Recently Mini Me Lee mentioned in passing: the challenge for Singaporeans and residents may require us to deal with the problems generated by our success – to paraphrase: everything from overcrowding from buses to trains; skyrocketing housing prices; income inequality; right down from one legged prisoners staging an re-enactment of Shawshank redemption from high secuity installations – to perhaps why we have suddenly been inundated with torrential flash floods is due to our success – WE VICTIMISED OURSELVES…STUPID!

In other words, we are none other than the quintessential victim of our own making i.e we were too successful; it has nothing to do with administrative or bureaucratic bad planning or ineptitude – IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT…FUCKER!

Question: do I buy Mini Me Lee’s take on the sign of our times? No! In fact, I think he’s talking shit, not the normal type of shit, but the odorless and invisible variety; the one where you can even be neck deep in it and never ever know it – he’s trying to do is dabble in doublespeak – that if you didn’t know is just another form of hype and spin –a language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words by using euphemisms (e.g., “rightsizing” for layoffs – workfare is better than minimum wage) – the whole idea of double speak is to deflect and render the truth less unpleasant by blurring the line between reality and fiction – that way once you are completely punch drunk by the narrative; they write whatever they want you to believe over your forehead with a bold marker.

So if I was asked again what I really think about what Mini Me Lee has to say about the whole claptrap of how our condition these days is an accretion of our success – I would say he was first and foremost disingenuous, and. Secondly, he would have been far more convincing if what he had to say did not hark back to some soviet era comic scene – when Joseph Stalin was asked, what should the state do to alleviate the chronic food shortages as collectivism had failed – only for him to retort – “come on, you can’t expect perfection – did you know there are even serpents in Paradise!”

My view is simple: if they are problems today and they stem directly from break neck economic progress – then an intelligent way to understand the root causes would be to ask: why weren’t any projections done? If there were projections; then why they so far off the mark and more importantly who is responsible for this fuck up – and can we please pack that bureaucrat to head the new Singapore Meteorological Institute in the North Pole? My point is, it’s disingenuous to expect educated people to buy with cheap double speak that relies on lashings of ambiguity and the reversal of meaning to paint white as black – that may have worked in the glory days of the past, when chemical film and flared trousers were all the rage. But in the age of the internet, trying to pull a fast one with good olde poison double speak is like a man going for a gunfight with a spoon – you’re going to get floored partner…..the rest of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to measured response.

“I am no bloody good for you Dotty. Coming to think of it, I am no good for any woman – they should put a big sign on me – “highly toxic.” And that’s the solemn truth Dotty. You’re better off with that dentist. You say he’s boring and has a personality like cardboard, but at least he is dependable and can be counted on during rainy days – that may not count for much; but when you’re on the journey of life, that’s everything and much more; with folk like that you never ever need to worry Dotty, you never need to wake up one morning and wonder whether he has just taken off for good; you just know deep down, he’s just gone to the pasar to buy the groceries – but with me; you will never know; never – and that’s a problem…a very big problem. “

This excerpt about honesty accompanies this write up.

 

Was GM a wrong turn?

November 30, 2010

(To increase the font size of this write up- hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) A very straight forward question: was GM a wrong call? I realize some of you are mad as hell – since it has only risen a paltry 5% since it’s IPO a couple of days ago – and looking at the future GM seems to be more of a donkey than a thorough bred stallion – so of course, there are many reasons to remain cautions – so of course, I can very well understand why some people are asking for my head to be served up along side a plate of salad.

Beside we all know, IPOs have a history of underperforming in their first year. Afterall, most companies try to sell when the going is good. But given the negative sentiment surrounding GM, I think there is a very strong possibility that the restructured GM could end up being a excellent long term investment. let me just give you one reason why I believe this to be the case, not two or three or four – just one good reason:

First of all, the biggest spirit blow that kills off 99.9% of companies is that they are in a sunset industry – so let’s get one thing straight GM is not manufacturing sail ships or clunky mechanical type writers. The way I see it, obsolescence is the one thing that does in a firm and poses the highest risk quotient in any investment calculation.

That’s not the case with GM. We are going to be driving cars for a while. I don’t see us commuting to work in donkeys – granted they may not be petrol powered, but for all intents and purposes they are still cars – and by the looks of it GM has a winner in the electric car category that is darn hard to tops and apparently it’s a pretty good ride.

The other thing about GM is it’s export potential is under utilized – in lay language than means it still has plenty of scope for global growth – unlike some European and Japanese auto manufacturers who already have a big global footprint and are all tapped out – GM has barely explored the global market potential – and as the dollar drops further; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it’s only a matter of time before, they will wise up to the idea of selling more of their products to the world.

Don’t be surprised if one day you see more Cadillac’s than Toyota’s cruising along the ECP – pipe dream, maybe…but maybe not.  (The remainder of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response)

Read more: http://curiouscapitalist.blogs.time.com/2010/06/15/is-the-gm-ipo-a-buy/#ixzz16jMo5kjO

“Have you ever seen a 3:4:9 gear shift?”

“No it doesn’t exist, you have an even number in the odd, you mean a 3:5:9 right Darkness? A Maseratti 3:5:9 – or an Aston Martin 3:5:9 with a uptake at 11.5…right?”

“No. I mean a 3:4:9. The Americans are working on such a transmission.”

“You believe in America alot don’t you Darkness?”

“No America is just a place in the map. What I believe in is people who can look a problem squarely in the face and call a spade a spade – all I know is anyone who can do that is bound to improve by leaps and bounds – we can’t do that; whenever we have a problem – we say it is a once in a 50 year problem – and next week, we are fire fighting the same problem again – when someone breaks out of jail – we blame everyone and everything under the sun, except the man who is supposed in charge – when we lose billions we say it is unavoidable and call it paper loses; when we make money it is called the fruit of good planning – so as you can very well see – we see only what we want to see. Whereas the Americans see what they have to see…now who would you put your money on, if you happen to be a gambling man my friend?…The way I see it, winning has nothing to do with aptitude; it’s got nothing to do with which university you went too; or for that matter who you play golf with; or even how many charitable functions you get invited too – it is really only about one thing – do you have the right attitude to win?”

Excerpt accompanies this essay which has been cut short by Measured Response.

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What did Wikileaks reveal? Dunno lah! You want me to go to jail is it? Coming to think of it, Whenever I ask why there is so much secrecy in Singapore – most people just shrug their shoulders – what’s the actual financial spread of Temasek and GIC? The answer: Hey go fish Darkness! Your guess is as good as mine…better still go pick a number…any number.

You could even say; most of us have been subliminally conditioned to accept a blank space in the social narrative – it doesn’t bother us any longer (and that’s the really scary part) – like fire extinguishers, hidden speakers and fire escapes; these things rarely pierce the bubble of our everyday reality.  

Nevertheless I think it pays to take a step back and understand the reason behind our Government’s seemingly overbearing secrecy. The main reason for the cult of silence seems to be some sort of first defense against some unseen malevolent force. Granted there will always be risk and threats in this world. Just as they will always be plenty of opportunities and endless way to get on top of a threat. So to me this whole idea of maintaining a veil of inscrutability as a defensive strategy is not only passe but in the long run, it will work again us. Some people may say this attitude of secrecy is emblematic of the patriarchal system of governance in Singapore – my response is so what?

Just because a group in some attic covered with spider webs believe that certain customs should be maintained and even promoted at every cost doesn’t make it right or even effective – for practices to be relevant they need to be synched with what’s happening in the world – that’s at least what the government keeps preaching: we are already marinated in the globalized world. If that’s the really the status quo ante shouldn’t we jettison the whole idea of maintain the veil of secrecy for whatever reason – firstly, using secrecy as a defensive or pre-emptive financial strategy doesn’t work as quantitative easing has shown –secondly, whenever we maintain such moribund practices it can only make it harder for any Singaporean outfit to seek out strategic alliances with foreign western firms. And thirdly, whenever there is a blank space in the social narrative; who do you think steps in and writes the rest of the story? Charlatans, hucksters, bent pastors….the rest of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to measured response)

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I’ve be perfectly honest with you – stock investing these days is getting to look like a very dangerous game of juggling hand grenades. In the past if you said someone was good at spotting winners – you meant he was right 9 out of 10 calls; these days anyone who even gets 5 out of 10 is pretty good to keep his day job and 6 puts him amongs the best of the best – what I am trying to say is this:

(1) Markets these days are screwy.

(2) Trust no one.

(3) And always do your research.

Having said that markets these days are pretty nutty – that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of opportunities; anyone who tells you otherwise simply doesn’t know how to maximize opportunities in the market place, he is a fool! – if some of you followed my advise to switch from gold to uranium 3 months ago and buy into firms like URZ, you are looking at 150% profit on your principle! Of course there are opportunities; the problem as I see it is not the market or even firms; but the mentality of investors – most of them don’t like to hear bad news; and if you try to get them to put their money on a firm that is a bad news magnet, it will never fly – but I don’t believe that is a sound way of investing.

The way I see it not every firm that has been tarred and feathered with bad press deserves to be given the cold shoulder – some just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – others are just mixed up with either the wrong company or find themselves in a bad neighborhood. So for example, if you happen to be a well run bank in Greece and the country is going down the tubes – it figures that most investors will dump you; that’s part and parcel of the market – since it’s driven by perception; a little illusion goes a very long way to fashion reality.

The problem as I see it; when everything seems to be going down – it is also an opportunity to make money.

I am targetting 3 counters – they are all listed in the US.

(a) Synovus Financials (Ticker: SNV)

(b) National Bank of Greece (NBG)

(c) Allied Irish Bank (AIB)

The story goes like this: two shoe sales men at the turn of the 19th century found themselves in Africa – the first after looking around wired his London office, “no point trying to sell these savages shoes – they all go around barefooted here!- coming back home!”

The other following his tour of the African continent sent this: “Send as many shoes as you can – they all go around barefooted here! – will be staying to open a department store.”

The moral of the story – and this is very important – not only will it transform you from inside out, so if you happen to be a simple school teacher, dentist, ISD officer, part- call girl…hold on tight…..the remainder of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response)

“Don’t touch it! It’s a trap!”

“How can you be so certain Darkness?”

“Look at the color separation…it’s flawless. This isn’t just a 3 D rendition; it’s got 1.3 million permutations of color gradations. Whoever printed this virtual money is top drawer in his field – second to none, not even Pixar or Industrial Light can come out with this level of detailing…so gentlemen…who are these motherfuckers after us? Get JDAM to start the Chopper we are getting out pronto. Get Harphoon and Astroboy ready. We are walking away from this one.”

“But we just broke in Darkness!”

“You see that door gentlemen, I am walking right through it.”

The Banco Universale Mystrey – Project Entropia – this excerpt from the Book of Ages accompanies this essay.

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +)  Consider this opium laced story: what if I can show you a top security 5 chili e-mail once written by Wong Can’t Synch to Mini Me Lee on how he believes Mas Selamat did not escape from Whitley Hall; but what actually happened instead was he was abducted by aliens?

Now you get the gist of what Wikileaks is all about.

As WikiLeaks prepares to let loose another tsunami of top secret diplomatic correspondences – it could stand to borrow some basic ethical principles from the organization it appears at loggerheads with: big governments. For big governments, fighting to keep people and planet safe is definitely not a crime, but where this happy narrative gives way to something darker – is when government security agencies regularly adopt underhanded tactics in the name of fulfilling the greater good – when they do this not only do they embellish, exaggerate, lie, circumvent and pull the wools over the eyes of the public; they also show scant regard for the rule of law.

Under those nefarious conditions – why should big govts be allowed to hide under the veil of confidentiality? They shouldn’t and should rightly be exposed!

Paradoxically, that same moralistic attitude of having to do the right thing – can just as well be levelled at Wikileaks: i.e just bc u have info doesn’t give you the right per se to share it with the www. Not if the leak can lead to collateral damage – this prompts us to ask: do they have the right to blow the whistle without first considering the collateral damage? I mean if I happen to be a D16 secret agent planted in let’s say the tribal setting of Afghanistan; the last thing I want is to get my cover blown wide open by some do gooder who simply doesn’t even understand 101 basic covert operations… Get my drift?

Then again – what do you really expect big governments to say when they are going to get their dirty linen and tangled sheets splayed out pasar malam style in the public square? Of course, they’re going to play the “if you snitch on us, you are compromising our ability to do a good job!” Besides that’s what they have always said – but guess what, no one seems to be dying from any of the leaks from WikiLeaks – so that line of argument has to be at best threadbare.

I think as we consider whether Wikileaks is abusing the idea of freedom of speech – the real litmus test is do these revelations force governments to abide to some sort of code of conduct, that they would otherwise not feel the need to pay homage too, if not for outfits like Wikileaks? 

Secondly do these revelations combined with thr threats of further leaks bring out the best practices of international diplomacy, soldiering and what it takes to be a responsible member of the international community? After all, the rules of engagement in any conflict compel bureacrats and soldiers to refuse illegal orders and report war crimes and malfeasance, but those in the front line are typically expected do so through their own chain of command, an act that goes against the grain of everything else they’re taught about obedience and loyalty. When service personnel do speak out, they can only hope their confidentiality will be respected and that they will be rewarded rather than penalized for honesty. WikiLeaks in this sense provides a credible solution to an age old problem that has dogged humanity since the first ape witnessed another ape bang his weapon over another ape – I wouldn’t go as far as to say Wikileaks is the European Court of Justice; but it is not exactly the lunatic fringe either (if you can even call it that) that is so hollowed out of morality, ethics and responsibility as it’s so often painted out to be by the Ms
MSM – as when we talk about Wikileaks as a idea that goes beyond the meaning of a social technology, it is (for lack of a better word) merely a reportican where whistle blowers can report specific war crimes, executive misdeeds and bureaucratic malfeasance without fear of retribution.

I see nothing wrong with that.

One could even argue the case; had big governments not tried to sweep so much shit underneath the carpets in the first place – Wikileaks as an idea would probably not command the same currency of appeal it does today – fact of the matter is this: governments lie all the time; fact No.2, they have this misplaced belief that they can get away by labeling everything as secret – Fact No.3, big governments have never ever protected the Whistle blower (not without being blackmailed to do so) – don’t believe me, then consider this: when Sgt. Joe Darby saw his buddies abusing prisoners in 2004, he fulfilled his duties under the Geneva Conventions by reporting the abuses to the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command. Though he persistently requested that his complaint should remain anonymous – the then-Defense Secretary Air head Donald Rumsfeld revealed his identity, inviting hate mail and death threats from the public. It is no wonder that so many other participants at Abu Ghraib chose not to stick their necks out for fear of compromising their careers and personal safety. The Abu Ghraib case is hardly an isolated one, but more importantly what this case brings into sharp focus is where would humanity really be –  if organizations like Wikileaks did not exist? Would humanity be richer or poorer for lack of it…

 (The rest of this essay has been withdrawn by the Brotherhood Press from general circulation due to Measured Response.)

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) Most people in Singapore are chronically sleep deprived, causing marked reduction in productivity, concentration and quality of work, as well as an increase in moodiness, stress, bad judgement and a pretty lousy quality of life.

I once had a secretary who delighted in terrorising fellow co-workers all day long – one day, HR threatened to sack her as she was creating a public nuisance of herself – so I suggested she sleep in between breaks –  and guess what? Not only did her acne problem clear up;  she was able to sort out her yo-yo Oprah Winfrey weight problems, her relationship with her husband even improved – but most importantly of all; she was a much happier and fulfilled person – that just goes to show you – sleep is very important.

Recent medical research proves that sleep deprivation literally dumbs you and instead of being an asset to your firm; you’re actually a liability. To be a peak performer you need to be fully alert, dynamic, energetic, in a good mood, and mentally on the ball. You must be able to concentrate, remember, make critical and creative decisions, communicate persuasively, and be productive all day long. None of this is possible without quality sleep. Furthermore, healthy sleep has been proven to be the single most important determinant in predicting longevity. It is more influential than diet, exercise or heredity-but our modern culture has become a study in sleep deprivation.

We should all learn to sleep confidently – and not be apologetic and coy about it – I’ve learnt the benefits of cat napping many years ago when I had to hold down two shift jobs just to make it through university – so I can literally sleep anywhere and on command – have even been known to sleep standing and sleep with my eyes wide open – however, these days, I am quite open about power napping – whenever, I have to sleep, I just sleep even if I happen to be in a crowd – in the office, I just spread a full length crisp card board (detergent softener packing material is the best as they come already scented. You can get it from the NTUC auntie for free) after lunch underneath my table and sleep. At other times when I am running around town calling on clients; I sleep regularly in my car, but that’s dicey given that my gear box caught fire recently – at other times, when I am taking the MRT; I just find a cool corner and let the train rock me to sleep like a baby – I also find libraries are pretty good places to sleep; alongside cinema’s and I always look foward to sleeping during ministerial speeches (which seem to put me into those Inception comatose induced type sleep, though strangely, I never ever dream of anything).

I think most of us already know about the incredibly restorative powers of sleep; but what we may not know about is how to reclaim our right to sleep confidently, assuredly and without guilt while a work . This is something we really need to work at- try it, it doesn’t really matter who you are; you could just be a student, homemaker, journalist, ISD officer, businessman, civil servant (but if you happen to be a pilot or train driver, do check first with HR) – either way learning to sleep confidently will definitely change your life for the better, I guarantee you this 100%  – if you notice even the Bangladeshi expatriates seem to know that a siesta can improve health, happiness and performance. (The rest of this essay has been withdrawn due to measured response)

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) Think about it! Would you keep on giving money to someone who keeps making wrong calls every couple of years only to end up losing everything that he borrowed from you and other people? Think it through? As this question is jugular and probably the most important question you will probably have to ask yourself.

The logical answer would be a resolute “No!” Then why do we put so much faith in the “science” of economics?

Wonder no more why I’ve always been skeptical about economics from the word go. If you’re already an economist or planning to be one; I am sorry to burst your bubble – I am not out to cause offence (really I am not), but that’s just the way I see it – is it a bullshit profession? I give you the facts; you decide. (if this hits you like a freight train, that’s good – it means you’re taking your life seriously, so it;s never personal…understand?)

The reason why I don’t regard economics to be higher than let’s say rain dancing is because I have been asking myself only one question since the subprime crisis tanked: if economics is a science; then why do financial crises keep happening every 5 years? Why is it so hard to predict the next shit the fan economic doomsday scenario?

Think about it! Does my car explode every time I turn on the ignition? Do planes fall out of the sky every holiday season? And what about X-Ray? Does it leave you glowing like a lightbulb? – You want to know why the things I’ve just mentioned have such a low failure rate, high level of realibility and acceptable level of safety?

It’s because those inventions are governed by the laws of science – wonder no more why they don’t behave like either the subprime crisis or the Irish economy. To paraphrase science is progressive that’s one reason why it is so predictable and dependable – that could also be one reason why you don’t regularly jump off buildings or stick your tongue into a power socket– economics however is none of these things; it’s cyclical (which is just a polite way of saying, we don’t seem to able to learn from our mistakes) and judging from how so many people got blindsided by the financial meltdowns – economics is as predictable as a demented Jack-in-the-box.

One reason why economics is largely still a hit and miss enterprise may have alot to do with it’s nature. While science builds upon available knowledge and allows us to make relatively accurate guessestimates (most of the time). The same cannot be said about economics  – so again please….is economics a science or is it just hogwash?

One clue that may reveal the nature of economics for what it really is may have something to do with how through the years we have inadvertently promoted economics to the level of a veritable science. To paraphrase: since we regard it as a science; we treat it as a science and given the benefit of time, it assumes the authority of science i.e lexicon – but this doesn’t for one moment alter it’s intrinsic nature i.e economics is not a science.

And let me share with all of you: why I believe economics cannot be a science. While science is a process of continuous improvement that involves formulating models to help explain – why stuff behave the way they do – and to  predict outcomes under a given set of conditions – where the goal is to validate the model continuously. Hence when the model fails, it is adjusted to reflect the “new reality” and the process starts again, till it cannot be refuted any longer – when improvements can no longer be made; then it’s called a break through like Newtonian physics. Since there is a robust explanation that is being approximated by the models, there is such a thing as an “objective reality”  to be describe how these models work under a given set of conditions. The models evolve representations of the relationships and features that are defined by the system and are testable.

On the other hand economics is a polyglot of myths, fantasy and a couple of unicorns and leprechauns thrown in – since what really accounts for its workings at the core first requires agreement among the players how certain assumptions should color the elements that make up the game.

It is precisely this reliance on assumptions as to how the game should and must be played that requires suspension of belief on a mass scale – and since so much of what makes up the set pieces of economics is premised on social technology rather than “objective reality.”

It is nothing more than an elaborate intellectual ponzi scheme – where providing all the players believe elephants can fly; then it makes perfect sense to discuss how many flying elephants can fit on a pinhead – a failing common to all Ponzi schemes however is since they rely exclusively on the power to mythologize, embellish and exaggerate the facts to suit what needs to explain away – they will always be vulnerable to the naked truth – fortunately most of the time, the system doesn’t get stressed to breaking point where the economic explanations peel away from what’s actually happening- the problem is when the truth outstrips the lie so completely that it is no longer possible to sustain the illusion; when this end point is reached since the majority of players can no longer afford to buy into the belief elephants can fly – the game ends suddenly and house falls like a pack of cards. Game over.

(The remainder of this essay written by Darkness and Vollaraine has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response)

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If you’re reading this now – yes you! The chances are, you might not even finish one tenth of it. At least, those are the combined findings from a pair of recent research projects – respectively, the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack survey, and analysis by Jakob Nielsen – which both suggest that many of us no longer have the ability to sustain the focus needed for the reading habit.

The problem doesn’t just stop there: Universities from Maine to Manchester all report that we are becoming less attentive book-readers – don’t believe me, then check this out recently revealed that he has had to shorten his students’ reading list, and if that didn’t convince you, try this bemused by junior colleagues who analyse sources with a search engine.

So are we getting dumbed down by the internet? Well that’s what the author of The Shallows, Nicholas Carr seems to think – according to his book, our online habits are literally rewirring our brains and changing the way we think – these days instead of processing lengthy textual information systematically – what we do is assemble information rough shod, hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts – somewhere in all this, it simply means – although the internet is salvation; it has also been perdition; since we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits at such an imaginable speed, range and breadth, we are also gradually forgetting how to appreciate it’s depth, scope and relating all these facts to each other – in this respect, the advent of the internet may have empowered us with information; but it is doubtful that it has added much to the ideal of humanity.(the remainder of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response)

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) Spain’s Santander bank (Ticker: STD) probably has the world’s funniest stock symbol – but investors don’t seem to be laughing.

Recently due to mounting fears (real or imagined…does it really matter?) of the Irish financial crisis threatening to engulf both Portugal and Spain; Santander’s shares have slid almost 5% and yesterday they gave up a whopping 6%!

A troubling picture seems to be emerging; one where developing concerns over the Irish economic troubles in the Iberian peninsula may prove bigger than even what’s panning out in the Korean peninsula as the US and S.Korea prepare for war games.

Although both Portugal and Spain vehemently deny they need help from either the EU or IMF; newspaper speculation rife that both economies are in trouble and it is only a matter of time before they will have to go with a coconut bowl to the European Union to seek a bailout plan – the market doesn’t seem to be convinced that all is well. And this little bit of askance may just be what it takes to transform perception into something that is real – so real, that if you really want an image of what is likely to hit both Portugal and Spain and probably the entire EU; if confidence goes right through the floor boards – try making a claw with your hand and just imagine that you have razor sharp nails (The rest of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response)

Smoke in My Car

November 26, 2010

I am vain, but not that vain – it’s supposed to be a hidden security camera in my car – the idea is anyone dumb enough to steal it will end up getting their image plastered all over the world wide web.

This morning after sending a customer off to the airport – as I was driving sedately minding my own business – my gear box started to smoke. As you can see; the cabin started to smoke and I was searching frantically for a fire extinguisher.

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and press +) The Irish bank crisis is starting to look like the proverbial stone that holds up the face of a mountain – remove that one stone and what may very well happen is an avalanche of sorts – implausible? Unlikely? Maybe…then again maybe not.

If there is one thing that I never ever underestimate it is this: the ability of the free market to surprise me Dr Jackal and Mr Hyde style – this economic crisis that looms over Europe should serve as a timely warning to free market adherents and apologist; for ever since I can remember – they have been going on and on about the “wisdom,” of the market – and how the free market can always be trusted to sort things out.

Now the truth is out in the streets – there is no such thing as the wisdom of the markets – it’s like talking about snakes in Norway – the thing doesn’t exist! And if the free market was actually a person; it may not be such a bad idea to shoot him a few times with a tranquilizer gun to prevent him doing more damage.

Looking now at the Irish crisis and considering whether Ireland’s problems will eventually engulf Portugal and Spain, it’s hard if not impossible to put one’s faith in the free market – the way I see it; it’s all about perception – perception drives the market; perception is the market and perception determines what should be the next course of action – I know it should be logic; but it isn’t – it’s all about perception.

That in the nutshell is what the market is all about – anyone who tells you otherwise simply doesn’t know his right from his left foot – as I said, it’s not about fundamentals or even the whole idea of value and right price – it’s all about perception.

And this brings me to the nub of what I have to say about the Irish Banking crisis -as the moment more than 5 out of 10 people have even a flicker of doubt that the Irish crisis is going to overeach to other parts of the EU; that’s really all the excuse the clever money needs to start moving out of EU and what we are likely to get is the end of the EU as we know it.

Sounds implausible…impossible…unlikely…but The remainder of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to the order of Measured Response

(To increase the font size in this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) Wonder no more why most savy investors these days seem to be parking their money in metals – that’s the easy part trying to second guess where the clever money is stashed and why – the $64 million question is trying to figure out which metals will next attract the clever money?

The way I see it, is Simple Simon – the more governments commit themselves to the crack brained path of Quantitative Easing i.e printing money – the less value there is to holding hard currency – so if you happen to be in cash positions -good luck lah.

What about equities? (stocks) – well, they will be volatile IMHO and even more so in 2011 (so unless you want to buy into sleepless nights and a perpetual high blood pressure – stocks is something that will not exceed 30% of my investment portfolio next year – besides they are hard to hide) - the way I see it against this backdrop of shifting sands; the search for real value will sharpen and this will be the main theme next year – so far no one has really asked themselves about value. All they seem to do is to consume just because they see other people doing so – or someone just told them it is good to consume, so they consume. But as we move deeper and deeper into an economic climate of resource scarcity – what will have to happen is consumers will begin to ask deeper questions – like what is the real value of this pigeon coup? What am I really spending my hard earned money on? Is it sustainable? Can it grow from strenght to strenght? And most importantly, what’s it’s intrinsic value? I believe the main narrative next year and beyond will be only one story – it will be all about value, value and value.

I have a firm eye on Platinum – so far in the precious metals league, platinum shows as much life as a very dead Egyptian mummy – that is good, very good indeed, as it means, the world hasn’t really picked up the scent yet – infact, when you compare tortoise Platinum to Silver and Palladium; the latter have both rocketed to the uppereaches of 60% since january; both these metals have even outstripped gold by 40% ranges.

But nothing seems to be happening with Platinum…not yet at least…this year she is just up 14% and at $1647 a troy ounce – most investors seem to be passing up for more exotic metals – recently, I did some checking up on a firm…Johnson Mattley…I’ve got a gut feel.

The remainder of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response.

(To increase the font size in this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) These days everyone seems to be dumping bank stocks – it’s all doom and gloom. Let’s get down to basics; if you took my advice to punch out a couple of weeks ago – you are now sitting pretty.

Are things going to get worse? Will the luck of the Irish run out? What about the Koreans? Are they going to start WW3 – you know what? Either way I see it – the general mood is sell, sell and sell.

The days of hold tight is over – these days its all about the short play – the question now is this: if you’ve kept your powder dry all this time – what’s the best counter for the play?

I see at least 5 gems in the horizon – let’s start with an unknown beauty – yes, I know she is in a dirty and dark place – but then again, where would you find a diamond? In a dirty and dark place perhaps? Check this out: the way I see it, she is good for at least 0.40 cents  http://www.google.com/finance?client=ob&q=NASDAQ:PCBC / believe it or not, I am also a big fan of the Allied Irish Bank – AIB, that is currently bottom skimming at 0.85 cents…so go fish…the rest of this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response.

(To increase the font in this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +)

During Mr Ngiam’s book launch; General Yeo laid claim to many things – I guess he said many things obliquely and not directly – this, I can understand. I will take issue with him on only one contention – and it concerns his observations about how he claims – how so many Chinese bureaucrats still consider Singapore as a “die-die” must learn from success story – I think at best this account misleads; at worst it lulls us into a false sense of security.

The truth is there is very little for the Communist Chinese to learn from us – and the sooner we realize this, the better it is for all of us.

I know this may come as a rude awakening to many; so let me share with all of you this story. Many years ago, while studying in the UK, I chanced across a knot of Chinese students – from their shabby attire and furtive glances, I gathered they must have been from the mainland. We struck up a friendship of sorts – though we had very little in common – there was one thing that united us, our fascination for space and UFO’s.

So every weekend on the dot; we would all meet in some field in the English countryside and set up our tripods and scope the night sky – during these sessions, it was not uncommon to BBQ some chicken wings and wolf them down with cider and ale- soon it became apparent to all of us; the Communist Chinese enjoyed these meets immensely – but people being people can be very cruel; behind their backs, the English would refer to them as bumpkins, the Americans called them hill Billies – I myself found it impossible not to buy into the caricature of how many of us saw them – bungling’ clumsy and unworldly to the point of being uncouth -that was many years ago.

A few years ago – I receive an anonymous letter requesting for certain calculations to be performed – the brief originated from a discreet law firm based in Zurich – they paid very well; as I recall, the work had something to do with load vibration under high speeds and how certain materials will perform under X,Y and Z conditions – so I accepted.

After I had completed the assignment, I was asked to fly to London and hand deliver my brief – this I considered unusual; but the tone in the letter was most insistent, suggesting that should I fail to show up in person – the final instalment will be withheld – so I relented.

On the hour, when I entered the Cafe Royale just off Piccadily Circus – I was shown by the maitre to a private dining booth – there 2 gentlemen greeted me – they were impeccably dressed – we dined on beluga caviar; poisson de la creme with generous lashings of Chateau Lafite 1935 – one of the two seated opposite me was one of the students who used to carry the tripod during our weekly BBQ night watches – he was now the managing director of one of the largest rolling stock manufacturers in China.

From that moment, I realized that BBQ chicken wings and discounted cider were things of the past that belong to a bygone age.

Darkness – 2010

This excerpt is part of an essay that has been withheld from general circulation due to measured response.

On Scholars Again….

November 22, 2010

Due to measured response, the full lenght of this essay cannot be published here / for details as to how to read essays from the BP, please contact you friendly Internet Liaison officer of the Brotherhood:

Can Someone Tell Me Why Our Scholars Aren’t as Smart as the Jews?

“There is a very enchanting story that Singaporedaddy once recounted. You all know him as the Liaison officer. We were travelling in Europe. And we chanced upon this implausible story in a pub about how in 1939, when German tanks rolled across this area; the Polish high command responded by despatching their elite hussars – the Poles were very proud of their  kawaleria; they were considered by many to be the flower of their encadrements – the elite, so to speak – but this doesn’t quite explain how anyone in their right frame of mind in 1939 would issue orders that advancing enemy armor should be dealt with by men riding horses and weilding lances and swords – to understand how the Polish devotion to cavalry was to spell the doom of their country in 1939 – you first need to understand how as a group, the kawaleria regarded themselves as an invincible force – the problem was not only did they buy into this fantasy; they even successfully manage to sell it to their countrymen – so through out this opium laced fantasia; they were hermetically shielded from modern military developments in the wider world – at a time, when most German Panzer divisions were perfecting how to fire their 35mm on move; the Polish kawaleria were still parading on their horses and attending garden parties – they made no effort to either learn or acquire modern methods of warfare. But worse of all what really did them in faster than you can say “one char kueh teow please,” was their much vaunted invincibility was never ever challenged over a 500 years! During this period of extended peace, they had not only grown flabby; but they had come to mythologize their own invincibility to such an extent that I don’t think it was possible to effect change any longer – some people say, had they been more open and forward to new developments happening all around them – that might have warned them that the days of the horsemen were numbered – but I don’t buy that version; my opinion is, by that period the belief in their own invincibility had become so encrusted with myth; that it must have fossilized all the levers of power – so now you all know the real story behind the myth of how cavalrymen once charged tanks – but my friends this is not a story as it is an allegorical tale about folly on a grande scale – it is a tale of what can and will come to past when idiots think they are above the fray – now you know why when I see a bunch of people; setting up their mutual appreciation club and back slapping each other – it is time to make for the exit – walk straight – don’t look back – don’t past go and collect $200 – trust me, you may not know where you are heading, but I can assure you any place is better than the company of  bloody fools.”

Darkness  

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) The Confessions is the first e-book ever published in Singapore – todate it has a circulation of over 150,000 spanning over 37 countries and has been translated to over 30 languages – this historical instalment is now freely avaliable to you – editing and compiling was undertaken by Inspir3d of the Intelligent Singaporean / Francois of C’est La Vie and Tim of Icered.

Spending an entire month’s wage on a pair of pearl earrings was bad enough – what could be worse than this, except perhaps to spend another month’s wage, on an identical pair of pearl earrings.

That morning as I sat on the edge of my bed cupping my head, I wondered what could possibly be worse than even this.

Except perhaps having no one to give this second pair of earrings too! I should have known better, but as I often said, I had forgotten that I was my greatest enemy. I really should have known better.

Chinatown in London was a small village where everyone knew everyone, even those who did not know themselves were known by the others. The Jeweler who I purchased the first earrings from was a Shanghainese by the name of Mr. Kam who had a sparkling bald head like the many jade rings he often sold.

He would often be seen gossiping in the many teahouses in China town. Just as tailors would often seek out the suits they once worked on or cobblers at the shoes they once labored over and derive a sense of pride from their workmanship. So it was very much the nature of Mr Kam the jeweler to always seek out the stones he sold to the tai tai’s in China town, and whenever he saw them, it was like a reunion between old friends and his eyes would beam in satisfaction and he would proudly say,

“Aiyah, I know who gave you this, it came from my shop”.

That evening during the Chinese New Year celebration, the earrings I have given my mistress, had caught the eye of this talkative jeweler who often spoke his mind. Though he could never really be sure, this man would often recount to others in the tea houses how those earrings he saw that night resembled the same design and size he had sold me a few weeks ago.

When this reached the ears of some of the elders wifes, some of them began asking me who this lucky girl was. Others were even bolder, asking me whether they could take a peek at these earrings. Behind their smiling faces, I knew that as soon as their husbands would come to hear of this rumor they would not be smiling – it was a serious matter. I was swimming in treacherous waters and had I hesitated even for a moment to even clear my throat, it would have been my undoing, so. I pretended to be shy about the matter and even blushed, while secretly I worked furiously to cover my tracks.

Fortunately that week, some of the work, I did for the old man took me far up North to Manchester and on one of those trips, I stopped over in a Jeweler shop owned by a Hakka and commissioned an identical set of pearl earrings. This time, I had chosen well, this man had a mouth as tight as an oyster and though it was never ever proven, rumor had it, he was once convicted for forgery, and. If anyone knew the importance of discretion, it would have been this man who dealt with counterfeits.

He even furnished me with a back dated receipt he crumpled a few times to cover the earrings I had given my mistress, and. Though he spoke very little, when it was time to leave, this man said, it would be better if I left by the back door.

That evening on my return to London, I was summoned by some of the elders in the Triad to dinner who expressed an interest to see my gift and to enquire for who this gift was supposed to be for.

Though I was not a superstitious man that evening I visited the only temple in China town above a Pakistani provision shop and knelt before the wooden figurine of Kwang Kung. I prayed a soldiers prayer,

“protect me from evil and should I have to fight my way out, give me the strength of ten men”.

With these word, I tapped my breast pocket and the reassuring sound of the pearls rattling seemed almost to agree with my prayers – then I walking towards my appointment with death.

I wondered what manner of creature I would prefer to be reincarnated as – would it be a monkey, goat, snake, buffalo, dog, turtle, cat, elephant, horse, tiger, leopard, dolphin, gold fish, parrot, lizard, eagle, crow, sparrow etc – I was 23 years of age and never ever before was I so aware, I was my greatest enemy.

My name is Huan Guan and this is a true story, tell no one please.

Darkness 2002

The Brotherhood Press 2002. 889312002 /

PLEASE NOTE: THE BROTHERHOOD PRESS IS UNDER MEASURED RESPONSE, SOME OF THE LINKS AND CODES HAVE BEEN DE-ACTIVATED / FOR MORE INFORMATION PLS CONTACT THE INTERNET LIAISON OFFICER OF THE BROTHERHOOD DIRECTLY.

(To increase the size of the font – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) Recently General George Yeo during a book launch made a curious comment concerning, scholars – he went on underscore: how the idea of “scholarship,” in Singapore is synonomous withthe pursuit of excellence, in both the public and private sphere ; and went on to explain how this notion was markly different from the Western conception of the term “scholar,” where it refers strictly to those who are holding positions in academia – General George Yeo went on to add, it was because of this defining difference in attitudes which accounted for the Singapore success story and why it was such an appealing public service model to the Communist Chinese – to paraphrase, the reason why the Americans and Europeans are experiencing so much grief in their Western democracy is because unlike us Asians; they didn’t bother to put in place the scholar system to ensure their commitment to excellence and best practices in both the private and public sector – to put it crudely, the West disregarded quality control and now they are paying big time for it -we on the otherhand did; that’s why we are tops – and that’s why we are worthy of emulation by the Communist who can’t seem to get enough of the Singapore way.

On the surface – the nub of General George Yeo’s argument seems to make perfect sense – and it goes something like this -

“put the best people into a job and you are likely to get the best results.”

The only problem with that straight line zero margin for error calculation is it doesn’t sit very well with how things really pan out in the real world – common sense observation suggest firstly – there is very little connection between grades and high performance – consider this: if that were really true then how can one really account for the stellar success stories like the life and times of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs et al?

This should prompt us all to ask the deeper question: what really separates the men from the boys? Is it a simple case of drawing the straight line conclusion: good academic -= right stuff ? Or is there something much more to the whole idea of the pursuit of individual and organizational excellence –  one clue that points to the idea there could be something substantially “more,” to the whole idea of what really separates a real elite from a fungazzi (phony scholar) – is the idea of the classical golden mean promulgated by Aristole as the acid test of character – the sage went on to add:

“The courageous human being…is able to strike a mean (balance) between rashness and cowardice… and if things go wrong she or he will be among those who lose out.” 

The problems become apparent when we subject the Singapore scholarship program to this basic bench test – the first problem we observe is since everything to do with the scholarship program encourages a risk adverse mentality i.e “keep to the yellow brick road,” instead of winnowing for mavericks who would otherwise be mentally comfortable with managing risk – we end up instead with scady cats – who are not only risk adverse but are also encourage to transfer or siam as much risk as possible to others so as to preserve their golden ricebowls – this begs the $64 million question: what use then is the scholar system to Singapore? Is this the reason why our ports are going downhill? Could this be why unlike the Communist who have managed to successfully home grow solar technologies, mass rapid transport, we are still bottom feeding on “built to order” manufacturing? Coming to think of it – if we have the best staffed public service in the world – can someone please tell me why aren’t we No.1?

The remainder of this essay written by Darkness of the Brotherhood has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response.

“When you reach the fifth dan of Kendo, Harphoon – and you have learnt most things there is to learn about Kendo – one realization will either hit you or fly over your head like a meteorite – most exponents regrettably do not see it.

But my young apprentice – you will learn there are no strikes from the left side; it doesn’t exist  in the way of the sword- now you know why Samurai never ever needed to carry heavy sheilds like the Romans, Normans and Celts – so in other words those mother******* samurai elites ritualized warfare – they are not so different from crooks who put a couple of magnets in the roulette wheel -those rascals syndicated it – that way the house will win all the time – the biggest con job in town.

Coming to think of it apprentice; there is so much f***ing custom in Kendo that if you are not part of the Samurai club; there is no f***ing way you could even fight – so the elites used this mumbo jumbo to emasculate the masses – it was the very same tactic the Aztecs high priest used to perpetuate their human sacrifice rituals, since they knew precisely when the solar eclipse would occur – it became too easy to sell the idea some mythical creature had eaten the sun  – and if you look at it there are a 1,000 and one things you need to learn in Kendo; most of it are absolutely useless stuff;  like how to tie your hakama loosely so that you katana will hang like a six shooter from your hip; you have to learn to bow, take three steps, draw out your sword and a hundred and one things – you even have to learn how to die without messing up your tatami- so in effect what these Samurai’s did was mythologize their own prowess – that is why during the Showa period; there was so much resistance to firearms – it’s not that the Samurai elite could not see the value of gunpowder – any idiot could have seen that – the real reason why those fake elites resisted the idea of the firearm was because ordinary people would have been able to see right through them, just like glass – they would have been able to see the awful truth; those Samurai’s are no more elites than I am a superman with a ten inch ****…like I said, the greatest con job in town.”

Darkness 2010 – this quote accompanies the end of this essay.

(To Increase the font size – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +)  It hardly requires any elaboration: understanding the past is crucial in the process of peace and reconciliation – the question is why should we even bother with the whole formality of forgiving? What is the point of even making a big deal out of forgetting? Coming to think of it, do we even have such a thing as a social right in the community contract to demand such a thing?

If there is one thing long standing conflicts tell us. For example: Turks versus Armenians, Hutus versus Tutsi, Serbs versus Albanians and closer to home Gahmen versus bloggers – it may be to reframe the question of forgiving and forgetting in terms of whether we can really afford not to learn how to do this often and regularly – the stakes are high – because if we don’t learn how to forgive and forget; we may be stuck in one groove or worse still caught up in the gyre of the blame game –  without a coherent way of resolving conflicts. The danger is as time goes by our differences will merely fossilized into something very close to “ancient enmities” – and this implies one group hating another group for no apparent reason.

In this sense – the art of forgiving and forgetting not only has a strategic value but since the pay out’s remain high, it’s arguable for any society to perpetuate itself coherently. This may well be an indispensable skill that we need to learn if we are serious about the business of getting along – it’s even conceivable when we talk about the whole idea of the common good, community and the social contract –  if we remain bovine about the whole idea of learning the art of forgiving and forgetting – we may run the danger of aping the form without embodying the content.

In considering  whether we should forgive Jack Neo for his indiscreations, this debate takes place against the philosophical backdrop that I have just painted – the case for forgiving and forgetting goes back to an excellent blog essay once written by General George Yeo – it was written some years ago when he first started blogging. In an age when it was not unusual for netizens in the Singapore blogosphere to write 4 or even 5 pages – a bygone age when readers could bear the beauty of the written word for all it’s glory – and though the narrative is hazy. I remember it was set in the Sikh community and involved the perpetrator being symbolically tied up by the elders in the community – in the end, the perpetrator was forgiven by the community again – this story may sound child like and even irrelevant to many; but what it attempts to broach is a very serious subject that involves the recognition by the perpetrators of the damage they inflicted on victims – and how victims must also be allowed the right to closure. For this to really happen, there should be opportunities for victims and perpetrators to talk about these events, and for the events to be acknowledged by whoever caused them – the truth it seems will set you free – this essay has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured response.

(To increase the font size – hold down the Ctrl key and press +) This Canadian public official definitely has a hole in his head, the size of the Grand Canyon –  And guess what? He is no ordinary Joe with a cookie either –  He just happens to be the president and CEO of Alberta Health Services  The video of Stephen Duckett waving off reporters is going to go viral in YouTube so I am just doing my part my adding some grease as it makes it’s way happily into the millionth mark.

This brings me to the nub of the question this lazy Sunday afternoon: how should we treat public officials and institutions who are simply unresponsive to questions? Do public officials have a duty of care to those they are supposed to serve? Or can they just treat the public like shit and hide behind the tall wall of officialdom? What’s the cost, if they adopt that policy? Or worst still, do they really have the right to give the public the mushroom treatment – “where they are kept in the dark and fed manure.” This humorous essay by Astroboy and Scholarboy has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response.

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) It’s a question that hangs like a fog after a party – why can the Chinese these days do everything that the Americans used to do, but cannot do these days – China these days seems to be running circles around the US in practically every industry – wind, solar, mass transport, nuclear, rocketry right up to mainstays such the automobile and semi-conductors – the lag between the US and China is so pronounced these days – it has even provoked many to ask: WHY???????? “Who’s Sleeping Now

As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So where did the US take a wrong turn? And what did the Chinese do right to put themselves on the path to breakneck industrial growth? Coming to think of it (since we happen to be on this subject) why can’t Singapore seem to replicate the success of China? Don’t we have a scholar system? Weren’t we the first to implement mass rapid transport and reach out our air and sea ports to the world; when the Chinese were still sporting Maoist high collar jackets – so why are we still stick in the rut assembling camera’s and high end plasma TV’s? Why haven’t we been able to break out from the rut of putting-together-stuff-other-people-designed manufacturing? Why can’t we be real producers like China and move up the value chain? After all we had the best elites in the world manning the wheel house…right? So why are we now so far behind China these days that we are starting to look like China before it decided to wake up?

Does it have anything to do with size? As the movie Godzilla testifies: “size matters.” But according to the head of the ASDF, Vollariane thinks otherwise: “Size and lack of land has always been cited as factors that have corseted our innovation and creativity; this is the favorite tune of the custodians of power. We cannot do this or that because our population base is too small, we do not have economy of scale; our markets are too small etc. But if you look at some of the most creative and innovative societies in the world; size seems to be a non-issue – Sweden for example is a good example of small is beautiful; despite its small population; it is able to successfully harness innovation and creative to good effect and leads in areas such aerospace, automobile manufacturing, power generation and furniture design – in terms of patents per capita –Sweden today is the most innovative and creative place in the world –so this proves conclusively all this talk about population base, home market size advantage and resource constraint is hog wash – in my opinion whether a country makes or breaks; turns on only one thing – good and bad planning – let me share with you the real reason why China is able to successfully overtake the US in such a short time – and the real reason why despite our 40 year head start, we failed to capitalize on our strenghts to carve out competitive advantage – instead what we did was to squander precious resources on pie-in-the-sky projects like chasing Philip Yeo’s Byzantine pipedream……….this write up and interview with the head of the ASDF has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response.

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