January 31, 2017
It’s been nearly a year since one of my Doberman’s passed on. His name was Big Foot. Big Foot wasn’t like any of my other guard dogs. He was just very undoberman. Abnormal even which I tried to change at first. Only eventually to throw up my hands because I realized he probably realized what made him perfectly normal from all other dogs in my pack, was the pride he took from being unlike all of them.
Big Foot was really just a human pretending to be a canine.
But Big Foot’s was bitten by a cobra that must have wandered into the compound in the cover darkness – from the looks of it, it was full bite and by the second day his breathe was labored as the venom had spread to the rest of her organs and he was in great pain.
I did everything I could to drain out the venom including severing the veins and suturing them up again…but it was too late….it had gone to far and deep.
On the third day. I put on a pair of rubber gloves and held his head lovingly in my arms and snapped it. It was lightning fast and painless. I’ve missed Big Foot since then.
Recently Big Foot’s other twin, Turbo gave birth to a puppy – even at three weeks and a bit. I can tell this he bears certain similarities to Big Foot – for instance, this puppy has a habit of holding out it’s paw like one of the those gold plated battery cats that one sees from time to time in shops. Big Foot used to do that…..maybe Big Foot has finally returned.
The buddhist believe everything is predestined. Even a chance meetings is the result of karma…..Things in life are fated by our previous lives. So much so that even in the smallest events that may seem improbable, coincidental and even down right impossible – there’s no such thing as coincidence…it’s karma.
I am not by nature a religious person. Maybe it’s the tragic way Big Foot once departed that left an empty chamber in my heart that makes me want to believe in reincarnation.
Welcome back Big Foot.
‘By just the simple act of living, we run the risk of getting hurt. I am not even talking about the sort of living that requires one to operate heavy machinery or to hang for dear life tethered to a rope in a mountaineering expedition.
Just living. Ordinary living. You know the sort where you wake up, brush your teeth, dress, gulp down your Milo and make it out of the house to join the rest of humanity with roughly the same automatic processing power it takes to tie your shoes laces.
Plain ordinary living. True as this might be can leave a hole in your heart….because this is what it means to live and be a human – it is the one truth we all eventually learn and hopefully can find the courage to come to terms with. That’s what I learned from Big Foot’s sudden death.
May seem strange to you. But when a farmer spends so much time in the desolation of the wild with only his dogs and the nearest human is fifteen minutes drive away – then a bond forms – where at times, it may not even be incredulous to have a profound debate about macroeconomics or quantum physics with Big Foot….those who there all the time…in the good and bad, sweet and better can on grow on you…very much in the way people who come into our lives and fill it with laughter and joy can only grow on us as well.
That’s what it means to live. That’s what it means to be alive.
Often we say to ourselves in hope of staving off grief. Oh well, he’s there and I am here. I am safe in my hermetically sealed digital bunker. After all. There’s thousand of miles of co-axial cables that separate me from him…..there’s no possible way that he can whirl himself into my life. I am me and he is he….over there. The nearest we will ever get is like two ships passing each other in the dark with the lights turned off!
We say this to ourselves not to spare us all from grief that we don’t need. Rather it’s due to our false belief that if we can somehow hold back – that’s the best way to get by.
But life isn’t like that – one doesn’t nearly go around bubble wrapped not especially when others choose to come into our lives – not even if they happen to be a different species. Not if they can make you laugh at yourself, shed a tear and even stimulate your mind to see the world slightly differently from the way you have always seen it.
That’s what happens when one life reaches out and touches another.
Something moves….shifts…creeps…maybe ever so slightly that you don’t even notice it. But trust me you’ve moved closer. A door in your heart has flung opened and soon – you become one.
Call it what you want…community…solidarity. Or maybe just two souls that share a common bond.
Like my relationship with Big Foot – it doesn’t have to be a discourse. Sometimes it’s just one where one person talks and another has the patience to bear out the words. At other times it’s the words that live on and they become alive that makes the connection.
You see, hear and think the things he does. Or rather you think you do – and even if you don’t quite manage to get all of that together. At least you say to yourself from time to time – though you wouldn’t really care to admit it to anyone else…I am glad you came into my life.
I am glad you’re always there for me.
And one day when that person suddenly leaves – no truth can cure that sorrow. No strength, no understanding, No amount of sagacity can fill that inexplicable void in your life. All you can really do is go around the best you can like damaged goods with this profound sensation of loss that no one can ever sense or even understand even if they really strived too – because that relationship was so special – it’s as though you’re marooned in your own skull….but slowly with the chastening passage of time by just the mere act of living.
Yes ordinary living…the sort that doesn’t even require you to chop carrots fast and furious. Or even require you to stick your neck out for anyone In the office….just plain ordinary living.
The sort of everydayness – where the only thing you hope for at half past seven after work is to get a seat next to the glass on the MRT to get some shut eye. The sort of ordinariness that permeates the marrow of each passing day uneventfully and the only the thing that marks time is the diminishing size of your toothpaste or you suddenly realized that you have finally discovered the very first white pubic hair in your entire life on your body – through that tunnel of unending litany that stretches out like a long road beyond the horizon of time at the end of it all….you will gain the courage to hope again and soon like a seed germinating inside that no man’s land that was once was barren and windswept with sorrow something will grow again and that which you once lost will return in yet another form….in life we all live and learn. Welcome back again Big Foot.
I want to believe….for today at least in reincarnation. I so want too.’
January 29, 2017
Q: What do you see as the main political, economic, social and technologically challenges in the year of the Rooster?
A: I don’t see any roosters. All I see is the big elephant in the room that everyone refers to as president Trump.
It’s going to be a very US centric year. As Trump won the election solely on one tag line – we are going to make America great again! And by every definition, even the most forgiving that can only be interpreted as a clear intention to shake up the status quo.
Q: How much of the shake up are we talking about and how might that affect Asia?
A: That’s a bit of a contradiction. As from what I have been able to make out – Trump has a pretty competent crew. Unlike Adolf Hitler who surrounded himself with delusional idiots who were all yes men – from my assessment, most of his key decision makers and advisors are very experienced, thoughtful and most importantly people who have a stellar trek record in getting things done the right way.
But if you talk about Trump in the context of Asia – the first casualty has been the TPP. That’s in the dumpster now. The second unknown quantity is how committed he is for the US to retain it’s primacy in the Pacific as a stabilizing counter balance against the rise of China – that’s not clear. I think the Japanese and the South Korean’s will demand clarity on this issue – as they don’t ever want to weaponize their atomics and much prefer status quo.
But if we look at Trumps recent interaction with Theresa May who is the post Brexit PM – he has reiterated his commitment to NATO and standing in line with retaining the sanctions on Russia. So that is a very good indication that we may choose if we like to juxtapose to what will probably pan out in Asia as well.
For the time being status quo seems to be untouched.
Q: Do you see the philosophy of Trump and Brexit spreading to Asia in the year of the Rooster?
A: Xenophobia. Parochialism. Insularity. They are not new to either the US or EU. This is not a phenomenon and the world at large is not threatened by the advent of some a Andromeda strain that transforms reasonable and sane people into Xenophobic zombies as what the mainstream press and many neo liberal denialist insist – it is a reaction to many of the inequities that have been generated by globalization and the age of automation along with the convergence of global interconnectivity.
The story is a well trodden path – many hard working EU and US workers thru no fault of their own have simply not benefited from globalization – wealth despite what the globalist continue to insist has not percolated downstream evenly. Or for that matter equitably in such way where the vast majority can still have faith in globalization as the purveyor of the good life. That is the executive summary of the times that we live in.
Say what you want of Mr Trump. Say that he likes to grab ass and tits. But even the most erudite scholar on globalization cannot deny he has a vision and within it there is a clear set of missions to ameliorate many of the corrosive effects of globalization.
Whether his vision can pass from the realm of theory to reality is another story.
One doesn’t need to be a honorary member of Mensa to make out this is one big aspect that is sorely absent from the intelligentsia of globalization – a counter argument that would revivify trust and belief in globalization as a reliable purveyor of the good life to the masses.
You know Kompf. Recently the world leaders of the G20 meet in Davos and naturally the main topic was Mr Trump – and listening to what these people had to say, mid way I could help but experience a sinking Ach du lieber Himmel! moment – because it’s like being a fly on the wall of the smoking room five minutes after the Titanic struck an iceberg and listening to stupid people arguing over the color of curtains. That’s just how terminally entrenched their denial really is to the point where it’s my belief no counter argument will ever emerge from the ranks of the globalist.
The way I see it is prosaic. Trump has won! Finito. Kaput. La fin.
Now the imperative for the global community should be to craft a new philosophy that tempers globalization with real benefits that can open the aperture of opportunities and stimulate belief in upward social and economic mobility.
But instead these so called leaders prefer to see themselves as characters in a Proustian novel circa a La Recherche du Temps Perdu. It was just an epic lamentation fest – not a logical response at all to an emerging threat.
And the threats are real. And it’s not only confine to the EU or the US. If you go to Japan, you find a lot of right wing politicians coming into power because they oppose migrant workers. Closer home. Recently Mahathir has been taking broad swipes at a China real estate development called Forest city in Johor and again he’s leveraging on race, xenophobia along with even elements of lost of sovereignty.
So this is a big problem that is global. It is not like hay fever where it’s isolated to only the US and EU.
Q: Which world leader do you think the Davos leaders should sit down for two hour lecture on? Would it be Obama? Mini Lee?
A: Obama. Well let me be frank. He set a lot of policies that takes time to produce the goodies – the gestation period is too long in my opinion. But since they were mostly structured with long term horizons – it came across as a big nothing to the masses.
As for Mini Lee I have no comment. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions – I want to be polite. So I have no comment.
But the one leader that has managed to strike a happy balance between long and short term to further economic policies is the very unlikely Najib Razak.
Now if you look at Najib, he’s been very adept at pushing thru very unpopular policies, but at the same time he has also been able to sweeten the deal sufficiently to take out the bitterness – for example in the last two years Malaysia has embarked on a pheltora of aggressive economic policies to augment the drastic fall of oil prices and to put an end to subsidizes that can no longer be sustainable if she is to compete in a post TPP economic landscape.
I’ve done my research and no one other country, not even China has been able to move at the speed that Malaysia has. Today. Consumption tax is in effect. Oil, gas and even cooking oil and very soon rice will be off the list of subsidized necessaries – now bear in mind. Not even Tunku Abdul Rahman could have all done all these things without precipitating a revolution in Malaysia. But Najib & Co has and one way in which he has been able to do this is by parlaying very successfully with China to ensure that although these painful strategies are effected – the ordinary man or shall the average villager in the kampung still has the means to retain their buying power. For example where I am, the price of kembong fish has gone up RM$20 per kilo. Most of it is weather related and supply and demand driven. But since the price of oil palm has doubled – no in the kampung feels the pain – that is because unlike Obama who has been planting red wood pines that take 200 odd years to mature. Najib has been sowing Jack the bean stalks by getting the Chinese to stockpile on oil palm – now how long this will continue I don’t know. But my point is that Najib has been able to temper the corrosive effects of globalization by not passing on the grief to the rakyat (masses).
So in my book. You don’t have to go to Paul Krugman, Michael Porter or even Gary Hamel to find a solution out the quandary of globalization and how to sell it to the masses – my point is by just making sure the ordinary man benefits and his standard of living is commensurates with the notion of dignity of labor, it is still possible for a country to be a stakeholder in globalization.
The same however cannot be said out the Western Hemisphere or even other economies nearer home especially down south – where the pain and grief of globalization is usually passed on to the end user who is constantly told he is beneficiary, but when he goes down to NTUC and his dollar doesn’t seem to produce the bang – that’s where the dissonance between what officialdom says and reality bites.
Unfortunately in the case study of Najib Razak. It’s comes so encrusted with so much Fitna and allegations concerning the 1 MDB scandal that no one would ever consider it a worthy case study to emulate – that to me is a great travesty.
I am not saying Malaysia is perfect – there are certainly the normal quadrants of winners and losers here in any implementation of radical economic policies, but by and large the Malaysians have successfully managed changed in such a way where pain may be inevitable, but suffering is certainly optional.
Infact this year due to the high prices in oil palm fruit – all my harvesters enjoyed a big ang pow. But if economic policies are so conceived in such a way where profit margins are so narrow and slim and by appearances the rich get richer while the poor remain trapped in the poverty gyre like in so many Western economies – then Brexit or Trump’s win should not be surprise.
Q: What do you consider to be the most disturbing or dangerous aspect of the new Trump administration in the year of the rooster to South East Asia?
A: Understand this! It is not what Trump proposes to change that will be dangerous. Because there is very little that he can actually change, not without incurring real penalties at least. You want to slap levies and tariffs on China? Fine, they switch from Boeing to Airbus and couple of thousand jobs in the aeronautics sector gets wiped out in Seattle. What the average American doesn’t seem to grasp is the mathematics of reality – both China and the US need each to prosper.
Let’s talk sense here. The U.S. debt to China is $1.259 trillion, at the time this blog entry makes it to the public domain on the 29th January 2017 @ 0743. 20 seconds GMT. That’s 29 percent of the $3.841 trillion in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds held by other countries combined. The rest of the $19.9 trillion debt is owned by either the American people or by the U.S. government itself – now to put it graphically that’s like a bum with only loose change in a tube of Mentos in his pocket shouting at someone with the nett worth of the Shah of Iran when he was still in power – hey we are going to hurt you!
Now how much sense does it make?
So let’s get real.
At some point in the Trump administration the TPP will have to be revived. Because believe it or not the US is the main beneficiary of the TPP – they are the ones who holding 93% of the intellectual property that they can commoditize and rent seek on – and further more when you say the combine signatories of the TPP represent 40% of the global trade – that misleads. As the US makes up 22% of that quantum – so to me the question is how will Trump effect a U turn on the TPP without derogating from his election pledge to kill the TPP.
As the US needs the TPP more than Asia with the exception of Singapore and Japan.
Q: Trump says that he prefers one to one trade pacts with countries. Wouldn’t that be a substitute to the TPP?
A: Then he has to factor in the cost of ten more Nimitz class carriers or maybe three more Ford class carriers that each come at a price tag of USD$20 billion per pop – I am not even counting in staging post along with all the accoutrements that is required to support the military infrastructure such a massive commitment to the seventh fleet. Again this is economics!
The TPP is the cheapest way to get the job done – so we are back where we once started from…how will Trump effect a U turn and bring the TPP back online.
It’s conceivable Trump may have painted himself into a corner – then again never underestimate a show man. Because they’re all very clever at pulling rabbits out of top hats.
In summary I see the year of the rooster to be quite uneventful despite the prevailing sentiment of anxiety caused by the upset of a Trump win.
My greater concern is the inexorable slow down of the Chinese economy that for some curious and incomprehensible reason doesn’t seem to feature as prominently in the main stream media as it rightly should.
And this underscore the importance of scale and perspective – because if a port worker in Tanjong Pagar or a welder in Keppel shipyard is going to retrenched – the chances are it will relate to the economic slow down in China and not Trump.
The Chinese economic planners are of course putting in place a strategy to engineer a soft landing without decimating their emerging middle class or precipitating social unrest – they are fixated on the latter. As at every turning point in Chinese history violent political change has always been presaged by economic turmoil in the form of famine or maladministration in statecraft – they read, 6.5% growth and they go wow! I wish we could grow like that. But what they don’t realize is how systematically imbalanced this growth actually is to even cancel out the good that may come from a 6.5% growth – as when one factors in overcapacity especially in infrastructure, housing and commercial space the economy is excessively imbalanced and therefore it will have to thru a correction sometime in the future.
The question is how disruptive will it be to China and rest of Asia when that iceberg breaks off.
The other more worrisome aspect of the fragile Chinese economy relates to manufacturing output – we know it’s slowing down, but what we don’t know is how many that slow down may affect the new bourgeois or nouvue riche in the new enterprenuerial class – as many have expanded their operations not only by purchasing western manufacturing capital goods – but if orders shrink and they can’t run their lines. Then how can they service their loans. So the question is what the level of defaults there and how badly might the new merchant class in a China be impacted by the global slow down. The problem as I see it is getting hold of accurate economic intelligence data – the Chinese manufacturing index is far from reliable, it’s not like the US where it’s refereed by Standard and Poor or even combed for inconsistencies by the FED and the IMF – so things are very opaque.
No one actually knows – but the Chinese economy is definitely slowing down – consumption is constricting, employment is so far not seemingly affected, but it’s not as self confident as it used to be and I think all these factors will have a preponderant effect on South East Asia in the year of the rooster.
So to put in all the right scale and perspective. I am more worried about China than the US. I don’t deny the US is certainly disproportionally much more interesting because I think Melanie Trump’s baby blue Raplh Lauren dress was certainly very chic and gorgeous. But in the larger schema – I think it will be China, China and China that will be the mainstay of my interest in the year of the rooster.
We will certainly reach in further to tap on more information on the key indicators to see where the China economy is heading in the year of the rooster.
Thank you for having me and may I extend seasonal greetings to the guilds.
Q: I am sorry but I have one last question that the Guilds are especially interested in – what advice would you give to those who joining or who are already in the job market?
A: If you’re new. Try to get into the Singapore civil service. As providing you fail traditionally – you get to enjoy a pension. But if you’re in the cut throat private sector – then I say you have to absolutely set aside sometime to invest in a strategy to start your own enterprise. As the life cycle of today’s employee is much shorter and by the looks of it, it will get shorter. Not perhaps in all vocational sectors. But most will naturally as function of the business process go thru this metamorphosis simply because of the allure of the profit motive and the perennial need for firms to find new ways to maximize value.
These days the compact between firm and worker is so transactional – that once you reach a certain age band – then you’re in their accounting books you’re a liability that they simply can’t afford.
Well some people may saw experience counts. But I say in the age of the internet where knowledge is just one tap away – that doesn’t inspire much confidence. Then there are those who believe in training – but my response to that there are issues to diminishing returns from the firms point of view.
I don’t necessarily blame the business process per se. As if the HR doesn’t ask questions like how can we make use and throw this person out in two years. They probably wouldn’t be around.
So to me the most sustainable way out of this requires a paradigm shift where one really has to see oneself as the CEO of your own branding of products and services.
It’s certainly a new way of thinking for Singaporeans. Because everyone seems to just want to ace in their exams, get a government scholarship and they’re set for life. But not everyone can make the grade and even some who do, decide to jump ship for whatever reasons.
That means workers today need to have the end in very first day when they enter the job market – they need to be curious, inquisitive and not take for granted that their jobs will always be there for them.
It can be done. If you go to Hong Kong for example and you ask young people whether they want a scholar ship and be bonded – they will say, why do I want to waste my life? I want to be Li Kha Shin. It’s the same culture in America.
I am not saying skip university. No! See it thru to it’s logical end. Get that piece of paper. Because even should you start your own enterprise one day that will certainly serve you well – all I am saying is don’t ever limit your scope of possibilities to just Singapore alone – go out, spend a year bumming around Europe in a motorbike. Sleep under bridges. Grow a beard. Step into a museum on a rainy day. Buy a train ticket and go to a place that you have never ever heard of before.
Hopefully somewhere in all that you will find inspiration for what you really want to do with your life.
Q: You decided to become a farmer. That must be pretty strange. Was that the process or route that you took to find your calling?
A: Just imagine you’re in this really hip joint where they serve Martini’s drowned in Lychees with vapors of dry ice and techno music is playing and they’re really leggy chicks and one of them turns to you and ask – where do you see yourself in five years. And you reply, I want to be a farmer.
That’s it lah! You’re not going to get any dates lah. Comimg to think of it that could be one reason why I wasn’t too hot with the girls in University.
But for me there was this time when I bought a fourth hand motorbike and decided to ride around Europe. Eventually I made it all the way to Poland. Them I said to myself, I still have enough gas – so I rode it all the way into Russia – that was just around the period when the USSR broke into a million pieces and the border was really porous. To cut a long story short – I bike died in the Ukraine. I had to work in this farm to buy a horse. It was the height of summer.
You know when you’re young – you’re impressionable and one day when I was just lying down on a haystack with the farmers daughter in my arms and we were just watching the puffy clouds go by – I said to myself, how wonderful if this day could last forever.
I guess what I am trying to say here is some times to really find one’s calling or where you want to go in life. You simply need to be get lost first.
Maybe I was just lucky I found it on top of that haystack.
January 28, 2017
It’s easy to forget the truly important things in life in the hustle and bustle of Chinese New Year. This year, if you are going to be celebrating the year of the Rooster as part of a loving family and community where people are safe and healthy, that is a true blessing worth celebrating.
Only light a candle for those who are in faraway lands. As even if they are not there with all of you…they carry only YOU and your well being in their hearts…..wherever they are.
We do not sulk. We suck in all in like real men. As this is our karma…the life of the frontier man. As for those who are celebrating CNY in the home front. Smile. Never ever allow sadness to creep into your hearts…not even for one moment. As not every man has the rare privilege to be driven by a noble mission to go out into the uncharted and make a better world for those who he loves with the sheer power of his will.
Many can talk, but very few can do this day in and out without ever once complaining.
Work is religion!
‘If you go to the darkest forgotten regions of Africa where even angels fear to tread – do not be surprised should you find the frontier man peering at a rock intently with a loop – he’s a miner. You can tell as they all have that searching look in their eyes like a man on a mission – today is probably marked on a calendar nailed to a post in his field tent, it might just be a scrawl with perhaps a faded print of his wife and kids tacked beside it. From time to time this man looks at this image then to his watch – he leafs thru a manual of tabula and suddenly a smile breaks across his weather worn features. He’s lucky today. The satellite will arc thru the godless sky soon and maybe if he’s lucky and his batteries hold, he might be able to speak to his wife and children for a while and that is all he needs to carry on.
To this man to go where no mind dares to go is a religion. Work is prayer. And the litany of another day in the dusty heat of the mines in a sea of savages is meditation.
Deep in the emerald green somewhere in South America – do not be surprised should you also come across a frontier man standing at the edge his soya fields. They stretch out as far as the eye can see and as light bows out to darkness filling the star filled night skies all this man can do is feel the pangs of being separated from his loved ones back home – soon he too smiles. Yes, it’s been a very tough year battling El Niño. But the man wears a satisfied look. As he gave as good as he took and even rolled as best he could with the punches to finally make it safely to the other side. While others floundered on the rocks. This man may be worn, tired and spent, but he’s happy as like the lone miner he too is a man with a mission.
As to this man – to go where no mind dares to go is a religion. Work is prayer. And the litany of another day in the fields is meditation.
In the flaming lit forest of skyscrapers in Shanghai an accountant looks out wantonly into the far distance where the sea seems to separate between the muddy line of the Wanchao and the paraffin blue of the Pacific – he too wonders about his family back home and occasionally he even notices, he’s lost a hour or two having imaginary conversations with the characters far back home – yes…it happens usually this time of the year he says to himself – but nonetheless he too smiles, as he too like the miner and farmer all belong to men cut from the same cloth – they’re all frontier men.
Men who all chosen to take wing and go the other way and not settle for less as taxi drivers and security guards. Not because it is easy. But because it is difficult and at times heart wrenching…as that is the mathematics of reality of what it takes to create a better life for our children.
Men who understand servanthood, duty, risk taking and the wisdom to keep at it, even when it’s tough as nails. Men who have the uncommon courage to pick up the pieces should it go wrong as it sometimes does only to start again….men who are all driven by a mission.
I wish you all happy Chinese New Year and I too like every single one of you who may not be able to return home this year will light at candle to honor you all…wherever we all may be…you are not alone.’
January 27, 2017
Q: I am sure you are aware President Trump has signed an executive order to effectively annul the TPP. Do you still maintain your original position the TPP will be revived despite such a clear and unambiguous intent to terminate the TPP?
A: I don’t see an inconsistency as to what I mentioned about the TPP in the past – contrary to how you have put it across inadvertently or by design – I never ever said Trump would sign off on the TPP. What I did say was the TPP will go thru minor alterations and will be repackaged as something other than the TPP, but what will eventually come to pass will essentially be the TPP.
I think it’s important to distinguish between showmanship and the realities of power and politics – the two don’t have much to do with each other, but at times there can be overlap – since so many people voted for Trump as he promised to put and end to the TPP. So I see this as just a fulfillment of what appears to be an election pledge to those who voted for him on the kill the TPP tag line. But try as hard as Trump may to run away from the power and politics of global trade and commerce – it’s in my opinion stupid for the US not to go ahead with the TPP.
Q: What makes you so surefire 100% the TPP isn’t RIP?
A: It is RIP! But that’s only because RIP to me reads rise if possible. Let’s talk sense. If Trump is really serious killing the TPP. he would have included appendixes like both – the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty. Neither did Trump put an end to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
So there is a wealth of information out there in the public domain to suggest Trump is not going to do away with the TPP. As both TISA and TTIP would be quite meaningless without the TPP. All three ‘trade’ agreements which actually have nothing whatsoever to do with trade and everything to do with economic warfare against China and Russia have to work in combination for the whole thing to fulfill it’s operational criteria.
Q: You still maintain the TPP has nothing to do with promoting free trade?
A: Yes there are elements of trade. That goes without saying. For example Canadian farmers will be able to break into the lucrative beef and pork market in Japan and Vietnam. Oil palm cooking oil will feature on racks in Wall-Mart for the first time along side peanut and soya bean oil. But strip the The Trans-Pacific Partnership of 12 nations that rim the South China Sea right down to it’s chassis – and you will discover the primary objective is a geo political strategy to blunt China’s sphere of influence thru the doctrine of economic containment.
People who talk about the TPP as a trade agreement are just a very disingeneous lot – what trade benefits are there? When 22% of the supposedly 40% of the trade is sucked up by the US. Besides most of these countries that make up the TPP already have close economic ties with each other and have very liberal trade relationships.
Please don’t get me wrong – I am not saying Singapore will not benefit economically. Neither am I am saying Singapore will not be able to secure it’s primacy as a trading hub regionally with the TPP. But you have to understand the main push for the TPP is not trade it is to reinstate US primacy in the Pacific theater and blunt China’s economic and military expansionism.
Q: Why do you oppose the TPP?
A: I have already explained my position time and again. I want to be explicitly clear here – if this interview is going to proceed as if we are going around in ever diminishing circles. Then I will stop it. Am I clear?
OK my reasons for opposing the TPP is because what we have essentially is the US ganging up with twelve other countries in Asia and presenting China with an ultimatum – you play by our rules or we are going to cut all your market access to these countries who have all agreed to sign up to play only by US rules. Come on. Use your mentality not even the Mafia or Yakuza or for that matter the millers that I sell my palm fruit to will ever have ever the temerity to do that just for the sake of protecting their hegemony.
Q: Is TTIP conceived with the same design as the TPP then? It seems you have quite a lot of sympathy and disappointment for China and what the US and their allies are doing to her. How true is that?
A: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Is exactly the same, the iron fist in the velvet glove of TTIP that again hides under the appellation of free trade is none other than NATO’s grand design to further it’s military and economic expansion into Eastern Europe and the Balkans – both TTIP, like the TPP, are not so different from the oil embargo that was once imposed on Japan in 1941 – it is a tacit form of economic warfare to ensure that the EU does not entangle it’s interest with Russia and their allies to such an extent where the balance of power tips in favor of the Russians.
I am sorry for not responding to your supplementary question – but I believe I have in the past informed you on numerous occasions to only structure one question and no more at any one time to facilitate our readership.
Q: You seem to be disappointed that the US and their allies are putting a gun to China’s head? Why?
A: You know disappointment is a lover’s word – I’ve got no love lost with the US or for that matter even China. If I oppose the spirit and intendment of the TPP it is simply because it is bellicose, unilateral and structured unlike a dicta which can only be interpreted by any nation in this day and age as provocative and confrontational.
I don’t think you understand how confrontational the TPP can only be interpreted by China – it’s like twelve oil millers around my plantation forming a cartel and one day they submit me a document with terms stating that I can only sell my fruit at X price. I cannot buy more land or for that matter trade under any other rules except those that they have seen fit to unilaterally impose on me.
By every known definition of the Clausewitzian doctrine war is a continuation of politics by other means – this is war!
So I don’t blame China for seizing the Terrex’s. I just can’t figure out why they didn’t melt it down and flog it off as key chains to tourist.
Q: Trump’s justification for the annulment of the TPP is that it steals US jobs. Do you agree with that?
A: Hey no one is stealing anyone’s job. Mexico is not stealing American jobs. Neither is China or the Vietnamese who make pretty great base ball hats printed with the words ‘make America great again!’ There is no SPECTRE. No bald guy stroking a cat with evil designs to subjugate humanity and reduce us all to automatons.
The reason why jobs are going abroad is driven primarily by technology – even in the US itself jobs that used to rely on humans have been automated or completely replaced by robots. You go to NTUC supermarket – you see two queues, one is manned by the friendly auntie who is a cashier and the other is scan yourself and go and in a few more years if we go by the reliability of Moore’s law – you can even go pick it up and walk right out and everything will be automatically credited along with debiting your supermarket stamps. That’s to say many traditional jobs that once required human division of labor are fast disappearing from the manufacturing landscape. The same applies to the corporate world as well accounts along with call centers are being outsourced wholesale – these days you call up a toll free hot line for a American or EU product and the chances are Joe is probably an Indian national on the red eye shift somewhere in Mumbai – so I don’t really see how jobs can possibly come back to the US ever again. I don’t deny some can. Some should even. Some should not have even be transplanted even. But to assume the bulk can return is simply not realistic, nor does it make manufacturing strategic sense either. Because US industries no longer possess the technological edge when it comes to mass production – they don’t have the capital goods in the form of machinery or for that matter raw materials or even the economies of scale to absorb everything they manufacture.
Do you realize the only country in this planet that still has the capacity to manufacture American jeans is Japan. Because they bought all those old machines when American firms outsourced abroad. Even then it’s done on a cottage industry scale, but the question is are you willing to fork out USD$2,000 for a pair of good olde Levi’s.
What I think Trump et al should really be talking about if he is really serious about making America great again is really basic life stuff – like ameliorating the corrosive conditions in the US that makes it so expensive to get a college education. Putting an end to this bullshit of contract workers just because it’s a convenient way for firms to manipulate their accounts so as to demonstrate to shareholders they’re in the pink when in fact all they’re doing is debasing the idea of dignity of labor. Getting firms like what BMW and Mercedes are doing by making the workplace more sympathetic to older workers so that they can remain productive and more importantly retain their wage earning capacities beyond their twilight years. Creating conditions where wealth really percolates down to the ordinary man in the street, nourishing the idea of the family man so that couples will can see a bright future to vote with genes to start families. Getting more people to read serious stuff that even requires them to bear out the beauty of words along the understanding the breadth of ideas that cannot possibly fit into one sentence twitter nano bites, so that they can make informed decisions.
To me these would be a rational response to the ongoing political, social and economic crisis that confronts the US and to some extent the UK.
As believe it or not – the real threat that America has to deal with is not Russia, China or even rouge states like North Korea or even radicals like Al Qaeda – America’s real enemy resides within the marrow of the bones of America itself in the form of the new marginalized underclass who no longer read or for that matter choose to work things out with the power of knowledge.
And mind you – when you couple the idea of democracy with terminal ignorance it’s can be a very dangerous thing – as freedom in that feral context of democracy can even mean that I have every right to fuck up my life and perhaps even yours as that’s my elemental right in a democracy. You see that is the paradox of democracy.
The world is certainly in a right bloody mess!
Q: Why is it about the TPP that Trump opposes to such a strong extent? Is it true that it will…I do beg your pardon. Why don’t you answer that question first.
A: If you ask me there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the TPP from a geo political standpoint – it makes sense to counterbalance the rise of China. It makes even more sense to entrench the primacy of the US without relying on their carrier doctrine alone because that is very expensive. But I think the way in which the proponents of the TPP went about crafting their designs was a public relations disaster that makes the Chernobyl fall out look like a oversize mosquito repellent going off accidentally. First it was conceived in absolute secrecy. Can you imagine in this day and age. I mean not even Magna Carta was conceived that way. Secondly they consulted none of the stakeholders – in fact the stakeholders were specifically excluded and instead those who stand the most to profit from the TPP, the corporate and multinational elite were the only ones who were privy to all the communications and rationale relating to the TPP.
Now bear in mind, while all this is happening US workers have suffered years of stagnating or falling wages, their industries are decimated, devastating the communities they sustained.
Both Republicans, Democrats and even the Singapore government are equally complicit for this unnecessary veil of secrecy concerning the TPP. They never ever once had the wisdom to consider the possibility all they were creating was for the perfect tsunami of anger and resentment which would one day be the raw material to put a show man into the worlds most powerful office.
So don’t blame Trump for this. Don’t blame the American people either. How could they know anything about the TPP it’s even more secretive than the brotherhood or 322. If you want to ascribe blame accurately – blame the political establishment and corporatist.
Q: What would your prescriptive cure be for the post truth generation and how could the world best reverse the Brexit and Trump harbingers?
A: That is a very good question. It’s preceptive. Because it hits the nail squarely on the head – I imagine the Guilds are also interested to know as well. Let me just share with you my daily reading material. Everyday at 1630 GMT I receive an electronic parcel of reading material – it’s ranges anywhere from the Diplomat, Jane’s Defense Monthly, The American Scholar to Proceedings to even Russian along with Chinese commentaries – they all been vetted by our scholars in the ASDF. This material cannot intercepted. Not even by Echelon or GCHQ. I read. Usually around five in the morning. That’s the time when I usually wake up.
But the question you have to ask yourself is why do I read diligently – let me put it in a nutshell – the future is opportunity to me. Some people make money by spinning the roulette wheel or taking their chances on Baccarat. If I can predict what can happen in six or a year down the road – that to me is gold!
As it can be leveraged on to good effect.
As for your usage of post truth generation – what the hell might you be talking about? You mean to say that rag called the strait times is the gold standard of reportage? Who the hell do you think you’re talking too a wide eyed JC kid?
The way I see it – there has only be lies, lies and more lies from officialdom – and that underscores the importance of being well read, educated and informed.
If you really want to know what will be the one indelible quality that will separate the enlightened from the ignorant proud and stupid in the 21st century it is simply this – the ability to winnow lies from truth.
January 27, 2017
Constantly cultivating the art of how to be alone and perfectly comfortable in solitude is central I imagine to the idea of wholeness. When one is not afraid to be or to stand alone, only then can one associate with others without having to use them as a means of escaping the pains and boredom of life….this is the foundation of all real interactions.
It begins with having an independent mind.
Good manners I imagine will always take one very far in life – whether it is reciprocated in kind is not really important. The point is to follow right thru the custom of being good mannered and well spoken all the time, irrespective of how others may regard you.
As the real test of being good mannered is never what others do. Rather it is how well you are able to maintain this discipline.
I am certainly not 100% there. But for the time being – those I rather not see. I make a specific point to avoid seeing and even if that is not possible, it’s best to keep it short and sweet.
‘Live long enough in the wild and it will get right underneath your skin – yes, the wild can burrow deep inside a man…any man. Doesn’t even matter whether it’s a ramrod of probity, sobriety and sagacity without him even realizing it….only to transform him animal.
Civilization or humanity. Which ever way you choose to see it will I imagine always be crumbly in the wild – for me it’s always a conscious effort to keep it all whole and complete like the infinity of the circle…to keep at it…to always be within the circle and never to stray too far from the well trodden path.’
The reborn man dressed in his tuxedo in the city may have looked like all other men that once came in and out of her life. But this man was indelibly different despite his sheen of civility and education – as the woman in red could sense him running his fingers ever so softly thru the contours of her fear and fascination – something was stirring in her like how one leafs through an old book and suddenly a postcard, picture or note slips right out – something from the past had screamed out lancing what would have past as perhaps another pleasant and uneventful evening – in that one moment of serendipity where fate intersects destiny life suddenly takes an unexpected and dangerous turn.
This was the expression of the woman in red wore as she watched this new man who is so unlike that farmer working through the kitchen. The man knew she wasn’t so self assured now and he reveled in watching the weapon she had forge against him turned on her – sitting on her barstool, she could make out his care free ease with the other Argentinian chefs – they must go back a long way. Maybe all the way back to those rumors where they said, he used to have a blond European wife and they lived together in a sugarcane plantation…till the war came.
Pictures hung to one corner behind the counter – the woman in red moved closer – she could make out a younger version of the man sitting on an open top race car holding a magnum Champagne with a couple of others holding up a Nicaraguan flag. A young blond girl sat beside the man. He had his arms around her. They looked happy.
In the next picture, the man was on horseback with the blond woman – he wore ridding breeches, knee high boots and a Panama. They looked as if he had just told her the linchpins to a joke. The woman in red noticed the blond girl was chewing on straw. They looked happy.
Just as the woman in red was about to turn away – she noticed a picture tucked away into a hidden recess – a sort of space where chefs usually keep their personal stuff. The woman in red moved furtively drawing the curtain – an array of black and white photos of most men – they all wore fatigues, carried guns, just as about she was going to turn away. She caught sight of a strange black and white photograph of a naked man covered only by a piece of skin – the man held a bow and rifle was slung across his shoulders. He stood on a large round rock. Beneath him bobbing heads of tribesmen – many of them had that all familiar look of curiosity mixed with surprise – all except the man who stood erect on the rock with his face painted to look like a human skull.
She recognized those eyes – those same eyes of desolation and loss that she too had once seen so many times in the mirror from her many torrid relationships with callous men – that finally led her to settle for the next best idea – that she would now transform her beauty into a weapon to secure herself in the material world – to accomplish this feat the woman in red had turned her back resolutely on the idea of love and married the grand old man to be his apprentice, lover and confidant.
But as she peered deeper into the eyes of the man who stood on the rock – she knew this was a man who didn’t care whether he lived or died, ate or starved to death – there was a lingering sadness in his eyes. A faraway look as if his soul was somewhere else and all that remain was some spent effigy – one that even the woman in red turned away from – as she realized for the very first time that evening – the man who sat across her on the table was a man who had known the same depths of sorrow that she had once experienced.
He must have. The woman in red murmured to herself, “I’ve seen that same look in the mirror before…”
With these thoughts it saddened the woman in red profoundly for what would have to follow.
As for the new man, he realized the woman before her that day had blinked….he could have pressed on. Instead he said to himself, he had all the time in the world.
The night was still young…the opera was yet to begin.
January 24, 2017
During the failed Suriman expedition – when I encountered tribesmen deep in the virgin forest. We had no means to communicate. One night while riven in the delirium of malaria fever. The headman brought out an old pair of WW 2 era goggles and a water bottle – from the inscription the headman drew on the sand these artifacts resembled the circle of the empire of Japan.
At first I did not understand what all this meant – only much later did the connection dawn on me that I might have once looked like a Japanese soldier to these tribesmen who had followed me for days without even me realizing it. Perhaps once upon a time such a man had crashed his plane deep in the jungle and they must have believed I was that same tragic pilot who had now appeared before them.
It’s very hard to convey meaning or even thoughts when the tribesmen I once encountered deep in the jungle untouched by the hand of modernity, do not seem to share our concept of linearity of time through units of measurement like days, months or years. Events aren’t broken down neatly into sequential parcels of dates or time where the past, present and future is clearly delineated and assigned a place in the past, present or future – when one of the braves put on the goggles and took the worn water bottle to my lips – it pleased the elders who all smiled wryly and even though I could not understand what was said between them, it must have been…he will soon be up running – it then in the glow of the wan of a tongue of light, these old men were all suddenly young again as they all smiled supremely.
Eventually I did recover my strength and vigor thanks to these tribesmen.
The lesson here is very often we take the idea of time for granted – farmers I imagine more than others can only see it all splayed out in the chastening passage of how time is marked by one season bowing out and another stepping in….only for the whole process to end and begin again like the idea of the mythical circle in the movie the Arrival – the simple idea of conceiving and even regarding time differently from others and how this may affect our perception of reality, is indisputably one of the most fascinating dimensions of the human condition.
I often wonder in the quiet moments of the lonely nights all by myself deep in the plantation – far removed from the distractions of the world. So far that when I look up into the heavens on a starry night – I can even make out details that only those who have known desolation can ever experience such aching beauty and awe….if we as mankind can see the future of how the world will be in the future…will we perhaps treat her with more kindness and consideration.
I do wonder.
It’s sad that we seem to only seem to have a blinkered view of time – I wonder if we can see a shriveled up prune of a old hag in a beautiful young girl, will we still love her? Or see the fullness of her beauty in a old woman? Will we perhaps even feel compelled to raise question on how so much of life is impermanent and transient.
‘Sci-fi can be cerebral at times. Eye opening even. In so far as it can even alter the way you see yourself in relation to the idea of time and people and events. No Arrival is definitely not Starwars – for one the sequence of the movie itself attempts to mimic the unorthodox way the aliens perceive the idea of time and I imagine communication as well – that in the movie, man is content to interpret as the word ‘weapon.’
Thru out the movie the main protagonist is thrust into the future without her even realizing it – she sees images of a young girl at varying stages in her growth, but she doesn’t know who or how this girl fits into her life….only because she is shackled to the idea of linearity of time. Eventually when the main protagonist cracks the codex that enables her to communicate with the aliens – she realizes the term ‘weapon’ refers to knowledge or a gift – the gift to see the world differently from the way she is accustomed to seeing it – that’s when she realizes the child that she keeps seeing in dreams is her unborn child who she even knows will die young from a rare and incurable disease. As since she’s a linguist, we are not told why despite knowing that her unborn will die, she still decides on being a mother. Perhaps by then her understanding of time and how events may unfold has changed so much that it really just like the circular patterns the aliens use to communicate states of minds – there is no actual beginning or end in a circle, just perhaps the perpetuity of motion in the way a person chooses the various options that presents itself in the course of his or her life at every point in this circle….and that is perhaps a metaphor that life will go on.
Serendipity and chance I imagine may feature preponderantly in this circular motion – but even despite the power of foreknowledge that the choices we may make may all not always end well as in the case of her her unborn child. Nonetheless, just like the main protagonist who commits herself to motherhood – perhaps what the movie is trying to convey to me with my limited processing capacity – is the act of living is not about trying to bubble wrap oneself to best live a purpose driven life. Life. Or shall I say to be part of living is by itself a dichotomy between good and bad, happiness and sadness, power and powerlessness. I am reminded life is hardly the stuff of breaking in new boots – it’s doesn’t ever get suppler or comfier with regular use. I guess some things do – like being able to wash my clothes while I shower in five minutes flat. But for the significant aspects of life – the act of living requires the acceptance of loss and perhaps even pain that comes from taking a chance on life. And it is this interplay between pain and relief, happiness and sadness that makes it all worthwhile. Often I say to myself whenever a new dog comes into my life…hold back a bit…hold back, because one day when he or she leaves, it will leave you feeling so blue that you would only wish you didn’t give all of yourself to that experience. But when I think back about the good times and the many moments when I threw caution with the wind and ran to my hearts content. Even in profound sadness I could at least say, i never once held back and I don’t ever have any regrets. Not at all. As pain and happiness is really one of the same line that makes up the circle of life.
And at times, when I see a new parcel of land…again there is always a niggling part that murmurs, hold back some as she will break your heart like twig when things take a bad turn.
But I never hold back…after all what’s the point, at least I gave it all. And even if it gave me back only one little grain of happiness that could well be the difference between living and just existing.
That I imagine is the essence of what it means to live…to commit to the act of love even should only have the foreknowledge that it may not always end happily and to just revel in the moments while it all last. As that is all there is to life…and very little else…life is after all just a series of endless circles.’
January 24, 2017
Q: There has been much emphasize on the China factor. As to how it will affect the economies and geo politics of the Asia Pacific theatre. The same level of emphasize seems to be lacking concerning seemingly warming ties between Trump and Putin – how do you see the dynamics of the relationship between these two leaders and how will their combined designs have an impact on Asia?
A: I think that’s a very perceptive question – it’s certainly very true, while there has been top heavy emphasize on Sino American ties, very little seems to be directed to speculating on how Russian and American ties in the context of Trump and Putin might affect power and politics in this part of the world.
The way I see it – it all boils down to one question, cui bono? That’s to say what does Putin really want from a new Trump administration – to say better relationships is to really say absolutely nothing. So we need to be very specific about Putin’s shopping list.
If I had to boil it all down to a few points – Putin’s wish list would have to include higher oil prices in the short term and on the long term perhaps the lifting of sanctions that has been imposed by the EU on the instigation of the Obama administration.
On oil – let’s be realistic, while Putin has very little say on the global price of oil – as it’s really free market at work. Putin is very determined to maintain Russia’s primacy as the sole supplier of oil and gas to power Europe. That is the main reason why Russia has been propping up the Assad regime.
Now the media showcases this as Putin’s war against ISIS, but nothing can be further from the truth – as if one examines all the key targets that has been bombed right back into the Stone Age. Some of it is certainly ISIL held territory, but most the strategic targets have been to regain territory once held by proxies funded directly by the Saudi’s, Turks and NATO to build a new oil pipe line that stretches all the way from the Foroozan-Marjan Field in Saudi Arabia via Syria, Turkey to greater Europe. Currently no such oil or gas line exist and everything has to go thru the Straits of Hormuz that just makes Saudi oil and gas uncompetitive when compared to what Russia has to offer. To put it bluntly the Saudi’s want to muscle into the lucrative oil business that is currently held by the Russians thru their Caucasus pipeline that stretches thru the Balkans and is currently operational.
Trump’s entry into the White House could be Putin’s moment to reinstate Russia’s primacy as the sole gas and oil supplier to Europe.
The second pressing consideration on Putin’s wish list is to revitalize his country’s economy through new partnerships with US and European businesses, which have been prevented from trading with Russia due to a pheltora of sanctions since a Russia annexed the Crimea.
That’s especially important to Putin as the effect of sanctions have been crippling on Russian industries especially the oil and gas component manufacturers who now cannot even secure funding or for that matter high tech capital goods to fabricate many of the components to keep the Russo Euro pipeline in tip top working condition – if you go to many of these tech forums in Russia, you will find many enterprises grumbling that they can’t get this or that or even if they can get their hand on exotic materials, they can’t machine it to the closed tolerances that ensures quality – now from what we have been able from all this chatter, businesses are not happy in Russia – the sanctions are affecting not only their capacity to innovate but it’s conceivable it’s already degrading many of their high tech industries that still rely on Western technology.
Of course if we look at Putin – he’s cool like a cucumber, but trust me after this weekly briefing from his trade and industry minister I am sure even he is sweating bullets fast and furious. As the effects of these sanctions are not only far reaching, but since they have so sophisticated they’re literally designed to constrict Russia’s ability to manufacture anything of comparative value that the West may have to offer.
In the public front Putin is of course putting on a very brave face, but the sanctions are definitely bitting not only the technological dimension. But it’s even having a debilitating effect on ordinary Russians who once took out housing loans pegged against the US – so all this will have a negative impact on the balance of payment.
As we speak right now – it’s not far off to say Russia is already a failed state. Not maybe as bad as Greece or Zimbabwe, but they’re not too far off.
In the background of all this developments – I think Putin’s priority would be to work towards lifting western sanctions. That I imagine would be his first priority. The second would be to reinstate Russia’s primacy as the sole gas and oil supplier to greater Europe.
Q: How would Trump respond to these overtures and how will all this affect Asia?
A: How will Trump respond is matter of intense speculation. On the surface, the relationship looks cordial to friendly – but you have to understand there are very committed stakeholders who seem very determined to ween themselves off dependence from Russian gas and oil – most of the reasons are economic and geo political. NATO sees this strategy of beggaring Russia as a reliable means to blunt it’s military projection into many of the previous satellite states that broke away when the USSR Balkanized. The Turks on the hand see the new Saudi pipeline as a means of reinstating much needed balance of power and respect with Europe and NATO. As currently they need the EU more than the EU needs them. As for the Saudi’s – they’re not stupid either. They know both the US and Canadians are slowly moving away from ground based drilling to fracking as their primary oil source. The prospects of being able to supply the EU with gas and oil opens up new markets which will allow them to out flank the Iranians who will have to still transport their oil thru the Arabia Gulf which will be less competitive.
To your second question – how will this all affect Asia? The ramifications are far reaching as when there is such intense pressure to sell surplus petroleum in that part of the world – it can only mean the price of oil will continue to languish around the 40 buck a barrel level.
In the long term this will definitely have an impact finding ever more inventive methods to lower the friction cost in the supply chain of petroleum from source to user – that I see is the part of the equation that has changed very little since Rockefeller first figured out that transporting oil with pipe was far cheaper and efficient than rail – I think when you factor all these pressures, it’s very hard to say Singapore can retain it’s primacy as a die die must visit trading outpost – ships may certainly have to circumnavigate the straits and hairpin thru Singapore to make their way to the Pacific – but increasingly there are more options up and down stream along the traditional trade routes. Not to mention new ones that are in development or have simply come about because of polar ice caps melting at a such an alarming rate that may circumvent traditional trade routes.
Of course the politicians will continue to say training is what will enable us to carve competitive advantages. But tell me who in their right mind believes them?
January 23, 2017
January 23, 2017
Q: What is likely to culminate in Trump’s downfall? Is it his acrimonious relationship with the media? Or would his failure to deliver on his promises be his undoing? Might it perhaps even be the level of division with the US that will lead to this?
A: None of these things. Not even the seemingly souring of ties with China. You got to understand, he just took his seat in the cockpit of power – it’s very early days and people are still hopeful. And this includes many who may not agree entirely with Trump.
Besides all these things that you mentioned will take some time to degrade even with the roll out of badly policies and stratagem – China ties with the US will be status quoed, only because if it in any way altered even slightly, it may precipitate a tit for tat trade war or worst still backfire on US firms – so any U turn there will likely take time and be staged to take place in steady increments.
The same holds true for broken promises – they will take time as well – but Trump is a great show man. He knows how to work the crowd. So we are likely to see how doable things in the short term such as increased vetting of immigrants and perhaps even repatriating foreign aliens back. But stuff like the wall – that’s not going to ever happen simply because the border between the US and Mexico is nothing like the West Bank in Israel or Palestine whatever you wish to call it.
I know there is talk of impeachment and a vote of no confidence – but even that I don’t feel can possibly gather enough traction in the short term to eject Trump. As Trump has shown a remarkable ability to be Janus faced when it comes to smoothing out those who he once pissed off – Romney is a very good illustration.
As for the neo liberal intellectuals – they might be a real threat. As their influence is not only all pervasive, but since they do garner a significant percentage of the silent majority vote they can inflict damage via the media – but then again Trump has demonstrated that he is quite adept and amenable to accommodating differences of opinions in his team – recently the ex CEO of Exxon Mobil was recruited into his apparent think tank and that guy is a very strong supporter of the TPP – so again the battle lines are not clearly drawn. You can’t say it’s them against him – as Trump seems to be quite inclusive despite his rhetoric that may indicate otherwise.
If there is any threat that is likely to emerge, it will be from within where he’s most vulnerable – and on the balance of probabilities it will be from the intelligence and clandestine services.
Trump is very clear here when on how he wants to define his administration with the intelligence services. How clear that intent is. Your guess is as good as mine as we are dealing with a show man, but if the office of the President is going to have an acrimonious relationship with the CIA and NSA to such an extent where he is going to do it his own way a la Frank Sinatra style.
Then this will completely alter how information is shared between the various intelligence and security services around the world – Mossad will do it’s own thing. M15 possible 6 will also clam up. As for NATO they will keep two books. Wikileaks will also do it’s own thing as well – as you have to understand Assange is not truly independent. So everyone is going to end up speaking in tongues like what eventually brought down the Tower of Babel.
Now that will happen because intelligence is essentially a cloak and dagger game – that relies on a web of operatives that are all embedded to varying degrees behind what you can term enemy lines or in no man’s land – so no government in their right mind is going to compromise that sort of clandestine network that literally takes decades to build up.
Why would any government that understands how this cat and mouse game must be played to win – stick their neck out to even collaborate meaningfully? If the commander in Chief of the most powerful country in the world has decided to be pally with Putin – bear in mind Putin sees the world prosaically. He’s under no illusion. As he’s ex Lubankya KGB stock.
This quandary also puts both the CIA and NSA in an untenable position – because the question is should they even brief the President without first filtering information to hedge their exposure risk? So what’s likely to happen is we may even see the secret formation of a Star Chamber. An organization within an organization very much like the Prussian Abwehr who even secretly conspired against the Nazi’s and even Hitler himself because many of these army officers simply didn’t believe a glorified corporal could ever comprehend the intricacies of how the clandestine cloak and dagger game should and must be played to secure a win.
Now even today it’s a matter of intense speculation amongst military historians – why didn’t Hitler just snuff out the pesky Prussian officers in the Abwehr, since even at 1933. He was aware that they were constantly pursuing their own agenda which included internecine bureaucratic and administrative turf wars.
The short answer was the Abwehr though small and since emasculated by the Führerprinzip was essentially the intelligentsia of the Prussian officer creed – it’s influence within the aristocratic officer class in the Wehrmacht can only be described as disproportionate to it’s size and assigned range of powers. Even Hitler realized it was futile to take on the brotherhood of the Abwehr so what he did instead was Balkanize the intelligence services into the SD and Gestapo and to a limited degree the Waffen SS to degrade their influence.
But it’s difficult to kill off like minded people who share a common history, identity and even esprit – and not for one moment saying Trump is Hitler, but he certainly shares certain commonalities such as – he’s an outsider, he doesn’t seem to understand the importance of intelligence in relation to how it feeds into the idea of strategic planning and risk management and above all I don’t think intelligence services truly understands that he understands either.
I don’t wish to come across as conspiratorial – but it is certainly a theoretical possibility, they would work to remove Trump.
But what do I know, I am just a farmer.
Q: This Star Chamber. Is it based on reality? Or fiction?
A: You know I am just a simple farmer. So the last thing I need now is for a predator drone armed with a air to surface hellfire missile to circle my plantation and lock on and blow me out – it wouldn’t pretty because I like to wear flower print underwear.
But on a serious note. Star Chambers do exist. The only reason why the general public doesn’t hear about it is because it wouldn’t be much of a Star Chamber if everyone knew about it – you know Reagan was nearly indicted by Congress because Oliver North ran a Star Chamber to fund the Contras in Nicaragua using illegal proceeds by selling refurbished bone yard F-4 parts to Iran which were not sanctioned by the executive arm of the US – now what we have here is an outfit that operates outside the norms of the organizational structure and even has very unorthodox lines of reportage – officially it doesn’t exist!
I guess it’s a bit like UFO’s once you’ve seen a flying saucer, there’s no going back! Like I said, I am just a simple farmer – but I assure it’s real and if we go solely on the basis of the doctrine of precedent – it has happened and nothing suggest it cannot happen again. It occurred with Gerald Ford as well who outsourced his brain on foreign policy by appointing Henry Kissinger as the grand master of the lodge of the Star Chamber when they both bombed Laos. With Carter, the CIA regularly embellished, exaggerated and in certain cases even outright lied to the President as they wanted to keep the Shah of Iran in power.
Understand this! I am not making up things here in candle lit hut. All this is fact! I happen to read a lot.
January 22, 2017
‘I don’t think I am a very good businessman – well not in the traditional book sense at least. As I seem to have this habit of spending an awful lot of time just thinking what I just heard, said or what it may all finally add up too.
If you try to get me to commit it’s usually a frustrating enterprise. Doesn’t even matter how good the deal is or whether it wouldn’t be on the table when we next meet…it’s futile.
As I will probably say in a neutral tone bordering on disinterest – give me a few days and I will come back to you. I need some time make adjustments and consider whether it can all fit nicely into my future plans. After that I will think, think and think. Usually I do my best thinking when I am in the field. I think when I am walking, cycling or just working with my farmhands – there is no specific line of thought – it’s like watching a movie again and again with no specific intent in mind. That I think can irritate some people. Or maybe send out the wrong message. As for others I can imagine it would probably take on a much more sinister appearance as usually in business it’s considered macho to be decisive and quick footed….but I am the direct opposite. My intent is usually dark and frequently inscrutable and it’s virtually impossible to predict where I am likely to plonk my chips.
I think, think and think. That could be one reason why I make less impulsive decisions than most people in business. Neither do I ever commit myself to do something only to find out later that I have taken on more than I can handle.
I guess you can say, I am slow…..very slow in my way of doing business. But that’s the way I like it and it’s served me very well.’
Today I added much needed organic material to nourish the land.
This is the way one goes about managing intelligently the land – as it is impossible to always just take, take and take from the land still expect high yields – I don’t deny that sort of corrosive logic may have taken hold of trade and commerce to such an extent where it’s no longer possible for even sane and perfectly reasonable people to believe any longer in the idea – it’s not sustainable to chase economic growth forever….not at least without incurring painful penalties that will only come back and deliver a bite.
The word agriculture, is after all an ancient word. It simply connotes the “cultivation of land.” And cultivation is at the root of the sense both of culture and of cult the farmer. The ideas of receiving and giving back to the land is an indelible act of worship to a farmer. Hence the word agriculture derives from an Indo-European root meaning “to revolve” or to fulfill the compact between man and land. To live and survive in harmony with not only the earth, but to also strive to be in synch with the way of the universe – it is only by reflecting deeply on the philosophy of agriculture and what it naturally imposes on the planter that the largeness of that the mission of agriculture is not simply to yield sweet and heavy fruit that one is able to comprehend it broader vision and that is to create a man who always strives from personal and organizational harmony, peace and mutual co-existence with all things in this world.
It is my firm believe – if more people just learn to press the pause button in their heads when they next visit NTUC and reflect on how the earth first needs to be lovingly tilled, plants nourished and grown to produce stuff that finally find itself neatly arranged in supermarkets shelves – perhaps they will experience a moment of epiphany that there’s actually such a thing as a profound spiritual exchange between man and planet that goes beyond the superficiality of the profit motive or chasing growth like an automaton….as what they hold in their hands is not just a banana or tomato. Rather it is the living philosophy of what it really means for one strive so very hard and diligently to live in synch with nature in the way man is and was supposed to live without being constantly distracted by the perpetual nonsense of hype and spin the world churns out just to sell stuff.
And perhaps they might even be able to perceive, there is value, more now than ever, in the specificity of this constant give and take compact. At a time of hyped promises, incredulous sloganeering, and unfounded factual claims, a person who spends just a moment holding a tomato or a pear lost in his or her thoughts, fastidiously working thru all these frivolous thoughts that might not amount to very much can seem, to me at least, to be sagely.
Trust me when I say this – there is a farmer in all of us….we just need to still our minds and he will emerge.
‘For many many years the only omnipresent doctrine that is the compact between governments and citizens is the notion – all success in both personal and organizational terms MUST only be measured by economic growth even if that may come at a great cost to the mental and spiritual well being of people. As a consequence couples today no longer see the point of raising families – soon the idea of the family man will I am sure lapse in the garbage heap of history. But what led us to this point is not avarice or for that matter a failure to appreciate the cogent – rather it was the flawed understanding that we all harbored as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on like some crazy person running mindlessly on a thread mill that keeps on going faster and faster in steady increments all the time – that idea they sold to all of us as the good life, better even than mother’s milk, which would make the economy grow” and render everything better and newer and fresher. This of course implied at every level of understanding the mad idea that it’s possible to grow in perpetuity or that there exist no other way for us all to procure a better life without having to consume like some furnace that’s hell bent on burning every strip of timber in the house – for many years I struggled with this paradox. Often I was labelled as a closet communist with socialist underpinnings as I venerated the idea of the working man and his elemental right to the dignity of labor – these values I saw as not in terms of hatred of the capitalism. Rather I would much prefer to question why was the field always tipped in favor of growth at all cost and that others things discounted as of no value at all.
Today it seems the idea of no growth may well be a reality – but does it necessarily spell the end of the dream of mankind?
No. I don’t think so – not to me at least, as that is how it could only be. This is how it is….I don’t imagine you can understand the depths of my thoughts concerning this issue and should this entry come across as jumbled with no rhyme to begin or end, the fault is entirely mine….you see, this a moment of deep reflection for me as even I did not expect all this unfold in my lifetime and now…and now, it’s finally here.
Where I wonder does mankind go from this point? Where?’
January 21, 2017
There are incredibly well constructed. I wouldn’t even be surprised if astronauts much preferred them to clunky moon boots.
When it comes to outdoor products. A frontier man is the toughest customer to satisfy. As when a product fails to meet his expectations, they simply don’t even make the cut – nothing is just as it is to a frontier man. You probably never heard of VG10 before. But the chances are if a frontier man is going to vote with his wallet to buy a field knife….that’s going to be the first question he will ask. Same goes for field wear – only Kevlar thread will do to hold down buttons. Khaki twill linen is good to go as it’s 30 percent stronger than cotton and wicks sweat.
When I look at my field boots it’s hard if impossible not to believe America can be great again — in a word, there over designed. So over designed that providing one has the discipline to care for them diligently – they’re virtually indestructible. Over design means, even if the soles thin out, they can be recrafted and resoled to be used again and again.
Over designing a commercial boot or any product in the age of ubiquitous use and throw and buy again may sound counter intuitive and even come suicidal from a business point of view – but that has always been the one aspect of any product that separates their brand or service in an overcrowded marketplace and sets the philosophy for their entire product range.
For to over design is to go that extra distance such double stitching a boot so that if the thread gives in one area the whole thing doesn’t flop out….and what’s remarkable about made in USA is even done when the customer doesn’t even know why the boot is stitched that way. Or even why the uppers happen to be 1.5 mm thinner than the thick slab of leather that runs the length of the vamp on the boot — it’s not only just an approach, but an attitude and perhaps even a philosophy that creates a rapport of trust between the customer and the firm.
That I feel is the X factor that needs to be reclaimed by American firms. As when they prioritize cost competitiveness before quality and what a product is supposed to do. They also end up diffusing their focus along with blurring their commitment to nourishing that rapport of trust between customer and firm and in the long run – they just become like everyone else: instead of striving to be a badge of self-expression for those at the very top of their craft, as well as inspiring others to be like them.
No! Made in the USA cannot possibly be cheap. A pair of Fort Lewis twelve inch boots either way you cut or splice it will always cost a bomb.
But I for one will settle for nothing less as I said in the very beginning of this blog post – a frontier man is the toughest customer to satisfy and I am definitely a very satisfied and will always continue to buy my boots only from the US of A.
I do wish President Trump the very best and despite my personal reservations and concerns. I do really want America to be great again.
‘Should it be raining cats and dogs and you happen to be around Bugis. Do consider popping down the National Library at Bugis. Look up this publication called the New York Book Review – it’s a monthly publication with an old school sardonic Punch sort of line pictorial cover – now the first the thing that will probably strike you about this monthly rag is no one ever reads it well not enough at least for it to appear dog eared or even soggy enough to suggest that anyone would be interested to read it.
Now the really funny thing about this monthly publication that no one seems to ever read is the personal columns – it’s a ad space – where you have hilarious personal ads presumably posted by lonely intellectuals hoping to find love – stuff like I am Jewish, stay with my eighty year old mother, hobbies include candle making and watching grass grow….take a chance on me…I am actually quite exciting!
Ads like that…you get my drift – well one day out of sheer curiosity I decided to make an anonymous donation to this publication where the editor seems to begging for money all under the threat of imminent foreclosure – and I got around to asking him why would such a seriously Bohemian off beat rag have a personal ad column and he just quipped prosaically, Oh most of the people who take up space there, do so, so as to not embarrass themselves with the bother of donating money to us like you.
I guess what the editor was trying to convey in a very polite way to a Philistine farmer such as myself is – good writing. The sort where the author chooses to splay whole ideas in the form of long winded disquisitions that even requires the reader to bear out patiently right to the very end – rather than trying to compress everything into just Twitter nano vignettes – will always be a lousy and expensive proposition.
They’re all like aspiring novelists (Or worse still! God please do forbid!—poets), they all rely on teaching and pay anything you like writer’s 101 workshops for a steady income. What they teach is really just to get by to enable to write what they really want or need to write; the paradox is though none of these writers would actually admit it – they’re actually inspiring an eclectic class of writers to write really well in an off beat sort of way. You know the sort of writing that even makes the hair at the back of your neck stand up and shout out – Wow! But most importantly they also encourage a very discerning class of readers who for some reason all seem to wear Burberry and Laura Ashley and give me a coy Holland V look whenever I see them in the library.
No! I don’t imagine good writing or for that matter good journalism can ever be cheap – it’s hardly the brass knuckles that can all add up to a viable living. At times, the entire writers fraternity resembles a wispy romantic yearning from a Proustian period Fin de siècle bordering on les delires des grandeurs and la folie du doute….Many of the essays in the New York Book Review do have that Wildian feel of barbed repartees. Yet this is never a simple transaction between the authority of the pen and the reader. For authors, money, however obscurely, has always been elusive and the stuff of the forlornly.
Hence it’s all too easy to forget that writing especially the sort that is still able to make a well heeled and educated girl in a Burberry scarf laugh uncontrollably only to turn beet root red (I happen to think nothing is as sexy as that…to me at least) will always be expensive and it can never be cheap.
This I imagine will always be somewhat considered as still an effrontery to some unsophisticated quarters – as they regard publishing as just reportage: Literature as just literature.
The danger and this especially heightened in the everything is for free sake internet age – is if those of us remain bovine or worst still unwilling to support the arts and even the craftsman’s along with his trade be it the humble shoemaker, tailor or even truffle scourger – we may lose it all completely and forever.
You know I want to believe that it’s possible to make America great again…I so do…right down to the marrow of my bones…after all how else do you expect a self respecting frontier man to get by in life with made in China buy and throw boots!’
January 20, 2017
Today the most famous Bo Lang Ai (spinster) in the village asked of me whether she should dye her hair. I told this lady, I know nothing of these things – but when on to share with her…if dyeing her hair makes her happy…I see nothing wrong about it. Then she asked of me whether it is a good idea for her to fly to Korea and have a facelift. Again I told this lady…I know nothing of these things and again I went on to share with her…if having a facelift makes her happy….I see nothing wrong about it.
Before this lady left my plantation – I turned her attention to a young palm and told her, do you see it is full of life and vigor, bursting with all of life even….how beautiful. Then as we walked to a grove of older trees. Again I drew this lady’s attention to a row of older palms and this time I told her – do you see how majestic and steady they all look….that is because they have seen the coming and passing of so many seasons that they bear the scars of having lived thru the good and bad times….the lady asked me there and then…what are you trying to tell me?
My point is in every stage of life, there is exceptional beauty that is unique and particular to only that timeline and age…and one would do well to see appreciate the full extent of it’s beauty….and not to swept away by the vapid and superficiality of the world. As that is not real. Neither is it sustainable or even a reflection of what life is all about.
Once you know who you are. You will see and appreciate this beauty even if the world is content to chase after the superficial.
I went on to tell this bereft lady – let the world do what it wants to do! You don’t have to sign up for the package.
Perhaps what I am trying to convey here is when one is at peace with this beauty that every stage of life offers then suddenly many things in this world will suddenly lose it’s meaning. This does not mean, you are living less of what life can offer you….it just means you are now living the way you want to live and not always distracted to please others.
In life it pays to be a bit thick skinned. As if one is thin skinned, then one can only be swept away by the expectations and opinions of others. Soon one will only end up living for their sake.
Do what matters most to you; do what makes you feel alive and happy. Providing you are not harming people and planet. There is no wrong there. That’s your right.
Never allow the expectations and ideas of others to limit who you are or who you aspire to be.
If you don’t write down in bold letters who you are. Then others will tell you who you are and even where the limits of your life should start and end. Soon you will be living their reality — not yours.
To do all this requires deep spirited internal confidence that can only come from knowing who you really are. Become a whole being. Be adventurous.
January 19, 2017
Q: You have always been critical of the present government for letting George Yeo go. Why do you see his role as so jugular to our time?
A: This hardly requires detailed elaboration. For the very first time since possibly Lincoln, Trump will perhaps be the most divisive President in US history. This does not bode well for either the US or for that matter the world or even Singapore as this is the opposite of a much needed unifying moment.
I see this moment as a very polarization and divisive chapter in human history.
No doubt divisions have always existed between the US and China stretching all the way back to even Bill Clinton’s era. But in the past it could be said these divergent interest and points of views were never ever amplified to such a dangerous degree or even sharpened that it threatened the strategic importance of keeping the status quo or at least settling on some form of tacit understanding for détente to preserve the status quo ante.
But understand this! Trump & Co has already done a lot of damage – such as threatening to review the one China policy and recently there has even been talk of stopping China from weaponizing the SCS. In my considered opinion – all this loose cannon talk just heightens the risk.
In times like this there is a need for professionals like General Yeo to bring a nuanced approach to resolving conflict.
Q: What do you think about Vivian Balakrishnan in fulfilling that ‘nuanced’ role?
A: Please understand I genuinely want to be polite. In fact, I think Vivian Balakrishnan is one of those perennially underrated ministers who unfortunately did not get much credit in any of his portfolio’s simply because they were all tough as tungsten nails. Nonetheless he definitely has strengths, but my feel is when it comes to breadth of knowledge concerning the intrigues of Sino American relationships, appreciation of Realpolitik, Intellectual fire power and most importantly stature, prestige and capacity to influence no one comes close to General Yeo.
Q: What about Mini Lee? And how serious is the geo political situation concerning China’s occupation of the SCS?
A: Let me be very blunt this time. As it seems I am not getting my message across effectively – if you want good results never get a sheep to do a fox’s job!
That’s all you are going to get from me concerning Mini Lee and his métier.
As I mentioned there is a clear and present risk – what I think most people don’t seem to appreciate is how precarious the situation is in the SCS theatre. Recently, Reuters reported that a Xian H-6 long range precision bomber with a payload of atomics was flown to the edge of the dash line. Now to most people, this may well be a big nothing – but for those who understand the intricacies of the art of war and the bureaucracy of statecraft in the Chinese communist oligarchy, this in my considered opinion can only be interpreted as an escalation of hostilities that the world has not seen since the Cuban missile crisis.
It seems we are living in very interesting times.
Q: Is it true to say it is your belief – the one China policy should never be used as a bargaining chip? My second question is what is it that is so disconcerting to you about China deciding to fly a bomber to the SCS?
A: I feel compelled to point out time and again that I do not share many of the Republican candidate’s policy positions concerning the priori position to revisit the One China policy – only because this is a subject that comes encrusted with historicism. Many of which I feel compelled to point out in the strongest possible terms is not only a source of perennial shame, humiliation and pain to China on a national scale, but it is also one of strategic priority that China will prosecute to it’s logical end even if it means she will incur penalties.
I refer to both conventional and economic penalties.
I for one remain unconvinced that Mr Trump appreciates the depth of history that is associated with the One China policy.
This is a failing common to the west, as it is often seen as geo politics. But in China, the one China policy is a form of spiritual nationalism approaching the bounds of religion.
So I think if you want to split hairs on religion – people can only get very emotive and even irrational and in some cases they will even cut off their noses to spite you. That in a nutshell is my concern.
It is worth mentioning. Every time I talk with my friends in Europe and the US, I find that hardly anyone appreciates the resolve of the Chinese when it comes to their seriousness concerning the one china policy. The discussion is always couched in terms of territorial claim that frequently elides history – this I feel is a very serious omission on the part of the part of the West to assume that everything can be tabled for discussion or negotiation – my feel is they have not been diligent in either their intelligence gathering and most importantly analysing this aspect of the Chinese psyche.
As unity. Or shall I say the seeming appearance of unity in the national context has always been a matter of strategic precondition to the Chinese leadership stretching all the way back to the Imperial days. If one takes the trouble to peruse thru the long history of China, every single aspect of governance is streamed to prioritizes unity. Everything from the physical of the Great Wall to the intellectual is designed to create a united China.
Many intelligence analyst today seem to have conveniently forgotten what once sadly transpired in Tiannanmen square in the eighties – in my humble opinion this chapter of history should be required reading material for anyone who desires to understand the importance of unity to the Chinese leadership.
So with that reality in the foreground how far do you think Mr Trump is going to go by trying to use the one china policy as a bargaining chip?
Based on my understanding of the Chinese leadership there is no possibility of Balkanization in China. I don’t deny that may have once transpired spectacularly with the USSR, but for history to repeat itself in China is simply impossible as they are so many built in safeguards to interdict that sort of social cultural implosion – not even the in the autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang or for that matter Hong Kong or Taiwan.
Q: To my second question – what is it that is so disconcerting to you about China deciding to fly a bomber to the SCS?
A: I have already answered that question – as that act by itself is the clearest demonstration of China’s resolve to use every means including atomics to defend it’s right to plant a flag on the SCS.
It is the decision making process that should prompt every perceptive observer to sit at the edge of their seats – as this is not something that can be done at a localized command level – it would logically involve at least seven to eight layers of lengthy discussion at a party political level then it would filter down to the executive arm. The fact that they can mobilize within such a short period of time can only point to only a few decision nexus, this scenario has been war gamed, that is to say the various permutations have been played out. Standard pre-emptive protocols are already in place to facilitate lighting response. Launch and priming codes are sequenced in such a way as to avoid lengthy bureaucratic friction.
This is not a play play scenario. This is very serious to people who know warcraft.
Please understand I am not for one moment saying war is imminent – only you have to understand the SCS is a new theatre unlike Kashmir, the 38 parallel or the West Bank. There currently exist no rules of engagement. No historical precedent as to what each side is supposed to do or not do under X,Y or Z conditions.
It’s not like happy Kashmir where the Pakistanis fire off a salvo of 155’s at half past one before breaking off for tea and popadoms then everyone ambles into their fox holes followed by a return salvo of shells from the Indians at exactly three sharp and on Eid and Devali they even have a ceasefire and play a bit of cricket.
Many many bad things can and will happen in the SCS. Things can be taken out of context. Conflict can escalate beyond control.
There is a pressing need in my opinion for a Nixon and Mao moment to restore global harmony so that everyone can sleep soundly. To accomplish this with finesse and immaculate skill very very serious men are needed – this is the time for the Singapore government to set aside it’s ego and simply ask themselves one question – who can best step into this shoe.
To me politics is like organized crime – emotion is a luxury! As I said, don’t ever get a sheep to do a fox’s job.
Q: What is your primary concern with Trump?
A: I don’t think my primary concern is necessary framed in the short term – that is true not only of Trump, but also Brexit as well. As when we speak presently, it is my firm belief people in the US and the UK are still hopeful.
I am not only talking about those who voted for Trump and Brexit. There is certainly denial there of the economic reality that makes up modern trade and commerce. But for those who are vexed and demonstrate aghast over Trump – I also see elements of denial as well.
As they don’t seem to want to come to terms with how free trade and globalization has produced inequalities that can no longer be denied and must be redressed if it is to remain credible.
As I said, in the short term for both the US and UK. The current economic situation is not as bad as was predicted and they live in hope that things will get better. But as time goes by, it is my belief since the expectations of the electorate is so unhinged from reality and the custodian of power cannot possibly be the purveyor of their hopes and dreams, currency will depreciate, inflation will bite further, jobs will not return home, living standards will continue to decline and the aperture for upward mobility will be further constricted as the global economy moves towards stasis.
This is going to take some time, but happen it surely will as free trade and globalization is so entrenched at a systematic level that any attempt to change it will surely be violent – and when that day comes there will be plenty of angry people who will not only feel cheated but they will lose all hope in the idea of government and possibly even veer towards isolationism.
Q: So is it right to say you are more afraid of the post Trump era?
A: Yes, I think most thinkers have already moved on – Trump and Brexit is already a done deal. Now in my considered opinion there remains only a few questions on the table. How much damage will the global economy be able to sustain without falling apart? How will the US electorate react when Trump fails to deliver on so many of his pie in the sky promises? Will they actually blame him? Or will they themselves assume some level of culpability to blame themselves?
I am not optimistic. As history has shown time and again – disaffected, marginalized and especially ignorant people will likely direct their anger at an imaginary foe and all the signs suggest that China may have to bear the brunt of this tsunami of unfulfilled hopes and aspirations.
For now, and for the foreseeable future, the future certainly looks very bleak.
Q: Do you see Trump heralding the return of fascism? And if so how would you rate this apparent threat?
A: No! no! I think most people have the wrong end of the stick. Let me be frank – the threat of fascism is not as real and present as the threat that the democratic electoral system has managed to produced these set of undesirable results. I for one am inclined to believe democracy might not longer be sustainable any longer.
Bear in mind Trump won the Republican nomination because more people voted for him than voted for anyone else. Democracy was furiously at work there. Donald Trump won the presidential election because enough people voted for him in enough states. Again democracy was furiously at work there. And you could even say it is the same with Brexit – it was a democratic referendum. In both of this cases, no one can say without running the risk of discrediting themselves, democracy did not work the way it was supposed to, although it produced exactly the opposite of the result it was meant to produce.
Now this to me is a historical development of sorts – because since Plato’s Republic, the democratic process has proven to be a very robust and reliable way to winnow good from bad leaders. Not it seems the process may have failed.
So of course this has to be disturbing at some many levels.
Q: If democracy is no longer a reliable means to perpetuate political hegemony – then what do you see as the credible alternative?
A: I don’t for one moment believe completely democracy is done for. Bear in mind, this is not new – as both Mussolini and Hitler also came into power via the democratic process. But even after the end of WW 2 – there was a great movement of pan European introspection spearheaded by the Beveridge commission that was quite brutal in it’s account of how many of the Europeans had planted the seeds of fascism which culminated in WW2 by imposing the harsh dicta on the Weimar Republic in the Treat of Versailles.
Unfortunately the same intellectual resolve or spirit or whatever you wish to term it seems to be sorely lacking in the Trump win – you don’t see the neo liberal elites interrogating either why or how so many seemingly level headed and reasonable Americans voted for Trump. Neither do you hear Paul Krugman, Michael Porter or for that matter any of the adherents of globalization and free trade suggesting that they are willing to accept even one molecule of culpability for this outcome that they all prefer to term as an aberration. That to me has to be worrisome. As it suggest there is only a few possibilities here, one the water supply system in the West is contaminated with mind bending drugs or that many of these intellectuals much prefer to live in their own reality of denial.
Q: To what extent will the economic slowdown in China affect it’s foreign policy towards the US?
A: You know when it comes to China – I don’t think one can delineate cleanly between their domestic and foreign policy, it’s really one of the same reality, where it could be said domestic policy exerts a gravity on foreign policy and vice versa – that’s only to be expected you have to factor in the immense scale, diversity and complexity whenever we speak about China.
As it stands today – the Chinese leadership is trying to engineer a soft landing on the economic front. Of course all this is not even widely published in China as information is controlled and filtered. But their economy is definitely not in the pink of health – I think they expanded too fast especially in the property sector and debt along with cost of capital and inflation will continue to militate against even the best plans to conceive a soft landing. This is definitely a matter of great concern on the domestic front and that is why the Chinese want status quo when it comes to trade with the West.
The problem is Trump seems to be laying down plans for a trade war with China. To be honest with you. I don’t know whether this is all just saber rattling or might it even be something approaching the serious – if it’s the latter then we are likely to see an economic war – where I don’t see any clear winners emerging.
But I digress.
Coming back to your question. Many things are very crumbly and fragile with the Chinese economy – for the very first time there is a reversal of migration from the coastal cities back to the countryside. Again this news is not widely reported. There is also the issue of the succession plan of the fifth generation leaders that has recently been put on hold by Xi – this suggest there might be schism within the oligarchy of the Chinese communist party. There is also the complexity of having to deconstruct and retool many of the state owned oligarchies that have grown so powerful and all pervasive that it has become a form of spiritualism resembling religion in China. I mean in China – what many westerners don’t seem to comprehend is it is communism is not just a political philosophy based on ideology, it is very much a way of life that happens to nourish millions of Chinese. Of course in the west, if we use modern accounting techniques, we would provably consider these state owned oligrachs as zombie outfits – but in China, certain sacred cow industries such as coal, steel and the many appendages of the PLA is really the equivalent of Temasek Holdings – so it’s conceivable these set pieces can never change – as they happen to be an indelible reality of the DNA that holds the country together. That simply means even if the Chinese leadership want to change these set pieces, they will have to work around the labyrinth of power and politics…it’s going to be uphill for Xi and his crew to jump start the domestic economy without the rest of the world.
Either way China needs the world as badly as the world needs China – that’s reality.
(To be con’t)
January 17, 2017
Where the hell is all this going? Where?…..renegotiate the one China policy? Make a bed with Russia and sleep alongside the likes of Putin? Ratifying the annexation of the West Bank by Israel? Bring back jobs to America even if it spells the impending economic demise of US multinationals? Set aside the Kyoto treaty and allow the world to boil till it resembles the hottest place in hell?
Where is all this going? Where is Henry Kissinger et al?
Who the hell is even in charge of the USA inc? Is anyone even manning the bridge? Is anyone there!
Even organized crime can’t afford to do a fraction of all this! They cannot. Trust me. As when the centre threatens to give right in and suck everything into a black hole – men will convene around a table in the dead of night and ask of each other – can we find a way to live and let live?
This is a form of insanity I have never come across before!
We need to study and research it well to prosper.
January 16, 2017
Anyone I reckon can spot out either a pretty girl or a handsome guy from the crowd. But come on? What does that really say except maybe a big nothing. I guess what I am trying to convey here is the idea how some people who are highly sensitive can look beyond the superficial and usually see things that no one else can ever be part of – like perhaps looking at a young pretty girl and seeing the old woman she will eventually become.
A man with a keener sense of sensitivity I imagine could go two or three steps up the rung of the ladder higher and even trace out either the young man or pretty girl in the old man and crumpled woman.
But a really sensitive man – I mean a five chili sensitive man. The sort that can just sense what’s in your mind even before you can begin conjuring and fleshing out a form in your head.
He can do something quite unusual that no other man can – he can stop time itself. I am not kidding. To even hold eternity in one grain of sand and look at an old shriveled up woman to see her exactly the way she used to be…or to just look into a man’s eyes and see the all the heady hues of the sights and sounds and experiences that once came in and out of his life.
To even read the sardonic hint in his seemingly Cheshire Cat smile. But above all…a really sensitive man has so many many stories.
‘Everyone has a story. Everyone. No one just walks over the hill and there and then the story of their life starts in earnest. That’s not how it is and don’t ever believe that version about people….it just means you don’t know their story.
Doesn’t even matter how smart or stupid, fat or slim, educated or how much of a farmer they happen to be. As I said, everyone has a story….and every story is in the relative scale of things in relation to this timeline, what has and will happen and the universe is the most important narrative to the person who wordsmiths this story.
No one’s story is higher or lower, doesn’t even matter whether it is LKY or even the Shah of Iran or I am a legend story…every story stands equal like picket fences that go right on into the horizon and beyond.
Some stories are exciting in the beginning. Others start off slowly and get up to speed eventually somewhere around the time when you’re wondering whether you should put the book down for good – then there are stories with no beginning, middle or even end.
But everyone has a story….and when one begins to understand the story of a life lived only then will the true person emerge – only the most perceptive, sensitive and worldly can read the alphabets that make up the words, sentences and paragraphs of this story….to know people as their stories is to understand, respect and honor them.’
January 15, 2017
Restoring an old Straits era heritage town house doesn’t require one to learn anything new. Not at all. If anything it is a process that requires one to unlearn how one usually plans and proceeds with building works in the 21st century.
Old methods of building have to be reclaimed and brought back to life. For example concrete and cement is no good – lime is the way to go. Try to shortcut it and in a few years, it will all crack and give way and one is right back where one once started.
Do it right. Granted it may be prove painful and at times even slow but at least it will last for another one hundred years….but all this requires knowledge and above all understanding of a bygone age when artisans took great pride in the idea of dignity of labor.
These days many of the tradesman and joiners have all but disappeared. Only the cowboys and short cut con artist armed with power tools seem to dominate the market.
This has led me to do my own research.
Me and the happy contractor standing before the shop lot.
‘To gainfully make progress in work, life and play. Society has successfully scripted all of us to believe fast is good, fasterer is even better and eating chicken rice, SMSing on the go and working is the best – this the cult of the instant 2 minute maggi markets as the most reliable way for one to lead fulfilled lives – we all need to throw out the old and buy into the new, it seems. To put it in another way, to always pry open our brains like a can of sardines only to pour in the new and improved in the hope that it will all get better…can only be better.
But at times to make meaningful headway by running an enterprise to managing relationships with our boss, parents or even our dearest other . All we need to do is UNLEARN many of the robotic ways along with modern thinking that has managed to encrust themselves mindlessly into our way of life.
This process of letting go is very unnatural for most – as we have all been schooled to take exceptional pride in the knowledge we have spent so much time and energy and opportunity cost to accumulate all our lives….hence letting go is not easy. As it requires us to first come to terms with our ego along with cultivating the highest level of honesty and patience with oneself.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying all old things and methods are necessarily good……only to live well. One would do well never to opt for ‘new’ or ‘improved’ blindly and mechanically. As in life many good things don’t ever change….the conditions that fosters love and respect between two people…they don’t change….the way good shoes are made…they don’t change either. The time it takes to cook a wholesome and delicious meal…that hasn’t changed at all. The factors that nourishes real friendship…they also don’t change.
Many things it seems don’t ever change and once these good things are thrown away….it is not a case of grabbing them from the tool box again. As usually they are lost forever.
Research and study this well. As it applies to all things in life. Above all know the value of good and valuable things….as if they come to you….it is a privilege to be savory and not to be mindlessly rushed over…don’t follow the crowd. Go with what you know to be true and worthy. Above all take your time about it.’
January 14, 2017
Trump’s win has definitely shaken the four corners of the world. There is no doubt about that – what will he do? No one knows…I suspect not even Trump himself knows what he will eventually do or decide not to do.
But if there is any redeeming quality to Mr Trump’s unexpected and shocking win – it is simply this…there is finally the recognition, things can no longer go on the way it used to be….the elites can no longer brush this aside a kink in their plans. Neither can they dismiss it as a one off either.
The stakes are simply too high.
For the very first time since the inception of globalization and free trade as a school of thought…many will have to reflect deeply on how best to proceed forward….and that in my humble opinion may not be such a bad thing for both people and planet.
‘I don’t believe bad can be so bad that it can entirely squeeze out every drop of the good. That’s not how the world works! It only seems that way – as usually even in the very bad…there is good to be found IF one looks hard enough.
People who you love with all your heart, treat you badly, so that you can leave, heal and find a better soulmate. Friends change thru time, so that you can learn to stand on your own two feet and rely on yourself. Things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right. You get conned and lied too so that you can learn to trust yourself and be suspicious of others, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.
Try always to see the good in people, events and things. Nothing in this world is either completely good or bad. This is the yin and yang of the way of the world.’
January 13, 2017
I am in the city to meet up with the association of vegetarian restaurant proprietors. They have all engaged my services to look into the rising cost of vegetables and how to make them tastier. As lately the freaky weather seems to be only good for yielding tasteless super expensive veggies.
They are all very happy to see me. They offered me a lot to eat.
After that I went to meet up with the management of an up market department store that runs a speciality food outlet – they want me to set up a high tech iceberg lettuce farm.
Again they were all very happy to see me as well. Again they too offered me a lot to eat and drink as well.
I don’t normally eat during the day time. On this occasion, I made an exception…..I don’t think I can move now.
Eventually I did manage to walk to my car. Thereafter I meet up with a group of super rich city ladies who all wanted me to give a talk on how to start and maintain a herb garden.
Again they were all ecstatic and very happy to see me as well.
Since none of them could cook – I cooked for everyone….I ate again. Now I definitely can’t move any longer.
January 12, 2017
Our man is finally in the slot. He is 100% brotherhood. He is guild….it is not perfect. As I am told he is an oil man, but nevertheless surely he knows our discipline and the importance of common good and most importantly unity – we must close ranks….this is the time to set our differences asides, especially the cosca’s – we will stand in one line and set aside our differences.
This after all is our way, when the council has made a decision.
The TPP will be passed. The date is April 22. I want to be clear. I oppose the TPP. Personally. But if it is necessary as the Council says for Singapore’s survival then I shall keep quiet….very quiet.
You will not hear a word from me.
Understand this! I was not here. This conversation never took place….send the scorpion sign.
This is wisdom. Obey me… I am Darkness 2016.
‘Some years back ago when I mentioned the world is changing…it is not the way it used to be. Even then I could not have possibly foreseen either the waywardness of the trajectory or for that matter – the breakneck speed of change. Neither was I mentally prepared for the sudden and unexpected advent of the class divide – by even our most conservative estimations – all this would only occur circa 2020.’