Thursday, January 29, 2009


Seems like everywhere we turn, there are people who keep adding fuel to fires that should be put out. And I'm not just talking about "we the anonymous". In trying to mount a(n) (ill-advised) defence against the online masses (we are legion...), one has to resort to more than mere name-calling to actually make the grade.

We live in a world that is changed. No longer are we subject to non-thinking acceptance of propaganda. No longer are we happy to lounge around, ignorant, uncaring. No longer are we ready to accept flawed argumentation that passes off as logic in a world where complacency has led us to economic downfall and corruption of our ideals. We live in Obamaland now! Where the positions of power are filled by the smart and the worthy. Where one exhibits his or her intelligence and is not mocked, but celebrated. Where one's worth lies in the amount of hard work that he or she puts in for the money that they are paid. Where elite actually means that one is smarter than the rest, is better at what they do and can offer more solutions. Elitism is more than merely (undeserved) arbitrary wages that are more the result of cronyism and backdoor deals.

It truly is glorious.

But some fools still think that the old ways can work. These are the sloths that cling on to the rotting illusion that when authority speaks, one HAS to listen. That believe that people have not clawed their way into the light of intellectual enlightenment. They are the ones who believe that the status quo still stands and the powers that be are still invulnerable. That it is shocking that "greater mortals" are set ablaze by unhappy peons.

One of these fools is Eugene Wee.

As a defender of the status quo, he has to realise that his argument, in this day and age, can't possibly be anything more than fuel that fans the flames. (Apt, since he's talking about internet flamers...) He can't possibly think that standing on his (rather insignificant and already oft mocked) soapbox The Piece of Crap The New Paper and yelling at the tide isn't going to help much, considering that the tide really wants to burn said paper too. (Doubly so since his tirade tends to be more about credibility) Here's a clue Eugene, and say it with me: It Just Isn't Working.

His assumption is that if he can discredit the blogosphere as nothing more than people frothing in the mouth and baying for blood without a cause (or a clue), his mainstream readers are going to ignore what we are writing and go on with their lives.

Let me let you in on a little secret Eugene: We aren't the problem. We're just the voice.

The man who set his MP on fire. Odds are, he wasn't a blogger. He probably isn't an active participant of the discourse online. He was just an angry citizen. Think of us as the canary in the mine. We aren't really the problem that's going to cause the big explosion, we just chirp out when we sense that there's danger. And trust me when I say this, public sentiment isn't exactly on your "side".

As far as I'm concerned, that's the role that we've taken. We are the watchdogs because the mainstream media's become someone's bitch. We are the loudhailers of public opinion and it would be wise for people to hear what we're saying. I'm not looking to topple the government. It would be a rather deluded fool to believe that that would be in Singapore's best interests. But there are things that we aren't really happy with, and if the powers that be don't listen, then this unhappiness will grow. Where that leads, I shudder to think.

I have children and I would love for my homeland to be the country that would provide them the best for their future. I love my country. I am a patriot, in ways that even I would never fully comprehend. And when I blog about people (I use the word in it's technical sense) like Charles Chong using terms like "Lesser Mortals", I shudder because it scares the crap out of me. I don't want the bad old days. I want economic prosperity. But when I see Temasek losing our money, I wonder why that is...and I'm not provided answers. I want leaders I can believe in. But when I look at our present Prime Minister with his "mandate", I know that I have lost the faith. And all that worries me.

That's why I blog. I give voice to my own uncertainties. And there are smarter people out there who do the same. We're not looking to incite violence. We're not asking for social upheaval. We just want the powers that be to listen to what we have to say because our concerns are valid. And we're doing a lot more than what you're doing, Mr Eugene Wee.

A whole lot more.

So when a fool dumps fuel into a fire that already burns, one wonders what his agenda is. Who is sowing the actual discord in our society?

Because this is all a very serious exercise. We're speaking about our concerns, Mr Wee. Just what in the hell are you doing?

THE online flaming brigade was certainly busy over the last two weeks. The target was senior civil servant Tan Yong Soon who wrote about his family holiday in Paris.

Then Pasir Ris-Punggol MP Charles Chong became a target when he was quoted as using the term 'lesser mortals' to describe Mr Tan's critics.

Online comments typically are hard-hitting and vulgar at times. Everyone, it seems, gets a big dose of courage when they wear a Harry Potter-style invisible cloak. Hiding behind fake names and untraceable e-mail addresses, it's easy to act like a warrior.

Online lynch mobs, of course, exist everywhere.

Last year, AFP reported that Internet thug attacks have become so nasty in the US that a new breed of reputation managers had emerged to help clients who have become victims of character assassination.

So, is the online mob a boon or bane?

Anonymity itself is not the enemy. In the case of corporate or government whistleblowers, anonymity encourages people to come forward with essential information that may reveal wrong doing .

The media, too, sometimes relies on anonymous sources when reporting sensitive stories. This usually happens when these sources agree to give up important information, which is otherwise unavailable, only if their names are not revealed due to fear of reprisal or embarrassment.

But a crucial point is that these anonymous sources are known to someone, like a reporter, and efforts are made to verify the information supplied.

But online critics are largely faceless. You can't tell if it's just a small group or an individual kicking up a storm, or if there is widespread discontent.

The value of online opinions rise considerably when people are prepared to show their faces and stand up for what they believe in.

If you won're not brave enough to put your name or face to strong views, others are unlikely to take them seriously.

Don't blame 'Big Brother' for not identifying yourself. See the punchy comments in the letters to newspapers. These readers have the guts to speak their minds openly.

Why can't more do the same in cyberspace? Blogs like, and have names to them. And Messrs Alex Au, Eugene Yeo and Choo Zheng Xi have earned themselves a growing number of readers.

As for the anonymous bunch, think of them as bacteria who feed on dead plants or animals. Online flamers feed on those who are 'dead' when public opinion turns against them because of some act or omission.

The flamers play a part in breaking down issues and dissipating pent-up anger. Their rants might lead others to disclose information that might expose hidden practices.

Just like good and bad bacteria

Like the bacteria that decompose tissue and nourish the soil, there is some good in having such online critics.

But there are also vicious online critics who can destroy reputations with baseless accusations.

They are like the bacteria that cause diseases in plants and animals, making them sick or even killing them. One bacterium caused the bubonic plague or the Black Death (so named because of the colour of the victim's face after death).

TB, anthrax, cholera, food poisoning, and pneumonia are all the work of ugly bacteria.

So, Mr Online Critic, please decide what kind of bacteria you want to be.

Keep your anonymity, if you lack the guts, but play a useful role - like the bacteria that eats oil ( a big help to clean up oil spills), and the bacteria used in sewage treatment plants to purify water.

Many bacteria are harmless when they are contained. For example, the bacteria, E. coli, live in the intestines of people, helping them digest food as well as producing vitamins.

But when E Coli escapes, it can contaminate water and food. The same can happen when the wild comments of faceless critics get into the mainstream.

They can wind up leaving nothing more than a pile of s***.

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Friday, January 23, 2009



Wednesday, January 21, 2009


"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

I'm inspired. The afterglow still lingers 13 hours after viewing the speech. Maybe he can save us all. stand and to vote in a real election. To make real choices. To bask in the glory of true leadership.


My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet. We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009


When one is backpedaling from the fallout from an ill-timed article about how a top civil servant spends his money in the face of recession, one really should not be issuing statements like that.

Agreeing that the rebuke in Parliament was “harsh”, MP Charles Chong noted that Mr Tan didn’t “brag” about how expensive the trip was in the article.
“Maybe it made lesser mortals envious and they thought maybe he was a bit boastful. Would people have taken offence if his wife (a senior investment counsellor at a bank) had paid for everything ?”

Let's review exactly what's wrong with this statement:

  1. Way to be really sensitive in today's really charged political/economic climate dude. You winz the interwebz. Do you really want to use rhetoric that emphasizes the rich/poor divide? This was what got the other guy into hot soup. You want to join him? How stupid ARE you?
  2. Lesser mortals? Who talks like that anymore?! I can see what he's trying to say...(i.e. there are stupid people around that are making a bigger deal of this than they should although I humbly disagree with that) but there are better ways to make a point. More sensitive ways perhaps? Maybe refer to Singaporeans as peasants? Might make us feel a little bit better.
  3. Do you really want to bring up the fact that the guy's wife is a senior investment banker who's still making BIG bucks? In this climate?! After people have been royally screwed by banks?
That said, this circus has been the most interesting news that I've read in Singaporean media for the longest time and perhaps this would sound the death knell for the people in charge who seem totally out of touch with their base. I mean, after all this, I think that the immolation of MPs might not exactly seem all that bad after all. Perhaps MP Charles Chong would be better served if he just suggested that we just shut the hell up and just eat our cake.


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Monday, January 19, 2009


We all live in tribes whether we like to admit it or not. We exist in tribes that are defined by the schools we attend, the clothes we wear or even the television shows we watch. Tribes exist because they define our existences. They define who we are, and by those definitions, we become more aware of ourselves.

Tribalism of course tends to, more importantly, also define who we exclude (more often than not, everybody else) and who we include in our circles (inner or otherwise). By associating myself with a moniker of gamer, I’m automatically placing myself within the tribe of gamers. But even within that (relatively) large tribe, there are further subdivisions. More accurately, I’m a PC gamer. I don’t play console games and due to that fact, I also see console gaming as a watered down experience of PC gaming. (No offense, console gamers…no, really…) PC gamers can be further broken down into specific clans as well. I am an MMO player and that means that I associate myself with other MMO players. But wait. There is a further breakdown because I specifically play Warhammer Online, the best MMO at the present moment. World of Warcraft fans of course would be baying for my head at the moment but as far as I’m concerned, it’s only because they are flogging that dead horse. (no offens…Ah fergitaboutit) Break that down further and with guilds and all that within the game, I specialise my associations until they are so specific that that is what eventually defines me (at least as a gamer).

What does this have to do with today’s video posting?

Well, Microsoft, in retaliation to the Apple Mac “I’m a Mac” advertisements has rather cleverly tried to consolidate (or lead us to believe that they have) every single tribe out there with their new advertisement. With the “I’m a Mac” ad, Apple has managed to define the Mac existence as one that is encapsulated by “cool”, “hip” and “trendy”. i.e. IF you buy our product, you are cool, hip and trendy. (This is, of course, a myth, as proven by people who own iPods who are everything but cool, hip and trendy…) Microsoft, as the face of the PC, has instead, decided to go the other way. They state that by buying into their product, you are joining a tribe of millions. It states that even if you are the downtrodden and the disenfranchised, the PC tribe welcomes you. It states that even if you are not cool, hip and trendy, you still have a place with the tribe. Interesting counterattack, really. (That said, you’re still in the tribe with Eva Langoria and some dude that breaks the law, so you’re still in good company.)

At the end of the day, however, Microsoft is still trying to sell their “side”*. And despite the fact that they are all welcoming, Macs aren’t invited. This “side” however is arbitrary because Microsoft also sells Mac users their products. But it is a noble attempt at making PC users feel a whole lot better about themselves. After all, we all feel comfortable when we are in numbers. The advertisement sure does make that number seem all that much bigger, which, I suppose, is everything that tribalism should aim to achieve.

Touche, Microsoft. Touche.

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