30 May 2006

Merapi, bird flu and creationism

Some people believe in mountain spirits, others in a biblical account of creation. Many others -- hopefully including some readers -- put their trust in scientific rationalism. But why do we believe in it? It's nothing more than faith and familiarity. So how is it different from believing in mountain spirits and a deity that worked 7 days in a row? Full essay.

28 May 2006

300 Egyptian judges protest against government interference

It's headline news elsewhere but I haven't seen this in Singapore newspapers. 300 judges in Egypt recently held a protest against government interference in their independence. Specifically, it was about 2 judges being prosecuted after they spoke out against some of their colleagues for helping to legitimise the 2005 general election. These 2 judges, and many election observers, felt that the election was marred by irregularities. See a recent BBC report here, and another report a month ago.

27 May 2006

Opposition parties' poor bet

During the elections, I got the sense that the opposition parties continued to oppose the proposed casinos, but at no time could I grasp what well-thought-out reason they had for holding that position. In my view, they should be supporting the casino decision. Full essay.

Gay equality: from First world to Third

This month, Massachusetts marked the 2nd anniversary of gay marriage. Last month there was a debate about gay marriage at Renmin University in Beijing. Meanwhile in Singapore, our gay news is about a tabloid devoting 4 pages to calling on the government to shut down gay places. Full essay.

25 May 2006

Legislator wants to "manage" political expression on the internet

At a recent forum, new Member of Parliament Denise Phua said she was shocked to see that anti-PAP opinions heavily outnumbered pro-PAP ones on the internet. She said the PAP should "manage this channel of communication." What does her performance tell us about the "quality" candidates that the PAP boasts of? Full essay.

24 May 2006

The misuse of the state

Lee Kuan Yew says (again) that a multiparty system is not necessary for a democracy. Multiparty democracy, he said, will mean that "we will not have a stable environment," implying that economic growth will be sacrificed. I argue here that the purpose of a state is not economic, but for justice and security. By misdirecting the state, its institutions and processes to economic ends, we distort our obligation to provide justice, which includes social justice and political rights. Full essay.

Why we should be proud of Singapore 1

If you think Singapore's Straits Times and other newspapers are too fawning, you should read other countries' newspapers once in a while. This photo is from the front page of Brunei's Borneo Bulletin, 10 May 2006. The caption says,

"His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Deputy Inspector-General of Police, yesterday made a courtesy call on Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong."

What a mouthful. Did you have a hard time even parsing that sentence?

Why we should be proud of Singapore 2

This is a news item from Brunei's newspaper, the Borneo Bulletin, 10 May 2006. It tells the public that the phone numbers of the Housing Department, 238 2143 and 238 2146, aren't working well "due to a faulty PABX system".

The department can only receive a limited number of calls through the system. The problem surfaced in November 2005, i.e. seven months ago. However, it assured the public that action is being taken to replace the PABX. In the meantime, the public is asked to make a physical visit to the department instead of calling.

Now, Brunei is not as small as Singapore. If you're living in the town of Kuala Belait, it's a 2-hour drive to the Housing Department. All because they don't have working phones. Brunei is an oil-rich sultanate.

Indonesia: fundamentalism on the march

The trememdous success of rational thought in delivering material progress has marginalised the place of religion in the contemporary world. Rapid social change cause many to feel their lifestyles and beliefs under siege. The thought-habits of the modern world has in turn changed how religion is accessed. Together, these give rise to the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism that we see today. Full essay.

23 May 2006

Ten excruciating seconds

.... in an elevator. Two girls in love, 17 others in shock. Is this appropriate behaviour? If we say it is inappropriate, does it stop here? Does it mean we're excused from understanding why it occurs? An external essay, written for Fridae.com

21 May 2006

The last communist in the cinema

Amir Muhammad's film The Last Communist revisits the communist insurgency in Malaya, while looking at the country today. He also interviews the last of the fighters, now living in southern Thailand. But history is not over yet, and so long as we are human, will never be. Full essay.

20 May 2006

Responding with thought

There are 3 letters here. The first writer describes how he/she felt when she realised how homophobic a TV program on sexuality was. The second (straight) writer works out what homosexual orientation means, drawing from his own self-awareness. The third letter tells of how a father took in the fact that his son was gay. Full essay.

More pictures from election rallies

Contributor Sunsetbay's photographs of rallies from the recent general election are assembled here. They feature the Workers' Party's rallies at Tampines and Serangoon Stadium, as well as pictures of the People's Action Party rally at Tampines. Photo pin-up board.

Political debate should include educational policies

Moede Funct, a guest commentator, details the many ways in which Singapore's education system creates stresses for many people concerned. He asks whether policies, especially policy changes, are well thought out. Is there a bias towards serving the bright kids? Full essay.

Did CNA act unprofessionally?

A blogger noticed that when Channel News Asia showed his site on TV, some important words were invisible. CNA denied that the journalist doctored the images. So where lies the truth? Full essay.

Flat-footed and worse

"Citizen journalism" may have had an impact on the Straits Times during the recent general election. Here I document how the newspaper's reporting and photographic representation of rallies shifted. But rather than attacking the mainstream media for their inadequacies, we should focus on the regulatory regime they have to operate under, although whether they are even more timid than absolutely necessary is a moot question too. Full essay.

Lesbian brains, lesbophobia and the path to the divine

Full essay. New research shows that lesbians respond to hormone-derived smells of men and women in a unique way. Is homosexuality inborn or learned? Meanwhile 3 young men talk about a lesbian they came across, showing us how we may rise above our own selfishness.

Race and ethnicity: the Singaporean perspective

Full essay. In Singapore almost no one speaks about ethnicity. We're always referring to race. Are they the same thing? If not, which is more meaningful?

The deadly embrace of politics

Full essay. In Canada, a court has been called upon to decide whether Singapore's justice system meets Canadian constitutional standards. Why? What will be the consequences if the court feels ours do not? And why is it only now that the Straits Times is reporting about this case?

A post-election scolding from old Lee

Full essay. Lee Kuan Yew got stern with Singaporeans after the People's Action Party won the general election with 66% of the votes. "Please do not assume that you can change governments. Young people don't understand this," he said.

Chikus and me

Full essay. A fruit from my childhood brings back memory, but also prompts the question of what the passage of time and the passage of life means. When is a life complete?