31 Dec 2004
Internet Phenomenon Provides Unique Insight Into People's Thoughts
Dec. 30, 2004 - A blog -- short for "web log" -- is an online personal journal that covers topics ranging from daily life to technology to culture to the arts. Blogs have made such an impact this year that Merriam-Webster named it the word of the year.
"There's a blog for every niche. There's a blog for every interest," said technology writer Xeni Jardin, who co-edits the blog boingboing.net.
Dylan Verdi, an 11-year-old known as the world's youngest videoblogger, says she covers "things that I've seen that I like or that I've heard of, or just anything that happened to me that day that I'm thinking."
There are millions of blogs on the Internet -- a new one is created every seven-and-a-half seconds. More than 10,000 new additions are added to the "blogosphere" each day.
Firsthand Reporting on Asian Tsunami Catastrophes
This week, their influence has become readily apparent. Dozens of bloggers have been filing firsthand reports from the areas devastated by southern Asia's deadly tsunamis.
"There is kind of an immediacy that people can relate to -- can't help but relate to that in a very intimate way," said Jardin.
"Day three," one blogger writes from the scene, "this may be an unexpected challenge and responsibility, and it hurts to see people in pain. But it's also a remarkable experience to be on hand to do something modest, but useful, in the aftermath of a disaster."
Bloggers around the world have made themselves useful, encouraging donations to relief groups, posting the names of the missing, and expressing sympathy for the victims.
Expanding Political Coverage
As a driving force in politics this year, bloggers covered the 2004 presidential campaigns and election. Political candidates also used them as valuable campaign tools.
"The Internet taught us, rather than the other way around," said former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
This year, for the first time, bloggers were permitted to cover the national political conventions firsthand.
Bloggers have taken the lead over traditional media on a number of stories, including racist remarks made by then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., at former Sen. Strom Thurmond's birthday party.
"Suddenly the mainstream media, the nightly news, on all three networks and on cable, picked up the story and the papers picked up the story and the next thing you know, Trent Lott's resigning and gone," said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, who masterminded Dean's groundbreaking online campaign efforts.
Some of the most compelling images of 2004 found their way to blogs first, from the Florida hurricanes to the war in Iraq. It was a blogger who got the first photographs of coffins carrying U.S. soldiers arriving in the United States from Iraq.
But for Verdi, it is the simple pleasure of knowing that someone is listening that makes blogging worthwhile.
"On my blog it allows people to post comments, and I have gotten comment upon comment upon comment," she said. "It makes me feel really good that somebody else cares about what I have to say."
ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas filed this report for "World News Tonight."
Copyright © 2004 ABC News Internet Ventures
From the non-infringer of copyright izreloaded.
Items: Medicine, first aid items, sanitary pads, toothbrush, toothpaste, tin food, dry food and CLEAN (new if possible) blankets, towels and clothes.
Please pack them in bags or boxes and lable them separately, eg... Food, Blankets, Medicine, Clothes to be seperated and labeled MALE, FEMALE and CHILDREN. Boxes are preferred but please do NOT seal.
19 Dalhousie Lane ( jus behind Tekka Mall )
Collection of essentials ie .... foods, clothes, blankets, towels .... any day before next Wednesday for Sri Lankan victims.
Old Parliament Lane #01-02 , Parliament Lane,
Olivia - Tel: 81131770
Donations of canned food, blankets and clothings.
Donations of Cash: Brahm Education Centre
Cash donations are collected at Brahm Education Centre. Cheques are to be made payable to "Brahm Education Centre Ltd".
Cash or cheque are to be sent to Brahm Education Centre, 9 Lor 29 Geylang #04-02 Singapore 388065. Please indicate "suffering relief program" on the back of the cheque.
Receipts of items purchased for the victims with the cash donations will be collated and accounts on how the funds are dispensed will be available for inspection at the end of the projecct.
29 Dec 2004
Rajan, Jeff Ooi, Nitin Pai and 2Bangkok are offering the best regional coverage. IZ Reloaded has linked to a chilling tourist video of a wave hitting Phuket.
Information on donating to the Singapore Red Cross can be found here. The Canadian Red Cross accepts on-line donations here.
The American Red Cross is making an appeal here and the International Foundation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent is accepting donations here.
One couple is collecting clothes and money, and will bring these personally to Chennai, India, where some 50,000 people are thought to have been made homeless.
Mr Vadrevu will be making the trip to Chennai to deliver the donations on Sunday.
If you are interested in donating money, or clothes and blankets you can contact the Vadrevu family at 9638 3236, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. - CNA
28 Dec 2004
Emotional scenes as Singaporeans return from tsunami-hit areas
By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
SINGAPORE : Emotions ran high at Changi Airport on Tuesday as friends and families were reunited with their loved ones who had returned from tsunami strickened areas, while others waited anxiously for injured family members.
Goh Poh Eng, 21, arrived at around 12.30 pm with the help of fellow travellers and airline staff.
Her sister said she had gone to Phuket before Christmas and called home on Monday about the disaster.
She had cuts on her face and body.
Family members said Ms Goh, a third year marketing student from the Nanyang Technological University, was asleep in her hotel room when the tsunami struck.
Besides Ms Goh, another two boys in wheelchairs were also whisked away from the airport.
Many could hardly contain their joy after days of anxiety and worry.
Paul Andriesz, a Singapore permanent resident, said, "The staff came rushing through the hotel saying, Everybody get out, there's water coming. My wife and I, we got separated for about nine hours. She was with two of our children and I was with the nanny and a baby."
Twenty-six-year-old Loh Tse Lynn and her friend lost most of their belongings when their seaside resort was wiped out.
They had stopped by at the Khao Lak beach after a two-week diving expedition, and taken shelter at a restaurant that morning.
Ms Loh said, "The shop owners went out to take a look, then he said, Everyone upstairs, upstairs. So we went upstairs and we saw the water just came down the street and covered the whole street; it was very fast."
Singaporean tourist Mabel Lee said, "The road leading to the hotel was all covered. It was muddy, it was swirling; you had trucks and vans being pulled out from the land in the direction of the sea."
Many divers out at sea also escaped unhurt, thanks to observant dive leaders.
Singaporean Thomas Seah said, "The nearby islands were really flooded, very high; and the dive leaders were saying this is something very strange, something they have not seen for the past four years. The water went up by three to five metres in 20 minutes. So they immediately stopped all the diving activities."
While many Singaporeans are home safe, the fate of others remains unknown.
Another Singaporean, Sherwin Chua, said, "We were in contact with an official from the consulate and he said there were six Singaporeans who cannot be accounted for."
American tourist Eric Li added, "There are a lot of people injured at the Phuket Airport right now, trying to get out. You see them wheeling around in wheelchairs, and lots of bandages and injuries."
One Singaporean family of four back from Sri Lanka also had a narrow escape when they arrived at the hotel five minutes before the killer waves came.
They had witnessed the ordeal from the third floor.
Said Siti Adzmah Abdullah, "She was in a shock, she was crying. She said, Mama, I don't want to die, I don't want to die, mama. We were really very shaken." - CNA
In June 2000 a group comprising of over 100 governments from democratic countries were invited to Warsaw, Poland to pledge their commitment to democratic principles and to build a Community of Democracies (CD) so as to strengthen democratic values and institutions at home and abroad. The Singapore Government was not invited.
The CD decided to convene biennial ministerial meetings. Parallel to the CD meetings, a nongovernmental (NGO) meeting of leading democracy activists and thinkers from around the world was organized. The second ministerial meeting was organized in Seoul, Korea in November 2002 along with the forum of civil society leaders. Dr Chee Soon Juan was invited to attend the NGO meeting in Seoul but he could not be present because he was in jail for attempting to hold a workers’ rally on May Day of 2002.
For the Seoul meeting Singapore was invited as an Observer (there are three categories: invitee, observer, and non-invitee). The third meeting will take place in February 2005 in Santiago, Chile. The recommendation for this round for Singapore is that it should be downgraded into the non-invitee category again because of the PAP Government’s lack of progress in establishing democracy in the country. Below is the report on Singapore. (For the full report, go to http://www.demcoalition.org/html/home.html)
Singapore was upgraded from a Non-invitee at the Warsaw Ministerial Meeting to an Observer at the Seoul Ministerial Meeting.
In the intervening period, since the Seoul Ministerial Meeting, there have been no parliamentary or presidential elections in Singapore. Parliamentary elections were held 4 November 2001, in which the governing People’s Action Party (PAP) secured an overwhelming majority with 90% of the vote.(194) There is no independent elections commission and campaigning is restricted to nine days.
Parliamentary elections are not scheduled to be held again until next year; nonetheless, on 12 August 2004 a transfer of power took place when Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who ruled the island nation from 1965 to 1990, was sworn in as Singapore’s new prime minister, replacing Goh Chok Tong.(195)
Presently the PAP holds 82 of the 84 elected single-seat constituencies. Much of the success of the PAP can be attributed to the fact that 55 of the 84 seats were uncontested,(196) thereby automatically giving the PAP the majority in parliament.
to continue reading click here.
25 Dec 2004
to preserve Singapore's interests, says Lee
South China Morning Post
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
The city state's founding father has defended its tight regulation of the media and said Singapore could not be subjected to criticism by the international press without a rebuttal from the government.
"We reserve the right to reply," said Lee Kuan Yew - Singapore's "minister mentor" - at a dinner hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association. Mr Lee scoffed at a recent report by a media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, that equated press freedom in Singapore with restrictions on the media in totalitarian North Korea.
Singapore maintains that journalists contribute to the nation's development and are not necessarily adversarial. "We are not that daft," Mr Lee said. "We know what is in our interests and we intend to preserve our interests."
Mr Lee said international newspapers were freely available, but told one foreign correspondent at the dinner: "You are not going to tell us how to run our country."
Singapore's media faces strict censorship, while home TV satellite units remain off-limits. Arts performances and plays are under watch. Foreign news organisations such as the The Economist magazine, the International Herald Tribune, the Far Eastern Economic Review and The Asian Wall Street Journal have paid large fines or had their
circulation restricted through lawsuits brought by ruling-party stalwarts.
Mr Lee also said he does not set policy, but acts as a "kind of data bank" to help the younger generation of leaders.
21 Dec 2004
Dec 20, 2004
Computer programmer started blog last month on her fight against rare tumour
By Sharon De Castro
THIS is the last entry in computer programmer Grace Chow's blog: 'After a three-year battle against Death, he came to take her. She stopped breathing tonight, without pain, without suffocation or paralysis.'
Facing death bravely: Ms Chow's blog has touched the hearts of many. She died on Dec 6, three years after the tumour was discovered.
It was written by her Dutch husband, database analyst Ton de Vries, to tell those who have been following her online account of what turned out to be her last weeks, that she had died on Dec 6. Ms Chow, who was living in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, was 32 years old.
The end came three years after a rare tumour, called a chordoma, was discovered at the base of her skull. The growth, which measured about 10cm by 7cm, had fractured her skull and two vertebrae. It had made it near impossible for her to speak, as well as difficult to walk and lift her hands.
The former student of CHIJ (Toa Payoh) and Victoria Junior College did not think she would live more than a year when she was told of the growth.
But she did and went on to fulfil her dream of writing a book on love, despair, death and Singapore. The mostly autobiographical effort, A Pain In The Neck, was published in October and is available through www. amazon.com and www.book surge.com for about US$16 (S$26.50).
She started her online diary only last month, to keep in touch with family and friends when speaking became difficult. She managed only 11 entries in Dying Is, at dyingis.blogspot.com
As such records go, it was unusual, as it was about the struggle to confront death. Most blogs focus on romance, parties, and offer crazy confessions and observations of the world.
It touched the hearts of many who read it and comforted others because of the positive attitude towards life and death that it reflected, said her husband.
One anonymous reader wrote in the blog: 'Thank you Grace, for your writings and reminding us to find the strength to go on even when life seems dark.'
Her 39-year-old husband said in an e-mail message to The Straits Times: 'I still get reactions from people who read the blog: a chordoma patient who wants to set up an infosite about chordoma, an editor of Bone Cancer magazine wants to write about Grace, a woman who suffers from depression who finds comfort even in the last weeks of her own life.'
Ms Chow was born in Singapore in 1972, the second of three girls of strict parents. She left for the Netherlands at 25, after she obtained her Master of Arts in Philosophy at the National University of Singapore.
In Rotterdam, she met her husband whom she had known a few years earlier through online newsgroup alt.music.alternative
He said of what drew them to each other: 'More than half of her CDs I also had and almost all the CDs she would want to have I had already. This similar taste for music was not the only thing we shared. Also the taste for film and art, for instance. We were soulmates, as she said in her book.'
In 2001, the keen tennis player and cook collapsed in the shower. A scan revealed the growth, which had been giving her blinding headaches for a year.
She went through a series of operations to remove parts of the tumour to relieve the pressure on her skull. They left her semi- permanently in a neck brace, unable to swallow.
Food had to be pumped directly into her stomach through a tube, which she did herself.
Six days before her death, she wrote in her blog: 'I can still connect my catheter to the feeding pump, I can still walk (v. slowly) to the toilet myself, but my days of cooking/baking are clearly over.
'I will have to be the chef this week, calling the shots in the kitchen, while Ton will have to be the assistant cook, doing the actual cutting and frying.'
Her older sister, Ms Caroline Chow, 37 - who was close to her and flew to Holland to visit just before Grace began on her blog because 'I had this feeling she was slipping away' - described her as 'very brave and very human'.
The Institute of Mental Health's chief of general psychiatry, Dr Adrian Wang, said writing a blog could help the terminally ill 'ventilate their emotions'. This can be healthy, he added. 'Using a blog allowed her to reach a large number of people and there may have been a need to think that people will share and understand what you are going through.'
In her blog's introduction, Ms Chow wrote of her tumour: 'It's growing every day. Very quickly.
'On the other hand, it's changed my life in many positive ways. I found the inspiration to write a book, for which I've received many positive reactions.'
Grace, who by then had become a Dutch national, began writing the 169-page volume in 2002. Nine months and four operations later, it was finished.
Her husband said response to the book has been encouraging. 'At first friends, mainly colleagues, bought it. Many expected it to be a book purely about her illness, so they were very surprised by the contents.'
Among other things, Ms Chow wrote about her reasons for leaving Singapore - she was disheartened by the political climate here reflected in the 1997 General Election. She chose the Netherlands because it appeared to be so different from Singapore.
Senior sociology lecturer Steven McDermott, now working in Singapore and who reviewed her book, said: 'In her book and blog, I always got a sense that there was a very strong and humorous person sharing what is the most personal event in her life. Something I'd be unable to do.'
Read excerpts of Grace Chow's online diary and about the growing popularity of blogs in Digital Life tomorrow.
17 Dec 2004
"The Ministry of Health had sent out a directive on December 8 to both the public and medical practitioners to start routine testing of pregnant women for the AIDS virus," it said in a brief email statement to AFP.
Testing is not compulsory but is included as part of routine medical check-ups for pregnant women unless they choose to opt out. to read more...
The article below claims that so far the information on HIV and AIDS was targeted at 'niche' groups. If only HIV could somehow be made aware that it should be targeting a 'niche'. Sounds like someone in the ministry of health has been reading some guru, 'vision' based management mumbo jumbo. Doesn't the word 'niche' come from marketing or advertising jargon. The researcher (Vivien Lim) seems to be pointing at the same conclusion but is probably living in Singapore and therefore 'self-censoring', in order to maintain the 'stable society' that Singapore is.
"Any organisation which boasts one Statement of Purpose. one Vision, five Values, six Goals, seven Strategic Priorities and eight Key Performance Indicators without anyclear correlation between them is producing a recipe for total confusion and exasperation." (Francis Wheen, 2004:p.56)
Or in the case of the Ministry of Health, A Mission and Strategic Thrusts. I sense the hand of Spring and SQC, SQA, management mumbo jumbo.
Singapore, December 17
One in three Singaporeans believe they can acquire AIDS through a mosquito bite, according to a survey published Friday that said ignorance of the deadly disease had not improved in five years.
Twenty percent of Singaporeans also believe that HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, can be transmitted via a cough or a sneeze, while 16 percent say scientists "don't know as much as they claim" about the issue.
An associate professor at the National University of Singapore Business School carried out the survey on 100 young adults who had at least a secondary education, with many having a university degree, the Straits Times said.
The associate professor, Vivien Lim, said the findings of the survey were not surprising because campaigns to raise awareness in Singapore had only been targeted at niche groups.
"A nationwide campaign to inform the public about AIDS, in particular about ways to prevent its spread, is an essential first step in the battle against the disease," the Straits Times quoted Lim as saying.
"Unless the battle against AIDS is fought with the same concerted effort as the war against SARS, uncertainty, ambivalence and anxiety about the disease will continue to prevail."
The issue has become a hot topic in Singapore after Senior Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan last month said the city-state was facing an "alarming AIDS epidemic".
The government has said the number of new HIV cases was likely to surpass 300 this year, from just two recorded in 1985, 111 in 1995 and 226 in 2000.
Singapore has recorded a total of 2,332 HIV infections to date, of whom 874 have died, 564 have full-blown AIDS and 894 show no symptoms.
Reminds me of a few previous articles that I have posted on the same issue. Someone in Singapore has got to be brave, fight back the fear and say the word "SEX" in the local media.
Lets Beat AIDS Without Talking About Sex
Condoms and the Fight Against AIDS
16 Dec 2004
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 / 06:04 PM
SUMMARY: Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday rejected an appeal from organizers of a popular circuit party who seek permission to hold a holiday party this year.
Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday rejected an appeal from organizers of a popular circuit party who seek permission to hold a holiday party this year.
The appeal followed last week's action by the police, who denied a permit to organizers of the party, known as SnowBall.04, because the event contradicted the "moral values" of the majority of Singapore's population.
The rejections stunned Fridae.com and its subsidiary Jungle Media, which has produced SnowBall parties for the past two years. Fridae.com also produces Nation, an annual summer party that is the most popular LGBT event in Asia.
In a statement, MHA echoed the reasoning of the police for denying the permit.
"The blatant public display involving intimate behavior of people of the same sex exhibited at previous events organized by Jungle Media/Fridae.com would be an affront and unacceptable to the large majority of Singaporeans," the ministry said.
Fridae.com chief executive Stuart Koh decried the actions as "poorly justified."
"Fridae is extremely disappointed with the response we have received, which, in the absence of any illegal act, is a blatant show of discrimination against homosexuals in Singapore," Koh said.
Hong Kong-based Fridae.com, the largest LGBT Web site in Asia, has posted ticket refund information for tourists who may been planning to attend SnowBall.04.
Koh also warned that the government's action will hurt Singapore's reputation.
"The image of Singapore as a progressive nation will be tarnished by such an act of discrimination," he said, "and our aspirations of being a global city where diversity is celebrated will be set back by many years."
14 Dec 2004
just sit tight
By Bernard Wee
Does the rejection of a public entertainment licence to hold Snowball signal a change of public policy toward homosexuality? Fridae's new columnist muses the situation and urges the community to do some housekeeping.
You have to feel sorry for smokers.
Over the years, they have had to endure steady increases in tobacco duties and more restrictions on places that they are permitted to smoke in. Where cars fear to tread, smokers rush in to yellow boxes during break times in army camps. If the government has its way, new laws will shoo smokers from bus stops and outdoor hawker centres, too.
You can almost see the end in sight for smokers: Crushed by high tobacco duties and anti-smoking laws, they retreat into their smoky dens at home and smokehouses that operate under the cover of bathhouses. The term fag hag will take on an entirely new meaning.
Two fags under one flag
By contrast, the real fags in Singapore have had it better.
With the leviathan’s one eye closed for nearly ten years now, fags have snuck out from inside the closet and under the flyover into the mainstream. They don’t just cut your hair or serve you onboard meals these days. They run online portals, sell fashionable clothes on Orchard Road, organise large-scale parties and, according to the government, even work in sensitive agencies.
Or have they?
Just when the hags were heading homo for the holidays, the police rejected Jungle Media’s (Singapore subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Fridae.com) application for a public entertainment licence to hold Snowball.04.
Why it matters
Although Snowball.04 is just a party that anyway not every gay man or woman attends, it is the first such even that the police has rejected after approving a string of seven similar parties. More importantly, like PLU’s repeated rejection by the Registry of Societies and Action for AIDS’ dialogue with the Ministry of Health, licenses for gay circuit parties form part of the bellwether for the government’s public policy toward homosexuality. Hence, should the gay community see Snowball.04’s rejection:
- Within the longer trend of liberalisation of public policy toward homosexuality, in which case this incident appears to be an aberration? or
- Within the more recent context of HIV concerns, in which case this incident appears to portend the end for homosexual liberties?
In order to understand where the trend is headed, we need to understand what has and what has not changed.
What has changed
The last licence that the police granted for a similar event was Nation.04 in August. Barring any new and prejudicial information, it would have been reasonable to expect the police to grant Snowball.04’s license just four months after.
But there was new information. Junior health minister Dr Balaji Sadasivan’s warning about a sharp rise in the number of new AIDS cases among gay men came just a month before the police rejected Snowball.04’s application.
Given the emphasis that the health ministry is putting on containing AIDS – it will offer HIV tests to all expectant mothers, and is considering offering HIV tests to all couples-to-be – it is likely that AIDS has become one of the health ministry’s current priorities, alongside containing healthcare costs. Since there is, rightly or wrongly, a public correlation between homosexuality and AIDS, then the health ministry is likely to scrutinise gay-related events more closely until it figures out what policies to adopt on homosexuality and AIDS.
Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe that the police’s decision received endorsement within the government at a high level, and so no appeal is likely to succeed in this instance. First, the government has already spoken about its gay policy directly – most famously by former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong with Time magazine in August 2003 – and it would have probably have required the support of a relatively senior member of government to break with that. Second, since the police had already established a precedent to grant licenses to similar events, it would probably have required senior approval from the home ministry to depart from precedent. Third, the press statement on this issue on the police website is the only press statement that is explicitly labelled as “approved”; this suggests that public communications had also received extraordinary attention.
Even if the decision had not been endorsed at a high level in the government, government leaders are likely to be unwilling to overturn the police’s decision, as it would set a bad precedent for all manner of social minorities to appeal and protest if they do not get their way in the first instance. In the larger scheme of things, homosexuals are just one among many competing minority interests – including conservative religious groups – that are scrambling for the government’s attention.
What has not changed
For now, the only setback for gay liberties appears to be Snowball.04’s rejection and the public shaming of unsafe gay sexual practices by Dr Balaji just over a month ago. Gay clubs remain open to thriving business and continue to stage gay parties weekend after weekend. Despite the hype surrounding HIV testing for expectant mothers and couples-to-be, none of the health ministry’s anti-AIDS measures so far target homosexuals. Certainly there is the problem of singling out homosexuals for testing, but the government could have taken other actions – such as cracking down on bathhouses – which it has not. The gay community should certainly recall that, despite Lianhe Wanbao’s (a Chinese language tabloid paper in Singapore) five-part expose of gay bathhouses in July, the government did not act against either bathhouses or the Nation.04 party.
Moreover, unlike the cigarette-toting fags who are being legislated and shamed into extinction, there is no longstanding global or even national trend to do the same with homosexuals. In fact, the longer trend for gay liberties still appears positive.
Obviously, it is too early to reach any conclusion about what Snowball.04’s rejection means for gay liberties in Singapore. But there are some things that the gay community can do in the meantime.
Let us begin by what not to do. Instead of banding together to figure out why this happened and what they can do about it, the gay community has fractured into so many camps: the party-goers and the party-poopers, the scaremongers and the apathetic, and the people who accuse a rival operator of sabotaging the event and the people who defend him. This sort of infighting serves only to splinter the community into even smaller and irrelevant minorities.
What the community needs to do first is some housekeeping. Thrash out your differences frankly and reasonably. Call a spade a spade. The gay community brings social ills as it does benefits; AIDS and sexual carelessness remain significant problems. Accept that there is no shame in trying to make a pink buck. And understand that, at the end of the day, the homosexual cause is a minority one.
That is why, besides making friends among themselves, the gay community needs to make friends outside of itself in order to punch above its weight. This means convincing the relevant folks that back-pedalling on gay liberties will hurt Singapore’s reputation and efforts to develop into the tourist, entertainment, business, services and design hub.
And those who can’t help should just shut up, sit tight and wait.
This article reflects the personal view of the writer and not of Fridae and/or its affiliated partners.
The voting has begun...
You can only vote once per day across all the categories. Please choose carefully.
Please look at all the nominees before voting.
Voting closes on December 31st.
Voting is monitored for cheating. IP addresses are recorded.
More about the vote
The introduction and nomination master post can be found here. Thank you to everyone who linked, commented, emailed, offered help and nominated.
There are some categories that still have open slots:
1. Best Diary/Journal
2. Best Political Blog
3. Best Foreign (non-Asian) Blog
4. Best Design
5. Best Essayist
6. Best Thai Blog
7. Best Taiwan Blog
8. Best Central Asia Blog
9. Best Vietnam Blog
I will continue to accept nominations for these categories up until Friday 17th December. Please email them to me at simon-[at]-simonworld-[dot]-mu-[dot]-nu with the blog name and URL, plus which category you are nominating it in.
Some nominations were emailed directly to me. If your blog appears and you don't want it to be in the voting please email me ASAP.
There are a maximum of 10 slots per category. In some categories there were far more nominations than slots. I based finalists on the number of nominations, their content and their direct relevence to the category. I limited blogs to 2 categories at most.
Once the voting has finished I hope to post a copy of all nominations (and other Asian blogs off my rolls) in each category.
I've combined the single Sri Lankan entry under the Bangladesh category into a single Bangladesh/Sri Lanka category.
I've allowed my blog to be entered into the Best Design section. It was nominated and it is rewarding the work of the site designer, not me.
Thanks again to everyone who has participated. Please check out all the finalists - you will find some great blogs out there in Asia.
You can check out the Best Blogs in Asia directory for more Asian blogs.
12 Dec 2004
Weakness of the Singapore model
By Kirk Meighoo
Sunday, December 12th 2004
Singapore regularly has been raised as a model for Trinidad and Tobago and many other countries of the world. That island-state's achievements are admittedly formidable, having transformed from a poor, politically and ethnically unstable small island into a prosperous, clean, orderly, technologically advanced, internationally-focused, safe, problem-solving city-state. The autobiography of Singapore's supreme leader, Lee Kuan Yew, is an absorbing, inspiring tale and an international bestseller.
Yet there are critics. I am one of them, even though I do admire much of Singapore's real, tough achievements.
Much criticism of Singapore comes from a human rights perspective. But many of the advocates of the Singapore model do not necessarily share the view that Western, liberal human rights are more important than security, prosperity, longevity, order, and so forth. Posed in this way, it becomes an irresolvable debate over values.
On the other hand, an important critique can be made from the very foundations on which many "Singapore-model" admirers stand, which are its economic strategies and achievements.
We start by asking a simple question: can you name five Singaporean companies? Not even excellent ones, but good, bad, or indifferent ones. For such a universally-praised economy, this is surprisingly difficult.
The Far Eastern Economic Review's list of Singapore's top ten businesses is revealing. Five of them have overriding government interests, including the top business, Singapore Airlines. The other four are ranked numbers three to six. They are the Development Bank of Singapore, Singapore Mass Rapid Transit, Singapore Telecom, and Singapore Press Holdings.
Of the five privately owned businesses, one is a luxury car dealership, which sells Mercedes-Benz (Cycle and Carriage), another is the largest property developer in Singapore (City Developments), and another (Asia Pacific Breweries) sells Heineken and Guinness along with the local brand, Tiger. The general manager of APB is an expat. (Expats form an unusually large core of Singapore's business population.) This hardly sounds like the profile of a global business leader.
Indeed, Singapore is largely a place where foreign business persons set up regional headquarters, and where government firmly leads the local population. Private citizens play secondary, or lesser, roles.
Contrast this with South Korea, for example. Their Samsung, Daewoo, Hyundai, and Kia are major global companies which lead or are major players in their respective fields, globally.
I am heartened in the Trinidad and Tobago case by the instances of companies like SM Jaleel and Angostura/CL World Brands. In a recent study of small states' global competitiveness, the Commonwealth Secretariat has rightly pointed to these companies as the outstanding examples of Trinidad and Tobago's success, not the foreign-dominated energy sector.
Importantly, Singapore's economic strategy has necessary political and social implications. Because it is based on attracting foreign businesses and preparing citizens to work for them, the society demands conformity, not individuality; it demands submission, not creativity; it demands obedience, not questioning. Singapore's
government and society are of necessity authoritarian and paternalistic.
A society which seeks to make its own distinctive mark on the world, on the other hand, needs to be oriented quite differently. It must be bold, distinctive, confident of itself and its own values, excellent in what it does, hardy enough to explore and discover, and it needs to lead.
The Singapore model is that of a colony, or an outpost. It has taken advantage of its island-port status on the edge of a massive continent. Now that China and India are awakening from their centuries-long slumber, Singapore will become less central. No doubt Singapore will retool itself to take advantage of the changing situation. But its plan was never to lead. It has always been hard-headedly realistic.
But the West Indies need not adopt that model. If we were isolated islands the case would be different. But we form a distinctive human culture-zone, which already has a place in the world's imagination, literature, history, and culture, if not yet economically or politically. Frankly, economics and politics are easier bits to establish.
The West Indies has a rich past upon which it can build in the future, one far greater-and more viable-than Trinidad and Tobago alone, or even Jamaica, Barbados, or Demerara, which admittedly have become part of the wider shared human heritage in their individual capacities.
We must undertake the long-term self-transformation from being peripheral colonies to being autonomous centres. It will not be easy, or quick. But it is our destiny which we must fulfil, or perish while trying. Singapore does not have that option, unless it merges back
into Malaysia. It is doomed to be peripheral, an entrepÃ´t.
However, the West Indies has not yet worked up the courage, confidence, and conviction to do so. We prefer to remain as colonies, mimicking and clinging to "the international" as dependents, rather than active partners. The problem is complex.
One of the favourite sayings in this place, which annoys me to no end is "we do not have to re-invent the wheel". On the contrary, we must re-invent the wheel every day. We must invent our own institutions, our own solutions, our own language, our own technology, constantly. If we do not invent and create, that makes us less than full human beings.
In Trinidad, our sickness is that we believe modernity is something one buys from abroad. "Knowledge society" means little more than importing computers and earning foreign-recognised degrees. We have little idea that modernity is produced, a conscious self-transformation in a new context. Asian modernity was not purchased from the West. It has been produced by updating their past. They still even go to the toilet in their traditional way; however, they have developed sanitation technology, convenience, and added comfort to make it truly modern.
In the West Indies, we have still not escaped from clerkdom, thinking that an office job is superior to all others. We do not consider the messy business of how wealth is generated to sustain offices.
We have a simplistic, colonial view of education as job training, assuming that jobs will be provided for us once we have secured certificates. We do not know that as an independent people we need to create our own jobs, not merely fill vacancies of foreign companies.
In our simplistic view of education, we do not take into account that Bill Gates dropped out in his freshman year of university, or that Stephen Spielberg never finished film school. Robert Kiyosaki, in his popular Rich Dad, Poor Dad series of books, contrasts his father who held a PhD but struggled financially all his life, with his friend's father who was poorly educated in the formal system, but was extremely successful in creating wealth and security, instead of being an employee.
Criticising the formal education system in the US, Kiyosaki notes, "The 'A' students end up working for the 'C' students. And the 'B' students end up working for the government."
There are surely complex reasons for this phenomenon, but one is simply that a person in his or her 20s has the time to learn to be independent, take risks, face bankruptcy, shake himself off, and try again. However, if one remains in school during this period, or even longer, not only does one become dependent on the artificial life of school, but one may have debts to pay, and perhaps have a spouse and family obligations. Risk-taking becomes much more prohibitive. You need a job.
The Singapore model, then, is for dependent people who will work for other wealth-creators. We have the opportunity, skills, legacy, and resources, to be more than dependents in the world. Our politics, economy, and society, accordingly, must aim toward the creation of a free, prosperous, independent, viable, and autonomous civilisation in the New World. We must think big.
9 Dec 2004
26 July 2003
As I read Mr Tan Tarn How's article this morning in the 26 July 2003 issue of the Straits Times (attached at bottom), several thoughts flashed through my mind.
Until recently, the need for a strong labour union has been taken very much for granted. But with growing retrenchments and unsympathetic policy makers, the need for a bona fide union who will stand shoulder to shoulder with the worker is absolutely necessary.
In Singapore, the lack of bona fide union representation is all the more glaring given that this is not a welfare state and the state does not provide any relief for the unemployed. The government's clear message to the retrenched worker is not to look for free "hand-outs" (quoting the words of Straits Times writer Ms Chua Lee Hoong).
Does asking for a descent job qualify as a "hand-out". I think that the average
Singaporean only wishes to be given the opportunity to earn his keep, and it is not his fault that he has fallen victim to an imperfect system. (Pls see previous article "Job Market Imperfections? Live With It!!! in previous issue of Singapore Review, attached below)
And adding insult to injury, not only do policy makers remain unsympathetic to displaced workers, unemployed workers are also denied of their hard earned CPF salaries. If this is not the time to dip into hard earned savings,what is?
It is understandable that many workers are bitter and feel that Unions here are
government affiliated and will only make a 1/2 hearted attempt to fight for workers rights. Most often the measures are limited to retraining and job sourcing unlike real Labour Unions in France and South Korea who have little fear in going toe to toe with ministers and government on serious bread andbutter issues concerning employment and wage reforms.
But what do you expect when the unions in Singapore are largely run and managed directly or indirectly by officials who retain strong ties with the government (and ultimately employers).
In Singapore, so called "Labour Unions" like NTUC are seen as tools for the government to implement unpopular wage reforms. The relationship is a symbiotic one and therein lies the problem. There will come a time when the needs of the workers are at odds with government wage reforms and this is precisely the time when real labour unions come into play.
It is no strange coincidence that the NTUC chief has always been a PAP member and a member of cabinet. The dilemma that poses then is what happens if there is a conflict of interest between workers and cabinet/policy makers?
Unfortunately, public consensus here confirm that when push comes to shove,these pro-government unions will not be there in the darkest hour of need.
In short the pathetic state of labour union representation in Singapore is much like that of opposition politics. Whatever protests and representations allowed via official channels are merely cosmetic in nature, more so to show case to the world that individual rights are represented in form and on paper.
When thequestion is asked, the government can proudly respond and answer, "Yes, we have a labour union in existence here to represent workers rights and workers dohave a channel to make themselves heard."
And it is conceded that this is the truth on paper at least.
But peering beyond the veil, the real scene that greets the eyes is far from encouraging. It is an ominous reminder that here in totalitarian Singapore, the Government controls everything, and we mean everything literally.
In these difficult times, where there is a growing divide between the interests of workers and the interests of the Ruling Elite. The absence of real, tangible dissent in opposition politics and labour representation is both conspicuous and worrisome.
Events in recent weeks have emphasized the growing discord between the interest of the masses and those of the Ruling Elite. Singapore Review has been flooded by passionate letters endorsing release of CPF funds during these difficult times. Other issues which have attracted passionate response concern the NEL Fiasco (and repeated calls to open Baugkok station) as well as looming unanswered questions concerning ministerial salaries.
Cruel Irony Defined: A PAP Minister who takes home SGD100,000-SGD175,000 PER MONTH in tax dollars telling a worker (who earns SGD2,000 a month) to be "less choosy" and to work harder.
And unfortunately for the average Singaporean, the above scenario has been replayed over and over again like some defective recorder. After awhile, even a once intelligent mind becomes numb and accepts fiction over fact and form over substance.
This ridiculous situation exists only in Singapore as there is no real barrier(whether in the form of real Labour Union representation, or Opposition Representation) standing between PAP ministers and average individuals.
Is this a political system that is FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND OF THE PEOPLE? One really wonders.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CONSTITUTION?
The merits of a One Party, One Government, and totalitarian dictatorship have long been questioned. The words of Kennedy strike home "POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY". The spirit of these words govern the Doctrine of Separation of Powers in a written constitution. One wonders in Singapore whether the constitution exists only in form and not in substance. As is often the case in Singapore, the spirit and original objective is often lost in a model system that looks good only on paper.
8 Dec 2004
And below a quote from her site I re-post(11/10/2004) a review I did at her request.
You can read her final thoughts at the following address.. email@example.com
Soon, I will be dead. I have a recalcitrant tumour in the neck, and it's a real pain. It's given me plenty of time to prepare for my death, and now it's finally going for the kill. I am completely powerless in the face of it. My only option is to flee to my mind, where I have so, so much to say and tell... but I have no one to tell it to. This is the loneliness of death.
A Pain in the Neck
by Grace Chow
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
‘A Pain in the Neck’ is a humorous, ironic, autobiographical story about a young, well-educated Chinese girl who desperately plots an escape from Singapore, and finds love and happiness in Europe. The moment that she finally has the world at her feet, however, she is struck down by an incurable disease that only occurs in one in a million people. This book invites the reader into the grungy world of Singapore politics and the intricate dreams of a girl growing up in a family she detests for their sheer mediocrity. It is written in a unique style that combines story-telling with essay. Each chapter has a different theme, but this eye-opening journey remains led by the constant, strong voice of the author’s narration. It pursues the poetry of life with Schopenhauer, Descartes, and The Smiths as chorus; it does philosophy to a soundtrack of pop music.
Reading this book made me look back on my own experiences of popular music, philosophy and Singapore. At first I had never imagined that all three could be combined. Perhaps my failing was due to the lack of a final ingredient, an incurable disease.
The author Grace Chow begins her story with a theme that resonates with many of our own sense of needing to escape, to get out.
When I first stumbled upon the PAP's planned housing, I realised that I would have felt suffocated and atomised in Singapore. I thought that my initial response was that of an outsider, now I realise that others feel the same. The HDB complexes are practical solutions, but some of us desire more than, 'practical solutions'.
"A Pain in the Neck", contains many views on how Singapore is governed, and who it is governed by. Written in many styles, serious, insightful and I actually laughed out loud on a few occasions. Peppered with despair on the darkest of days, but there is a dogged determination within its pages to express life and to live it to the full according to her individual will and capabilities.
Grace Chow combines many elements in this autobiography; Singapore; escape, love, philosophy, religion, popular music, travel, illness, memories, hope and despair.
The somewhat simplistic stereotype of the average Singaporean is that of un-questioning, consensual, and materialistic. Grace has laid the stereotype to rest.
I await another book from Grace Chow. Write faster Grace.
BANGKOK, Aug 13 (IPS) - Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore's new prime minister who was sworn in Thursday, is offering his country's citizens a chance of enjoying the right to free expression -- a luxury that had only been the preserve of his family and a few members of the political elite.
But Lee, who was destined to head South-east Asia's tidiest dictatorship, will have to go beyond the words uttered during his first speech as premier to be taken seriously.
''People will not believe him, because such calls for change have been made before,'' Sinapan Samydorai, president of the Think Centre, one of the few independent groups in the city-state campaigning for political and civil liberties, said in an interview.
''They will not lift restrictions that make it impossible for citizens and members of civil society to criticise government leaders,'' he added. ''A person holding political office should be open to criticism.''
Lee told an audience shortly after taking over as the country's ruler that more openness and diversity will be permitted under his watch.
''Our people should feel free to express diverse views, pursue unconventional ideas or simply be different,'' the 52-year-old Lee told a carefully chosen audience that represented the breadth of Singapore's social spectrum among its 4.3 million people.
On the face of it, such an encouragement marks a change from the tight-fisted manner in which Singapore was run for decades by Lee's father, Lee Kuan Yew, now 80 years old.
The whiff of change in the city-state was first noted during the 14 years when Goh Chok Tong was the prime minister. The most recent testimony being the permission for a gay and lesbian festival to be held in August, which was part of a policy to open up parts of the social and entertainment sector in an otherwise strait-laced society.
But for change to be meaningful, say political activists like Samydorai, there must be amendments to the litany of laws and bureaucratic measures that have been regularly used to emasculate views that challenge the ruling order.
''After nearly 40 years of authoritarian rule the government doesn't need to tell people what to do,'' he added. ''Many people and voluntary organisations practice self-censorship because of the climate created to collaborate with the state.''
The bland quality of Singapore's media, most of which belong to a government controlled company, reflects this.
And an attempt by the government to offer a new platform for openness in 2000 - creating a Speaker's Corner for individuals to express their views openly like they do at the legendary Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, London - has made little headway.
Critics point to the hurdles Singaporeans face if they want to use the local Speaker's Corner. They include showing identification and signing a police register before speaking. In addition the government has forbidden speeches that touch on religion, race and issues that the state considers a national security threat.
The Western media who often praise Singapore for its dramatic success at achieving developed country economic status within a couple of decades has not been spared either from the government's disdain towards criticism.
Publications like The 'International Herald Tribune,' 'Time' magazine, 'The Asian Wall Street Journal,' and the 'Far Eastern Economic Review' have been taken to task by the Singaporean authorities for their critical reportage.
Some commentators have remarked that with Lee taking over the country
that his father helped to build, words such as ''nepotism''
and ''dynasty'' in a Singaporean context may be forbidden.
The Singapore government's sensitivity to such references has already been felt by the financial news service 'Bloomberg News'. It was forced to pay damages after a case was brought against it by the two Lees and Goh for a comment made by a 'Bloomberg' columnist about the appointment of Lee Hsien Loong's wife as executive director of Temasek Holdings, the state investment corporation.
During the senior Lee's rule that spanned over two decades, he defended the tough political controls imposed on the country in the interest of development as 'Asian values.'
The People's Action Party (PAP) which he headed and now has the junior Lee at its helm imposed its will by denying political space for a healthy opposition to grow in the 84-member parliament, of which the PAP currently holds 82.
In the run-up to taking control of Singapore's parliament, Lee served as deputy prime minister, helped shape new economic reforms and rose to the rank of brigadier-general in the army.
He speaks four languages in addition to his impressive academic record, which includes degrees from Cambridge University and Harvard University.
His ''new team, which boasts many old hands, will continue the ongoing economic and foreign policies put in place by former prime minister Goh Chok Tong over the past decade,'' Thailand's English daily 'The Nation' commented in an editorial Thursday.
Lee's entry on to South-east Asia's political stage comes during a year when political leaders across the region have faced elections or are about to, such as Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.
But Lee, of course, has still to face an election to affirm his legitimacy as a prime minister. He was appointed through a parliamentary formality. (END/2004)
7 Dec 2004
However the following article begins, in the title, to draw this correlation then promptly drops it in favour of arguing that it is the career goals and social status aspirations of individuals that result in poor sex drives and poor birth rate. This seems to claim that the reason for the lack of interest is something to do with the individual personalities or desires of Singaporeans and not the long working hours, poor maternity and paternity leave that dominate all non-state organisation in Singapore.
The poor birth rate is correlated with un-caring business practices, not the 'greedy Singaporean individual or couple' that the article from the Sunday Times argues. Classic Singaporean analysis at its PAP best.
Asia's lovers are 'too tired for sex'
December 05 2004 at 11:00AM
Singapore - Married couples in Singapore are too tired to have sex, according to a survey published on Sunday in the city-state, which is facing a chronic shortage of babies.
The survey of 200 married couples carried out by the Sunday Times showed more than three in five couples have sex once a week or less and 75 percent of them cited tiredness as the reason.
"I have no time to have sex, let alone the commitment to bring up a child," said film producer Chan Pui Yin, who is married to a businessman.
Sociologists were not surprised by the results, which they said were a reflection of the emphasis on career and social status by Singaporeans.
"The definition of success has changed," said marriage psychologist Dr Frederick Toke.
"It's measured not by your family, but by your career and your good social status," he said.
Tan Thuan Seng, president of the Christian group Focus On The Family Singapore, echoed similar sentiments.
"People are more selfish now, because of the focus on individual freedom and pleasure," Tan said.
A majority of the couples polled placed love as their number one priority, followed by financial security, children and then sex.
'They're like mushrooms growing on trees'
Christine Goh, who placed financial security as her first priority, said she would not be having any children.
"I don't want kids," Goh said.
"To me, they're parasites. They're like mushrooms growing on trees, feeding on the host," she said.
Singapore's low birth rate has become an urgent concern after the fertility rate hit an all-time low of 1.25 children per woman in 2003 with only 35 000 babies born in that year.
The south-east Asian city-state needs at least 50 000 babies to be born each year, or a fertility rate of 1.8, just to naturally replace its population of 3.4-million. Experts say 2.1 births per woman is the ideal rate for constant renewal. - Sapa-AFP
5 Dec 2004
This year's event will be similar to last year with a few key differences. The rules for the event are below. Any suggestions, offers of help or comments are welcome:
1. All nominated blogs must be predominately written in English.
2. For each regional category, the blog must either be written by someone living in that region and/or predominately concerntrate on that region.
3. If your blog is nominated but you do not want it to be in the voting, please send me an email at simon-[at]-simonworld-[dot]-mu-[dot]-nu with your blog name and URL, your email and a clear statement you do not wish to be nominated. Otherwise all nominated blogs will be considered potential entrants.
4. The logo is the same as last year's awards. I encourage you to use it and to promote the awards but please download it to your own server. Do NOT link to the image on my server.
5. Voting will be restricted to once per day per person. You can vote more than once, but only once per day. I will doing my very best to prevent cheating. Any blog found to encourage or engage in cheating will be immediately disqualified.
6. Due to the limitations of the voting service, there will only be 10 finalists per category. At the end of the voting I will list the winner and runner-up and all nominations for each category.
7. The finalists will be determined as follows by the number of nominations (note that nominations do not count as votes) and my discretion. Repeated nominations by the same person do not count. If your blog is nominated in more than one category I may, at my sole discretion, exclude you from certain categories. If you have a preference for one category over another, please email me. In other words I've only got 10 open slots per category, so I'll do my best to judge who should go into those slots. I'm looking for volunteers to help with choosing finalists (see below).
8. To nominate a blog leave a comment in the relevant post's comments. See below for the full list of categories. Please include both the blog's name and its URL. You can nominate yourself.
9. I am the sole judge of these awards. I welcome input but my decisions will be final (unless I change my mind).
9a. I am excluding my own site from being nominated. If you'd like to vote for me, I'm in the Asia section of the World Blog awards.
Nominations: close December 8th
Voting: December 9th to December 15th inclusive
Results: December 17th
The timetable is subject to revision. It is deliberately quick to avoid the Christmas/New Year period and avoid dragging on too long. If there is enough demand I may extend the voting into the New Year but at this stage this is the timetable.
Before I get to the categories, I have two requests. For each regional category I would like a volunteer who knows the blogs of that region well enough to help me sort out potential finalists. Your own blog will still be eligible for that category. Also anyone able to help in designing logos/buttons for the winners to post on their site, please let me know. You can email me at simon-[at]-simonworld-[dot]-mu-[dot]-nu
The categories are:
Best HK Blog
Best Mainland China Blog
Best Korea Blog
Best Taiwan Blog
Best Singapore Blog
Best Malaysia Blog
Best Thai Blog
Best Indonesia Blog
Best Japan Blog
Best Philippines Blog
Best India Blog
Best Bangladesh Blog
Best Pakistan Blog
Best Vietnam Blog
Best Central Asian Blog
There are also the World 2004 Blog Awards.
NOMINATING: Remember, to make a nomination leave a comment in the relevant category's comments. Please include both the blog's name and its URL. You can nominate yourself.posted by Simon on 12.17.04 at 07:42 PM
4 Dec 2004
All I am suggesting is that you have look at the list and count the number of indicators that Singapore seems to not have.
And remember that Fascism is a word that should not be used lightly. Singapore is not a fascist state, well thats what I thought...
Laurence W. Britt--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2.
Free Inquiry readers may pause to read the “Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles” on the inside cover of the magazine. To a secular humanist, these principles seem so logical, so right, so crucial. Yet, there is one archetypal political philosophy that is anathema to almost all of these principles. It is fascism. And fascism’s principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for. The cliché that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm.
We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist1 regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.
Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing shed needed light on current circumstances.
For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic characteristics and abuses is possible.
Analysis of these seven regimes reveals fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level of similarity.
Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.
Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.
Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.
The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.
Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.
A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.
Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.
Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.
Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.
Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.
Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.
Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.
Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.
Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.
Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is [Singapore], officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.
1. Defined as a “political movement or regime tending toward or imitating Fascism”—Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.
Andrews, Kevin. Greece in the Dark. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1980.
Chabod, Frederico. A History of Italian Fascism. London: Weidenfeld, 1963.
Cooper, Marc. Pinochet and Me. New York: Verso, 2001.
Cornwell, John. Hitler as Pope. New York: Viking, 1999.
de Figuerio, Antonio. Portugal—Fifty Years of Dictatorship. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1976.
Eatwell, Roger. Fascism, A History. New York: Penguin, 1995.
Fest, Joachim C. The Face of the Third Reich. New York: Pantheon, 1970.
Gallo, Max. Mussolini’s Italy. New York: MacMillan, 1973.
Kershaw, Ian. Hitler (two volumes). New York: Norton, 1999.
Laqueur, Walter. Fascism, Past, Present, and Future. New York: Oxford, 1996.
Papandreau, Andreas. Democracy at Gunpoint. New York: Penguin Books, 1971.
Phillips, Peter. Censored 2001: 25 Years of Censored News. New York: Seven Stories. 2001.
Sharp, M.E. Indonesia Beyond Suharto. Armonk, 1999.
Verdugo, Patricia. Chile, Pinochet, and the Caravan of Death. Coral Gables, Florida: North-South Center Press, 2001.
Yglesias, Jose. The Franco Years. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1977.
3 Dec 2004
01 December 2004 by Tan Khim Chuan
Check out the headlines on (Nov 30,2004) ST [Straits Times]. "Singapore will give $29m more to poorer neighbours Aid to help Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam towards economic integration"
"...SINGAPORE will be giving additional technical aid worth $28.9 million to the four poorest countries in Asean over three years. The assistance is an extension of its current five-year $59 million aid package to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, which began in 2000..."
Our government is so ready to contribute to the well-being of our neighbours but I felt the money could be given to improve the living conditions of our poorer citizens here instead. For example, I still see elderly folks scouring trash bins for and rubbish areas for cardboard, just to sell all these for a measly sum.
These people have contributed to nation building but sadly, elderly folks, especially those who remain unmarried or are widowed, are, in my point of view, not being taken care of by the country.
Tan Khim Chuan
Before you read the following article I would like to remind you of the salary of the Ministers in Singapore:
1. Singapore Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to SGD1,458,040) a year
2. United States of America President: US$200,000 Vice President: US$181,400
Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000
3. United Kingdom Prime Minister: US$170,556 Ministers: US$146,299 Senior Civil
4. Australia Prime Minister: US$137,060 Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
5. Hong Kong Chief Executive : US$416,615 Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
Financial Sec: US$315,077
Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000
By Sebastien Berger, South East Asia Correspondent
Older people should work longer for less money, Singapore's ageing population has been told.
The official retirement age in the city-state is 62, but Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father, said he was working on a scheme to allow workers to remain in employment. However, because their strength and energy would be less, the pay would be lower.
Mr Lee, 81, still sits in the cabinet, with the title of minister mentor, and retains huge influence in the government, which is headed by his son, Lee Hsien Loong.
"I've been lucky," he said. "My father lived to 90-plus and I don't abuse my body unnecessarily. So if I had to retire at 62, it's a dead loss."
Singapore's birth rate is at an all-time low. On current trends, the number of over-65s will quadruple by 2030, threatening the economy.
Mr Lee pointed out that medical costs, which must be met by individuals or through insurance, rise with age and working for longer would allow people to build up more savings.
End of Article.
Mr Lee says "I've been lucky,", yeah right! That's one way of saying it.
Singapore using residency bait to lure rich foreigners
Roslan Rahman - (AFP/File)
SINGAPORE (AFP) - Rich foreigners can gain immediate permanent residency in Singapore if they park five million Singapore dollars (three million dollars) in local financial institutions, under a new scheme unveiled by the city-state's central bank.
A Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) spokesman said Wednesday these foreigners must also have personal assets worth at least 20 million dollars to qualify but they will still go through routine immigration checks.
Spouses and children aged under 21 will also be able to become permanent residents, the spokesman said.
In announcing the "Best Home" scheme in a speech Tuesday, MAS chairman Goh Chok Tong said it was aimed at attracting wealthy foreigners to the southeast Asian nation as part of plans to expand its financial services activities.
"We hope this will boost total assets under management and attract high net worth individuals and their families to take up residency here," Goh, a former Singapore prime minister, said.
The MAS spokesman, who asked not to be named, said foreigners would be required to invest five million dollars with MAS-registered financial institutions for five consecutive years.
The investments on offer include bank deposits, shares, funds, unit trusts and life insurance products.
He added that these foreigners would receive "in-principle approval" for permanent residency on investing the money, with full status granted after five years.
Less affluent applicants for permanent residency have to follow more stringent criteria, which generally include working in Singapore for least six months, having a valid employment pass and meeting academic standards.
Another scheme allows people to apply for permanent residency if they invest 1.5 million dollars in a local business.
Permanent residency allows foreigners to live and work in Singapore without a visa, and remain in the country even if they do not have a job.