Guest essay by Liew Kai Khiun
In May 2013, Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson caused a storm by attributing the limitations of the premises of the theories of the prominent economist John M. Keynes to his sexuality where:
Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes’ famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead. Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of “poetry” rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive.[i]
Continue reading ‘On academic responsibility’
Most of us, having flown numerous times in our lives, quite likely even on Malaysia Airlines, find ourselves drawn to the current story about the disappearance of flight MH370. Resting, digesting, slowly falling asleep on an aircraft while cruising smoothly, is an experience we can identify with. To hear of a situation where this is fatally interrupted jolts us — though nothing as badly as it jolted the real passengers on that flight. Continue reading ‘Malaysia Airlines MH370: 48 hours a long time to have no clues about a missing airliner’
There rarely is any definitive explanation of any riot. There won’t be one of the brief incident — it lasted barely an hour — at Little India last night, Sunday 8 December 2013. The reason why definitive explanations are elusive is because there is always an element of chance and irrational behaviour. Moreover, riots are complex events involving many actors with many contributory factors. Continue reading ‘Riot in Little India: spark and fuel’
Over the Deepavali weekend, nineteen (according to Yahoo) websites of government departments were offline. These included the Land Transport Authority and the Singapore Police Force. “Scheduled maintenance” was the cryptic official explanation though no one reported seeing any prior notice. Deepavali (also known as Diwali) is a major Hindu festival. Considering that a significant number of IT engineers are of Indian ancestry, it seemed a strange choice to pick this particular weekend to do IT work, and to “maintain” 19 government websites simultaneously.
Continue reading ‘Hacker strikes fear among “good” citizens, part 2’
I discontinued my online subscription to the Straits Times earlier this year. The habit wasn’t easy to break. At first I found myself buying the print version about twice a week. Weekends, I often bought the Sunday Times — mostly for its Sudoku and two or three comic strips that I liked (most I didn’t). But lately, I’ve gone for perhaps two months without missing it.
Then a few weeks ago, I happened to leaf through a copy of the Sunday Times at a cafe and discovered that they had halved the Sunday comic strips. Sherman’s Lagoon was gone.
Well, that’s that, then.
Continue reading ‘Holding hands, Straits Times and government walk into sinking sunset’
The oldest (Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao) and youngest (Theo Chen) speakers at the protest held on 24 August against persecution of LGBT persons in Russia
Several people have pointed out by now how unprofessional it was to use the term “gay lifestyle” in a recent survey of public attitudes. The survey was conducted for the Singapore Conversation. For integrity, surveys must take great care to employ only clear and neutral vocabulary. “Gay lifestyle” fails both tests.
What this incident underscores is the extent to which conservative Christian influences have invaded our public bodies. Not only did the survey designers employ this loaded term, no one up and down the oversight chain stopped it. Either everyone thought it perfectly “normal” to use prejudicial language, or if anyone spoke up, he or she was a lonely voice and could not prevail. But it is only “normal” when one lives ensconced in prejudiced circles. Thus, the unthinking use of the term flags the degree by which members of these social circles have come to dominate government and their associated academic bodies.
Continue reading ‘Incompetent survey ends up with inconvenient ‘gay lifestyle’ result’
The book accuses the Singapore judiciary of inexcusable timidity. Our courts engage in “national formalism” and “textual literalism”, and judgements often lack “rigour and depth”, coming as they do with “insufficiently articulated assertions” (quotes from page 70).
In a cited case, it “upholds the letter of the Constitution at the expense of its spirit, and totally ignores the crucial judicial function of checking legislative power, deliberately casting Singapore judiciary in a severely limited role” (page 96). In perhaps different words, the same criticism is repeated in other cited cases. Continue reading ‘Book: Legal Consensus, by Tey Tsun Hang’
Helen Saada-Ching complained in a letter to the Straits Times (Life! section, 27 July 2013) that at a recent performance of Alfian Sa’at’s Cook a pot of curry, many in the audience did not stand up for the national anthem. Then the play ended with a “cheap gimmick” when the stage curtain — the Singapore flag — “came loose and plummeted to the ground”. Quoting another playwright, Eleanor Wong, she lamented the desecration of national symbols. Continue reading ‘The right to burn the flag’
If you have time for just one chapter, read Chapter 3 on the Vandalism Act. You will not see Singapore law the same way again.
Most of us are happy that Singapore is a relatively graffiti-free city, but as law academic Jothie Rajah demonstrates through her unearthing of the parliamentary speeches surrounding the bill in 1966, the intention of this law was completely different. It was a bulldozer of a law designed to destroy an opposition party. Through this law, ‘vandalism’ was made a cipher for opposition politics (page 74) and the aim of the law was to extinguish the Barisan Sosialis’ messaging to the people. Caning was its chief instrument. Continue reading ‘Book: Authoritarian Rule of Law, by Jothie Rajah’
I see that many people on social media have pointed out the large discrepancies in reports of crowd size at yesterday’s protest against the Population White Paper. Variations in estimates always accompany any outdoor event unless it’s a ticketed one.
My earlier article quoted the organisers’ figure of 4,000 to 5,000, a figure they announced at least twice during the rally itself. My own calculations — which I completed only after publishing the earlier article indicate that 3,000 to 4,000 may be more accurate. Continue reading ‘Crowd numbers at population protest’