Thursday, December 28, 2006


I was very frustrated yesterday morning when I tried to go to my normal 'haunts' on the net for my shot of caffeine. just wasn't responding and I thought my 5-year-old Notebook PC was ready to give up the ghost. I thought I'd jog its heart a bit by shutting down the bugger and restarting it. You see, I am used to sending it into hibernation from day to day, because it takes sooo long to startup otherwise. The age is showing. Nope, it didn't work. I tried, almost always reliable and quick. But this time around, it was more dead than alive. Something must really be wrong. Maybe my Internet Service provider screwed up this time, although it has been very reliable so far.

It was the same on my office computer, which boasts more muscle and a thicker pipe. Yahoo just took ages to get to, although I did get to it - eventually. Only it was sooo slow, and my Yahoo Messenger just didn't want to wake up. But almost every other site was jammed - including Well, when the darn thing won't work, it won't work. The office eventually informed everyone that the internet access was down and very likely due to something on a national scale. I didn't realise how 'national' it was until I got home yesterday evening and found out how the undersea fibre optic cable carrying the bulk of internet traffic in and around Asia was damaged by the 7.1 Richter scale earthquake off southern Taiwan.

Ah well, there was a silver lining in this. I started on and almost completed something that I had put off for ages yesterday. Yes, you guessed it, the internet wasn't necessary for it. How often our time is frittered away by our incessant surfing nowadays.

Today, I am back at broadband speeds again, as if nothing had happened. The good people must have diverted the internet traffic overnight and so we can get our daily shot of caffeine again.
There must be a lesson somewhere in all of this.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A cry of wolf

One of the saddest thing between the Palestinians and the Israelis is their seeming inability to broker a lasting peace. A while ago, there had been hope that one could be reached - and from a surprising quarter. Ariel Sharon, erstwhile hawk, who now lies on the brink of death due to a massive stroke, quit some of the occupied lands in favour of the fledgeling Palestian state in exchange for peace. But it would seem that not all in Palestine wants peace. This was demonstrated by the Hamas, an erstwhile terrorist organisation, coming to power. But this is, after all, politics.

But the landscape has recently been covered in blood again when the Israelis retaliated againsts terrorists both in Gaza and Lebanon, who, without provocation, killed and kidnapped some Israeli soldiers at the borders. Some may say that Israel's reaction was disproportionate to the crime, but that is for history to decide. What I find ludicrous is that the Palestinian Hamas is now calling for the elimination of Israel ('erase Israel') after 18 of its people were killed by the Israelis. I will not go into the details of this except to say that this situation has been stoked by the Hamas' decision to kidnap the Israeli soldiers in the first place. Now if the Palestinians and Hamas in particular are not willing to reflect on its actions but can only think, like Ahmadinejab of Iran, to wipe Israel off the map, then there is no hope.

Only shallow, naive people and people with an agenda that does not include peace with Israel in the first place will believe in the Hamas' latest cry of wolf. And all this time, they place the blame squarely on Israel's shoulders.

Mothers will continue to weep for their slain sons, brothers and husbands, sons will lose their fathers and mothers on BOTH sides.

Image source:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Veil of separation

I am reminded of the cowboys and indian movies that I used to watch on Saturday afternoons way back in the 1970s. Besides the Red Indians, a town was often terrorised by 'Cowboy' robbers who almost always masked their faces using a handkerchief or something similiar. They looked sinister and everyone except the town sherriff was afraid of them. The Red Indians never did rob banks. Instead, they tend to go for the throat.

Well, ok, much of this is fantasy and a slur and typecasting of certain types of people. If was unfair to cast Red Indians as always the evil aggressors and the 'white men' as whiter than angels. But the men and women with the covered faces robbing banks and shooting indiscriminately in the air and at people stuck. Which is why when I see people with covered faces, that sinister imagery comes to mind.

Some Muslim women veil themselves in public today. The veil hides everything except the eyes. Like the masked cowboys, they look sinister. I know that putting a veil over oneself is a very personal and religious thing, but when one lives in a community consisting of different people with different faiths and beliefs, you cannot blame anyone for saying that he wishes these women would lose their veils. That is what Jack Straw, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Salman Rushdie wished. I support them. If I read it correctly, even the Koran does not insist on the veil. So people who veil themselves are not so much following a religious injunction as much as they are submitting to an arbitrary human craving or rule imposed by certain people. At its worst, this is akin to slavery. Now, is such slavish behaviour something to be proud of, even in religious context?

It is sad that in the modern world today, in an age of universal suffrage where men and women have equal rights, duties and responsibilities, there are women who still go around publicly asserting their submissiveness. Now I am not saying that this is wrong per se, but that if you want to indulge in submissive behaviour, then do it at home and not on the streets and certainly not when you need to see your MP.

Otherwise, what message are they sending to the rest of the community? That they are separate, holier than thou, mightier in spirituality, or what? All of which reminds me that some time ago, the Singapore Education Ministry disallowed all Primary school students, particularly those from Muslim families, from wearing the tudung or headscarf within school compounds. The government's justification then was that it doesn't want a separate identity to be established within the school system, which might become divisive over time. What Mr Straw, Mr Blair, Mr Rushdie and Mr Brown have said echo this same position espoused by the Government in Singapore as early as 2002.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Orphans forever

Among the entertainment fraternity, Angelina Jolie did it first. Now Madonna is doing a me-too. Angelina has two adopted orphaned children - one a Cambodian and another an Ethiopian. She subsequently gave birth to a daughter with Brad Pitt, her current husband. So her family is now a veritable United Nations of sorts. Angelina is herself of Czech and English descent. Will blood become thicker than water in the years to come? Only time will tell.

Madonna has only just started the adoption circus. Her attempt to adopt a hardly orphaned child - the child's father is still very alive and kicking but who practically gave his child away - had faced difficulties but the Malawi High Court, in a travesty of common sense, has granted adoption custody to the singer. One wonders if there is not some under-the-table shananigan going on here. Well, lets be frank about this and call a spade a spade. This has been a highly sophisticated and legalised kid-napping.

Madonna's natural children are said to have taken to their new step brother. For now, that is. Will they grow up to love their coloured step brother and will the mother love all of them equally? Again, only time will tell. Then we will know if blood does not count.

Suffice to say that this type of 'doing good' is highly selective and benefits only a few - one to be exact. Can't these incredibly rich people see beyond one child to help more? They don't have to adopt everyone, just give them the wherewithal to grow up in a peaceful environment where they can be educated to lift themselves out of the vicious cycle of poverty - on their own and among their own peoples and within their own country. For after all, when a person grows up, they would want to know where they came from, and who their own people are. I would hate to think that 'orphans' transplanted out of their natural homes will remain orphans from their own people, culture and history - all the rest of their lives.

Image Source:

Monday, October 09, 2006

Walking the talk

Mr Irfan Husain, a columnist for the Pakistani English-language Dawn newspaper, has written a well-considered, honest and balanced piece on the age-old conflict between the Muslims and Christians (read Western civilisation), the Pope and Rushdie, that I feel compelled to reproduce this in full here, with due acknowledgement to Dawn.

Irfan Husain
- News Comment

I HAVE a theory about riots: Those out on the streets often don't have a clear idea what they're rioting about. And invariably, they have a lot of time on their hands.

After all, how often do you find an employed person asking for leave to join the demo of the day? But when you have time to kill, you'll join any crowd that's out to protest, no matter what the cause.

When Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses inflamed parts of the Muslim world, how many people demonstrating had actually read the book?

I didn't either, but it wasn't for lack of trying: Struggling manfully, I ploughed through the first hundred pages before admitting defeat.

So, I never actually read the passages that gave rise to the famous fatwa. But I doubt very much if the people who rioted even saw the book.

The same is true for those now up in arms about the Pope's address at the University of Regensburg.

I have printed out the speech, and must confess that it's heavy going. The offending section is a tiny part of the paper, and it remains a mystery why Pope Benedict needed such an obscure quotation in his discussion of faith and reason.

Having said that, he has addressed an issue that needs to be debated: How should believers reconcile their faith with the dictates of reason? According to him, modern Christianity has bridged the gap, while Islam has not.

We can debate his conclusion, and criticise his choice of supporting material, but we can hardly deny his right to hold an opinion.

When some Muslims demonstrated their opposition to his views, many carried placards threatening the Pope with death. It seems that some Muslims' stock response to the slightest provocation consists of death threats and violent demonstrations.

These undignified protests reinforce the worst prejudices others have about some Muslims. After all, why should some cartoons in an obscure Danish newspaper, or a papal address at an unknown German university, send hundreds of thousands pouring into streets around the world?

When we were children, when somebody said anything offensive, we would chant: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me."

As we grew older, we learned that some words are deadlier than any stick or stone, festering long after bruises and wounds have healed. But, we were also taught to be stoical, and not to complain.

In a letter to the Guardian of Sept 20, San Cassimally of Edinburgh wrote: "As a Muslim, I am much more saddened and shocked by the murder of the Somali nun than by what the Pope said in Regensburg ... even if he knew exactly what he was doing."

I would add that I am far more horrified by the endless Muslim-on-Muslim killing going on in Iraq than by anything the pontiff could possibly say.

According to United Nations estimates, an average of a hundred Iraqis are being killed every day, almost invariably by other Iraqis. And all too often, many of the victims are tortured to death.

When Israel killed a thousand Lebanese civilians in a month of senseless bombing, Muslims (and others with a conscience) around the world were rightly incensed. But approximately the same number of Muslims are being killed by other Muslims every 10 days in Iraq, and there is no protest anywhere.

Before the invasion of Iraq, when Saddam Hussein tortured and gassed his own people with impunity, I do not recall any Muslims condemning him publicly.

Applying these same double standards, when Nato forces accidentally kill Afghans, we are furious. But when the Taliban kill innocent Afghans in suicide bombings, and assassinate teachers for teaching girls, we look the other way.

This kind of moral inconsistency is reflected in the treatment non-Muslims generally get in Muslim countries.

For instance, while the 300,000 Iraqi Christians were treated as equal citizens in Saddam's secular regime, two-thirds of them have fled the increasingly-Islamic nature of the present government.

Saudi Arabia, while funding Wahabi mosques across the West, refuses to permit non-Muslims to build their places of worship on its soil.

I am often asked why Muslims in Pakistan get so worked up about Bosnia, Chechnya and Palestine.

I try and explain in terms of the ummah, and the feeling of connectedness between, say, Indonesian Muslims and Turkish Muslims. But I fear this is only a small part of the real answer.

The truth is that the problems we face in much of the Muslim world are often so intractable that we escape reality by looking abroad.

Matters like poverty, disease, political instability and institutional meltdown are too difficult to be tackled by the inefficient and corrupt elites much of the Muslim world is cursed with. To deflect blame, they fulminate against the West for its perceived anti-Islamic attitudes.

It is this mindless, knee-jerk anti-West sentiment that sustains the jihadi groups, and is now propelling us to a very real "clash of civilisations".

As Islam becomes more heavily-politicised, it is evoking a strong reaction in the West. More and more, the Muslims who have migrated to Europe and America, as well as their children, are being seen as a fifth column.

The sight of perpetually-angry Muslims from London to Lahore, marching with placards calling for the death of somebody or the other, is moving normally liberal people to anger.

For me, the really worrying part of the Pope's address was his demand for the subordination of reason to theology: "Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought; to philosophy and theology."

Sorry, but I'm not buying this. This is precisely why I don't think faith and reason can ever be reconciled.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Japan's new PM

Land of the Rising Sun - Abe worries me.

He wants to change the Japanese Constitution, which has stood for 60 years, albeit drafted by its victors, the US. "I want to write the Constitution with my own hands", he said. Question: What is wrong with the present Constitution that has enabled Japan to recover and become an economic powerhouse second only to the US?

He does not discourage revisionist historians who play down and deny the horrors and the wrongs that the Japanese caused in Asia and Southeast Asia during WWII. He wants to encourage patriotism. I wonder if Japanese are not already patriotic? So what does Abe mean by patriotism?

He is non-committal on visiting Yasukuni. He should say 'yes' or 'no'. Anything else and he remains a suspect case.

Less than one week into the job and one of his appointed Ministers has been found out as a crook. How well does he know the people around him and how much control has he got over key appointments?

Shinzo Abe worries me.

Image source:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Osama alive or dead?

Burn in Hell - Osama Bin Laden dead or alive? Some French think he is dead, the Americans would not commit on it in spite of its vast intelligence operations and network, and the Muslim world are one in insisting that he is alive.

When somebody doesn't appear in public, alive, for 5 years, his living existence is suspect. In another two years, the law will consider him missing and presumed dead.

Videos and audios can all be faked.


Translation: [37:164] Except only him who shall burn in Hell. (The Holy Quran : Chapter 37: Al-Saffat) - Source:

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Thai Dilemma

They (coup leaders) are asking people with strong democratic principles to become prime minister of a government appointed by a dictatorship. And they are asking them to accept the post without any guarantees of some democratic freedoms...
as told to Dow Jones Newswires.

Well said. The Generals and even the Thai King, with all due respect, are deceiving themselves. The military junta will not soon cede power. It cannot. It has trapped itself in a conflicting and contradictory situation. Any civilian government installed by them will be nothing but a dead duck, a puppet beholden to the military, who will be defacto kings of Thailand until they voluntarily give up and retreat to their barracks where they belong in the first place.

That, or they do a Pakistan or a Myanmar - both of which represent extremes of possible though no more desirable outcomes.

Image source: Image originally owned by the Thai Army.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Politics and Shrines

Yasuhuni Shrine - cannot understand why Shinzo Abe, the front-runner to succeed Koizumi as Prime Minister of Japan, says that he will visit the Yasukuni Shrine where many of Japan's Class 1 war criminals from WWII are interred. Koizumi says he did it because of a campaign promise he made to the electorate, but Abe says he will be doing it to keep up the practice. Obviously, Abe sees these visits as advancing his political cause, if nothing else. It doesn't matter if the visit is official or unofficial, as Abe promised the latter. As far as the Chinese and Koreans are concerned, paying homage to War Criminals in any guise is criminal enough.

Well, it looks to me that Abe does not really need to keep up appearances at the cost of good relations with its neighbours, Korea and China, as well as continue to hurt the sensitivities of many in Southeast Asia. It would be an unwise, unnecessary and possibly a suicidal policy given that Korea and China are becoming major powers in their own rights and that Japan will become increasingly isolated in the process. While we do not want to forever remind Japan about its war past, we also do not want them to forget.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Shotgun religion

Shotgun religionIslam continues to be plagued by extremists among its midst who very loudly and insistently push their religious agenda through the barrel of a gun, or should we, in keeping with the times and reality say, 'the cannister of a bomb'? With September 11 around the corner, we can expect these religious fanatics to want to commemorate the occasion with a couple of their own bombing exploits to hasten their entry into heavenly bliss.

Besides death and destruction, some of these extremists also wish to convert people to Islam through the barrel of the same gun. American Fox News journalists, Mr Steve Centanni, 60, an American correspondent, and his freelance cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, a New Zealander, who were later released, were reportedly at the wrong end of a gun when they 'converted' to Islam. I am not sure that both reporters have the conviction to remain Muslims, unless they are forced to look down the barrel of a gun again.

Adherents of Islam are exhibiting some rather oppressive behaviour in recent times. But since most of them are extremists to start off with, though one cannot understand their worldview, their actions are not surprising. What is surprising is that Islam can be oppressive even when it arises from the law of the land.

It was reported recently in Malaysia that a woman, aged 26, had renounced her Muslim faith to become a Christian. Nothing wrong with that in a country that professes freedom of religious beliefs. She legally changed her name to Lina Joy, but the State would not allow her to change her stated religion on its records, which remains Islam. Well, one can live with that too, I suppose. If one's faith is true, it really doesn't matter what others say, or what the National Records office states. Well, that is turning out to be a nightmare, it seems. Because her official religion is still recorded as Islam, she cannot marry a non-Muslim. Sadly, we are not talking about an extremist body anymore, but the Islamic Courts in Malaysia. What can be more legitimate than that? According to Syariah Law (Islamic Law Court), a Muslim cannot marry a non-Muslim. So we have a situation where a Christian cannot marry a non-Muslim because she is deemed still a Muslim although the law granted her a name change to reflect her new religious beliefs.

Islam is suffering from multiple identity disorder today. Do we ever wonder why Islam, both of the extremist and state-sponsored types, conjures up suspicion and distrust nowadays? It is not a Western-worldview problem anymore. Before it sets out to rule the world, it had better sort out its identity and existence in its own back yard first.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hornet's nest

Hornet's nest - the peacekeeping point of view, I cannot understand how the Malaysian and Indonesian Armed Forces can send soldiers to Lebanon. These countries, especially Indonesia, has one of the loudest supporters of the Hizbollah cause. Even though the soldiers may not be as fanatic (one assumes), there is always the perception (and a fact) that they come from a country that is against Israel. Both Malaysia and Indonesia do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. So if the UN accepts their offers of troops for the peacekeeping contingent in Lebanon, it would be nothing short of waiting for a disaster to happen.

Even on this issue, Indonesia wants to argue against Ehud Olmert's objections that the peacekeeping force not include soldiers from countries that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel. This goes to show that Indonesia is not a neutral party after all. As few weeks ago, it was reported in the press that a number of Indonesian Jihadist - extremist Muslim - were preparing to fight the 'Zionists' over the recent conflict with the Hizbollahs in Lebanon. Even if the Indonesian army and the government were to dis-associate itself from these extremists elements, prudence dictates it not send any Indonesians to Lebanon. This is after all, a peacekeeping effort, not a 'Brother for Brother' party. Lebanon and Israel have had enough of the Hizbollahs without the injection of more terrorists on their soil.

Having 'won' the peace, the UN must act with extreme caution and prudence in ensuring that the peacekeeping force can and will keep the peace.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

War and diplomacy

War and Ceasefire Diplomacy - last, both sides, the Israelis and the Lebanese (or should I say, the Hizbollah?) have finally agreed to a UN brokered ceasefire, effective Monday, 14 August 2006 at 0500 GMT. Even so, it is reported that both sides are still lobbing bombs at each other even after the accepting the agreement. We now hear that there are problems in the Lebanese government cabinet, where the Hizbollah has two representatives, about the implementation of the terms of the ceasefire.

Yes, all of us want to believe that the ceasefire agreement will end the bloodshed and bring permanent respite to the innocent Lebanese citizens. But the reality is that both sides are still simmering, ready to start the war all over again at the slightest opportunity or provocation. Both sides will view the ceasefire as a chance to regroup, relocate and rearm for another day. Fundamentally, no peace agreement has been reached, only a ceasefire. And when the war starts again, as it inevitably will, the world will see that nothing has been resolved. Diplomacy has merely won a stay of execution. The final solution will only be reached until one side destroys, or at least neutralizes, the other side permanently.

So yes, Mr Kofi Annan can claim a sort of belated diplomatic victory, but the UN, being the UN, can never bring lasting peace to the two sides. What is tragic about the whole incident is that the duly constituted and elected government of Lebanon was never able to exert any meaningful influence and control over the Hizbollah faction, in spite of the fact that it has at least 15,000 troops under its command. A government that cannot, or will not, govern and control the country and the various factions among it must ultimately take responsibility for the death of its people and destruction of its property. If it still does not recognize this fact, and take action to bring the Hizbollah under its control, then it should cede control totally to the Hizbollah. It should not continue with a pretense that serves to hoodwink charitable souls of the world, including the Lebanese women and children.

The Hizbollah, by some combination of warped logic and delusion, are claiming a victory in this conflict. It has sustained 900 over deaths (probably mostly civilians - which do not matter much?) on the Lebanese side versus 150 odd deaths on Israel's side. Much of their homes are buried in rubble and it will take a lot of charity from the rest of the world to rebuild their homes and feed their people. It is a strange victory when you have to depend on charity.

Israel, on the other hand, is more subdued over this war and is certainly not over the moon regarding the achievements (or lack) of its original objectives - the return of its two soldiers.

Do we now wonder why the fight is not over yet? Dare I say that the diplomatic world is facilitating a conflict more destructive than the first?

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

God and History

Gods, Moons and History -
In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?

So ask Britain's most significant scientist since Isaac Newton. Dr Stephen Hawking posed the question but admitted that he does not have the answer. 25,000 people reportedly weighed in on the question. My take on this issue although it is now closed in Yahoo Answers?

The human race has sustained thousands of years through wars, natural disasters, famine and political intrigue more complex than today's. Some social upheavals in the past are even more revolutionary than today's, yet history has shown that these ebb and flow with the sands of time, many discredited and forgotten, only to be resurrected under another name in another time. As King Solomon, the wisest man that ever walked the earth was to write, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, that
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:2

He made the observation that
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. Ecclesiastes 1:5-11

Solomon's answer to the question posed by Dr Hawking, is that, yes, God willing, the human race can be sustained for another 100 years, 1000 years even. We give too little credit to the creator with this so-called conundrum. Let us not over-rate Dr Hawking here at the expense of the Almighty.

The discussion:
Yahoo answers on the conundrum
The rest of the chatter

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Cycle of Tragedy

Cycle of Tragedy - again, the tragedy of war was brought home with the death of more than 50 civilians in Lebanon, including women and children, all of whom were taking shelter from a bombardment launched by Israeli planes. The Israelis claimed that they had given prior warning for residents to flee. Indeed many did, but this extended family chose to stay. Apparently, the Hezbollah 'martyrs' are again hiding behind women's skirts and children's cots when they launched missiles against Israel in the vicinity of these now collapsed houses.

War is never pleasant, it is destructive of lives and property, of a livelihood and opportunities. The world admits that the Hezbollah provoked the conflict first where they continue to lob bombs into Israeli residential areas. So what happened to the women and children in Lebanon today could very well happen to Israel's women and children tomorrow. I think the Israelis want to stop, but if stopping means that the Hezbollah can re-group in Southern Lebanon to fight another day, then any such armistice, such respite from the carnage, can only be temporary.

Can the world community, and the UN in particular, which already has its hands full with Iran's and N Korea's nuclear ambitions, stay focused on keeping the two sides apart when the guns stop and rebuilding takes place? Is there political will in Lebanon and the rest of the world that is calling for a stop to the current conflict to rein in the Hezbollah and their openly avowed mission to destroy Israel? Will Iran and Syria stop fighting via proxy?

If the answers are NO, then, sadly, tragically, the war will go on, must go on for otherwise, it will just be a reprieve to salve the souls of participants and onlookers before another war begins. It is well to remember that this conflict was started by the Hezbollah for no good reason than to join in the kidnapping game than the Hamas first started in the Gaza Strip. Hezbolla never expected such as ferocious response from the Israelis. Thus was the relative peace and development for more than a decade in Lebanon broken, engulfing innocent women and children into a conflict which the Hezbollah was and remains trigger happy about. As much as bombs are lobbed into Southern Lebanon, missiles continue to rain down on Israel, though, fortunately for the Hezbollah, their missiles have not had been as accurate nor destructive as the Israelis'.

The Hezbollah was in Lebanon 10 years ago. If the Hezbollah is given a reprieve and peace comes again, how long will it last before they break the peace again? Another 10 years? The key question to ask, after all is said and done is, who broke the peace? and so who should mend it - permanently?

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Damned if you do and damned if you don't

Conversations - press went to town gleefully telling everyone who would listen (and of course everybody loves a juicy story) of how they got recordings of private conversations at the dinner table by Mr George W Bush and Mr Tony Blair, amongst others. Mr Bush reportedly said "Hezbollah to stop doing this shit", referring to the weeklong conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Hezbollah.

Well, I think its refreshing to hear that, because most of the sentiments that we express privately isn't all that different from the US President's - at least not mine. Many others would hold a diametrically opposite view, but few would want to be open about it - not that Mr Bush is - he was caught unawares.

While the G8 did issue a statement regarding the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, it got interpreted in a 1001 ways, so much for the usefulness of such joint statements. Nobody takes them seriously, and worse, they are not actionable.

As Israel continues to pound Southern Lebanon, I am hearing people condemn the US for not getting into the region to stop the conflict. Well, well, well. And I thought that people were condemning the US for going into Iraq. Damn if you do and damn if you don't. Foreign policy and adventures are always fraught with danger, but I would say the greatest danger lies with people who cannot decide one way or another. At least Mr Bush is staying the course and trying to complete the job that was left hanging in Operation Desert Storm. By the same token, I'd say let Israel complete its job so that Hezbollah will not soon stir the hornets' nest again any time soon.

Image Origin -

Friday, July 14, 2006

The tragedy of war

'The Visage of War' by Salvador Dali - the bombs drop from Israeli planes onto Lebanon, I feel a tinge of nostalgia. I remember twenty years ago, when I was still in my youth, the names of places such as Sabra and Shatilla where Israel met with infamy, and the almost incessant news and reports of bombings and conflicts in Lebanon. Today, after 20 years of relative peace, war in Lebanon is again rearing its ugly head.

War is, obviously, never pleasant. And while self-righteous people go about provoking war, it is the ordinary people who bear the brunt of war. Their lives are suddenly disrupted, their homes subject to damage, if not destruction, their kith and kin separated, their livelihood adversely affected. I remember my mother relating how her life and opportunities were disrupted due to the Second World War in this part of the world. It was truely a tragedy.

And yet, people still provoke war. The Hizbollah and the Hamas have thrown the entire Middle-East yet again into a conflagration that will not soon go away. Whatever trust and opportunities that have been built-up over the last fews years with the eventual establishment of the Palestinian Authority is all but gone. Old foes such as Syria and Iran are working behind the scenes to further stoke the fire. More innocent lives will be lost.

Can Israel be blamed for protecting itself? After all, the incidents that provoked their present response were the blatant kidnap and capture of their own people by the Hamas and the Hizbollah. For Israel to continue holding the olive branch is nothing but suicidal policy. Can the Islamic world blame the Israelis, as the OIC under the leadership of Malaysia, has done? What if the role were reversed, that Israelis kidnap the Hamas and Hizbollah terrorists for ransom? What would the OIC say then?

Surely there must be impartiality and justice? But this has never characterised the relation between Israel and the Muslim world. What can anybody say that can bring this latest conflict to an end? Simply NOTHING, because the relationship has never been built on trust, if at all. Only the barrel of the gun will broker a truce, but peace will never come.

Painting is "The Visage of War" by Salvador Dali. Refer to

Friday, July 07, 2006

A teacher who destroys

Abu Bakar Bashir -, some Indonesia Muslims have jumped into the worsening Palestinian situation in the Gaza by urging its adherents to take up arms in Palestine. And the biggest 'head' in this rallying call is reportedly non other that Abu Bakar Bashir - he who protested and vehemently denied his role in the Bali bombing in open court. I don't know what kind of Muslim he is, but obviously he is a liar, a cheat and by any standards, an immoral person. Now, he wants to reprise his role as murderer as well. There is a Chinese saying - "Borrow a knife to kill people". Bashir is bent on borrowing, yet again, the young lives of Muslim youth to do his dirty work in the name of Allah. Does he want to rise to the seventh heaven on the coattails of the young and pliable Muslims in the schools that he runs?

The teachers' vocation has always been an honourable one. But in him, we see a teacher not as a shaper of lives for the better, but a teacher bent on destroying lives. It is unfortunate that he was even released from prison so early. Now he has the freedom to go about committing more crimes against humanity. Going by what he is doing now, he should have been locked up for good.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Moderates need to play ball

Justice must be seen to be doneAnd you thought you've heard it all. About the extreme 'moral' requirements that extreme Muslims practice and enforce on others. An example from recent months is the no-kissing/ no-hugging / no-touching rule between male and female in public, and therefore no public display of affection. In Iraq, extremists have gone even further. The Associated Press reported, about 3 hours ago, that in Baghdad, gunmen stopped a car carrying the Sunni Arab coach and his two Shiite players, asked them to step out and then shot them.
And their 'crime'? This, according to leaflets distributed by these extremists:
Wearing shorts by youth are prohibited because it violates the principals of Islamic religion when showing forbidden parts of the body. Also women should wear the veil...

As expected, moderate Muslims and clerics have come out to condemn this act and state that there is nothing wrong in wearing shorts like those than an athlete would wear during training and competition. The problem is that the Islamic religious agenda has effectively been hijacked by these extremists for some time now. The moderates are now seen to be forever playing catchup and apologising for the actions of their fellow religious brothers. In the long run, this will not do. Justice must be seen to be done, not just talked about and verbally condemned.

Mere pronouncements without the active pursuit and prosecution of these extremist factions do no good in righting the increasing perception that Islam is a religion of hatred, revenge, and even worst - lawlessness. We need to see action in the pursuit and elimination of these factions worldwide, wherever Islamic extremists ply their brand of hate religion and moralistic judgements. Continued inaction will lead to gradual erosion of adherents and condemn the religion to defections and desertions, for who can live under a cloud where what he/she believes in is equated to violence, hate, and selective lawlessness.

The ball has long been on the moderates' court. The way I see it, either they do something concrete to right this wrong quickly, or they join those whom they refuse to actively discipline - a guilt by association. The third alternative is to abandon a religion that has gone horribly wrong.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Opiate of the masses

Religion - Opiate of the MassesKarl Marx, that father of communism and its chief atheist, called religion the "Opiate of the masses". I suppose what he believes is that religion is a drug that the masses are driven to take and in the process, becomes addicted to it. Non-religion is therefore the only rational process and thought that mankind should adopt, if not believe in. I do not agree with this sage (as some still consider him to be one). His own 'religion' today is in shambles. It has not withstood the test of time.

On the other hand, I am horrified to learn that schools in Saudi Arabia, which is supposedly friendly to the West, routinely teaches its young ones to, among other things, hate Christians and Jews, and advocates Jihad, or Holy War against all infidels, of which Christians and Jews are identified as. If this is what is being taught systematically in Saudi Arabia's public schools, then I cannot imagine what schools in Iran teach their young. In fact, I am now paranoid of every Muslim school, official nor non-official, sanctioned by the state or not and even if that school is located and administered in Muslim countries that are considered to be moderate in the practice of Islam. It is no wonder that terrorists run amok so freely nowadays and this will not abate so long as young, impressionable kids are taught routinely to hate, that Allah wants Muslims to hate. The message I am getting is that Islam teaches hate, is intolerant of other beliefs and peoples, and is a law unto itself.

All the defences thrown up by countries to defend themselves from terrorist attacks will be ineffective so long as you have waves of youths who are ready to die for their Islamic religion the way they are being trained and intoxicated in schools in Islamic countries. What can you do when leaders in the community, the teachers, the adults, use a religion's holy book to teach such frightening things, not only sanctioning acts of violence against infidels, but actively promoting it? The only problem with Osama Bin Laden is that he brought Islam's teachings to its only logical realisation. With generations of Muslim youth raised on these beliefs, it is not difficult to see that peace will never come to Israel, not in my lifetime, not ever, in spite of the bests efforts of sincere, peace-loving peoples.

Perhaps Karl Marx was right, in some cases, after all.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Band of Brothers

Cain and AbelIt is reported that Iran has gotten support for its Nuclear Programme from fellow Muslim states of Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia and Bangladesh, which together constitute the Developing Eight (D-8), in their summit in Indonesia over the weekend. Well, of course they will support Iran. Getting nuclear technology has been the ambition of many countries if only because it provides one with International recognition in terms of scientific and technological achievement, not to mention the potential military might that will endow it with a strong bargaining position anywhere in the world where muscle flexing is required.

To their credit, they did say that the support is for peaceful purposes, which is to be expected anyway. However, Iran is still openly against the existence of Israel (or to put it more 'positively', for the destruction of Israel) and any forces aligned with it. It must be pointed out that this support for Iran's nuclear technology is not universal among Muslim countries in the world. I believe Iraq is non too happy at this development, having fought a near decade war with Iran back in the 1980's. I am not sure about the Gulf countries either. So far they have chosen to remain silent on the matter. The US and Europe believe that Iran's ultimate aim is the production of nuclear weapons. Given Iran's their belligerence towards Israel and the fact that it has the world's second largest proven reserves of oil, only a fool will believe that Iran's nuclear ambitions are anything but peaceful. I fear that those whom it calls its brothers today may live to regret the day that it did not exert friendly pressure on its 'brother' to stay away from nuclear weapons production.

Even brothers quarrel, with some ending up betraying and killing each other. Look no further than Cain and Abel. This fact is almost as old as history itself.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A more dangerous world

Nuclear MushroomThe price of oil is soaring again, hitting US$70 a barrel, no thanks to events in Iran. Iran has very smugly announced success in producing Uranium and they are not going to bother about International community urging them, on pain of un-specified sanctions, to abandon their nuclear programme. Compared to North Korea, this threat seems more real. The world is now a much more dangerous place to live in today. From the looks of things, it will not get any better. Iranian youths are primed to commit suicide bombings (using conventional bombs as a start, I suppose) on enemies of Iran and Palestine and Islam and who knows what else.

To these Iranians, the principle of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction), which has held back the old USSR and USA from ever using their nuclear arsenal for over 60 years, means exactly that - real MADness. Post 911, Iran doesn't seem to want to understand the contradiction in possessing nuclear weapons. Neither do its leaders, who, I am sure, are all too ready to drop a couple of nuclear bombs on middle-eastern and western soil, come what may, to make their point that they can no longer be bullied. Western soil also includes Australia and Japan, erstwhile friends and allies of the US. So the threat is felt worldwide.

It is at this time that moderate Muslim nations (through the OIC?) must band together to get Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. It alone, among the world community, has the leverage to do so. My worry is that these nations are secretly happy that one of their members now has nuclear capabilities, so they will not do anything at all to rock the Iranian nuclear boat. Perhaps they think that one day, through their brethren, they too can possess nuclear weapons that will enable them to force others to kowtow to their demands, whatever these may be. The frightening things is that Muslim countries are not all agreed among themselves, which the Iraq-Iran conflict more than 10 years ago has demonstrated and the conflict between Shiite and Shia Muslim sects have shown today in Iraq.

May God help us.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Little Entrepreneurs of China

We have heard of Little Emperors before. These refer to the children of parents who live in China. These children are typically pampered because, for many couples, that's the only child that the State will ever allow them to have.

Now, we hear that children as young as 5 years old in China are taking MBA (or Early MBA as they are called) type classes to master business at a very very young age. Modules on economics and business sense are covered in these courses. And the place most prevalent with these classes? Unsurprising, it is Shanghai.

My worry is that parents are placing the cart before the horse. Not in terms of skills, for we know how gifted some children are, but in terms of ethics and values. If so much of a child's time is spent 'educating' them on the technical aspects of life that they neglect values and society, morality and ethics, etc., we might end up seeing very wealthy, perhaps 'successful' individuals, but individuals who may not understand how to do the right thing the right way. Worst still, we might end up seeing more psyschiatric cases given the early onset of stress so typical in the business world of dog-eat-dog. Ultimately, society is going to suffer. Worst, if children are not taught how to value and respect their elders, etc., the parents who so eagerly send their children to such classes may end up reaping the effects of their neglect in critical aspects of a child's upbringing.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Triumph of the mob over democracy

Wounded DemocracyMr Thaksin Shinawatra announced his resignation as Thailand's Prime Minister yesterday. Ironically, his TRT party won Thailand's snap elections held on 2 April 2006, but it proved to be a hollow one given that three of the main opposition parties boycotted the elections. So here, we see the triumph of mob pressure over the democratic process. Things are never going to be the same in Thailand anymore. I think that Thailand, economically, socially and politically, will enter into a period of uncertainty. I don't think there is a political figure at the moment that can take over Thai politics the way Thaksin has. If so, people would not have had to march and live on the streets of Bangkok for over three weeks now.

Sondhi, Chamlong and others are good protest organisers, but they have yet to prove themselves in ruling a country and bringing prosperity to that country. So far, their loose alliance is based on a common aim to unseat Thaksin. Beyond that, their agendas are quite different and will most likely conflict with one another's. That the opposition parties had to ride on the coat-tails of the protesting Thai public speaks volumes about their credibility, or lack of it. So if the opposition today sanctions protest of the type seen in Bangkok over the last 3 weeks, then when and if they become the ruling party and form the government, they in turn must also sanction any opposition to their rule in like fashion.

The democratic process is a severely wounded animal in Thailand. We do not know if it will ever recover.

Monday, April 03, 2006

New Yahoo UI

Yahoo UIYahoo is upgrading its User Interface - you know - the page you get when you url into My homepage is set to When I was surfing the web last Saturday, I hit on the new interface and was asked to evaluate and provide feedback. Since then, the old has been restored.

Its a pity I didn't take a snapshot of the new UI. It's more organised (anything other than the present UI must be more organised!). It has three panes across the screen, with all the Yahoo services (such as 360, Auto, Finance, Games, Geocities, etc. grouped in a vertical directory list on the left side. Mail, My Yahoo, Messenger, etc. are also grouped together in a box on the right, although Mail is also located at the top banner location, signifying perhaps that Yahoo Mail is the most popular link on Yahoo's homepage.

There are a lot more UI changes, but I cannot remember them all. It's looking more like My Yahoo! UI, but I am sure there will be more changes I will not have seen. Users who saw the experimental UI were invited to leave comments on improving the interface. I am not sure if Yahoo plans to make the UI user-configurable, like My Yahoo, or Google ( I have a feeling that it won't be user-definable, or at least not as extensible as the two.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I believe in...

It is sad to read that an Afghan national, a Mr Abdul Rahman, is facing the death penalty because he chose to become a Christian 16 years ago. The strength of his beliefs is evidenced by his willingless to face death rather than renounce the religion which he has come to accept. Unfortunately, Afghan Muslims do not see it this way. They see it as a case of apostasy, as if race or nationality has anything to do with religion.

Islam practices proselytising their religion. It welcomes one and all into their religious fold, even if this involves (as it must, unless that person has no prior religious beliefs) the convert renouncing his/her former religion. I wonder if they do not see the conflict and contradiction in their stance? But of course, Islamic Extremism is again rearing its ugly head, but judging from the recent past, it is unlikely that moderate Muslims will come to the rescue of their fellow national, even in a matter of life and death.

This is so very sad.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Netherlands, here we come

Topless ChickThe Netherlands is now screening potential immigrants with pictures of homosexual men kissing and topless female bathing (See Today, 14 March 2006, page 14). With the runnaway success of Brokeback Mountain (and the many copy-cat pictures that typically follow a proven formula in the months to come), as well as the ever popular bare-breasted female form, I'd expect to see a bee-line, especially men, for Dutch citizenship!

Ironically the Dutch are adopting this strategy to try to keep people out of their country. You'd wonder what warped sense of logic this is, until you also read that scenes of crime-ridden ghettos are shown along with these titilating video scenes. Dutch Immigration authorities hope that this will evoke horrors and extreme discomfort and thereby discourage would-be immigrants. Usually, nations want to project a rosy image of their country, the attractions and its pleasant people to demonstrate the beauty and successes of their country. Here, the Dutch are doing the opposite. I say again, what a warp sense of logic.

Of course, there are those who speculate that the Dutch wants to keep out purantical people, especially extremist Muslims, from their country. I think they have learnt a lesson from their neighbours, the Danes, about people who would break windows and demonstrate on the streets just because of a couple of cartoons in the newspapers. Well, this is certainly a novel solution, though I don't know if it will lead to another round of demonstrations or stampede for the doors to the country!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Polarising Positions

A Debate is defined as
A formal, public political discussion involving two or more candidates for office. In a debate, candidates state and defend their positions on major issues.

DebateThe political situation in Thailand continues unabated, with the opposition forces that are arrayed against Thaksin's government adamant that nothing but a public debate will do to resolve the situation. A debate will not resolve anything. If nothing, it will serve to polarise the parties even further in this political quarrel and make the situation even worse than today. So it is disingenuos for the opposition to insist that a public debate will resolve the situation. The opposition hopes to push Thaksin to the edge of the cliff and thereby score points, if not effect an coup. Clearly, they are not prepared to meet Thaksin halfway and negotiate a settlement to their differences. They just want to win at all costs.

Of course, they don't trust Thaksin in a closed-door negotiation, which is what Thaksin offers, but I suggest that that is the only peaceful way forward. If they think that Thaksin will 'do them in' in close-door pow-wows, then they lack confidence in themselves and in the validity of their positions. Lest readers of this blog think that I am pro-Thaksin, let me clarify that I am for the rule of law. That rule of law says that any political legitimacy can only be obtained through the ballot box. Any injustice can only be righted through the court of law. Circumventing these internationally accepted norms is to invite ridicule from the international community.

There is a Chinese saying, jia chou bu ke wai yang, meaning, settle your family's differences internally or behind closed doors. Thailand should do that today.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Nuclear Terrorists

Atom Bomb CasingI think terrorists today, with their penchant for making and exploding bombs, would love it if they have an atom bomb in their hands. It'll be equivalent to seventh heaven for them - the ultimate possession of ultimate power to wipe out the mother of all infidels that walk the earth. If they can blow up such as bomb in the White House, a la Independence Day style, no less, it will certainly promote them to the highest seats in heaven. Immortality of the highest order awaits them, and their names will perpetuate forever. I do not doubt that this course - Martyrdom 101, is being taught somewhere in the world today, and that Iran presents the best opportunity now to getting their hands on an actual atomic bomb.

What does Iran wants with nuclear energy anyway? Nuclear energy presents a lot of problems in the long run, least of which is the disposal of spent nuclear fuel. It also poses a danger to the people and the environment. It wouldn't be pleasant if there is a nuclear meltdown, to put it mildly. Look at Chernobyl. On the other hand, Iran is blessed with the world's 2nd largest proven reserves of oil under its soil today.

So what's the rationale? Has Iran got too much money in the bank? It doesn't know how else to deploy its brilliant scientists and engineers? Then why doesn't Iran do some good by donating some of it to poverty stricken parts of the world where people, especially children, are dying of poverty, hunger and disease, where people suffer from natural disasters? Why doesn't its brilliant people spend time researching and finding cures for diseases that plague the planet? Don't tell me that only 'westerners' are capable of charity?

Iran has stated openly that it wants to destroy Israel. So far, all conventional forces thrown at Israel by the Arab countries have been rebuffed successfully by Israel. It doesn't take a person with a PhD to figure how a nuclear bomb can advance an age-old ambition - the destruction of the State of Israel - an aim which has been publicly stated by the President of Iran.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Restless in Thailand

Map of ThailandThe political unrest in Thailand over Thaksin Shinawatra's position as PM is growing worse by the day. Opposition parties claim than the Thai people want Thaksin to step down as premier. Of course, this will pave the way for one of its own to be the next PM.

Now, anybody linked to Thaksin is bad news. These include his erstwhile business partners and political supporters, which can be found among large corporations such as Nestle. Even Singapore companies, like Thai Danu Bank, owned by Singapore's DBS Bank are not spared as the Thai opposition drum up support to boycott these businesses. Singapore's Temasek Holdings, the company that bought a large swat of Shin Corp - the very transaction that precipitated this crisis - must be squirming in its seat. Its analyst who proposed this acquisition could never have expected the strength of emotion it has stirred up.

These are heady days in Bangkok. The Thai King is very upset. Businesses are being disrupted. The nation's economic productivity is sliding downhill as more and more people persist in being in the streets rather than being in the office. Slowly, but surely, the situation makes it more certain that the Thai military will step in to put a stop to all these nonsense.

As a neutral observer, I can't fault Thaksin's bid to restore order through the ballot box once more, but the opposition refuses to play this democratic game. They know that they cannot unseat Thaksin, but they forget that this is the only democratically valid way to remove him from power, if not today, then next year, if the reasons warrant it. Ironically, the mass demonstrations taking place incessantly is proving to be demo-cratic - it is the oppression of the few noisy ones against the many silent ones, quite the opposite from Philippines' People Power demonstrations last decade that toppled the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

It is sad to see that a country cannot resolve its political differences through the ballot box, but only through threats and boycotts of parties that provides employment to the Thai worker, no less. I wonder who these opposition political parties stand for? Certainly not the workers, not the farmers, not the poorer Thais in other parts of Thailand and certainly not their King. There is only one party they are interested in: themselves.

After the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, Thailand had pulled itself back to becoming a dynamic and fast growing economy, challenging its Asean partners, particularly Malaysia and Singapore in many areas. Will this Thailand Political Crisis signal the end of its economic resurgence? One can only wait and see.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Finger pointing

Finger pointingWell, it was bound to happen. Some Iraqis and most likely many Muslims around the world now blame the Americans for the destruction of one of Islam's holiest shrines - the Shia al-Askari shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad. They say the Americans are at fault for this latest act of terror because they brought terrorists and terrorism into Iraq. Two men, reportedly of the Sunni branch of Islam, were the 'terrorists' that blew up the mosque, triggering anger and retailiation again Sunni mosques in Baghdad.

I think this penchant for blaming Americans for anything and everything gives the lie to the credibility of such claims. Once a black cat is called a white cat and a grey cat in the same breadth, you know that its not the colour of the cat that is the issue. The problem most likely lies in self-denial - a refusal to identify the real problem and conveniently pushing the blame to someone/something else. This does great injustice to the intelligence of Muslims the world over, but what can you do when these intelligent and moderate Muslims do not stand up to refute foolish remarks? This is nothing new, and until the moderate and sensible Muslims wrest the agenda back from the extremists, the world will increasingly view Islam as a trenchant, aggressive, unreasonable religion mired in the middle ages.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Press goes Dick...err... Duck Hunting

Dick...err...Duck HuntingI am amazed at the American's penchant for hyping everything up. I am no political pundit, and I may not fully understand the American psyche surrounding the accidental shooting of Vice-President Cheney's hunting partner, but to berate Mr Cheney, and President Bush and the White House for not telling the world (read the American Press) about that incident immediately, if not earlier, is incomprehensible, at least to a non-American.

Look, as far as I know through the press (no less), it was an accident, and the first order of things under this circumstance is to see to it that Mr Whittington gets immediate medical attention. I do not see how getting the immediate attention of the press can help, at all. I have a feeling that the Press feels slighted, and is therefore now crying like a baby, but dressing it all up as an issue of accountability and relating to this to the 'typical' way that the Bush White House treats the world. If nothing, I must give credit to these Americans for the very imaginative way in which they are able to add 1 to 1, getting 2.5 as the result, and feeling very smug about it. Simply amazing.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Love and the Valentine

NASA and the Universe Send a Celestial ValentineWell, Valentine's day is over. During the days leading up to this day when love is celebrated, there were the usual commercials and print articles in flashy magazines that reminded one and all of this special and important occasion, to buy that bouquet of flowers, or diamond or book a romantic dinner or better still, that romantic tour for two. All of these make one feel that ignoring the occasion is nothing short of sinful.

So everyone must find someone or something (the Cat or the Dog) to love on this occasion. I am no exception, except that after ten years of marriage, I don't bother about what the commercials suggest I do. I simply gave my wife a kiss on the cheeks. Now, some cynical women would point to me and say, "That's how men behave - once they've got what they want, they hang the conquest out to dry", or something to that effect.

Has romance gone out the window for me? I don't think so. I'd rather think that romance has matured. Nowadays, we appreciate each other for who and what we are. After being together for over 10 years, I know how very different my wife and I are. She is a nocturnal creature, if I may call it that, whereas I am exactly the opposite, sleeping before 11 am most evenings. She loves to shop and buy things, usually ending up with almost nothing in her bank account at the end of the month. I sustain that bank account through my thrift. She is almost always late, I pride myself on being punctual, and suffer the agony of spending half my life waiting for her. So do I still love my wife? You'd better not bet against it.

In fact, I have grown very fond of her in spite of all these differences, and yes, annoyances. Of course, there are similarities in our outlook on life, and all that goes with it. So, no, its not the flowers or dinners that will sustain a marriage or love for one another, it's letting your feelings for each other, good or bad, age with time, like fine wine - bitter at times, but capable of the most unusual sweetness.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A farce and a tragedy

Muslim demonstrations continue unabated around the world over the 'Prophet Cartoon' incident. Now we know the extent Muslims would go to protect their religion and their Prophet. Unfortunately, even before a single 'perpetrator' of these cartoon images is punished, at least 3 Muslims have died as a result of the protests.

In their haste to burn down a KFC restaurant, movie theatres and offices in Peshawar, Pakistan, 3 people, one of which was a 8 year old boy, were killed. All 3 were Pakistanis (and most likely, Muslims). Additionally, 48 people were reportedly injured. This is a tragedy. Did these people have to die? and who caused these deaths? I am sure some would say that westerners are ultimately to blame, conveniently explaining away the fact that Muslims are inadvertently killing Muslims. Is this the way that Muslims revere their Prophet - by destroying things indiscrimately, ignorantly and hurting his followers in the process? I say indiscrimate because KFC has nothing to do with Denmark in the first place!

It is deeply worrying that we have potentially thousands of Muslims in the world today that will commit acts of destruction at a whim, irrespective of what the truth may be.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

IE7 on Blog

I am composing this blog entry in the Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 (Preview Release) environment and browser. So far, the experience has been mixed. Right after the install, I did some IE7 preconfiguration before I testdrived the searching. Then I loaded in a tab (yes, IE7 has tab-browsing now), and guess what? IE7 crashed, which triggered Dr Watson. Well, this is why IE7 is still in Beta release. I will soldier on.

I have been on IE7 for the last 2 hours. Other than the initial crash, IE7 has been humming along, and I am enjoying testdriving some of the new features. What's new? Well, Microsoft's website has a tour on this, but I'll just summarise some of them here:

  1. Tab browsing - finally, it has caught-up with Firefox and the rest of the world.

  2. You can lay out all the various pages opened in the tabs into a page - ala Powerpoint style. This is great when you want to jump to a particular tab without having to guess which tab the content is in that you want to open.

  3. IE7 can monitor phishing sites. This is good news for those of us who do our banking online.

  4. There are more browsing 'real estate' because IE7 has re-arranged and compacted the top of the brower's menu bar.

  5. Browser zooming. You can now tell IE7 to zoom in to a page, so that you see more of the details in that page. This is great when you want to zoom into graphics and pictures.

  6. Automatic opening of all links in your Favourites folder just by clicking on the green arrow to the right of the Favourites entry. You want to be careful about this. If you have many links in a category, you're in for one looong wait.

On the whole, IE7 is interesting, if only because of the novelty factor.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Explosive media

BombIn the current controversy over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, no newspaper, whether online or print media, dares to reprint any of the twelve caricatures of the prophet Mohammad published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September. This is sensible self-censorship.

But the story is quite different on the rest of the internet. There, it has been shown that you cannot censor anything. Just as sex, violence, hate, etc., you cannot take away views against a religion nor the cartoons depicting that religion in a way that is considered offensive to adherents of that religion. Ironically, it is the traditional mass media that cannot be free (lest they want their offices to be bombed or burnt).

Some of the digitized images of these 'Prophet cartoons' in question have made their way into personal blogs all over the blog community on the internet. Being digital, they can be copied and tranmitted without any restriction whatsoever, spreading the very cartoons that the Muslim community views as sacrilegious.

This demonstrates the unstoppable power of the internet media, and some would say, free speech. The more one does not want something to be shown or said, the more it will be shown and said. Suppose one had ignored those 12 cartoons in the first place, it wouldn't now be spreading throughout the internet for many more people to see. Unfortunately, the irony is lost on the people demonstrating, rampaging and destroying property in the name of Islam and their Prophet.

I hope that, at the end of the day, goodwill and good sense prevails. Otherwise, this might turn into a religous war - and I mean, a real war.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Peace passes on

One of the ways you bring about change is, you must change yourself so that you're prepared to lead people in the direction they should go. If your emotions are as bad as those you're fighting, even if your cause is just, you disqualify yourself from being effective. Correta Scott King
So admonished the widow of the American Civil Rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King. Mrs King died on Monday, 30th January 2006, and the world is poorer for an eloquent advocate of non-violence in achieving one's goals. In this age of chronic violence, perpetuated by Muslim extremists, governments (there are 2 now that espouse violence) and hate groups all over the world, Mr and Mrs King's stance opposing violence as a means to an end is becoming rare.

At this point, people should revisit the effectiveness of non-violence as a force that ultimately brought some measure of reconciliation to the American people. Violence only begets more violence. It is my hope that in the new year, it will decrease.

But alas, Muslim's are reported to be rampaging in the Palestinian Territories over a series of Dutch originated cartoons that depict the Prophet Mohammad in a manner that they find offensive. This brings to mind the Rushdie incident some years ago. Yes, such illustrations may be insensitive and offensive, but violence will not gain them any sympathy. Some may even begin to think that Islam is a religion of violence, such is the manner that its adherents behave at any and every perceived offence to their religion. (See Newspaper apologises to Muslims)

If an alien were to visit planet earth today and observed events on earth these past few years, I would not be surprised that the conclusion it will draw is Islam is a violent religion. I think Muslims who are against violence and believe the alien's views to be mistaken should emerge from the shadows and take a strong stance against violence, much as the Kings did half a century ago.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Turning guns into ploughshares?

The Hamas' surprise victory in the Palestinian Elections may yet be a good thing. For one, it demonstrated that the democratic process is alive and well in the relatively young self-governing Palestinian Authority. This gives legitimacy and credibility to the Hamas as the people's representatives. Therefore, the Hamas must, by reason of choice, form a government that represent these people.

Of course, many peace-loving countries are alarmed because the Hamas has openly advocated violence as a means towards their ends. They have yet to renounced their stated objectives of destroying Israel - the second time within the last year that an elected government has come to power with such bald aggression (the other being Iran).

On the other hand, the world can now deal with a duly elected government, not merely a terrorist group. This can be more straightforward. With the weight of a nation on its shoulders, it is, hopefully, now less likely for the Hamas government to behave purely as a terrorist organisation. If it wants to take its place in the nations of the world, it has to follow the rules of international relations and civil behaviour set down by these nations (and these are not just the Western powers).

But first, the Palestinians must resolve their domestic differences, and quickly at that. Otherwise, it cannot hope to move forward much further in its quest for peaceful home for its people, much less think of pushing a nation into the Mediterranean Sea.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Rise and fall of empires

I grew up in colonial Singapore in the 1960s and 70s. One of the things the British left behind in Singapore was a system of administration and civil works that exist to this day, albeit modified to suit the people and the times. They were the acknowledged masters and it is the pride of any family to have been able to send a child (or more) to Britain to obtain an education, particularly at its Universities. In fact, the nation's yardstick for academic achievement at the Secondary level, after 10 years of schooling, is the General Certificate in Education (GCE), which is a legacy of the British education system. To this day, we have retained this standard setting benchmark to measure the degree of literacy and academic achievements of our sons and daughters.

Alas, there are reports now that claims that half of all British workers can barely read and write, and that their skills are no better than a 11-year-old's (TODAY - Wed 25 Jan 06 page 17). What has happened to a country that successfully exported its education system but finds half its working adults untouched by that system? If they are working adults, then they cannot be too much younger than I am. Yet I remember the rigours of my own British-inspired education in Singapore. Clearly, the rote set in 15 to 25 years ago, all while Singapore was vigourously modelling itself on the British.

It is shocking and disappointing. Therein lies a warning - that when one has 'made it', the danger is to slacken and live on the legacy and hard work of others. Each generation must work hard, but they can only secure their own survival and success. Our sons and daughters may taste the fruits of the previous generation's toil, but they in turn must secure their and the generation after. So it must be, otherwise, like Rome and Greece, once the rote sets in, the empire will fall away and disappear, literally, into the sands of time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Blogging has become mainstream

Tim Berners-LeeIn concert with the evolution of blogging, it is interesting to note that Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World-wide-web, has finally embraced blog technology and set up his own blog. Not that he hasn't used the web until now. He has published for well over 10 years on the web, particularly on W3C's website, but this is apparently his first blog (ad)venture. His blog is found on MIT's servers here.

I was a late adopter myself, having started only in 2005. It seems that blogging as a mainstream media has taken one more giant step with the coming on-board of Tim.

Welcome to the crowd.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Blogging evolution

One of the things about blogging, I discovered, is that it is far easier to do so when you have some photos to display. You can blog about the event's surrounding that photo and the meanings, if there are any. When I mention photos, I mean those that are taken personally, and not just a rip-off from some other website. But taking photos today is not difficult - digital cameras have found its outlet medium on the web. In fact, the next big thing that will take over from e-mail is the combination of digital camera and the weblog - the digitalcameraweblog, that it.

Today, blogging has gone beyond personal journals. Anything and everything that looks vaguely like a blog, or structured like one, is call a blog - never mind about its origin as a personal journal. So there are personal blogs, business blogs, sports blog, community blogs, and whatever else that people can think up. Even Content Management Systems Software are proud to claim that their software offer blog features, such as Mambo/Joomla.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Wounded Dove

Wounded DoveRight now, Ariel Sharon lies in hospital, totally incapacitated by a severe stroke that likely means the end of his leadership of Israel. Just when the world is hoping for a lasting peace in the Middle East, at least between the Palestinians and the Israelis, with the unilateral withdrawal of the Israelis from the Gaza, the architect and leader of this process is now a step from death.

Who could have predicted this outcome? or hoped for it? There are, of course, some people, particularly Muslims around the world who may be celebrating the cruel fate that has befallen the man who did so much to foil Israel's 'enemies' in its bid to survive as an independent nation after 1948 half a century ago. Those who celebrate must feel vengeance obtained, but what matters, really, is what lies ahead. Sharon has shown the way towards peace with its neighbours. Let his erstwhile enemies put aside past animosity and meet him halfway. The tragedy is that few want to, or are able to make the journey to the middle.

I foresee a future where Israel will continue to war with its neighbours, unless someone can take over Sharon's agenda sooner rather than later.

Truly, it is man who plans and proposes, but God disposes.

Picture source: Wounded Dove

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bush and Hitler

Some of you may be wondering what Bush (George W. i.e.) has got to do with Hitler (Adolf i.e.). I was shocked that should suggest that there is such a close relationship. What a scandal! How can the President, the Numero Uno, of the world's free-est nation be linked in any way to Fascism at all? Besides, didn't many people flee Europe to get away from people like that?

Notwithstanding the controversy over the present American government's alleged secret prisons in Europe and the CIA's covert operations (a open secret for many many years), I believe Americans will not stoop so low as to call its President a Fascist.

But that's what suggested when I used its spell-check feature on my previous post. It couldn't understand 'Bushism', so it suggested 'Fascism' as a likely alternative - and that's the only alternative it offered! I would have expected 'Bushido' (a Japanese art form) as a closer alternative. Don't believe me? Go check it out yourself.

Has Google, through, a hidden agenda here? There has been recent reports questioning whether Google is good or evil. It would seem that these rumours are not unfoun.....

Before I go any further, I'd better not bite (off more of) the hand that feeds this blog.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Bushism is not uncommon

Much has been written about George W. Bush's language, so much so that his 'language' has now achieved sub-dialect status. It is a constant source of amusement and unkind jokes, not only in his native America, but probably all across the world. Blame this on how fast and wide information and news travel - especially the bad news. For example, Bush has been quoted as having said:

Those who enter the country illegally violate the law.
Well, of course.

But he is not the only one belabouring the point. Last evening, at the Countdown (to 2006) Party on Mount Faber in Singapore, host Gurmit Singh said on 'live' TV that his
birthday falls on the 24th of March every year.
Well, of course.

I think Americans are unkind to its own, but that's also one thing I admire about the Americans - they can laugh at themselves. In some other countries, jokes like this can land you in court and/or in jail!

Happy New Year everyone who live on this crazy crazy Earth.