Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A lesson from History

It is said that World War II ended the Great Depression of 1929. This was because of the massive deficit financing that had to go into producing things for the war effort - planes, tanks, ships, etc, etc. in 2 theatres of war - one in Europe and the other one in the Pacific. How much did the US public spend? The consensus seems to be $5 trillion (in 2007 dollar terms, after adjusting for inflation). So when Henry Paulson and Ben Benanke asked for $700 billion from the American people to rescue the world from the next Great Depression, it pales in comparison. America lost more than just money in WWII. It lost many lives and made many widows. 

Yet some are not convinced that this is a fair solution. What it meant was that greedy wheelers and dealers - the investment banks and the people that ran them, were going to be let off. God knows how much cash they have already stashed away. If we want to make the comparison, these dealers are the equivalent of the German Nazis and the Japanese banzai troops that wreaked so much pain and destruction on the world more than 50 years ago. And the rest of us - well, we will have to manage as best we can. Our houses lie in tatters, no certainty in our jobs for tomorrow, our life savings gone - just like that. 

Yet it is an inevitable solution, fair or not. We just comfort ourselves by saying that the world recovered from its economic malaise once, and the world will recover from this financial malaise again. The only thing is - we must catch and punish the perpetrators of these fraudulent investments products, bring them to justice, as much as the Nazis and Japanese Class X criminals were tried and disposed of.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


China has messed up big time this time around. In the euphoria of the Olympics, which it hosted twice in the space of two months (the Olympics and Paralympics), it was widely praised by the international community for putting on a great show - certainly the best the world has seen so far. The world Press were almost unanimous in praising China for a job well done. The Chinese are unreservedly proud of their country, as this success went a long way towards erasing the disappointments of the Chinese since 1908, during the last years of the Qing Dynasty, of hosting the games and also erasing the epithet of the "sick man of Asia".

Yet in a matter of days, this achievement now hangs under a cloud with the milk-tainting scandal. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that this was only revealed to the world only now when the problem was known as far back as March this year, with the whistle going off in early August. That the Chinese Government kept quiet till after the Olympics surely lays a charge of recklessness at the very doors of Tian An Men. The Chinese government is doing damage control now with the help of Minister Wen Jiaboa - or Wen yeye, as he is fondly referred to. But that is little use now. So far 4 precious infant lives have been lost - in China and Hongkong, with an incredible 53,000 others at risk in China alone, whose only fault is drinking the melamine-tainted infant milk. Worse, the problem may not be limited to China, but to any country that has been consuming milk and milk products originating in China.

Clearly this incident, and others before it (fake milk scandal of 2004) has demonstrated that the 5,000 year old civilisation has lost its sense of morals and ethics - totally. For the love of money, manufacturers have seen fit to introduce foreign elements (read 'poison') into perfectly good food so as to sell more of their products, thereby reaping more money. Harming people does not seem to have figured in any considerations of their actions. A month ago, I was a proud Chinese. Today, I am ashamed that I am a Chinese.

This time, as 100 years ago, the Chinese well deserves the epithet: The Sick Man of Asia in more ways than one. It is a shame that nothing has changed in 100 years. The only thing is this time around, it is the Chinese's own doing. Sadly, effort to shake off the world's bullying attitude towards China has come to nought.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

S-weeping time

The generals in Myanmar have the gall to ask the international community for aid in the cyclone disaster that has hit Myanmar. When it came to human rights, it is none of the international community's business. When it comes to human suffering, it is the international community's obligation. So far, the cyclone Nargis has claimed more than 10,000 lives - truly a disaster on the scale of the Asian Tsunami back in 2004.

The international community must help Myanmar, but it must not help the generals stay in power one day longer than necessary. These bunch of crooks have deprived the people the option of defending themselves. They reportedly did not do anything when they were warned of the impending cyclone two days before it moved into Myanmar. If you ask me, these generals are guilty of negligence of the highest order and should be court-martialed. The only problem is that the judges in the court-martial will be their own, so it will become a kangeroo court.

Even amidst the suffering and the aid that must be rushed to Myanmar, it is time that the incumbent military government be overthrown. Can this be the cyclone that also sweeps the government into the Bay of Bengal? One hopes so.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Down the torch

First the Tibetans reportedly destroyed Chinese property, albeit in their own land. Of course China had to respond to this lawless behaviour by sending in the police and the army to restore order and round up the trouble-makers. But world sympathy was with the Tibetans because the Chinese were seen as foreign occupiers and therefore had no business in Tibet. In fact, the Tibetans even have a government in exile in India, allegedly led by the Dalai Lama, who has been feted wherever he has gone, except in China and countries allied to China. So it is no surprise that Tibetans and their sympathizers are making use of the Olympic Torch Relay to demonstrate their opposition to Chinese occupation of their land.

Nobody can deny these demonstrations in a free society, not in London, not in Paris, not even in San Francisco. But I draw the line when these people attempt to seize the torch and extinguish it. Whatever the symbolism of the torch relay, or how it started or who started it and for what purpose, it has become a part of the Olympic games. In fact, the torch relay has been copied by many regional games. As such, a disruption of the relay is a disruption to the games - a direct provocation and challenge to the organisers of the Beijing Olympics and its worldwide participants and supporters. I daresay that, if ask, many in this group of people would agree with the Tibetans that their homeland should be free of occupation. But I also believe that they are opposed to any disruption of the games. So while the demonstrators have scored minor victories, such as extinguishing the torch in Paris, not once but 3 times, they may have lost the support of many. They have certainly lost mine.

It would have been enough to demonstrate along the torch relay route. Make noise if they want to. Tape up their mouths if they choose to. Show their placards to put across their message.  The world's press would report these to the world and the point would have been made. But by physically disrupting the relay and engaging in physical violence, now that is something that cannot be condoned, whatever one's grievance. There is talk that the entire torch relay be scrapped. If so, that may be a victory for Tibet, but sadly, they may have won the battle but would likely have lost the war. 

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Truth or dare

One should never respond to a criticism by proving the point of the criticism. Yet this is the very thing that some party/parties did when they threatened harm to the staff of 'of a serious nature'., if you don't already know it, was where Geert Wilders, the Member of the Dutch Parliament had his 15-minute 'Fitna' video shown originally. In Fitna, Mr Wilders attempted to show the worst side of radical Islam, quoting from the Koran, showing scenes of the Prophet Mohammad cartoon that angered so many Muslims around the world, and recounting terrorist acts from 911 to the Madrid train bombings to many reports of violence and hate speeches made by radical Islamic clerics and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Christians, Jews, the US and probably everyone else except themselves. has since pulled the video from their website, but not before it was copied and can now be found freely available in several privately hosted website as well as The video has even been translated to English from the original Dutch (which made sense as much of the major events that are shown in the video happened in English-speaking countries). What struck me as I watched the video was how much of the material were assembled from real events and newspaper reports. In other words, it is not fiction at all. Perhaps some may take issue with the Koranic verses quoted, that perhaps they were quoted out of context to bring out the worst interpretation possible to the texts. As I am not familiar with the Koran, I cannot decide one way or the other. But enough people have formed an opinion for them to leave messages on the internet in support of Wilder's message in Fitna.

Of course, this is not the politically correct view and national governments, including the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki Moon, have condemned the message of the video as spreading hatred. Why should hatred be countered with hatred? Should we kill to avenge another killing? I cannot say so one way or another. But in the interest of balance and allowing people to decide for themselves, the video should be made available. Hiding it would only perpetuate the suspicion that parties on both sides have for each other. Truly, the Islamic radicals have done themselves a dis-service - or are they admitting to what is shown in Fitna?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sans Bus

I take my hat off to Mdm Chow Mei-ching, aka Mrs Ma Ying-jeou. She is a legal advisor at a bank (that means she is a trained lawyer), and get this, she takes a bus to work! I think we should all take a leaf out of her! And she still took the bus to work AFTER her husband won the Taiwan Presidential elections! Amazing lady, I'd say. How refreshing to know that she is not affected nor puffed up by power and prestige. Come May this year, she will be the First Lady, and she intends to keep on working, with the support of her President-husband and many in Taiwan. Unfortunately she has had to forego her habit of taking public transport because of the paparazzi, who are following her on the bus, and causing everybody much inconvenience.

They say power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is a good start for a cleaner Taiwan. I hope that the first couple-designates will continue to live a humble life and set an example for the people.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Phishy Fishing

A story just broke that the makers of the G-Archiver software are unethical, and in my view, represents all that is wrong about the misuse of technology. According to this story, reported in website, and picked up by Zdnet, using the G-Archiver software, which purportedly backs up Gmail e-mail onto one's computers, one's Gmail account and password are silently sent to the Gmail e-mail account of one John Terry (  John has been identified as the rogue programmer employed by G-Archiver. It has has reacted to this news by pulling the code from its website and replacing it with a new one - sans the rogue codes. This is all well and good, but who would want to trust G-Archiver anymore when its control process is so lax as to allow rogue codes to be inserted into its commercial products. If it can happen once, it can happen again. Probably the safest thing to do is to stay away from this software and its makers.

This is shocking and it shows once again that you can't trust anyone on the Internet. The horrifying thing is that many of us spend so much of our waking hours on the Internet. Its like going swimming in a pool of crud, and before we know it, a thousand and one germs and viruses are sticking to us, some of which we ingest willingly. The lesson to learn is not to stop swimming, but to take protective gear along with you. Some of these protective gear will cost money, like firewalls and anti-virus software, but they are essential if you spend a lot of time on the Internet. But probably the most important protective gear you should put on is a healthy doze of skepticism and paranoia (remember - "only the paranoid survive" - Andrew Grove) - and this comes free. Its up to you. Don't just sign up for anything and everything that is offered to you free of charge on the Internet. And if your curiosity gets the better of you and you just can't help signing up, use a temporary throwaway e-mail account instead of your regular e-mail. Where can you find these throwaway e-mails. Try these: 10 Minute MailMailinator, Disposable e-mail, etc. Whichever of these or any other service you sign up for, make sure you don't have to give your regular e-mail during the signup process, unless you are very sure of the service you are signing up for.

Hopefully, we can continue to surf without catching all those germs and viruses and those rougue programmers.

Image source:  Author: Clara Natoli

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hungry for cash?

Well, how hungry are you? Or greedy? Or delusional? For a moment of delusion, I almost fell into a trap. There is this organisation operating on the web going around offering to put paid advertisements on your website. How does it all start?

They first send you e-mail that reads:
We have reviewed your blog on behalf of one of our
clients that would be interested in placing advertising with you.

Client profile :

DoingFine (
New project (<1 month old)
Theme A forum dedicated to those things that came out right and worked out fine.

What it doesn't say is which blog it is referring to. You see, I've got several blogs under Blogger, each with varying frequency of updates and visitation activity.

Next, the client website, site, is really nothing but a couple of forums. It is not selling anything, publishing anything substantial. Why would it be interested in driving traffic to it?

The e-mail goes on to say:
This would be a weekly, monthly or yearly arrangement. In either case
we will require a one time, one day (24 hours) free placement in order
to test the quality and quantity of traffic your website can actually
provide*. Within this interval, we will make a final determination,
based on the traffic volume, quality, and your asking price. Should
we find your terms acceptable, this trial day will count towards the
agreed interval.

Kindly let us know if you would be interested, which arrangement best
suits your editorial needs, and what rates you would like to charge.
We prefer using PayPal but may be able to accomodate alternative
payment methods.

Fair enough. I wouldn't expect anyone to hand over cash when they haven't got the goods. But how much to ask for? Nevermind if this all look suspicious. Money talks. I googled for the answer. Varying amounts were suggested. But the most sensible advice was to ask for an offer. I did that. The very next day (these guys work fast!), I received further communications to this effect:

We've created a button for you, please review it here :

(some URL ending with a gif link that contains string of unintelligible characters)

We feel it goes well with the general look and feel of your blog. Please
link it to

(again, a url link to a php program code)

This begins to look like a scam, but I ignored it. I clicked on the url, but it wasn't meaning. They also provide html code to put on my website/blog. I did that but upon publishing the html codes were stripped out, so the html code couldn't display any icon link. I got suspicious - finally - and did the smart thing - I google 'Polimedia Advertising' and '' and found out that this is likely a scam of sorts.

Now what made me think that my blog was any good anyway for anybody to pay a single cent towards it? Only Google has pennies to throw my way. Sigh....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

People abuse Power

I just cannot understand the Philippines. It seems that every year when it comes time to celebrate the occasion when the citizens toppled Ferdinand Marcos from power - the so-called 'People Power' Revolution - they look to topple every sitting leader ever since, except for General Ramos. This time, they gathered to call for the resignation of President Gloria Arroyo for alleged corruption. Well, I don't know if the corruption charges have any basis, but that is for a Court of Law to decide, is it not? You know, lawyers, public prosecutors, defence lawyers, plaintives, defendants, judges, due process, the Justice department, etc.? If is there nothing of the sort in this country, or is the justice system cowered into inaction by 'People Power'?

This rule of the mob is really unbecoming of a duly constituted democracy with a law and constitution. Worst - former leaders such as Corazon Acquino are active participants in this madness. Fortunately, this time around, the military and the Catholic Church very sensibly stayed away from these agitations.

I suppose there are festering social inequity in this country that has not been adequately addressed. But this is so in many other countries, is it not? Corruption? Malaysia and Indonesia are reportedly rife with it. Yet these countries do not demonstrate as regularly on a specific occasion and call it 'People Power'. Impeaching a sitting President is no small matter. It basically means that you are trying to revoke the collective will of the people that elected the President in the first place. Has 'People Power' no respect for the people? You can only impeach the President when you have proved beyond a shadow of doubt his/her alleged guilt. This has not been done at all. It is now basically based on hearsay and bald accusations, however strong that may be. Justice is being turned on its head. Guilty unless proven otherwise. What kind of country is this, anyway?

Come on, dear Filipinos, respect the rule of law even as you demand 'justice'.