Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Worst habits in Singapore

Singapore’s Class 95 radio station had an interesting challenge recently. They asked listeners to post videos of Singaporeans’ good and bad habits on their website.

A good idea, but I got a problem with the winner. The winning clip is… jaywalking? People jaywalked all over the world, how could that be Singaporean’s worst habit? This is my list:

1) Pride- We Singaporeans are a proud people. Too proud to admit we don’t know everything. I’m sure every Singaporean has an encounter with someone from our dear country who tries to pretend they know what they are doing or talking about when it’s pretty obvious they have no idea at all. These people usually will try to ‘bluff’ their way through with some half-ass explanations that leave you more confused than before the explanation.

2) Refusing to admit we are ever, ever wrong- Like I said earlier, Singaporeans are a proud people. We will never admit we are wrong, even when we know it. Everyone in Singapore from the government to the people walking the streets is somewhat guilty of this. A Singaporean admitting wrong in public? Never heard of it.

3) Reserving tables with tissue paper- Actually I don’t really have a problem with this very Singaporean habit. My problem is with the people who abused the system. There had been times when I sat down for lunch and there is a pack of tissue paper on the seat beside me. I’ve finished my lunch and the tissue paper is STILL THERE! I have no problem with ‘booking’ the seat, I have problem with Singaporeans who take their own sweet time deciding what to eat and then slowly lining up because they know they have a ‘booking’ already. Don’t take your own sweet time about it just because you have a ‘booking’.

That’s my list which, if I may say so, much superior than jaywalking. Pride; hey, I’m a Singaporean as well.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another quarter; another loss

Having bet the farm already, we knew that Temasek will not abandon their investment in Merrill Lynch.

So I guess we can’t be that surprised that Temasek will buy another $3.4 billion in the company. That is even after Merrill took another $5.7 billion in write-downs. Due to the losses, Merrill announced plans to raise at least $8.5 billion by selling new common shares. Of which Temasek will buy $3.4 billion.

Having invested so much in Merrill, I can understand why Temasek is going in further into the mess. However if Temasek are going in with so much of Singapore’s money, I suggest that take a more hands-on approach in the running of Merrill. Merrill has taken billions of dollars in write-downs in the past few quarters and had sold key holdings to cover those losses.

Merrill may be the No. 3 investment bank on Wall Street, but the problems there had been so bad that they had sold off a 20 percent stake in Bloomberg. You have to wonder just how bad things are there when there had been almost no good news for quite a while now. No matter how big the company is, you cannot have write-downs after write-downs, quarter after quarters.

So if Temasek want to invest more of Singapore’s money in Merrill, go right ahead. But after putting in some much money, Temasek need to put some oversight on the company. These sorts of losses just cannot continue.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What has changed?

Over the weekend, Singapore’s Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong made a call to the PAP (People’s Action Party) to take back the opposite ward of Hougang.

Now there’s nothing special on that, politicians do it all the time all over the world. What had me wondering was the reason behind this call. The incumbent, Mr Low Thia Khiang, is the head of the Worker’s Party and had scored a crushing win in the last election. In fact I believed he beat Mr Eric Low of the PAP by a record margin for an opposition win. So this call by the Senior Minister surprised me a little because I wondered what has changed.

Eric Low seems that he will be the PAP’s man again in the next elections, so what make Mr Goh Chok Tong think he will do any better this time. After all the problems the Singapore government had this year (the escape of Mas Selamat Kastari, the bad investments by GIC and Temasek, the decline of the Singapore economy, rising prices etc), I would think that the PAP would and should be more worried about keeping their seats than taking over other people’s.

So what has changed since the last election? A hell of a lot; and the PAP should worry less about Hougang or Potong Pasir, and a lot more about their own seats.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Comics this week

Trinity #8- You know how I had complained about the non-stop lectures by Kurt Busiek on how different Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman truly are? You remember how I liked last week’s issue of Trinity because the main story was finally going somewhere? This week Kurt Busiek had combined the two. However, it wasn’t that bad as we finally get to see what Morgan Le Fey and Enigma are up to. The forming of the second Trinity was interesting but I think the story and explanations were a little out there even for a comic book. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are the core of all 52 universe in the DCU; that’s a funny one to take.

Avengers Initiative #15- One big problem with mega crossovers like Secret Invasion is that readers are pushed out of their series with something that might not have anything to do with their series. To be fair, Dan Slott and Christos Gage had largely avoided this and had continued to put out some very good issues despite Secret Invasion…till now. The issue has 3-D Man being helped out by the Skrull Crusader, before being betrayed by him. Hey, he’s a Skrull. The rest of the issue shows where Crusader stands on the invasion, and why he is betraying his race. A nice good story but I can’t help but feel that this story was pushed to the forefront due to the invasion. The rest of the cast were forgotten due to this and I feel that was a huge problem.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Review of The Dark Knight

When you heard that The Dark Knight had earned over $200 million in just five days, you know it has to be good. The sequel to ‘Batman Begins’ has the intense Christian Bale as the caped crusader again under the direction of Christopher Nolan, and it is every bit as good as advertised.

However, the true stars of the film are the villains. Batman's arch-nemesis the Joker makes a return to the big screen along with Two-Face. The deceased Heath Ledger was good but and Aaron Eckhart as ‘Two-Face’ Harvey Dent was nothing short of great.

The film starts with the Joker robbing a mob-owned bank as Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) teamed up with the new district attorney Harvey Dent to eradicate the mob. Batman feels that Harvey Dent could be the public hero Batman cannot. However Batman's love interest, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes), is dating Harvey. Protecting Gotham comes first for the Batman though as Batman, Gordon, and Dent take it to the mob.

Desperate, the mob bosses hired The Joker to kill Batman. The Joker tells all of Gotham that if the Batman does not turn himself in to the police, he will kill more and more people each day. When the Joker begins killing public officials, including the police commissioner and the judge presiding over the mob trials, Batman decides its time to turn himself in. However, Dent refused to do so, believing that doing this would mean that the Joker had won. Hoping to draw the Joker out of hiding, Dent announced that he is the Batman. The Joker attempts to kill Dent, but Gordon and Batman stopped and arrest him. Gordon got promoted to police commissioner due to the arrest.

However the Joker had hired a group of corrupt police officers to kidnap Dent and Dawes beforehand and they took them to separate warehouses rigged with explosives. The Joker revealed that Dawes and Dent have been taken to opposite sides of the city, and asked Batman to choose who to save. Batman decided to save Dawes, while Gordon and the police headed after Dent. However the locations were switched, sending Batman after Dent and Gordon after Dawes. With the help of a bomb planted at the police station, the Joker escapes from the police. Batman managed to save Dent, but Dent sustains severe burns on the side of his face. Dawes died. In the hospital, Dent went mad with grief over the loss of Dawes. The Joker frees Dent from the hospital and convinces him to exact revenge on the cops, mobsters and Gordon.

While Harvey "Two-Face" Dent confronts the corrupt cops and the mobsters one by one, Batman locates the Joker and defeats him. Defeated by Batman, the Joker reveal his ‘ace in the hole’, Harvey Dent. Batman finds Two-Face in the warehouse where Dawes died, along with Gordon and his family. After a shot fight, Dent lies dead after falling from the building. Batman and Gordon realize the fallout the city would suffer if Dent's acts of murder became known, so Batman convinces Gordon to blame him for all the murders.
As the movie ends, a manhunt is issued for the Batman.

Dark, grim and great, that is ‘The Dark Knight’.

Although called the ‘The Dark Knight’, I feel Harvey Dent was the star of the movie. The engrossing tragedy of the character was what made this movie tick. As I said earlier, Aaron Eckhart was nothing short of great. Christian Bale as the angst-filled hero and Heath Ledger as the crazy maniacal Joker were very good, but Eckhart portrayal of Harvey Dent was the extremely moving. When he went mad at the end, you can truly understand why. The Oscar nomination should go to him as I thought he overshadowed the rest of the cast.

Some parts of the movie are confusing, like Batman’s final fight with the Joker, but on the whole ‘The Dark Knight’ is a great movie which will haunt and move you. Watch it!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No to Nuclear Power

People all over the world are thinking of ways to lower their dependence on oil. Everything from solar power to wind power to electricity has been mooted. As a pretty open-minded person, I’m all for all the methods mentioned. All but one; nuclear power is a ‘no’ for me.

Some people are all for nuclear power as it is clean, efficient and relatively cheap compare to other alternative source of power. However, an accident in France recently showed exactly why I’m against nuclear power. About 100 employees were contaminated by a leak at a reactor site in southern France. Now the operators of the site tried to say that the employees were just "slightly contaminated", but when you are exposed to radiation; I am of the thinking that there’s no such thing as ‘low contamination’.

This was the third incident at a French nuclear site in recent weeks and this is in France. I hate to think what would happen if some second or third world country exactly decided to start a nuclear reactor. (Yes Indonesia, I’m talking about you)

So when it comes to nuclear power, I say ‘NO”!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why the Surprise?

A few Singaporeans I know reacted in surprise when they read that an average of 1,000 Singapore gave up their citizenship each year. What surprised them wasn’t the number, but where they emigrated to.

The U.S and Australia, they can understand; but other ASEAN countries? Most of them cannot understand why Singaporeans are going to other Southeast Asian countries when Singapore is the most advanced country in the region.

Yes, there is a little of the Singaporean pride in play here but I don’t understand the surprise? I mean its’ hardly a secret that Singapore Malays had always immigrated to countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. In fact, the joke is that Malaysian Chinese come south in exchange for Singaporean Malays who go north. That’s a joke that is not entirely untrue.

So am I surprised that Singaporeans are going to other Southeast Asian countries? No; I’m just surprised so many Singaporeans are surprised at this.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Betting on F1

Like most countries in the world, Singapore will suffer from slowing economic growth this year. Now most countries will grudgingly admit this and try to put a positive spin on things. Singapore is no different.

So when Singapore government said that Singapore is not facing stagflation, rising inflation accompanied by falling industrial production and high unemployment, I wasn’t surprised. What surprised me was the reason the Singapore government gave.

While admitting that Singapore’s economic growth has slowed, the Singapore government says that strong foreign investments and upcoming tourism projects, including the Formula One race in September, will provide relief for the rest of the year.

Now I know that the F1 race on Sept 28 is supposed to be a major tourist attraction, but is it right to bet on the whole year’s economic growth on one race? I mean Malaysia has a F1 race for years and I never heard of them betting their yearly growth on the race. Surely, the Singapore government can come up with a better reason than a F1 race.

So the next time the Singapore government wants to say that the Singapore economy is doing fine; go right ahead. Just please, try to give a better reason.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Comics this week

Trinity #7- I knew you could do it. Writer Kurt Busiek showed his stuff as he finally got on to the story. No more lectures on different Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are. The main story and the Tarrot backup story converge this issue as Hawkman and Gangbuster seek the help of the JLA. I liked the interaction between Batman and Hawkman as it rung true to both characters. Even more interesting was the return of Morgan Le Fey and Enigma. However, after last week's excellent work, Fabien Nicieza's back-up stories returned to its lacklustre ways. I don't understand why John Stewart is showing up so often when he does nothing at all. A training session as a back-up story? Sorry, not for me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

ASEAN’s Silence

Politicians say some strange things sometimes, but ASEAN statement yesterday that they had issued a strong response to last September’s crackdown on demonstrations in Myanmar surprised even me.

What strong response? The only response I remembered was…silence!

No matter whether it was September’s crackdown on demonstrations or the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, I don’t remember any ‘strong’ response. All I remembered is how Myanmar embarrassed the hell out of ASEAN by ignoring ASEAN. I applauded Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo for at least admitting that ASEAN’s response to Cyclone Nargis deserved only a “C" grading.

In fact, most countries have already decided that ASEAN is a toothless tiger after the mess in Myanmar last year and that’s not even counting the silence of ASEAN on the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia. Both countries have troops at their border and ASEAN’s response…that’s right, silence again!

If ASEAN want people to take it seriously as a regional entity, then they must start responding to crisis in their own region. They can start with Thailand and Cambodia immediately.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pollution Problems in China

(Beijing on a clear day against Beijing on a hazy day)

The 2008 Olympic Games begin on 8 August. It’s a lucky date in Chinese culture; too bad about the lead-up to that date because the Chinese government just can’t buy a break.

Just 3 weeks from the Games and only now has the Chinese government successfully cleared tonnes of algae that had blocked the Olympic sailing course in the eastern city of Qingdao. I’m sure most of you had seen pictures of the algae that has made the water of Qingdao, well…green.

The Chinese government had to send out some 10,000 troops from the People's Liberation Army for the works and Olympic sailing teams (who had been there early for training) can now finally train on the course.

This is a surprise for me as I had always thought that the pollution problem in China was overblown (as the Chinese government had often said), well the picture above shows what I know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Asking for Demonstrations

In the confusion of Malaysian politics, the one thing everyone seems to want is demonstrations. Everyone wants demonstrations; not just the opposition, but the Malaysian police as well.

That’s my thought when I read that Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was arrested outside his home, despite Anwar agreeing to be interviewed by the police. In fact, a large police convoy picked up the former deputy prime minister just hours before Anwar was due to give a statement to police over sodomy allegations.

Why did the police not wait for Anwar to report to the station before arresting him? It’s not as if the 60 year-old opposition leader was going anywhere. The only reason I can think of is the desire to have chaos on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

When Anwar was arrested on these same charges 10 years ago, there were large demonstrations by his supporters in KL. It is almost certain that the same thing will happen again now, and it seems that this is something everyone wants.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Review of Kung Fu Panda

I will admit this; the idea of a kungfu fighting panda is a winner. So it’s no surprise that I liked Kung Fu Panda.

The animated film from DreamWorks Animation is about Po, a bungling panda who aspires to be a great kung fu warrior. Of course, no one think this is possible as
1) he is fat
2) he is clumsy
And 3) as the bad guy said, “He is a PANDA!”

The story itself is pretty simple and straightforward. The tortoise Master Oogway has a premonition that the evil snow leopard Tai Lung will escape from prison and return to threaten the Valley of Peace. Oogway orders a formal ceremony to choose a mighty Dragon Warrior who can defeat Tai Lung. Everyone assumes that one of the Furious Five - Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper, and Crane will be chosen for this honor, but Oogway choose Po and gave Po to his own protégé, the red panda Master Shifu, for training.

Master Shifu was less than happy about this as he was the one who had trained the Furious Five. Revolted that Po was chosen instead of his own student, Shifu attempts to make him quit by berating him endlessly. Although he becomes aware of Shifu's intentions, Po endures the abuse willingly for the dream to become something more than the failure he thinks he is. At the same time, Po endears himself to the Five with his good cooking and sense of humor.

Tai Lung finally escaped from prison. While the Five rushed to intercept Tai Lung, Shifu discovers a way to train Po; his love for food! Shifu leads Po to the countryside for an intensive training regime in which Po is offered food as a reward for learning his lessons. With breakfast, lunch and dinner at stake, Po swiftly becomes a skilled kungfu master and defeat Tai Lung in the final showdown.

As I said, the story is nothing you haven’t seen before in countless kungfu movies. What Kung Fu Panda got really right was the humor. The interplay between Po and Master Shifu was excellent and the idea of a big, fat panda training to be a kungfu master was milked for all its worth.

Having said that, some parts of the movie was disappointing. I would like to have seen more of the Furious Five; Jackie Chan had all of 2 lines in the whole movie. The rest of the Five didn’t fare much better.

Overall, the movie was great. With the success of the film, DreamWorks has already outlined a plan for six Kung Fu Panda films. Six films seen like overkill to me but if they all live up to the overall performance of the initial film, count me in.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Crisis not over

Any hope the world has that the credit crisis gripping America has done its worst was blown out of the water this past week. After the collapse of IndyMac Bancorp Inc, there is now huge trouble at mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

To its credit, the U.S government isn’t taking any chances. The American Federal Reserve and the U.S Treasury has announced steps to shore up both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who owned about half the outstanding mortgages in the United States. That’s around US$5.3 trillion.

The Fed said that it would lend to the two companies "should such lending prove necessary" and would pay 2.25 percent for any borrowed funds. All good steps that are needed to prevent the credit market troubles from engulfing the world’s financial markets.

For anyone who thinks that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are too big to fail, I should remind you that IndyMac had $19.06 billion in total deposits and collapsed after depositors withdraw more than $1.3 billion during the 11 days. This proves that despite all the government’s steps, the American people are still very nervous about their economy.

Let’s just hope the market turmoil do not turn into a tsunami that will engulf the world.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Comics this week

Trinity #6- A strange thing happen in this issue of Trinity; I find that I prefer the back-up to the main story. Of course that may have something to do with Hawkman as the main player in the back-up, but it also tell you there's something wrong with the main story this week. Basically this week we have writer Kurt Busiek trying to tell us how different are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman...again. We get it already Kurt, we already had six straight weeks of it already. When can we get start on the mystery of the dreams?

Secret Invasion #4- I know of some people who prefer Marvel's Secret Invasion to DC's Final Crisis; for the life of me I don't understand why. After showing up at the end of last issue, you would expect Nick Fury to play an important role here right? Not even close! The action shift from space (how is Agent Brand still alive after 2 issue in space?), the Savage Land and New York with some narration from some Skrull. Nick Fury did nothing expect to shoot someone on his side. And what's with the Black Widow? After having a shoot first policy, she then refused to shoot Tony Stark? The Skrull Spider Woman's speech to Tony Stark was another head spinner, why don't she just shoot him if he was one of the handful of humans who can saved the human race like the Black Widow said. Secret Invasion #4 is a total mess.

Nova #15- One thing about this issue. The art by Salvador Larroca is great! The guy really knows how to show a world ending. Having said that, this issue doesn't reach the height of the earlier issues. I think writer Matt Fraction made a mistake when he use the struggle between Nova and Harrow as the main focus of the issue. I am a firm believer that when you have Galactus and Silver Surfer in the background; use them! The fight between Nova and Harrow is satisfying, but that's all. Satisfying, but not as outstanding as the earlier issues.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Upgrading is NOT the way to fight inflation

Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has been flogged on the Internet because he warned that Singapore could face inflation if companies increase wages to help workers cope with the higher cost of living today.

Now on some degree I agree with him, after all Singapore's economy suffered a 6.6% decline in the second quarter. What I disagree with him is what's being done to help Singaporeans cope with growing inflation. If increasing wages is not the answer the Singapore government want, what is?

Singapore's competitiveness and the ability to create jobs has not been affected by the global slowdown thus far, as proven by record profits in a booming economy in 2007. However, our competitiveness will be affected if Singaporeans workers are unhappy with their paychecks. Wage stagnation in line with inflation is a problem that GST credits and Workfare Income Scheme will not solve, especially when inflation will be between 5-6 per cent on average this year.

What's more there's no reason to believe inflation will be lower towards the end of the year. Global oil prices are almost at US$150 and most expect that it will cross that mark before the end of the year. Inflation pressure will increase when that happen.

Mr Tharman said that raising wages is not the answer, so what is the answer? Mr Tharman believed that the lasting solution to inflation is to continue with efforts to help workers upgrade their skills and earn better wages. However, that only works if there are jobs you can upgrade to. Which will be hard to find when your economy just slumped 6.6% for the quarter. Also the credit crunch crisis in the United States and Europe has not yet been solved. Singapore is heavily dependent on world trade, and the slowdown in the U.S. and Europe will continue to be a drag on Singapore's growth. Mr Tharman himself had said that the weakness in the US economy could extend into next year.

So upgrading skills as the way to fight inflation? Sorry, I don't think so.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Taxi Problem in the CBD

After new Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges were introduced in Singapore’s city centre (again), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has proudly said that travel speeds and traffic conditions in the city centre have improved.

Of course it had improved, because no one is using them. However, I foresee a little problem for the new ERP gantries- taxi drivers. With the new gantries in place, I think less taxis will enter the CBD which sort of make nonsense the recent ruling of a $3 surcharge for picking up passengers in the CBD area. Think about it: $3 surcharge for picking up passengers in the CBD will be immediately offset by the new ERP rates.

Less taxis will enter the CBD because of this new ERP rates. Taxis won’t go in unless they are certain to get a fare. I foresee long lines in the taxi-stand at Funan and City Hall as the taxis will not want to pass the new gantry at Boat Quay.

So instead of encouraging people to take public transport, the new gantries might actually take away a form of public transport from the public. Food for thought for the LTA.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Review of Wanted

An action film based loosely on the comic book miniseries Wanted by Mark Millar, the movie Wanted is director’s Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) Hollywood debut.

The word here is ‘loosely’. If you had read and loved the miniseries, then you are going to be disappointed at this movie. Director Timur Bekmambetov basically kept the names of the characters from the miniseries…and nothing else.

Whereas the comic book ‘Wanted’ was set in a world where evil supervillians had won and ruled the planet, the movie ‘Wanted’ had a thousand-year-old secret society of super assassins called ‘The Fraternity’ who are out to maintain order in the world. Got that? If your mind can get around this plot difference, you might like the movie.

The movie is full of thrilling stunts and action scenes which will rival anything you will found in any other summer blockbuster and Bekmambetov kept them coming. At no point did I find the movie slow because car chases and shootouts came one after another. Look out especially for an excellent one at the start when Wesley and Fox first meet.

The one thing I will say the film had absolutely right was the cast. James McAvoy as Wesley Allan Gibson and Angelina Jolie as Fox were perfectly cast in their role. Angelina Jolie has to be the hottest religious fanatic ever to be seen on screen. Morgan Freeman as Sloan, the leader of The Fraternity, was excellent in the first half of the film. However in the second half, I had a hard time picturing him as a man who was so afraid of his own death that he would betrayed everything he own dear just to survive, but that could just be me.

While I dislike the way the story deviated so strongly from the comic book, the movie is still a highly entertaining action film. Watch it if you are looking for a mindless action flick, just don’t read the comic book first.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The manhunt that refused to go away

That's right, it still on. The Home Affairs Ministry of Singapore has once again refused to accept that Mas Selamat Kastari has escaped from Singapore. According to the Home Affairs Ministry's statement, there's no intelligence or information which suggests that Mas Selamat Kastari is in Indonesia, so the manhunt for Singapore's most wanted terrorist is still on.

After hearing this, I have only one thing to say, "The Singapore government is in denial."

Simply as that, because I'm afraid there's no other explanation for it. I think I'm speaking for a lot of Singaporeans when I say that I will be very surprised if Mas Selamat is still in Singapore. The man has now evaded the manhunt for 5 months. 5 months after escaping and the man has not found a way out of Singapore yet? Yet Singaporeans are to believe that this is the same man who could slipped out of the Whitley Road Detention Centre in February this year in just 11 mins without any outside help?

I have yet to speak to any Singaporeans who believed that Mas Selamat is still in Singapore, if the Singapore government has some info we don't, please tell us. If not, they risked looking very, very stupid to the world.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The 95th Tour de France

Here it is again. The media circus of the year in sports the ‘Tour de France’.

Cycling’s most prestigious race begins Saturday and riders will attempt to reach the finish line in three weeks as the new winner of the Tour. Even with doping scandals stirring around, it is still the biggest cycling event of the year.

Which is a pity as the sport is trying and going overboard to shake off its history of drugs and cheating. A whole host of the sport’s biggest names will not be in the Tour as the Tour organizers are in guilt by association mood. Last year’s winner, Alberto Contador, will not be defending his title as his team, Astana, wasn’t invited because of doping scandals it faced in the last two years. Like I said; ‘guilt by association’.

That’s not even counting the fact that Contador only won the title last year after last year’s tour leader Michael Rasmussen was forced to quit amid doping suspicions. Note that it is doping ‘suspicions’ because there was no proof at all. Rasmussen had 17 tests while on the tour, all of which were negative, but was still forced to quit due to suspicions. A Dutch court had already ordered Rasmussen’s former cycling team to pay the Dane $1 million for wrongful dismissal, and rumors are that Rasmussen’s lawyers will go after the Tour de France organizers next.

This year is the 95th edition of the Tour and organizers has said that they hope fans will focus more on the drama of racing, and less on the doping scandals. Hopefully they will take their own advice.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Comics this week

Trinity #5- Despite the problems this series has, the one thing writer Kurt Busiek has gotten right is the characterizations and interplay between Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The issue this week showcase this again as the Trinity of the DCU finally defeat the ‘big, bad alien from outer space’. It’s the aftermath that makes this issue work. The playfulness of Wonder Woman and easy chemistry of the Trinity was in full view as Busiek again show why he is such a highly rated writer. Even the back-story works for this issue. Granted it was mainly because the story had Tarrot finally doing something other than moping about her disturbing visions (even if it was running for her life). A few more issue like this and Trinity will be back on track.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A terrible idea

The Singapore government has some pretty harebrained ideas at times, but giving car owners the option to exchange their Preferential Additional Registration Fee (PARF) and the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) rebates for cash has bought it to a whole new level.

I know that most Singaporeans will love this new scheme but I don’t. The reason is simple; the change is to encourage motorists to give up their cars and switch to public transport.

Just how does this money encourage people to do that?

I mean what is to stop these people from using these cash rebate and buy new cars? Nothing! If anything, this new policy might increase the car population in Singapore. Does anyone truly think that people will save the money in the bank?

With a large amount of cash on hand, what will most Singaporeans do with it? They will take it and go buy things; things like new cars! In fact, with the new-found liquidity, owners might take longer, heavier loans from finance companies and increased their debts. All in all; this is a terrible, terrible idea.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Euros best XI

I was very surprised that Xavi Hernández was voted the best player of Euro 2008. I thought he played very well for Spain and was rightly in front of Cesc Fàbregas in the Spain's first XI. But best player...I thought not. Here's my first XI for the Euros.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
Left-back: Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Holland)
Centre-back: Pepe (Portugal)
Centre-back: Carlos Puyol (Spain)
Right-back: Vedran Ćorluka (Croatia)
Left Midfield: Yuri Zhirkov (Russia)
Defensive Midfielder: Marcos Senna (Spain)
Attacking Midfielder: Michael Ballack (Germany)
Right Midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Striker: Andrei Arshavin (Russia)
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

Coach: Guus Hiddink (Russia)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

An allegation which no one believe in

10 years ago, after being convicted with a sodomy and corruption charge (which no one believed), then- Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim had to spent the next six years in prison.

After a stunning return to politics in March, now- Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was poised to re-enter Parliament and challenge Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's United Malays National Organization (UMNO) for leadership of the country.

Just then; there’s another sodomy accusation against him.

Anwar Ibrahim claimed that the sodomy accusation is just part of a political conspiracy to keep him from running for Parliament. I believe him. I, like most people, never believed the allegations the first time, and I sure as hell do not believe them now. Funny thing is that even people who gave the Malaysian government the benefit of the doubt the first time don’t believe them now. The accusation came just as Anwar was poised to re-enter Parliament in a by-election. Most people think it will be stupid for him to make such a mistake again. And say what you want about Anwar Ibrahim, no one has ever accused him of being stupid.

In fact, analysts say that the allegations could help Anwar. Like they say; fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.