Saturday, February 28, 2009

GIC say 'Yes' to Citi

A few days ago I reap praise on Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) for saying ‘No’ to Citigroup; I said it too soon.

I cannot believe that GIC have agreed to convert all their preferred shares in Citigroup into common stock. Now the price of US$3.25 is far below the originally agreed conversion price of $26.35 a share, but there’s a few thing we must consider:

1) Citi’s closing price on Thursday is at US$2.46 a share!
2) By converting, GIC will lose the 7% annual dividend that it has been receiving if it chose not to convert its holdings.
3) based on Thursday’s closing price of US$2.46 for Citi shares, GIC will now suffer a US$1.67 billion loss
4) data clearly show that the U.S. recession is going to get worse before it get any better with the U.S. economy shrinking more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2008
5) U.S. government has just taken a 36% stake in Citigroup (I don’t care if the Americans don’t want to admit it, that’s a nationalization of a bank)
6) GIC is now the second-biggest shareholder in Citi with a stake of about 11%, and Citi’s shares plunged 37% to US$1.55 at the start of US trading on Friday after the bank’s announcement. GIC is paying US$3.25; the current price is US$1.55. Do the math!
7) The profitability of all US banks is likely to be impaired in the next two years’ and Citi is still in danger

Now if Citigroup is still a viable entity, there will be no need for much a dramatic effort by the U.S. government to prop it up. GIC is making a loss investing in an ailing bank in a weak market with poor economic outlook on the horizon. After all this, can someone from GIC please come out and explain why in the bloody world they will do the conversion.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Comics this week

Reign in Hell #8- Reign in Hell remind me of one of those movies who is good, maybe even great, and then it all fall apart in the last 10mins. Usually this is because the directors of the movie went out of the way to get a happy ending. Sometimes it’s because they went out of their way to get a final twist into the story. That’s what happens here. A good mini-series which was destroyed by being too clever for its own good. After all the fighting between Satanus and Neron, after all the talk about nothing happens in hell without him knowing, Lady Blaze won the throne like that? Satanus was betrayed by failing to see her reaching out an arm? It’s actually funny; unfortunately Reign in Hell isn’t a comedy. Too bad, this series could have being great.

Nova #22- The dispute between Richard Rider and Worldmind escalate as Rider try to find out why the supercomputer is acting so weird. It was a good explanation and this issue gives me hope that last issue was nothing but a fluke. The upcoming War of Kings is a concern as I fear the Corps was rebuilt just so that it could be destroyed again, and I don’t want that. But I’ll be here to see what will happen next issue. That’s never a bad thing.

Avengers: The Initiative #22- With Dark Reign on, many fans wonder if A:TI will be pushed to the back of the pile of many readers. I hope not because A:TI is still an excellent series. Ragnarok, the clone of Thor from Civil War, is a perfect of why a series like A:TI is needed. The series is a platform for all those little-known or plain forgotten characters in the Marvel U. I’ve almost forgotten MVP’s body was still in the basement of Camp Hammond and I like the fact that A:TI is trying up the loose ends of the series.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Suicide Squad?

Movies based on comic books has been a great source of hits these past few years. The success of these movies has being pretty uneven. The big hit last year was DC Comics' and Warner Brothers “The Dark Knight”, but for every “The Dark Knight” there’s an Incredible Hulk.

However the success of movie franchises make studio willing to do these movies. The list of upcoming comic’s movies is pretty long. To my knowledge there’s Watchmen (opening next month, watch for my review here), Sin City 2, Wolverine, Iron Man 2, Thor, Supermax (a Green Arrow movie). These are the certainties. Possible comic’s movies in development include X-Men: First Class, Spiderman 4, Captain America, Green Lantern, a new Batman movie (almost a certainty), a new Superman movie, even a Youngblood movie.

So movies based on comic books are hot. So hot that I am wondering if it’s too much of a good thing. I think this when I heard that "Suicide Squad" is on its way to a movie reincarnation. Suicide Squad is a team of super villains who are given a shot at freedom by the government if they managed to complete a mission that will most likely kill them. A suicide mission thus the name of the team. Think the “Dirty Dozen” with superpowers.

A good interesting concept but why is Warner working on a film adaptation of it? "Suicide Squad" was never that popular to begin with. Even in it’s heydays in the 80’s and 90’s, it was a mid level book sale wise…at best.

I will admit I will be interested to see DC villains like Deadshot at work, but I hope Hollywood will not kill the goose laying the golden eggs. Overexposure can kill any genre.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good Decision to Walk Away

With Citigroup insolvent and in need of more cash infusions, they have been asking their investors to convert their preferred Citigroup shares into common stocks. Reports from America say that the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) will say no.

GIC is refusing to convert their preferred Citigroup shares into common stock and the reason is simple. It’s not a good deal.

Based on the terms of the initial purchase, GIC must convert at a 20% premium above the reference price, which is based on the average Citi share price in the days following the initial announcement on Jan 15, 2008. That reference price comes out to US$26, so that means that if GIC want to convert their shares into common stocks, they must pay over US$31 a share. Citi's current price is at US$2.14 on Monday.

GIC will want to keep its US$6.88 billion investment in the US bank, but chances are that Citi will reaches some kind of agreement with US officials that includes a greater government role. Let call it what it is; the nationalisation of Citibank. If the US government does that (and most believe they will have to for Citigroup to survive), this will lead to a dilution of GIC's stake.

With such dangers, I fully support GIC’s decision not to do the conversion. Paying US$31 a share when the price on the market is just above US$2 is nonsense. Walk away from the investment if they have to, but let’s not be taken for a ride. Good decision!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brace for Tough Times...and then?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked Singaporeans to brace for tough times. The PM says that Singapore’s economy will contract between 2 to 5% as Singapore’s export markets are all suffering from recession.

All good and fine, but I want to know what strategy the Singapore government has to get ourselves out of this quagmire. Everywhere else in the world, countries are implanting ways to bring their economy out of trouble. The Obama Administration in the U.S has a trillion dollars stimulus package, the Chinese government lend money to their SMEs (small-medium enterprise), and even our neighbour Indonesia has a plan to focus on their raw materials as an engine of growth. Singapore’s plan however seems to consist of praying for the U.S economy to turn around.

Like other export-reliant Asian economies, Singapore has been hard hit by the collapse in consumer demand as economies slow sharply around the world. Just look at the waters to the south of our island and you will see container ships and tankers just parked there. It’s all fine and well for our PM to say that times would be tough for Singapore and Singaporeans need to bunker down, but I would feel much more comfortable if they can come up with a strategy that consist of more than praying for other countries to do the work for them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Curious Case of American Words & Terms

Just last week, I heard that the Obama Administration shouting loud and clear that there will NOT be any nationalisation of any American bank.

Today is Monday, and I read that the U.S. government could end up owning as much as 40 percent of Citigroup. This might be of some relief to investors, but I have to ask, “How is owning 40% of a bank NOT nationalization of the bank?”

I know America hate the term but surely if you own 40% of a bank, that means the bank has been nationalized already. I mean that’s like calling mercenaries “private contractors”. Wait this is America I am talking about, forget I said anything.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Comics this week

Guardians of the Galaxy #10- The gurus of the Marvel cosmic universe, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, have a lot to keep up with in Guardians of the Galaxy. The current team met up with Starlord finally and rescue both him and Jack Flagg from the over-run 42 prison. The story of Adam Warlock and the Universal Church of Truth is interesting but with the team spilt all over the place, Phyla-Vell and Drax were MIA this issue. Inevitable considering how many threads there are ongoing, but there's no rush job on the art this issue. Hopefully this is something they can keep up.

Stormwatch #19- Stormwatch and the Authority fight to save the Carrier, and Jackson King finally get to show why he is considered one of the most powerful people on Earth. He seems more powerful than I remember but that's good. Stormwatch need all the help they can get and between him and Winter, Stormwatch has 2 powerhouses. The back-story in this issue was a highlight for me. Usually I find it pretty interesting to know what happen to some of the minor characters in the Wildstorm world, and I have always like Max Faraday. His powers are pretty interesting. Like to see him and Tao go at it.

Street Fighter IV #1- I collect this because it is a first issue and I always like to give them a chance to impress me. Udon did a smart move in this issue; the story evolves around the new fighters in the Street Fighter universe. No Ryu, Ken or Chun Li here, the story is on Abel and the double agent Crimson Viper. With a new game and new characters, I think having stories on the newer characters (as opposed to another telling of the main characters) is a smart move. Pretty impressive #1 really.

Friday, February 20, 2009

After a US$50 billion fraud case, comes a US$8 billion fraud case

Last year, the global credit crisis exposed one of the greatest financial fraudster in the history of mankind in (former) Wall Street heavyweight Bernard Madoff. Accused of running a scam that cost his investors US$50 billion, the man is now under house arrest pending trial.

However any notion that Madoff is a one-off incident is now dead in the water because U.S financier R. Allen Stanford is now accused of committing an US$8 billion fraud. Although it pale in comparison to Madoff’s US$50 billion scam, US$8 billion is still a lot of money. Stanford is accused of committing the fraud by lured investors with promises of improbable and unsubstantiated high returns on certificates of deposit. With the stock market wipe-out, it is believed that most of these “certificates of deposit” are now close to worthless.

Like Madoff, Stanford is a very well-known personality. At 58, he has a personal fortune estimated at $2.2 billion and is known to bankroll public works and cricket tournaments. He is a major donator in U.S. politics, owns homes and operates his businesses everywhere from the U.S to Europe. He even has a knighthood in Antigua in recognition of his charity work.

And just like Madoff, Stanford’s victims include some pretty well known names; Vijay Singh and Micheal Owen are among the victims this time as people rushed to withdraw their money from Stanford International Bank and its affiliates in a half-dozen other countries. With another multi-billion fraud coming just 2 months after the Madoff, I have to wonder what the hell the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is doing. How can they miss TWO multi-billion fraud case?

If this is the standard in the U.S, I wonder about the future. With the Dow at a 6 year low, I wonder just how many more scams and how many more billions of dollars are lost now due to these fraudsters.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Right and No Wrong Here

One piece that is making the rounds is that one of Singapore's rising foreign badminton talents Riky Widianto, 17, has quit the Singapore national team and went back to his home country of Indonesia.

Doubles specialist Riky Widianto, 17, said that he was told to either take up Singapore citizenship or go back to Indonesia. Riky tendered his resignation to the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) and flew home to Indonesia earlier this month. Now Singaporeans seem spilt about this issue. Some agreed with badminton officials who wanted Riky to be a Singaporean as soon as possible (no reason spending money training someone who might not represent the country in the future), whereas others understand Riky’s position (changing nationality is a big decision especially at 17). Some has even blame Singapore’s foreign talent scheme for sports, saying that it is nothing but buying talent to win medals for Singapore.

First thing first: My view on the foreign talent scheme is that it IS buying medals for Singapore, and I have no problem with it.

With that out of the way, I can’t understand why Singaporeans are upset with either SBA or Riky on this issue. To me, this is one of those times when neither side is wrong or right. Both side got their views on this and they are all valid. 17 is too young to decide on changing your nationality and SBA is right in wanting Riky to commit to representing Singapore before spending more money on the young talent.

To me it’s a little unfair to blame either the SBA or Riky on the issue. Even criticism of the foreign talent scheme was a little unfair. You can’t argue with results and Singapore did get an Olympic silver medal from the scheme. Anyone want to throw that medal back into the ocean and wipe that medal off the record books? Not too many Singaporeans will want that I feel.

Singaporeans should cool down on this issue because there’s no right or wrong. Just different people with their own different views.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Time to cut our losses

With new revelations that the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) suffered a loss of about 50 billion Singapore dollars last year, you have to wonder how much worse things are going to be in the future.

Between Temasek and GIC, Singapore’s two sovereign wealth funds has losses of about $100 billion last year. The thing I worried about is that unlike most other entities (the Koreans, the Arabs) who had also invested in financial companies like UBS, Merrill and Citigroup, neither Temasek or GIC has cut their losses.

Now I am all in favour of long term investments, but the signs are that we will only be able to recoup our losses in about 15-20 years at best. That's if everything go well. With no sign of a turn-around, the stock market tanking again, and with President Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, floating the possibility of nationalizing several major banks in the US, it might be better to bite the bullet and cut our losses now.

The fact that these investments were mistakes is something that no one will argue with now, so let's our losses now before things get worse.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Malaysian BN commit political suicide

Unable to beat the opposition in the polls, it seems that the Malaysia's coalition government, Barisan Nasional (BN), has decided to commit political suicide. I think this because nothing else makes sense.

Recently a Malaysian opposition legislator, Elizabeth Wong, has to resign after photographs of her sleeping naked were circulated to the public by cell phone. Now this was obviously to discredit her party, but I fear the Malaysian government may have bitten more than they could chew here. By resigning, Ms. Wong has become the clear victim here and there will be a by-election for her seat. With two other by-elections in April, this make a total of 3 seats open for the Malaysian voters to decide. Heavy odds are that the opposition is going to win all 3 by a big margin.

I just don’t understand what the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is doing. First, they took in 2 lawmakers who had left the opposition after they went under police investigations for corruption and that has already made the people angry! Now there are naked photos of an opposition legislator. Does the BN still want to win the next general election?

Malaysians are already angry at the (illegal) power grab earlier on, now there are naked photos of an opposition legislator. Photos which are taken illegally without her consent to boot. So I think the BN are trying their best to commit political suicide because truly nothing else makes sense.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Funny People

I have express several times before that I’m a big sci-fi fan. I may not believe in UFOs visiting Earth but I do believe in life in outer space.

Considering the sheer number of planets in the universe, I can’t believe that Earth is the only planet with life on it. So when a few astrophysicists (whatever the hell that is) from America told the audience at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AASS) that there is a very good chance that we will find some Earth-like planets within 10, 20 or 30 light years of the Sun, I thought ‘of course’. Then I read that they just haven't been found yet.

I find this kind of funny because here you are saying that there are a few dozen solar-type stars within something like 30 light years of our sun, that you believe that there are a good number of those planets have Earth-like atmospheres, but it’s just that you haven’t found them yet.

If that’s the case, why talk about it! It’s like saying that you will make the discovery of a lifetime but you just haven’t made the discovery yet. Why talk about it before finding anything? Start talking after making the discovery.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Talking Things Up

We are known that sometimes politicians have to say stupid things to talk things up. This happen the world over and it seems Singapore's politicians are no different.

That’s the only reason I can think of for our Junior Minister for Finance, Mr. Lim Hwee Hua, to say that Singapore national reserves will not be depleted by the losses suffered by Singapore’s two sovereign wealth funds, Temasek and GIC (Government of Singapore Investment Corp).

As I had said before, Temasek Holdings and GIC have been badly hit by the global credit crisis and losses have been made by both. Investments in global banks such as Merrill Lynch, UBS and Citigroup have all soured and things are so bad that Temasek CEO Ho Ching, who happens to be the wife of Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has to step down from her post. In Singapore dollars term, Temasek has loss about $58 billion already.

So to say that Singapore national reserve will not be depleted by the losses suffered by Temasek and GIC is plain stupid especially when everyone knows that the kitty of Singapore’s two sovereign wealth funds is from the national reserve.

Singapore has been badly hurt by the credit crisis and the losses of both Temasek Holdings and GIC. Those are facts. As such, it stands to reason that our national reserves will be hit as well. For a Minister for Finance (even a junior one) to say otherwise is crazy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What our money is doing now

Yesterday, I mentioned that Singapore’s Temasek has made a $5 billion investment in Merrill Lynch. I also said that there wasn’t any need for me to tell anyone how badly the investment in Merrill Lynch is doing now.

In just anyone is wondering; most of it is gone.

Today I will tell you know why. When the world economy was tanking and stock markets plunging (due to the credit crisis), Merrill Lynch somehow managed to find money to make 696 new millionaires in the world. Reports coming from the U.S say that Merrill quietly paid out at least one million dollars bonus each to about 696 top executive in the company even when the investment house was bleeding with losses last year. That’s not all; in total Merrill paid about $3.6 billion dollars in bonuses in December. This is just before they announced their fourth quarterly losses and their takeover by Bank of America.

The Americans has already started probes on the timing of these bonus payments. I think Temasek must do the same. That $3.6 billion bonus has to be taken from Temasek’s $5 billion investment because no one else was willing to lend them money back then.

Although we at least now know how ‘well’ Singapore’s money was used, I strongly suggest Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong take a fine-tooth comb and probe those bonus payments. Who knows; if not for those bonuses, his wife might still be in a job.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Best Foot Forward for The Strait Times

After insisting that CEO Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, did not leave Singapore state investment company Temasek due to losses and bad performance, we now get a different story from Temasek’s balance sheet.

It seems that Temasek has lost 31% of its holdings in the past eight months. That is about $39 billion. That’s billions with a big B!

Now this figure isn’t that surprising to me as everyone in Singapore knows that Temasek made some big bets in the financial sector last year, especially in the U.S. I don’t think there’s any need for me to tell you how Temasek’s $5 billion investment in Merrill Lynch is doing now.

The timing of the revelation was also understandable. With a new CEO in charge in Chip Goodyear, they would want to start on a clean slate and as such need to announce the results.

What surprises me is when I got home and read the newspaper. The Strait Times has somehow managed to get a few fund managers to say that Temasek’s result was ‘respectable’. I want to know which funds these managers are in charge of. I want to know because if I have any money in these funds, I will pull my money out immediately.

Like I said earlier; I can understand the timing and even the bad results, but since when is a loss of $39 billion ‘respectable’. This is a perfect example of how in trying to talk up the Singapore government, The Strait Times hurt the government instead.

Singaporeans are not stupid. Most of us accept that last year was a bad year and we can understand why there are losses. However, no Singaporean will accept that a loss of $39 billion being ‘respectable’. Instead of trying to highlight the bad conditions last year and how the $39 billion loss is normal for most investments entities last year, The Strait Times has to try their best to state how good the government is. That more than anything pisses Singaporeans off.

Here’s something no one will argue about: a $39 billion loss is never good, and it is not ever ‘respectable’. In trying their best to put their best foot forward, all The Strait Times has managed to do is to kick the government in the backside.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Get rid of the PSLE

Surfing through the Channel NewsAsia website, I saw that some Members of Parliament (MPs) had a debate over the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE).

First off, I wonder why it’s called a debate. People have been complaining that the PSLE is unnecessary for years, and the Ministry of Education (MOE) has been ignoring the complaints for years. So where is the debate?

Still I guess some airing in Parliament is better than none. Personally, I have always been against the PSLE. Students in Singapore start their official schooling at age 7 in Primary 1. From Primary 1 to Primary 6, the students will be studying for their PSLE, the result of which will affect their lives. Their results in the PLSE will affect whether they can go to Secondary Education, which will affect whether they can go on to Higher Education like junior collage or even polytechnics. The PLSE will affect their whole life.

The children take the PLSE at age 12.

It’s a simple numbers game. The average age of a Singaporean is over 70 and these kids are going to take a test that will affect their whole live at age 12? Now I have being through the PSLE myself, and I passed. However, I can safely say that back then I do not have any real idea of how important the PSLE truly is. I doubt if any student at age 12 truly do. Back then, it was just another test I had to pass.

So if the MOE want a ‘debate’ on the education system in Singapore; I say get rid of the PSLE because children at age 12 should not have to take a test that will affect their whole live.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Free Trial of The Lord of the Rings Online

I read the books; I seem the films; now I have played the online game. When The Lord of the Rings Online first came out, I wanted to try it but was unwilling to play for the monthly subscription fees to a game that I may not like.

So when LOTR Online announced that they went into an agreement with X-fire for an online trial, I was delighted. After World of Warcraft (WoW) and Age of Conan (AoC), I liked to see what LOTR Online has to offer.

After playing the trial, I have to say that Turbine Entertainment had created a world that both drew from the LOTR world, yet at the same time is very accessible to people who has never heard of LOTR. Yes, there ARE some people like that.

I have heard that the game was a WOW clone but I think that’s unfair. LOTR Online is a different kind of monster. Unlike WoW frenzied pace, LOTR has a more leisurely pace to it and in some areas it is superior to WoW.

The questing is an area LOTR Online excelled at. There’s no helpful arrow or shaded area on the mini-map like AoC. When the NPC tell you its west of here, you must travel west and find the location yourself. This almost forces you to go exploring, which isn’t a problem for me as I’m one of those explorer players. The quests are mostly very engaging with full texts on the reasons for the quest. It also helps that you see some famous people and locales in the story. The first time I reached the Prancing Pony, I smiled. When I saw Strider inside, I went “YES”! When I got to quest with him, I laughed. I especially liked the way the quests went along with the story, showing tales not in the books. For example with Strider, the quests showed what Strider was doing in the Prancing Pony before the hobbits showed up.

I also like the feel of history in the game. An example of this was when the game had you fighting along Elrond when the elf cities fell. That instance happened when you are playing an elf and it was centuries before the actual story in the book even started. The first dwarf instance shows you a scene before the story in “The Hobbit”. This gives you a sense of the history of Middle-Earth which was something I liked very much. There is also a lot to do in this game. More than once in the trial, I found that I had reached the 40 quest limit and had to abandon some of them. There is almost no sense of grinding because everyone will always have a quest or two in their quest log.

Gameplay is almost like WoW but I loved the traits. Traits are bonuses that grant your character extra bonuses for completing quests and leveling up. The thing is that the quests are chain quests and you need to complete all the requirements before you can get the trait. For example, the trait for ‘Patience’ requires you to do the Postmaster quests and there were 13 of them. You need to do them all for both the xp and the trait. I thought this was a great idea.

Another thing is that most of the traits were great, and there are hard decisions to make on what traits you want to have. The notary was also an interesting addition. Your character can have a family name at level 15, and you can have children. This seems to be something most players ignored but again it gives a sense of history to the game, like it is a fully live-in world packed with different families and stories.

However there are a few things I think the game need to improve on. As it’s a free trial, I tried all the races and all the classes available. There seems to be an unbalance in the classes and races. You can see Wardens and Lore-masters all over the place but some classes are almost unseen. At times, I thought I may be the only Minstrel in the game.

Also there are far more Men and Hobbits than Elves and Dwarves in the game. As such the area for Men and Hobbits are far more crowded than the Elves and Dwarves areas. This created some imbalance.

The download is also something Turbine and X-fire need to work on. It’s terrible!

You download the character creation first; follow by the tutorial, then the game. I played the tutorial while downloading the game as this was an option available. I finished the tutorial and I waited for hours for the game to finish the download. After a few hours, I gave up and re-start the download again. This time I waited for the game to finish the download before starting the tutorial. This time it’s much faster. I strongly suggest that you download finish the game totally before you starts playing. This is something I think Turbine and X-fire need to work on.

The Lord of the Rings Online is a fun, beautiful and accessible online role-playing game that will be a delight for any Tolkien fan. Even if you are not a fan of LOTR, you will find that this is a game that can stand on its own with slick presentation, engaging quests, appealing narrative, and a few excellent additions that distinguish itself from its competition

It’s an excellent game. Try it!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Don’t Expect Lower Taxi Fares

One of the main things highlighted in the Singapore Budget is the road tax rebate given to taxi companies. Since taxi companies are paying less on the road tax of their taxis, you would expect taxi fares to come down right?

Don’t hold your breath.

With Singapore in recession and figures showing less people taking taxis; taxi fares will still not go down. The reason for this is simple. Taxis –drivers need to pay daily rent on their taxis to the taxi companies. The rent ranges anything from $90 per day to $120 per day.

The recent road tax rebate given to taxi companies is about $50 per month per taxi. That’s nothing compare to the $90 rent the taxi companies collect per day! Since lower rental means less money for the taxi companies, the taxi companies will not lower the rent for their drivers.

So unless the daily rental comes down, don’t expect taxi fares to come down either. The taxi drivers can’t afford it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Comics this week

Secret Six #6- What? That’s it? After the last page reveal of who Junior was last issue, that’s all she/it did this issue! After the shocking twist of who she was and how she was related to a member of the Six, this is it? It’s disappointing to say that least.

Secret Warriors #1- I’ll say this upfront; I don’t understand why so many people love the Nick Fury character. However I can understand the appeal of the concept of this series. An old warhorse teaching/turning a bunch of young, inexperienced kids into a group of warriors. That concept is always interesting. Spinning out of Secret Invasion, Nick Fury has decided to go rogue and has put together a new team for his own personal use. I was a little disappointed that we saw so little of the Secret Warriors, but this is the first issue and this is a series on Nick Fury, so I will give Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli a pass here. However if I am to collect this series, they will need to show more of the Warriors. It’s a solid first issue, but nothing outstanding.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Malaysia Is Really Something Else

I have always known that in Malaysia, corruption is not that much of a deal. With our northern neighbor, its kind accepted that politicians will be ‘a little corrupt’.

However even by Malaysian standard, the recent stand-off in the state of Perak is something else. The Malaysian opposition alliance, the Pakatan Rakyat, took over Perak after last year’s national elections. It was a razor-thin margin but they did won the state fair and square through the ballot box.

However the ruling coalition, the National Front, now claimed that they had seize control of the state after three lawmakers quit the opposition and became "independents" friendly to the National Front.

On the surface, this seems to be old-style dirty politics at its finest. If you can’t take power through the ballot box, you do it through the backdoor. Personally I don’t really have a problem with this; it’s distasteful but hardly uncommon. The problem I have is that 2 of the 3 lawmakers that left the opposition are under investigations for, you guess it, corruption!

Even for a country that has a ‘fluid’ attitude to corruption, this is something else. Usually when a politician is under investigation for corruption, other politicians suffer amnesia and distance themselves as much as possible.

Not in Malaysia! In Malaysia, you get offers to join the government. I wonder how long it will take for the Malaysian police to ‘drop’ their investigations.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lui Tuck Yew Obviously Do Not Read My Blog

When Yio Chu Kang Member of Parliament Seng Han Thong got set on fire last month, I called for a heavy sentence on the attacker. I state that I do not care what illness or madness the attacker has because he must be heavily punished for the attack. I even state that people who disagree with this are idiots! Over 60 comments were posted on this matter, and I had to defend my stand here.

So when Senior Minister of State (Information, Communication and the Arts) Lui Tuck Yew said in parliament that the blogging community didn’t do enough to rebut ‘outrageous’ comments on the burnt MP; all I can say is that Mr. Lui obviously do not read my blog.

I am so sad about that. Can someone please direct the Senior Minister of State (Information, Communication and the Arts) to my blog so that he can read and understand that there are more than one set of views on the internet.

Just as there are some who clap their hands at the attack (btw, I still think you guys are idiots), there are those who have different views on the incident. Blogging is about putting your views for other people to see and the Internet community is not here to be either helpful or unhelpful to the Singapore government. Bloggers put their view across on the internet for the general public!

Some are pro-opposition while others (like me) are more than willing to take the Singapore government’s stand on certain issues. The internet is open for all and we don’t need any “higher degree of self-regulation” because there are all sorts of views here. Simply put: If Senior Minister of State (Information, Communication and the Arts) Lui Tuck Yew seems to believe that there is only one view (anti-government) on the internet, he is wrong.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Disappointed with the Budget Debate

I will say this upfront. I am very disappointed with the first day of the Budget debate in Parliament yesterday.

Members of Parliament seem to have focused on the Singapore’s government’s decision to use our reserves to fight the current economic crisis. The general idea I get from the news reports seems to be that the MPs support the government’s decision to dip into the reserves for S$4.9 billion, but is afraid that this will “set precedence”.

I have to ask this: What’s the use of having some much money in the Singapore reserves?
Answer: To defend the Singapore economy during extraordinary times.

We saved for a rainy day and are there any doubts that it is raining right now? Why are our MPs arguing and worrying about using the reserves when they are clearly being used for the exact purpose they are there for? I can understand why some MPs want to know what the process was before the President gave his approval, but surely the more important thing is how the S$4.9 billion is being used. Why are there so much being made about using the reserves and so little about how is it being used?

Is the job credits scheme the way to go? Should money be given to the lower income groups in Singapore to help them tide over this period? Should more be done to help SMEs in Singapore? What can Singapore do to stop (or at least slow) the flow of money overseas by foreign workers in Singapore? Should Singapore continue to tag our economy to America?

Hopefully we will hear some of these questions by our MPs in the next few days and less no-brainer quotes like ‘setting precedence’.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Another Shoe; Another Missed!

When the Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at then US president George W. Bush in Baghdad in December, he became a hero worldwide. Well, you know what they say about the highest form of flattery in the world.

A young Western protester did just that when he hurled a shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at Britain's Cambridge University. Like the Iraqi journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi, he missed! I’m not sure what the man was protesting about, but here’s a suggestion for the next guy who want to throw his shoes at a world leader. PRACTICE FIRST!

It’s embarrassing! How many chances do protesters need before hitting someone with a shoe? Since it’s so difficult to aim with shoes, practice is essential. It’s vital even! Practice make prefect. Shoe throwing should be made a discipline for all protesters in the future. Come on, global fame awaits the first guy to hit a world leader with his shoes!

Monday, February 2, 2009

EPL this month

2009 is here and the important Christmas period for the EPL has come and gone. This is how it is shaping up now.

Top Teams this Month
Manchester United – They have been playing badly, their strikers haven’t been scoring but they have took over the top spot of the EPL. The reason is their rock-solid defense. They say that the mark of champions is winning even when you are not playing well; if that is true, Man Utd will win the title this season. They have been plain awful but are on a 7 match unbeaten run because no one can score against them. Hey, a win is a win.

West Ham – When Gianfranco Zola was named manager of West Ham, there were a lot of doubts about his ability. Then the credit crisis hit the world and West Ham’s Icelandic owner had to file for bankruptcy. So with no money to buy new players and the club in financial difficulties; West Ham looked doomed. However we never counted on Zola coming through. He has made the most of the players available to him and West Ham is on a serious run at the moment. I mean Zola even has Charlton Cole scoring! Zola is proving that not only is he a great player, he may also have what it takes to be a great manager.

Fulham- With the run Fulham are on, it’s inevitable that some teams are looking at the players Roy Hodgson has right now. Jimmy Bullard is moving to Hull City for a big payday, but Hodgson has more than enough players to take over. Roy Hodgson has worked wonders for Fulham.

Surprise Team this month
Everton- Defensive boring Everton is at it again. Manager David Moyes’ hardworking side is proving to be very difficult to beat and a place in Europe beckons. For all the talk of Arsenal and Aston Villa, don’t be surprise if Everton make it a 3 horse race for that last spot in the Champions League.

Disappointing Teams this month
Tottenham Hotspur- After Juande Ramos was fired, Harry Redknapp was supposed to bring Spurs to safety and challange for Europe next season. After a honeymoon period, the magic has faded. Redknapp seem to have made up his mind on Darren Bent and Roman Pavlyuchenko and decided they are not good enough. Defoe is his main man upfront now and that is something I’m not too sure about. I think Defoe is vastly over-rated and Pavlyuchenko has been very good for them (I do agree that Bent seem like a bust). The big question mark on their strikers is causing Spurs to lose games they should not be losing.

Newcastle- Wow! I know Newcastle has an injury curse on it but this season take the cake. Every single striker in the club has been injured this season with Micheal Owen and Andy Carroll being the latest. Almost the whole of the first team is out right now. Wow!

Arsenal- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger refusal to buy a defensive midfield player is perplexing. The Gunners may be able to pass the ball to death but it’s no good if you don’t have the ball. There’s no ball winner in the middle of the park and almost everyone can see the problem. Everyone but Arsene Wenger!