Thursday, September 29, 2016

Choosing the next PM: Voters do not know how

Almost 70% of those they surveyed chose Tharman as the next PM. I recall he led all others in the poll by a long shot. For me I always know it isn't up to us. We vote for the MP standing in our ward but the PAP hope we will vote for them as a package, realistic to know we will not get all we want but as whole we are better than any competing alternative. However the problem is many voters do not make their calculations that way.

To put this across plainly, Tharman is basically saying we don't know him and I believe he is right. We only know him as a public figure, nothing beyond that.

In other words we the voters do not have the information needed to choose a PM. Even if we have the info do we know how to choose the best person? I don't think so. That is the take away I got watching and learning about the US Presidential Elections. Their founding fathers want to give the people the right to choose the government but at the same time decided that they cannot be trusted to choose wisely. Their priority was not good government but preventing tyranny. Therefore the US President is chosen out of an electoral college and not the majority vote. Gridlock is better than tyranny but Singapore must do better than gridlock or fail.

For us we have a well working system but a fragile one which can easily go wrong. Just look at our our last Presidential Elections, people were voting for a President to do a different job than the one enshrined in the constitution.

Voters are more emotional than rational and that in the long run is the danger we face. In the Philippines they are even more emotional and we always have a live show of what that produce. Duterte is going to create a mess for them. Aquino wasn't perfect but they would have done better to choose a someone who would continue on the same path and fix the traffic problems, income gap and crime. In America they would be cutting their nose to spite their face if they choose Trump who will waste the gains Obama got for them and worse. Even the Taleban have no respect for Trump much less fear him. The Brits have foolishly elected to go Brexit and they are clueless of the rush of the Tsunami after the present calm. Up north the HongKongers fail to appreciate that they are banging their heads against the wall trying to get independence from China.

Unfortunately people often will not listen and choose to learn their lessons the hard way. Wasn't that what Churchill nearly said about America? The US is leading only because at the final moment they made wise choices.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Uncommon old fashioned decency

I am glad a JC classmate and that is a long time ago, shared this on Facebook. I used to occasionally come across such types when I was a kid and I watched how they do business with my parents. They are very rare now and that is also the reason why the income and wealth gap is so huge.

To my kids, watch and learn. For me this is fond nostalgia.

Now it would be impossibly idealistic that all business people are like this guy. We should emulate him but as individuals and families. We mustn't make such conduct public policy because it is impractical and impossible.

Nevertheless we need to encourage and extol more of such behavior. We want to see this only from people who do it out of the goodness of their hearts and now for show which is simply hypocrisy. If public policy tries to achieve this that is what it would become and that is why character education in our school is not succeeding as well as hoped. We have seen that in Japanese society and see where they are now. Stuck with two lost decades.

That is why I cannot support Lawrence Khong public initiatives on the family modeled after the American "Focus on the Family" led by Dr. James Dobson which by the way is openly endorsing the unfit Donald Trump as President.

Good Christianity is private rather than public but it will becomes public when enough individuals live it. Do not try to enforce morals top down which makes you no better than the Islamic religious police in some countries. The only difference is that they have a head start over you. Given the opportunity and time we would just create a Christian and a repressive version as the Islamic one. That would be a Christianity without Christ. That is also a Church Pope Francis is fighting mightily against. Excerpt from the NYT I read earlier: Has Pope Francis Failed?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

US Prezzie Debate: Half smart and Half dumb

I could only spare about fifteen minutes this morning to catch the debate between Clinton and Trump live piped in via NYT. Later in the afternoon I read some reports from WSJ, Vox etc., and then I found this from NPR which I consider the most useful but I must admit I couldn't afford the time to read to the end: Fact checking the first debate.

There are not professional or scientific polling on who won the debate. That takes time but rough estimates had the WSJ proposing that each camp firmly kept their followers and the undecided weren't noticeably moved in either direction. These early polls do not give people the time to pause and think, instant news does not wait. For that I got this from Time magazine online poll.

It is a draw.

My take? I think governance in the 21st century is more complex than ever. The substantive issues are inter-related and not easy to understand. As a result the voting base become divided into two extremes of the smart and the dumb.

Clinton makes no sense to the simple minded and emotionally directed types. These folks do not learn something by reading and thinking. They learn from doing and experience. If in the throes of change they were left behind then the system that is in place is bad and we need someone to completely overhaul it is how they see it. To them their only choice is Trump. You cannot persuade such people. You might not even succeed at making their lives better but you might have better luck with their children if you can find a way to educate them well.

For those who are informed and bother to think through the issues they will conclude that Trump talked no sense. If they do not support Clinton then the objection is not with her experience and competence and to their perception of her character.

Americans are idealistic and to be around the block too long is not an asset when you offer yourself to voters because they can't imagine you in fairy tales they all love. Obama had that advantage as the shiny new thing in 2008. Some of these idealists will gravitate to Gary Johnson. This is Clinton's loss.

Therefore the game from now till November 8 is to leave the Trump supporters alone and get those who are undecided to vote Clinton. I am with her because I am a realist and also I am completely unlike the sort who are supporting Trump. The other group to persuade are those who find modern day issues too complex for them to sufficiently understand and are withholding support from Clinton because they thought she isn't honest. They are not giving their vote to Trump either because the man in temperamentally and morally unfit to to be commander in chief.

We have 50/50. There are practically no average American. He or she is either smart or dumb. Most of the smart ones are immigrants or children of immigrants. The dumb ones had been immigrants once but generations removed. That is why they want to go back to the Great America they remember which is fantasy than reality. It is a world which Obama painstakingly pointed out to them didn't exist, besides the world is moving on with or without America.

Update: Sep 28 9:45 am

I think it is really worth reading Elizabeth Drew's explanation in Project Syndicate: Why is the US Presidential Race So Close?

In other words those who are sure which candidate is going to win the Presidency are simply just cocky and don't know what they are talking about. Only God knows.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Job unready grads from our universities

Used to be employers do not expect fresh graduates to be even remotely job ready and plan to train them. I have often read how in other countries college students fought tooth and nail for the best internships and often they work for no pay as well to burnish their resume in order to land a job when they graduate. Looks like we are getting to that point ourselves.

The title says it all, the TNP story has a totally different slant from my perception. Perhaps the writer is too young to be know what it was like before and could not compare now and then. I don't know enough to tell.

I told my daughter before she started college that universities can be seen as selfish places of learning. Professors teach you not so much to get you job ready but to mold you in their own image as academics. The tiny best qualify but the rest would have to find their own way outside of university upon graduation. This is truest in schools like the Humanities. Degrees leading to professional practice and qualifications fare better and often have professors who had industry experience as well.

Excerpt from the story

The search for the perfect job has been tough for National University of Singapore (NUS) graduate Amelia Low, 23.
The NUS Merit scholar has sent out more than 50 applications since January, gone for 11 interviews, but to no avail.
"I got increasingly worried since graduating in May," said Miss Low, adding: "Some of my friends are in the same situation."
She said: "Applicants with experience are also competing with us fresh graduates for the same jobs, making it even more difficult for us."
The psychology major has taken up a temporary job as a research assistant at NUS.
"I took on this job even though research is something I have not done, but it is still a skill set that can help beef up my resume."
The move to take on a temporary job was suggested by her father, Mr Low Boon Leong, 54, a business development manager.
"The temporary job will keep her going and give her the flexibility to look out for other options," he said.
"As a parent, the only way I can help her is to be supportive and give her the confidence to continue applying for other jobs.
"I told her that if she gets a position she doesn't want, she should let it go because her interest in a job matters the most."

"perfect job" I don't know what Amelia Low meant by that but almost nobody has a perfect job. Also things change, it can get better or worse.

"NUS Merit scholar" Employers do not care for anything else other than you are fit and healthy and can contribute to their organization goals. They can't make use of the scholarship. That was why three years ago I told my daughter don't bother with the USP or any NUS scholarship. It is too academic to be useful. Just enjoy the experience.

"research is something I have not done" Well there will be many things you will be doing that you have never tried before. This is the norm now and tomorrow as well.

"I told her that if she gets a position she doesn't want, she should let it go because her interest in a job matters the most."

I felt her father had given her the wrong advice but it is also probably a little late as well. To be realistic you have to pick up something approximating what you want and then give it your personal touch. There are no repetitive factory jobs now and everyone should shape and enjoy their work. Learn to find meaning and like your job. Grow from it and keep changing jobs to keep growing.

To be practical, at the end of the day we are price takers. We cannot control when we were born or the environment that we have to operate in. Be patient about your dreams and hopefully you can find something that head in the general direction of where you hope to be. By making course adjustments along the way, sharpening your vision you are raising the chance of getting there every year.

PC Monitor: Phillips out; Samsung In

Bought this Samsung LED Monitor (F350 series 22 inch) at Harvey Norman today for a very good price of $128. This is cheaper than I could get from any online stall.

The previous Phillips 227QEPH has served us well for quite a few years. Pity I didn't have a blog post of its purchase and I am wondering has it been that long?

Imagine if I were an avid gamer (I have no time for that), the hardware would cost a bomb.

Terrorism: Our highest form of deterrence

The story opens with "Every Singaporean family will have at least one member trained in sporting suspicious behavior" I underlined that in red (see above)

Were it a different time, people would have thought we are turning into a repressive police state, but this only shows how deadly serious we are about the threat of terrorist attacks. It is an arms race between them and us. As they adapt their attack tactics we also respond by hardening ourselves. I don't think other societies, not even China but North Korea yes, can do what we are about to do against the threat of terrorism.

The outcome of all these measures is that the terrorists will choose softer targets elsewhere. Nevertheless I believe they will keep trying but also realistic about their chances. In other words if we ever let down our guard they will seize the opportunity to come in.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

All banks are iniquitous

I have waited to almost despairing to be proven right about banks. No bank is good and you just have to wait long enough to discover this is true. During the Great Financial Crisis a few banks stood virtuous e.g., Stanchart but that one has since been disgraced. Wells Fargo kept its reputation longer and even has Warren Buffett as a major investor. Then their shenanigans were uncovered and I saw Elizabeth Warren excoriated a sheepish looking Stumpf in the Senate hearing. Yes, some senior bankers ought to serve jail time, and you have to haul them within ten years of their felony. We are running out of time.

Link to story.

Years ago my ex boss said I was too cynical when I suggested this is exactly what banks are after I read it in the Economist.

Now if these banks aren't immoral it is only a matter of degree because regulators have been tough with the laws and watching them like hawks. Anytime regulators decide to be more commercial and develop the financial industry, they cannot but let the demons loose. Nearer home that is exactly what happened after LHL liberalized the banking sector. Afterward the stories of banks ripping clients off became serial, the latest is the sale unrated corporate bonds to mislabeled sophisticated investors.

I never let the bankers sell me anything. I do the shopping myself.