Dear Tang Li
Thank you for your article. I am happy that you are pursuing opportunities
in Saudi Arabia, and promoting Singapore's relations with the country. I
had a good visit to Saudi Arabia. Can I ask what you are doing in Saudi
Arabia? How long have you lived there?
Lee Hsien Loong
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
|Tang Li, firstname.lastname@example.org|
A good start, but more must be done Singaporeans have been benefiting from a growing and improving business relationship with Saudi Arabia. Ever since Singapore’s Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong visited Saudi Arabia in February 2005, the city state’s government and business community have been on an “all-out” push to bring Saudi-Singapore ties to a level where Singapore’s business community can operate and compete with others in the Kingdome’s growing market.
Recent months have seen Singapore’s leaders visit the Middle East to build ties with the region. First there was President SR Nathan’s trip to Egypt and Jordan. At the same time, Singapore’s minister mentor visited Kuwait and the UAE and now, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visits Saudi Arabia and the GCC region to sign a flurry of treaties.
The desire to improve ties has been mutual. Saudi Arabia views Singapore as an important link in its efforts to build its relationship with Asia. This year, Saudi-Singapore relations were marked by Crown Prince Sultan’s visit to Singapore, a first by a senior member of the Saudi royal family. SAGIA also set up its first overseas office in Singapore and Saudi-Singapore business and political ties seem to be on the fast track to a better place.
With everything looking so rosy on both sides, is there anything else that can be done to improve things? There are a couple of issues that the Kingdome and Singapore need to deal with in order to take relations to a higher level than they already are.
One issue that both nations need to resolve is the area of visas. Saudi citizens are required to apply for visas to enter Singapore. Although Singapore’s small Saudi community has been relatively quiet on the issue, Saudi business people who operate from Singapore like Mansour Al Khazal, managing director of KMC International Pte Ltd have expressed disappointment at the inconvenience caused by the visa restrictions. The visa issue has been something that Saudi Ambassador Dr. Mohammed Amin Kurdi has been working to persuade the Singapore government to reverse its position on.
Another area in which Saudi-Singapore relations need to develop in is in the cultural ties or people-to-people ties. The Saudi community in Singapore has been busy working to introduce Singaporeans to Saudi culture. Ambassador Dr. Kurdi has led the efforts to build better cultural ties by inviting members of various NGOs, like charity Pertapis to events like Saudi Arabia’s National Day Celebrations and Saudi Aramco, led by former Regional Vice President Ali Bakhsh has organized a yearly cultural events to bring Saudi culture closer to Singaporeans.
Progress has been slow but steady. For many Singaporeans, the Middle East remains something of a mystery. Dubai remains the best-known destination in the region and other parts of the Middle East need to work harder to develop brand recognition amongst the Singaporean public.
However, Singaporeans are displaying interest in wanting to know more about Saudi Arabia. Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew recently urged his countrymen to learn Arabic to take advantage of the opportunities in the Arabian Gulf. In September, Dr. Balaji Sadisivan, Singapore’s senior minister of state for the Ministry of Communication, Youth and Sport, who was guest of honor at Saudi Aramco function remarked: “Singapore is keen to do business with Saudi Arabia so Singaporeans need to get to know Saudi Arabia’s rich culture. I used to think Saudi costumes were white but I’ve been introduced to Saudi costumes that are rich in color. When you discover the culture, you discover things you never realized about the people and you make new friends.”
Dr. Balaji’s comments have been echoed by ordinary Singaporeans who visited Saudi Aramco’s cultural event. Many expressed interest in Saudi dates and one Singaporean ended up going home wearing a thobe.
Singapore, a nation of migrants has been at a crossroad for civilizations to meet. Saudis in Singapore have found Singapore to be welcoming. Singaporeans have shown a hunger to learn more about Saudi Arabia. So, while political ties between the two nations seem rosy and business ties are improving, it is perhaps time for Saudi Arabia and Singapore to double up in their efforts to introduce their culture to each other’s people.
By Margaret Carlson
Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Political analysts are still poring over exit polls trying to glean reasons why Democrats won the Congress in the midterm elections.
It was the war in Iraq, of course, but also a pile of other issues -- voter disgust with lobbyist Jack Abramoff for taking elected officials off to golf, and elected officials taking themselves off to Terri Schiavo's bedside at the expense of the country's business. It was also images of Katrina's destruction, the anger of those left out of the Bush boom, and a desperate president asserting that to vote Democratic would mean America lost and the terrorists won.
It's all of the above and one other issue bubbling under the surface: the president who ruled as if he had won in a landslide making appointments as partisan as possible.
No appointment was so unreasonable that the Republican- controlled Congress wouldn't rubber-stamp it. Often, President George W. Bush chose a nominee whose views were at war with the agency he was being assigned to head.
I'm thinking of the Exxon Mobil Corp. lobbyist chosen as chief of staff on the Council on Environmental Quality who blacked out of official documents the scientific findings on global warming that he didn't like. Or the mining industry executive chosen to oversee the safety of those who descend into ever-more-perilous mines each day. The Bush administration filled the Energy Department with oil producers and the Agriculture Department with corporate farmers and meat processors.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in matters having to do with family planning. Most of the money the Bush administration controls for reproductive health, HIV testing, sexually transmitted diseases and the like has gone to abstinence-only programs whose efficacy and scientific foundation are under question by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.
Commissions and study groups having anything to do with sex -- from teenagers having it to the spread of AIDS -- are stacked with zealots whose views comport with those of the evangelical Christians in Bush's base.
Bush compromised the Food and Drug Administration by appointing Lester Crawford deputy commissioner in 2002 and commissioner in 2005. Crawford, a veterinarian and ardent opponent of the morning-after birth-control pill, was immediately at loggerheads with the agency's scientists, all of whom agreed with the best medical research that the pill was safe and should be available to the public.
As Bush wished, Crawford stood in the way of those findings and kept the pill from going to market. He suddenly resigned in September 2005 just before the Justice Department charged him with lying, filing false financial-disclosure forms and owning stock in companies regulated by the FDA.
Mission at Odds
Now Bush has appointed Eric Keroack as a deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services where he will run the Office of Population Affairs with a budget of almost $300 million. Among other things, the office is charged with providing ``access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons.''
Keroack's prior mission is completely at odds with his new one. According to Congressional Democrats opposed to his Nov. 17 appointment, he refused to dispense contraceptives even to married women while he was the medical director for the last decade of an organization called A Woman's Concern. This nonprofit network of clinics in Massachusetts preaches abstinence because ``birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness,'' according to the group's literature.
Losing at Love
In his writings, Keroack maintains that having more than one partner affects that part of the brain that helps us form loving relationships.
``Scientific evidence has shown that individuals who participate in relationships which end in failure actually experience a chemical change in the brain which makes it more likely for them to engage in more failed relationships in the future,'' Keroack said at the 2006 Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Don't despair, however. There's hope in abstinence. ``Secondary virginity can heal their brains.''
In addition to Keroack, Bush has revisited some of his more dubious personnel choices since the election. He has renominated six judges previously blocked by Congress and asked for the confirmation of United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, whose claim on the job was that he objects to the organization's existence.
In contrast to those appointments, Keroack's doesn't require Senate confirmation. Still, with Democrats now in charge, he may not be able to undermine the program with impunity. Seven House Democrats and 14 senators have written a letter to the head of HHS asking that his appointment be withdrawn because of his views, which are antithetical to the legislation establishing the agency.
At his press conference the morning after the election, Bush opened with ``Why so glum?'' -- as if to say nothing had changed for him. So what if Dennis Hastert and his congressional majority were gone? He was still president. Even without a Republican Congress to look the other way, he will see how long he can ignore laws he doesn't like and appoint officials to agencies he wishes would go away.
Among those signing the Keroack letter asking that the appointment be rescinded are leaders of House and Senate committees with oversight of HHS's mission and budget. They can't scuttle Keroack's appointment and they can't fire him. But they can make him follow the law. That may sound like a given, though it wasn't when Republicans were in charge. That was one of the best reasons for voting them out.
(Margaret Carlson, author of ``Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House'' and former White House correspondent for Time magazine, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)
Monday, November 27, 2006
I just was expecting a little bit of time with her and didn't want to entertain her friend as well. I mean, shit, did I feel angry and I think I've expressed it. I feel strange to have actually stormed out of my meeting with her today. Who knows, I may have given myself a worthwhile birthday present.
Have recieved some early birthday greetings, which has been very touching and also recieved greetings from my sister via sms from Poland and one from Jocelyn, a lovely young lady who is in the running to be one of my favourite PR consultants, even if she's never gotten round to pitching me a story. Goes to show personality can get you everywhere.
How does it feel like to be 32? I'm trying not to answer the question and am treating the day as if it were any normal working day. Have to collect my cheque from Polaris, write more articles, interview people and fix a date to go and meet with Aramco and hopefully collect a cheque from them too. Later today, I'll be spending a bit of time with the pinchy half - Han Li has gone on an over drive to make sure my right hand is marked by her teeth and nails - welcome to the world of domestic love! - Some people have remarked that she enjoys inflcting pain while I enjoy having it inflicted. Another group think that this is a sign that she loves me in a very obsessive way. I sometimes think the answer is less complicated - I'm simply getting tubby in my old age and taste like suckling pig or considering my lack of follicles - Monkey Brains - a good old fashioned Chinese dish!
I am of course greatful that even though I've reached the grand age of 32, my parents have not bugged me to settle down - hint, hint - all my friends are Grandparents etc etc. It's a blessing. Dad's version of events is that I'm not allowed to give him grandchildren in his lifetime - though someone did remark that after he faints when a little tyke calls him Yeh Yeh (Cantonese for Father's Father) he'll get up and hug it. Mum has decided that the economics of bringing in children into this world is not worth the effort. (I've avoided revealing to them that Thui sometimes called me Papa - though she stuck with Susu most of the time)
In terms of my career, I remain as established as the feathers of Paris Hilton's pom poms. Not crying over it but managing to get on with life. Perhaps I should have cried myself to sleep about my inability to get something decent moving but then as PN used to say - "Remain an income man, you'll never be able to explain why you haven't had a full time job." Anyway, I've been pretty lousy in the crying department - which probaly explains why I don't do much sleeping.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
It's Thanksgiving in the USA today, a time when the people who would become Americans were at peace with the Red Indians. Although history would turn out to be very bloody and quite different from the night that the Pilgrim Fathers had dinner with the Natives, they had a moment where people reached across the racial, religious devide and actually shared a meal together.
With the exception of the turkeys that were eaten, I think Thanksgiving should always be remembered. Not only did people become friends, if only for a few moments in a history of over two centuries, people did something very unusual - they shared a meal with strangers.
Perhaps you might think I'm getting weepy in my old age but here is the fact - people reached accross the colour and relgion barrier by doing something that all people like and need to do - they eat. People as Lee once said, "Are more similar than disimilar." We all need to eat, sleep and shit. We all end up paying taxes and eventually we'll all die. However, since we have nothing better to do, we'll do everything we can to emphaises our differences with others.
We are uncannily similar and yet we don't want to concentrate on our similarities and come together. Human nature it seems, is depressingly prone to selfishness and violence. We are bombarded with daily messages of how we can be bigger, stronger and wealtheir than the next man.
But somehow on thanksgiving, you found two groups of people deciding that instead of hacking each other to bits to become bigger, stronger and wealtheir - they ended up sharing a meal together. It may not be much but given mankind's inability to get along, we should be thankful for the few moments when peace and common sense prevails.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Are We A Feel-Good Society?
Although it predates 9/11, America’s turning into a feel-good
society is a relatively recent development. The epithet definitely does
not apply to the society that emerged from the Second World War. Harry
Truman was not a feel-good president. He called it as he saw it, and he
was considered typical of the small-town citizens who constituted the
backbone of America. The Marshall Plan was an act of far-sighted
statesmanship. It would have been more appropriate to describe America
as a can-do society.
Somewhere between then and now a transformation took place. Ronald
Reagan was definitely a feel-good president—and he has since been
elevated to the ranks of the saints.
His funeral was nothing short of canonization. What happened between
1950 and 1980? I am not very good at this kind of analysis, but I would
attribute the transformation mainly to the rise of consumerism and the
application of consumerism to politics. Since 1980, the unwillingness
to face reality has been exacerbated by globalization. A global economy
based on the principles of market fundamentalism is full of
uncertainties from which many people are eager to escape.* Religious
fundamentalism has also played an increasingly important role, although
I am ill-qualified to analyze it. Fundamentalist religion seems to
avoid the soul-searching that has characterized Christian religions
since the time of Jesus and appears to do everything to reward the
faithful by making them feel good.
How did consumerism come to dominate the economy?
In the classical definition of economics formulated by my professor,
Lionel Robbins, at the London School of Economics, economics was
concerned with the allocation of scarce resources among unlimited
needs.† The market dealt in commodities, the shape of the supply and
demand curves was fixed and economic theory was concerned only with
determining prices. Needless to say, the equilibrium price attained in
a perfect market, where an infinite number of buyers and callers were
competing with each other, assured the optimum allocation of resources.
This remains the credo of market fundamentalists to this day.
But perfect competition does not favor profits. It provides adequate
compensation for the use of capital but nothing more. Entrepreneurs are
motivated by profits. They have been busy inventing ever more
sophisticated ways of generating profits. Inventions have, of course,
been the driving force of economic progress. But in addition to product
innovation, entrepreneurs have found other ways of enhancing their
profits: differentiating their products from others, establishing
monopolies, advertising, marketing. These activities destroyed the
pristine purity of perfect competition. Supply and demand were no
longer independently given because demand was artificially stimulated
and markets no longer dealt in commodities but in brands. This tendency
progressed inexorably because it was driven by the quest for profits.
Firms no longer catered to needs but to desires and they manipulated
and stimulated those desires. They employed ever more sophisticated
methods of market research and motivational research. And the target of
these methods, the consumer, did not remain unaffected. It responded to
stimulation. That is how consumerism developed. It was fostered by
corporations in their search for profits.**
Gradually, the methods developed for commercial purposes found a
market in politics. This changed the character of politics. The
original idea of elections was that candidates would come forward and
announce what they stood for; the electorate would then decide whom
they liked best. The supply of candidates and the preferences of the
electorate were supposed to be independently given, just as in the
theory of perfect competition. But the process was corrupted by the
methods adopted from commercial life: focus groups and framing the
messages. Politicians learned to cater to the desires of the electorate
instead of propounding policies they believed in. The electorate did
not remain unaffected. They chose the candidate who told them what they
wanted to hear, but at the same time they could not avoid noticing that
they were being manipulated; they were not surprised when their elected
leaders deceived them. But there was no escape. The increasing
sophistication of communication methods was built into the system. That
is how America became a feel-good society. It was fostered by
politicians seeking to be elected.
Americans have plenty to feel good about. Democratic capitalism as
practiced in the United States has been highly successful. Consumerism
bolstered demand and the Great Depression has become a distant memory.
Prosperity has bolstered consumerism, setting in motion a benign circle.
The United States emerged from the Second World War as the dominant
military and economic power. That power was challenged by the Soviet
Union, but eventually the West won the Cold War. When the Soviet system
collapsed, the United States became the sole superpower. The United
States was also the main sponsor of globalization which, in turn, has
been a boon to the United States. But the dominant position of the
United States cannot be long maintained by a feel-good society that is
unwilling to confront unpleasant realities.
Blinded by a concept
By George Soros | August 31, 2006
THE FAILURE OF Israel to subdue Hezbollah demonstrates the many weaknesses of
the war-on-terror concept. One of those weaknesses is that even if the targets
are terrorists, the victims are often innocent civilians, and their suffering
reinforces the terrorist cause.
In response to Hezbollah's attacks, Israel was justified in attacking
Hezbollah to protect itself against the threat of missiles on its border.
However, Israel should have taken greater care to minimize collateral damage.
The civilian casualties and material damage inflicted on Lebanon inflamed
Muslims and world opinion against Israel and converted Hezbollah from aggressors
to heroes of resistance for many. Weakening Lebanon has also made it more
difficult to rein in Hezbollah.
Another weakness of the war-on-terror concept is that it relies on military
action and rules out political approaches. Israel previously withdrew from
Lebanon and then from Gaza unilaterally, rather than negotiating political
settlements with the Lebanese government and the Palestinian authority. The
strengthening of Hezbollah and Hamas was a direct consequence of that approach.
The war-on-terror concept stands in the way of recognizing this fact because it
separates "us" from "them" and denies that our actions help shape their
A third weakness is that the war-on-terror concept lumps together different
political movements that use terrorist tactics. It fails to distinguish among
Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, or the Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi militia in
Iraq. Yet all these terrorist manifestations, being different, require different
responses. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah can be treated merely as targets in the
war on terror because both have deep roots in their societies; yet there are
profound differences between them.
Looking back, it is easy to see where Israeli policy went wrong. When Mahmoud
Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, Israel should have
gone out of its way to strengthen him and his reformist team. When Israel
withdrew from Gaza, the former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn,
negotiated a six-point plan on behalf of the Quartet for the Middle East
(Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations). It
included opening crossings between Gaza and the West Bank, allowing an airport
and seaport in Gaza, opening the border with Egypt; and transferring the
greenhouses abandoned by Israeli settlers into Arab hands. None of the six
points was implemented. This contributed to Hamas's electoral victory. The Bush
administration, having pushed Israel to allow the Palestinians to hold
elections, then backed Israel's refusal to deal with a Hamas government. The
effect was to impose further hardship on the Palestinians.
Nevertheless, Abbas was able to forge an agreement with the political arm of
Hamas for the formation of a unity government. It was to foil this agreement
that the military branch of Hamas, run from Damascus, engaged in the provocation
that brought a heavy-handed response from Israel -- which in turn incited
Hezbollah to further provocation, opening a second front.
That is how extremists play off against each other to destroy any chance of
Israel has been a participant in this game, and President Bush bought into
this flawed policy, uncritically supporting Israel. Events have shown that this
policy leads to the escalation of violence. The process has advanced to the
point where Israel's unquestioned military superiority is no longer sufficient
to overcome the negative consequences of its policy. Israel is now more
endangered in its existence than it was at the time of the Oslo Agreement on
Similarly, the United States has become less safe since Bush declared war on
The time has come to realize that the present policies are counterproductive.
There will be no end to the vicious circle of escalating violence without a
political settlement of the Palestine question. In fact, the prospects for
engaging in negotiations are better now than they were a few months ago. The
Israelis must realize that a military deterrent is not sufficient on its own.
And Arabs, having redeemed themselves on the battlefield, may be more willing to
entertain a compromise.
There are strong voices arguing that Israel must never negotiate from a
position of weakness. They are wrong. Israel's position is liable to become
weaker the longer it persists on its present course. Similarly Hezbollah, having
tasted the sense but not the reality of victory (and egged on by Syria and Iran)
may prove recalcitrant. But that is where the difference between Hezbollah and
Hamas comes into play. The Palestinian people yearn for peace and relief from
suffering. The political -- as distinct from the military -- wing of Hamas must
be responsive to their desires. It is not too late for Israel to encourage and
deal with an Abbas-led Palestinian unity government as the first step toward a
Given how strong the US-Israeli relationship is, it would help Israel to
achieve its own legitimate aims if the US government were not blinded by the
George Soros, a financier and philanthropist, is author of "The Age of
Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror."
So having gone through the stage of having no mood to do bugger all even when I should have been working like a busy bee, I make it a point of avoiding or rather dennying myself the chance to let the brain rot and becomming depressed. Depression, as they say is a luxury that only the very poor in life can afford.
Anyway, birthday weekend is comming up soon. Going to be old but not so old where I can collect my pension, not that I have much of a pension to begin with. Old age, is a sad thing, which is why the young have it. Here we are as the young chitters of the world worrying about how we're going to make ends meet while the old have become what PN Balji calls, "One of the 3 G's" and are happy living the life they thought they should have led. PN would always volunteer to provide me with strategic support on the projects he was not involved in for his own - "Mental Stimulation," which is I suppose the main thing to go for when you are not terribly in need of money.
Went to AdAsia's last Pub Nite. Had a bit of wine, finger food was surprisingly good and there were quite a few delectable young ladies there - though I must admit, the night sky and drink could have helped improve the last point.
Ran into Angela last night. Didn't talk about Christianity or God's instructions to have nothing to do with me. But we were friendly and even in her attempts to look frumpy she still looks miles better than the rest of the office who was trying to tart-up. Ah well, that was a girl who was so perfect that it was not possible it would ever work and so, here I am with Han Li, a girl who is so wrong, that something good might actually come from it. - Fate has a funny way of making things happen.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
- My Stepfather, Lee served his national service with NSA
- According to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, those who are critical of the "Jewish Cause" are actually Jewish Agent - so by that theory I may be working for the Mossad
- One of the first people to give me any extra bit of publicity beyond the people I worked for is Benador Associates, a one woman PR firm in the States that advises the NeoCons.
Anyway, its been quite a busy few moments. Interviewing people and pitching stories like mad. Am behind schedule on a few things and need to get things done cause - hey what else is there for me to do other than die and go broke-not necessarily in that order.
Birthday will be coming up soon. Will probably be working throughout. But the good news is, I'll be collecting money during that week, both from Polaris and Aramco and be on the way to paying down bills and making that cash reserve target that I had set for myself. Cash, as they say is KING and having a bit more KING on myside is always useful.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Not sure if I should laugh or if I should cringe. I think I'll just enjoy the moment in the spot light. At least I am read and my name is being posted on the internet for better or for worse. Brand recognition at this stage is the name of the game and when strange people ask me to call them when I come to India, who is to say I may not get offers for greater work etc etc. For those of you who worry about my sanity, fear not, I have yet to join either - The Likud, Hezbollah, Hamas or my ex-wife's church group.
Caught up with Max, Dad's son by his second marriage. It was really good to see him, he's grown into quite a big boy. He'll be heading off to college soon, going to be studying music. I can see my Dad cringing - non of his progeny ever did anything vaguely sensible like study law, medicine or anything else that would ensure them a steady stream of cheques. Old man admited in a moment of weakness that he would have wanted a daughter but was resigned to his fate to have sons. Well, little girls are great.
Arup Gupta, President and COO of Polaris came and went. Looks like he was quite happy with the string of interviews that we linned up for him. So looks like I shall keep them on my client rosta for a little while longer and more importantly looks like I'll be able to send in a bill soon, which is important cause I'm starting to feel skint
Friday, November 03, 2006
- If you really loved me, you would buy me a diamond ring?
- I love you that's why I am with you?
- Do you love me?
- If I didn't love you, I wouldn't want to spend time with you?
- You don't love me anymore!
What is love really? Women, it seems, think of love as a permenant attachment, while men, we think of it as something that makes the hormones in the nether regions rise to the brain. While men are accused of thinking about their trouser snakes too often, I'm inclined to think that the greater sin is that we think with our trouser snakes rather than think about the little trouble maker. If women are supposed to suffer from "Penis Envy," I believe that the greatest curse on men is actually - the Penis, which is both the man's best friend but at the same time, also his worst enemy.
But what would I know? I am, as they say, just a mere cynic, a fool who knows the price of everything and yet, and yet makes the choice of the suicidal and insane. What could I possibly know that messers Thomas, William and Harry don't?
The answer is a tragic nothing. Personal experiences with that four letter word are best left in to a night of getting drunk and lying naked in the gutter, as Raymond so often says. I've seen love turn tragically wrong, blissfully happy and .............so on and so on.
So let me try and sum up what the nature of love could be in the modern context:
- When you can't stop thinking about a person
- When you start to notice and take pleasure in the most minute and silly detail of that person.
- When in spite of having no common language, you find a way communicating.
- When you'll do things so just to see the other person smile.