Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Surprisingly Good One from Arab News

Think of the stereotypes of how Women in the Arab world are treated and you'd be surprised that someone made the following point in the Arab Media - but it was made and lo and behold, its a decent read.










Stay-at-Home Moms: Are They Asset or Liability?
Fatin Yousef Bundagji, Fatinbund@yahoo.com
 

As I flipped through the pages of Ann Crittendon’s recent book, “The Price of Motherhood”, I could not help but think of the truth behind her argument. Not only are women a marginalized entity in the social order, but they are also made to pay the price for performing the most challenging yet rewarding task, one that has been responsible for the continuing of human life on planet Earth. In her book, Ann asserts that the most important job in the world has been the least valued. Despite the controversial acclaim for her book, her central message left me with much food for thought.


As a former reporter with The New York Times, who quit her professional career for a life of motherhood, Ann goes on to highlight the economic value of mothers who choose to stay at home to raise a family, because these “stay-at-home moms” are a nation’s “invisible” and “unpaid” laborers, whose work has so far been underestimated and not formally recognized. The long hours and weekend-less months spent in nurturing and developing the citizens of the future ought to be recognized and formally supported by social and governmental institutions because of their critical contribution to the welfare of society as well as the advancement of a nation’s economy. As I pondered some of these statements, I wondered how long it will take for society to actually value the contribution made by selfless stay-at-home moms who engage in their people-building activity.


The challenges facing this segment of society are many, but the ones that top the list are illustrated by the overwhelming sense of seclusion and low self-esteem some of these women feel when asked what kind of work they do. The marginalizing effect of the social stigma attached to the idea of “staying at home” has left a tragic mark on mothers and homemakers. I say this out of experience, I still witness it being practiced by many, and I can physically feel the pain and sense of “missing out” on worldly events most of these women experience: Stay-at-home moms are made to believe that their contribution to the collective social and economic order of things is minimal, menial and not worthy of notice. This is truly a tragic misconception.


The truth however is enlightening and the future is bright. The social value and economic contribution of staying at home to nurture and develop future generations of leaders, inventors, artists, technocrats, politicians, and in the same vein, criminals, delinquents, and charlatans tops any or all forms of professional duties. It cannot be overlooked or underestimated. If we want to support stay-at-home moms in building a future generation, we must engage as a nation in the campaign to reclaim the scope and honor of this mandate. We must work at shedding the layers of negative stereotypical associations that have for years labeled homemakers as people of simple intellect who are professionally challenged and socially inept — all because the fruits of their hard labor could never be measured by monetary value or immediate social contribution.


We all remember the stereotypical remark that Hilary Rodham Clinton made during her husband’s political campaign before his presidency? The fact that she was glad to have a professional career instead of sitting idly at home to “bake cookies” clearly makes my point. Investing time and money in our children’s lives is no less important than investing time and money in our business or professional life. For some reason or other, we have threatened the core existence of the single most stabilizing social institution — that of the family unit: It is the basis upon which a culture of harmony and stability flourishes and it is the enabler that promotes the concept of communal life in which future generations are nurtured and trained. Engaging in a campaign to revive the positive image of homemakers is not in itself sufficient to bring about positive change.


Support from governmental institutions by the drafting of policies to support and financially sustain stay-at-home moms as they choose to engage in the process of nation building is the key. Stay-at-home moms need the same empowerment measures that others in various professions get. I ask, what harm would come if these caregivers were given the same rights provided to formal workers? What harm could come if full-time mothers were allowed to collect social security benefits for the years spent working at home? Further, shouldn’t companies be mandated by law to allow longer maternity leaves since, after all, child bearing and rearing is the only guarantee that we have for the creation of a future labor pool and the subsequent growth of our economy?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

‘China to Continue on Prosperity Path’

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=6&section=0&article=91564&d=30&m=1&y=2007

Tuesday, 30, January, 2007 (11, Muharram, 1428)







Tang Li, Arab News
 

SINGAPORE,
30 January 2007 — China is set to continue its rapid economic growth
and that will greatly benefit the Asian region and the global economy,
said the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) managing director, Rodrigo
de Rato, who was on a visit to Beijing. During his visit, de Rato met
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and also had discussions with China’s
finance minister, Jin Renquing and governor of the People’s Bank of
China, Zhou Xiachuan.

De Rato praised the Chinese government
for its efforts in creating jobs and reducing poverty. He noted that
sustaining China’s continued rapid growth was a challenging task and
the IMF, “agreed with the authorities that this requires rebalancing
the economy away from its current heavy dependence on investment and
exports and towards consumption. It also requires that prosperity be
shared more equally across society, including by addressing the
rural-urban income discrepancies. Equally important is to ensure that
economic development is environmentally sustainable.”

The IMF’s
managing director praised China for its awareness of the task at hand
in addressing the issues of sustaining GDP growth, ensuring greater
wealth distribution and providing economic growth at an environmentally
sustainable manner.

China is currently working on curbing rapid
credit and investment growth to prevent overcapacity in certain
sectors, and to put growth on a more sustainable footing. Another
challenge for the Chinese economy has been to strengthen its financial
system in order for China’s large savings pool to be channeled to more
efficient uses. De Rato said he welcomed the moves by the Chinese
government to develop a stronger financial system and capital markets
and noted,” To increase consumption and reduce savings, China’s
households need to be reassured of adequate provision of health care,
education, and pensions, with a shift in public expenditure to these
areas. I strongly support the authorities’ plans to move forward with
far-reaching reforms on these fronts.”

The topic of China’s
exchange rate policy was also discussed. In recent years, the exchange
rate between the Renbinbi and other currencies, particularly the US
Dollar has been a sore point between Beijing and its major trading
partners, particularly the US. De Rato praised the Chinese government
for reiterating the objectives of advancing exchange reform and greater
flexibility over time for the renminbi.

He said, “Faster movement
would provide the authorities much needed room to rely more on monetary
policy to manage the economy, particularly to contain the rapid credit
and investment growth. Greater flexibility in the exchange rate and
interest rates is also important for rebalancing the economy. In
addition to providing better price signals for investors, the likely
higher interest rates and more appreciated exchange rate in the near
term would also help to boost household consumption by increasing
household income and wealth.”

The IMF’s managing director
expressed his confidence in China’s ability to continue on its path of
rapid economic growth and he said, “China’s continued economic success
and stability have become more important for other countries-in the
region and worldwide. With the vision of its leadership and their
resolve to tackle the challenges that China faces, I am confident that
China will continue on its path to achieve greater economic prosperity.”




Monday, January 29, 2007

Bono, Who Preaches Charity, Profits From Buyouts, Tax Breaks - From Bloomberg

By Richard Tomlinson and Fergal O'Brien


Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- During the final concert of U2's world tour on Dec. 9, Bono, the Irish rock band's lead singer, launched into ``One,'' a song about a love affair gone sour. ``Did I disappoint you or leave a bad taste in your mouth?'' he sang to 47,000 U2 fans at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.


At Bono's command, some of the fans held aloft their cell phones and sent text messages of support to ONE, the U.S.-based group that's lobbying the U.S. government to donate an additional 1 percent of the federal budget to ending poverty.


Bono made the same tie-in for the lobbying group during most of the 131 concerts on the Vertigo tour, which began in March 2005 and was seen by 4.6 million fans in Europe, North America and Asia. They sent about 500,000 text messages of support to ONE, according to the group.


While Bono was making his appeal, U2 was racking up $389 million in gross ticket receipts, making Vertigo the second-most lucrative tour of all time, according to Billboard magazine. No. 1 is the Rolling Stones' current tour, which by the end of 2006 had received $425 million.


Revenue from the Vertigo tour is funneled through companies that are mostly registered in Ireland and structured to minimize taxes. ``U2 are arch-capitalists -- arch-capitalists -- but it looks as if they're not,'' says Jim Aiken, a music promoter who helped stage U2 concerts in Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s.


Selling Records


``Bono's campaigns reflect a great amount of concerns that U2's audience also has, such as AIDS and malaria in Africa, and that can't help but have a beneficial effect on record sales,'' says Simon Garfield, author of ``Expensive Habits: The Dark Side of the Music Industry'' (Faber & Faber, 269 pages, 1985), a book about the business of rock.


U2 has sold about 9 million copies of the album linked to the Vertigo tour, ``How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,'' for which it owns all rights. In addition, U2 sells merchandise at the concerts, such as a $30 T-shirt with a photo of the band on the front.


With his trademark wraparound sunglasses and cowboy hat, Bono is as famous for exhorting world leaders -- from U.S. President George W. Bush to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern -- to give money to Africa as he is for his music.


He was awarded an honorary knighthood in December by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and his name has been mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize in the British and U.S. press.


Business and Idealism


Today, Bono joins British Prime Minister Tony Blair and South African President Thabo Mbeki at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, for a panel discussion called ``Delivering on the Promise of Africa.''


The 46-year-old Dublin native, born Paul Hewson, is also focusing on his investments. Bono declined to be interviewed for this article.


``We can move into business, and let's bring our idealism into whatever piece of the world we happen to be standing in,'' Bono told interviewer Michka Assayas in ``Bono on Bono'' (Riverhead, 336 pages, $23.95).


The most recent example is Product(RED), a marketing agreement with a half dozen companies that are selling a special RED line of clothing, cell phones and other merchandise and donating 40 percent of the profit they make from the products to a charity that pays for AIDS drugs for HIV-infected Africans.


Bono's own dealings haven't always followed the altruistic ideals he espouses, says Richard Murphy, a Downham Market, U.K.- based adviser to the Tax Justice Network, an international lobbying group.


Minimizing Taxes


Murphy points to the band's decision to move its music publishing company to the Netherlands from Ireland in June 2006 in order to minimize taxes. The move came six months before Ireland ended an exemption on musicians' royalty income, which is generally untaxed in the Netherlands.


``This is somebody who's exceptionally rich taking the opportunity to shift his tax burden to somebody else, but then asking governments around the world to spend that tax take in the way that he would like,'' Murphy says.


U2's move to the Netherlands is wrong, says Dick Molenaar, senior partner at All Arts Tax Advisers, a Rotterdam-based tax consulting firm for artists and musicians. ``Everybody needs to pay his fair share of taxation to the government, and therefore we have roads and education and everything,'' he says.


During the 1990s, U2 used nonexecutive directors who were resident in an offshore tax haven to limit the amount paid by the four band members -- in addition to Bono, they're lead guitarist The Edge, 45, whose real name is David Evans, bass guitarist Adam Clayton, 46, and drummer Larry Mullen, 45.


Business Empire


``We pay a great deal of tax around the world and in Ireland we don't pay any more taxes than we have to,'' says Paul McGuinness, U2's manager. ``We're like any other business.''


``U2 were never dumb in business,'' Bono says in ``Bono on Bono.'' ``We don't sit around thinking about world peace all day.''


What a business it is. Bono's empire encompasses real estate, private-equity investments, a hotel, a clothing line and a chain of restaurants.


Along with fellow band members, he also owns a stake in 15 companies and trusts, including concert-booking agencies, record production firms and trusts that are mostly registered in Ireland. U2 was one of the first successful bands in the world to have obtained all rights to its own music.


Private Equity


In addition, Bono shares three homes with his wife and four children, including a house near Nice in the south of France, a duplex apartment overlooking New York's Central Park that he bought from Apple Inc.'s Steve Jobs, and a gated estate in Killiney, 10 miles south of Dublin, with a panoramic view of the Irish Sea.


Bono's foray into private equity, via Menlo Park, California-based Elevation Partners LP, has clashed with his ideals at times.


Elevation's first investment was a stake in two computer game companies, Edmonton, Canada-based BioWare Corp. and Los Angeles-based Pandemic Studios LLC. BioWare makes a war game called ``Destroy All Humans 2.'' Pandemic's catalog includes a war game called ``Mercenaries 2: World in Flames,'' depicting a mercenary invasion of Venezuela.


``We don't think this fits with Bono's image, and we're trying to get him to recognize this fact,'' says Chuck Kaufman, a Washington-based spokesman for the international Venezuela Solidarity Network, which supports the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.


``It's hard to understand why anybody was upset about this game, because keep in mind the Venezuelans in this game are actually the good guys,'' says Roger McNamee, a managing director and co-founder at Elevation.


`Havin' It Large'


While Bono promotes charitable causes, he doesn't disclose whether he personally gives any money to them and, if so, how much. These include Amnesty International, the Burma Campaign U.K., DATA, which stands for Debt, AIDS, Trade and Africa, the environmental group Greenpeace and ONE.


``It's actually, I think, more honest to say we're rock stars, we're havin' it large, we're havin' a great time and don't focus on charity too much -- that's private; justice is public,'' he told the Dublin-based Sunday Independent newspaper in June 2005.


Bono's greatest value may be as a spokesman, not a donor. ``Bono is the most extraordinarily talented lobbyist,'' says Jamie Drummond, DATA's executive director, who helps organize the ONE campaign. ``He's got extremely persuasive, charming interpersonal skills that can appeal to the thing in a politician that reminds them of the spark that got them into politics in the first place, and the idea of public service.''


Text Messages


Whether or not Bono gives money himself is immaterial to ONE, whose motto is ``We don't want your money. We want your voice.'' When U2's fans sent text messages to ONE, they were helping pressure U.S. politicians to increase federal aid to developing countries.


DATA is a nonprofit organization co-founded by Bono that does try to raise money. Among the high-profile people who've given large amounts to the Washington-based group are John Doerr, partner at Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Susie Buffett, the daughter of investor Warren Buffett; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to Kathy McKiernan, a spokeswoman for DATA.


Bono has not said how much, if any, of his money he gives to DATA, of which he is a board member.


Oprah Winfrey Show


Bono doesn't invest his own money in RED, the U.S.-based marketing venture he introduced at the Davos meeting in 2006. RED is an alliance between the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and six international companies: American Express Co., Nike Inc. subsidiary Converse Inc., Gap Inc., Giorgio Armani SpA, Motorola Inc. and Apple.


The companies agree to donate 40 percent of their pretax profits from specially branded RED items to the fund, which gives the money to African governments to buy medicines for women and children who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.


Bono introduced RED in the U.S. last October by appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Bono and Oprah appeared on-air shopping for RED products in Chicago stores, including a Gap, where model Christy Turlington and actress Penelope Cruz modeled various Gap RED items.


Bono's involvement in RED is intermittent, says RED CEO Bobby Shriver, who's a nephew of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy.


``I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I was responsible really for the creation of it as a business, to get it to go and make all these things actually happen in the real world,'' says Shriver, 52, who's based in Santa Monica, California.


Public Face


He says that Bono's role was to raise the group's public profile and help persuade corporate partners to participate. ``When he was available, I dragged his sorry little ass along, but he was on tour, so he wasn't always available,'' Shriver says.


Shriver and Bono first met in 1987, when U2 performed on ``A Very Special Christmas,'' an album that raised money for Special Olympics, a U.S.-based charity supported by the Shriver family that organizes athletic events for people with intellectual disabilities.


Shriver says he and Bono developed the idea for RED during several meetings held in the past few years. ``It was over probably several glasses of wine, over one or two nights, that Bono and I talked about this,'' Shriver says. ``And neither of us can remember who had this idea.''


RED iPod


RED products include a red Apple iPod Nano music player. Apple also sells a Special Edition U2 iPod, whose profits are not donated to the charity, says Steve Dowling, Apple's director of corporate public relations. Dowling declined to disclose how many of the iPods -- of either type -- Apple has sold.


Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria, says RED has transformed the charity's prospects of getting money from the private sector.


In 2006, the RED program had raised $11.3 million for the fund, says spokeswoman for the Global Fund Rosie Vanek. About $6.25 million was given to Rwanda's Ministry of Health and $5.05 million to the Swaziland government's National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS.


``I've no doubt that within three or four years we could be at an income of several hundred million dollars a year,'' Feachem says. ``Without Bono, there would be no RED.''


Bono's public charitable activities date to 1985, when the band performed at the Live Aid concert in London to raise money to help African famine victims. In ``U2 by U2'' (HarperCollins, 352 pages, $39.95), a book of interviews, Bono says his life was changed that year by the experience of working for a month as a volunteer along with his wife in an Ethiopian orphanage.


U2's Beginnings


Long before that, Paul Hewson was striving to become a rock star. Bono was born in May 1960 in Dublin to a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, who was a post office supervisor. Bono says in ``U2 by U2'' that their marriage was almost illicit at that time in the predominantly Catholic country. When Bono was 14, his mother, Iris, died from a brain hemorrhage.


In September 1976, Bono answered an advertisement by Mullen, his classmate at Mount Temple high school in Dublin, who wanted to form a rock band.


An audition in Mullen's parents' kitchen narrowed the field to the four original U2 members, plus The Edge's brother, who soon dropped out. All four attended the school, as did Ali Stewart, the future Mrs. Hewson.


It was at this time that Bono chose his stage name -- taken from a hearing aid shop in Dublin called Bono Vox.


The Hype, as the band was initially called, won a talent contest in March 1978 in the Irish city of Limerick.


Teenagers' Questions


Jackie Hayden, who worked as the marketing manager in Ireland for CBS Records Inc., was one of the judges. He was intrigued by the potential of the four teenagers.


They became regular visitors to Hayden's Dublin office, where their business acumen was already apparent, he says. ``They'd have little scraps of paper with questions for me about the music business,'' says Hayden, 59, who's now a director at Hot Press, an Irish rock music magazine.


``Just basic things, like `What does copyright mean?' or `How do records get into shops?' or `Who decides what records get played on the radio?' and `What do record contracts mean?'''


Shortly after the band's meeting with Hayden, Bill Graham, an Irish rock music journalist, introduced them to McGuinness, then a 27-year-old university dropout who'd studied psychology and philosophy and who was looking for a rock band to manage. They hired him.


`Conventional Businessman'


In 1979, the band changed its name to U2. Bono says in ``U2 by U2'' that the name was meant to be ambiguous: It was meant partly as a reference to the U.S. spy plane of the same name that was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, and partly because it could be heard as ``you, too.''


Hayden says McGuinness, 55, is the force behind U2's commercial success. ``McGuinness was very much a conventional businessman who wore a suit and tie and had short hair and spoke very well,'' Hayden says. ``He could go and talk to conventional business people.''


In an interview at his 19th-century home in London's Notting Hill neighborhood, McGuinness -- who on a December day is just back from the last leg of U2's Vertigo tour in Hawaii -- wears an open-neck shirt and sips espresso to combat jet lag.


``We always thought it would be pathetic to be good at the music and bad at the business,'' he says.


McGuinness says it was difficult getting U2's first record deal because the band members were still learning their instruments at the time. U2 eventually secured a one-record contract with CBS, which released a three-song disc called U23 in September 1979. The record was sold only in Ireland.


Bob Marley's Label


Six months later, U2 signed its first major record deal with Island Records, now called Island Def Jam Music Group, part of Universal Music Group, a unit of Paris-based Vivendi.


At the time, the company was an independent label whose major star was Bob Marley, the Jamaican reggae singer. ``War,'' U2's third album for Island, established the group as a leading international rock band.


Released in 1983, ``War'' reached No. 10 in the U.S. music industry's Billboard charts. The album reinforced U2's reputation as a band that sometimes dealt with political and religious themes. One of the songs, ``Sunday Bloody Sunday,'' referred to the fatal 1972 shooting of 13 Catholic civil rights demonstrators in Northern Ireland by British troops.


The song ends with a plea by Bono for Christian reconciliation: ``The real battle just begun, to claim the victory Jesus won.''


Copyright Ownership


In 1984, as U2's contract with Island was about to expire, the band gained ownership of the copyright of all of its songs as the price for signing a new contract with the label.


``Like most people, our early deals were strongly stacked in favor of the record company and the publishing company,'' McGuinness says. ``We were able to improve those deals over time because we were successful.''


Owning the copyright to the songs, all of which were written by the band, means U2 receives all of the royalty income whenever one of its songs is played.


The deal sets U2 apart from most rock and pop bands, including the Beatles, whose sound recordings are owned by EMI Group Plc. ``U2's copyright deal was what everybody in rock music wanted, and it was unusual for a newish young band to do it so early in their career,'' Garfield says.


Island Records Stake


In 1985, Island Records was in financial trouble and was unable to pay all of U2's royalties from the band's album ``The Unforgettable Fire.'' ``It was a nasty surprise at the time, but it very quickly turned into a clear good opportunity,'' McGuinness says.


In return for waiving the unpaid royalties, U2 was given a 10 percent stake in the record company itself. Four years later, Island Records was acquired by Royal Philips Electronics NV of the Netherlands, and the band received about $30 million for its stake.


Bono says much of this profit was lost on poor investments. ``We put it in the hands of some people whom we liked personally, but weren't as expert as they thought in the areas that they were investing in,'' he says in ``Bono on Bono.'' ``On the positive side it made us take more charge and interest in our business.''


McGuinness says that after 30 years in the music industry, U2 band members have learned a lot. ``They know as much about the business as most record executives and most concert promoters and most recording engineers and even most T-shirt distributors,'' he says.


Private Companies, Trusts


He declines to discuss U2's finances. The band pays an undisclosed fee to Principle Management Ltd., McGuinness's Dublin-based company.


The details of U2's money making are out of public view in a network of private companies and trusts. Most of these holdings are registered in Ireland, according to corporate filings in Ireland's Companies Registration Office.


The companies publish shortened accounts, which do not reveal cash flow details, while the trusts do not publish any accounts.


In 2005 Not Us Ltd., the main holding company, reported a net loss of 2.91 million euros ($3.76 million) after advancing unsecured, interest-free loans to subsidiaries. The companies handle income from ticket and record sales, which Bono shares equally with the other band members.


``The whole point of this structure is to minimize your tax and not show anything,'' says Cliff Dane, a Weston-Super-Mare, U.K.-based accountant who teaches music industry finance and economics at the University of Westminster in London.


Clarence Hotel, Nude Cafe


When he's not touring or lobbying for charities, Bono spends time on his investments. ``He gets more out of a week than most people get out of a month,'' McGuinness says. ``It's hard to keep up with him at times.''


Bono is available one day a week to consult with his colleagues at Elevation, McNamee says.


Bono owns a 25 percent stake in the 50-room Clarence hotel on Dublin's Wellington Quay, whose rates start at $296 a night. The Edge also owns 25 percent, while two Irish investors, Derek Quinlan and Paddy McKillen, own the rest. The Clarence reported a net loss in 2005 of 611,271 euros.


Bono has an undisclosed stake in Nude, a chain of three Dublin cafes founded in 1999 by his elder brother, Norman. Business is brisk at the Nude cafe on downtown Dublin's Suffolk Street on a Friday in December.


Fashion Label


The menu includes Mexican chicken wraps, chickpea salads and Fair Trade coffee, and a poster on the wall advertises the seven wonders of wheat germ. Nude lost 634,890 euros in 2005, despite its popularity with Dublin's student crowd.


With his wife, Bono in 2004 founded Edun, an Irish- registered company that describes itself as a socially conscious fashion label aimed at increasing trade and employment in developing countries.


``We want to do business with Africa, because that's what they want,'' he says in ``Bono on Bono.'' ``I want to facilitate that.''


Edun sells a promotional T-shirt for ONE's ``campaign to make poverty history'' at rock concerts and other stadium events and at selected department stores. The shirt, made in Lesotho, costs 28 pounds ($54), with a quarter of the sales price donated to ONE.


Edun also sells jeans and women's fashion wear, such as a wool cardigan made in Peru that retails at London's Harvey Nichols department store for 145 pounds and a collarless silk jacket made in India that costs 240 pounds.


New Studio


Edun CEO Christian Kemp-Griffin says the company -- which reported a first-year loss of $5.49 million in 2004 -- will be profitable in 2008. Kemp-Griffin says that on average, Bono gets involved in Edun about once every four months.


In the meantime, Bono and his bandmates are working on their main business -- music.


The band's next album, scheduled to begin recording this year, may be the last to be made at its old studio on Hanover Quay, a rundown waterfront on Dublin's Grand Canal, just south of where the canal meets the Liffey, the river that flows through the city.


In 2002, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority forced U2 to sell the building, located near a concrete factory, for an undisclosed price as part of a city program to bring businesses and new housing into the area, which had declined economically since World War II.


In return to U2 for moving out, the authority promised the band it would provide space for a new recording studio on the top two floors of a 32-story tower it plans to build on the adjacent Britain Quay.


Seat on Jury


The authority also gave U2 bass guitarist Clayton a seat on the jury that would decide the winner of an international design competition to build the tower.


In 2003, the jury chose joint winners: Dublin-based architectural firms Burdon Dunne and Craig Henry. Felim Dunne, McGuinness's brother-in-law, is a senior partner at Burdon Dunne.


Felim Dunne says there was no favoritism. ``We submitted our bid anonymously, as did everyone else, sometime in the beginning of 2003, and in August 2003 we heard that we had won,'' Dunne says.


Loretta Lambkin, the authority's marketing director, says the contestants made sealed bids. She declined to disclose the projected cost, because the authority as of January was seeking bids from developers.


U2 Tower


When it's completed, the twisting, corkscrew-shaped structure will rise 120 meters (394 feet) and offer Bono and the other U2 members sweeping views of Dublin from their duplex studio atop it. U2 Tower -- as it's been named with the band's consent -- will be the tallest building in Ireland.


It will be just one more landmark in Bono's burgeoning capitalist empire. ``People want to see an entrepreneurial spirit,'' the U2 singer told Assayas in ``Bono on Bono.''


Aiken, the concert promoter, says Bono's financial dealings -- especially the Netherlands move -- can detract from his ideals. ``U2 are capitalists, but it's sort of shaded,'' he says. ``I believe the ultimate charity donation is to pay your taxes in the country where you live.''


To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Tomlinson in London at rtomlinson@bloomberg.net ; Fergal O'Brien in Dublin at fobrien@bloomberg.net .

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Balderdash on Saturday Morning

It's Saturday morning, the last Saturday morning of the month of January and here I am once again on the net trying to pour out the contents of my rather futile mind into cyberspace. Ever since I started on this blog, I've taken the sheer pleasure of emptying out the contents of my mind into cyberspace.


Anyway, its been an interesting start to the year. Have enjoyed some pretty good meals. Have had work to do and so have not had to struggle too much looking for work not just to get money but also to keep the mind from turning into something resmbling canned beef. On the cash flow front, things have been pretty bad, not enough money has come in and plenty has gone out but then again at this time of the year what else can one expect. In the mean time, though, I've been fortunate to have a savings pile to live on and now the trick is to replenish it before the next round of drought.


Life, as you can see has been like it usually is. Sometimes delightful, sometimes crap. Not sure if its a good sign that I've accepted my life to be a routine of things. Routines are terribly boring but at the same time they become terrible comfortable and when you become comfortable, its probably a sign that something needs to be done but you're not sure what you have to do in order to progress.


A young lady with an interest in astrology came to read my chart yesterday. Said that I could die of an STD, so I got to practice safe sex - also said that sex was a hobby and that I was attracted to "Princes" type girls. Now why the hell haven't I met a beautful Saudi or Kuwaiti Princes who could keep me in the style that I'm accustomed to? On the other hand she did tell me that I had a powerful imagination and could harness it to do well in work, which is the one thing that I do get satisfaction from.


Work and sex are probably two of the more delightful things that keep me going. Sex is a delightful pleasure and its a shame that not enough people appreciate it for what it is - a private moment of sharing and caring. Sex, I believe is the ultimate expression of feeling. OK, its not the be all and end all to a relationship but its the key to the relationship. I mean who cares if youre nice and sweet if you can't shag. Girls who are interested in looking pretty and get worried about sex ruining their good looks are as useful as "Pork Chops" in a Synagogue or Mosque. Guys who think that sex involves slamming it in also fall under that catagory.


Work is also a wonderfully interesting thing. Some jobs are undoubtedly boring as hell and even parts of doing business can be dull and frustrating. In my current situation, I spend an unholy amount of my time chasing people for money and getting up tight over all sorts of small things. However, work on the whole has certain pleasures. I think work is one of those things we need to do to keep our minds from rotting away.


In the PR line, we do have the satisfaction of persuading other people to do good from time to time. Last year, the team and L'EAP managed to put quite a bit of money towards the Very Special Arts, a charity that gives pride to the disabled by getting them involved in art. It was good for Nestle and Nescafe from a PR standpoint. It was also good for us to know that we had helped this group achieve a good aim. The team at Mun Loong & Associates also managed to get TWC2, a charity devoted to the welfare of migrant workers, funding for a hot line for Singapore's migrant community. The money you get from work is good but the feeling that you were part of something that makes a difference to people is something the money can't buy . It's a good thing when you get paid to help make a difference.


 

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wednesday: Slow Wednesday

Its a Wednesday, a rather slow and sleepy Wednesday, where in stead of being on the task of chasing the almighty dollar, I'm here at a friend's house bashing out this blog entry in front of his computer and enjoying the company of Tommy, his cat. Tommy is the most affectionate cat I've meet. He enjoys cozying up to me and purrs contentedly while I stroke his ears.


Anyway, its been a fairly quiet week. Need to sort out the cheque from Gollin Harris, collect a few payments and settle a few bills. Life as always has been reduced to a set of daily routine items. First you do this, then you do that and before you know it, you are repeating yourself. Formulas are part and parcel of life, I guess. I've just not been terribly good at following them.


Bashed out an article on how they are allowing the banks to let the poor have a $500 credit limit. One of the arguments in favour of doing so is to stop the cash-strapped from going into the clutches of Loan Sharks. In theory, this is a well meaning idea. In practice, I'm inclined to think of my friend Michael G and his cohort of loan sharks. A credit line would be helpful. I think of the times I've been cash-strapped and the idea of having a $500 credit limit looks very appealing. But I manage my finances badly and people like Michael G manage theirs even worse and so here you have it. Easy credit, instead of being a crutch ends up making you even more dependent on it. - Michael G and his ilk don't need credit - they need a new mindset when it comes to financial management.


I put it down to the fact that I'm broke most of the time but money as a topic interest me. Since I usually don't have enough to talk about grand investments. However, I've become even more interested in the relationship that people have with money.


One of the areas of man's relationship with money that intreagues me is the way in which people precieve wealth. Most of us are obsessed with status. In Singapore it's always about whether you live in "Landed" "Condo" or horror of horrors in an "HDB." In the UK, the obession with real estate also exist - "Are you a council house pleb or one of the posh people in Mayfair?" Another universal obsession is the car that you drive or the places in which you hang out.


Don't get me wrong. High living is great fun but does it actually mean that you have money? What is money? To most of us, money is a status symbol. In Singapore, we get very worked up about the type of home people live in because the house is a status symbol. If you live in an HDB you are probably like the rest of the world. If you live in landed property it implies that you have money.


Having lived in the lap of luxury in my Dad's condo in the heart of Singapore and having been made to live in a hotel in the Red Light district, I've come to realise that alot of these things like big houses, cars and fancy cloths don't actually mean that people have real money. It only means that people have a high income and therefore the ability to service the means of making big-ticket item purchases. I suspect that many of the people who live in luxurious homes and drive flash cars are in actual fact mortgaged to their eye balls in debt. The banks are happy to oblige as long as they continue to earn their big incomes. But what happens when they no longer make those big incomes - will the banks call in their loans and if they do - then what?


I think the  person I have to thank for showing me the fact that high income and status symbols are not everything in life is my late grandmother.


My Grandmother was born poor and perhaps, because of this, became frugal by nature. Although the inheritance that she left her children did not ammount to a lottery ticket, it was a tiddy sum for a woman who spent most of her 85-years on the planet as a housewife. It's true that my grandfather made a tiddy sum in his day (he was a senior civil servant.) It's true that he left her some money when he died. However, he died relatively young, without a will and before he was entitled to a state pension. He also died in an era where inheritance taxes were extraordinarily high. - The way my grandmother survived 32 years without having to look for a job should provide the rest of us with a lesson on money management.


I think the key thing to grandma's survival was SAVINGS and understanding that having money does not mean having a luxury appartment and big car. Instead, money is CASH in the bank. Cash is the lifeblood of any economic activity and grandma understood that she needed to have cash in hand to survive her old age. As a housewife, she understood that her income was dependent on her husband providing her with housekeeping money. But what if that source of income died (Which was one of the reasons why she was against having joint accounts - she would always say - what happens of the other party drops dead - you can't touch the money can you?) So she saved her housekeeping money very prudently.


Granny kept accounts like Swiss gnome. Walk into her house and you would find that the tables would have a stack of blue note books where she would record each and every penny she spent with accuracy. This was, she said, a way of knowing how to manage her savings. Somehow this housewife managed to save a not too small sum of $50,000 in cash from the housekeeping money that Grandfather gave to her.


If Grandfather did not leave her a pension, he did leave her with an understanding of the stock market. Grandmother monitored the stock market very carefully. Her cash pile was well guarded and she was never a wild speculator. She did not make the sums that Warren Buffet and George Soros did but she never got burnt through speculation. She played the market carefully and successfully. It was always buy blue chip shares. Wait for the stock to go up and sell at a certain point - if the stock sky rocketed after she sold, she would just write if off the good fortune of the other shareholders. If the stocks went down, she would wait and cut her losses at a certain point. - The jealous relatives might have accused her of being greedy in the way she horded her cash but the truth was, she was not greedy and managed to ensure that good sense was never overcome by greed and that kept her afloat in the financial market.


Same thing with her property investments. She had to sell the house that she and Grandfather built, thanks to high taxes (That house is apparently worth millions today.) She moved into a smaller house (kept a cash pile from the original) and lived in it for over a decade. Then she sold that house (with a huge profit) and moved into a smaller HDB flat. A few years later, she downgraded (Made a profit - as things would have it she downgraded at the end of the property boom of the early 1990s - a few days before Thailand was hit in the 1997 Asian Crisis) and moved into an even smaller flat where she spent the rest of her life.  At no time did she complain she as personally being down graded - she just accepted the fact that she needed cash (before she actually did) and somehow her property investments were profitable.


Grandma was never unashamed to take a bus. Her constant grumble was that we were all too keen to enrichen taxi drivers. When she was sick, she went into class c wards and poly clinics. Sure, she admited moving from a landed property into a 3-room flat was a downgrade but it said nothing about her personality that she couldn't live without and guess what - She had cash in the bank while her more status concious friends and relatives were forced to come to her when they were in fix.


Cash - somehow its a forgotten comodity in our daily view of life. But somehow, somewhere, those who end up ignoring pressures for this and that status symbol usually end up having the last laugh - particularly in the down turn when recision hits us and we become cash-strapped.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Heat

Its been an exceedingly hot day today. Somehow, the human body has been reduced to the value of a popsacle whenever one heads out into the sun like a loan cowboy. For me, it was great because, thanks to my physiotherapy today, I didn't have to look too formal and so didn't have to risk having my decent shirts looking like a dogs mess after a mere two seconds in the sun.


Recieved a cheque from Golin Harris today but unfortunately, somehow in the invoice process, the cheque was issued to Tang-Asia Consultancy (which don't exist as a legal entity), which then got changed to Kush Marketing (which also does not exist.) So guess what, it looks like I'll have to wait a wee bit longer to get that money and settle the tickets and other bills/debts that are comming up. Still, I'm more relaxed now that I've seen the cheques, at least I have the confidence that money from somewhere will appear - even if it is in drips and drabs. Its just good to know that the ability to broker the odd deal here and there outside the arena of press relations is there.


The "Psychotic" Half is staying in bed after yesterday's little temper tantrum at the travel agents. She's very funny. I know she's a hustler par-excellence who probably makes in a few days more than what I make in the entire month but on the other hand she's got the behavouir an mannerisms of a little girl with the same desires to be taken care off.


Me, I'm the last person on the earth whom you would call a hustler - many expected me to sit tight in academia and use my bookish demeanour to plod through life. Circumstances did not permit me to have that life. OK, I could have been a school teacher had I been able to stand the politics and the fact that everything was done by comittee.


I always see myself as a perpetual wonderer, never building anything, never settling down into anything, rather like the Lone Gunslinger in the Old Western or the traveling Shaolin Monk in Chinese Gong Fu movies. Perhaps I've achieved my secret purpose in life to be a perpetual nomad.  

And just to prove a point........

Nature has a way of making fun of people and I suspect that in recent days I've been setting myself up to made fun off. Just after two days ago, I based out an entry about how I needed to be with someone who had a way of making me make them the focus of their lives. I also mentioned that in spite of being very particular about wanting to be with "Mature" women, I usually ended up being attracted to women with a quaint dominating/whinney/psychotic personality.


Today, my beloved "Silly Con-Artist"Half dragged me to buy a ticket to Vietnam. Somehow, she got the idea that we needed to fly out on the 15th of Feb where the only available tickets are in business class. I somehow was under the impression we were paying for different tickets until she stormed out of the travel agents - somehow, somewhere it seemed that in the not too distant past, I had agreed to buy her the ticket. 


Bloody heck, I thought. She's up to no good and throwing a spoilt temper tantrum. Why do I put up with this, I wonder. I thought after her temper tantrum that we wouldn't speak for a while. By the afternoon, she was on the phone, threatening to bite me harder than she usually does - and guess what - we're back to our lovey selves again.


So there you have it. Me, a totally rational human being on most normal days being enchanted by a woman who's ability to act like a mad dog rivals the actual performance of a mad dog. Admittedly Han Li is easy on the eye but hey, what's in the eye of the beholder when the beholder is easily blinded.   

Monday, January 22, 2007

What did they expect?

Saw this aritcle on Arab News and thought it was quite funny.


The writer, obviously an Indian is taking the Big Brother thing quite seroiusly!


I think he's upset because he's reflecting a sad Asian inability to get over White Skin and under the impression that the Brits are a supperior and decent group of people and is thus suffering from dissapointment when discovering they can be as badly behaved as anyone else.


The truth is, there are plenty of Yobs in the UK and I secretly dream of the day when most of these guys will face Saudi or Singapore style punishment in the criminal justice system. Having said that, I think the whole Big Brother incident showed the Brits at their best. The yobs may get the headlines as this Shaz of a character  did. But the vast majority of British people are actually decent and upright people who dislike bullying of people from different cultures. It was the British Public who complained about that Shaz's (for Singapore readers - Shaz is the Brit equivalent of Chao Ah Lien)  behaviour and it was the British public that voted her off and have made her fear for her safety.  


And as a guy - who would honestly choose what were their names over the gorgeous Shilpa?










Three Cheers, Bengaluru!
M.J. Akbar, mjakbar@asianage.com
 

Where is Geoffrey Boycott when you really need him? Hiding in South Africa, I bet, instead of taking on the yobs who are making Shilpa Shetty cry in England.


Boycott, the dour-faced, sour-tongued Yorkshireman who used to bat for England in the days when England had batsmen, and is now a cricket commentator, rarely misses a chance to tell his television audiences in India about his obsession with Shilpa, a semi-successful Bollywood actress whose USP, in her own words, lies in her curves rather than her thespian skills. In India, according to confidential sources, each time he has come out to bat for Shilpa, Boycott has had to retire hurt. This was the moment for Boycott to take charge of the airwaves in London, and tell Jackie and Jade Goody how precisely to pronounce Shilpa: A drunken sway, that is, shway, followed by a long a. He could have added that the accent comes from Bangalore, the Internet city that has taken thousands of jobs away from the Goodys, as well as from the Tweedys which, I hope, is the real reason why Shilpa makes Jade feel sick.


There used to be a time, Dear Jade, Jackie, Jo and Jack (do the Channel 4 producers make up these names in pursuit of alliteration or are they for real?), when Grandfather Tweedy, along with Grandmother Goody, used to keep dirty black Indians out of their Bangalore compound, unless the dirty black Indians were servants. Sorry, Jade, Jackie, Jo and Jack, but Shilpa is an independent girl now, and when you call her an “Indian” do so in that nice way you use “American”. We don’t even want to hear the little twist you attach to “Frog”.


Shilpa has already changed the name of Bangalore, an Anglicization, to the original Bengaluru, and given the profits that software companies in her city like Infosys and Wipro have just declared; she is about to take a few thousand more jobs that the Goodys would have got if they hadn’t invested so much of their time into becoming yobs. That is the sort of sickening news that should really make your skin crawl.


In my search for unimpeachable objectivity, I turned to the newspaper that has fought the Crimean War and protected civilization each time civilization needed protection from the brown, black or yellow races, The Times. This august organ, unable to verify such a lofty incident for itself, reported that Indian media had “also noticed an exchange between Jade Goody’s boyfriend Jack Tweedy and Shilpa. In the incident, featured in the Celebrity Big Brother highlights, Tweedy’s comment was bleeped out — although there were reports that he had called her a ‘...ing Paki’. A Channel 4 spokeswoman denied that he had used that phrase.” I wonder why British media had not noticed this. Maybe British media was at the pub when this was happening. The Times clearly did not have the time to ask Channel 4 for original tapes to find out for itself.


Instead, in the following paragraph, a large number of big words were used to disguise one small word. “A spokesman for the program said that the social interactions and dynamics of the group were integral to the Big Brother story and viewers had a right to see them. However, there was a need for this to be balanced with the duty not to broadcast offensive material.” Social. Interactions. Dynamics. Integral. Knock me down with a beanstalk celebrity: Is this television or a thesis on cultural dissonance among the remoter tribes of Samoa? That sounds suspiciously like a huge number of letters to screen four letters. Still, we do have an admission. Clearly there was “offensive material”.


What would Shilpa have taken offense at? She is a big girl now, and fully aware of the facts of life, including one or two that might have escaped ordinary journalists. It must be the “Paki” bit. Did Jack believe that she was a Pakistani? No. Jackie, his girlfriend Jade’s mother, had been calling Shilpa an “Indian”, if you recall, and unless Jack is totally deaf he must have heard his virtual mother-in-law use the epithet. Is it possible that Jack doesn’t know the difference between an Indian and a Pakistani? That would make Jack an utter ass. While we cannot rule out that possibility, we should discount it. Let us assume that the splendid British educational system, in which the teaching of history has improved by quantum leaps during the decade of Tony Blair, has informed Jack that although Britain did rule a united subcontinent, India and Pakistan went their separate ways in 1947. We can only conclude, therefore, that “Paki” has now become a term of abuse that stretches across national boundaries, like “Blackie” or “Nigger” in Father Tweedy’s youth. If the yobs don’t want you in their neighborhood, they call you “(expletive deleted) Paki”.


I think I know what really broke poor Shilpa’s heart and turned her large lustrous eyes into limpid pools of unshed tears. It was the fact that her fellow-celebrities refused to eat the chicken/turkey that she made. That was insult upon injury.


There is some confusion about whether the bird in question was a chicken or turkey. Even the hallowed Times cannot make up its mind. However, it was dead, and it was in the oven, and Shilpa had cooked it. Or did Shilpa cook more than one meal? But to get to the point: Jo O’Meara had a few things to say about that chickturk, but mainly that it was undercooked and too spicy. I really can’t see what Jo was so upset about. This is precisely what she gets each time she steps out to a London restaurant for curry. I would not be surprised if Shilpa had taken advice from other Indians, and been told unambiguously that when she did cook for others on the show, she must not think of herself, that she must sacrifice her normal Indian tastes, and deliberately undercook and overspice the bird. Otherwise, the British would never recognize what is passed off to them as Indian food.


The food critic in Danielle taunted Shilpa for using her hands while cooking. “You don’t know where her hands have been,” Danielle said. Oooh. We are talking civilization here, are we Danielle?


The results are not yet in, so one doesn’t know how much this cultural crisis has helped the ratings of Celebrity Big Brother. But it has certainly helped the ratings of Shilpa Shetty, whose film career has been a bit on the wane of late. You could not click open a television screen in India when the story broke without those heavy-lidded, poignant, tearful eyes looking at you, followed immediately by a shot of bare back or flashing midriff. Jade, Jackie, Jo and Jack have been good for Shilpa.


A few weeks ago Shilpa Shetty told an Indian journalist that she wasn’t dating anyone at the moment. This was your chance, Geoff Boycott, to don the shining armor, and slay celebrity upstarts with the ferocity of your Yorkshire accent. You blew it, Geoff.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Laws of Attraction

Was up last night watching "Laws of Attraction," staring Julianne More and Pierce Brosnan. It was hillarious watching two supposedly high-powered divorce lawyers bicker so much that they ended up getting married and falling very deeply in-love.


The thing about romace movies is that they often make me wonder about the nature of love and attraction. Why do we fall for certain people and not for others? More importantly, why do certain people fall for us and why do others not fall for us even when it's text book perfect?


I must confess that I'm a little strange when it comes to the laws of attraction. A psychoanalyst might suggest that it's a cross between my father's philandering when I was a child and my mother's overbearing nature and philosophy that all men are useless and to do as they are told. Like any child of divorced parents its wonderful to be able to blame your parents for all your problems!


As a man, its generally easy. I like to look at the usual physical attributes of a woman - face, figure, breast, legs, toes, fingers and you name it. But once the hormones have finished playing their dirty tricks, you realise that body parts are pretty much the same. At the end of the day, its not the woman's body part that counts but what you can do to make that body part work for her. Likewise, the same goes for the male anatomy in the laws of attraction.


It's as they say, a question of chemistry and personality and that is at the end of the day a tricky thing. Why do we end up with certain personality types even if we tell ourselves we don't like that personality type. Freud would blame it on our parents, for boys, it's the eternal desire to run away from the father and towards the mother and visa versa. Like most things Freudian, it sounds like a load of crock until you end up in the situation yourself.


For myself, I have Gina to thank/blame for this. In many ways, Gina is nothing like my mother. Mum, as far as I've known my mother is refined, dignified, warm and enjoys being in the company of people. To her credit, she's always put the welfare of myself, Tara and Christopher before her own. Much of her life has been devoted to pursuit of her children's dreams. On the other hand, I've always seen my Dad in more remote way. With my Dad, life seemed so centred around his business, his career and his glory, with all else in life being a side show. I didn't doubt my father's love for me, if there was no love, I wouldn't have half the things I've enjoyed in life, but as a kid, you do want to hear words like I love you or I'm proud of you etc etc and my father for one was never much for those things. Birthdays, for example, were a big thing for my mothers family but mere coincidence in my fathers.


My perspective on things started shifting when I got involved with Gina. Although I had hopped that I would end up with Carra, the ultimate career girl and homemaker rolled into one, I found Gina's spiel of being a simple girl who wanted to be cuddled and given alot of attention to be fun. It was fun to have someone who enjoyed being cuddled like a Teddy Bear and who was passionate about you instead of you being passionate about the other person. It was really fun before the psychosis started to come into play and the signs that psychosis came into play whenever I was working and could not spend time with her.  - Dad was the one who said it best "There's alot of your mother in this girl."


Mum was most insulted to be compared with Gina, but as my marriage wore on, the more I looked at my own relationship and compared it to the one my parents had. Suddenly, Dad's burning obsession with his career seemed like a normal thing for a man to go for. I saw my mother's burning need to be the dominant party in the relationship to be - tiersome. The cuddling is fun and its cosy and its nice but there's got to be more to life than having a perptual teddy bear. To be fair to my mother, she never had her needs carried out to the extent that Gina did and she has style, which Gina lacks in many instances - but somehow, after being married to Gina, I've developed a twinge of sympathy for my father and stepfathers. Its hard to live with a woman who needs to be the centre of attention and the central focus in your life.


Have I learnt and progressed since then? In a way, I have. I'm a little more weary of psychosis in women. I'm alot less tollerant of the mind games that women so enjoy playing. Between Gina and working in an office dominated by women - I'm currently in a NO Middle Class, Graduate, Singapore Chinese girls phase of my life (I don't understand how my Indian and Malay friends can find this species interesting - they're better off with Indian professionals from India or sweet Malay girls from Malaysia - at least they can hold a conversation that goes beyond the sales at Robinsons)


However, having said all of that, what have I actualluy been doing in the following the laws of attraction? I've been heading for the signs of the old attractions. Since Gina, there have been two women I've been vaguely interested in. One was Angela, a sweet, intelligent, beautiful, creative, artistic girl from China. The other is Han Li, a hustler by nature who sounds like a market seller when she's on the phone and guess what....someone who desparately needs me to focus attentions on her. Guess which one I'm with and having been sticking with for a while......?


Admitedly, Han Li comes along with a package called Thui but why do I get myself involved with a woman who needs me to make her the centre of attention and cannot tollerate the idea that I have other female associations in my life. - Why do I find it attractive when a woman goes through my phone to make sure that I don't have photos of other women? What does that say about my personality - other than the fact that I obviously seem attracted to women who like me to focus alot of attention onto them and the fact that I obviously enjoy the idea that a woman can become obsessed with me.


Laws of attaction? Nobody has yet to codify them but somehow, I think they exist - they're the laws of having the other person appeal into some deep and psyhological need within yourself. Freaky!

The Laws of Attraction

Was up last night watching "Laws of Attraction," staring Julianne More and Pierce Brosnan. It was hillarious watching two supposedly high-powered divorce lawyers bicker so much that they ended up getting married and falling very deeply in-love.


The thing about romace movies is that they often make me wonder about the nature of love and attraction. Why do we fall for certain people and not for others? More importantly, why do certain people fall for us and why do others not fall for us even when it's text book perfect?


I must confess that I'm a little strange when it comes to the laws of attraction. A psychoanalyst might suggest that it's a cross between my father's philandering when I was a child and my mother's overbearing nature and philosophy that all men are useless and to do as they are told. Like any child of divorced parents its wonderful to be able to blame your parents for all your problems!


As a man, its generally easy. I like to look at the usual physical attributes of a woman - face, figure, breast, legs, toes, fingers and you name it. But once the hormones have finished playing their dirty tricks, you realise that body parts are pretty much the same. At the end of the day, its not the woman's body part that counts but what you can do to make that body part work for her. Likewise, the same goes for the male anatomy in the laws of attraction.


It's as they say, a question of chemistry and personality and that is at the end of the day a tricky thing. Why do we end up with certain personality types even if we tell ourselves we don't like that personality type. Freud would blame it on our parents, for boys, it's the eternal desire to run away from the father and towards the mother and visa versa. Like most things Freudian, it sounds like a load of crock until you end up in the situation yourself.


For myself, I have Gina to thank/blame for this. In many ways, Gina is nothing like my mother. Mum, as far as I've known my mother is refined, dignified, warm and enjoys being in the company of people. To her credit, she's always put the welfare of myself, Tara and Christopher before her own. Much of her life has been devoted to pursuit of her children's dreams. On the other hand, I've always seen my Dad in more remote way. With my Dad, life seemed so centred around his business, his career and his glory, with all else in life being a side show. I didn't doubt my father's love for me, if there was no love, I wouldn't have half the things I've enjoyed in life, but as a kid, you do want to hear words like I love you or I'm proud of you etc etc and my father for one was never much for those things. Birthdays, for example, were a big thing for my mothers family but mere coincidence in my fathers.


My perspective on things started shifting when I got involved with Gina. Although I had hopped that I would end up with Carra, the ultimate career girl and homemaker rolled into one, I found Gina's spiel of being a simple girl who wanted to be cuddled and given alot of attention to be fun. It was fun to have someone who enjoyed being cuddled like a Teddy Bear and who was passionate about you instead of you being passionate about the other person. It was really fun before the psychosis started to come into play and the signs that psychosis came into play whenever I was working and could not spend time with her.  - Dad was the one who said it best "There's alot of your mother in this girl."


Mum was most insulted to be compared with Gina, but as my marriage wore on, the more I looked at my own relationship and compared it to the one my parents had. Suddenly, Dad's burning obsession with his career seemed like a normal thing for a man to go for. I saw my mother's burning need to be the dominant party in the relationship to be - tiersome. The cuddling is fun and its cosy and its nice but there's got to be more to life than having a perptual teddy bear. To be fair to my mother, she never had her needs carried out to the extent that Gina did and she has style, which Gina lacks in many instances - but somehow, after being married to Gina, I've developed a twinge of sympathy for my father and stepfathers. Its hard to live with a woman who needs to be the centre of attention and the central focus in your life.


Have I learnt and progressed since then? In a way, I have. I'm a little more weary of psychosis in women. I'm alot less tollerant of the mind games that women so enjoy playing. Between Gina and working in an office dominated by women - I'm currently in a NO Middle Class, Graduate, Singapore Chinese girls phase of my life (I don't understand how my Indian and Malay friends can find this species interesting - they're better off with Indian professionals from India or sweet Malay girls from Malaysia - at least they can hold a conversation that goes beyond the sales at Robinsons)


However, having said all of that, what have I actualluy been doing in the following the laws of attraction? I've been heading for the signs of the old attractions. Since Gina, there have been two women I've been vaguely interested in. One was Angela, a sweet, intelligent, beautiful, creative, artistic girl from China. The other is Han Li, a hustler by nature who sounds like a market seller when she's on the phone and guess what....someone who desparately needs me to focus attentions on her. Guess which one I'm with and having been sticking with for a while......?


Admitedly, Han Li comes along with a package called Thui but why do I get myself involved with a woman who needs me to make her the centre of attention and cannot tollerate the idea that I have other female associations in my life. - Why do I find it attractive when a woman goes through my phone to make sure that I don't have photos of other women? What does that say about my personality - other than the fact that I obviously seem attracted to women who like me to focus alot of attention onto them and the fact that I obviously enjoy the idea that a woman can become obsessed with me.


Laws of attaction? Nobody has yet to codify them but somehow, I think they exist - they're the laws of having the other person appeal into some deep and psyhological need within yourself. Freaky!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"I despise toadies who suck up to their bosses; they are generally the same people who bully their subordinates," - David Ogilvy

Today I recieved an sms from a young man who asked me why I had made a point that I felt that I could judge a man's character by the way he treated my friend, Zen, the world's chubbiest hooker. That sms reminded me of something David Oilvy had said back in the 1950s when he was starting what would become Ogilvy&Mather, one of the world's largest advertising firms.


He said that he, " despise[d] toadies who suck up to their bosses; they are generally the same people who bully their subordinates." Ogilvy and his Ogilvyisms as always have a way of being about more than just advertising - his sayings have proved to be very accurate in making certain points about life in general.


Like it or not, most of us are actors on a stage. Everyday we encounter different people and we act towards those different people in different ways. When I speak to my aunt at home, I play the role of a good nephew. When I'm with my friends, I am a friend. When I am with my clients I act as a concerned consultant and so on. However, I believe that although we can play different roles in a single day, at the end of the day, we have underlying personal characteristics and moral values that affect the way we play-out our varoius roles. The role of a good nephew that I play is different from the role that someone else with a different character would play if he or she were in my position.


Unfortunately, most of us are carried away by the roles that we play. More importantly, we get carried away with the roles that other people play when they are arround us. It's especially fun and one can easily get carried away in character roles when you are the person who that everyone else needs. If you are the boss, your subordinates will always be nice to you because...you are the boss. If you are the teacher, the students will always be nice to the teacher. This getting carried away with role playing gets even more intense and interesting when you have a slight edge over the other guy but are not in an obviously supperior position. Take two colleagues are vying for the same promotion and one of them is rumoured to be the bosses favourite. Trust you me - the one who is not the rumoured favourite will start cozying up to the rumoured favourite in order to sieze the inside edge.


Being the centre of attention is alot of fun. We forget that the other person may have an ulterior motive for being nice. So, what's the best way to find out if he or she is an honest person.


The answer is to see how he or she treats the less fortunate. I've generally  found that genuinely rich and influential people are able to treat people from all walks of life in a similar manner. I've found that those who start becomming contemptuous of people of a lower social strata are usually the low-level bureaucrats with very little going for them other than their title.


One army sergant-major I knew said it best - "I call you Sir means I respect you. If I call you lieutenant so and so, it means I respect your rank." - It's important to know who are the leaders that can command respect - the officers you can call Sir - these are the people you should be around - these are the people who bring you up both in the professional and personal sphere. The leaders who don't command your respect - ie those who you call lieutant so and so, are those that you deal with only as long as its necessary and then keep them at an arms length - they'll only bring you down.


More importantly, its important to know how your contemporaries and subordinates in life look at you. Are you the type of person whom people call Sir or the type of person whom people call by their rank? If you are carried away with your own power and status, just observe how people treat those who are close to you but in their eyes - a social subordinate - when your back is turned.


Zen is in a position that is as lowly as social status as people can get. She is a mere prostitute and an ugly one at that. Her manners often leave much to be desired. Yet, she does no one any harm and instead of asking the government for a hand-out - she's actually making her own money by selling a product in the open market. So, given that she's a "low-life," its interesting to see how people react to her.


The most obvious example of a person who showed himself up to be a low-life was a salesman for Karcher, the cleaning equiment manufacturer. This was a character who could not resist sitting in a way that his "Gold Lolex" (FAKE) would be obvoius to all and would never buy drinks (tea-O- for UK readers, this is tea without milk - cost 20p in Pound Sterling) for people but expected them to buy him - and his entourage (somehow he had the knack of finding one whenever you were buying). I've since limited my exposure to this person.


People who "Look Down" on people for their profession are usually unintelligent cowards who have never done an honest days work in their life. Given a choice between a "Low-Life" like Zen and a "White Horse Wanna Be" who can't tie his own shoe laces, I'd go for the "Low-Life" even if the "Whie Horse Wanna Be" is the son of the Prime Minister.


Sad to say,  I used to be one of those people. I remember that when I came back from the UK and was waiting for National Service, I worked as a crew member for my Dad on one of his shoots. If memory serves me correctly, I was a little resentful and I was enlisted to work for the old man. I thought that I was an A-level student and that made me something special.


I'm not perfect but a few years of scrapping by on odd jobs has helped me to alter my perspective. Couldn't do well in office jobs so I ended up having to do things like give massages at fairs, sell antiques at roadside fairs and God Almighty, I was actually a tele-marketeer. I didn't have the luxury of worrying - "What would my family members think?!" Or "How could I stoop SO LOW and do this or that." I needed the money and those little dinky things allowed me to get money. My father-in-law didn't give me hassle for making him and his daughter "Lose Face" for doing these jobs - he said in his rather broken English - "Young Man, good - got work to do - do it."    


 These experiences were things I should have had much earlier on in life. I think I would have been a much better person for it. Short of robbery and murder, work is not a lowly thing, particularly when it means you are doing it to survive and learn something from the experience. 


Look at the debate on prostitution in Singapore. The people who complain about the prostitutes are either men who don't have the courage to be honest about their own sexual cravings or women who are too lazy and self-absorbed to realise that having a man in their life is not a God-given right. Instead of facing up to their own sexual short-commings, they blame prostitutes from China, Vietnam and other poorer parts of Asia behind the veil of self-declared moral sanctity - "Oh God, we can't have that here - we're Singaporeans, nice educated people who don't feel like normal humans do.Or worse - we have entitlements, we're educated and these things are too lowly for us.


Just as Ogilvy dispised toadies, I actually dispise "moral"  people for they are often the most "immoral" of the lot. I remember being in the army - the most "Christian" and "Educated" people who would go through the ritual of "Praying" for "SOC," "IPPT" and the usual group of acronyms that we had in the army, were usually the first to grab the porno-magazines and lead the rush to the Red Light District. - The Hokkien Soldiers on the other hand only bragged about going to Geylang but made loyal boyfriends and would be actually behave decently when out on an overseas excercise.


It was of course different amongst the regular and senior officers. I had the privillege of working with Colonel (NS) Michael Lim Teck Huat, former Chief of Artillery after National Service. Col Lim had what I call "Real" faith. He did things that he believed was in people's best interest. This was the only full colonel I've heard of who would offer lance corporals a lift (in his MINDEF plated car). I also learnt that his office during his tennure as a Chief of Artillery was alot more humble than what he was entitled to as a Service Chief in the Army.


We met over the tragedy of "Excercise Swift Lion." He had tried to explain the safety messages MINDEF had taken in the aftermath of the disaster. It was a tough job and we weren't having any of it. He stayed and listened to our concerns in such a way that went beyond that of a professional councilor doing a job.


I left the army and we ended up trading Christmas cards once a year. He would always sign off "Michael" rather than "LTC" or "COL" Lim. We met again after four years. I was in Khatib Camp on Remedial Training and he drove by in his MID plated car. He saw me and got of his car. I think this was one of the most enduring gestures a man in his position could do for me - he was a full colonel, in an army camp. I am a lowly third sergeant. Yet he was willing to get out of his car to greet me. Saluting an officer in the SAF had never been that easy.


He's now a Vice-Principle in the school system. Many have said that this was a "demotion" - the man should have been a Director in the Ministry of Education. But he loves his new role, he likes being close to the students and making a difference to young lives - he's not bothered by the fact that he was once a "Big-shot" elsewhere. To my mind, the fact that he's not worried about taking an "Obvious Demotion" and more interested in making a difference.


Give me a choice of following a man like this into a battle field or a Self-Serving Bully/ White Horse/ Bureaucrat who can only function in a path mapped out for him/ political favourite, I would chose the former.  


Being self-employed is a little akin to being a prostitute. You  get #$)(* for a living. However, like a prostitute, survival is dependent on being able to recognise people for what they are rather than who they are. A big but dishonest client is worse than a small but honest client.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Borrowing Peter to Pay Paul who borrowed from Michael who happened to borrow from Ah Seng, Ah Beng, Ah Hong, Ah Mu, Kupu and Mutu

I'm no economist but it seems to me that the modern capitalist system would collapse without debt. Everywhere you go, you see people dealing in debt. Individuals have debts and so do corporations. Even nations have debts.


In one of the biggest ironies of modern times, the world's best and largest economy, the USA, is the world's biggest debter. Thanks to a prodigeous appittite for spending, the US government simply needs to borrow money on the bond market to keep running and people have made fortunes out of the market for the USA's debts.


 Lower down the scale, corporations and individuals are not much better. Businesses have an ocean of reasons to get into debts. Having been self-employed for the past 6-years, I've learnt about this nasty little thing called 'Credit Terms' and having to wait something like 60-100 days to get paid. In the mean time the bills pile up and since you don't have the cash to pay your running cost - you borrow money to tide you over.


As if that were not bad enough, we're being sold the benefits of being in debt. The banks drive a good portion of their business from hawking credit cards of all colours to get you to buy the things they tell you that you need to feel good so that they can charge you interest rates of some 24% a month.


 I should know. I was one of those kids who was given Daddy's sub-card and felt like king of the world because I could happily make myself feel "Cool" by signing off on all sorts of things like videos I barely watched and restaurants I could barely afford on my National Service allowance. It feels good to spend money and spending is all that easy when you just have sign a piece of paper that you end up throwing away at night. It took exactly eight-years for me to learn the evils of credit cards - The Bank encouraged me to take out yet another credit card ontop of the one I had from Daddy and guess what -  I couldn't make payment and so I ended up taking a year to pay off debts (Daddy had of course wised up, stopped giving me money and took back his credit card)  


The experience of being chased by a lawyer from the bank's credit division was actually very sweet but the lesson of being chased was learnt. Stay away from things that make spending money look all so easy. Not having a credit card stops me from doing business on the net but hey, how much business do I really do on the net and these days there's Pay Pal. I've recently gone back to having a card - it is convenient when you want to pay certain bills and don't want to run off to the ATM. On the other hand, I've kept my card to being a mere debit card - so I can't use it unless I really do have the money in the bank.


I'll be honest here. I do fall into debt from time to time and I do what I can to pay small debts fast. There was a joke in BANG PR amongst the consultants and associates that we were rather like the World Bank. Everyone would borrow from everyone until pay day and then there would be a flurry of activity of paying back loans. People do fall into hard times and cash flow problems do occur. I'm in one at the moment and for once I have this thing called savings to tide me through. - Of course, I need to discipline myself into regarding living off savings as being in debt - to myself and therefore highly important to pay off. In short, I need to think of myself as my own biggest creditor.


For myself, I find being in debt to be quite stressful . The obligation to pay a debt is more than just a monetary thing. It's moral and legal obligation (I once had to appear in the Small Claims Court on behalf on a company I worked for - trust me - the experience is no fun). Relationships can be ruined by debt. So what's one to do? I guess, the trick is to learn to accept occasional debts as part and parcel of life but to be disciplined about paying debts and building a cash position. I'm not as good as I want to be in this department but I'm better than I was two-years ago.


Anyway, debts, debts, debts! They're rather like farts. We have the odd one but nobody wants to admit to them.


There are, however, some people who don't fart when it comes to debts. They have diohrea when it comes to their pocket book and somehow, instead of getting better at dealing with their debts-they become worse!


One of the characters that I know is Michael G. The man has been a feature in some of my previous postings as the pub manager who only owes (By today's admission) a mere seven or eight loan sharks.


The funny thing about Michael, is the fact that he is seemingly brilliant at making money. Somehow he pops up in all sorts of places and wheels and deals like nobody's business. His official job is of course as a bar manager. However, he helps his wife (a lovely and very patient lady) sell a few insurance policies here and there, finds car and property deals which he gets a cut of and so on and so on. Run into Michael G on any given day and he'll be on the phone to someone or other talking about this or that deal and the figures he spews are incredible - by right, I should be on welfare.


Somehow, in spite of all his super wheeling and dealing, Michael has a debt problem. Not sure how he achieves it. He's got no major commitments as far as I can see. Cars he drives usually belong to someone else. House is paid for - I think. His major vice seems to be Filipino girls. This short-tubby and bald character cannot resist long-legged Filipinos and the way they call him " Mahal" (Tagalog for dear)  If Michael is not on the phone dealing in who knows what, he's on the phone to some cute chick - who of course loves the attention he showers upon her (not to mention the presents).


But can women really be that expensive? I know girls like to con guys into spending money on them but how expensive can a woman get?


For Michael, it seems - the answer is lethal. The man owes loan sharks, nice friendly people who enjoy throwing paint at your front door if you owe them money. How does he do it? It's simple he says! Just start by borrowing from one loan shark. The payments (inclusive of interest) are made on a weekly basis and if you default you start from zero. So, for example, you borrow $10,000. Every week you're supposed to pay $200 for the next 75 weeks. But if you default in week 70 (After paying $14,000) your payment starts from zero and you still owe these guys the original $10,000 plus the very high interest rates they charge.


Of course, the loan sharks are at the end of it, business people who have entered into a business transaction. If you think you can't make it for the week, talk to them. Arrange a settlement. Don't look for another loan shark to pay off the old loan shark you owe! Well, Mr G disagrees and so at tea time today kept telling us that a mere $10,000 would solve all his problems (His wife has unfortunately remained loyal to him but has since decided that bailing him out is a futile excercise). The $10,000 he needs today was caused by his desire to meet another savoury loan shark a mere five months ago (His debt servicing is around $2,000 - A WEEK)


The man is drug addict! Even a heart attack (wouldn't surprise me if stress was part of it) can't get him out of this perpetual habit of swimming with the sharks. - It's sad! He's actually a nice guy - but he can't seem to get out of the thrill of almost caught by the sharks!


 

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

He's a a**hole: No, he's an a**hole who's made it

I remember describing one of the prospects that I introduced to 10AM Communication as an A**hole to Wei, who was then Business Development Director. Wei then corrected me and reminded me that the person I had described as an a**hole was an a**hole who had made it. As Wei pointed out, whatever the defaults of this person, we were the ones going to him to look for business, he did not go to us.


That incident has always stayed with me. I think, very often, we are quick to dismiss people for their negative traits and its actually alot more fun to blame the other guy for all your problems rather than to look for answers within yourself. Everytime I think of that conversation I had with Wei, I often look back at the instances in life where I was down and out and ask myself - who did I blame? Sad to say, it was always easier to blame the other guy! I'm told that this is a human trait and its also human to look at the nasty bits of others and to make fun of them.


However, as is often said, while we're busy having fun making fun of other people, we don't often realise that we are being pooked fun of ourselves. The joke, as is said, is often on us. So, what's there to be said about all of this.


I think the first thing we often forget, is that we fail to appreciate the strengths of the other party. Weaknesses are so much more fun, particularly when it comes to making ourselves feel good. I'm great haha - arn't I so much better than perso x,y and z? However, other than providing us with an ego boost from time to time, what does looking at the other guys faults actually do for you?


Sad to say, this glorious activity of fault finding is on the whole an unproductive one. Looking at the other guys strengths on the other hand, is a gloriously rewarding one. Looking at person and appreciating him and her for the strengths rather than weaknesses provides one with an understanding of that person and when you have an understanding of that person, your ability to get value out of them increases tremendously. its like this, when you look at a person and keep harping on about what they're doing wrong, you'll never get anywhere. But if you find out what they do right and know what they're doing wrong, you'll be able to maximise the value out of them.


I have friends, who are great drinking buddies. I'll never take part in a business venture with them but I'll drink and bounce ideas of them anytime. There are sad to say, some people whom you can never work with. But that does not mean that they're useless to you. One of my friends is a Pub Manager. The man has a fantastic inability to keep money and is indebted to a mere 20 or so loan sharks. - Would I lend him money? NO! Would I trust his recamendations on things - probably not - he's the type of guy who recamends things based on his self-interest rather than on the value of the produt. But would I spend time with him. - YES, for all his faults, this friend of mine is also generous with his time and is helpful in his own way. As such, I don't bring my friendship with him into an area where I know I'll only get upset with him and keep it a level where both of us can manage.


Then there are those who are good to work with but not much fun outside the office. Another friend of mine has a brillant mind and encourages me to come up with all sorts of ideas and more importantly, he ecourages me to put them into practice. But outside the office, we don't socialise. It's not him and I wouldn't venture into that area because its not in his nature and moving into that area would be a gross violation of that relationship.


One of the friendships that I've made in recent years that I've found particularly valuable is my friendship with The World's Chubbiest Flesh Ball aka Zen, The Queen of Geylang Lorong 16. Zen, as I'm well aware of, has proved to be a very interesting friend, one that many of my other friends dismiss. - After all what could I possibly see in a ball of flesh, who is at times crude and obnoxious. Not only does she work in a profession that many patronise but develop a "Moral" shield against, she looks so awful that people are terrified of her. My mother for one, suggested that I not make the point of being seen with her  - "She's SO UGLY, she's so FAT, you can't see her eyes." Han Li, ironically gets worked up by her.


And yet, Zen's amazing ability to upset polite society is an asset to me. She may be fat, she may be ugly and she may be crude but she catches people of guard. Hadi once said, "You can tell a character of man by how he acts towards Zen." People are basically shallow. They'll be nice to you because they want something from you. If you're the man in charge, everyone will agree with you for fear of offending you or because they think agreeing with you brings them your favour. If you're a man with money, everyone wants to be your friend. Its a case of, everyone thinks you can give them a free ride. For women, its even better. If you look good, men will go out of their way to be nice in the hope that they can get laid, while women will kill themselves to be nice to you because they're desparate for your beauty secrets.


Suddenly you have someone who is crude and ugly in front of you. How do you react? Do you whisper about her? Do you fidget around her? You certainly won't get close. I'm glad to say that most of my friends that I've introduced Zen to, have behaved curteously towards her. It shows me that my friends are willing to look beyond their initial feelings about her, no matter what they may be, to respect their friendship with me and regard her as a human being. It also shows me that my friends are also mature enough to look at a human beings value beyond false pretentions of status - ie Zen's very presence on certain occasions revals a human beings real value rather than the facade they put up.


Of course, my mother would remind me that I'm unable to curb my rebellious streak and the secret desire to stick my middle finger at the type of people who judge people on the shallow. Dad used to tell me that I was better off bringing a gorgeous paid-for social escort than to bring Gina (Who was my legal wife) to certain functions. And what have I done instead? I've brought the ugliest, chubbiest hooker to the Marina Mandarin and the InterContinental and the Grand Hyatt. - I'm sure people snigger behind my back (please, it says more about them) and I'm sure I infuriate quite a few (A man is also judged by his enemies as well as his friends- it takes balls to upset polite society and people will want to know why you're doing it)  


Of course I don't take this that far. There are situations where you don't need to provoke and brining someone who would provoke the worst in people could be detrimental. I certainly wouldn't bring Zen to the Saudi Embassy. My presence there is already provocative enough - I mean who is this bum who comes to the Embassy, greets every Saudi, "Salaam Ali Kum," and yet remains a non-believer with no political agenda and is definately in no position to stitch up the deals that they're looking at (I mean, seroiusly, do I look like I have a couple of 100 mil to play with?)


Not only does everyone have a strength or weakness to add to you, certain strengths may be weaknesses in certain times and strengths in others. I look at some of my business partners. Sometimes, I've cursed them for certain things (I'm sure they've done the same about me) but when things are over, I've come to appreciate how their strengths and weaknesses complimented mine and I've also come to realise that much of the game of life is about managing people - including, as PN Balji so often said, "Your bosses." Peter Lim, former Editor in Chief at SPH, managed then Chairman (now President) SR Nathan.


 

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

In between the sniffles .......

Am down with a cold that hits me on an of and on mode. Some moments I'm fine, others I'm not. Not exactly the most cheery of moments, particularly when your eyes start to tear as it makes you look like you're at the perpetual funeral of a loved on .


Things are a little teary on the finance front. Arab News posted a cheque latter than usual, thanks to the Haj holiday in Saudi and one PR firm I did a bit of work for has decided to go into hidding when it comes to making payment. I guess I'm discovering what Dad always new - agencies take their time to pay while clients are a little bit better as paymasters. Anyway, I shall have to sit and endure this for a little while longer as cash should be on the way soon. Fabulous Tan, 3M, Absolut and Alcon should all be kicking in their little contributions to my welfare - which leads me to think, perhaps I should start a side line as a career beggar and find ways of trying to get hold welfare and benefits from the state.


Hell, the government has decided that its time to raise the goods and services tax (GST) by yet another 2% to a small rate of 7%. It's not too bad when you compare things to European standards - Finland its 22%, in the UK its 17.5%. To be fair to the government, its offered some extra goodies and one has to realise that if you want the government to provide you with goodies, someone has to pay for it and it usually means you the tax payer get stiffed with the bill. I also have to give the governent credit for admitting that this is an unfair tax and its increasing the tax burden, unlike John Major's government in the UK during the 1990s who ingeniously cut income tax on the rich and raised VAT and claimed it had cut tax. - Still, it worries me that we are slowly but surely reaching a level where we have European taxes without European benefits and so we as tax payers have not only an obligation to pay the darn taxes but also to lap up every ounce of benefits offered to us. 


Edited a rebuttal to my belief that the increase number of US troops in Iraq is not going to solve things. It was refreshing to look at the other side and think of the arguments on the other side. The young man was obviously passionate about his stand and quite appauld by mine.


Unfortunately supporting the usual knowledgeable American stance on the world outside Oklahoma won't do the trick. Having a cowboy in the White House play more games with troops lives will also be futile. Extra troops on their own won't do the trick - unless the idea is to clear the jails and immigation counters. The American and British Public was decieved into invading Iraq. 


Saddam Hussein was no angel but the point remains, he did not have the WMD that Bush and Blair claimed he had and was the reason to go to war against him. It does not speak well when leaders of two of the world's greatest nations in human history lie to get into a war where they have no strategic interest and are caught lying by the rest of the world.


Til today, I'm stunned that the American public will alow Congress to Impeach Clinton for a blowjob but won't impeach Bush for violating their civil rights and starting a war on false pretenses. Clinton may have lied about his blowjob but that didn't kill anyone, the economy continued to grow and we had a good laugh at his expense. Bush's lies on the other hand has killed a mere 3,000 American troops in Iraq alone, reuined countless of lives in Iraq and the US economy, particularly the US dollar has been in the shit can. It wouldn't be so bad if the War on Terror actually reduced terrorism. Instead, his understanding of the world outside his ranch in Crawford Texas has become the perfect recruitment ad for terrorist. 


A little sensetivity to Muslim societies might actually help. An understanding that terrorism is a tactic used to achieve an aim rather than an independent ideology would be even better. Putting fundimentalist Christians like Jerry Falwell and John Hagee in the same ship as Osama Bin Ladin would actually be a step in the right direction. Another step in the right direction would be to have Ariel Sharon classified as a War Criminal in the same league as Saddam Hussein. It's not enough to sit there and say,"I'm bigger and stronger than you so you better do as I say." You may be bigger and stronger but until you act better people will find a way to get to you and hurt you. Nobody attacked the US forces in Japan because the US actually kept order, behaved itself and actually contributed to society. In Iraq, they've lectured Arabs about human rights and then got caught with Abu Gharib, lectured the Muslim world about the value of democracy until the Palestinians took them seriously and voted for Hamas, which lead to the US endorsing theft of revenues which rightly belonged to Hamas. Still you have people who support the right of the blackmailer.


It's a funny world we live in and in between the sniffles, its good to find the time to laugh at the way things are.