Archive for the ‘Politics – The Right Way’ Category

Climate change threat must be taken as seriously as nuclear war – UK minister

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

In foreword to Foreign Office report, Baroness Joyce Anelay highlights holistic risks of global warming, including food security, terrorism and lethal heat levels

The threat of climate change needs to be assessed in the same comprehensive way as nuclear weapons proliferation, according to a UK foreign minister.

Baroness Joyce Anelay, minister of state at the Commonwealth and Foreign Office, said the indirect impacts of global warming, such as deteriorating international security, could be far greater than the direct effects, such as flooding. She issued the warning in a foreword to a new report on the risks of climate change led by the UK’s climate change envoy, Prof Sir David King.

The report, commissioned by the Foreign Office, and written by experts from the UK, US, China and India, is stark in its assessment of the wide-ranging dangers posed by unchecked global warming, including:

  • very large risks to global food security, including a tripling of food prices
  • unprecedented migration overwhelming international assistance
  • increased risk of terrorism as states fail
  • lethal heat even for people resting in shade

The world’s nations are preparing for a crunch UN summit in Paris in December, at which they must agree a deal to combat climate change.

Monday’s report states that existing plans to curb carbon emissions would heighten the chances of the climate passing tipping points “beyond which the inconvenient may become intolerable”. In 2004, King, then the government’s chief scientific adviser, warned that climate change is a more serious threat to the world than terrorism.

“Assessing the risk around [nuclear weapon proliferation] depends on understanding inter-dependent elements, including: what the science tells us is possible; what our political analysis tells us a country may intend; and what the systemic factors are, such as regional power dynamics,” said Anelay. “The risk of climate change demands a similarly holistic assessment.”

The report sets out the direct risks of climate change. “Humans have limited tolerance for heat stress,” it states. “In the current climate, safe climatic conditions for work are already exceeded frequently for short periods in hot countries, and heatwaves already cause fatalities. In future, climatic conditions could exceed potentially lethal limits of heat stress even for individuals resting in the shade.”

It notes that “the number of people exposed to extreme water shortage is projected to double, globally, by mid century due to population growth alone. Climate change could increase the risk in some regions.”

In the worst case, what is today a once-in-30-year flood could happen every three years in the highly populated river basins of the Yellow, Ganges and Indus rivers, the report said. Without dramatic cuts to carbon emissions, extreme drought affecting farmland could double around the world, with impacts in southern Africa, the US and south Asia.

Areas affected by the knock-on or systemic risks of global warming include global security with extreme droughts and competition for farmland causing conflicts. “Migration from some regions may become more a necessity than a choice, and could take place on a historically unprecedented scale,” the report says. “It seems likely that the capacity of the international community for humanitarian assistance would be overwhelmed.”

“The risks of state failure could rise significantly, affecting many countries simultaneously, and even threatening those that are currently considered developed and stable,” says the report. “The expansion of ungoverned territories would in turn increase the risks of terrorism.”

The report also assesses the systemic risk to global food supply, saying that rising extreme weather events could mean shocks to global food prices previously expected once a century could come every 30 years. “A plausible worst-case scenario could produce unprecedented price spikes on the global market, with a trebling of the prices of the worst-affected grains,” the report concludes.

The greatest risks are tipping points, the report finds, where the climate shifts rapidly into a new, dangerous phase state. But the report also states that political leadership, technology and investment patterns can also change abruptly too.

The report concludes: “The risks of climate change may be greater than is commonly realised, but so is our capacity to confront them. An honest assessment of risk is no reason for fatalism.”

– to the original article:


Why Scandinavian women make the rest of the world jealous

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Icelanders are among the happiest and healthiestpeople on Earth. They publish more books per capita than any other country, and they havemore artists. They boast the most prevalent belief in evolution — and elves, too. Iceland is the world’s most peaceful nation (the cops don’t even carry guns), and the best place for kids. Oh, and they had a lesbian head of state, the world’s first. Granted, the national dish is putrefied shark meat, but you can’t have everything.

Iceland is also the best place to have a uterus, according to the folks at the World Economic Forum. The Global Gender Gap Report ranks countries based on where women have the most equal access to education and healthcare, and where they can participate most fully in the country’s political and economic life.

According to the 2013 report, Icelandic women pretty much have it all. Their sisters in Finland, Norway, and Sweden have it pretty good, too: those countries came in second, third and fourth, respectively. Denmark is not far behind at number seven.

The U.S. comes in at a dismal 23rd, which is a notch down from last year. At least we’re not Yemen, which is dead last out of 136 countries.

So how did a string of countries settled by Vikings become leaders in gender enlightenment? Bloodthirsty raiding parties don’t exactly sound like models of egalitarianism, and the early days weren’t pretty. Medieval Icelandic law prohibited women from bearing arms or even having short hair. Viking women could not be chiefs or judges, and they had to remain silent in assemblies. On the flip side, they could request a divorce and inherit property. But that’s not quite a blueprint for the world’s premier egalitarian society.

The change came with literacy, for one thing. Today almost everybody in Scandinavia can read, a legacy of the Reformation and early Christian missionaries, who were interested in teaching all citizens to read the Bible. Following a long period of turmoil, Nordic states also turned to literacy as a stabilizing force in the late 18th century. By 1842, Sweden had made education compulsory for both boys and girls.

Researchers have found that the more literate the society in general, the more egalitarian it is likely to be, and vice versa. But the literacy rate is very high in the U.S., too, so there must be something else going on in Scandinavia. Turns out that a whole smorgasbord of ingredients makes gender equality a high priority in Nordic countries.

– More:


Final wrap-up on the major travel we’ve been doing these last four months

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Vancouver’s West End

Wrap up

This will be a final wrap-up for the major trip Colette and I have been on these last four months.

We’ve been back in New Zealand from our trip now for about ten days.  We left on June 3rd for the U.S. where we spent a month touring up and down the west coast seeing friends and family.  We traveled from Orange County, on the south, to Vancouver, B.C., on the north.  I’ve done this trip four times now and this was Colette’s 2nd go-round.  All the cross country driving is fun.

U.S. West Coast


Benicia lunch with Dave

We  saw a ton of stuff and the especially good bits, other than the friends and family we saw (smile), were Las Vegas, Yosemite and Vancouver, B.C.   We’re especially pumped about the city of Vancouver and it is on our list for next year’s live-in immersion adventure; along with Montreal.

My head is spinning as I’m reflecting on and remembering all the places we’ve been in these last four months.

From the U.S., we flew July 1st to Frankfurt, Germany and then onto Paris; arriving on the 2nd.


Family in Irvine

It wasn’t going to be a smooth trip, as we discovered, when we left my friend Dave’s house, bound for the BART station where we were going to catch a train to San Francisco Airport.  It turned out that we had chanced to try our travel on the very day of the first BART strike in 16 years and BART train stations all across the Bay Area were shuttered.

After the initial shock of learning this for all of us, Dave stepped up to the plate and said he’d drive us all the way into the airport and off we went with our only guide; his GPS.  That little guide was, itself, a gamble as he hadn’t brought its charger so it was running on batteries and none of us had any idea how much juice it had left.  If it died on the way, we’d be lost and we’d be toast.

But it lasted, thanks to the God of small batteries, and we arrived in time.  And, with profuse thanks to our host and transporter, Dave, for his hospitality and for being willing to drive us all the way into the airport with zero notice, we took leave of him to catch our flight.

Away to Paris

A flight which, as it turned out, was an hour late taking off from San Francisco.   Which meant that later, when we arrived in Frankfurt, we then failed to make the connection with our Paris flight to Charles de Gaulle airport.   Ah my, it was, indeed, a day of travel problems.


Gerry and Colette at the Louvre

Our Parisian friend, Gerry, was waiting for us in Paris at Charles de Gaulle and he managed to work out what probably had happened to us when we didn’t get off the expected plane.   So, bless him, he stayed around for the next plane, which we were on, and all was well; though we were a bit frazzled after all of that fun.

And then began three months in Paris as Gerry’s guest in his extra apartment.

That was, indeed, a beautiful and very special time for us.   But, since I’ve already written extensively on our adventures in Paris, I’m not going to wax on further here about that.  Instead, I’m going to press on to describe the last part of our trip; which was Singapore.

We departed Paris for Singapore on September 30th and, after an overnight flight, we arrived in Singapore on October 1st.


And on to Singapore

Singapore Skyline

Singapore Skyline

It’s hard for me to recall what I expected from visiting Singapore.  When we booked, it was just a place I’d heard of that we were going to pass through on the way home to Christchurch.   But, since I’d never been there, we decided to lay over for the better part of a week and have a look around.  Really, at the time we booked it, it was nothing more than idle curiosity on my part.   Colette had been there once before years earlier and said it was nice; though hot.

Well, it is not an exaggeration to say that the place really knocked my socks off.

Singapore is one of the wonders of the modern world in many ways.  If you don’t get anything else out of reading this, treat yourself and go read the Wikipedia article about Singapore here.  You will learn a lot that will surprise you, I expect.

High-rise Apartments

High-rise Apartments

The first thing we noticed was the intense urban feel of the place and the high rise apartment and business buildings in all directions.

Singapore Island and Metro System

Singapore Island and Metro System

There are four to five million people living here on a small island that is at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula.  The main island is approximately 42km east to west and 23 km north to south.  Or, in miles, it is 31  by 19.   There are, as well, a number of smaller islands but only one big one.

Weather?  It is very hot and humid as you are just slightly north of the equator.

I’d heard about the cleanliness of the place but, still, it is something to see.   No trash, no gum blobs on the sidewalks, Metro trains that run smooth as silk and a mixed racial population that seems to get on very well.   There’s feeling of prosperity in the air in the dense central city areas of the eastern end of the island where we began our explorations.

Shopping Mall

Another Shopping Mall


Shopping Mall

Colette finds 'her' store

Colette finds ‘her’ store

Walking down the main shopping road; Orchard Road, you could easily imagine yourself back in Paris.  All the big fashion names are there.  And you will find shopping mall after shopping mall; each one more amazing than the last in its architecture.

Beating the hea

Beating the hea

On the first day, we went out and walked a lot but I found that really tiring.  The heat was like a hammer and the difference between being in the sun or the shade was huge.  And shade was hard to come by at mid-day because the sun was straight overhead.

After I was throughly hot and miserable (Colette had an umbrella so she handled all of this better than I did), we finally found a nice cafe with shade and settled in for an afternoon beer and some relaxed people watching and I began to recover a bit.

Double-decker bus touring

Double-decker bus touring

The next day, we were smarter.  We found out that for $18 Singaporean each, you could ride a city double-decker tour bus and get on and off as you liked for the entire day.  It went around the most interesting and dense areas of the city on the eastern end of the island and it came by every 30 minutes.

So, we did this.  In the morning we got on and sat on the right side of the bus and went all the way around the loop just looking and talking and taking pictures.  It took about two and a half hours.

Hindu Temple

Hindu Temple

In the heat of the day

In the heat of the day

Building everywhere

Building everywhere

High-rise Apartments

High-rise Apartments


Then, we got off on Orchard Road and wandered until we found a nice lunch place and then, after a short rest, we got back on the bus again.  And this time, we sat on the left side and went all the way around again.  It was well worth the money and we saw a ton of things without having to suffer and sweat in the tropical sun.

The street to our Hotel

The street to our Hotel

The five evenings we were there, we mostly followed the same pattern and ate at the restaurant on the ground floor of our hotel.  By that time of day (6 or 7pm), the temperature was nice and sitting outside was a great pleasure.  We sat outside and ate slowly and watched the traffic and the people passing by and discussed all that we’d seen during the day.

Singapore evening meal

Singapore evening meal


Genesis of Singapore

For me, there was a lot more to Singapore than the glossy surfaces we were seeing.  In odd moments, I delved into reading about it and learning how the place came to be; and it was a fascinating story.

In a nutshell, Singapore, Malaysia and other former colonies of Britain in the area came together to form a new Malaysian Federation in 1963.

At that time, Singapore had been a long time British colony and had a thriving harbor and was a regional trade center.   But it was also an uncomfortably hot tropical place where most folks lived in poverty, corruption was the rule, squalor was everywhere and there was a lot of racial disharmony.

The new union of Singapore and Malaysia was an uneasy one from the beginning and the issues were mostly racial.

Malaysia wanted to pass laws making the Malaysian people the first among equals to keep them ascendant over the Chinese.

The folks on Singapore strongly favored the alternative idea that all races should have equal rights.   Singapore today is 75% or better Chinese and it was probably a similar mixture back then.

Singapore's birth

Singapore’s birth

There was a lot a strife over all this and the situation looked like it might evolve into a civil war.  But Malaysia acted preemptively and ejected Singapore by a unanimous vote from the Federation in 1965.

And at that point, Singapore found itself, by surprise, as an island city-state and as a newly minted nation.

The first years were quite scary, I think, as SIngapore could have easily been subsumed into Indonesia or reabsorbed back into Malaysia under less than optimal conditions in either case.

But, they were lucky in that they had a leader named Lee Kuan Yew.  He was a take-charge fellow and a visionary and he took Singapore in hand and began to mold it.

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew

And this molding wasn’t of the standard dictatorial militaristic take-all-the-money, bank it and suppress any dissent type.   No, it was a beneficent moulding.  Yew’s motives, so far as I can see from reading history and by looking around me, were to shape the place for the good of the people.

This doesn’t mean he was a Communist or a Socialist.  He was a Capitalist; but one of a different sort than seems to predominate in the world today.

He believed in using the power of business to raise the living standards of his people.  I believe he saw Capitalism as a tool but he also saw, that as a tool, it must always remain subordinate to the greater goal; which was “the good of the people”.

In my opinion, what’s where most of us in Capitalist countries have deeply lost the plot.  We’ve never established that the highest goal of our countries should be to maximize the quality of life for all of the country’s citizens.  And, not having made that decision, we’ve left a vacuum into which others have rushed to promote the supremacy of their visions of personal wealth, of political power, of corporate domination and on and on.  In the absence of clear priorities, the pushiest and the greediest find their ways to the front of the bus.

Within 10 years Yew had rehoused most of Singapore’s population in high rise apartment buildings.

Early on. he passed laws with real teeth against graft and corruption; laws that were actually enforced at all levels.

He declared that English would the first language of the land (though everyone could and did have a second language of choice which they were free to us).

He mandated racial equality and built support for it into the school curriculums to teach it at every level.

He poured a large amount of the nation’s wealth into housing, into their military (modeled after the West German and Israeli models), into education and into transport (busses and Metro) and into communications needs.

Ship Building

Ship Building

He realized the value of having a diversified economy and he moved Singapore into many types of business that were new to it and he did this very successfully.

He made the price of owning cars so prohibitive that today only one person in 10 in Singapore owns one.

He promoted Singapore’s involvement in finance and Singapore today is one of the world’s largest financial centers.

But it has to be said that the Singaporean government is essentially a benevolent dictatorship in spite of having a multiparty parliamentary system.

Yew ruled from independence in 1965 until 1990,  Then a protégé of his, Goh Chok Tong, ruled from 1990 to 2004.  And then Yew’s eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, took over and he still rules today.   So, it’s been very much a dynasty with a controlled succession.

They allow multiple parties in Singapore but the party Yew was part of, the People’s Action Party (PAP), has won every election since the country was founded.  And of all the seats in the legislature, the vast majority have always gone to PAP candidates.

That sounds like it could be a dismal situation, politically, but in fact the results say otherwise.

People in Singapore live well.  80 to 90% own their own homes.  They are an enormously well educated bunch and the per capita wealth level is very high (third highest in the world).

Death for drugs

Death for drugs

There is a hard side to the place, however, but maybe its not so bad.   If you spit on the sidewalk or throw trash, you can get a major fine.   And if you bring drugs into the country, they will simply execute you.

There’s a lot of superlatives about the place.

Singapore is the world’s fourth largest financial centre.

Its harbor is one of the busiest in the world (it is the fifth largest).

Singapore is one of the four ‘Asian Tiger” nations.

Democracy – are we smart enough?

All of this information made me quite reflective as we wandered around.  In thinking about Singapore being a beneficent dictatorship, I remembered what Churchill had to say about Democracy:

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

I reflect on this saying a lot because I’m not convinced people in general are smart enough for the responsibility of participating in a democracy.   But, on the other hand there’s very little to be said for Communism or dictatorships either.

So Singapore, for me, was a bit of a revelation because it represents another possibility; a third way.

A way in which power is gathered at the top and wielded sincerely for the good of the people being governed rather than for the good of those who govern (as in dictatorships) or for the good of the wealthy (as in the case of many western democracies today).

You may say that Singapore is a very rare and special case and could not exist except for the small size of the place and the remarkable circumstances of its birth.  And I would have to agree; it is remarkable and it is probably not a pattern we will see often; no matter how admirable it might be.

The way they were and how they changed

Racial tension was a part of the early Singapore.   Today, Singapore is 75% Chinese and most of the rest is made of up Malays and Indians with an odd smattering of Europeans.  But the melding is working.

The government helps to make it work in an intelligent manner.  For example, each apartment building, as the units are sold, is supervised to make sure that the racial mixes of the apartments agrees with the racial mix of the country.  School programs actively structure things so that everyone get a good look inside the cultures of the other groups in Singapore as they grow up.  The government works actively to diffuse enclaves of different racial groups from forming in the different neighborhoods; with the exception of Chinatown and Little India which are grandfathered in.

Anyway, all of this was background for me as we wandered around and looked at the place.  Reading the newspapers and absorbing the evening news fascinated me daily as I looked to see if the place seemed like it was really working as well as it claimed to.  And for me, it looked like it really was.

Chinatown and Little India

Chinatown Delux

Chinatown Delux

The day after the big bus tour, we went to Chinatown and then onto Little India; both of which are special enclaves within the city which survive from pre-independence days.  We walked and looked and shopped. Colette bought a pair of pants she loved for $6 Singaporean; which was a serious steal.

In Chinatown, we saw a very beautiful Buddhist Temple.

In the Buddhist Temple

In the Buddhist Temple

A man and his beer

A man and his beer

At one point in Chinatown, we sat in a side street cafe outside (but shaded) for a long time while I imbibed a 660 ml Tiger beer and we people watched.  Yum.

Then, in Little India, we found a lot of fun and amazing things; including an upstairs clothing sales area that was absolutely chock-a-block with tens of thousands of Indian dresses of every description.  If you couldn’t find it here, you were not going to find it.

Colette does the shop

Colette does the shop

Then we sat down in a large courtyard surrounded by little food stalls selling all sorts of ethnic dishes and I had a coke and we just watched it all flow by; contentedly.

Life for the average man and women

On the last full day, we did a favorite things of ours.; we got on the Metro and bought a ticket to the end-of-the-line and went all  30 miles or so to the western end of the island – just to see what was there.

And along the way, it was something to see.  Mile after mile of high rise apartment buildings of all sorts of vintages all the way back the the first one built in the late 60’s. These were intermixed with industrial areas and off in the far distances, I could see huge cranes and I recalled reading that Singapore is a major ship building and repairing port as well.

Metro Train Station

Metro Train Station

Periodically, at the train stations, there would be huge shopping centers.  Really, these were small cites in their own right.

And, beside the larger train stations would be huge parking lots exclusively for busses by the dozens which would carry people to the north and south of the Metro line to and from their apartment homes or their work.

Along the tracks, in addition to the high rises and industrial areas, were nice parklands as well.  Singapore has dedicated 5% of itself to parklands.  But of native bush there wasn’t much to be seen.  Truly, the Singaporeans have nearly filled their island and the only way for them is up.

We rode to the far end of the East/West line to a place called, “Joo Koon”.  And it really was the end of the line.

There was a fair amount of industrial stuff scattered around but not much in the way of high rise housing there.  We came on a Sunday so it was pretty quiet.  A few locals stared at us and we couldn’t find a any place to get a cup of coffee or to wander and shop a bit so we got back on the train and headed east again after 15 minutes.

I expect that the high rise apartments will build their way out to Joo Koon soon.  If we come back in a few years, I’ll have another look and see what’s happened.

Heading east, we got off at Jurong East.  This is a junction where we could transfer to a train that went north and then east again and looped across the top of the island before finally finding its way back into the denser eastern areas.

Switching trains would show us entire areas of the island that we hadn’t seen before.  But before we did the transfer, we got off at Jurong East and walked over to one of the ubiquitous, massive shopping centers.

This area was definitely off the beaten tourist track; which would mostly run up and down the shops on Orchard Road and through Chinatown and Little India in the dense easter sections.   Here, we were seeing where the real Singaporeans lived and shopped; away from the tourists.


Starbucks in Jurong East

The truth was, it wasn’t much different. We found a Starbucks in the shopping center and had a coffee and a snack.

Around us were kids talking and studying their laptops and their assignments; much as you might find anywhere in the world.  A European couple sat a few tables down from us absorbed in their conversation and not looking out of place at all.   A boy and a girl were sitting and talking quietly near us and I thought they were in a new relationship by the way they looked at each other.   No one was rowdy, no one was rude, and no one paid us the slightest attention.   And the coffee was excellent.

We got back on the train and began the ride north.  Along the way, we passed stations with catchy names like “Bukit Batok”, “Bukit Gombak”, “Choa Chu Kang” and “Yew Tee”.

It was a long and slow trip and the train was quite crowded at times.  Outside, the scenery was always changing but, yet, always the same.   High rises, parklands, industrial areas, and shopping centers.   Only at one point on the northern journey did I see a bit of what might remain of the original rain forests that once filled the island.   I read on-line that of the entire island, only 100 hectares of land remains in use for farming.

After awhile, the train’s rocking and the crowded spaces got to Colette and she felt a bit queasy so we got off and sat on a bench in a station, “Khatib”, I think.  She felt better in 10 minutes or so and we got back onto the next train after that and completed the circuit back to our home station at Novena which is about a 15 minute walk from our hotel.

View from our room

View from our room

Out hotel was nice and clean; though the room was a bit small.   I liked it though because I could look directly out our window on the 9th floor and see a huge number of apartments in the 25 story apartment building just across from us.  It was one of the more recently built buildings and I thought it compared favorably with the nice high rises we’d seen in Vancouver back in June.

View from our hotel's 9th floor

View from our hotel’s 9th floor

The next day, we played a bit and then, in the afternoon, we caught an overnight flight direct from Singapore to Christchurch which took 9 hours.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore had one last lesson to teach me; even as we were leaving.   We flew out on Singapore Airlines and the service was very impressive and we were just flying in coach.

Most of the world’s airlines are caught in the “maximize profits and minimize costs” cycle which is an essential thing to do if, as a corporation, your bottom line is focused on maximizing the returns on investment for your shareholders.

Buying coach fare these days on most airlines is like riding in a third-world cattle car.  If you get a nod and a small bag of peanuts, you should count yourself lucky.

It wasn’t like that on Singapore Airlines.

Singapore Airlines Menu

Singapore Airlines Menu

I realized it was going to be different when they came around with the menus. I was so impressed with getting a menu, I kept mine.  First, they came around before we ate with hot cloths to clean your hands or to wipe your face.  Then, we had a glass of wine before the meal was served.   Then they served a nice meal which we chose from the menu.   Later, during the night, as most of us slept or watched movies, they came around three times with apple juice to keep us hydrated and with snacks.   In the morning, it was excellence again as they came around with another hot cloth before we ate breakfast.

I spent sometime on the flight wondering why, in a world in which all sorts of businesses seem to deliver less and less service for more and more money, why should Singapore Airlines be different.  I think it may be a lack of greed.

Virtually all large corporate businesses are focused on maximizing the return on investment for their shareholders.  The CEO’s of these companies keep their jobs if they can maximize profits and minimize costs and they are tossed out if they fail.  And with huge pay packages and bonuses CEO get, they have a huge motivations to succeed.   In truth, most corporations make so much money that the impact of these large pay packages is minuscule in the bigger picture.

But why is Singapore Airlines different?   Singapore, the state, owns the majority of the stock of Singapore airlines.  The state, through all the wise things it has done, is doing very well financially and it is also doing well with its goals to optimize the quality of life for its citizens.

Singapore, the country,  doesn’t need to grind every last penny out of Singapore Airlines.   In fact, it can afford the extra it costs to make the brand a quality brand by providing superior services for the money paid.  And they know that’s going to be good in the long run for Singapore and all its citizens.

What I like about Singapore

There are no controlling shareholders who have to be appeased.  If the airline makes money and runs in the black, then it is a success, it is good enough and it speaks well of the overall enterprise; Singapore.  There is no need to squeeze it for more profit out of greed.

That’s a good deal of what I liked about Singapore.   They clearly have the notion of Capitalism in hand.  But they also get the idea of ‘enough’.   More is not better; balance is better.

The people and the government of the place are doing well.  It has the world’s 11th larger foreign reserves which is huge.  Remember, this is a tiny city-state of only four to five million people.

Every 6th household in Singapore has more than a million dollars U.S. of disposable wealth.  This doesn’t include property, businesses or luxury goods.

They are rated at the very top, along with New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries, as the least corrupt in the world.

The World Bank rated Singapore the easiest country in the world to do business in.

So, why, with the people and the government doing so very well, would they need to grind out more profit?   They don’t; they understand ‘enough’ and ‘balance’.   They are using Capitalism for their purposes and not letting it use them; as seems to be the case in so many other places.

Singapore has a game plan that puts the good of the population first and then harnesses Capitalism to serve that goal.

Well, after that little philosophical burst of enthusiasm on my part that probably gave a few conservative ‘me-me-me’ profit maximizing Capitalists a bit of heart burn, I think I’m going to wrap this long travel saga up.

End of the line

I’m back in Christchurch, New Zealand, now and settling in for awhile.   Next year, in August, I will be able to get my New Zealand citizenship and I am looking forward to that.

Truly, folks, I see myself as an Internationalist.  I don’t feel aligned with any particular country.  I am aligned with what works; with what might make for a better world.  I hope some of you will join me in thinking this way.

Cheers, from the end of the current road.

Home again for awhile

Home again for awhile

– 10Nov2013 – More on Singapore here:

‘This Is Working’: Portugal, 12 Years after Decriminalizing Drugs

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Twelve years ago, Portugal eliminated criminal penalties for drug users. Since then, those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or heroin go unindicted and possession is a misdemeanor on par with illegal parking. Experts are pleased with the results.

Before he got involved in the global war on drugs, João Goulão was a family physician with his own practice in Faro, on Portugal’s Algarve coast. Arriving in his small office in Lisbon, the 58-year-old tosses his jacket aside, leaving his shirt collar crooked. He looks a little tired from the many trips he’s taken lately — the world wants to know exactly how the experiment in Portugal is going. Goulão is no longer able to accept all the invitations he receives. He adds his latest piece of mail to the mountain of papers on his desk.

From this office, where the air conditioning stopped working this morning, Goulão keeps watch over one of the world’s largest experiments in drug policy.

One gram of heroin, two grams of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana leaves or five grams of hashish: These are the drug quantities one can legally purchase and possess in Portugal, carrying them through the streets of Lisbon in a pants pocket, say, without fear of repercussion. MDMA — the active ingredient in ecstasy — and amphetamines — including speed and meth — can also be possessed in amounts up to one gram. That’s roughly enough of each of these drugs to last 10 days.

These are the amounts listed in a table appended to Portugal’s Law 30/2000. Goulão participated in creating this law, which has put his country at the forefront of experimental approaches to drug control. Portugal paved a new path when it decided to decriminalize drugs of all kinds.

“We figured perhaps this way we would be better able get things under control,” Goulão explains. “Criminalization certainly wasn’t working all that well.”

Much the Same as a Parking Violation

As part of its war on drugs, Portugal has stopped prosecuting users. The substances listed in the Law 30/2000 table are still illegal in Portugal — “Otherwise we would have gotten into trouble with the UN,” Goulão explains — but using these drugs is nothing more than a misdemeanor, much the same as a parking violation.

Why set the limits on these drugs at 10 days’ worth of use, though?

“Well, it’s a limit, which by its nature is arbitrary,” Goulão says. Now the head of Portugal’s national anti-drug program and an important figure in Portuguese health policy, he still talks like an easygoing family doctor. Arrayed on Goulão’s windowsill are photographs, including one of him with Richard Branson, the British billionaire and hot air balloon operator. Another shows Goulão with the king of Spain. Both these men have received personal briefings on Portugal’s new drug program from Goulão.

“At the point when we designed the law, we had hardly any data to draw on,” Goulão relates. “We weren’t the least bit certain this would work.”

The question at stake: How can a government keep its citizens from taking dangerous drugs? One way is to crack down on those who provide the drugs — the cartels, the middle men and the street dealers. Another approach is to focus on the customers — arresting them, trying them and imprisoning them. Legal prosecution — as both a control mechanism and a deterrent — is the chosen approach for most governments.

Giving Up on the Idea of a Drug-Free World

“It’s important that we prevent people from buying drugs, and taking drugs, using every method at our disposal,” says Manuel Pinto Coelho, 64, the last great opponent of Goulão’s experiment. Pinto Coelho wants his country to return to normalcy, in the form of the tough war on drugsthat much of the rest of the world conducts.

Pinto Coelho is a doctor too. He has run rehab centers and written books about addiction. Now he’s at odds with former colleagues and with “the system,” as he says.

His greatest concern is that his country has given up on the idea of a drug-free world. How, Pinto Coelho asks, is it possible to keep young people away from drugs, when everyone knows exactly how many pills can legally be carried around? He still believes deterrents are the best form of prevention and that cold turkey withdrawal is the best treatment method. He is also fighting the extensive methadone program Portugal began as part of its drug policy reform, which now provides tens of thousands of heroin addicts with this substitute drug.

These days, Pinto Coelho earns his living running diet clinics, but he spends his evenings writing letters and drafting presentations on his country’s “absurd drug experiment.” He travels to symposiums to warn the rest of the world of its dangers. At home in Portugal, his critical perspective has made him an outsider, but he says he’s been well received abroad. As if offering proof, he shows a fact sheet issued by the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy, a brief and skeptically worded report on the Portuguese experiment.

The Freedom that Overwhelmed the Country

When João Goulão wants to explain why it is Portugal in particular that came up with the idea to stop prosecuting drug users, he starts with the country’s Carnation Revolution.

In 1974, Portugal broke free from nearly 50 years of military dictatorship, a political shift symbolized by the carnations soldiers stuck in the muzzles of their rifles.”Suddenly, the drugs were there,” Goulão says, as Portuguese returning from the country’s overseas colonies brought marijuana with them. Goulão, too, says he smoked pot back then. He was in his early twenties and “drugs promised us freedom.”

But it was a freedom that soon overwhelmed the country. When Goulão established his doctor’s practice in Faro, he soon found himself approached by parents whose children were no longer just smoking joints, but had moved on to heroin. Sometimes the children came to him as well, and Goulão had no idea how to treat them. When the first state-run rehab clinic opened in Lisbon, Goulão attended a training course there.

At that point, he says, the heroin epidemic was just beginning.

In the 1980s, cheap heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan began flooding Europe. Portugal was not the only country affected, but Goulão says his nation was hit particularly hard, because people here had little idea how to handle drugs. “We were naïve,” he says.

The number of people taking illegal drugs in Portugal was low compared with other countries, but of those who did consume drugs, an unusually high number of them fell into the category that specialists in this field refer to as “problem drug users.”

From the pile of papers on his desk, Goulão unearths a copy of a speech he recently gave in Paris. Flipping through it, he finds the figure he’s looking for: 100,000. This is the number of severely drug-addicted people in Portugal at the height of the epidemic, in the mid-1990s. Portugal’s total population at the time was just under 10 million. The number of drug addicts who became infected with HIV was also considerably higher than in most other countries.

A drug slum formed in Lisbon, at the edge of a neighborhood known as Casal Ventoso. Here junkies slept in shacks or in the garbage, in extremely poor conditions. “They shot up on the street, and they died on the street,” Goulão says. Anyone in Portugal could observe this phenomenon — on TV, in newspaper pictures or even from the nearby highway.

– More…

– See also this story:  


Stigmatize the Money

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

– Good article over at Truthout on the subject of how big money corrupts American politics and what one alternative to the system might look like.

– Dennis

– To the article…

Quote of the Day

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

“A time will come when a politician who has wilfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men’s lives should not stake their own”   – H.G. Wells

What men can learn from women about leadership in the 21st century

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

A new Northwestern University meta-analysis, an integration of a large number of studies addressing the same question, shows that leadership continues to be viewed as culturally masculine. The studies found that women experience two primary forms of prejudice: They are viewed as less qualified or natural than men in most leadership roles, and when women do adopt culturally masculine behaviors often required by these roles, they may be viewed as inappropriate or presumptuous.

When generalizing about any population segment, especially such large and diverse segments as male and female leaders, there is bound to be a degree of inaccuracy and stereotyping. Still, research finds that predominantly communal qualities, such as being nice or compassionate, are more associated with women; and predominantly agentic qualities, such as being assertive or competitive, are more associated with men.

For a long time, these agentic qualities have been culturally associated with successful leadership. But the 21st century is seeing the combination of new employees, new technologies and new global business realities add up to one word: collaboration. New workers are demanding it, advances in technology are enabling it, and the borderless organization of the future is dictating that future productivity gains can only be achieved by creating teams that are networked to span corporate and national boundaries.

These new business realities usher in the need for a new leadership model, one that replaces command and control with transparency and inclusion. This will increasingly highlight the value of a more feminine approach. Where in the past communal behaviors naturally favored by women may have been obstacles to leadership success, in a collaborative future they may well become an edge.

Women employ a more participative leadership style, are more likely to share information and power, and have strong relational skills that make them seem empathic to their staffs. In both laboratory studies and observations of real leaders, the opposite was often found with men. Male leaders tend to be more transactional in their business dealings, favor a more hierarchical and directive approach, and appear more typically to convey formal authority.

– More…



Monday, August 15th, 2011

– I like what Truthout is about.  Sometimes, they deluge me with so much stuff I just have to step away for a bit but I always find what they’ve got to say interesting and closely aligned to my own view of the world.

– This morning, I made a donation to their organization because they sent me a message summarizing what they are about and what the big issues are, globally, and I found I really resonated with what they had to say.

– Below , is the text of their  message:

– dennis

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We’re deep in the battle over the fate of the United States. Will we solidify our government as a plutocracy – a late-stage empire that can serve only the interests of the super-rich? Will we continue to pursue policies around the globe that destroy the environment in pursuit of profits? Or will we retrench, and work to heal our bleeding political system before it’s too late?

The rest of the world is rising up against the cult of unrestrained free-market capitalism and money-power. From Tunisia to Egypt to Spain to Portugal to France to Germany to Greece to Israel to Chile to the UK, anti-austerity movements are on the rise, and the fight is playing out in chaotic, unpredictable and often tragic ways.

Everyone is asking why such a revolt isn’t happening here in the US.

One answer is simple – the US has invested billions of dollars in institutions that promote and protect consumerism-as-culture, both here and abroad. But activists around the country – whose hopes for change were dismantled over the past three years – are reuniting. The fight is coming here; it’s just a matter of time.

Our country is the epicenter of backwards, self-destructive, consumption-driven thinking. But it’s also the birthplace of amazing transformative struggles that have changed the world. Which side are you on?

– If you want to donate…

Telex to help defeat web censors

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Developed by US computer scientists the software, called Telex, hides data from banned websites inside traffic from sites deemed safe.

The software draws on well-known encryption techniques to conceal data making it hard to decipher.

So far, Telex is only a prototype but in tests it has been able to defeat Chinese web filters.

Outside in

Telex was developed to get around the problem that stops other anti-censorship technologies being more effective, said Dr Alex Halderman, one of the four-strong team that has worked on Telex since early 2010.

Many existing anti-censorship systems involve connecting to a server or network outside the country in which a user lives.

This approach relies on spreading information about these servers and networks widely enough that citizens hear about them but not so much that censors can find out and block them.

Telex turns this approach on its head, said Dr Halderman.

“Instead of having some server outside the network that’s participating we are doing it in the core of the network,” he said.

Telex exploits the fact that few net-censoring nations block all access and most are happy to let citizens visit a select number of sites regarded as safe.

When a user wants to visit a banned site they initially point their web browser at a safe site. As they connect, Telex software installed on their PC puts a tag or marker on the datastream being sent to that safe destination.

Net routers outside the country recognise that the datastream has been marked and re-direct a request to a banned site. Data from censored webpages is piped back to the user in a datastream disguised to resemble that from safe sites.

– More…

Govt to consider making pay public

Friday, July 8th, 2011

– Bravo, New Zealand.   Many countries say, “Equal pay for equal work”.   But somehow after the political rhetoric and hand waving, it never seems to get done.

– This idea in New Zealand, if implemented, may help to push at least one country to walk its talk.

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The Government will consider a proposal to allow workers to know if they are getting paid less than their colleagues because of their gender, but has concerns about it.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor has proposed a new Pay Equality Bill which would require bosses to let staff know pay rates of colleagues.

Pay equity has been a hot topic with the Green and Labour Parties proposing changes and a row over comments by Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) Northern chief executive Alasdair Thompson that woman got paid less partly because of time they took off because of monthly periods.

His future with the organisation is under discussion.

Prime Minister John Key said today the Government would consider Dr McGregor’s proposal.

“The Government will have a look and we will consider that issue,” he told Breakfast on TV One.

“What you have to be careful of is unintended consequences and privacy issues. So in a very small workplace, you could see how that create real tension.”

– more…