Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Death Penalty

Both the authors bring out very credible to state their varying stands, and I must say that the both of them have been very convincing. But, as I have made clear before, I will certainly object to the death penalty, and thus am siding with Antonio Cassese.

Both of them provide evidence that seem to contradict each other. One particular piece of evidence drew varying opinions from the writers. For instance, Gary Becker says that the death penalty has actually helped to deter crimes, which is seen in the drop in crime rate in the U.S. However, Antonio Cassese, seems to think otherwise. Thus there is no real way to tell if either of them is telling the real truth. But the main reasons why I chose to object the death penalty is that, firstly it is highly ineffective and I don’t think that it really helps to deter further crimes. I like the point that Antonio Cassese stated, that in a fit of complete rage, no one is going to think about the consequences should he or she kill someone. That’s the raging bull in us all, waiting to get out and do some real damage, not even sparing to thought to think logically. That’s the extent to which our anger can drive us.

I like another point Antonio Cassese drew up. I really feel that people are paying too much attention to this death penalty issue. I feel that increased emphasis should be placed in fighting for crime prevention and against the inhumane acts in prisons. Through all this, we will be able to totally abolish prisons. I mean, the purpose for prisons is to teach criminals a lesson for the sins that they have committed. But with all the atrocities and inhumane acts being committed in the prison itself, don’t the inmates lose the fight towards turning for the better and leading a new life??? Many are going to be scarred for life and these reasons are why many commit suicide in the prisons. Are prisons really the ideal places for rehabilitation???

But, Gary Becker also brings up a good point in saying that administering the death penalty to a murderer could potentially save 3 other lives. The opportunity to save innocents by killing a murderer, whom I must add, rightfully must not be shown any remorse to, is indeed a good reason for the death penalty. I also really think about the families who are affected by these murders. How will they take it if they see the criminal going scathe free with only having to go through a few canings and a life prison sentence? This brings up the whole issue about “an eye for an eye”. Well, the only rebuke I can come for that is that I really feel that too much of attention is being placed on the death penalty issue. I mean, don’t we all want to live in a peaceful haven right here on Earth. Yes, as corny or as unfeasible as I may sound, this is what we all should fight to achieve. Are we really going to live comfortably when there is going to be at least one person per day who is going to be murdered??? Well, that’s what the situation is going to escalate into, if the everyone does not change his or her priorities.

The bottom line is that if we start thinking about fighting to attain total crime prevention, this whole issue will be blown to dust…. But then again, in today’s society where violence is continually being encouraged in the form of wars and terrorism, very few still believe that peace can guarantee them what they want… This is a dire issue we all must fight to change… the sooner the better…

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Challenges facing Singapore as we play host to more people from different backgrounds and cultures

The article entitled "Embracing Otherhood" clearly defines the ongoing problem is surfacing in Singapore at the moment. We, as Singaporeans are unwilling or just ignorant in accepting these others as Singaporean. The word that we normally use to describe the europeans or the caucasians that we can see form time to time walking admist Singaporeans, "Ang Mo" really is giving them excessive amounts of attention. Do we constantly have to gawk at them as if they were some alien from another planet???

Thus, one challenge is certainly the willingness of we as Singaporeans to accept these foreigners as one of us. Right now, i would have to say that we need to be warmer to these foreigners. The issue about the death of the worker from Myanmar, which was also talked about tin the article, is a clear example of the disparity between the forigners and the Singaporeans. The fact that they did not even have the decency to give he dead worker a proper burial, gives us all a clear indication that we regard these foreigners as nothing more than slaves that do all the dirt work. They do all the hard work like renovating neighboorhoods, upgrading the lifts and yes, clearing the garbage. We think of them as workers more than humans and this is why the accused chose to simply dump the body anywhere. They must have had the impression that the foreigners are so insignificant to them, thus there being no need to give them a proper burial.

Another challenge would be to remove the stereotypical idealogy that Singaporeans preceive of these foreigners as well as removing any prejudice that we may have of these foreigners. Stereotypical claims can range from the "study mama" as well as the "prostitute" label given to the mothers from China to the "we have too many of Bangla workers" comment we hear everytime we pass by a large construction site whereby the majority of the workers would be Bangladeshis. Considering their job options to be very meagre and "degrading" is what is driving us Singaporeans to give hem so little respect. But i would just like to point out that there are pure Singaporeans who also fall into these job categories. But are we discrimination them too???

The way to solve theis is for we as people ourselves to recognise that we do indeed need to give them some respect. Jokes about these foreigners are fast flowing, are can be heard among secondary school students. If they are developing such views now, their negative views are just going to keep piling up as the age. These racist jokes that riducle the foriegners are plentiful, and even though the students mean no real harm form it, they are actually aggreviating the situation. And it is always wrong to talk behind people's backs.

"There are 4 people in a plane: A singaporean, a bangladeshi, an american and a swiss man. They were all discussing about what their countries were best in. So, the american guy stepped up and said that in America, there was an abundance of cigars, and so proceeded to throw cigars off the plane. Next, the swiss guy stepped forward and said that in Switzerland , there was a abundance of swiss watches and so proceeded to throw themhe out of the plane. Lastly, the Singaporen felt he had to come up with something good. So, he then took the Bangladeshi and flung him out of the plane. He then looked at the other two and "Too much of them in my country".

This is one common joke but though again, no real damage done, it does have it social implications.

It about time that we address all these issues and ensure that they all feel like home in Singapore. Not to forget, they also make up about 1 million of the total population meaning that prejudice or personal attacks aimed at them could potentially lead to detrimental results concerning our society.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Ever Growing Improvements in Aviation

The question really, is "Will the dreamliner ever soar???"...In a recent article i had read in Time magazine, i learned that was an unveiling of the newest Boeing 787 airplanes. Not only is in bigger and better, it is also more environmentally friendly that all the previous series behind it...its being built with a lighter material to achieve cost savings and thus concentrate more on establishing comfort to the passengers. On top of that, its usage of LED lights inside the plane thus helping to save on energy usage. This combination of comfort and a social consciousness to reduce pollution looks set to take the aviation world by storm...already there 677 orders of the plane from just about 47 aircraft carriers while simply tells us the enormous demand for these aircrafts...

There is a lot of competition brewing between the airbus and the Boeing. The airbus initially had the upper hand with the release of their latest Airbus A380 into the market in 2007. While the Boeing seems to go for more class, the Airbus seems to be merely focussed on getting the largest number of people in flight as possible. The A380 is currently the world’s largest passenger aircraft. Its capacity numbers reach around the mid 800s. Looking at the monstrous size of the Airbus from the front, its very hard to see how such an aircraft could fly giving its sheer weight. But, alas, welcome to the world of technology. Moreover, due to the ever escalating level of technology in the world today, it is no longer hard to picture over 1000 people i a plane on a commercial flight.

The Boeing company now have to face an extremely uphill task of producing over 600 Boeing 787s in time for 2015. The important thing is that they have got to ensure that the planes made are of extremely good quality. Else, they will be exactly like Airbus, which had the structure of the plane all laid out but due to problems with the production of the various aircraft components in different countries, the overall finished plane ended up being like crap...this had disappointed many people and had reduced the reliability of the Airbus company.

Still, overall, it’s been amazing how much the aviation world has achieved in such a short time... i just hope that the comfort level of passengers in plane such that they feel no sorts of awkwardness...its only then when air-sick prone people like my mother, will start enjoying air travel...

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The terrorists at work again

Its yet another scare for the British. This week saw a terrorist attempt in London and Glasgow foiled by the vigilant efforts of the London police. As i look back at the September 11 World Trade Center bombings, I can't help but think how much terrorism has affected us this past few years. Its also really sad to see that the British is currently feeling the full force of the Al Qaeda terrorists.

Is there really no end to this??? Though the car-bombing attempt was far from a successful one, it still strikes fear in the hearts of Londoners that the terrorists are still relentless in their pursuit of vengeance. Like how the world is gather ring on the 7th of July to increase the awareness of global warming through "Live Earth", I feel that there should really be a large-scale effort to curb terrorism as well.

Britain has felt the brunt of the terrorists especially from the London subway bombings. Its good to see that the increased security by Scotland Yard has paid of. The quick apprehension of the perpetrators of the car bombings is good evidence of that. But the fact that the nation is at a terrorist level threat 4 puts every one of its citizens in a very precarious position. I don’t mean to sound racist, the Londoners are probably going to be keeping a wary eye of any Iraqi or Muslim in their streets...but, who can blame them when even people in such a noble occupation as that of a doctor suddenly turns into a suicide bomber...

We live in a very dangerous world where the notion of peace seems as ludicrous as the idea of Singapore winning the world cup...but, if Singapore does put in loads of effort into its soccer, I cannot deny our chances and this idea works the same for terrorism. Try hard enough to curb terrorism and I have no doubt that terrorism can become non-existent and from there, we can look towards creating a safe haven right here in Earth...

I believe in this, now the only problem is convincing others to believe in this....

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Commentry on Friend's Blog

I would like to comment on Vjay's blog entry titled "The Rising EPL".

Link to Vjay’s blog:

Yes, I totally agree with Vjay that the English Premier League (EPL) is on the up rise. It’s now the third biggest grossing sport, still behind the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. But I have no doubt that in time, the EPL will top the word as the highest grossing sport. Soccer in the beautiful game after all….

But what has made the EPL such a success. Like Vjay said, the English football scene wasn’t as glamorous in the past, having its fair share of hooliganism and out-of-control fans. But the scene of English football today has seen a dramatic change. There hardly is any domestic violence and the conduct of the English fans are by far the best if you compare them with the fans of other big footballing nations like Brazil, Argentina. Italy, and Spain. So bad is the violence in Argentina that the fields are actually surrounded with a extremely high metal fence to prevent the raging fans from getting onto the pitch and harming the players and opposing fans. In Italy, the violence was so great that there were cases of deaths, which resulted in the footballing body in Italy actually banning fans from entering the stadium to watch the matches. It was highly humorous seeing those top teams in Italy playing their matches in virtually zero crowds. Where is the fun in that??? The players did not even get the mood to celebrate after they had scored.

That’s nothing compared to what happened in Spain. Racist taunts were the scene of Spanish football last season. There were a few black African players that were taunted by the opposing teams’ fans. They made offensive hoots and monkey actions at them. One particular world-class player, Samuel E’To, was also subject to these cruel taunts and wanted to walk of the pitch because of them.

Why not in England then??? Because the English Football Association has implemented harsh stands and fines to stem hooliganism. Their efforts have not been in vain with the fan conduct in their domestic league being one of the best in the world. Which is why the English Premier League is so marketable. Besides being host to some of the world’s best football teams and world-class football players, the enormity of fan support in England is astounding. It’s no surprise that billionaires, who have never watched football before, can become so engrossed in it the next minute.

The EPL now is becoming home to not only the world’s best football player, but also to the world’s richest billionaires. More than 5 clubs are being owned by billionaires with the most high profile billionaire to enter the scene being ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The fan base that these billionaires can tap on is worldwide. Not like some sports like, Rugby, which is not so popular in Asia.

It goes without saying these rich investors are going to even further the popularity of the EPL, but there are certainly going to be the negatives of such things. In football, if you have the money, you can get the best players who in turn can get you the victories that you want. Thus, there is the problem of the league being too one-sided. The richer teams will eventually end up owning the poorer teams. That’s just the way it is. At the end of the day, football will always be money driven sport.

With this bring the only problem I see in EPL, maybe the English Football Association can bar such transactions where rich billionaires take over clubs, already financially capable, and perhaps request for them to invest in a poorer club. Although the answer is going to be “no” due to the lesser marketing power of lesser popular clubs, it’s worth a try…its time we made the game beautiful and fair again…

Freedom of Expression or Social Responsibility

Firstly, I would like to talk about the contrasting opinions of the two writers, Singer and Szilagyi. Singer basically places a firm believe that there should be freedom of expression for democratic countries and is making his stand by using the example of one Austrian, David Irving, who was sent to jail because he denied there ever being a holocaust. From this, it is not hard to gather why Singer has such strong believes. Imagine, someone in Singapore denying that the Japanese occupation ever existed. Is he going to get arrested? You see, the basic principle behind having a democratic society is to grant each and every person in society the chance to voice himself or herself, regardless of how controversial their opinions may be. Thus, he feels that David Irving has to be released, as he was simply telling out what he felt was right. You can’t just silence them and throw them in prison. It shouldn’t be done in any society, much more in a democratic one.

As for Szilagyi, she believes that social responsibility should be exercised even in a democratic society. She bases her claims from the Danish cartoon saga There is no shadow of a doubt that it sparked controversy in the Middle East and the temperatures down there were reaching boiling point. It was so terrible that the Muslims refused to but anything that was Danish, believing them to be tainted of sorts. Now, knowing that the situation was volatile in the Middle East, shouldn’t the Danish government, in the least prevent it from being published? If everyone was going to dismiss the cartoons with a hearty laugh, they were obviously, wrong.

Now we shall take a look at Singapore. Singapore is a democratic nation, in which all our voices, grievances are attentively heard by our government. But we must not forget that Singapore is also a multi racial society. Then means being extra careful with what we say or do. This virtually means that we are in total freedom over what we say but know when to keep our mouths shut so as to avoid saying anything that may come across as racist remarks. Of course, Singaporeans are wary about this, with the 1964 race riots still fresh in our minds. So, I’ve finally decided that both writers’ approaches should be adopted to ensure that will be able to build a strong, cohesive multi-racial society, while still keeping the idea of freedom of expression.

But, then again, this idea is absurd…Its near impossible to say that the government is going to be able to do such a thing when the two principles contradict each other on almost every scale. Thus, while I would certainly have been content if there was a way to combine the two principles, I would have to say that Singapore should most probably adopt Szilagyi’s approach. Social responsibility is what’s most important in Singapore…

Firstly, we must think about what our society in made up of: a multi-cultural society. While over the years, the threat of there being social or racial tension has been quelled, we all cannot deny that there still lies distinct lines existing between each racial group. Nobody just wants to admit to it. So say that we focus on the principle of freedom of expression and a cruel racial-related article crops up in the newspaper one day. There is most certainly going to be an outcry of injustice the next day…Yes, this is Singapore, and the outcry certainly is not going to rival those in the Middle East, but it will stir up a bit of hatred and tension within the targeted racial group. A volatile bomb, ready to burst once its endured too much. What could be worse???

But, if we take the better route, in this case, towards having social responsibility, we can be assured that almost everyone in the public are going to go about their daily lives as per normal. By saying almost, I do refer to those minority die-hards who are so vocal and expressive that the press has to cover-up their views. There is going to be an out-cry by these people that there is no freedom of speech but, for Singapore’s sake, I pray that their volumes will be almost negligible.

Finally, I believe that everyone in Singapore has a good moral sense, and have virtues that would make even our forefathers proud. Nobody’s going to post an article, knowing that the social impacts of it would be insurmountable. If not why have the principle of transparency between the government and the public in place??? The government must surely feel that Singaporeans will be mature enough to not boil over racial issues and etc. Take for example; the government was very transparent about revealing the economic status of all the racial groups though this information was indeed a sensitive one.

The fact that we have not had even a glimmer of a potential racial riot in the last 40 years has indicated that whatever transparency the government and public are having is really effective. I almost feel as if I have nothing to worry about…

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Effective Punishment

Ah, punishment…A widely talked about topic I must say. Why do we need punishment? Are we so ignorant of rules that we should have to resort to pain to ensure that one learns his or her lesson??? This brings up the topic of today’s justice system and to be specific, effective law and order. What is effective and what is not? Why is it that most of us label the meting out of harsh punishments to being more effective that giving more lenient punishments? It looks as if we humans, highly intellectual people I must add, are only capable of learning our mistakes through pain and torture. Surely something is amiss…

Today’s law and order has taken, from a personal point of view, a turn for the worse. The punishments seem to be getting harsher and harsher form each new crime being committed in today’s society. Just about a week ago, there was an officer form the Central Narcotics Bureau, who came to talk to all the students about the multitudes of highly addictive drugs being circulated among drug traffickers today, and off course, the punishments awaiting these drug traffickers. 24 strokes of the cane is one of the cruel punishments that await these traffickers. 24 stokes of the cane at one session!!! And we aren’t talking about the canes that we buy from any shop…Oh no, we’re talking about canes that are thicker than our index fingers and the people who met out the punishment are real professionals…I talking about people who take target practice to ensure that every shot lands spot on to ensure maximum pain. Sounds totally sick and sadistic right…Wait till you see the pictures…I guarantee that the next time you get even an ounce of craving for drugs, your hand will immediately be feeling for your behinds…

With reactions such as this, can’t it be said that the punishment is effective??? So it’s sadistic and all, but it does shove fear down our guts which does achieve its primary purpose: Making people fear facing the consequences for drug trafficking. Imagine issuing a normal jail sentence to one such drug trafficker. Sure, he’ll be confined but his mentality would simple be, “It’s just a small jail sentence. I’ll just be extra cautious next time. What’s the worse that could happen?” So, in this context, pain does serve as effective punishment.

Another thing I would like to talk about is about one of the stories that was shown on the “Taboo” video shown in school. Though I’ve forgotten exactly what country it was in, but I would like to highlight what its crime punishment ritual works. You see, law and order in this particular place revolves around religion and beliefs. Unlike in countless other places today, where criminals are convicted of their crimes in courts, this particular place goes one step further. Should there be a case where the criminal cannot be properly convicted in court due to reason such as lack of evidence, there is a ritual whereby both the accused and the accuser must dip their hands into a pot of boiling oil and retrieve a ring inside the pot. It’s believed that he person who’s guilty will have their hands burned while those who are actually innocent will not be greatly harmed.

The video actually showed an instance whereby the method worked and the correct person was identified for his crimes. Though the accuser had to go through pain of dipping his own hand into the oil, the purpose of the ritual was served. You see, the mere thought of dipping his hand into a pot of boiling oil was so ludicrous and downright scary was too much for him to handle, that he confessed on the spot. Off course, the punishment was served in full force through public humiliation.

Crucially, what I am driving at, is that every community will have its view one what it considers to be effective punishment or effective law and order. To them, it doesn’t matter if its painful, ludicrous, or downright crazy, as long as it serves its purpose of making people think twice about committing a crime, to them its effective. But for all our sakes, lets just hope that this notion of using boiling oil to solve modern day crimes and disputes never ever surfaces in Singapore no matter how effective it is…