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Saturday, April 11th, 2015, 7:49 am

Mike Coogan Winning European 400m Championship

Friday, March 27th, 2015, 7:39 pm

Singapore is Not a Success Story

Against the myth and against lionisation of autocrats like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia or Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore

Last week the so-called founder of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, died. He did not build Singapore, it was workers (usually foreigners) who built Singapore, but he liked taking credit for everything, not just controlling everyone. He was somewhat of a tyrant, but nobody is allowed to say it. It’s not politically-correct to say it in the West and it is dangerous to say it if you live in Singapore, where trigger-happy censorship is common and people can be ‘disappeared’. Even in his so-called ‘retirement’, despite not being elected, Lee Kuan Yew continued to manage everything (albeit behind the scenes).

I have written dozens of things (maybe between 50 to 100 tweets for example) in various places online in an effort to debunk the myth, especially when the myth expanded upon the death of the founder. This baffled some who did not understand why I was chastising a country that I had only just returned from.

More than 2 years ago I spent a lot of time studying Singapore. I spent many hours in Google StreetView, Google Maps, etc. and I inquired about houses there (crazy prices) and routinely spoke to my sister in law who lives there. Later on I found some blogs which explained to me more about the hidden side of Singapore and then I learned the breaking story of Shane Todd with much interest. It seems likely that he was ‘suicided’. Since there is no free press in Singapore, don’t expect Singaporeans to know much about it (or to know the important facts about it).

Singapore, as it turns out, is somewhat of a sham. I saw the negative things when I was there; poverty, exploitation, you name it…

Singapore is not the success story that Western leaders try to tell us about as means of selling autocracy (decisions from above without consent). They want to justify autocracy in Western nations (it’s already happening under the auspices of corporations). Singapore is in many ways a failure with pressured children (low birth rates and super-high expectations) who turn suicidal rather early (like in South Korea or Japan) and it puts a deceiving face to the outside world by means of oppressive censorship (gagging or misinforming outsiders). Singapore has a high level of investment (maybe even debt) in a tourism ‘ghetto’ which it still invests a lot of money in. The priority is image, not happiness.

My wife and I stepped outside this tourism ‘ghetto’ in an effort to study the real Singapore — the one that anonymous blogs (afraid of their regime) write about. We saw unpleasant things and should have taken more photos to document them (but didn’t). People work hard in physical jobs at a very old age (maybe over 80), people sleeping on the floor, an enforcer with a Star Wars-inspired stick telling me not to eat peanuts outside the train… those are not the images Singapore wants you to see. But that’s Singapore; rock the boat a little or step out of the boundaries and you will see it.

Strictness over location of hotels in Singapore helps one understand how the founder of the country helps control the image so as to show all tourists only the ‘Disneyland’ but not slums. All hotels in Singapore (plenty of them) are mapped below, buffered by fancy malls, banks, and shallow entertainment for those who love consumerism.

singapore-hotels

Don’t fall for the myth of Singapore; sure, it’s nicer than China (never mind the vast wealth gap between rich and poor), but it is built by foreign ‘slaves’ (foreign workers who are not even protected by minimum wage laws and suffer from deadly, lax safety regulations) and it is even somewhat of a hellhole to many of the local residents who have Singaporean nationality and are forced to joint the Army (Singapore does a good job hiding its weapons apparatus, including that which exported poisons to Iraq). A lot of this military aspect of Singapore turned its business/industry into borderline inhumane, much like in Israel, which is also tiny and surrounded by hostile nations.

Maybe there are those who seek to justify oppressive authority in Singapore. But please, don’t use the ‘Singapore model’ to sell us the Singapore-inspired autocracy here in the West. The same can be said about Saudi Arabia, but that’s slightly older news (Abdullah’s death), except if we consider how it uses US-exported weapons to bomb the Hell out of Yemen right now.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015, 8:46 pm

Better Late Than Never? Home Office Waits Half a Year to Comply With Records Request

home-office-1

TODAY I begin a series which I was eager to start a long time ago but did not because there was a pending case. I decided to split it into many parts so as to highlight many different ordeals and mistreatments.

What heralds the beginning of this series is the document head shown above. It was sent to us only days ago, more than 6 months after we had requested information as per the law permits us (British law is generally fairly good when it comes to information disclosures in the public sector).

There is a stamp at the very top, stating August. That was 6 months ago.

In this post we wish to highlight the following points:

  • The papers, which weigh at 166 pages, were necessary in order for us to make our case
  • These papers were sent to us half a year (or more) after the request was made
  • The page above (click to zoom) serves to show that the papers could probably be sent about a month after the request had been made
  • The papers which we needed were sent to us about 4 months after the case was very much over (as we had won it, proving that were the subject of injustice)

What we can deduce, politely and cautiously, is that Home Office was perhaps not interested in providing us with material evidence that would support our case. This is just the tip of the iceberg as in future parts we shall show a lot more.

It is not entirely impossible that our solicitors, whom we paid a lot of money, just ‘sat’ on these documents for 5 months or so, but based on what was told to us, that’s definitely not the case. We were told this explicitly.

There are far more serious procedural lapses and supposed ‘oopsies’ (never in our favour), as future parts shall reveal.

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015, 12:59 am

Self-Hosting Milestone

LITTLE more than two years ago we set up a self-hosted album (no Flickr/Facebook/whatever) and have probably proven, in terms of numbers at least, that one does not need to rely on centralised networks that spy on users and treat them like products. This week we pass 300,000 views in our albums and we are planning to publish more albums for many years to come. This is not just a hobby but also a way to preserve one’s memories without relying on services that have little or weak or no long-term commitment to preservation of so-called ‘content’ (that’s how they view photos ‘generated’ by so-called ‘users’).

The so-called ‘cloud’ is a dangerous trap and even this week I experience this because clients and friends foolishly put their blogs or sites on third-party ‘cloud’ services which limit functionality and basically lock people in, giving them no control over the software even if the back end runs Free software.

Saturday, January 10th, 2015, 11:03 am

RIP Grandpa

Avner Werner Max Schestowitz, August 29th, 1924 – January 9th, 2015

Avner Werner Max Schestowitz

Friday, December 12th, 2014, 6:33 pm

2 Years of Self-Hosted Album

bag-pipes-1174616-m

OVER three years ago Rianne and I met. The following year I set up this album, not imagining that it would attract 275,000 page views in just 2 years. Photography was never a hobby of mine, but as we traveled to many nice places including Scotland (hence the image above), Chester and Cyprus it turned out to be a nice way by which to travel back in time and recall the past. Rianne quit using Facebook when she was able to put photos in our own, self-hosted album, demonstrating, hopefully, that people do not need Facebook to share photos with a lot of people (this is what people use Facebook for, perhaps the most). To be frank, I had been hosting photos in this site since almost a decade ago (starting with Switzerland photos), but it never developed into a habit. The same software was used (Gallery), but a different version of it.

Thursday, November 20th, 2014, 2:49 pm

BT Resorts to Spamming Techniques to Censor Our Internet Connection (Updatedx3)

ONE THING I’ve learned while moving between houses is that over the past few years the UK made giant leaps towards Internet censorship. I used mobile broadband while BT was transferring the connection/account from one address to another, whereupon I felt what it’s like to use mobile broadband in the UK these days (not on a phone but through a dongle, or a USB-mounted cellular modem for those who are not familiar with British terminology/slang). O2 was fine 3.5 years ago when I used it for one month, but now it is flagging as “porn” numerous important sites, including one of my sites which is basically a Free software project site, demanding that I register and prove I’m over 18 before I can access my own site, which is perfectly banal and safe for children.

BT et al. have been promoting their Internet censorship using the “think about the children” nonsense (“protect your family” and other such sentimental/emotional blackmail). After a house move (not creating a new account with BT) I was shocked to find, about 24 hours afterwards, that BT resorted to actually injecting top-level pop-ups on top of pages I was loading, even in my own site, Tux Machines. Screenshot below.

bt-censorship

BT has been told by me like a dozen times (explicitly or implicitly) that I do not need or want my Internet censored. Last week I also told them this over the telephone. Is BT’s strategy basically to nag people infinitely until everyone consents to censorship (for the children, of course!) and then the setting becomes universal, or on by default with no other option? It would certainly keep some costs down (no need to ask, just censor everywhere).

The sad thing is that it’s possible that other large ISPs in the UK may be doing the same thing, but I have not had enough experience with them to make an informed comment.

Update: So, the spam is worse than I first estimated. It follows me across pages and across sites (yes, it gets injected onto requests from many domains, excepting some like BBC and Twitter). Lots of GNU/Linux sites are having this stuff injected onto them, across different devices too (this is a dubious strategy used by rogue players). My wife reports seeing the same on her tablet when accessing different sites. So it basically keeps nagging infinitely. She pressed “no thanks” (neither green nor pink, like the pro-censorship icons) and then rather than be left alone she was taken to another page from BT. This is like a real sort of pro-censorship harassment that nobody even asked for; in fact, we asked repeatedly not to be nagged over this. The scary thing is that BT now allowed itself to modify pages that sites (not BT sites) serve to BT customers. It’s worse than spying and it opens the door to all kinds of abuse, like omission of words, injection of propaganda, ads, etc.

Update #2: There seems to be a bug in the pop-up they’re injecting to all pages. It keeps popping up even after pressing “no, thanks”. It makes the whole Internet/Web unusable unless perhaps one consents to Internet censorship. People should be up in arms against BT over this. First they modify pages and inject to them, universally, an obtrusive pop-up that covers the page and prevents interaction with the page. Then there’s the bug; Even dismissing the request for censorship does not offer a way out.

Update #3: Two weeks later (after repeatedly clicking “no, thanks”) we still have these pop-ups taking over requested pages every now and then. How many times will it take for “no” to mean no?

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