Monday, 29 December 2008

Top 10 Snips of 2008

2008 marks an interesting year for me. I started blogging this year and contributing to Shanghaiist on a semi-regular basis. I discovered twitter and announced to the world that I was a socialmediaholic. I discovered the wonders of Google Reader and as a result I started sharing interesting articles via twitterfeed to my friends and followers on twitter as well as Facebook. This list shows some of the things that I have read or followed that you have also found interesting.

Thanks to all of you who retweeted my links, mentioned me in your blogs, speeches or podcasts as well as those of you who have bookmarked my blog in the hopes that I will write something interesting.

2008 has been an interesting year here in Shanghai and by the looks of the Snips the things that have interested you the most have been the rumours of racism at the Beijing Olympics, the plight of those affected by the Great Sichuan Quake and the occasional piece about the Great Firewall of China.

I look forward to sharing more with you in 2009 and genuinely wish you a safe, prosperous and happy new year.

  1. Beijing Boyce » Um, really? SCMP claims Beijing to ban blacks, Mongolians at bars
  2. Fears of a 'no-fun' Olympics in Beijing |
  3. Police deny bar owners' claims of restrictions on blacks in Sanlitun
  4. Malaysian tourists in China safe
  5. 26 Malaysian tourists safe but stranded (updated)
  6. Dedric Lam | Facebook
  7. Enjoy it while you can: Lots ‘o Websites unblocked in China
  8. The heartbreaking earthquake
  9. China Olympic Terrorists
  10. Shanghaiist: Report: Beijing bars told to ban black people during Olympics

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Nice to see you doing well

I Saw THIS and thought to myself, gosh they deserve more than that!

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Greeting from Wen Jia Claus

Here's wishing you a merry and blissfully inebreated Christmas and a prosperous, peaceful, safe and happy new year.

From all of us at.... well actually from just me at DEDLOG!


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

John McCain regains his soul.

I start this post again with the concession that I am not American and I do not have a vote, but being a witness (albeit via the internet) to one of the most important Presidential races, perhaps in history, I feel compelled to add my two cents worth to the discussion that has and will ensue on the blogosphere. It seems apt that I begin with a concession because what I hope to write about is not how proud Americans should be for both electing what seems to be a worthy leader and for participating in the democratic process but about the manner in which a war hero conceded defeat to a man who out spoke, out debated and out advertised him.

On the day after the results I am now watching the speech by John McCain again as he concedes defeat and I am impressed by his performance. I also wonder why it is only after he lost the race that he pulls out such a tear jerking and moving speech. He was gracious, he was humble and most of all he was deeply patriotic. He pledged support for Obama that, unlike Bill Clinton at the DNC, did not leave any doubt that his one and only allegiance was to the good ole US of A.

So why could we scarcely see this during his campaign? I have my theories.

At the beginning of the campaign, John McCain was Mr. Straight Talk. He was a man of action. A man who suffered for his country and comrades. He was the Maverick. He was the man who reached across the aisle to reach compromise when required to find solutions for the benefit of the nation and yesterday when he spoke of importance of electing the the first Afro-American President he was genuine. During the course of campaign, this image was blurred because during this long journey, John McCain was replaced by the party machine. Months before the vote, I commented on twitter that I felt that McCain no longer believed in his campaign but in hindsight it was not so much that he no longer believed the campaign but that the campaign was no longer his. 

To start off with, the selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate was the first sign that he was being rail roaded. For someone who is so close to the center to choose someone so close to the right was obviously a decision made by a strategist looking at voter profiles and not for the benefit of the country. Unfortunately it was transparent in its incongruousness and obvious to the American voters. These strategists tried to position the two as a team of Mavericks so much that having that word uttered from Palins mouth became a joke that even the very restrained Joe Biden could not resist shooting down in the VP debate. You will notice that after that debate the word Maverick was hardly ever used.

McCain was always going to be a man who's actions spoke louder than words for two reasons. Due to his long political history he firstly had a great deal more action to speak of than the relatively inexperienced Obama but secondly there was no way he could complete with an orator as eloquent as Barack. This man of action was to be the man who was blind to party lines and just got the job done. He tried to portray this image by suspending his campaign to work on the "rescue" package, a stunt that cost him dearly as the party machinery did not take into consideration that his knowledge of the financial system was inadequate and that it would be seen by the increasingly intelligent voter population that it was indeed a stunt. Apart from this failed attempt to be the action man, the entire campaign failed to further illustrate that he was a man of action simply because at no time did he attack the administration for their failings in the past eight years, he did not do anything more than give lip service about being disliked by people in his own party. After the selection of Sarah Palin, John McCain became a bullhorn for special interest and Washington power brokers that scripted every word he uttered. In fact towards the end of the race Palin had the right idea when she turned on her own strategist. Unfortunately Palin didn't have the foresight to use that to the advantage of the campaign, but if had McCain fired his team mid-race to run a race that was his own, the outcome, although may not have been different, would probably not be the massacre that ensued on November 4th. It would have further illustrated that this American hero would not stand for something that he did not truly believe.

Perhaps it is because of the underdog mentality that living in Australia for so many years gives to a person but I am glad that after his political advisers jumped ship, the real John McCain was able to show us the man he is and the man who should have fought the strategists during the campaign in his concession speech.

Congratulation to America for their choice. Congratulation Senator McCain for reclaiming your soul.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Top 10 Snips for October: Palin, Hanson, Censorship and the US Economy


1. Is Sarah Palin really Pauline Hanson?

2. Internet Censorship. The recurring nightmare for an expatriate Australian.

3. Your affair can kill you |

4. We are all accomplices in the global economy

5. Sarah Palin feet firmly placed in mouth.

6. Google launches Mail Goggles to save you from yourself | Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone - CNET

7. Con of the Century! | FED Up USA

8. China discovers oil, gas well in Bohai Bay - People's Daily Online

9. World's fattest man to wed |

10. The 'Brick' is... | Apple Factory innovation

Monday, 27 October 2008

Internet Censorship. The recurring nightmare for an expatriate Australian.

I've lived in China for almost a decade now, leaving Australia in 1999 I watched gymnastics, table tennis and the diving of the Sydney Olympics on television with a Chinese commentator. It was then that I first felt the first pang of home sickness.

Over the years I have learned to cope with being away from the sun through our hole in the Ozone, beaches with waves, people who look you in the eye and say “Good Morning” when you enter an elevator and generally better personal hygiene. Living in China though does have it's advantages. Cost of living is much lower. Personal income tax is marginally lower and in the little pockets of humanity in the bustling city of Shanghai one finds a wealth of humanity (albeit not as multicultural) that can only be offered from a city of twenty million people.

I am writing this post because through my twitter spy hole into the minds of Aussie geeks, there is much anguish about the move to censor the internet. I won't go into the politics of this as I really am out of touch with Australian politics. (you can read more about this on ) What I hope to achieve to provide a look into what it is like to live in a country that is renowned for their Great Firewall.

First of all, China is not a national democracy. There are actually elections for local municipal representatives but generally, most Chinese have no say in who is running their country. As a result, many policies are are made unilaterally and the decision to censor the internet was made by the Ministry of Information Industry (Now called the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology or MIIT) This ministry's role is not as innocuous as it sounds though. It is in charge of the telecommunications system and the internet but part of the role of this ministry is also public security and has under it's purview ensuring that state secrets don't get into the wrong hands. If you recall a crashed US surveillance plane in Hainan Island, these were the folk that dismantled it and reverse engineered the technology before returning the plane to the US in small pieces.

The rationale behind the control of information on the internet (and everywhere else for that matter) in China is to prevent revolt as much as moral inappropriateness. You can look up articles on what is blocked in China but many personal blogs hosted outside of China certain keywords fall into the list of blocked sites. I will avoid using those keywords in this article but suffice to say they refer to certain historical events, certain religious organisations and certain regions within or near China. Of course most pornographic sites are also blocked.

Over the years the system has gotten more sophisticated and it is only this year that Wikipedia was unblocked. Wikipedia is edited by the public and as such certain historical accounts might be written in such a way that is not pro-China. Now the capability has been developed to only block certain pages and not an entire site. In fact a while a go the practice was to block entire IP ranges, the same way that some spam blocker like to block all emails that come from a particular country. My point is that over the years, internet blocking has transformed from a blunt instrument to quite a sharp one, although I admit it is more like a butter knife than a scalpel.

How do they achieve this. It is rumoured that a staff of 30,000 are employed by the Golden Shield Project (the official name for the Great Firewall) to select what to block along with whatever algorithm they use to automatically block sites. I suspect that there are more people working on behalf of the censors if you include people who have been forced to self regulate their sites to keep them from being shut down within China. This goes as far as to block certain posts on bulletin boards to prevent discussions of events. If you click here you will see an article that refers to a bulletin post that was deleted due to inappropriateness. This is not uncommon.

So censoring the internet is not a small task of flicking a switch because internet savvy people are generally savvy and if you are going to make it effective then you'd better be ready to commit to it for the long haul. It will cost not only money, but people. Not just your average smart person but folk who can outsmart those who make money from those kiddy porn sites that I imagine Stephen Conroy wants to target. China churns out 40,000 technical graduates a year. They are underpaid, underemployed and it is these people that are probably responsible for the US accusation that China hacked the Pentagon systems. My point is if you are going to censor the internet, you're going to need a huge pool of extremely talented technologists to keep it going because those sites that really want to get through the firewall, will get through.

The situation in China is one of acceptance and if you really want to access a site there are simple ways around it. For instance Google Reader is not blocked in China so if certain blogs are blocked then you need only subscribe to them in via an RSS feed and then you can read them. Once again I won't go into much more detail about other ways to get around the GFW in case I am lucky to have one of the 30,000 Golden Shield staff read my blog. So as much as the GFW is an inconvenience, if people really want to get to certain content, there are many ways to get to it and by censoring the internet it is really only going to prevent those who are casual internet users from finding a loophole.

Censoring the internet is not only costly but it doesn't really work. It is a blunt instrument unless you plan to invest a huge amount of resources and man hours into it and unless there is a payoff for you to make that investment, (which for China is political and social stability of 1.5 billion people) it is a strategy that is extremely difficult to justify. If Australia is serious about censorship then there are some things they have to get right first.

  1. Make sure that you have enough technical graduates to support such a strategy.

  2. Give back to the people you're are censoring by making broadband access extremely affordable. (In China it costs AUD20 per month for a 1Gig unlimited access line)

  3. Understand that for a nation of only 20 million, a unilateral infringement on the basic freedoms of speech and freedoms of press is probably not better than a targetted and widespread campaign to encourage self regulation.

With that in mind, I wish my fellow Australian good luck as you battle the forces of technological oppression.

P.S. If you want to see some of what is blocked in China to a twitter search for gfwlist

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Sarah Palin makes a hot prop.

This is Sarah Palin being a prop on SNL. Somewhat like the role she has played in the election campaign. 


If this doesn't work for you, you can watch the clip directly from NBC here

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Is Sarah Palin really Pauline Hanson?

Listening and reading some of the stuff coming out of Republican Vice President Nominee mouth of late, it reminded me of another Australian female politician who was renowned for straight talk. The other thing that this other politician was renowned for was also being a homophobic ill-informed racist biggot, but it wasn't until I did some facial comparisons that the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up. 

This begs the question of whether there are genetic markers for ignorance?

Friday, 3 October 2008

Don't Vote

This is like one of the cleverest video's I've seen. My fear is that the sarcasm might be lost on some. You know who you are...

UPDATE: the Sequel

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Top 10 Snips of September.

Based on Unique Clicks this month... 
  1. - Integrated 2.0 Communications

  2. - 1984 in 2008: An Orwellian look at US international politics

  3. - China Tightens Corporate Foreign Currency Controls

  4. - DEDLOG: Intergrated 2.0 Communications - My impressions of day 1

  5. - donate to charity without money - ripple

  6. - 60 arrested for lynching CEO (Worker led right-sizing?)

  7. - DEDLOG: Google Chrome Review

  8. - Print Story: Attacks, praise stretch truth at GOP convention

  9. - Mike Moores next movie will be a free download

  10. - Why is this even in the News (George Michael does drugs? Shock Horror)

    Photo by reebob

Debate Number One

This is the full 96 minute video broken into 11 Youtube videos, for those who have time.

And if it doesn't play try here or here

Monday, 15 September 2008

1984 in 2008




Let me start off by saying that my love of literature is only a recent phenomenon. I was never an avid reader in school and generally I am more likely to feign intelligence by paraphrasing information gleaned from eavesdropping on smarter my friends (Thank you Sam & Ian) than actually having any first hand knowledge myself. The following feels like an original thought but I am quite certain that is an unconscious regurgitation of something I read elsewhere and if this does prove to be the case, then I would like to thank the anonymous thinker who did so well to raise my consciousness.

So.... I recently got my hands on the audio book of George Orwell's classic 1984 and soon realised that terms that I had already been using to describe the GFW such as “Thought Police” and “Big Brother” were attributed to this marvelous work of not-so-fictitious fiction. I was aware of the cultural and political climate in which this book was written but not being a history boffin either, I really did not know a great deal about the World War, the Russian revolution or the rise of Stalinism to really appreciated all of Orwell's social commentary.

A quick peek at Google informed me that much had been written about the similarity between Ensoc and the Nazi Germany as well as the rise of Communist Russia but what my mind kept thinking about was not just the Nazi Youth or even (given that I live in China) the similarity between the image of Big Brother and Chairman Mao. My mind kept thinking about the correlation between the war on Eastasia and the Bushian War on Terror.

Perhaps it is because the passing anniversary of the 9/11 but I could not help but think that the second act of the War on Terror that was staged in Iraq was a tool to control hearts and minds, a strategy that bears uncanny resemblance to the War on Eastasia. The underlying platform for Ensoc's power in Orwell's Oceania, was a post war government that used the fiction of an perpetual war to maintain control over it's citizens. 

Another frightening similarity is the language that both Bush and Orwell use to describe Emmanuel Goldstein and Eastasia in the book, and Bush's choice of language when he referred to Saddam and the North Korean government. Perhaps a term that Orwell could have employed in his book is Axis of Evil since both Bush and Orwell portrayed the enemy as doers of absolute, unwavering and perpetual evil. If not for Winston Smith and his contraband hand written diary, it is possible that none of these doubts would never see the light of day and sadly in both 1984 and in real life it is often those who represent the voice of reason that are silenced.

My mind is not unlike Smiths in that it is a jumble of information snippets and half truths, but if I think deep enough in the the recesses of my childhood memory, I seem to recall that once upon a time, Iraq was not only an ally to the US but was a buyer of US made biological agents such as antrax and bubonic plague. Iraq once acted in the best interest of the US to hold down the evil on their Eastern border. I feel that it is probably worthy of mention that somewhere in these recesses of my completely unreliable memory I have the strange memory of reading that OBL was first trained by the CIA.

Citizens of Oceania lived in obedience because of the underlying threat of the evil that lay both within and beyond it's borders and therefore falsely necessitated the existence of the totalitarian regime. With that I leave you with the age old question with a slightly new slant. Is 1984, which was written in 1948, an example of art imitating life or life imitating art?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Dan Levinson on CSR

I managed only to make it back to the first session of Integrated 2.0 Communications yesterday in time to catch the presentation by Dan Levinson of Dan's been around China for about 11 years in various capacities and his latest incarnation is that of a service provider in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility.

This topic is one which is quite close to my own heart as I have have been priivy to many a debate on what exactly CSR is. The beginning of Dan's presentation actually demonstrated how fragmented the understanding of CSR is. Aside from the increasingly popular strategy of greenwashing that has been adopted by practically every industry that might cause any harm to society or the environment, Dan highlighted an interesting study that found that a little over half of the respondants to a survey who were in senior strategic positions defined CSR as charity or community outreach. This comes to no surprise except when you consider that as part of the same study, 75% of CSR managers or people directly involved CRS programs defined it as such. Thats about a 25% difference between people who run companies vs. people who run CSR programs. No wonder amongst the few successfuls programs are so many that never get the right kind of traction.

The remainder of Dan's presentation was an eloquant illustration of how different organisations including Bayer, Novozymes, Sony, United Technologies and Vanke all percieved CSR as something completely different. In the case of Vanke who have had some unfortunate press of late associated with both their donation policy to the Sichuan quake victims and the blowback of an less-than-well-thought-out press release about the where the blame lay for the fall in value of Vanke properties (let the buyer beware) their perception of CSR is that since their business is to build homes, they are were already contributing to society enough. 

Dan's presentation was for the most part a good birds eye view of CSR in China and in many of the multinational companies operating in China. The core message on the CSR end though is that regardless of how you define social responsibility, it is important to garner top to bottom buy-in for your program to succeed and once that is in place how you decide to compliment those values, whether it be through traditional or digital medium, becomes a secondary concern. (Well that's the take-away I got from his speech)

Thank you Dan for sharing your thoughts with us. For more info on CSR in China visit Dan's site

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Intergrated 2.0 Communications - My impressions of day 1

Between meetings, I managed to catch half a day of a conference that my company is running, Integrated 2.0 Communications that Christina (one of our conference producers) put together. Sitting in the back of the room I was first impressed that the back channel strategy of using as a way to stimulate questions was actually having some effect. Being a multi-lingual event with some presentations in Chinese and some in English, the audience wasn't extremely interactive but by having posts to a dedicated number on jiwai, projected on a secondary screen beside the stage, allowed for comments as well as questions to be posed anonymously which I think went down well with a shy audience, especially with the overseas speakers. We tried this last year at another event that we did called Nurturing and Commercialising Online Communities and it was probably not as well received as this year. I can see us using this more and more in our tech related events.

The presentations that I did get to see were the ones from Ginger Zhu of Nike, Len Starnes of Bayer Schering Pharma and the one from Michael Darragh of Ogilvy PR.

The presentations from Ginger and Len were a good insight into the mentality of digital strategists and their strategies as well as a peek into the rationale behind some of the strategies that were adopted. Nike's focus seem to be about engaging their customers and positioning Nike as more than a footwear and apparel brand. Through their Nike Plus campaign in Australia they challenged runners through the Nike + Ipod product by creating a virtual competition of who could run the furthest in a two week period. A truly inspired strategy in my opinion to tap into the addictive nature of running.

Len on the other hand looked at the various platforms that already existed in the US and Europe for the healthcare sector. He mentioned a couple of services that I had never heard of such as Revolution Health & Sermo that is evidence that doctors are actually a really lonely bunch of people.

The day concluded with the presentation from Michael Darragh outlining strategies on how the traditional principles of media management really do work with bloggers and BSB's. The underlying principals being to be personal, honest and to give something back. Sounds a little like my twittiquette suggestions but of course, my opinion comes straight from my arse as opposed to years of research, trial and error.

Overall, the first day of the conference was a good look at the tip of the iceberg. Tomorrow promises to also be a good day with presentation from Cisco, Unilever and a mini workshop by Shelly Bernstein. My only regret is that I've managed to miss Sam Flemming on all three occasions that we've had the honor of having him on stage. (Sam, if you're reading this, you gotta let me buy you a beer or something).

Disclosure: I run the company that is running this little get together.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google Chrome Review

It's just a freakin' browser innit?

Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Face and the Voice

I can't recall where I found this picture but I felt is was worth reposting.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, 30 August 2008

My 10 Most Popular Snips this Month - August 2008

A very Olympic month. Stay tuned to for more snips.

  • Li Ning shares soar in HK after Olympic opening - Monday, 11 August 2008 16:47 -
  • Three killed, 100 hurt in China earthquake - - Saturday, 23 August 2008 15:52 -
  • China Digital Times » Kaiser Kuo On Visiting Journalists and Forbidden Cliches- Friday, 1 August 2008 10:43 -
  • Teacher who posted quake photos sent to labor camp - International Herald Tribune - Friday, 1 August 2008 11:00 -
  • Behind murder of American in Beijing, a tale of despair and dislocation - International Herald Tribune - Monday, 11 August 2008 10:35 -
  • Olympics ONLINE LIVE STREAMING : MaynasChua, create a life that matters, lead a meaningful life - Monday, 11 August 2008 10:05 -
  • The 21 edicts from the Chinese Government's propaganda unit - World - -Thursday, 14 August 2008 12:05 -
  • Led Zeppelin classic 'too racy' for Olympics - Telegraph - Monday, 25 August 2008 10:17 -
  • Great Photos: 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony - The Big Picture - - Monday, 11 August 2008 19:34 -
  • The Associated Press: Post-Olympic clamp on Muslim Xinjiang possible - Monday, 25 August 2008 16:47 -

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Singaporeans are no good at dating? Who's opinion is that?

Singaporeans are a funny bunch. Even if they don't know it. I've been here for a couple of weeks and I was lucky enough to catch 2 important events. Firstly was Singapore's first medal since 1960 at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and secondly I was witness to the funniest Prime Minster's address ever. There were some issues that were important policies disguised in a way that catered to the common Singaporean.These included better welfare for mothers to support more pregnancies in Singapore's waining population and important steps to improve freedom of speech but there was one part of Lee Hsien Loong's speech that should have been left out.

In his speech, that was published on the internet in text and video the Prime Minster basically spends time to tell his fellow Singaporeans that they don't know how to date. Sure this is related to the falling number of births in the country but a little more tact would not have gone astray. He first sites a case of a woman in her30th's who has worked all her life and is finding it hard to find a mate.
Relate conversation one matchmaker had with his client
Q: What do you usually do after work?
A: Go to the gym
Q: How about the weekends?
A: Stay at home with family
Q: Do you go out?
A: Yes, bring nieces and nephews out to play
Q: Have you met any new friends in the last week?
A: [Dead silence]
Q: How about the last 1 month?
A: [Dead silence again]
To add insult to injury, Mr Lee's speech proceeds to further examine that even when Singaporeans go on a date, they are ill prepared because"their social graces aren't up to scratch" and they have unrealistic expectations.

Unfortunately sometimes their social graces are not up to scratch
i. e.g. dating agency arranged for a guy to meet a date
ii. Setting was a romantic dinner at a nice restaurant
iii. But he showed up wearing slippers!
(1) Asked why he did not dress up for the occasion
(2) His reply – this is me, this is how I am
(3) After some tactful grooming advice, he made progress and learnt tokeep a pair of shoes in the car, and put them on before dates
(4) The couple are now happily married
And then proceeds to actually imply that Singaporeans cannot separate real attraction from movie romance.
f. Also need to have realistic expectations
i. Have to make an effort for the relationship to work
ii. Easy to get carried away by romantic images in the movies
(1) Meet someone of your dreams, instantly fall madly in love, get married, live happily ever after
iii. But we are ordinary people in real life
(1) May not have instant sparks on the first date
(2) But take time to discover the person for who he or she is, nurture the relationship, and love may blossom
All of this of course he sites independent research...from where you ask? Dating agencies! Somehow I don't think that these organisation have taken the steps to ensure that their research is impartial. By using these cases, at least to me, Lee comes off like a salesman for them. He even goes so far as to naming a number of them. I am sure that these agencies will experience a spike in business after this National Day celebration.

The most damning part of this speech though is that the leader of a nation is presenting this like a stand up comedian. A bad one at that. The audience laughs half heartedly at his anecdotes and in the end he spend 6 minutes not only airing to the world that Singaporean women are socially inept, but that Singaporean men are ill advised when it comes to courting and are interested in women half their age.

The Singaporeans I know don't fit this mold and it is a shame that, although his intentions are good, he didn't leave this strategy to schools, social workers or a well crafted public service media campaign and decided to include it in a speech for the Republic's anniversary. Happy birthday Singapore. Don't fret too much. There's someone out there for everyone.

Posted by email from Dedric's posterous

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Singapore Snapshots

I have been to Singapore so many times but this weekend I actually managed to be tourist for the first time. Here are some of my photos.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted by email from Dedric's posterous

Friday, 15 August 2008

I got nailed

Since I started contributing to Shanghaiist, this is the first time I have been lynched for my writing. To see my embarrassment, click here.

I guess I should only write when there is something worth writing about but honestly buses really do freak me out.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

My Sadness - An Injustice of Olympic Proportions

I have lived in Shanghai now since the turn of the century and during that time I have learned to love China..well at least Shanghai. I have been a staunch defender of a central government because I have seen how democracy is fundamentally flawed. I have watched the Bush Administration democratically elected twice, deceive their voters, rig the election and plunge the country into another pointless war. I thought to myself that there must be a better way and I thought, at least for a while, that China was getting it right.

When I compared the Sichuan Quake to Hurricane Katrina, I saw the huge difference between a government that worked and one that didn't but since then, one thing has undone much of the trust I placed in China. It's not the Olympics and they way they are handling security. It's not Tibet, and it's not even the fact that folk here don't have a vote. It is the way that grieving parents of children lost in the school collapses have been brushed aside.

For a moment, I thought they were on track. Premier Wen was at ground zero in less than a day to provide direction and comfort. The PLA were airdropped in to provided rescue teams in isolated locations. They managed to divert rivers and ease damaged dams that had the potential to wash entire communities a way. As I watched this unfold I thought to myself, this is how you bring a nation together. The country banded together and billions of yuan were collected to provide relief and to aid in the reconstruction. Foreign media were given access and foreign aid was gratefully recieved. They even announced that they would investigate why so many schools collapsed when neighbouring buildings did not crumble.

I recall in one account, an entire class was trapped under the rubble. You could hear them crying and to keep their spirits up the class began to sing. After two days the singing stopped. When a read that report I cried. Now just writing about it, my eyes are already welling with tears.

So I waited. I waited for the investigation. I waited for parents to be told that someone along the line had messed up. Maybe it was corruption or maybe it was just error in judgment but I waited for the government I had learned to trust, the government that had given me hope that there was something better than anarchy would step forward and say "here is the evidence, and here are our findings and here is the reason why an entire generation of children in Sichuan are gone."

Instead I read this, this and this.

I remember when Sydney got the Olympics I was in my final year of Uni and when in 2000 they held the Sydney Games I was already in Shanghai. It was truly a happy affair. I could feel Australia's pride from half way around the world.

In 14 days the Beijing Olympics should have also been a proud moment for my ancestral country. China should have been able to say that they pulled together in a time of crisis and and matured as a nation and celebrated the Beijing Games with their heads held high.

Instead, I will remember 2008 as the year China put a sporting event ahead of justice. I will remember this year as the year that some bureaucrat profited from the death of tens of thousands of school children and got away with it. At the beginning of August, the rubble from the collapsed schools will be cleared away. I hope and pray that the evidence that is needed to bring justice has already been collected.

As a final note (and I know the good folk at the GFW are reading this) I understand that this is a time when the world is watching China and it is not the time to air dirty laundry. I don't believe that you are evil, and deep down in the most primeval depth of my heart I hope that an investigation did take place, the criminals found and quietly dragged from their homes in the middle of the night. I know this is something you are capable of and if ever there was a time to exercise this power, now is the time.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

10 of this months most popular far (July 1 - July 19)

  1. Beijing Boyce » Um, really? SCMP claims Beijing to ban blacks, Mongolians at bars
  2. Fears of a 'no-fun' Olympics in Beijing |
  3. Commandos free hostage from jungle hell after six years |
  4. Brooklyn Museum: Community: bloggers@brooklynmuseum » Shelley Bernstein
  5. Police deny bar owners' claims of restrictions on blacks in Sanlitun
  6. Chinese Bloggers Scale The 'Great Firewall' In Riot's Aftermath -
  7. “The Connection Has Been Reset”
  8. China Olympic Terrorists
  9. India jails widower for raising orphaned bear - South and Central Asia-
  10. Digg - A letter to Richard Dawkins regarding the existence of God

Clever Malaysian Criminals

In the last couple of months I have been getting emails from phishers posing as Maybank and CIMB in an attempt to extract my bank information. I am not a customer of either of those Malaysian banks so it makes it easy for me to spot that it is a fake however, the latest email is quite clever in that it recognises that you have probably received many emails trying to steal your password.

Attention: CIMB Bank Customer.

Spam attacks on our customers have been in an increase in the past few weeks. We hereby inform you that CIMB has taken a great step to protect our customers and put a stop to spam attacks.

We have introduced a secured server database to protect records and guarantee secure transactions. It is recommended and mandatory for all CIMB Account Holder to register below. Please note that we will not take responsibility for any loss if you fail to register.

Please follow the below secured sever location to proceed.

Clicks Online Security
CIMB Bank Berhad

And just this morning I got an email from my dad warning me of Malaysian push pockets as opposed to pick pockets.

A few days ago a new type of crime has surfaced in town.
It goes something like this:- Somebody slips a hand-phone into your pocket, sometimes it could be just a wallet with an identity card and a few Ringgit.

A few minutes later, the ' owner ' comes up and confronts you, the ' thief '.
He makes a big commotion that you stole his stuff.

You, caught unaware, are then pulled aside by the ' owner ' for a settlement you are intimidated and threatened that if you do not pay up, the police will be brought in.
If you pay up, this ' owner ' lets you go.
If not, the police are brought in.

Another strange thing is that, there always seems to be a ' witness ' to the your ' theft '.

Very clever. Of course I always felt that Malaysian criminal were above the curve.

Friday, 18 July 2008

While the lights are out in Twitterland

During this period of "maintenance" when twitter is down on a particularly unproductive Friday, I took the opportunity to take a look at what folk were saying on In doing so I felt a little dirty. Like I was cheating on Twitter when she was on a business trip, then it struck me how I have developed emotions for these social networking services. Not the people on them, I could care less about what happens to @scoblizer in real life but the attachment was to the service. I actually felt that I was cheating on Twitter by using while She was down.

So I posted my feeling and one of the humans that actually appear on all my networks Joey in Hong Kong asked the question:

@dedlam LOL. What about FF? Who's your favorite mistress?

My reply to her was that FriendFeed was also a favourite mistress but to our surprise both of us independantly concluded that Plurk was the beer goggle induced "hot" girl you pick up from a party and take home and find in the morning that... well lets just say "not so hot".

Upon reflection, I have become a little frightened by the prospect that as social networks and online communities take on a life of their own. The bond that we feel towards the community is not because of the members but because we as species have evolved into a monsterous abomination of nature that develops emotional attachments to binary code, html and telephonic touch-screen devices with motion and light sensors.

The next venture coming for the Google labs is aptly named Android, but with this sudden moment of clarity, I ask, Is this emotional attachment part of an elaborate scheme? Will the next generation be part human and part technology? Starting as genetic cyborgs within two or three generations will all our humanity is bred out of us the dominant species on this planet will indeed be Android? I shudder to think what lies in store for the human race.

Is Twitter Satan's Spawn?

(Can you tell it's Friday afternoon?)

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Twitter has all Growed Up

My morning ritual when I wake up is reach over to my PDA, check my email, then check TinyTwitter for what may have happened in Twitterland when I was in LaLaLand. I know it's sad. It's like waking up and first reaching for the hip flask of whiskey tucked beneath the pillow.

Before I write about what I found this morning, last night the ever reliable twitter search engine,, was acquired by Twitter. Almost as I was using it, the site redirected to the twitter server and rebranded itself with the Twitter logo. I believe this is a match made in heaven as it adds the very reliable functionality of Summize to Twitter as they begin to improve their service quality. You can read about the acquisition here.

So this morning I woke up and one of the first tweets I see is an apology.

(Before I proceed, I would first like to apologise to the main characters of this drama for re-airing your dirty laundry but you know it's just too good not to write about.)

I have been following @markdavidson for a while, for no other reason than because he followed me. We don't directly communicate at all but I read what he tweets and I imagine that he sometimes catches my rants on twitter too. This morning his tweet said:

markdavidson: I apologize for the public drama in my timeline concerning my ex. I would have preferred to have kept our breakup private where it belongs.

That just got me.I was hooked, in the same way I was hooked on lonelygirl15 on YouTube, I was inexplicably drawn into this drama 140 characters at a time.

This is where Twitter Search (formerly known as Summize) came in. Without this function, the public breakup between a motor journalist and a web host GoDaddy affiliate would have just evaporated into the cyber-ether but because Twitter's API decided to start working propoerly about a week ago and with the purchase of Summize, the conversations between @markdavidson and @missmotormouth are all too easy for us SMS voyeurs to track.

This drama has all the makings of an HBO mini-series, including love, romance, betrayal, the ill advised friends giving inopportune advice. So at the risk of promoting the Twitter/Summize acquistion more than it needs, visit and search for our two protagonists so that you too can participate on a real social experience on Twitter.

To @markdavidson & @missmotormouth. Better to have loved and tweeted than to have never loved at all.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

G8 Gobbledygook

I read this commentary in the IHT this morning regarding the G8 Summit. I felt compelled to share Sheryl Gay Stolberg's brilliant take on the most powerful people in the world today.

"Every year, the leaders of the Group of 8 meet at some fancy place like the hot springs resort overlooking Lake Toya near here, to debate matters of international importance. And every year, they issue joint communiqués overrun with bureaucratic gobbledygook.

This year offered some truly mind-numbing prose:

On the global economy: "We are mindful of the interrelated nature of the issues surrounding the world economy. We remain committed to promoting a smooth adjustment of global imbalances through sound macroeconomic management and structural policies."

On aid to Africa: "In tackling the development agenda, we will take a multifaceted approach, promoting synergies among MDG-related development sectors."

On rising food prices: "The international community needs a fully coordinated response and a comprehensive strategy to tackle this issue in an integrated fashion."

These communiqués, whose true authors remain anonymous, are the product of months of intense negotiations by aides to the leaders - "sherpas," in G-8 lingo.

Alden Meyer, a climate-change expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who is here this week, summed up the process this way: "They're fighting very hard over who gets to say very little."

She finishes off her piece with some Bushisms

Bush's wish, typeset rather than written in his own hand, had its own starry quality - a parting missive, perhaps, from a president who will not be back when the Group of 8 meets in Italy next year.

"I wish for a world free from tyranny: the tyranny of hunger, disease and free from tyrannical governments," the president wrote. "I wish for a world in which the universal desire for liberty is realized. I wish for the advance of new technologies that will improve the human condition and protect our environment. I wish God's blessings on all. George W. Bush."

I get the feeling the George W's speech writer aught to buy a new thesaurus. How many times have you heard the word "tyranny" uttered from his mouth these last 8 years? Sounds a little like question time at Miss World no?

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Australian Buffet @ Regal Airport Hotel HK

After missing my connection to Singapore, the airline gave me a room at the Regal Airport and a meal voucher. To my pleasant surprise, the buffet had an Australian theme.

You can see from my plate, Roast Beef (rare), Lamb Cutlets, Veal Shepherds Pie, Kangaroo fillet and a couple of spuds for good measure. Add to that the pavlova I had for dessert and I was in gout hell.

But it was worth it.

A letter to Richard Dawkins regarding the existence of God.

20:08 6th July 2008 (Whilst on a flight from PVG to HKG)

Dear Richard,

I am currently reading your delightfully atheist book The God Delusion, (to be honest I am only up to page 177) and I feel compelled to write you a letter. As this plane that I am sitting on shakes with turbulence as I begin, I can't help but think that it is being caused by his letter.

As I read your book, I can see that you are putting forward an extremely strong argument against the existence of God however, in considering you evidence (and the lack of evidence for the existence of God) I am coming to a conclusion that is slightly different to yours.

In your book you extol Darwin to a level that sounds similar to the way those who are passionately religious extol figures such a Mohammad or Jesus. As the prophet of Science, Darwin's theory of Natural Selection seems to provide an answer for all the existence of life on Earth far better than the theory of an omnipotent creator who created life by design.

I am not a scientist. I am merely a speculator (and a frequently misinformed one at that) but my understanding of natural selection is that throughout the history of life on Earth living creatures have adapted to the environment around them to survive. Those who did not adapt simply did not survive. The human species however has reached a level of adaptation where we are no longer adapting to the environment around us but changing the environment to adapt to us. As a result, the evolution of the human brain has evolved in such a way that theoretically, no further evolution is required. It is true that chimps use tools, and there is some evidence of herding in nature but nowhere to the levels that the human species have evolved from being hunters and gatherers to being farmers. We have reached a stage of evolution where we manipulate animals in such a way that we have bred animals and plants that make for better consumption and harvesting.

There are much more unsupported claims that I can make to say that as a species we are no longer evolving but the one thing that makes me think upon reading your book is that we as a race are looking at God all wrong.

God is not something that was always there. God is something that we evolved. As our brains evolved so that we could split an atom, or work out the best way to cook an egg so that the egg white is cooked but the egg yoke is still runny, our evolving minds also developed the God concept. This evolution is something that came about, not because we could not explain how nature was too marvelous not to have a creator but because we have simply evolved too much so that Natural Selection is not working. We can see that it is so by the abundance of happy stupid people in the world. (I make this assumption because your book pretty much attacks those who are irrationally religious so I am assuming that you also hold this to be true.)

According to natural selection as I understand it, those who are least fit to survive really should not survive. Be that people of low IQ, or people with disabilities or people who are just too fat to leave their couch. The fact is though, these people are surviving and thriving. The existence of religious zealots, by their definition of people acting on the irrational belief of a personal God is actually proof that natural selection does not explain everything.

Given this I postulate that both Darwin and Theists are right. God does exist. God exists to enable the Darwin's theory of Natural Selection to be right. The concept of God is a mechanism in which our evolved brains have developed to choose what segment of our species to exterminate. Because we control our environment, adaptation for survival is no longer relevant and so the extermination of sections of our species can be achieved through an arbitrary method. That method is the manner in which we believe God. Be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism or the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, through this debate of what happens after you die, provides reason enough for our species to kill or be martyred.

This simply means that the only thing wrong about the God Delusion is that most believers believe that God came first. In reality, Natural Selection was there first and as a result of the human species developing into a dominant organism, God evolved in our collective consciousness as a means for us to be culled and hence keep a balance in nature. Without God, there would not be enough food in the world, pollution would be far worse than it is already is and there would be no ozone layer to speak of. If we all thought like you you, Richard, there would be no human species to speak of because we would be like mold growing on a piece of stale bread until there was no bread left to grow on.

I hope that this clears a couple of things up for you, because I know you put a lot of work into your book. Perhaps next time you will think things through more thoroughly before publishing a worldwide best seller. Feel free to call me if there is anything else you'd like to clarify with regard to the origins of life on earth. I must sign off now because my plane is either about to land in Hong Kong of crash into the side of a mountain.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

cry for help.....

it is official. my name is dedric and i am a SocialMediaholic. it has been 2 minutes since my last tweet and 5 minutes since my last plurk. you can find me using brightkite and you can see me on picasaweb, flickr, youtube, viddler, seesmic and photobucket. you can know my thoughts by reading my blogger blog, wordpress blog, posterous or blogbus blog. you can be my friend on facebook, friendster or myspace. You can send me a message via windows messenger or gtalk. You can email me, twitter me, friendfeed me and find out all about me on linkedin or plaxo pulse. you can see what i am reading on google reader shared items or from my snips. and if you missed my last tweet you can look it up on summize. did i mention i just signed up to, and i am waiting for my invite code to twitterfone and qik. and if i really want to i can bounce this post through all my networks using

i just wish i had some real friends.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Global Cyber Lynch Mob

In a recent article in the Malaysian daily newspaper The Star, it reports the backlash against a teacher who tries to justify her actions of running out of a shaking building during the Sichuan Earthquake before helping her students. The article outlines that this teacher's priority is to her daughter and not to the students she was employed to teach. The article also mentions that her justification was that “chivalry” was not in her job description.

This incident was circulated in various news articles but this is the first one that I have read that mentions that her condemnation was by “bloggers”. The article states “Despite a massive outpouring of charity in the wake of the quake, Chinese bloggers have been quick to round on those deemed unsympathetic.”

The article goes on the comment on Sharon Stone's “Karma” comment and somehow (by using this example) leaves the feeling that the backlash is justified. The problem is that by using Sharon Stone as a comparison is probably representing the power of public opinion poorly.

To the list of people who have been criticized in the digital press are not just ill informed celebrities mouthing off to the media but also include those who did not donate enough, such as the Chairman of Vanke Group and Yao Ming. Both of these prominent figures donated money to the relief efforts but their contributions were deemed inadequate by the populous.

This smells a little too much like mob mentality. At the risk of sounding like an authoritarian sympathizer, is it dangerous for us to have such an influential voice? In the case of “Running Fan”, her fault was not that she decided not to be a hero but she decided to digitally justify her actions. If put into the same situation, the first instinct for many of us would be to first save our own skin before risking it on someone else's children. She subsequently not only lost her job but it is highly likely that she will never be employed by any school in China again. She has essentially committed professional suicide by standing on her digital soap box to claim her innocence. By exposing herself to the cyber lynch mob she not only gave up her obscurity but offered herself as a sacrifice when so many grieving parents were looking for a scape goat.

The court of public opinion is a dangerous animal that is difficult to control and sometimes the only way to avoid becoming a casualty is by lying silently in the bushes. Yao Ming is no longer in the spot light with no real affect on his career. Vanke has been pressured into providing aid in the Sichuan reconstruction efforts to save it's stock value, and of course it will be a cold day in hell before you see a Sharon Stone movie in China, but who will the mob turn on next. Will it be me for writing this article? Will it be you? China quake-fleeing teacher forces change in ethics

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Looking for Comedy in the Chinese World

A while back I saw a film called “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” by Albert Brooks. Brooks, who's most successful role appears to be “Marlin” the overly protective paternal clown fish in the Disney production “Finding Nemo” has always come across as a somewhat self deprecating comedian who gets most of his laughs from being a neurotic and overly up-tight middle class American.

His movie (in which he starred, wrote and directed) about the Muslim world was a box office bomb but the concept of comedy in non-western societies has a great deal or merit.

The Chinese society today, like the Arabs, doesn't really come across as a culture that is overly satirical or funny to the outside world. More so with the current international political and societal stance of China it is hard to view China as a funny nation.

In my time in Shanghai as a cultural bastard or what is commonly referred to as a banana (Yellow on the outside, white on the inside) I have experienced first hand blank looks from Chinese staff and colleagues when I try to use Australian satire in my communications. Australian humor is a slightly less dry version British humor. Thick with sarcasm and self deprecation in the style that is populated by comedians such as Steady Eddie (a stand up comedian who has cerebral palsy, making spastic jokes) and Jimoen (an Irish comedian making Irish jokes). There are cultural comedic icons during my upbringing such as Con the Fruiterer (A Greek fruit store owner who makes fun of his Western European mannerisms) and Ted Bullpit from the show Kingswood Country (a stereotypical White Australian suburban bigot).

Beyond the former British Empire other Western comedians have entertained generations with stories that deprecate their own culture. As a teenager I grew up with Eddie Murphy's RAW on VHS and Afro-American comedians like Chris Rock generated laughs through stories of their “ghetto” childhoods. Billy Connelly also took advantage of his cultural heritage to make jokes about his rough Glaswegian upbringing. Throughout the recent history of comedy and humor in the Western world we see continued reference to differing cultural and societal conditions that form the basis for us to have a good old belly laugh at people who are different from us but in a strange way offer insight into our own taboo's.

In addition to these cultural characters, that I grew up with and formed my sense of humor, is also a long history of Political humor. In both British & Australian comedic history, comedians have made long careers out of making politicians the butt of their jokes and the more recent phenomenon of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Americans have now whole heartedly embraced political satire.

As Chinese culture continues to infiltrating western media. Jacky Chan's brand of slapstick humor and, to a limited degree, Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu are now almost as famous as Mr Bean's rubbery face. Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi are as appealing on the red carpet as any other Hollywood sex symbol, but where are the Chinese Sienfeld's of this world? What does Chinese sarcasm taste like? Does satire really have no place next to Confucius?

Putting comedy in the context of modern Chinese history is a bit of a sensitive topic. Chinese reverence for authoritative figures pretty much put the realm of political satire out of bounds when it comes to Chinese comedy. Culturally speaking, very little is spoken of the cultural minorities in China so that pretty much rules out “ghetto” based humor. It is viewed as bad taste to make fun of ethnic Tibetan or Mongolians as a means to get a laugh. In fact if you are going to base satire on any type of minority, you better make damn sure that your joke is not going to cause a riot or any type of social unrest. Off the top of my head, the only minority group that you can make fun of in China without the fear of reprisal is the laowai's.

The one form of stand up that has been institutionalised is called “xiangsheng” or “crosstalk” and has a long history in Chinese entertainment. Similar to the kind of exchange you'd get from Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis or an Abbot & Costello skit, this form of humor is mild enough to not offend the Maoist hangover or get any sensitive minorities up in arms. Of the little about this topic on the internet, David Moser gives a very good explanation of this form of stand up in his article on The painful reality is though is that this form of comedy, is just not funny. It is like stringing together a series of jokes, double entendres and puns between a goof and a straight man. Not since the 1940's has this been something like that actually had you belly laughing and that is where Chinese humor stopped evolving.

The cultural revolution in China was pretty much a cultural devolution for stand up comedy. The whole problem with all this (as I see it) is that Chinese people are by and large funny people. Look at the way they dress. Look at what they eat. Look at the way they perceive the world. There is an abundance of material every time you walk out the door. What's more, most Chinese people don't really have religious predisposition that prohibits them from taking things lightly. In fact of the people that I have been in contact with, most Chinese are devoid of the prudishness about sex that comes with some Western societies. I believe it is time high time for China to have a Comedic Revolution before we fall into the trap of taking ourselves way too seriously. I am certain that international relations could possibly be improved with China's western trading partners if more tongues were occasionally placed in the cheek.

After the devastation of the Sichuan earthquake and the floods in Southern China, I believe that laughter is still the best medicine and it is our duty as Chinese citizens, ethnic Chinese and folks living in China to make a concerted effort to bring humor to one billion people who really needs something to put a smile on their face.

More stuff on the topic of comedy in China;

Thursday, 12 June 2008

My Apology in Advance (An open letter to those who'd mistake me for a spambot)

Dear Netizen, Tweeps, Plurkers, Bloggers,, Facebookers,...etc etc etc

In the interest of distinguishing me from spambots who'd like you to buy their Canadian drugs or enlarging your.... well they need no further promotion, I might be tweeting things that might sound commercial in content. As much as I work with Avail Corporation, a conference company, my intention is not to sell you anything. If however you feel you'd like to attend the conference that I will be tweeting about, please feel free to let me know and I can have someone contact you.

Having said that, in the Middle of September, we will be holding a conference in Shanghai called "Integrated 2.0 Communications". This conference is about application of Social Media in corporations to enhance internal and external communications. My tweeting is an experiment on this event which will contain the hashtag #i2c is an experiment to provide transparency on the development of the conference program and to provide some background on those who will be speaking at the conference. At a later stage I will try to encourage those who are actually attending the conference to participate in the online discussion leading up the the conference.

In essence the experiment is to use social media as a means of "integrated 2.0 communications" to actually demonstrate the how to integrate social media in the communications strategy for this conference.

I call this an experiment because I do not know if it will work. I do not know if people will follow the hashtag or hashtag their own tweets. In fact I do not even know if my own marketing and conference production staff will adjust their behavior to include tweeting into their work schedule.

Thank you for your understanding and please accept my apology in advance.

Yours sincerely

Dedric Lam

Now my trip to Singapore is complete.

mmmmmm. Curry Fish Head, Butter Fried Prawns and Kai Lan & Oyster Sauce. The perfect meal at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Which Presidential Candidate is Better for Non-Americans?

Unlike Australia, voting in the USA is not compulsory. Candidates therefore have a greater challenge because not only do they have to convince people to vote for them but they actually have to convince people to vote. I am actually a little surprised that I have not read any commentary about the Democratic Party's long road to choosing Obama over Clinton in the mainstream press from the perspective that it is actually a strategy, by the Party, to get people to register to vote. It is essentially an extremely expensive way to building an opt-in mailing list. (Actually this leads to the question of what percentage of people don't vote in the US and what effect does that have on the outcome. I guess that's an issue for another article because it actually requires research.)

US Citizens therefore have the right to influence who will be their President in the next four years but also have the right not exercise that right. So what issues will convince a US Citizen to vote? Based on no research whatsoever I have compiled a list of reasons why Americans will come out to vote.
1. Celebrity Encouragement (Because Oprah told me to..)
2. Because my parents have always voted so I have been taught that I should vote
3. Because my parents have always voted and because I am going through a rebellious stage I will vote for the opposing party
4. Because I am still related to an institution of higher learning, am in my twenties and still believe I can make a difference.
5. Because I am a member of a Union, the Military or I am a public servant and my future salary depends on who the next administration is
6. Because I am a badge wearing, banner carrying member of one of the Parties
7. Because I have a crush on one of the candidates.

Given that one of these reasons have convinced you to leave your couch to go to the polling booth? What are the issues that determine whom you vote for? Based on the same amount of research I did for the first list, here are what I think are the hot issues.

1. Which candidate will give me something for nothing? (Healthcare, Welfare, Jobs, Contracts, Payrises)
2. Which candidate is a better public speaker?
3. Which candidate will tax me less?
4. Which candidate is Oprah voting for?
5. Which candidate will make things cheaper?
6. Which candidate is more like me?

I know this list seems quite basic, however my point is that in the short term the things that will attract most voters is handouts and popularity. Both of which will be coming from the Obama Camp. Add to that the number of new Democratic voters recruited during the primaries and McCain has an uphill battle to sell a economic plan that is all about making the Government smaller. While McCain is selling lower taxes, Obama will be selling better health care, better schools and alternative energy, and although it makes more sense to vote for someone who will tax you less, all the issues that Obama will be selling are hot button issues. It seems that the Inconvenient Al Gore and Sicko Michael Moore have been campaigning already for a democratic win.

From the outside looking in (for non-Americans), the prospect of a McCain win will mean that the US economic recovery will be a lot slower but it will be based on strong market fundamentals of improved efficiency and innovation. Unemployment will not improve dramatically but in the long run America will be more globally competitive. Under an Obama government, it seems that trade barriers will go up in a high tax environment and a fat public sector will mean an artificially created recovery. Whether this will actually improve standards of living for average Americans is debatable because usually increased barriers to trade creates an inflationary effect, but at least more Americans will have jobs. It will also mean that in the long term, the US will make a lousy trading partner and will probably run into budget deficit problems late in the first term (as opposed to going deeper into the trade deficit under McCain).

In my mind I think that policywize McCain has the better long term package for non-Americans if you take his green & innovation stance seriously. It provides a good trading partner that will continue to import but will also continue to be the leader in technological and high value products. Domestically though, the unemployment rate will not improve for older blue collar Americans but at least the Government won't be taxing so much of the salary they're not getting. Problem is his record of endorsing Bush 95% of the time will continue to haunt him for this entire campaign plus he sounds like a pedophile when he snickers after saying "That's not Change we can believe in!". It's actually a pretty good tag line for his campaign and might have worked if he didn't come across as a dirty old man when delivering it.

On the other side of the coin, higher tax is the only real down side to the Obama proposition. This might actually be something Americans would be happy to pay if they get affordable health care, schools are actually staffed by qualified teachers and if the defense forces actually focuses on defense rather than offense in return. If this is the case, then Obama is a sure thing.

Internationally, Obama will probably piss some trading partners off (probably China the most) and become much more inward looking to protect the domestic economy from the evils of cheap labor. In the long term however, as countries like China and India become less labor intensive and really start to invest in their universities and higher learning, there is a chance that large technological gap between the US and the rest of the world will narrow as commercial incentive to invest in innovation becomes less attractive relative to protected non-technical industries. (this has already happened with the post WWII Japan).

It's still a little too early to call it but I get the feeling US will actually have it's first Afro-Caucasian-Mixed-Indonesian-educated-President simply because the American middle class will get a sweeter short term deal from Obama than McCain. I anxiously watch for history to be made...or not.

Monday, 9 June 2008

iPhone Hype. It's all about packaging!

When I say packaging, I don't mean the white/black back cover or the box the new iPhone comes in. I am referring to way they are delivering their message.

The new iPhone, based on what I've read is a little disappointing. Leading up to today there was a lot of speculation and many bloggers posted wish lists. The actual phone seems to have taken very little into consideration except the 3G and A-GPS which all came as no surprise.

The device itself doesn't really provide any features that you can't get with a Nokia, Dopod, HTC or a Blackberry. So why launch such a mediocre device only one year after the first version?

The answer is the new 2nd generation is not really about a better device. It is about capturing international markets. So far the iPhone has hardly any market presence outside the US. In the US, the iPhone was only available via a revenue sharing deal with AT&T. All iPhones outside of the US are hacked and hence cannot be updated.

As part of the new deal with AT&T the device price is subsidised by a fixed fee per phone rather than a percentage of the monthly connection fee. Something that is more multi-carrier friendly as is the case in most markets outside the US, however in doing so existing iPhone users might get irked about having to switch to a more expensive plan so the new model was rolled out so that existing users can see a reason to switch to a 3G plan.

So in my humble opinion, the new iPhone is actually a minimal upgrade to justify a new business model to make it possible for Apple to talk to people like China Mobile who are unlikely ever to consider a revenue sharing model, but not to piss off AT&T and existing iPhone user too much.

Or I could be wrong.....

Sunday, 8 June 2008

The Economics of the US Presidential Election

With Hilary R. Clinton's support of Barack Obama's nomination as the Democratic Nominee for Presidential Candidate, we are now at a stage where we can include John McCain in the discussion. At the beginning of the Democratic Primaries I made a prediction. It was not one based on an in-depth understanding of American Politics. It was one based on observation of human nature. I predicted that If Clinton did not win the nomination, Obama would win and if Obama won, then McCain would be the next President. I predicted that Clinton would not be Obama's running mate simply because she had no desire to be second in charge. She'd done that job already as the First Lady. I also thought that America was not ready for their first black President but since then the media has convinced me that the public has gotten over that issue already.

Having listened to all three speeches at the conclusion of the Primary race, the one thing that differentiates McCain and Obama is the Economics behind the content of their speech. If you filter out the subtle (and not so subtle) attacks at each other you hear quite clearly that from an economic standpoint they are very clearly on opposite sides of the fence. Obama's speech is about fixing the thing that George W. has messed up. Excluding the Iraq war everything else is about Government intervention. Healthcare, education, barriers to trade to protect American industries and supporting the middle class. His message is clearly lets do all the things that we have not done right in the last eight years. McCain on the other hand takes a different approach. He looks back and says, we tried these things, it didn't work so lets let the American people decide for themselves. Or alternatively stated, let's not intervene, let innovation thrive through necessity and let American ingenuity find better ways to doing things that foreign manufacturers are doing manually due to lower running costs. Let's not put up barriers to trade because inevitably, America is part of a global economy and they need to find their competitive advantage.

This really is not surprising that Obama takes a Keynesian economic stance in his policies while McCain takes a more Laissez Faire approach. If you take two of the most respected economists in recent history and match them to which administrations they advised you will see that there is a clear distinction between the economic policy outcomes of electing a Democratic as opposed to a Republican President.

John Kenneth Galbraith was a student of John Maynard Keynes in that he believed in Government intervention was the way to control things like inflation, economic downturn and to create greater equality in the distribution of wealth. He we born in 1908 and died in 2006. During his life the last President of the United States of America that he served was Bill Clinton and has in the past also served Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson. All Democatic Presidents.

The other economist I'd like to draw your attention to is Milton Friedman. Friedman was born in 1912 and also died in 2006. He saw much of the same America that Galbraith saw and up until the 1950's was also a supporter of Keynesian interventionism but it was toward the latter part of his life that he began to support Adam Smith's "invisible hand" and advise towards a free market fiscal and monetary policies. In 1976 he won the Nobel Prize for Economics. Friedman advised Ronald Reagan during the 80's but also the other conservative union buster Margaret Thatcher.

So who will be the next POTUS? My prediction might be a bit shaky now. The US is just now coming out of a Recession, the middle class have been hit the hardest and Obama is the best political orator I have seen for a long time. If I were to assume that American voters were voting for America then McCain would still be the winner simply because I believe that a protectionist/ interventionist Government inevitably leads to a weaker nation. Unfortunately democracy dictates that it is one vote per person and not one vote per dollar and the votes that will benefit the most in the short to medium term is middle class ones. The same votes that Obama will be selling job creation, better education and cheaper healthcare to. All things that a McCain cannot offer if he is to remain true to his free market roots.

It's going to be an interesting race this year. Pass the popcorn please.