Seventy-five-year-old British freelance journalist Alan Shadrake did not expect to be arrested in Singapore over his book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, about death sentences in the city state.
Shadrake, who wrote articles for London’s Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, told AFP after the book’s Singapore launch on Saturday that he had expected trouble, but felt that the authorities were not going to take action, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
“If they do anything, it’ll just draw more attention to it all, and they have no defence,” he said.
I think the UN special rapporteur on racism Githu Muigai was unduly harsh on Singapore. He said that "while there may be no institutionalized racial discrimination in Singapore, several policies have further marginalized certain ethnic groups".
Singapore remains the second freest economy in the world but ranks first in labour freedom in the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. Labour freedom is used by the index to mean freedom to hire and fire workers. Singapore, described as "a nominally democratic state" in the report, scored 98.9 out of 100 for labour freedom and got an overall score of 86.1.
Hong Kong remained the world's freest economy with an overall score of 89.7 but only 87.4 for labour freedom. Australia is ranked third followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, America, Denmark and Chile. You can download the full report here.
Singapore was ranked the second least corrupt country in the world, with a score of 92 out of 100, just one place behind New Zealand, which scored 93.
Singapore got its lowest marks for financial freedom, scoring only 50 out of 100, as "the government seeks to maintain the domestic bank share of deposits above 50 percent".
What the Index of Economic Freedom stands for is freedom for companies and investors to do business as they please — within the rule of law. The less the government regulation, the greater the economic freedom, according to the index, which supports limited government and freedom from corruption. It does not support heavy government spending. That is one reason why America dropped from sixth to eighth place — because of the economic bailouts by the Obama administration. The report says:
The U.S. government’s interventionist responses to the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 have significantly undermined economic freedom and long-term prospects for economic growth.
Total government expenditures… are relatively high and rising rapidly. In the most recent year, government spending equalled 37.4 percent of GDP.
That is why America got a low score of 58 out of 100 for government spending.
Singapore, in contrast, with government spending equalling just 12.5 percent of the GDP, according to the report, got 95.3 out of 100.
The index gives each country a score of 0 to 100 on 10 counts — business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labour freedom. The 10 component scores are then averaged to give an overall economic freedom score for each country.
Here is the full report on Singapore:
Obama: I’m a big supporter of non-censorship (but) there are times I wish information didn’t flow so freely!
Frank, open, candid — that's Barack Obama for you.
He did say: "There are times when I wish information didn't flow so freely". But then he went on to add: "But the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear."
Here is the video of the Shanghai townhall meeting where he criticised internet censorship and praised freedom of expression — and which was censored by the media, according to the BBC.
First, the clip where he says "I have never used Twitter" and "I'm a big supporter of non-censorship".
And here is the full video where he talks about various other issues as well, including how to succeed in life. A complete transcript is provided by the White House.
Here are the scores for the top 10 countries taken from the Economic Freedom 2009 Index published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. Please note that the terms “government size” and “labour freedom” have a special meaning here.
“Labour freedom” , as used by the Heritage Foundation, means the freedom to hire and fire workers. The higher the score for “labour freedom”, the less protection workers have in that country.
And “government size” refers to government spending as a percentage of the GDP.
The Heritage Foundation supports small government and limited government expenditure, so it deducts marks for high government spending. So welfare states get lower scores for government size than city states like Hong Kong and Singapore which have no welfare systems. As I wrote in my previous post, the Heritage Foundation's economic freedom index is a hardnosed look at countries from the investors' point of view with no brownie points for public spending or social welfare.
I also mentioned in my previous post that Singapore has the second highest score for labour freedom, less than only Denmark, among the top 10 countries. In other words, only in Denmark is it easier to hire and fire workers. But Denmark has a generous social safety net, thoroughly disapproved of by the Heritage Foundation, which gives it only 20.4 for government size. Singapore and Hong Kong, with no such nets, get 91.1 and 93.4 respectively for government size. But it’s not so easy to fire workers in Hong Kong, which gets 86.3 for labour freedom. Switzerland and the United Kingdom, on the other hand, show it is possible to enjoy high economic freedom and generous social welfare and protect workers as well.
|Rank||Country||Overall score||Change from 2008||Business Free- |
|Trade Free- |
|Fiscal Free- |
|Govt size||Monetary Free- |
|Invest- ment Free- |
|Finan- cial Free- |
|Property Rights||Freedom from Corrup- |
|Labour Free- |
“Someone said that TS Eliot’s The Love Song of J Alred Prufrock is not unlike a rap song. They miss the point. It is a rap song. It’s just not a very good one,” says playwright and film director David Mamet, quoting from TS Eliot’s poem:
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
Mamet says: “Our great American poets are not Longfellow and Robert Frost, our great American poets are Hank Williams and Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), not our literati but our songwriters.”
Music and poetry lovers will enjoy listening to David Mamet giving the Alistair Cooke Memorial Lecture at Santa Monica on the BBC World Service. Longtime BBC listeners will remember the late Alistair Cooke, who broadcast his famous Letters from America on the BBC.
Fittingly, Mamet talks about language and culture, exploring poetry and American popular music.
And he ends by defending freedom of expression.
This is not just a speech but an essay which can be compared with Orwell’s writings on language and politics and culture.
Unfortunately, the BBC does not provide a transcript of the speech. But please click on the link and listen to the audio.
“Language, it seems to me, always has only two uses,” says Mamet, “poetry, which is an attempt to understand, and obfuscation.”
“A play is only a long, carefully structured poem,” he adds.
The magnificence of the American language like that of the Hebrew and the Bible is that it is punchy and to the point, he says.
“The chain gang chants, the jailhouse roasts, the slave songs and the blues… make up the majority of what is known around the world as the American idiom.”
“The great American writers have not been intellectuals,” he says, “the people who shaped the language were the songwriters… They write because they got the blues.”