Saturday, June 04, 2016

Bernie Sanders help to raise funds for Tulsi Gabbard

Sisters and Brothers -
It’s no secret that when we started this campaign, we had no money, very little name recognition, and we were taking on the entire Democratic establishment in this country.
So when a Democratic National Committee vice chair, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, was disinvited from our first debate after calling for more of them, people took notice. And when Tulsi quit her post at the DNC to endorse our campaign, it sent shockwaves through the political establishment.
For the last several months, Tulsi has been a tireless surrogate for our campaign. She has joined me at rallies, appeared in ads, and now we’re campaigning across California where almost every recent poll shows us within just a few points of Hillary Clinton.
Today, I want to ask you to join me in accomplishing two goals: help us win in California on Tuesday and ensure Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is re-elected in November.
Congresswoman Gabbard is one of the important voices of a new generation of leaders. As a veteran of the Iraq War, she understands the cost of war and is fighting to create a foreign policy that not only protects America but keeps us out of perpetual wars that we should not be in.
Tulsi has been a great friend to our political revolution. And because of people like her, and people like you, we have a great chance to win California on Tuesday night and close this primary out strong. That’s why splitting your contribution today is so important.
In solidarity,
Bernie Sanders

Policyholders faced a big risk in non-guaranteed values

Mrs Tan (not her real name) bought a life insurance policy 20 years ago and paid an annual premium of $5,400. At the end of 20 years, the projected surrender value was $260,000 made up of a guaranteed value of $90,000, a non guaranteed value of $170,000. The non-guaranteed value in the previous year was only $30,000. There was a big jump of $140,000 in the non-guaranteed value at the end of 20 years.

When Mrs. Tan asked to surrender the policy on the 20th year, she was quoted a surrender value of only 120,000. This seemed to suggest that the insurance company did not intend to honor the jump of $140,000 in the non-guaranteed value on the 20th anniversary.

Mrs Tan approach me for my advice.

I suspect that the insurance company could have quoted her the surrender value prior to the vesting of the additional non-guaranteed value of $140,000. Perhaps this additional sum would only vest exactly on the 20th anniversary and would be forfeited if the policy is surrendered one day earlier.

If this was the case, the insurance company is acting dishonestly by not advising her of this option. Are they trying to "cheat" her of this sum?

It may also be possible that the company had decided to withdraw the additional non-guaranteed value of $140,000. If this were the case, the company would be acting in violation of the policyholder's reasonable expectation, which is a regulation imposed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

While the company has the contractual right to reduce the non-guaranteed value if they performed badly, they are required to reduce the non-guaranteed value fairly across all policyholders. They do not have the right to take away a huge sum of $140,000 from a policyholder, representing more than 50% of the projected surrender value, unless a similar reduction is applied to all other policyholders.

How to avoid investing in scams

Over the past decades, tens of thousands of people have lost their savings on various kinds of ponzi schemes, starting from Gemini Chit Funds in the early 1970s. This kind of scams have re-surfaced in new forms in later years, such as the high returns paid or promoted on land banks, wines, gold bars, plantations and similar schemes.

Even some life insurance and structured products, sold by regulated financial institutions, have high risks, as the investors often misunderstood the nature of these products and have to suffer large losses in their savings. In many cases, the products are complicated and the person who sold the products did not explain the negative features of these products.

More people have suffered losses from these regulated products, rather than investment scams.

To avoid this loss, it is important that consumers be aware of the risks of the common investment scams and dubious investments that are sold in Singapore.

Reliable security partner of the United States

Two decades ago, it was good for Singapore to be a reliable security partner of the United States.

I am not sure that this is a good idea today. The United States has been involved in unnecessary wars to change regimes in some parts of the world and has caused these countries to be destabilized.

Some people even suspect that their motive is to secure their future supply of oil, rather than to promote the well being of the citizens of these countries.

Friday, June 03, 2016

A sense of urgency

Dear Mr. Tan
I like what you said about replying immediately. I wish to share this experience with  you.

I ordered 1,000 sets of cards. After sorting out the cards two weeks later, I found that 150 pieces of two cards were missing. They must have been short delivered.

I asked my admin staff to check with the printers. She was reluctant to do so. She was afraid that the printer would disagree.  I told her - just give them a call and talk to them.

A few hours later, I asked her if she had called the printer. She replied that she had, and the other person need to check with her boss and would give a reply "later".

Why can't my staff send an email to inform me about this event, rather than keep me in the dark. It takes only 1 minute for her to update me with an email.

I agree with you. We need to teach our admin staff to be better in their communication. With email, it is so easy to communicate, rather than keep the boss in the dark.

Quite often, if the other party did not call back, your admin staff would probably not follow up. It is better to communicate immediately, rather than wait for some definite answer.

We need to have a sense of urgency.

Get a higher surrender value

If you know of someone who has to surrender a life insurance policy due to loss of job or cash flow problem, and wishes to get a higher sum that the surrender value offered by the insurance company, you can refer them to this website.

Sequential stop number and bus stop code

There is a difference between the sequential stop number and the bus stop code. The people in the Land Transport Authority, the bus companies and the Straits Times editor should learn this difference. It helps them in communicating the difference to the public.

The sequential stop number starts with 1 for the first stop in each service and increases by 1 for each stop. The bus stop code is a 5 digit code that is assigned by the Land Transport Authority for each bus stop.

See this example for service 163 (taken from

The sequential stop number is shown in the first column and starts with 1. The bus stop code is shown in the second column and is a 5 digit code, sch as 67009, 67189, 67101.

If a passenger boards the bus at Sengkang Int, the sequential number is shown as 1. If the passenger wishes to alight at Sengkang East Ave Opp Blk 200B, he will look for Stop No 9.

The passenger does not need to look for the landmark to identify the bus stop. He looks for the stop number that is displayed in the bus. If the current number is less than 9, he knows how many stops before his destination. If it is higher than 9, he has already passed his destination.

The sequential bus stop number is more helpful than the bus stop code.

Disappointing non-response from Tower Transit

I have been disappointed with a non-response from Tower Transit to this email that was sent 3 days ago. I am used to this kind of non-response from organizations in Singapore.

I had hoped that Tower Transit would be different. They had employed a Singaporean (judging from his name) as the communication manager, so he must have been following the prevailing culture here.

Dear Glenn Lim

I congratulate Tower Transits for the start of your bus operations in Singapore.

I hope that Tower Transit can make a significant impact in the following areas:

a) Provide better employment terms to your employees.
b) Improve the quality of your service to the public.

I am encouraged by the initiatives that you have taken and am hopeful that the above goals will be achieved.

I have written to the newspapers in the past about improving the bus service. Just today, my letter is printed in the Straits Times Online Forum. I hope that you can act on displaying the sequential stop number in the bus. I will send you the link to this article shortly.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

World class taxi service - confusing and expensive

At the taxi stand at the airport terminal 1, there were several taxis waiting in the spaces near the entrance. These were all premium taxis. The standard taxis were in the spaces far away from the entrance.

I saw a sign that showed the fares for premium taxis are 30% higher than for standard taxis.

The usher does not tell the commuters that the nearby taxis were premium taxis. She just asked "Do you want to take the taxi at number X. She expected the passenger to know the difference between premium and standard taxis.

This is "confusing Singapore".

Only 1 passenger went for the premium taxis. I suspect that she is travelling on business and can claim the total cost from her company. This is how the cost of doing business is so high in Singapore.

This is our "world class taxi service" - so confusing and expensive!

Jakarta points the way for London's mayor

I share this article from Kishore Mahbubani

By Kishore Mahbubani
Financial Times
1 June 2016

Jakarta points the way for London mayor Sadiq Khan

The election of Sadiq Khan, a practising Muslim, as mayor of London was rightly celebrated across the world. It confirmed that openness and tolerance, hallmarks of western civilisation, are alive and well. More surprising, perhaps, is that this spirit can be found in parts of the Islamic world, too.
Indonesia is the country with the world's largest Muslim population. Its capital city, Jakarta, is run by Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese Christian popularly known as "Ahok". This is highly significant. Why? As recently as 1998, Jakarta saw anti-Chinese riots in which more than a thousand people were killed. Mr Purnama and his family had to defend themselves with sticks, Molotov cocktails and machetes.
After 17 months as governor of Jakarta, Mr Purnama remains immensely popular. He has made some bold changes: closing down trendy but disruptive nightclubs, cleaning up red-light districts, evicting people from slums (while providing them with better housing) and dredging clogged-up canals.
He has also demonstrated his willingness to make difficult policy choices, such as discontinuing a long-stalled monorail project in favour of a more cost-effective and efficient light rail system. Even more significantly, an underground railway, which had been held up by bureaucracy for more than 25 years, is going ahead.

Mr Purnama also believes in transparency. The entire budget of the city of Jakarta is online. Citizens can scrutinise all spending. Even his mobile phone number is public, meaning that he receives a large number of text messages, many of which he responds to personally. The city's inhabitants feel that their lives are improving.
This is why the attacks on him by hardline Islamist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, also known as Front Pembela Islam, are not working. In theory, appeals to religious loyalties by such groups should work against Mr Purnama. In practice, however, they have failed - suggesting that in Jakarta, as in London, a corner has been turned. The big question is why.
One reason could be greater access to information. A little-known fact about Indonesia is that its social media penetration rates are among the highest in the world. There are more than 80m users of social networks in the country. In the new climate of transparency, there is increasing evidence for Mr Purnama's claim that conditions in Jakarta are improving.
Corruption is also declining in what was a notoriously corrupt city. Video clips of Mr Purnama berating officials of the city's transport administration have gone viral. Despite the traditional Javanese preference for avoiding confrontation, he has adopted a brash, in-your-face style that has clearly angered many. He has acquired enemies.
When I met him earlier this year, I asked him for his views on how to succeed politically. He replied: "Be prepared to die. I am ready to die".
His courage is obvious. And for a Chinese Christian in a largely Muslim society to have displayed such courage could have been politically suicidal. Instead, it has proved to be a vote-getter. A grass roots campaign to put him on the ballot as an independent candidate to run again as governor in 2017 has drawn wide support from the city's predominantly Islamic population. He has received more than enough nominations.
Mr Purnama's success in Jakarta is not just a local phenomenon. It demonstrates that we are moving into a new world in which people make more informed and rational decisions on the basis of greater access to information. The citizens of Jakarta are aware how backwards their city had become, even in relation to its Asian peers. So when a Chinese Christian promises that he will study best urban practices from Singapore and Taipei and bring them to Jakarta, they support him.
This is why I believe that we are witnessing globally a fusion of civilisations, not a clash of civilisations. Societies around the world are beginning to learn best urban practice from others.
The brash Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta is popular among the Islamic population of Jakarta because he says to them, in effect: "You can see on your phones how the rest of the world has moved ahead. Follow me, and I will bring the world's best practices to Jakarta."
In theory, an Islamic population ought to have been reluctant to follow a Christian leader. In practice, they are embracing him. This is as significant as the election of Mr Khan.
The writer is dean and professor in the practice of public policy in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy NUS, Singapore

The Pancasila ideology of Indonesia

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia has declared 1 June as a national day to commemorate the birth of the Pancasila ideology.

Pancasila is an ideology that was promoted by the first president Sukarno in 1945. It consists of five principles - divinity, humanism, nationalism, consensual decision making and social justice. The first principle promotes diversity and tolerance of all religions as it promotes the belief in god, without favoring any specific religion.

During the regime of Suharto, the promotion of Pancasila was banned.  This ban has now been reversed.  Commentators said that this decision was made at the request of Megawati, who is a leader of a large political party and the daughter of Sukarno.

President Widodo explained that the promotion of Pancasila is necessary to reverse the recent trend towards radicalism and terrorism. He has taken a bold and impactful decision.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Real feed of contributions to Bernie Sander's campaigns

This was amazing the first time we showed it to you in October, sisters and brothers, and it's just as amazing today.
What you're seeing is a real feed from earlier today of people responding to Bernie's email from this morning, adding their contributions before the final FEC fundraising deadline of the primary.
Tens of thousands of people have already contributed today before themidnight FEC fundraising deadline, adding $2.70, $27, or whatever they can afford. I hope you can join them as we prepare for the last week of voting in our primary.
In solidarity,
Jeff Weaver
Campaign Manager
Bernie 2016

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

GrabCar was more expensive

I called GrabCar at 6 am to go to airport. The display shows $68, which is more than twice the taxi fare. The app replied - no driver found.

I called GrabTaxi. 1 taxi accepted my booking within 1 minute. The fare to the airport was $23.30.

I gave him $24 and asked him to keep the change.

Driver - thank you, Mr. Tan. Use the left door. It is safer. Slowly, no hurry.

I will try GrabCar the next time, but during working hours.

Service staff need to be alert and aware of the customers

I checked in at he JetStar self service kiosk. It was easy. I have done it many times before. The self service process was well designed - unlike many other online processes designed in Singapore.

While walking through the JetStar aisle towards the Immigration door, I heard a voice calling behind me.

Voice - JetStar
TKL - yes.
Voice - this way. (Pointing to the check-in counter.
TKL - No need. I already checked in.

The JetStar employee was trying to be helpful. But he should be more alert and aware that I did not need any help.

This problem exists in many places in Singapore. When I really needed help, the staff are not available. When I do not need help, they try to be helpful. For example, when you need a waiter or waitress, they are usually not available. Sometimes, they are busy gossiping with their fellow workers.

We need to train our service staff to be more alert and aware of the customers.

Helpful staff pointed out the wrong direction

After entering the departure hall, I found that the departure gate was not printed in the boarding pass.

There was a "Flight Info" kiosk. I saw JetStar and touched the icon. The message said, "The flight had departed". They were still displaying a flight that left 2 hours ago. What a bad design.

An airport staff came to me. "Can I help you? You can scan your boarding pass."

My fight was at gate C23. He pointed - this way.

I walked down in that direction for 20 meters. Then I realized that he had pointed me towards the D gates. The C gates was the other way. 

I went back and found him. I told him his mistake. I hope that he learned from it.

This staff was trying to be helpful but he did not pay attention to the C and D gates. If he did not point out the way, I would have looked at the signs!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Get a higher surrender value for your policy

The life insurance companies make a big profit when their policyholders surrender their policies. Here is an example.

The policyholder pays a monthly premium of $500 for five years. A total of $30,000 was invested in the policy. The policyholder is not able to continue the policy due to loss of job or cash flow problem.

The policyholder wants to "surrender" the policy. How much does the company pay in surrender value? Say $12,000. The company might have spent $10,000 in commission and expenses, so the company get to make a profit of $8,000 on this transaction.

Suppose 5,000 policyholders surrender their policies each year. This works out to $40 million of profit in each year. That is a huge profit. This is the profit that comes out of the misery of the people who lost more than half of their hard earned savings.

Why does the company pay such a poor surrender value? Why do they confiscate so much of the hard earned savings?

The simple answer is - the insurance company is behaving like a monopoly. The policyholder has no choice in the transaction. He or she has to surrender the policy back to the company for whatever they offer to pay.

The hard pressed policyholder now has a choice. An investment company has been set up in Singapore which is in the business of taking over the policies from the hard pressed owners and paying an amount that is higher than the surrender value offered by the insurance company. Instead of getting $12,000 (say) as surrender value, the owner can sell the policy to the investment company for (say) $15,000.

The investment company has worked out its maths. They will continue to pay the premium to the maturity date. They expect the maturity value to give them the target yield on their purchase price and the future premiums that they have to pay.

If you know of any hard pressed policy owners who wish to look for a higher surrender value, send an email to

Restoring democracy in America

Fifty years ago, America fought the Cold War to uphold democracy around the world. It had the honorable intention to help people in every country win the right to choose the leaders that represent them, and work for their best interest. It strongly believed that democracy is the best system to promote the welfare of the people.

Countries that were ruled for decades by a strong dictator, backed by a one party system or by the military, is considered to be a threat to democracy. America worked through covert actions to bring down these dictators.

So much has changed over the past decades. America is no longer a shining example of democracy. Its election system has been bought by "money politics". Through the unlimited campaign contributions, the wealthy in America are now able to "buy politicians" who will wrote for laws that favor these contributors.

America is no longer a democracy that looks after the interest of the ordinary people. It is now an oligarchy that look after the rich people and the campaign contributors.

Bernie Sanders is working hard to create a "political revolution" and get the ordinary people to stand up and fight against this "corrupt system". I wish him success.

Singapore also has our own style of rotten politics. It also has to be changed.

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