The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: news

So many questions asked, no answer provided

Singapore bus death triggers riot

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Photo credit AFP, taken from BBC News

Most people who have a connection to Singapore would probably have known that on the 9th December, 2013, a riot broke out. Initial reporting from Singapore media Channel News Asia reported on the incidence plus with an advisory to stay away from the scene, stating the number of participants (about 400) and whether there were casualties or not.

That is all very well, but I think as with any credible news medium, not only is reporting what happened sufficient, but some sort of investigative journalism as to why the riot happened is required, isn’t it? Even as things have died down, there is scarcely any definitive work as to the cause of the unrest. Soon, alternative news sources began filling in the gaps where state media had failed to furnish what the people wanted to know.

People on Reddit provided a time breakdown of the chain of events, as did some blogs, although their sources referenced each other. Of course, vitriol against the prevailing ruling party started pouring in on these threads, drowning out possible discussion as to why the riot started.

The Real Singapore, another alternative news source, started editorialising, which in itself isn’t too bad, but TRS having a streak of being anti-PAP, their contribution was a rehash of a populist anti-immigrant stance that disenfranchised Singaporeans had with the PAP’s lax immigration policies. I quote:

On the surface, this could easily be put down to the foreign workers being more rowdy and less law-abiding than Singaporeans but in reality everyone has a boiling point and people are not naturally very violent or blood-thirsty.

The big difference might be that we are taught from young to be fearful of the government and listen to authority.
When foreign workers come to Singapore, they do not have the same “training” and can become more rowdy more easily.
This is particularly a problem when the government brings these FTs (FT: “Foreign Talent”/i.e. immigrant workers) here in large numbers and they bring with them their values and cultures and do not learn from Singaporeans how they should act here.
Last night, this was clearly a problem with a large, rowdy riot breaking out.
Many netizens commented that the photos and videos looked like they were not taken in Singapore and further raised concerns that if this is happening, it is not a far stretch to say that other problems such as higher crime rates and more occurrences of rape might be happening soon too.

Effectively turning the discussion into a “These foreigners are not as well-trained/subservient (double jab at 0our over-policing AND at lacking discipline standards of those overseas?) us, and hence are prone to violence and lustful acts.” The author further adds:

These people must have been stressed out and otherwise frustrated with their lives to so eagerly break out in a huge riot.
This could be due to work-related factors such as long work hours, low pay, no welfare and other forms of exploitation from their bosses. Singapore has many reported cases of foreign worker exploitation so this is really not an unrealistic possibility.
Singapore has no effective workers’ unions and so workers’ complaints and concerns are very rarely heard.
When people are oppressed in such a way with no way to vent their frustration or get recourse, they will eventually boil over. All their frustration and stress is like fuel awaiting a spark to ignite the flame. Perhaps this is what happened yesterday evening.

That still does not shed any more light as to how whatever transpired that night, merely speculation that unfair work conditions and pent-up frustration formed the powder; how, then, was the accident the spark that ignited the riot?

Rather than we all just sit here twiddling thumbs, throwing blind guess, why isn’t anyone interviewing the rioters? Surely the rioters would know best why they were rioting? Without any actual word from those involved, all these theories require a leap of logic from “overworked, unpaid, labourers” to “bus accident killing a fellow national leads to a riot.”

Someone should be asking these questions, to the rioters and by-standers:

  • Did you witness the accident?
  • If yes, what did you witness? How did the accident happen?
  • Did the deceased seem intoxicated? Was the bus driver driving recklessly?
  • Who was the first person who discovered the accident?
  • How did the crowd of Indian nationals gather at scene? Did someone call upon them?
  • Did anyone else other than the Indian nationals gather at the scene?
  • If he called upon the others to gather, why did he do that?
  • Who called for the ambulance/police?
  • What happened while people were waiting for the ambulance/police? Was there a crowd by the time they arrived?
  • How did the police handle the situation? What words were exchanged? Did they physically move people around?
  • Who started the fire? Why did he start it? At what juncture did the smashing and torching start?
  • What were being yelled during the riot?

I’m sure there are a lot more questions that can be asked, all of which would answer a lot more questions than the “coverage” we’ve received so far.

Advertisement

The whirligig of unemployment

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Image credit to NY Times

Jenner Barrington-Ward says that she has been told, “point-blank to my face, ‘We don’t hire the unemployed.’ ”

If there’s a statement that makes no sense, it’s the quote from above. What’s the point of creating jobs, if not to give to those who are unemployed and looking? Where are these jobs going? The news report that unemployment is slowly ticking down, but the majority of those unemployed aren’t seeing any marked improvements in their joblessness situation.

As reported in the New York Times, those who have been retrenched or jobless for an extended period of time find themselves stuck in a rut:

For Ms. Barrington-Ward, joblessness itself has become a trap, an impediment to finding a job. Economists see it the same way, concerned that joblessness lasting more than six months is a major factor preventing people from getting rehired, with potentially grave consequences for tens of millions of Americans.

What’s the psyche behind not giving people who have been jobless for a while the jobs they are seeking, if they are qualified? The Times speculate that these people tend to be in poorer health, or they might have some sort of strained relations, possibly being a liability on the company. This is a system of employment that holds little pity for those they have kicked out, because it does little to take them back in once they’re out.

As pointed out in the article, leaving these people out in the cold has consequences on the economy, such as “lost production, increased social spending, decreased tax revenue and slower growth.”

But companies who are not hiring are not seeing it that way, are they? They are more concerned with their own financial stability, and the additional hiring of anyone is an additional payroll they have to pay out, and many companies are so concerned with their frugality, that the national-scale impact of their austerity is left to the worries of someone else. But if everyone else is doing that (“I can’t afford to hire anyone; I’ll let someone else the hiring to bolster the economy”), therein lies the eventual self-immolation — no one hires, less people have spending power to buy products, companies see a drop in revenue, they cut down on hiring and perhaps even lay off more people to maintain “fiscal health,” cycle repeats.

“Quitting journalism”

In recent viral video news, Marina Shifrin, who worked as a content editor at Next Media Animation, Taiwanese news animation company responsible for animated news hits such as US-Sino Currency Rap Battle or the one on US airport security body scans, quit her job with a bang, by releasing the above-embedded video.

Shifrin also wrote a post on her blog about her departure, and how journalism is “dead” to her.

I dropped everything for work. I spent hours in the office perfecting my headlines, my voice overs, my stories. But as the workload increased, I found I could no longer keep up. I tried. I came in earlier, I stayed later, I worked on weekends. Scared I wasn’t pulling my weight, I went to my boss and told him how I felt.

“Make deadlines, not art,” was his response.

After I admitted that I could not hit the deadlines needed to put out our long-form, satirical news pieces, I was moved to our serious stories. Guess what I figured out? Journalism is the worst! I mean if you’re not reporting about which Kardashian is pregnant, then you’re reporting about a baby that was shot in the head.

I understand Shifrin’s frustration with writing what she calls “fluff” pieces — after all I once tried writing for Buzzfeed, and it was the most excruciating animated-gif-laden piece I’ve ever produced, and was not proud of it when it was finished. However, what I don’t get is if she can’t keep up with journalism deadlines, where news is produced every day, what was she expecting journalism to be when she decided to embark on that journey in college? Was she not expecting a breakneck pace of work?

J-school tends to give the impression that people have the luxury of time to slowly craft and follow a story, but at least through internships and having to produce content daily, journalism students should know that a lot is expected of them in the span of a day. Shifrin’s beef with her boss’s rather reasonable expectations of her to make deadlines is rather unfounded.

Also, did she not know what she was getting into when she entered Next Media Animation? Perhaps she did, and thought she could outlast the content NMA produces. But she calls having found NMA “different.”

It was for an animation company where I was free to make jokes and put my personality into my writing. I loved it! I found the perfect combination between comedy and journalism. I was having my cake, eating it AND going in for seconds.

She apparently knew what she was getting into, and the whole “NMA produces only fluff” stand seems rather dubious at best.

Her quitting has attracted coverage from quite a few major sites: Wall Street Journal sees her dramatic exit as the product of Millennials’ cynicism, Huffington Post sees it as internet win, and Gawker merely touts it as a young person unable to news aggregation and quitting.

From a Singapore popular opinions site, The Real Singapore has also picked up on the story and wrote their own scathing take on Shifrin’s resignation. They called it a quitting in the “most narcissistic, viral way possible.” They also wrote:

This is the big villain of Shifrin’s piece, the boss who wanted her to hit “deadlines” instead of crafting the “art” of her journalism. Well guess what? Journalism isn’t art.

This is why there is no respectable journalism in Singapore; even sites such as The Real Singapore, which purports to deliver news and journalism as an alternative to the mainstream Singapore media, don’t even respect journalism themselves.

I’ve gone through school to study journalism and how to be a journalist, I want to be a journalist. But it is very easy for many to dismiss journalism as being art, or even fail to see how it can possibly be art. I don’t see how the connecting of the lives of others around the world in as succinct a piece as possible isn’t a form of art.

When Shifrin says she “quits journalism,” it really makes one wonder if she’s meant for journalism in the first place. Pursuing journalism has always been akin to some sort of willing self-debasement — one expects to lose time, friends, and relationships to journalism. But being a journalist is about despite knowing these and still staying on, because one really loves the news. That’s really why anyone would willing put themselves through such torture.

Surviving journalism is all about being in the right news sector.

Finger on the pulse of the shutdown

Photo credits to Doug Mills/The New York Times

For those who are confused why the shutdown happened, here is a New York Times graphic showing the spending bill that was bounced back and forth between the Senate and the House, and the lack of resolution on the future budget led to the shutdown.

For those who are curious as to which agencies specifically are affected and how many people will be furloughed, here’s a CNN searchable interactive list of all agencies affected, with numbers of furloughed listed as well.

P.S. When I first saw that NY Times picture (posted above), I thought I saw a picture of a guard precariously balancing on guard rails.

Only in America: Government shutdown edition

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Approximate two hours ago, at midnight, as the U.S. congress was unable to reach a resolution in passing the budget, a shutdown of the government happened, furloughing some 800,000 government workers and shuttering some non-essential agencies and services.

That is repeated ad nauseum; what’s interesting is: how are the two polarised news sources — MSNBC on the left, and Fox News on the right — reporting this brouhaha?

For those not in the know, the Republican-held House in the Congress has been largely blamed for being unwilling to pass the budget without trying to force through language that aims to strip the Affordable Care Act, also popularly known as “Obamacare,” from the bill.

Fox News has reported that lawmakers have “missed the deadline,” emphasising that the shutdown would “limit access to national monuments, parks,” and how the shutdown might impact travellers.

MSNBC, on the other hand, of course, was all “First shutdown in 17 years!” and various iterations of how the shutdown is impending doomsday.

Understanding the Chinese consumer culture

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Photo credits to South China Morning Post

Ikea bends over backwards to accommodate Chinese keener on sleeping than shopping, but sees unprecedented growth

Shoppers sleeping on display beds; couples taking “selfies” in the showrooms; thermos flasks of drinks and plastic bags containing food sit on the display kitchen tables, with shoppers actually eating and drinking off of them — these sorts of behaviour would be unthinkable anywhere else, but in China, they seem to be the norm.

And it is not as if the store actively encouraged it. In the article, store staff Jason Zhang says that every day, he wakes up about a hundred of them.

Ikea was certainly not expecting such behaviour, and has certainly bent over backwards to accommodate these shoppers in hopes of chasing their yuan, and it has certainly worked — their turnover in 2012 exceed 6 billion yuan.

Understanding why they behave that way requires the understanding of two conflicting ideals: Being insensitive to criticism and the needs of others (having a thick skin), while being sensitive to scrutiny at the same time.

There is a certain lack of awareness of others among the Chinese; if the Japanese are overly-conscious about the considerations of everyone around them, then the Chinese would be the antithesis. Only by having a skin thick enough to brush off admonishments from their inconsiderate acts could they even behave they do in the first place. If the customers at China’s Ikea considered about other customers using the products in the future, they would be more careful with it. If they cared enough about not appearing to be uncouth, then they would not spit in public or be disruptive. If they cared enough about the people trying to get out of the trains, they would not be rushing headfirst as the train doors open.

As such, you have people doing whatever pleases them, oblivious to the disapproval of those around them.

According to Tom Doctoroff, an expert on Chinese consumer psychology and author of What Chinese Want, … going to Ikea may not be too dissimilar to visiting a theme park. Generally, Doctoroff explains, Chinese people tend to take a more recreational approach to consumption. “Shopping in China is far more about the experience itself than it is in the West,” he says.

Blindly charging ahead, in pursuit of their ‘experience.’

Doctoroff also says:

For Chinese consumers, products for domestic consumption are secondary to the more visible status offered by Western brands such as cars, watches or even Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Starbucks coffee.

This is a rather salient point about Chinese consumer culture: buying things is very much less for its utility than the perceived status it affords. Therefore, a brilliant sofa from Crate and Barrel would be inferior to a Gucci handbag, and people would rather tote around a Starbucks cup containing average coffee than a cup of fair-trade organic coffee.

What this means is that just as they brush off criticisms of their actions, they are at the same time sensitive to how people perceive their prestige, and the easiest way to obtain that is through acquisition of material goods. They are eager to be seen wearing their expensive clothing and bags, and eating, drinking and socialising at establishments that boast of an affluent lifestyle.

This obsession with flaunting status is not something new: traditionally, in restaurants, a Chinese host would often order more dishes than anyone at the table could finish, resulting in incredible wastage. This is so that the host can display his generosity and capability of affording such lavishness.

The Chinese equate goods that are expensive, and easily-recognised brands with social standing. One needs only to go to premium outlet malls such as Woodbury to witness the whimsy with which they buy bags and purses from Coach, or Prada, or Gucci. Of course, to afford these goods, they have to have a certain amount of wealth in the first place, and indeed the ones causing the most antagonism worldwide in their squabbling ways are those who can afford to leave the country to tour, travel, work and vacation.

For example: A teenager was caught defacing a 3,500 year old Egyptian temple, Thai message boards were abuzz with complaints of Chinese tourists being a nuisance in public and spitting, a French boutique hotel announcing that they would bar Chinese visitors — the burgeoning affluence of China has opened the doors to the world to its newly-rich, and the rest of the world feels it.

“That China is a lawless, poorly educated society with a lot of money is going to take its toll on the whole world,” said Hung Huang, a popular blogger and magazine publisher in Beijing.

Ms. Hung, the blogger, blames the Communist Party’s tumultuous rule for China’s uncivilized behavior abroad. “There’s an entire generation who learned you don’t pay attention to grooming or manners because that’s considered bourgeois,” she said. While Chinese are more open to Western ideas now, that has not necessarily sunk in when actually interacting with the outside world. “They think, ‘The hell with etiquette. As long as I have money, foreigners will bow to my cash.’ ”

Despite the bad rep, countries are still bending over backwards to accommodate the Chinese, for they represent revenue to be made. As reported in the New York Times, 83 million mainland Chinese spent $102 billion abroad — overtaking Americans and Germans — making them the world’s biggest tourism spenders, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Wedding companies in South Korea are trying to lure Chinese couples with bling-heavy ceremonies inspired by the viral music video “Gangnam Style.” A coastal county outside Sydney, Australia, is building a $450 million Chinese theme park centered on a full-size replica of the gates to the Forbidden City and a nine-story Buddhist temple. France, one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists already — 1.4 million visited in 2012 — is working to further bolster its appeal.

Parisian officials recently published a manual for the service industry that offers transliterated Mandarin phrases and cultural tips for better understanding Chinese desires, including this tidbit: “They are very picky about gastronomy and wine.”

Such pandering, however, encourages the poor behaviour of these Chinese tourists. Be it countries abroad, or Ikea in China, letting revenue permit the lack of social grace is as myopic as the Chinese who spit and litter wantonly on the streets: focusing on whatever is pleasing now and not having to worry about consequences or how it might affect others.

Perhaps shops should enforce orderliness, and firmly rebuke those who are disruptive, even if it might cost them some business. Perhaps greater social education should be emphasised upon in schools. Change will not happen overnight, and in fact, given the vastness of the country, China may not even see a betterment of its ungraceful problem for many generations, but leaving this wildfire rampant and unchecked is not a solution either.

Nigerian grad student uses science to prove gay marriage is wrong

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Photo from Nigerian news site This Day

A University of Lagos post graduate student, Chibuihem Amalaha, from Imo State has used science to prove that gay marriage is improper among other breakthroughs.

A post-graduate student from the University of Lagos has proved without a doubt that gay marriage is wrong. According to him, “In the area of physics, I used physics with experiments, I used chemistry with experiments, I used biology with experiments and I used mathematics to prove gay marriage wrong.”

I have taken the liberty of summing up his scientific experiments showing that gay marriage is wrong.

  • A bar magnet has two opposite poles: North and South. If you put two North or two South poles of the magnets together, they will not attract but repel instead. Men and women are opposites, therefore “a man will attract a woman because of the way nature has made a female.” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • “if you use your biro and rub it on your hair, after rubbing, try to  bring small pieces of paper they will attract because one is charged while the other one is not charged. But if both of them are charged they don’t attract, which means that man cannot attract another man because they are the same, and a woman should not attract a woman because they are the same. ” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • In chemistry, there are “acids” and “bases (alkali)” which are opposites. Pouring an acid over a base results in a chemical reaction — you get salt and water. Pouring an acid over an acid or alkali over alkali results in no reaction, just as “a man on top of a man will have no reaction.” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • Electrolysis proves that people of the same sex cannot be attracted to each other. Amalaha found out that “negative ions will be attracted to the positive ones while the positive ions will be attracted to the negative ones” and concluded that “a man cannot be attracted to a man as negative ion is not attracted to the negative electrode instead negative ion is attracted to the positive electrode.” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • A cock copulates with a hen, a lion copulates with a lioness. Animals of the same gender do not copulate. Sperms fertilise eggs. If “even lower creature understand so much, how come  human being made in the higher image of God that is even of higher creature will be thinking of  a man having sex with another and woman having sex with another woman?” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • Mathematical commutativity and idempotency proves gay marriage wrong. If 2+3=5 and 3+2=5, then A+B and B+A will result in a “change.” If men are “A” and women are “B,” then a man and a woman will result in a reaction and change (commutative). However, if you have 2 “A’s” or 2 “B’s” together, you get the same result: A+A=(2)A, B+B=(2)B, and no change has occurred. Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.

One can only imagine the countless hours he spent, sitting in a lab, trying to get magnets to attract and repel each other, rubbing biros on his head trying to attract paper, and observing chickens fornicate.

Amalaha concludes, “So these are the principles I have used to prove gay marriage wrong in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and by the grace of God I am the only one that has proved this in the whole world.”

Amalaha’s other achievements also include that mathematical number Pi is not 22 over 7, and proving “that watching television in the dark impacts negatively on one’s eyes and by God’s grace, I was the first person to use scientific instruments to prove it in the whole world.”

So much sassafras, New York Times

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Image taken from New York Time’s A Viewer’s Guide to the N.Y.C Mayoral Candidates

The New York Time’s coverage of New York’s mayoral elections is surprisingly… sassy. They’ve summarised each candidate by categories such as by their boldest idea pitched or their biggest blunder so far. Take a look at the some of the cheek the Times has put into describing each candidate.

Boldest idea

Weiner: Single-payer, universal health care in New York City.
De Blasio: Universal prekindergarten, paid for by a tax on those earning more than $500,000.
Albanese: Variable toll prices on bridges, based on hour of the day and availability of mass transit.
Quinn: Building 80,000 new units of affordable housing.
Liu: Raising the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour.
Salgado: Creating a city-issued identification card for undocumented immigrants.
Thompson Jr.: Hiring 2,000 new police officers.
Lhota: Transferring control of bridges and tunnels from the M.T.A. to city government.
McDonald: Get the city to buy from local suppliers.
Catsimatidis: Bringing the World’s Fair back to New York.
Carrion Jr: Giving parents online access to student academic and disciplinary records.

Biggest blunder

Weiner: Where to begin?
De Blasio: Keeping a campaign staff member who sympathized with a killer of four people and cursed at the Police Department on Twitter.
Albanese: Hasn’t committed it yet, but we are watching.
Quinn: Opposing family-friendly paid sick-leave legislation until its backers outmaneuvered her. Can women forget that?
Liu: Incessantly reminding voters of the scandal surrounding his campaign.
Salgado: We’ll tell you once candidate forums start allowing him on stage.
Thompson Jr.: “No new tax” pledge may be impossible to keep. (See police officers, 2,000 new.)
Lhota: Calling Bloomberg an “idiot” in earshot of a reporter.
McDonald: Scaring off donors by breaking campaign finance rules.
Catsimatidis: Hmm. His plan to give bullies their own school?
Carrion Jr: Failure to persuade Republican leaders to let him on their ballot.

What you will find endearing

Weiner: The candor of a man with nothing left to lose.
De Blasio: His son’s epic Afro.
Albanese: Refuses to take donations from lobbyists or developers.
Quinn: Having a lesbian with that accent in Gracie Mansion.
Liu: His brothers are all named after a Kennedy.
Salgado: Ends conversations with “God bless you.”
Thompson Jr.: His earnest attempts at Yiddish.
Lhota: Tipsy posts on Twitter, like this one: “Oops! Yankees 10 (not 18), Sox 3 (too much wine).”
McDonald: The story of the Doe Fund, his nonprofit job-training organization.
Catsimatidis: His tendency to tear up at any moment, Boehner-style.
Carrion Jr: A fluency in Spanish now missing from City Hall.

What will grate on you

Weiner: Four months of penis puns in The New York Post.
De Blasio: Occasionally lapses into liberal-activist speak.
Albanese: Sometimes holier-than-thou claims of independence.
Quinn: That wall-piercing laugh. Just wait for it.
Liu: Populism that can border on pandering.
Salgado: Depending on perspective, the intermingling of faith and politics.
Thompson Jr.: Does he ask a lot of rhetorical questions? Yes, he does.
Lhota: Mr. Giuliani’s return to the campaign trail.
McDonald: The candor of a first-time candidate. Asked about Asian businesses, he praised his local masseur for cheap relaxation.
Catsimatidis: Mangled syntax.
Carrion Jr: Dull debate performances.

Relationship with Bloomberg

Weiner: Antagonistic.
De Blasio: Chilly.
Albanese: Nonexistent.
Quinn: It’s complicated.
Liu: Outright hostile.
Salgado: Once stood next to him for a photograph.
Thompson Jr.: As variable as the weather.
Lhota: Technocratic kinship.
McDonald: Philanthropic. The mayor donates to his charity.
Catsimatidis: Billionaire neighbors.
Carrion Jr.: Cordial.

Nightmare scenario

Weiner: TMZ tracks down that sixth woman.
De Blasio: Anthony D. Weiner enters the race.
Albanese: Finishing last.
Quinn: Becoming another Bella Abzug, who was the race’s undisputed star in 1977 but squandered her commanding lead.
Liu: Taking the stand in the trial of his former campaign treasurer.
Salgado: Mr. Sharpton leaves MSNBC and runs for mayor (again).
Thompson Jr.: Black voters defect to another liberal, like Bill de Blasio, whose wife is black.
Lhota: New Yorkers fall in love with John Catsimatidis.
McDonald: Will be forced to give back thousands in campaign contributions.
Catsimatidis: Major food poisoning outbreak is traced back to Gristedes.
Carrion Jr.: Latino Democrats somehow hear about Mr. Salgado.

Bottom line

Weiner: Mayoral campaigning as group therapy.
De Blasio: With the right campaign, he can squeak into the runoff.
Albanese: His best shot was probably in 1997.
Quinn: She is the front-runner. Until she isn’t.
Liu: Long hours on the trail will only take him so far.
Salgado: Pray for him.
Thompson Jr.: Expect a late surge to put him in the runoff. (His rivals do.)
Lhota: Long-shot Republicans have a knack for becoming mayor in this city.
McDonald: If lightning strikes.
Catsimatidis: It will, at the very least, be entertaining.
Carrion Jr.: He is a Republican nominee’s dream — unlikely to win, but certain to lure away Democratic voters.

When even banks flee from college loans

From CNBC:

The largest bank in the United States will stop making student loans in a few weeks.

Even banks, who have been known to fish around troubled waters for revenue, such as with mortgage-backed securities during the subprime mortgage crisis, are pulling out of providing further loans to college students who want to take out a loan.

Why? Because college tuition is mounting, and as college students take out more loans to be able to afford that, only to graduate into joblessness or low-paying jobs that are insufficient for them to service their repayments, many default on their loans, causing banks losses.

I bet the student loan sector is so dismal that even the most creative of banks cannot re-package it into a lucrative derivative product. Unless the investors are really that daft.

With over $1 trillion in outstanding loans, the second highest in the country, over $8 billion in default, and about 13% of payers defaulting within  three years of servicing their loan, no wonder JP Morgan Chase wants out of this rapidly-collapsing market.

And of course, loans from JP Mogan Chase are a variable prime rate subject to market forces, unlike federal loans, and should interest rates go up, more students are likely to default and less students will be willing to take these loans out.

It is not so much that the jobs students are taking are less capable of living a standard life than they were decades ago; job wage increment has been slight but at least still barely keeping with inflation (2-3% wage increase vs 2-3% inflation) in the past two years. Compare that with tuition increase in the past two years, which has increased by 4-5%, plus state funding for colleges have fallen 15% in the past six years.

The problem is most definitely with the free-wheeling increase of tuition costs with no seeming checks. I have written about this previously and how if we are to maintain the momentum of development and progress in the country, something must be done to the incendiary college side of rapidly rising tuition costs, rather than just working on the palliative side of the solution of providing more government aid.

Making the progress of the country affordable

From the New York Times:

Obama to Offer Plans to Ease Burden of Paying for College

It is about time the wildly sky-rocketing prices of a college education be addressed. While not actually depressing or stemming the increase in tuition, offering more aid is just as good a solution as any.

It must be, and I believe it is, recognised that a college education is ultimately how a country can begin progress. Oh don’t get me wrong, a college education is not necessary for an individual to be successful and happy in life — a person who has never been to college, through innovation, hard work and the right mixture of conditions can live the life he or she wants to. I’m talking about advancement and success at a national level.

A lot of the “better life” we talk about is made capable through invention — green energy, more effective farming methods, waste reduction technologies, communication, etc. — all these are the results of research and development, most if not all, made possible by researchers and scientists who have had to start in college. There are not many prodigies around who, without having to go to college, are capable of inventions at a scale enough to impact a nation as a whole; most innovations are from the toil of thousands of regular scientists who become proficient at what they do from having received the know-how and training from college and university. If a prodigy is the equivalent of a hundred scientists, rather than focus trying to find the wayward genius, it makes more sense to groom a hundred scientists instead.

If the very basic step of even attaining a bachelors remains out of reach to many because “college is too expensive”, and there might be countless untapped future inventors and pioneers waiting for the right academic environment to unleash their potential, a lot of talent and potential is wasted; all that is achieved is college heads having their pockets lined with more money.

Why is college the vital stepping stone, and not say, high school, to a country’s advancement? It is true to say that every step along of the path of education contributes to innovation’s path, but high schools being unaffordable is not quite a problem in this country, college is.

The government is investing in the country’s future when it decides to give students access to their own ingenuity by helping make the tools affordable; knowledge, and an environment to inspire.