Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thinking About Singapore

Written by Our Correspondent
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
ImageAn associate who recently was required to spend a day in Singapore on a business trip became so irritated by the smug attitude of the island republic's officials, taxi drivers and others that it gave rise to this rumination.

In 1985, the satirical novelist Kurt Vonnegut published an odd novel, Galápagos, the story of band of humans on a nature cruise who are shipwrecked on a remote fictional island in the Galápagos chain after a financial crisis has wrecked the global economy. They arrive on the island of Santa Rosalia just in time to become the last remnants of mankind when a virus attacks the ovaries of all the world's women, making them infertile. The Santa Rosalia band, isolated from civilization by 1,000 kilometers of open South Pacific water and still able to breed, become the last people on earth.

It was on the 19-island Galápagos chain, of course, where the naturalist Charles Darwin formulated his 1859 theory, On the Origin of Species by watching and recording the way finches' bills changed shape as the weather in lean or fat years made food more or less abundant. Some Galápagos birds even cease flying but become superb swimmers because fish forms their diet.

In Vonnegut's fable, over the next million years Darwin's theory of natural selection favors those who can swim the fastest. The descendants of the Santa Rosalians thus devolve gradually into a species resembling seals, with flippers and rudimentary fingers. Their snouts evolve into beaks with teeth adapted to catching fish. Since a streamlined head means they can swim faster, their brains eventually shrink as their heads change shape. Hisako Hiroguchi, an ikebana teacher, ultimately gives birth to Akiko Hiroguchi, a child born with fur covering her entire body. Evolution is on the way. The species has evolved – devolved in fact – into one that has little need for thought as long as its constituent members can swim fast and catch fish.

Throughout the novel, Vonnegut blames the human brain for the existence of the crisis that has wrecked the global financial system. According to an analysis of the book, Vonnegut, who died in 2007 just before the current financial crisis began to take on an uncanny resemblance to his book, believes that "only a complex brain such as ours can change its opinion of the value of a currency so rapidly and let these opinions control our actions, which have real-life consequences."

Vonnegut, an astonishingly inventive but famously slapdash novelist, produced a considerable flock of books as strange as Galápagos, but many of his fabulist concoctions came dangerously close to a later reality.

What if today there existed a hermetically sealed tropical island whose citizens, fed only what their leaders, a dynasty of Chinese mandarins, want them to hear? The English language, taught only by natives who learn it from others on the island, starts to evolve into a strange crackle. As their leaders become more distrustful of the outside world – surrounded by a Muslim sea – they evolve newer and better ways of keeping outsiders out and controlling the way the insiders think.

They lose their ability to cope not only with Asia but anywhere else in the world. In places where people chew gum, argue with the government, take risks, misbehave and occasionally display rule-breaking creativity, the aversion to the unruly would be a major disadvantage.

No taxi driver lets his passengers out in defiance of the double yellow line, nor, when the howls of drivers behind him grow to a deafening roar, does he step out of the car and scream, "Aw, go **** yourself!"

The island's leader first tries to control population through mass sterilization programs, causing the birth rate to fall precipitously as 30 percent of child-bearing women are sterilized in an attempt to "raise the quality of the population." His efforts go too far, with the result that the island's birthrate refuses to rise back to replacement levels. The leadership brings in hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese – fortunately already trained in obedience by the Communist Party.

Then scientists at the island's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology help to collect tissue and DNA samples from 10,000 species of animals. They begin to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the human and other vertebrate genomes and soon discover that they can change the direction of human development. Because smaller humans take up less space, birth rates no longer need be cut drastically. But nonetheless, the island can grow geographically – by a third, through dramatic environmental intervention.

An increasingly uneasy society begins to worry more and more about outsiders, frisking and X-raying passengers on the way into the island, becoming the first society in Asia to do so. Erroneously given to believing their leader's eugenics theories have made them smarter than any other society, they approach education as a technological tool rather than as a means of enlightenment. Subsequent attempts to legislate innovation into the society go nowhere. The population go about their lives seeking merely to get as comfortable as possible. Countless attempts to foster creativity meet with frustration.

Paralleling Vonnegut, there is a global financial crisis. The rest, as they say, is history. It doesn't take a million years. They may even be able to catch fish in Orchard Road.
Asia Sentinel

Accident Can Happen In The Best Regulated Family

Hantu Laut

None other than his own people dismantling his 1 Malaysia piece by piece.

Whether it is politically correct or not, sometimes, in our moment of anger, we have to restrain ourselves from making impolite remarks against our enemies or political opponents.

Obviously, Minister Hishamuddin Onn is missing on correct social etiquette when he shouldn't have been.He came from a family of good standing and background.

From Perkasa and other Malay NGOs to his own people in UMNO, Prime Minister Najib is having problems in keeping them in a straight line. Most of the times it is not ignorant or lack of education but sheer arrogance by those in power of not choosing appropriate and equally effective words to deliver their displeasure.

If the Malay language is short of euphemism, the English language is not and most of our ministers are well educated in English.

Why resort to dysphemism, if you can choose better substitutes.

The next time you lose your temper and are tempted to use the word 'fuck' think of 'effing' or if, as a Muslim you think pork is 'dirty' think of it as being 'unclean'.

To the non-Muslims pork is not dirty nor unclean.To us Muslims it is.

What about those tourists visiting our mosques? Are they dirty too?

I might not agree with Hishmuddin on his choice of word but I don't agree with Teo Nie Ching either.

She should just have walked away after giving the donation instead of politicising and publicising her presence for political mileage.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Was I Wrong About This Man?

Hantu Laut

"Dompok is drumming up supports for himself and his party and may leave the BN just before the next GE because he thinks the BN will lose the next general elections.He is keeping his option open.On the same wagon is LDP, walking the political tightrope." Read in full what I wrote here.

Read this than read the one below.

Kota Kinabalu: Upko President Tan Sri Bernard Dompok preferred not to be drawn into the controversy surrounding the remarks by Liberal Democratic Party Deputy President Datuk Chin Su Phin that LDP could no longer work with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

"I wouldn't want to assess that (statement) É (it is) not proper for a (BN) component party to pass judgement on the action of another component party.

"That will not help the Barisan Nasional," the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister told reporters after presenting 2,000 Bible Knowledge textbooks to 31 schools at a hotel, here, Saturday.

However, he noted there has to be space for some criticism.

"There has to be a leeway and there are times that we have to agree to disagree on some issues É this is our position," Dompok said.

Chin said in a statement following the second Sabah BN meeting that the LDP would, nevertheless, remain loyal to the BN national leadership and continue to work with Umno.

On the Sabah BN meeting, he said many issues from illegal immigrants to land and even the way relationships between BN component parties in the State and divisions should go about were discussed.

"I suggested that if you wanted to be better able to go further into these issues, the (Sabah) BN should set up committees to look into all the individual issues É it would be more meaningful.

"This is what the BN is going to do and I think that saved the BN a longer meeting," Dompok said.

Through these committees, the ruling coalition could examine the issues in-depth and come up with better solutions, he said, adding it would start at the State level before being extended to the respective divisions.

"The committees can go further into the issues and (then) present it in the BN meeting É I think that's the way it should be."

Meanwhile, the Bible Knowledge textbooks are part of efforts to encourage students to take up the subject in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination.

Dompok, who handed over the books to representatives from the schools, said the party hoped to help and spur students to take up the subject through such programmes.

"This is a continuation of what we had done. We want to see the problems of how teaching Bible Knowledge and enrolling for this subject can be minimised," he said, after the ceremony which was followed by a training programme for Bible Knowledge teachers.

Dompok said the number of students taking up Bible Knowledge as an elective subject in schools throughout Sabah, let alone nationwide, were too few and that Upko hoped to change this.

"A lot of Mission schools are offering this subject (but only) small numbers of students (are taking it). We're helping those in Sabah who are taking up the subject to be prepared," Dompok said.

He said among the reasons why the subject was unpopular was because the schools might have thought it could bring down the overall passing grades in the respective institutions.

"I don't think this should be a worry. The study of Bible Knowledge, it's actually killing two birds with one stone É you master Bible Knowledge and also master English," he said, pointing out the subject was taught in the language.

"My party is interested in hearing about education in Malaysia É we shouldn't shy from this subject."

Dompok understood there was a big challenge for schools to hire the right type of educators for this subject since it is not part of the daily lessons.

But this should not be a stumbling block with the Government's decision to allow 12 SPM subjects, including two elective subjects, as opposed to 10 previously.

According to him, Bible Knowledge promoted universal values and was also an ingredient for success.

He was happy to note that interest in the subject was growing, as evidenced by the attendance during the Bible Knowledge training programme at the hotel, and hoped future programmes would encourage the schools, students and parents to embrace the subject.

The 2,000 textbooks comprised 1,000 "The Gospel according to Luke" books with the rest being the "Acts of the Apostles".

There are about 200 Mission schools nationwide while there are 250 examination centres where students could sit for Bible Knowledge papers.

Out of the 250, 28 centres are located throughout Sabah.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

'Serial Liar' Anwar Slammed.

Action against Jeffrey's 12: 'Serial liar' Anwar slammed

By FMT Staff

PETALING JAYA: Several PKR leaders, from both peninsula and Sabah, have slammed party supremo Anwar Ibrahim over his role in the one-year suspension recommended to 12 Sabah leaders aligned to vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan.

To make things worse, they say, Anwar continues to remain silent in public, and allow his loyalists to manipulate the situation by not revealing the truth.

“So many conversations and incidents that took place about a year ago involving the 12 and the Sabah situation are now being given a new spin by Anwar's people. This is not good for the party,” the leaders said.

Several senior party leaders were also disappointed with Anwar for “pretending” that he was not fully aware of the peace deal that was struck on Dec 13 last year, which included not going on a witch-hunt against Jeffrey's boys.

“However behind the scenes, we know that Anwar is fully aware of what's being done to curtail the influence of the Sabah 12, and by extention, the influence of Jeffrey.

“We can only come to a conclusion that Anwar is lying. He has done this before. First it was the Sept 16 takeover, and then the alleged RM2 million offer for PKR reps to defect and now this Sabah 12 case. These just make him seem like a serial liar,” one senior leader told FMT.

The party leaders opted to remain anonymous fearing repercussion from the party, especially with the party polls to come in November.

The unfair game

Party leaders also expressed disappointment with last-minute rescheduling of the party's powerful political bureau meeting from 8pm to 2.30pm last Wednesday, the same day when the party's disciplinary committee was hearing the case against the 12 in Penampang, Sabah.

At the political bureau meeting held at the party headquarters here, it was decided that the final decision on the 12 would be made by the supreme council this Sunday. This decision was made even before the disciplinary committee had completed its hearing (which ended at 4pm on Wednesday).

The change in time also prevented Jeffrey from presenting the case for the 12 as his flight ticket was booked for the 8pm meeting.

“This is a clear sign of Anwar's boys putting up a show to ensure things are done according to the party constitution but in reality, a decision has been made to suspend the 12,” said the party leaders.

The fear among these leaders now is that the supreme council, which is controlled by Anwar, would let him take a final decision on the suspension.

“Ultimately, Anwar might once again want to have a deal with Jeffery over the future of the 12 but we are confident that any such deals will only favour Azmin and his loyalists in Sabah, not the Jeffrey group,” they added.

Anwar knew all

FMT learnt that at the political bureau meeting, party leaders such as Tian Chua, Chua Jui Meng and Fuziah Salleh had urged Anwar to stick to the peace deal and not to take action against the 12.

However, their arguments were shot down by vice-president Azmin Ali and Anwar himself, by stating that the party had agreed to the peace deal last December without knowing that the 12 had applied to form a new breakaway party.

Anwar and Azmin had argued that if they had known the 12 had gone as far as filing an application to set up a new party, they would not have agreed to the peace deal.

“This is a total lie. Anwar was fully aware of every detail of the peace deal, including the fact that these 12 would be withdrawing their application to form a new party under the peace deal.

“Chua (Jui Meng) was among those who were present when the peace deal was being ironed out at the Eastin Hotel in Petaling Jaya. He knows the truth, and so does a handful of other senior leaders. They all know that Anwar is lying,” said a party leader.

These leaders were also miffed by the reason given by Azmin to take action against the 12 when he had labelled the Sabah rebels as being without “integrity and principles” at the political bureau meeting.

“This is really funny. He calling these 12 as leaders without integrity and principles. He should ask that to himself and Anwar first,” added the party leader.

The grand plan

The 12 leaders have been subjected to disciplinary proceedings due to their role in setting up Parti Cinta Sabah last year.

The idea of the new party was mooted by some Sabah PKR leaders following a massive fallout between Jeffrey and fellow vice-president Azmin, which resulted in Jeffrey being replaced as the state chief.

However, under a peace plan inked on Dec 13 here, Jeffrey was made responsible for both Sabah and Sarawak and another person was put in charge of the state. Azmin was totally removed from the state line-up.

The peace deal also ensured that there will be no witchhunt against those who had allegedly plotted against the party at that time by aligning themselves with Jeffrey.

The sacking, or even suspension, of the 12 would result in them playing no part in the coming party polls. Their backers have seen this development as an elaborate plan hatched by Azmin and his Sabah loyalists to cut off rivals from the party.

Jeffrey yesterday warned Anwar to expect a backlash if the peace plan was torn up.

Also read:

PKR crisis deepens, Jeffrey advises Anwar to scrap visit

Kuala Lumpur A Dismal 48th And The Poorest City.

Hantu Laut

I would think, at least, in the top 20, what a disappointment, to be ranked 48th out of 65 global cities and worst, the poorest city by GDP.

Even Jakarta and the horrible Lagos are ahead of KL in term of GDP ???

Betul kah ini survey?

Well, Mr Prime Minister Najib, put on your thinking cap.

We are not only the poorest capital city but the poorest global city.You see I have always say we need minimum wage and here is a survey that confirmed my fear that KL is a dysfunctional city and our GDP sucks.

Read the article here and the ranking here.

Maybe, I should ask my friend Valentine Willie to set up more art galleries and bring more Cats, Dogs and Broadway to sophisticate the city dwellers.

Did I hear someone said "I (not me, the speaker) came from a cultured background" the other night?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sarawak Chieftain's US$1 Dollar Mansion

Written by The Sarawak Report
Thursday, 26 August 2010
ImageWe've heard of falling housing markets, but this seems extreme

The Sarawak Report, (http://sarawakreport.org/) an NGO based in the east Malaysian state, has uncovered exhaustive evidence that the chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, has looted Sarawak of hundreds of millions of US dollars and hidden the wealth in Canada, the UK, Australia and the United States. It now has found indications that Taib may have received a US$7 million home from a timber company which depended on Taib for a license to harvest timber. Asia Sentinel is pleased to print the latest of the Sarawak Report's examinations of the Taib family's wealth.

Abdul Taib Mahmud, the chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, appears to have acquired a Seattle, Washington, mansion valued at nearly US$7 million from one of his state's biggest timber barons for just US$1, records in the United States say, according to the NGO, Sarawak Report. Taib has controlled the issuance of timber licenses in Sarawak for the past 30 years.

The Seattle property, which covers 26,000 square feet in one of the most prestigious areas of the northwestern US city, was passed to a company owned by Taib in 1991 by a California corporation called CSY Investments, set up in 1988. CSY acquired the property in 1991 and then registered it under subsidiary company called WA Boylston Inc.

CSY are the initials of Chee S Yaw, who signs himself as the company's president in documents publicly available at the King County Land Registry. Yaw is one of the younger sons of Yaw Teck Seng, founder of the massive logging conglomerate Samling Global. Yaw Teck Seng is regularly featured in Forbes Asia's Rich List of Malaysia's top 40 richest individuals, as does his eldest son, Yaw Chee Ming, establishing them one of the richest families in Asia.

Details of a very nice property
Described as a "Top Grade Mansion" in 'very good' condition by the King County Department of Assessments, the property was valued at more than US$6.8 million in 2008. It has 6 bedrooms and 5 main bathrooms and an enormous living space of 9,020 square feet, plus a basement of 2,120 square feet. The house is surrounded by a large open porch and there is a big basement garage for the car-loving Taib family, plus a second, attached garage. The mansion is surrounded by gardens kept in manicured condition on grounds totaling 26,172 square feet.

Mysterious acquisition
The property, registered under the company W A Boylston Inc (California), has been in the possession of the Taib family since the early to mid-1990s. Family portraits of the chief minister, his deceased wife and four sons and daughters as small children adorn the elaborate rooms. They have all spent time in the mansion, which is not occupied by anyone else. The property forms part of the family's Sakti International Corporation, incorporated in California and managed by Hisham (Sean) Murray, Taib's son-in-law, out of his offices at 333 Preston Street, Ontario, Canada.

However, there is confusion in the Seattle public records as to how the property passed to the Taibs. Sarawak Report has been unable to obtain any clear record of the transfer from one owner to another or, importantly, the register of any payment that would normally be eligible for taxation. We have requested a statement from the Taibs to explain the situation.

Earlier this week Samling made international headlines when the Norwegian Government Pension Fund withdrew all investments after condemning the company as 'unethical', owing to illegal logging and environmental devastation in Sarawak. Taib's control over the issuance of Sarawak's timber licenses leaves clear questions over his incentives for favoring such a company.

It is no secret that Samling has based its business success on achieving numerous logging concessions in Sarawak. Over the period of the chief minister's rule, companies operating under his licenses have razed virtually all Sarawak's virgin forest, much of it taken without compensation from the indigenous peoples who had been granted these territories under Native Customary Land Rights.

Samling is one of the main companies involved in this destruction and it has used its base in Sarawak to launch similar logging operations in the Congo, Amazon, Russia and elsewhere, many of which have been heavily criticized by concerned NGOs across the world.

The US $1 Sale
How and why did the chief minister come by a mansion formerly owned by Samling? The only official record available of a transfer of the property in the King County Land Registry from CSY is the granting of a so-called Quit Claim Deed for just US$1. The transaction on 19th September 1991 placed the property into the subsidiary company W A Boylston Inc, incorporated a few days earlier on September 5th by CSY at its registered address, 2260 Douglas Boulevard, Roseville, California, which was the headquarters of CSY.

CSY and Boylston then immediately filed a joint letter to the King County Real Estate and Excise Tax Department declaring 'under penalty of perjury' that W A Boylston was a wholly-owned subsidiary of CSY Investments, thereby making the Quit Claim transaction exempt from excise tax.

However, our investigations have shown that there is no subsequent record in the Land Registry of the later transfer of ownership of W A Boylston from CSY (Samling) to the Taibs. According to rules published by King County such a transfer would normally require the payment of thousands of dollars of excise tax.

Proof of Taib ownership
Despite the lack of open records, Sarawak Report is able to confirm that there is definitive proof that the Taibs did take over the property from Samling's CSY. In fact they took up residence as the effective owners not long after the property was placed in the hands of the CSY subsidiary W. A. Boylston. Rahman Taib had an insurance assessment drawn up in 1996 (see above).

Furthermore, a significant alteration was made to the company's official address and official representative in 2000. In that year W A Boylston's annual Statement by a Domestic Stock Corporation to the State of California noted a change of address to that of the headquarters of Sakti International (the property company, which Sarawak Report has recently proved to be majority owned by the chief minister). Likewise, the company representative was altered from a CSY official to Rahman Taib, the Chief Minister's younger son.

How much did it cost?
Taib's salary as chief minister of the state of Sarawak is about RM50,000 (US$15,900) per month. If he had bought the Seattle home, the cost would have been about US$3 million at the time to purchase it from Samling. If he acquired it for US$1, there could well be tax implications for Samling and Taib in the states of California and Washington as well as the federal government.

There is a second Seattle Mansion!
If the Boylston mansion was indeed a 'gift' from Samling to the Chief Minister, then one cannot expect such a thing to be done by halves. Indeed, a second, equally gracious and prestigious mansion has also found its way from the Yaws to the Taibs in Seattle, by what would appear to be exactly the same route.

W. A. Everett Inc
2222 Everett Avenue East, worth $2,854,000 at its peak value in 2008, was also originally purchased by the Yaws. It was then registered under another California corporation, W A Everett Inc, set up on the same day as W A Boylston (5th September 1991). W. A. Everett Inc is likewise listed as a subsidiary of CSY in the King County Land Registry. This mansion also ended up in the hands of the Taibs.

The property is smaller, with four bedrooms and bathrooms, but has famously sought after views over the City.

Sarawak Report understands that the Taibs have mainly rented it out over the past two decades, but as with Boylston, the only information about a transfer of ownership of the company from Samling to the Taibs comes with an identical change of address and officers in 2000, from the CSY address in Roseville to Rahman Taib, at Sakti International's Headquarters in San Francisco. This leaves many questions about how the Taibs have acquired their wealth and property. Asia Sentinel

Malays Beware: A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Hantu Laut

It is up to the Malays whether to agree with this man or not.Mahathir has always been consistent with his beliefs.

It was also during his time that Malaysia achieved high economic growth.Those were times when Malaysians do more work than politicking and wasteful bickering.

Mahathir may not be the man to many who sees him in their own perspective but he has kept racial and religious tension under the lid.If the end justifies the means, so be it, at least the people have no fear of dark clouds looming over their heads.

Today, ordinary Malaysians live in fear of their peaceful lives being thrown into the hellfire of sectarian violence because someone has pushed the button that may trigger the countdown of the time bomb.

Nothing else has done more to divide the country than Anwar Ibrahim's ambition to absolve himself and seek the highest political office at a high cost to the people and nation.

Have you seen a chameleon missed its step climbing a tree? I have.

I live in a very wooded area with plenty of trees, insects, birds and small animals like iguanas, snakes, monkeys, pangolins and once in a while sea otters.The ones that I see almost every day are the squirrels and chameleons and, of course, the birds.

Fooling Malaysians may be one thing but trying to fool the rest of the world is another ball game all together.

Anwar Ibrahim was caught out by the Jews of his true colour.

You can ignore Mahathir at your own risk and if you wish support Anwar Ibrahim by all means.

After all this is a free country.

Remember Abraham Lincoln's "A house divided against itself cannot stand"

Unite or lose country, Dr M tells Malays

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today warned the Malay community that they risked losing political control of the country if they remained disunited, pointing to the fate of Muslims in the Middle East.

The former prime minister said Malays ruled because they were in the majority but said infighting would lead them to slowly cede power to non-Muslims, who may not have their best interests at heart.

“Before, we only talked about the problems of the Muslims in the Middle East, but now the Muslims in Malaysia, too, are facing a great challenge.

“If we are divided, we lose our majority power,” he said, referring to how the Malay support was split three ways between Umno, PAS and Keadilan.

“In an apparent reference to the opposition-led Selangor state government, Dr Mahathir (picture) said there was already an example of a Muslim mentri besar who took orders from a minority-dominated state assembly.

“He’s forced to bend to their will to the point where it’s as though he no longer cares about his race and religion,” he said, before breaking fast at Felda D’saji here with the Muslim Welfare Organisation Malaysia (Perkim).

He added that it was not unlikely that the country could end up the same way if Malays kept eroding their demographic clout by bickering among themselves.

“Other parties have the opportunity to use this bad blood between Muslims to strengthen their position and even seize power,” he said, citing historical examples of how foreign powers managed to take over Malaysia with ease.

“Maybe one day the Friday sermon will feature the name of a non-Muslim head of state.”

The former Umno president gave the example of Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng’s name being used in sermons to show what the future held for Malays if they gave up power to non-Muslims, saying he believed sermons in mosques should cite the name of a Muslim head of state.

“I’m not a racist who wants to incite Muslim hatred towards non-Muslims but we have certain rights that other parties must respect.

“And respect only comes if we are strong and in power.”

Dr Mahathir also hit out at Malays who were willing to sell out their race to non-Muslims for political gain.

“Nowadays, we are willing to sell ourselves to anyone so long as we get some personal benefit,” he said.

Without naming PAS, he chastised the Islamist group for refusing to engage in Malay unity talks with Umno and choosing instead to team up with DAP.

“They’d rather make foes of other Muslims than those who see Islam as the enemy and have stated clearly that they reject any effort to make Malaysia an Islamic state,” he said.

“Those who used to say Muslims who cooperate with non-Muslims are kafir... are now doing the same thing.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

5 Signs the United States Is Collapsing

Hantu Laut

Our leaders and bureaucrats may want to read the book by Jared Diamond as mentioned in this review by Steve Walt.

Obviously, no one is infallible but continual mistakes and denial by leaders that they are making mistakes in their policy decisions could destroy the well being of a nation.

The United States has not failed or collapsed as yet but there is no guarantee it would not in the future.

We have seen states that used to prosper, declined to abysmal level. Argentina, Philippines and Zimbabwe just to mentioned a few.We have seen states rising from the ashes to become great economic powers, Japan,Germany and now China are nations that have seen massive destruction through wars.

Almost, the whole of the African continent is on the decline.Somalia, is a failed state in absolute sense of the word, it has no effective central authority, a state in total chaos, lawlessness and banditry.Sudan is a state run on genocide and atrocities.

The worst to come.Pakistan, another failed state in the making, a conflagration that could pose the biggest security threat to the civilised world.

We have seen the rise and fall of empires.We have seen the total disappearance of ancient civilisations.

These processes of decline and collapse of nations would continue as long as we have leaders who put self interests above that of the nation.

The way our politics are going Malaysia will not be an exception.


Earlier this summer I mentioned that I was reading Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and I promised to sum up the insights that I had gleaned from it. The book is well-worth reading -- if not quite on a par with his earlier Guns, Germs, and Steel -- and you'll learn an enormous amount about a diverse set of past societies and the range of scientific knowledge (geology, botany, forensic archaeology, etc.) that is enabling us to understand why they prospered and/or declined.

The core of the book is a series of detailed case studies of societies that collapsed and disappeared because they were unable to adapt to demanding and/or deteriorating environmental, economic, or political conditions. He examines the fate of the Easter Islanders, the Mayans, the Anasazi of the Pacific Southwest, the Norse colonies in Western Greenland (among others), and contrasts them with other societies (e.g., the New Guinea highlanders) who managed to develop enduring modes of life in demanding circumstances. He also considers modern phenomenon such as the Rwandan genocide and China and Australia's environmental problems in light of these earlier examples.

I read the book because I am working on a project exploring why states (and groups and individuals) often find it difficult to "cut their losses" and abandon policies that are clearly not working. This topic is a subset of the larger (and to me, endlessly fascinating) question of why smart and well-educated people can nonetheless make disastrous (and with hindsight, obviously boneheaded) decisions. Diamond's work is also potentially relevant to the perennial debate on American decline: Is it occurring, is it inevitable, and how should we respond?

So what lessons does Diamond draw from his case studies, and what insights might we glean for the conduct of foreign policy? Here are a few thoughts that occurred to me as I finished the book.

First, he argues that sometimes societies fail to anticipate an emerging problem because they lack adequate knowledge or prior experience with the phenomenon at hand. Primitive societies may not have recognized the danger of soil depletion, for example, because they lacked an adequate understanding of basic soil chemistry. A society may also fail to spot trouble if the main problem it is facing recurs only infrequently, because the knowledge of how to detect or deal with the problem may have been forgotten. As he emphasizes, this is especially problematic for primitive societies that lack written records, but historical amnesia can also occur even in highly literate societies like our own.

By analogy, one could argue that some recent failures in U.S. foreign policy were of this sort. Hardly anybody anticipated that U.S. support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan would eventually lead to the formation of virulent anti-American terrorist groups, in part because the U.S. leaders didn't know very much about that part of the world and because public discourse about U.S. policy in the Middle East is filled with gaping holes. Similarly, the people who led us into Iraq in 2003 were remarkably ignorant about the history and basic character of Iraqi society (as well as the actual nature of Saddam's regime). To make matters worse, the U.S. military had forgotten many of the lessons of Vietnam and had to try to relearn them all over again, with only partial success.

Second, societies may fail to detect a growing problem if their leaders are too far removed from the source of the trouble. Diamond refers to this as the problem of "distant managers," and it may explain why U.S. policymakers often make decisions that seem foolish in hindsight. As I've noted here before, one problem facing U.S. foreign policymakers is the sheer number and scope of the problems they are trying to address, which inevitably forces them to rely on reports from distant subordinates and to address issues that they cannot be expected to understand very well. Barack Obama doesn't get to spend the next few years learning Pashto and immersing himself in the details of Afghan history and culture; instead, he has to make decisions based on what he is being told by people on the ground (who may or may not know more than he does). Unfortunately, the latter have obvious reasons to tell an upbeat story, if only to make their own efforts look good. If things are going badly, therefore, the people at the top back in Washington may be the last to know.

Third, serious problems may go undetected when a long-term negative trend is masked by large short-term fluctuations. Climate change is the classic illustration here: there are lots of short-term fluctuations in atmospheric temperature (daily, seasonally, annually and over eons), which allows climate change skeptics to seize upon any unusual cold snap as "evidence" that greenhouse gases are of no concern.

Similarly, it's easy to find short-term signs of American primacy that may be masking adverse long-term trends. Optimists can point to U.S. military predominance and the fact that the American economy is still the world's largest, or to the number of patents and Nobel Prizes that U.S. scientists continue to win. But just as the British empire reached its greatest territorial expanse after World War I (when its actual power was decidedly on the wane) these positive features may be largely a product of past investments (and good fortune) and focusing on them could lead us to miss the eroding foundations of American power.

A fourth source of foolish decisions is the well-known tendency for individuals to act in ways that in their own selfish interest but not in the interest of the society as a whole. The "tragedy of the commons" is a classic illustration of this problem, but one sees the same basic dynamic whenever a narrow interest group's preferences are allowed to trump the broader national interest. Tariffs to protect particular industries, or foreign policies designed to appease a particular domestic constituency are obvious cases in point.

Ironically, these problems may be especially acute in today's market-oriented democracies. We like to think that open societies foster a well-functioning "marketplace of ideas," and that the clash of different views will weed out foolish notions and ensure that problems get identified and addressed in a timely fashion. Sometimes that's probably true, but when well-funded special interests can readily pollute the national mind, intellectual market failure is the more likely result. After all, it is often easier and cheaper to invent self-serving lies and distortions than it is to ferret out the truth, and there are plenty of people (and organizations) for whom truth-telling is anathema and self-serving political propaganda is the norm. When professional falsifiers are more numerous, better-funded, and louder than truth-tellers, society will get dumber over time and will end up repeating the same blunders.

Fifth, even when a state or society recognizes that it is in trouble, Diamond identifies a number of pathologies that make it harder for them to adapt and survive. Political divisions may make it impossible to take timely action even when everyone realizes that something ought to be done (think gridlock in Congress), and key leaders may be prone to either "groupthink" or various forms of psychological denial. And the bad news here is that no one has ever devised an effective and universally reliable antidote to these problems.

Moreover, if a group's identity is based on certain cherished values or beliefs, it may be hard to abandon them even when survival is at stake. Diamond suggests that the Norse colonies in Greenland may have disappeared because the Norse were unwilling abandon certain traditional practices and imitate the local Inuits (e.g., by adopting seal hunting via kayaks), and it is easy to think of contemporary analogues to this sort of cultural rigidity. Military organizations often find it hard to abandon familiar doctrines and procedures, and states that are strongly committed to particular territorial objectives often find it nearly impossible to rethink these commitments. Look how long it took the French to leave Algeria, or consider the attachment to Kosovo that is central to Serbian nationalist thinking, and how it led them into a costly (and probably unnecessary) war in 1999.

To sum up (in Diamond's words):

Human societies and smaller groups make disastrous decisions for a whole sequence of reasons: failure to anticipate a problem, failure to perceive it once it has arisen, failure to attempt to solve it after it has been perceived, and failure to succeed in attempts to solve it."

That last point is worth highlighting too. Even when states do figure out that they're in trouble and get serious about trying to address the problem, they may still fail because a ready and affordable fix is not available. Given their remarkably fortunate history, Americans tend to think that any problem can be fixed if we just try hard enough. That was never true in the past and it isn't true today, and the real challenge remains learning how to distinguish between those situations where extra effort is likely to pay off and those where cutting one's losses makes a lot more sense. Foreign Policy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sabah Dilemma - Picking The Wrong Apple

Hantu Laut

It tells a lot how the bureaucrats work in this country.Political leaders and civil servants with the shortest memory span.Ad hoc decisions that can make or break you.

Read this distressing situation the Indonesian Consulate was put into by the sudden change of heart constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs to send back Indonesian worker's dependants from Sabah.It's again the same usual style of this particular minister not seeking the advices of state leaders and those who knows the real situation.

From the very beginning I was against the idea of allowing foreign workers to bring their families here.Not only Indonesians but any other nationality as well.Bringing the families along would only make them want to stay here permanently rather than go back to joblessness in the home country.

Malaysia may be a hell hole for some Malaysians particularly those who supported the oppositions but is a haven for foreign workers.

Having lived in Singapore for over 10 years back in the eighties, the island nation was wise from the very beginning for not allowing those in the lower income group to bring their spouses or families.For maids, once pregnant, while still under employment would be sent back immediately.Malaysia, on the other hand has myopic policies that work like the erratic tropical weather.You don't know whether you are going or coming.

The bigger problem here are not the registered Indonesians but the illegal Filipinos. Most Indonesians eventually return to their homeland but the ruddy Filipinos not only stayed here permanently but multiplied like nobody's business.

The street children you see in the state are the products of the delinquent of the Federal government.If the problem had been arrested long before we would not have such problem.

If the Minister think he is going to make Sabahans happy with this decision than he is wrong, he picked the wrong apple.

We may be desperate to get rid of the immigrants but we are also able to discern between good and bad apple.

We can see through our squints clearly that the Federal government is trying to pull wools over our eyes just to show they are doing something, worried that they may lose the fixed deposit, intimidated by people like Bernard Dompok and Yong Teck Lee on the illegal immigrants issue.

When Dompok and Yong were chief ministers they did absolutely nothing on the illegal immigrants issue.They waltzed and tangoed with the Federal government and forgot that we have a problem.Suddenly, they become champions and care so much for the people of Sabah.

Sabah politicians have the habits of waking up from their lethargic state every time they did not get what they wanted.Like the dormant volcano they become active again and start spewing noxious lava at the leadership.

Dompok is drumming up supports for himself and his party and may leave the BN just before the next GE because he thinks the BN will lose the next general elections.He is keeping his option open.On the same wagon is LDP, walking the political tightrope.

They may be in for a surprise that although the situation looks fluid for a change it may not be so.As I have mentioned before Pakatan may break up before the next GE.This unholy alliance is built on mere vehicle of convenience. Poor leadership and completely different ideology will be the killer.DAP, says no hudud law when they come to power, PAS insisted there will be hudud. The only party that will come out strongest and relevant among the three would be DAP.

The Minister of Home Affairs Hishammudin Onn should, if he does not already know, which I doubted, that we Sabahans want him to remove the illegal Filipinos and Indonesians first. They are the bigger problems not the dependents of legal Indonesian workers.

This unpopular move would also have a dire consequence on the plantation sector which are already facing labour shortage as more and more Indonesians return home to work in their homegrown plantations.

This problem may cost the BN to lose some of the Kadazan and Chinese seats in both state and parliament in the next GE.

This decision has also caused embarrassment to the Malaysian government and will add to the already rocky relationship with Indonesia.

Maybe, it is not too late to review that decision and start doing the right thing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Forced To Wear A Tudung

Hantu Laut

The Daily Express today reported how a student in a Labuan mission school was traumatised when forced to wear the tudung or headscarf by a teacher who threatened her with bodily harm by brandishing a cane.

On Aug 17 the student was bullied into wearing one and was fined RM1 for not complying.On Aug 19 the parents found her in distress when they went to collect her because she was held back for 20 minutes and forced to wear the tudung by the teacher.

The parents have written a protest letter to the Director-General of Education.

The question is who empowered the teacher to execute such authority? Shouldn't she be removed from her job for exceeding her scope of duties?

My last question to my fellow Muslims, does it makes one not wearing a tudung less moral?

It is high time the government clamp down on this kind of rogue teachers who are better suited to teach in a madarasah than a secular school.

We had complaint of a racist teacher in a school in Johore now we have an over-zealous religious bigot who exceeded the bounds of her duties.

Small Minds Stirring The Hornet's Nest

Hantu Laut

Hope Prime Minister Najib does not fall into Perkasa's trap.They are ridiculing him for not acting against Chua Soi Lek and those that speak out against the NEP.

By the same token, if they arrest Chua than they might have to arrest the prime minister's brother too.Nazir Razak has also spoken against the NEP.

What are these people thinking when they utter those words. Is Malaysia a communist country, you can't even express an opinion?

"Great minds discuss ideas...Average minds discuss events.....Small minds discuss people" Eleanor Roosevelt.

Isn't it so true?

Perkasa, MPM want Soi Lek arrested under ISA

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Malay rights groups Perkasa along with the Malays Consultative Council (MPM) demanded today that MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek be arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for “disregarding national interests”.

Perkasa economic bureau director Dr Zubir Harun said Dr Chua’s insistence in pushing for the removal of the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity quota was against the spirit of the federal constitution.

“Chua Soi Lek, through the resolutions passed during the MCA Chinese Economic Congress, had caused much distress and worry among Malays in this country. Chua Soi Lek should be placed under the ISA for making these unwarranted demands,” said Zubir.

He added that Perkasa viewed the matter very seriously, and threatened to punish all MCA leaders at the ballot box.

“If MCA continues like this, we will not vote for any MCA candidates in the coming general election,” said Zubir.

During the MCA-sponsored Chinese Economic Congress last weekend, Dr Chua had urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to abolish the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity rule and to open up the boards of government-linked companies (GLCs) to non-Bumiputera talent.

This led to a war of words between Umno and MCA that involved Umno leaders Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who both reminded Dr Chua not to forget about Barisan Nasional’s (BN) struggles while fighting for the rights of the Chinese community.

However, Dr Chua has now denied questioning the New Economic Policy (NEP) at the congress, saying he merely suggested ways to increase the country’s competitiveness and achieve the Najib administration’s high-income goal.

His denial was carried in an interview with Berita Minggu today, the Sunday edition from the Umno-controlled The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd.

“I never touched on the NEP... Look at my (Chinese Economic Congress) speech, I didn’t touch on one thing,” Dr Chua said in the interview.

“What I raised had to do with reality, how non-Bumiputeras can help the government to achieve the aims of the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) and New Economic Model (NEM).”

MPM secretary-general Dr Hasan Mad, however, said he was not convinced with Dr Chua’s explanation.

“This is what we call someone who has a forked tongue. How can Soi Lek deny saying it, when there is proof in written form, as reported by news reports quoting him as saying that?

“Soi Lek just wants Chinese support, because he knows he barely has nine per cent support right now,” said Hasan.

Hasan also questioned Umno’s silence on the matter, adding that Umno should respond to the 13-point resolution inked during the MCA congress.

“Our leaders are too compromising. If they are firmer, people won’t say such things. This is because of a weak leadership.

“There has to be action taken against those who question what is already provided for in the constitution. Umno has to respond to MCA’s economic congress,” said Hasan.

The MPM committee member said that the council will be meeting top Umno leaders as well as Cabinet members soon to seek some “clarification” over the matter.

Malaysian Insider

Sunday, August 22, 2010

So! Who Is The Liar?

Hantu Laut

The political circus continues, the spinners, the mudslingers and the crap merchants having a field day defecating each other while Malaysians watched in disbelief the ignobility of Malaysian politics.

Am I impressed?

Yes, it's infantile game we used to play when we were young and stupid.Never admit you have lied.Always blame your opponent.

Nauseating, smell like the gutter!

Denial! denial! denial! from both sides.

If both tell the truth.So! who is the liar?

Agree with my favourite mufti or rather ex-mufti here.

Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.

Umno denies lying, says six mosques dropped King’s name

By G. Manimaran
Bahasa Malaysia Editon

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Penang Umno has denied lying about state Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s name replacing the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in Friday sermons, saying that it has happened in six mosques since last February.

State liaison deputy chief Datuk Zainal Abidin Osman told The Malaysian Insider that he was unsure if Guan Eng knew of the trend but disclosed that six mosques had used the term “Chief Minister” or “Lim Guan Eng” in their sermons to replace that of the King, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.

The mosques are Masjid Jalan Baru in Seberang Prai Tengah which mentioned Lim’s name on Aug 13, Masjid Padang Menora, Seberang Prai Utara (June 25), Masjid Pengkalan Tambang, Permatang Pasir (in May), Masjid Jamek Jelutong, George Town (in April) and Masjid Permatang Binjai, Kepala Batas (Feb 26).

“And yesterday, Lim Guan Eng’s name was mentioned at the Masjid Kubang Buaya, in Butterworth by imam Ustaz Zakaria Ahmad... it was still being used despite media reports about the issue,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“This is not an issue that was created, it actually happened,” said Zainal Abidin, who sits on the powerful Umno supreme council.

He also criticised DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for saying Umno and its newspaper Utusan Malaysia had created stories and racial ill-feelings towards the Penang government.

“It isn’t good for Lim Kit Siang to say we created this on purpose. Now there is proof, what are they going to say,” he said, asking the PR leaders to retract their statements.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told the police and Penang Islamic Religious Council last night to conduct a full investigation into the matter, saying action must be taken against those responsible under the existing rules.

“I ask that this matter be fully investigated; who did it ... as the delivering of Friday sermons is determined by the state Islamic Religious Council and people are not allowed to use our own script,” he had said.

PR leaders have denied the Penang government had directed Guan Eng’s name be used to replace the King’s name but admitted it has been used by guest prayers leaders, who are out of their control.

Meanwhile, Zainal Abidin said Anwar had purposely defamed Umno by claimimg Penang Umno chief Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamid’s accusation was unsubstantiated as he had read the text of the sermons.

“Kit Siang should also retract his statement as this is something that happens at the grassroots,” he said, adding the practice of not mentioning the King’s name had started before Election 2008.

“Before the 2008 general elections, several mosques controlled by PAS did not mention the name of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Governor but after the 2008 general elections, it has become a normal phenomenon in Penang,” he added.

He described it as a bad act that can divide the people in the state especially the Muslims.

“It is as though we don’t acknowledge the existence of royalty and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. This is not good,” said Zainal Abidin.

When asked if the chief minister’s name was mentioned with the knowledge of Guan Eng, Zainal Abidin said he was unsure.

“I still believe ... Umno hopes the State Islamic Affairs Council, that every order made by the head of the State Islamic Affairs Council, is not influenced or controlled directly or indirectly by the Penang Chief Minister.

“We take a serious view ... the Islamic Affairs Council must control and ensure the sermon text is read fully. They must have full control,” he said, adding people must disregard the past and follow the decision of the Penang Islamic Affairs Council.

The Sermon Writing Committee is headed by the Penang Mufti Datuk Hassan Ahmad.

Zainal Abidin also said that those delivering the sermons should get approval from the Penang Islamic Affairs Council even they were guest prayer leaders.

He said this in response to an Utusan Malaysia report yesterday which quoted the Masjid Jamek Padang Menora imam Ibrahim Ishak as admitting that a guest prayer leader had mentioned the chief minister’s name when reading the Friday sermon recently.

The prayer leader had invoked Allah to open Guan Eng’s heart to accept Islam as his faith, the imam told the Umno-owned newspaper.

Ibrahim also admitted that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s name was not mentioned and he had censured the prayer leader for his mistake.

The imam had also said the mosque has a guest prayer leader to deliver the sermons every month, which will include a prayer for national leaders.

The Sinar Harian newspaper had quoted Jelutong Umno chief Abu Kassim Ismail as saying that sermons mentioning Guan Eng’s name is not new and has occurred between two and three months ago.

Zainal Abidin said the spate of incidents showed that guest prayer leaders must get permission from the state’s Islamic Affairs Council before being allowed to work.

“Don’t use the chief minister’s name in a sermon. Don’t use it in a prayer, if it is for good, OK but what if it is used to criticise, then it will cause dissension,” he added.

Malaysian Insider

Saturday, August 21, 2010

UMNO Spinners:The Yarn That Lost Its Tale

Hantu Laut

I call it scraping the bottom of the barrel, to choose from among the worsts.One man's worst could be another man's best.If that the best the UMNO propagandists can deliver only divine intervention can save them from falling into the pit of fire.

They do everything right not to kill the oppositions but to kill themselves.A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.

Am I angry? No! I am bemused and sad that the concept of government that I think is best for this nation is now governed by infantile or should I use the more abrasive word 'imbeciles'

I am not supporter of Pakatan.I personally do not like Anwar Ibrahim.Don't ask me why, I just don't like him, it's instinctive.They also spinned lots of nonsense but does UMNO needs to outdo them and more dangerously.

What do I get? A bunch of clowns running the UMNO spinning machines.

The spins are so evenly implausible even the yarn has lost its tale.

If stupid is as stupid can be, are we Malaysians born yesterday, are we a nation of Forrest Gumps, can't tell left from right, right from wrong, black from white and true from false?

Are we bought on such things as banners and posters that call for Chua Jui Meng to be menteri besar of Johor by Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan, a new Malaysian constitution drawn up by Pakatan to replace the existing one and if that is not enough why not add more embellishments like sprinkling it with some sensitive religious issues and one that is so ridiculous it would not even baffle the most confused mind.

Whatever happened to the imams in Penang mosques, have they gone bonkers? Can't they tell who the head of this nation is? Have they had amnesia or did Lim Guan Eng forced them to replace the Agong' name with his?

Then there was this talk of the coming of doom, a war konon!

UMNO is in need of serious overhaul, many of its parts have broken down, engine is backfiring and emitting too much obnoxious fumes.Ignore it, the ship will be limping into port come next........GE.

To cut it short, the only thing I can say to Prime Minister Najib, sack the guy at Utusan Malaysia before he can do more damage to the peace and harmony of this nation.

You have the power, do it, before they undo you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nazir Razak:This Is What The Malays Should Have Written About Him

Hantu Laut

My own article on Nazir and the NEP is still in the midst of construction but I would let this praiseworthy article by Tay Tian Yan go first.

This is what the Malays should write about him instead of ridiculing him for baring the truth about the NEP.

Insteads of calling him anak bangsawan, born with a golden spoon and a product of the NEP we should admire his capability as a rising star in the corporate world who has taken a bank from the gutter to what it is today.

Nazir Razak wouldn't have brought CIMB to become a respectable name in the region if he hadn't got it up there.Imagine if he is stuck to the Ibrahim Ali's mindset, insecure, myopic, medieval and feudalistic and one who still live in cloud cuckoo land.The Malays are better off without the likes of Ibrahim Ali.

Nazir Razak would not have succeeded if he had let himself be drawn to employing homogeneous management in his bank which was exactly what BBMB was before, mired in Malay monism.He has made full use of the talents of our pluralistic society and I agree with him the NEP was bastardised.

I quote what he said.

"As a personal example, when I took over the helm at CIMB, I resisted the tendency to surround myself with people who thought the same way as I did or with whom I was socially comfortable. Instead, I selected a very diverse management team, in age, race and gender, so that I could draw from our varied perspectives and arrive at better solutions than a homogenous team could have achieved."

The Malays need to do away with the "dengki'" culture if they want to progress.Below is what one appreciative Chinaman wrote.

Nazir Razak — Tay Tian Yan

August 19, 2010

AUG 19 — Some say if he were not Najib’s brother, he couldn’t have achieved this much today.

But some also say if he were not Najib’s brother, he could have achieved even more.

I have an inclination towards the second saying.

Nazir Razak is the youngest brother of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and the youngest son of the country’s second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak.

Nazir is the chief executive officer of CIMB. About 10 years ago, he was instrumental in the merger between Bank Bumiputra and the Bank of Commerce in what everyone believed was a bailout for the ailing BBMB.

Not many viewed the merged entity’s future with favour. The fiscal conditions of BBMB back then, along with its modus operandi and personnel issues were tacky enough for anyone to fix.

Nazir’s challenge was to transform the government-sponsored bank plagued by a severe lack of competitiveness, rigidity and corruption into a highly efficient, market-oriented and profitable business entity.

Upon taking over the bank, Nazir embarked on a slew of ambitious restructuring policies.

He succeeded in convincing the board to lure elite bankers with attractive remuneration and bring in many non-Bumiputera managers. With the power in his hands, he reorganised the internal operations of the bank, weeded out connections, optimised the businesses and established a set of governance guidelines.

At the same time, he reinvented the bank’s branding position in a bid to reinstate customer confidence. He launched an array of financial services and products to meet the market needs. He even brought the company’s businesses overseas in an ambitious expansion programme.

This erstwhile dying bank has now received a new lease of life over the years, with capitalisation and profit margin both among the country’s top three.

Nazir’s competence is beyond doubt, and the corporate sector generally agrees that he is not merely an outstanding banker, but one of the country’s most capable CEOs too.

But Nazir is more than just a top-rated manager, he is also an initiator and advocate of open and progressive ideas.

He has since Mahathir’s time been making proposals to the government to reform the country’s economic structure, saying that it should further liberalise the economy and implement free market principles while uprooting antiquated and stale policies in a bid to create a more equitable and competitive business environment.

Among his most controversial proposals was the one calling for the abolition of the New Economic Policy.

He argued that the NEP had not helped the Malays in general, but had instead shut the majority of Malays out of the country’s economic activities while denying non-Malays access to the mainstream national economy, jeopardising the country’s overall economic performance in so doing.

His did not make the remarks to please foreign investors or non-Malays. He unapologetically hit out at the NEP during an exclusive interview with Utusan Malaysia some two months ago.

Nazir’s achievements had nothing much to do with his family, upbringing or his Bumiputera status, but his own wisdom and input.

His progressive psyche testifies that the Malays can still get plugged to the world so long as they are willing to deliver themselves out of the “kampung mentality” cocoon.

Some say he makes the most ideal candidate for finance minister, but the prime minister has been reluctant to bring his younger brother into the government or politics.

Having said that, there are voices calling for Nazir to play a bigger role so that he can change the largely conservative mindset of the Malays and help steer the nation towards greater progress. — mysinchew.com

Malaysian Insider

Why America is going to regret the Cordoba House controversy

Hantu Laut

The article below was written by a non-believer, a free-thinker and an atheist, if you may, who has his brain in the right place and makes more sense than those bigoted American politicians like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Harry Reid and many others whose religious intolerance and misguided knowledge of Islam and Muslims defile Islam through their absolute ignorance and overwhelming arrogance.

What do you call them? Radical Christians and Jews or plain stupid Americans same as the cab driver I met in San Francisco many years back who thought Malaysia was in China.

Posted By Stephen M. Walt Share

Apart from a brief post praising New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's forthright stance on the Muslim community center controversy, I haven't said much about this issue. I had naively assumed that Bloomberg's eloquent remarks defending the project -- and reaffirming the indispensable principle of religious freedom -- would pretty much end the controversy, but I underestimated willingness of various right-wing politicians to exploit our worst xenophobic instincts, and some key Democrats' congenital inability to fight for the principles in which they claim to believe. Silly me.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what is going on here: All you really need to do is look at how the critics of the community center project keep describing it. In their rhetoric it is always the "Mosque at Ground Zero," a label that conjures up mental images of a soaring minaret on the site of the 9/11 attacks. Never mind that the building in question isn't primarily a mosque (it's a community center that will house an array of activities, including a gym, pool, auditorium, and oh yes, a prayer room). Never mind that it isn't at "Ground Zero": it's two blocks away and will not even be visible from the site. (And exactly why does it matter if it was?) You know that someone is engaged in demagoguery when they keep using demonstrably false but alarmist phrases over and over again.

What I don't understand is why critics of this project don't realize where this form of intolerance can lead. As a host of commentators have already noted, critics of the project are in effect holding American Muslims -- and in this particular case, a moderate Muslim cleric who has been a noted advocate of inter-faith tolerance -- responsible for a heinous act that they did not commit and that they have repeatedly condemned. It is view of surpassing ignorance, and precisely the same sort of prejudice that was once practiced against Catholics, against Jews, and against any number of other religious minorities. Virtually all religious traditions have committed violent and unseemly acts in recent memory, and we would not hold Protestants, Catholics, or Jews responsible for the heinous acts of a few of their adherents.

And don't these critics realize that religious intolerance is a monster that, once unleashed, may be impossible to control? If you can rally the mob against any religious minority now, then you may make it easier for someone else to rally a different mob against you should the balance of political power change at some point down the road.

Critics of the proposal are aware that their views contradict the principle of religious tolerance on which the United States was founded, so they have fallen back on the idea that building the community center here is "insensitive" to the families who lost loved ones back in 2001. (Presumably it's not "insensitive" that the same neighborhood contains strip clubs, bars, and all sorts of less-than sacred institutions). And notice the sleight-of-hand here: first, demogogues raise an uproar about a "Mosque at Ground Zero," thereby generating a lot of public outcry, and then defend this bigotry by saying that they're just trying to be "sensitive" to the objections they have helped to stir up.

But what if Newt Gingrich, Rick Lazio, Sarah Palin, and all the other people trying to exploit this matter had praised it from the start for what it was: a genuine and well-intentioned effort to combat the ignorance and hatred that had led to 9/11 in the first place?

I personally find the whole idea of a "Supreme Being" unconvincing, and I don't quite get why some many people continue to cling to a set of myths and fables dating from antiquity. But that's just my view, and someone else's religious convictions are their business provided they don't impose them on me. The Founding Fathers wisely understood that trying to impose religious orthodoxy on the new republic was a recipe for endless strife. Although it has hardly been observed with perfect fidelity over the years, that core principle has served the country remarkably well for over two centuries.

The principle of religious tolerance is not a piece of clothing that one can don or doff at will, or as the political winds shift. Indeed, it is most essential not when we are dealing with groups whose beliefs are close to our own and therefore familiar; the whole idea of "religious tolerance" is about accepting communities of faith that are different from our own and that might strike us at first as alien or off-putting. Tolerance doesn't mean a thing if we apply it only to people who are already just like us.

The latest example of tortured reasoning on this subject was New York Times columnist Ross Douthat's column a couple of days ago. Douthat explained the controversy as a struggle between "two Americas": one of them based on the liberal principle of tolerance and the other based on the defense of a certain understanding of "Anglo-Protestant" culture.

In addition to glossing over the latter's dark underbelly (slavery, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholic prejudice, etc.), Douthat's main error was to view these two aspects of American society as of equal moral value. In his view, it's legitimate to object to the community center because we have to respect the feeling of those Americans (including Douthat himself, one assumes) who believe that the United States is at its heart an "Anglo-Protestant/Catholic/Judeo-Christian" nation.

Even if one accepts this simplistic dichotomy, what Douthat fails to realize is that the history of the United States is the story of the gradual triumph of the first America over the second. The United States may have been founded (more-or-less) by a group of "Anglo-Protestants," and defenders of that culture often fought rear-guard actions against newcomers whose practices were different (Jews, Catholics, Japanese, Chinese, etc.). But the founding principle of religious tolerance gradually overcame the various Anglo-Protestant prejudices, which allowed other groups to assimilate and thrive, to the great benefit of the country as a whole. The two America's are not morally equivalent, and we should all be grateful that when those two Americas have come into conflict, it is the second America that has steadily given way to a broader vision of a free and open democracy.Continue reading.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Malaysia's Uneasy Dance with the Web

Written by Our Correspondent
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
ImageAre authorities about to start to filter Internet journalism?

On July 31, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is rapidly becoming the stormy petrel of Malaysian politics, made a tough, uncompromising speech to the annual Malaysian Student leaders Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

The 72-year-old Razaleigh, an elder statesman of the United Malays National Organization, called for the abolition Malaysia's Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing and Publication Act and the Universities and Colleges Act, which circumscribes the freedom of expression of students and professors and which, Razaleigh said, "has done immense harm in dumbing down our universities."

It was a major speech on an important occasion to Malaysia's future leaders. Other speakers included members of the judiciary, presidents of bar councils and many others. (It can be found here in its entirety)

"Billions have been looted from this country, and Billions more are being siphoned out as our entire political structure crumbles. Yet we are gathered here in comfort, in a country that still seems to 'work': Most of the time," Razaleigh said. "This is due less to good management than to the extraordinary wealth of this country. You were born into a country of immense resources, both natural, cultural and social. We have been wearing down this advantage with mismanagement and corruption. With lies, tall tales and theft. We have a political class unwilling or unable to address the central issue of the day because they have grown fat and comfortable with a system built on lies and theft."

Razaleigh's speech, controversial as it was, was not mentioned anywhere in the nation's mainstream press, despite the fact that among other things, he said that "over the last 25 years, much of the immense wealth generated by our productive people and our vast resources has been looted."

Despite the fact that no newspapers printed any of the speech, Rejal Arbi, the former editor of the Malay language Berita Harian who is now a columnist, thought it merited exposure. However, Mior Kamarulbaid, the editor of the paper, thought otherwise. He spiked Rejal's column.

Berita Harian is owned by UMNO, which is increasingly unsettled by Razaleigh's calls to clean out the endemic corruption in the party. Likewise, The Star, which is owned by the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second-biggest component of the Barisan Nasional, the ruling national coalition, didn't carry Razaleigh's remarks, nor did the New Straits Times, which is also owned by UMNO. Nor was it carried on the party-owned television stations.

However, it was carried widely on Internet news sites, including being streamed on the independent Malaysiakini television. It was carried verbatim on the Internet-based news portal Malaysian Insider, among other Internet sites.

This has assumed increasing importance because of an Aug. 16 report in the independent Internet news site Malaysian Insider that the administration of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is evaluating the feasibility of putting an Internet filter in place to block so-called "undesirable websites."

According to the report, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission commissioned the Malaysian arm of KPMG, the accounting and advisory firm, to carry out a "'Study on Positive and Safe Use of the Internet' in early August to evaluate, among others, "the implementation of Internet Filter at Internet Gateway level" and "the impact of the various methods to Malaysian Internet users and Malaysia economy.'"

A year ago, the government backed away from a similar plan for a filter to block websites it considered undesirable. After the story became public, Najib denied there was any plan to police the Internet. Although the rationale cited for such a filter is usually to keep pornography away from the nation's youth, it can be used to block undesirable political comment as well. In Thailand today, for instance, at least 13,000 websites have been blocked by the government, ostensibly to block unfavorable comment about the country's monarchy. But in fact, it is being used extensively to block political comment as well.

It isn't clear what the KPMG study will be used for by the government. But when Internet journalism was just getting started in the late stages of the reign of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the government took a decision not to place the same kinds of controls on websites that it maintains for the print media, which are onerous indeed.

The Printing and Presses Act, passed in 1984, has been used repeatedly against such publications as The Rocket, the vehicle of the opposition Democratic Party, and others. Human Rights Watch reported from New York in July that "the government has effectively suspended indefinitely publication of Suara Keadilan, the paper of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat" and severely circumscribed the circulation of Harakah, published by the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS.

As a result of the fact that political parties control the mainstream media, the Internet in Malaysia has come alive, not just with opposition blogs and comment about the government, but with some solid – and some not so solid – journalism. But backing away from total internet freedom today is a difficult thing for any government to do and would generate considerable embarrassment, if not public outrage. In Malaysia, the Internet is broadly regarded as having played a major role in 2008 national elections that cost the Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority in the parliament for the first time in the 50-year history of the country and delivered several states into the hands of the opposition.Read more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The New Economic Superpower


On Monday August 16, 2010, 12:20 am EDT

SHANGHAI — After three decades of spectacular growth, China passed Japan in the second quarter to become the world’s second-largest economy behind the United States, according to government figures released early Monday.

The milestone, though anticipated for some time, is the most striking evidence yet that China’s ascendance is for real and that the rest of the world will have to reckon with a new economic superpower.

The recognition came early Monday, when Tokyo said that Japan’s economy was valued at about $1.28 trillion in the second quarter, slightly below China’s $1.33 trillion. Japan’s economy grew 0.4 percent in the quarter, Tokyo said, substantially less than forecast. That weakness suggests that China’s economy will race past Japan’s for the full year.

Experts say unseating Japan — and in recent years passing Germany, France and Great Britain — underscores China’s growing clout and bolsters forecasts that China will pass the United States as the world’s biggest economy as early as 2030. America’s gross domestic product was about $14 trillion in 2009.

“This has enormous significance,” said Nicholas R. Lardy, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It reconfirms what’s been happening for the better part of a decade: China has been eclipsing Japan economically. For everyone in China’s region, they’re now the biggest trading partner rather than the U.S. or Japan.”

For Japan, whose economy has been stagnating for more than a decade, the figures reflect a decline in economic and political power. Japan has had the world’s second-largest economy for much of the last four decades, according to the World Bank. And during the 1980s, there was even talk about Japan’s economy some day overtaking that of the United States.

But while Japan’s economy is mature and its population quickly aging, China is in the throes of urbanization and is far from developed, analysts say, meaning it has a much lower standard of living, as well as a lot more room to grow. Just five years ago, China’s gross domestic product was about $2.3 trillion, about half of Japan’s.

This country has roughly the same land mass as the United States, but it is burdened with a fifth of the world’s population and insufficient resources.

Its per capita income is more on a par with those of impoverished nations like Algeria, El Salvador and Albania — which, along with China, are close to $3,600 — than that of the United States, where it is about $46,000.

Yet there is little disputing that under the direction of the Communist Party, China has begun to reshape the way the global economy functions by virtue of its growing dominance of trade, its huge hoard of foreign exchange reserves and United States government debt and its voracious appetite for oil, coal, iron ore and other natural resources.

China is already a major driver of global growth. The country’s leaders have grown more confident on the international stage and have begun to assert greater influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with things like special trade agreements and multibillion dollar resource deals.

“They’re exerting a lot of influence on the global economy and becoming dominant in Asia,” said Eswar S. Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell and former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division. “A lot of other economies in the region are essentially riding on China’s coat tails, and this is remarkable for an economy with a low per capita income.”

In Japan, the mood was one of resignation. Though increasingly eclipsed by Beijing on the world stage, Japan has benefited from a booming China, initially by businesses moving production there to take advantage of lower wages and, as local incomes have risen, by tapping a large and increasingly lucrative market for Japanese goods.

Beijing is also beginning to shape global dialogues on a range of issues, analysts said; for instance, last year it asserted that the dollar must be phased out as the world’s primary reserve currency.

And while the United States and the European Union are struggling to grow in the wake of the worst economic crisis in decades, China has continued to climb up the economic league tables by investing heavily in infrastructure and backing a $586 billion stimulus plan.

This year, although growth has begun to moderate a bit, China’s economy is forecast to expand about 10 percent — continuing a remarkable three-decade streak of double-digit growth.

“This is just the beginning,” said Wang Tao, an economist at UBS in Beijing. “China is still a developing country. So it has a lot of room to grow. And China has the biggest impact on commodity prices — in Russia, India, Australia and Latin America.”

There are huge challenges ahead, though. Economists say that China’s economy is too heavily dependent on exports and investment and that it needs to encourage greater domestic consumption — something China has struggled to do.

The country’s largely state-run banks have recently been criticized for lending far too aggressively in the last year while shifting some loans off their balance sheet to disguise lending and evade rules meant to curtail lending growth.

China is also locked in a fierce debate over its currency policy, with the United States, European Union and others accusing Beijing of keeping the Chinese currency, the renminbi, artificially low to bolster exports — leading to huge trade surpluses for China but major bilateral trade deficits for the United States and the European Union. China says that its currency is not substantially undervalued and that it is moving ahead with currency reform.

Regardless, China’s rapid growth suggests that it will continue to compete fiercely with the United States and Europe for natural resources but also offer big opportunities for companies eager to tap its market.

Although its economy is still only one-third the size of the American economy, China passed the United States last year to become the world’s largest market for passenger vehicles. China also passed Germany last year to become the world’s biggest exporter.

Global companies like Caterpillar, General Electric, General Motors and Siemens — as well as scores of others — are making a more aggressive push into China, in some cases moving research and development centers here.

Some analysts, though, say that while China is eager to assert itself as a financial and economic power — and to push its state companies to “go global” — it is reluctant to play a greater role in the debate over climate change or how to slow the growth of greenhouse gases.

China passed the United States in 2006 to become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, which scientists link to global warming. But China also has an ambitious program to cut the energy it uses for each unit of economic output by 20 percent by the end of 2010, compared to 2006.

Assessing what China’s newfound clout means, though, is complicated. While the country is still relatively poor per capita, it has an authoritarian government that is capable of taking decisive action — to stimulate the economy, build new projects and invest in specific industries.

That, Mr. Lardy at the Peterson Institute said, gives the country unusual power. “China is already the primary determiner of the price of virtually every major commodity,” he said. “And the Chinese government can be much more decisive in allocating resources in a way that other governments of this level of per capita income cannot.”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Open letter to PM from Sabahan Cynthia Ong

Open letter to PM — Cynthia Ong Gaik Suan