Thursday, October 24, 2013
This is to win a bet

This is a Damir Doma handbag made from placenta. It isn't real.
posted by Hong at 9:34 pm | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, May 18, 2012
Law Academy spoof
PUTRAJAYA, May 18—The government will set up a second Parliament to help safeguard the interests of opposition lawmakers, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said today.

The de facto law minister said Cabinet decided to form the alternate legislative body after extensive consultation with the Attorney-General.

"The Parliament is for all who were chosen as representatives in the last election but for many, their votes are moot as BN usually uses its majority to force laws through.

"This 'Parliament B' will be where Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs can be cock of the roost as well as sit on comfy leather chairs and generally chillax," Nazri told reporters here after launching the e-Kerajaan portal.

Opposition lawmakers proposed last week that another Parliament be formed as the existing one had "failed miserably" to carry out its duties with integrity.

Nazri said the setting up of Parliament B was aimed at ending monopolisation of the government's legislative arm by the ruling coalition.

"I'm sure those who aren't in BN have better policy alternatives. BN may not get it right all the time, let me tell you. They are very partisan. I don't think anyone should have a monopoly, not even us," he said.

The Padang Rengas MP also dismissed criticisms that an alternate Parliament was unnecessary as PR lawmakers were free to raise dissenting views in the current august House.

BN had such a tight grip on Parliament that the only reasonable option was for a second one to be created, he pointed out.

"Excuse me, but have you witnessed parliamentary proceedings? No, this is the best way," he said.

Nazri added that Putrajaya would look into the possibility of forming a second judiciary and even an alternate Cabinet should Parliament B prove successful.
posted by Hong at 6:01 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, September 30, 2011
Truer words
Uttered by Bradford Whitley's Josh Lyman on The West Wing in 2004; and not much has changed:
That's why we fought so hard in this deal for copyright enforcement, to protect the fruits of the new economy. Technology, invention, ideas, the stuff where America can't be beat. Where they can't do it in Malaysia for a dollar a day.

TAGS: malaysia
posted by Hong at 7:28 pm | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Too soon, my liege
The King should not have intervened in the stand-off between the government and Bersih over the latter's rally last weekend.

Cue angry denouncements by Datuk Ibrahim Ali. Now that that's done with:

I'm not saying the King isn't allowed to intervene. Legal eagles more learned than I have made it clear that Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin has the right, within the framework of Malaysia's constitutional monarchy, to step in to ensure the Constitution is adhered to.

I'm just saying he shouldn't have, if only because it sets a low threshold for future royal interventions. Despite whatever good intentions Tuanku Mizan might have had, he effectively short-circuited the normal workings of a democracy with Sunday's nine-paragraph edict.

Not that his timely intervention wasn't welcome by most. Many in Bersih and the government breathed a sigh of relief when the King asked both sides to move back from the brink and parley.

His words gave all parties a face-saving way to back down without seeming spineless. Having painted themselves into a corner with much posturing and bravado, this was the best way out without appearing to give in.

Was it necessary, though? The King should really only take a hand when federal administration is unable to function properly, like in a constitutional crisis. Anything less is arguably interference in the day-to-day running of government.

Surely the Najib administration—which claims it can steer the country to a better and brighter future by 2020—could have handled something as simple as a rally? Even his predecessor didn't make a hash of the first Bersih rally, and by all accounts Tun Abdullah Badawi was snoozing on the job most of the time.

(Critics of Bersih 2.0 can talk until they're blue in the face about the alleged plot to revive communism and 'wage war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong' but I reserve judgement until and unless someone is convicted in a court of law.)

But what truly worries me is the language anti-Bersih (and even some pro-Bersih) supporters resorted to after Tuanku Mizan made his thoughts known. They practically fell over themselves praising the King's wisdom while urging Malaysians to heed his royal wishes—to do otherwise would be to commit derhaka (treason).

Suddenly, it seemed like we were no different from Thailand, where anything the almost god-King Bhumipol Adulyadej says is inviolate. Yet I don't remember anyone making so much as a peep when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad went out of his way to limit the power of monarchs during his tenure.

Since then, we've taken Sultans to court—for good reason—so I think we can dispense with the notion that they're always correct or beyond reproach.

Why the worry? Because we know little about the nine monarchs who take turns assuming the office of King. We can't choose our country's supreme ruler and we can't get rid of him, plus there's no guarantee the next one will be better.

So let's not open the door to interventions over a storm in a teacup. Let's keep the bar high. And can we please dispense with this language of fealty and disloyalty? Our King is not rex sacrorum and we don't live in the feudal era anymore.

TAGS: malaysia politics
posted by Hong at 3:34 pm | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, January 22, 2011
In cilia we trust

(Image taken from Performing Musican.)

The loudness of calls to prayer and sermons broadcast by mosques should be regulated. The same goes for sound emanating from any house of worship, whatever the religion. While the religiously-inclined might argue that this would somehow impede their ability to practice their faith effectively, there ought not be a separate standard for sound originating from religious practice.

The recent claim by Pekida and Perkasa that the request by Pantai Dalam resident Ng Kian Man for Al Kalsiah Mosque to lower the volume of its azan threatened racial harmony is, therefore, a ridiculous one. More so their demand for an apology to the Muslim community.

Equally misplaced was MCA President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek's suggestion that religious bodies have a sit-down to discuss acceptable noise levels, as though sounds made in the name of God were distinct from those not divinely inspired.

Sound is sound. My ears cannot tell the difference between noise coming from a football stadium, construction site, an overenthusiastic neighbour who belts out Hokkien songs on his karaoke machine—and yes, even a mosque. If sound reaches a level where it can disrupt day-to-day life or damage hearing, that's a bad thing. It doesn't really matter whether God told you to do it, or if you think you have the God-given talent to sing 'Kan Chit Pue'.

I don't know if the mosque really blared out the muezzin's call at unbearable levels as claimed by Ng. However, in the interest of fairness, when his complaint was made, out the sound level meters should have come. The question should be: how many decibels, not how many foam-mouthed adherents with spare effigies to burn.

For an administration for whom the term 'flip-flop' is not just a slang for slippers but apparently a decision-making strategy, such an objective approach would bring welcome respite from accusations of terminal inconsistency that have been levelled against it.

Legislation already exists at federal and local levels detailing acceptable noise levels.

The Environmental Quality Act 1974 defines a pollutant as any substance which 'alters the quality of any segment or element of the receiving environment so as to affect any beneficial use adversely', including noise. Section 23 of the act goes on to state that no person shall emit or cause or permit to be emitted any noise greater in volume, intensity or quality in contravention of the acceptable conditions, unless licenced to do so.

I've seen clubs blaring loud music shut down for being a public nuisance. It's time the government turn a deaf ear to 'sensitivities' and treat mosques, churches and temples the same way.

TAGS: malaysia politics religion
posted by Hong at 5:28 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, January 15, 2011
You know your country's in trouble when...
Possibly the most amusing story about inflation I've read in a while.
Indonesia's president called on households to plant food in their gardens in an effort to head off inflation, with the country's trade minister leading the way by chilli farming at home.

'I have 200 chilli plants in flower pots,' said Mari Pangestu at a briefing today. 'The agriculture ministry is informing farmers how to take care of the plant, and also encouraging consumers to plant chilli in their own yard.'

Chilli prices surged five-fold in Indonesia in the past year to around 100,000 rupiah (US$11) a kilo, more than beef, hurting households fond of spicy cuisine in an archipelago where logistical problems and wet weather often add to costs.

Together with rising rice prices, red chillies helped lead annual inflation to a 20-month high in December near 7 percent.

'Households should be creative to plant plants,' said President Susilo Yudhoyono Bambang at a Cabinet meeting today to discuss stabilising food prices.

Global food prices hit a record last month, outstripping levels that prompted riots in 2008, and key grains could climb even further as weather patterns give cause for concern, the United Nations food agency said on Wednesday.

The Indonesian government has already decided to import 1.3 million tonnes of rice from Thailand and Vietnam ahead of the local harvest in February, after not importing it in the past two years, but policymakers fret about the cost of spicing up the staple.

'You can't eat without fresh ground chillies,' said Rusman Heriawan, the head of the state's statistics agency that measures monthly inflation. 'We need to improve the supply.'

TAGS: economics humour
posted by Hong at 5:48 pm | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Pudding makes your brain melt

There is something perversely brilliant about this Giga Puddi advertisement.

posted by Hong at 4:50 pm | Permalink | 0 comments
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Replies to Mr Gonzales
More letters to The Star that went unpublished. Perhaps I should just start an anthology of rejected letters to show what sorts of things can and cannot appear in the public realm here in Malaysia, at least through the agency of mainstream print media. Funnily enough, both were written in response to letters from one James Gonzales, a reader whose letters appear often in The Star, for reasons that cannot have anything to do with clear thinking.

The first had to do with The Great Malaysian Brain Drain:
I refer to the letter from James Gonzales, 'Do something to stop mass exodus of Malaysians' (The Star, Dec 28).

I do not know of what sources Mr Gonzales speaks when he states that the Malaysians who have left are from 'all races'. In 2007, Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who was then Home Minister, stated that only 10,411 Malays - out of a total of 106,003 Malaysians - had given up their citizenship in the 50 years since independence. Ethnic Chinese and Indian renunciations, on the other hand, stood at 86,078 and 8,667 respectively.

While I applaud Mr Gonzales's desire to understand our brain drain problem, I suspect his inquiries will be less than fruitful until he recognises that his implied premise - that Malaysians of all ethnicities are leaving in demographically proportionate numbers - is faulty.
And the second, about government support for batik:
I disagree with the points brought up by James Gonzales in his letter, 'Encourage wearing of batik' (The Star, Jan 14). The statement that, in many countries, officials are accoutred in national dress, while true, is nothing more than an observation. It would be equally true to say that there are just as many countries whose officials are not attired so. A statement does not an argument make.

What one wears, whether or not one works in the civil service, should be left to each individual to decide. Sure, the choice of apparel has to be in line with socially agreed upon norms of decency but that is a negative injunction rather than a positive one. To demand that civil servants wear batik is no different from making it mandatory for them to eat satay, say, every Tuesday.

As for the contention that the batik industry needs support, that again should be left to individuals (or, in this case, an aggregate thereof) to decide. If this vaunted fabric cannot even survive in the local market, where demand for it is ostensibly the greatest, it is probably for good reason. Artificially propping it up will only delay what may well be necessary innovation in terms of design and production.

Finally, and most worryingly, the letter casually employs a false dichotomy throughout by claiming that the act of wearing batik demonstrates self-respect while not wearing batik demonstrates the opposite. Self-respect is more a function of comportment than sartorial discretion. One could very well wear batik and not project an iota of self-respect, and vice versa.

TAGS: malaysia politics
posted by Hong at 6:06 am | Permalink | 2 comments
Monday, August 03, 2009
Red and blue love

Images from the Anti-ISA Rally ('Himpunan Anti-ISA') that took place in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. The march, which began simultaneously from three locations—Sogo, Masjid Negara and Masjid Jamek—at 2.00 p.m. (at least according to the map provided here, although in reality it was not quite as orderly as that) was to have made its way to Istana Negara where a petition calling for the repeal of the Internal Security Act would have been handed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The demonstrators never made it that far though, owing to the expertise of the Federal Reserve Unit and regular policemen in 'maintaining order'.

posted by Hong at 2:43 pm | Permalink | 2 comments
Thursday, July 09, 2009
The weight of dead trees

Knowledge is burden—when you have to pack your books to ship.
posted by Hong at 3:37 pm | Permalink | 2 comments

A couple more TED talks, this time on the choices we make and what informs them, by the two Dans—Ariely, a behavioural economist, and Gilbert, a social psychologist.

posted by Hong at 12:53 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, June 26, 2009
A third article of mine is up online now at The Nut Graph as the lead story, whatever that implies. Originally entitled, 'Domestic Discord', the piece aims to look at the legal responsibilities we have towards domestic helpers and how our worries about crime—home invasion, specifically—have been conflated with xenophobic racism to create a reactionary resistance to the question of mandatory leave for maids. It does not cover all objections to the new legislation, most of which I think are irrational anyway, but hopefully it will get people to stop mixing issues and forming half-baked conclusions based on muddled thinking.

On a related note, do watch the episode of 101 East entitled 'Citizen Army' (parts one and two) for a report on the surprisingly unaccountable Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia, or RELA Corps, and their unsupervised activities against migrant workers.


Update, 26th June 2009:
Another 101 East episode (
parts one and two), this time on Asian women working abroad as domestic helpers and the problems they face.

Also, P Gunasegaran of The Star wrote a good article on the maids' mandatory leave legislation that basically echoes the points I made in my piece for The Nut Graph but delves more into the operational aspects of the entire domestic helper industry.

posted by Hong at 7:06 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Awaaz bachaye zindagi
I wrote some draft entries about Mumbai while working in the city which, for some reason or other, I did not post. I figured that I should so here is the first of what will hopefully be a short series on Sapno ka Shahar, the City of Dreams:
Mumbai vehicles operate by sound. Like bats they flit through the city navigating aurally, resorting to eyes only to confirm what the mind already knows is there.

Like bats, too, motorised
Bambaiyyas frequently stun unwary creatures that cross their path by emitting a sustained, high-pitched burst from their horns. Nary a day goes by that a careless walker is not chastised in such manner, accompanied invariably by additional vocalizations ('Bhenchod, marneka hai kya?', 'Jaldi upar jana hai kya, salaa?').

Sound is also used in communication between cars, with various types of honking representing different signals—
beep ('I'm here'), honk honk ('You should drive faster'), hooooonk ('Surely we can create one more lane next to you'), HOOOOONK ('The light doesn’t look that red') and so on—although they frequently coalesce into a general purpose, all-weather, plain honk.

In fact, there is no reason to believe that a local would not be able to drive through the city blindfolded and not hit anything, guided only by the toots emitted by other drivers and gauging distances with his own. Should he, by some unlucky chance, hit another vehicle it would probably be because the other driver was miserly with his honking and did not make his presence known well enough. And were he to hit a pedestrian, it would likewise be the fault of the latter for not heeding his signals.

Of course, horns are sometimes sounded even when there is no clear reason for such action. Perhaps this is done for purely for social purposes or in the belief that, like muscles, horns only get stronger with more use. But with so much depending on the horn it seems unwise not to take such precautions.

posted by Hong at 6:26 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy days. A couple of articles I wrote as guest columnist have gone online at The Nut Graph, the first earlier this week and the second yesterday. The former concerns itself with the lack of class consciousness in Malaysia and how this retards true multi-ethnic unity within the context of our chauvinist politics, while the latter talks about the lesser known aspects of syariah law and why its wholesale imposition, as suggested by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, will threaten legal parity.

posted by Hong at 1:51 am | Permalink | 1 comments
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
A response by Hitokiri Yusoff to a comment I made here:
Your comments just pretty much show what politics is all about. It's not about principles, it's about pragmatism. Well the government's position during the 60s onwards was one of neutrality, although still West-leaning, so it would be logical to recognise and establish relations with the Communist powers. This is so that our government's position would be reflected in reality and not just the dogma of politicians. And mind you, I don't believe the USSR cared about our little Commie problem, due to the Sino-Soviet split, as the CPM was allied with the PRC.

Considering this, you're right that the govt's animosity towards Chin Peng and gang is not because of their ideology but because of their violent acts. Indeed the government position should reflect this rather than just say that communism is 'evil', period.

I would say however that your analogy with the Communist Party of the US is somewhat flawed. The CPUSA did not mount an armed struggle against the government, so in a way the American government would have had no reasonable excuse to outlaw them. A better analogy is with South Korea that still continues to outlaw Communism and this is in direct response to the armed struggle mounted by Commie guerrillas prior to the Korean War and of course the association of Communist ideology to the atrocities committed by the North Koreans during the Korean War. Indeed the South Korean military continues to have a largely anti-Communist outlook. Therefore, since the CPM mounted an armed struggle against the legitimate government, it's understandable why there is some remaining stigma against the Communist ideology and refusal to critically analyse it. There is however no need to establish a Malaysian version of House Committee on Un-American Activities, as Communism, at least in its true form, is a dead ideology.
My subsequent response to that has been posted but I thought it deserves a little elaboration here. In addition to the points covered by a previous post on Chin Peng (which the commenter might not have read), there are a few things that need to be considered.

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) analogy would be wanting had the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) been declared illegal only after it began armed action against the government, but the party was, in fact, deemed an illegal organisation by the British from its very inception purely on the basis of its ideology. Malaya was, after all, a British colony and, for all intents and purposes, colonies are nothing more than economic enterprises run for the benefit of the controlling colonial power. There should be no pretensions about that fact. The British viewed CPM as a threat to national production due to its success at unionising the labour force and its anti-colonial stance, and the party would later be driven underground by the British response to a call it made in 1947, as a member of Putera-AMCJA (Pusat Tenaga Ra'ayat and All-Malayans’ Council of Joint Action, respectively), for a nationwide hartal in demand of self-rule.

British economic interests again played a role in independence talks. Despite the fact that CPM still had sizeable support among the general working population, and thus represented a good proportion of Malayans, the British chose to negotiate only with the centre-right, race-based Alliance parties. These parties were dominated by owners of big business and, as such, were much less likely to nationalise British-owned businesses after independence. British influence even carried through to the Baling Talks, which were held to resolve the 'communist crisis' in the run-up to independence. Tunku Abdul Rahman was adamant that CPM not be allowed to contest in nationwide elections, thereby depriving it of constitutional means with which to pursue its goals, despite Chin Peng's suggestion that the legitimacy of the party be put to the people.

This is not to say that the eventual decision of CPM to resort to militancy against the government of Malay(si)a was the right one, but the fact is the communists did what they thought was the only thing they could do after all other legitimate avenues were denied them. We must at least concede that they exhibited integrity in keeping to their beliefs, however flawed, a characteristic which seems in short supply in modern Malaysian politics.

As for the analogy made with South Korea: The two Koreas are still technically at war—the two sides only signed an armistice at the conclusion of the Korean War—and North Korea, to this day, still makes threats against the South Korean government. In fact, the North launches long-range missiles and explodes nuclear bombs just to make this very point. The remnants of CPM in southern Thailand, on the other hand, are no more a threat than the old men and women that they are—they are armed only with a failed ideology and an alternate take on Malaysian history. One wonders which of these is the thing that the Malaysian government fears most.


Update, 12th June 2009:
Mat Amin, a veteran of the all-Malay 10th Regiment of CPM, gives his reasons why the party continued its fight even after Malaya achieved independence in 1957. Juxtapose this with a summary of equity ownership in Malaysia in the years preceding the May 13 Incident
—as much as three-quarters of the economy was still under foreign control—and how the real issue of class was obscured by the race-based implementation of the New Economic Policy.

posted by Hong at 9:47 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, June 08, 2009

Arthur Ganson raises tinkering to an art form. Surreal, ingenious and beautiful.

posted by Hong at 9:09 pm | Permalink | 1 comments
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Chin Peng ≠ Communism
Lately, there has been a lot of chatter in the public realm about Chin Peng—to the point where the Minister of Information, Communications and Culture, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, threatened censure against those who openly call for his return—and one of the things that seems to happen repeatedly is the conflation of communism as an ideology with the violent actions of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). I have already touched on this logical fallacy (see comments made in response to Hantu Laut's blog and Zedeck Siew's satire piece in The Nut Graph) but it seems to me to be something worth building on, so here it is again.

The government, operating on the assumption that Chin Peng equals communism and vice versa, views the increasingly vocal support for the former CPM secretary-general's bid to end his exile as corresponding to a resurgence in the popularity of communist ideology, and is concerned that a situation may arise in future whereby peace and order will once again be threatened by revolutionary apparatchiks. For this reason, the powers-that-be remain adamant that Chin Peng not be allowed back in the country and all discussions pertaining to him or CPM should cease. This, however, is deeply hypocritical in light of Prime Minister Najib's official visit to Beijing in conjunction with the 35th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China, as many have already pointed out. While some say that this observation is flawed because modern day China essentially runs a market economy, rendering its socialist pedigree doubtful, a brief examination of history will show that this hypocrisy extends back to the period when China was not communist in name only, and is relevant to the wider discussion of how our government functions.

Tun Abdul Razak first established relations with China in 1974, when the very communist Mao Zedong was still nominally the supremo. This was two years before Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's economic reforms, took over the top post. A year earlier, Razak's administration officially recognised North Korea, then under the iron rule of Great Leader Kim Il Sung. Similarly, in 1967, during Tun Hussein Onn's tenure, Malaysia established diplomatic ties with a Soviet Union helmed by Leonid Brezhnev, a former political commissar who made it a point to reverse his predecessor's partial liberalisation of Soviet society. All these events took place right in the middle of our own Communist Insurgency War (or Second Malayan Emergency) which only ended in 1989 when Chin Peng and gang agreed to give up their armed 'resistance' against the Malaysian government and disband CPM, as stipulated by the Peace Treaty of Hat Yai.


(Chart created using Google Chart API.)

Even if we were to discount totally the fact that North Korea is still firmly communist (and quite bonkers), and restrict the discussion to China during those two years before Deng came to power and the Soviet Union right up until
perestroika in 1987, we would still have to account for the inconsistency between the government's treatment of local communists and foreign ones. If the authorities do not agree with communism as an ideology because it is 'evil', then we should not have anything to do with either country. (Cue Rais's brilliant gaffe: 'Students and Malaysians in general should be made to understand clearly that the country was ... against communism at a political level.') But the truth of the matter is that the government was more than happy to establish relations and trade with both, while each was gripped with communist fervour, at the same time we were labelling our own communists public enemy number one.

As we ponder why such a discrepancy exists, two possible reasons emerge. (A third reason falls outside the scope of this exercise.) One is that the government does not like Chin Peng because he had previously instigated vicious attacks on the populace; the other is that they felt more threatened by, and thus reacted disproportionately to, him due to his proximity in contrast to foreign communists whom they despise just as much but are rather more distant. The first recalls past actions and the second predicts future threats, in both cases, of an individual—neither deals with concrete objections to the actual ideas of communism.

(Top: From left, Suriani Abdullah, Rashid Maidin, Abdullah CD, Chin Peng, Abu Samah Mohd Kassim, Ibrahim Chik and Abdullah Sudin in 1989 SOURCE | Bottom: Abdullah CD meeting former IGP, Hanif Omar, in Kuala Lumpur in 2007 SOURCE)

Both propositions come with controls. The first relates to other former members of the CPM leadership, namely Rashid Maidin, Abdullah CD and Shamsiah Fakeh, who were allowed by the government to enter the country, if only for a limited duration. Some officials contend that because Chin Peng played a key role in orchestrating an insurgency that left in its wake broken lives and painful memories, he should not be permitted to step foot in the country out of deference to those who were affected, but surely that applies to other senior party members as well. The second relates to our blackballing of Israel and, previously, South Africa. For those who argue that we can have relations only with red flag-flying nations and not local communists because the former are not trying to overthrow government, please recall Malaysia's position on Zionism and apartheid, two ideologies the administration felt were reprehensible. In both examples, the government's refusal to acknowledge these two countries was sustained and absolute despite the fact that neither Malaysia nor her interests were threatened by either. Policymakers objected to these ideologies on ethical grounds and applied their judgement consistently over a span of decades. If we can do that for two systems which do not jive with our moral compass, why not for communist countries that espouse an ideology that, if one believed the rants of elected officials, is loathed at least in equal measure, if not more? It thus becomes clear that the administration's contempt for Chin Peng has to do with neither the ideology that inspired him nor his prior actions. This perhaps give more credence to the aforementioned third reason than most would care to admit.

Why does this matter? For one, it proves that the government, at least with respect to this particular issue, is not acting rationally or on any principle other than the puerile you-are-contrary-and-I-do-not-like-you-so-there one. This bodes ill for any person or organisation that falls a little too far left or right and runs afoul of the Barisan Nasional ideal. Not only will such a wayward entity be suppressed (with the degree to which this is done correlating directly to the distance from righteous centre), it will be implemented in such a way as to preclude critical discourse with the public regarding the matter. Contrast our government's inability to tolerate difference to the case of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA). Successive American administrations, even at the height of Cold War paranoia, never moved to declare the party illegal—it is still extant today. Although, admittedly, US government intelligence agencies tried their best, and succeeded, in reducing CPUSA's considerable influence during the Second Red Scare, the party was allowed to persist, the idea being that while not all of us may agree with the precepts of communism (or any other political ideology for that matter), we are all entitled to the freedom to discuss its benefits and disadvantages openly and without reservations. All ideas are deserved of equal air time, regardless of provenance. Our administration, on the other hand, seems only willing to do the things which benefit them, whatever their operative (il)logic may be. Hardly a comforting thought.

To project a bit, in the long-term this will leave us with a vastly deficient socio-economic political palette from which we can construct new ways to see and interact with society, leaving us with fewer and fewer tools to address the problems arising from our current ethnic chauvinist-dominated way of life. Anecdotal evidence has shown that mainstream political parties tend to adopt centrist platforms in order to capture the greatest number of votes. This happened, in a manner, to trade unions all over the world which, although co-opted by governments for purely selfish reasons (read: to avoid threats to the status quo arising from increased radicalisation of the working class), led to advancements in workers' rights—minimum wage, reasonable limitation of working hours and improved workplace safety—ones we take for granted today. To nurture a society that provides avenues for betterment to people from all walks of life we have to either transition to a more comprehensive political spectrum or diminish disparities between the lower and upper quartiles, neither of which is happening now due to the absence of a credible left in Malaysia. With only some right and some middle, the political law of averages suggests that, in all likelihood, we will inexorably veer into the morass of ethno-nationalist antagonism over time, if we are not indeed there already. To this end, we should be allowed to discuss (insert ideology here) and even form parties to promote these ideologies, so long as it is all done peaceably within the limits of the law.

NB: The countries listed in the chart are all the ones that have ever proclaimed a Marxist-Leninist or Maoist ideology at some point in their existence; it was necessary to look to the past and include countries that no longer exist (Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, etc)
as few countries continue to profess communist ideology. This does not detract from the point of the graphic, which is that Malaysia has always been more than willing to exchange diplomats with communist countries despite its avowedly anti-communist rhetoric, thus rendering objections to Chin Peng based on his ideology hypocritical.


Update, 5th June 2009:
On a related note, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim recently objected to claims that Chin Peng was a nationalist on the grounds that the 'communists were against the nationalists'. Obviously, Rais's understanding of political ideology, as demonstrated by this comment, is deficient beyond belief. (So much for his time spent at NUS and King's College London.) Firstly, there are different forms of nationalism, and communism falls under the definition of radical or revolutionary nationalism. Secondly, while Malaysian nationalists and communists might have disagreed on the final expression of statehood, as well as the methods to achieve it, both had confluent aims
—independence from colonial rule. Surely that makes our communists 'freedom fighters', by any definition.

posted by Hong at 1:52 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Data choreography

(Via Shuzheng.)

The single best statistics presentation I have seen. Period. I want that programme.

posted by Hong at 5:21 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Muka tebal
Ruth Padel, the first woman to become Oxford Professor of Poetry, resigned after it emerged that she may have played a role in the smear campaign that forced her rival, Derek Walcott, to withdraw from contention for the post. Walcott, who had been the odds-on favourite to win, pulled out after over 100 anonymous letters were sent to other Oxford academics describing allegations of sexual harassment made against him in 1982.

In refuting claims that she had taken part in any negative campaigning, Padel said, '
I genuinely believe that I did nothing intentional that led to Derek Walcott's withdrawal from the election. I wish he had not pulled out. I did not engage in a smear campaign against him, but, as a result of student concern, I naively—and with hindsight unwisely—passed on to two journalists, whom I believed to be covering the whole election responsibly, information that was already in the public domain.' Wow. If handing over unsavoury information about an opponent's past to the press is not an attempt at a smear, I do not know what is. Now, if only Malaysian politicians would learn to lie with such aplomb (not to mention use parenthetical statements meant to obfuscate)...

posted by Hong at 4:54 pm | Permalink | 1 comments
Saturday, May 23, 2009

Finally, naked admission of the nature of the state.
No nonsense about the social contract here. President Obama basically parrots Weber when he says that 'what essentially sets a nation-state apart [is] a monopoly on violence'. Or, as Albert Jay Nock put it more critically in his description of the state:
It is not based on the idea of natural rights, but on the idea that the individual has no rights except those that the State may provisionally grant him. It has always made justice costly and difficult of access, and has invariably held itself above justice and common morality whenever it could advantage itself by so doing.

So far from encouraging a wholesome development of social power, it has invariably, as Madison said, turned every contingency into a resource for depleting social power and enhancing State power. As Dr Sigmund Freud has observed, it can not even be said that the State has ever shown any disposition to suppress crime, but only to safeguard its own monopoly of crime ... Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class.

posted by Hong at 7:28 pm | Permalink | 0 comments