Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why US finance is in such a mess - for dummies

Are you finding it too hard to understand why US is in such a mess now? If so then the comedy below is a much watch for you. Amazingly the comedy was recorded in 2007, and has proved to be poignantly and deadly accurate.

One wonders - why the comedians can saw it coming while the the financial analysts and government regulators were so blind to it. From toxic mortgages to poisoned milk and who knows what else to come, this is a stark revelation of the folly and destructiveness of runaway capitalist greed.

One a more serious note, below is a very clarifying and factual article from the Financial Times, September 21 2008. What we are seeing now is only the very beginning, and this article details the unrawelling this is to unfold over the coming years.

The shadow banking system is unravelling
By Nouriel Roubini

Last week saw the demise of the shadow banking system that has been created over the past 20 years. Because of a greater regulation of banks, most financial intermediation in the past two decades has grown within this shadow system whose members are broker-dealers, hedge funds, private equity groups, structured investment vehicles and conduits, money market funds and non-bank mortgage lenders.

Like banks, most members of this system borrow very short-term and in liquid ways, are more highly leveraged than banks (the exception being money market funds) and lend and invest into more illiquid and long-term instruments. Like banks, they carry the risk that an otherwise solvent but liquid institution may be subject to a self-fulfilling and destructive run on its illiquid liabilities.

But unlike banks, which are sheltered from the risk of a run - via deposit insurance and central banks' lender-of-last-resort liquidity - most members of the shadow system did not have access to these firewalls that prevent runs.

A generalised run on these shadow banks started when the deleveraging after the asset bubble bust led to uncertainty about which institutions were solvent. The first stage was the collapse of the entire SIVs/conduits system once investors realised the toxicity of its investments and its very short-term funding seized up.

The next step was the run on the big US broker-dealers: first Bear Stearns lost its liquidity in days. The Federal Reserve then extended its lender-of-last-resort support to systemically important broker-dealers. But even this did not prevent a run on the other broker-dealers given concerns about solvency: it was the turn of Lehman Brothers to collapse. Merrill Lynch would have faced the same fate had it not been sold. The pressure moved to Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs: both would be well advised to merge - like Merrill - with a large bank that has a stable base of insured deposits.

The third stage was the collapse of other leveraged institutions that were both illiquid and most likely insolvent given their reckless lending: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, AIG and more than 300 mortgage lenders.

The fourth stage was panic in the money markets. Funds were competing aggressively for assets and, in order to provide higher returns to attract investors, some of them invested in illiquid instruments. Once these investments went bust, panic ensued among investors, leading to a massive run on such funds. This would have been disastrous; so, in another radical departure, the US extended deposit insurance to the funds.

The next stage will be a run on thousands of highly leveraged hedge funds. After a brief lock-up period, investors in such funds can redeem their investments on a quarterly basis; thus a bank-like run on hedge funds is highly possible. Hundreds of smaller, younger funds that have taken excessive risks with high leverage and are poorly managed may collapse. A massive shake-out of the bloated hedge fund industry is likely in the next two years.

Even private equity firms and their reckless, highly leveraged buy-outs will not be spared. The private equity bubble led to more than $1,000bn of LBOs that should never have occurred. The run on these LBOs is slowed by the existence of "convenant-lite" clauses, which do not include traditional default triggers, and "payment-in-kind toggles", which allow borrowers to defer cash interest payments and accrue more debt, but these only delay the eventual refinancing crisis and will make uglier the bankruptcy that will follow. Even the largest LBOs, such as GMAC and Chrysler, are now at risk.

We are observing an accelerated run on the shadow banking system that is leading to its unravelling. If lender-of-last-resort support and deposit insurance are extended to more of its members, these institutions will have to be regulated like banks, to avoid moral hazard. Of course this severe financial crisis is also taking its toll on traditional banks: hundreds are insolvent and will have to close.

The real economic side of this financial crisis will be a severe US recession. Financial contagion, the strong euro, falling US imports, the bursting of European housing bubbles, high oil prices and a hawkish European Central Bank will lead to a recession in the eurozone, the UK and most advanced economies.

European financial institutions are at risk of sharp losses because of the toxic US securitised products sold to them; the massive increase in leverage following aggressive risk-taking and domestic securitisation; a severe liquidity crunch exacerbated by a dollar shortage and a credit crunch; the bursting of domestic housing bubbles; household and corporate defaults in the recession; losses hidden by regulatory forbearance; the exposure of Swedish, Austrian and Italian banks to the Baltic states, Iceland and southern Europe where housing and credit bubbles financed in foreign currency are leading to hard landings.

Thus the financial crisis of the century will also envelop European financial institutions.

The writer, chairman of Roubini Global Economics, is professor of economics at the Stern School of Business, New York University

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

916 - The Birth of a New Malaysia

There was something very different at tonight’s celebration of Malaysia Day Kelana Jaya Stadium. It was much more than a political rally. Something very significant was hatching. It was thick in the air. It was magical. It was infectious. I wish everybody were there to share those magical moments with me.

I arrived at Kalana Jaya Stadium seething with anger over the totally unreasonable and utterly idiotic detention of our fearless hero RPK and our respected YB Teresa Kok under the draconian Internal Security Act. The first sight that greeted me the moment I entered the stadium was the Ramadan prayer. The sight of hundreds of people worshiping the Divine with the serene voice of the Imam drew me into another space immediately. My heart followed the prayer although my mind did not know the language. I silently offered my prayer for RPK and Teresa, and I prayed for peace and unity in our beloved homeland.

I like to offer my highest praise to the Imam who conducted the prayer. I really appreciated his devotion to God and his peaceful voice that permeates the whole stadium with serenity. I was really grateful to be reminded of my connection to the Divine, which set the tone for my perception and participation for the rest of the night.

Religion has always been a big part of my life. It was never in doubt that our moral strength lies in our adherence to the Divine. My true wish is that one day we will not need to shunt each other because of the superficial differences in how we relate to the Divine. I wish that one day we can all allow God Be, be the unknowable Mystery, be the uniting principle for humankind.

I have been to a few rallies by Pakatan Rakyat. But this one was different, very different. What made it different was the lacking in negative emotions. You don’t feel the hatred for Barisan Nasional government. You don’t even feel that the rally was about a tremendous struggle to topple a big bad evil empire. There was hardly any smearing of the Barisan Nasional government. It was as if everybody already KNEW and presumed that the falling of the Barisan Nasional Government is inevitable. The rally was about the celebration of unity and a better future for all. The amount of light and happiness in the atmosphere was truly infectious and uplifting.

As I told you, I walked into the stadium with seething anger, but half way through the prayer I was already seeing things in a different light. I begun to see that the behaviors of the BN government was so unbelievably ridiculous that it was almost comical. Moreover every evil deed that the government did backfired badly immediately, and the politicians and government organizations are behaving like the three stooges. It was Divine retributions in its most graphical form! I heard that there were meant to be 15 people on the ISA detention list. I am really curious to get hold of the list and see what sort of ridiculous reasons were given for the intended detention. I am sure it will beat the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not show.

Despite the anguish of the ISA detention and the thinly veiled threat of 513 repeating, something very significant happened in our collective psyche tonight. The messages delivered by our leaders were pristinely clear – of unity, of restoring justice and order, of equal participation of life opportunities. The voices of the people were equally resounding and unequivocal. The spirit of unity was overwhelming. It was a remarkable demonstration of people power. The veil of darkness has finally lifted. Malaysia has finally come of age.

When the national anthem was played I was moved to tears. I understood for the first time the meaning of the lyric, and saw it in action right in front of me. I felt for the first time a deep sense of purpose for this piece of land that we called home.

916 has already happened. The transformation has already happened in the collective consciousness of the people. The rest is only a matter of time. This is the birth of a new Malaysia. Of that I am certain.

Monday, September 1, 2008

People Power - The True Story of the Internet

Most of you will probably agree that Malaysia is in the midst of a huge revolution that is going to change the political landscape irrevocably. I would like to propose that at the heart of this revolution is a paradigm shift in our collective consciousness, brought about in conjunction with the development of the Internet as a communication medium that enables instant connectivity and encourages active participation from all. The result is people power, the rise of the voices of the ordinary people as a ground shaking collective force.

What we are observing in Malaysia is not isolated. Similar developments are developing all over the world, although most of them don't take the form of political uprising. I am including an excellent video about it below. You will see from this video that the new internet revolution is already shaking the foundations of the mass media and capitalist establishments.

I am certain that this is the era of people power. The collective force from the ordinary people lead by the selfless service from morally enlightened individuals is the only force that is able to avert the current march toward total annihilation.

I highly recommend this video to all. To my fellow Malaysians, it will give you a very good insight to the nature of Malaysia-Today as a social phenomena and why it is unstoppable.

Malaysia-Today as an interactive web site does not just belongs to Raja Petra alone. It is where 1+ million of us participate actively to share our views and inform each other what is right and relevant. It is where we hang out and share our heart and soul with each other. It belongs to all 1+ million of us. The government’s recent move to block Malaysia-Today is another of the idiotic move that will guarantee serious repercussions down the line.

Who is MCMC to tell us that Malaysia-today should be blocked anyway? On what basis did MCMC came to such conclusion? How many complains did MCMC received and from who? Why is Utusan Malaysia not being blocked for that matter? The five states lead by Pakatan Rakyat have made strong criticisms and called for the boycott of Utusan Malaysia for its ultra racist and seditious reporting. Isn't that enough 'complains' for its license to be revoked?

Malaysia-Today is NOT about lawless mob tearing down the establishments. Yes, there were a lot of criticisms about the BN government, but it is only because of its overwhelming corruption and incompetence. Malaysia-Today is not mindlessly endorsing Pakatan Rakyat either. Our respected Raja Petra and various others have written many very critical articles about Pakatan Rakyat and its component parties. I have written quite a few critical articles about Pakatan Rakyat myself for that matter.

Primarily Malaysia-Today is about human dignity and establishing the right religious and culture values. It is about building a nation where different races and religions can live in harmony and progress together. This is a place where we discover that there is hope after all in the midst of the current darkness. This is a place where we find the moral strength and the collective force to bring about the necessary change for the future of all.

MCMC should have known better that technologically it is impossible to silence Malaysia-Today. It is an unnecessary provocation to the people that is already overwhelmingly against the government. So much about MCMC and the BN government. I am ever more certain that it is simply beyond redemption….

People Power - The True Story of the Internet (part 1 of 5)

The above video is part 1 of a 5 parts series posted in YouTube. The rest of the series can be found here. It does take some time to download. My recommendation is to initiate the download on all 5 parts simultaneously, and come back 2-3 hours later to view them together.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The 11th Hour

This video is every bit as compelling as Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. The message of this DVD is not about doom - but about the amazing advances in science and technology that have been made to solve the seemingly intractable problem of global warming. It is about turning mankind's darkest moments into its finest - but it is going to require the awareness and active participation of all.

To Leonardo DiCaprio fans - you wont get to see him much in the video, but you won't be disappointed nevertheless.

You can get the DVD for USD 4.99 from

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The fallibility of the human brain

I posted a brain-teaser in Numbers don't lie?. Let me recap here:

Three men go to dine together in a restaurant. The bill comes to $25 and they each contribute $10. The waiter takes the money to the cashier, who gives the waiter the $5 in change. Being a non-assuming waiter he takes the change back to the three men. The men take back a dollar each, hence effectively paying $9.00 each, and they leave the $2.00 as a tip for the waiter. On their way out, one of them points out that they each paid $9.00 for the meal, amounting to $27.00, and the waiter was left with $2.00. What happened to the other remaining dollar? Did the cashier pocket it?

Before reading on, if you have not tried it, give this puzzle a go. I guarantee that you will have some amusing and illustrative time.


Lets’ analyze the puzzle a bit. Firstly the line of reasoning proposed in the puzzle is wrong. The three men paid a total of $27, of which $25 went to the restaurant, and $2 went to the waiter.

The equation is very simple:
$27 = $25 + $2

You CANNOT add $2 to $27. The belong to different sides of the equation, and the result is a meaningless number.

$29 is a meaningless number, and so is the $1. It is completely meaningless to ask what happened to it.

Now the crux of the puzzle. Observe how the question was phrased. The reader was asked to figure out what happened to the missing $1. It was an intentional device to mislead the reader to believe in a false proposition – and then asked to figure it out. This is a puzzle that has stood the test of time. Most people will fall for it because it worked on a fundamental mechanism of the mind.

I had some good fun teasing a few of my colleagues a while back - all of them are pretty good programmers. A new colleague who is a fresh graduate got it right away, so I got him to shut up.

After some 10-15 minutes of puzzled look and convoluted reasoning, a couple of them are beginning to get it. But then I interjected and reassert the question: "What happened to the $1", and all of them are hopelessly lost again. A colleague that catches a ride home with me could not get it even after 3 days. He is a brilliant programmer. But every time he is getting near, I would ask the magic question, and it would throw him back into bewilderment again.

This puzzle illustrates a fundamental mechanism of the brain. The brain is a habitual machine. It learns by repetition and reinforcement. The 'learned' skills/behaviors are stored in the mid-brain, which is usually referred as the sub-conscious or the emotional brain. Once something ‘learned’ it will continue to repeat and reinforce itself until it is being replaced.

It applies to our motor reflexes, our emotional responses, and as this puzzle illustrates, even our logical/reasoning brain. Once a false conclusion is accepted it seeks to reinforce itself – and everything is reasoned using it as a starting point. This simple puzzle is particularly illustrative. The mathematics is dead simple, but even though the false proposition is leading to obvious contradictions, many people are not able to resolve it. They would rather give up than resolving the inconsistencies.

I actually think that the term sub-conscious is a misnomer. The behavioral pattern of a person is completely obvious to everybody else. But for the person concerned it is quite automatic and no longer under the awareness of the discriminative part of the brain. It applies to believe systems as well as habits of reasoning. It is actually very easy to see the bullshits and inconsistencies that someone is up to as an observer, but it can be extremely difficult to have the person concerned see it himself or herself.

This is a survival mechanism. Without it we do we will not even be able to do simple things like tying a shoe lace or riding a bicycle. There are indeed people with such functional disabilities, and many are extremely gifted in other areas, the so called idiot savants.

This survival mechanism makes us extremely vulnerable and susceptible to being manipulated. This is why propaganda is extremely effective and dangerous. The message needs not be true. In fact the message can be completely wrong and evil, and often they are. All that is needed is repetition, repetition and repetition. With the right propaganda apparatus it is easy to drive the whole country into hating each other or even killing each other.

I have always advocated boycotting Malaysia’s mainstream media. And I will say it again. Stop reading those lies and bullshits. They have been screwing us up for the past 50 years and will continue to do so until we are wizen up. Save you money, save the planet, save your discrimination, save your sanity.

We have been under the spell of Barisan Nasional racial politics for far too long. There is a lot the different races need to work together to unlearn and undo. Every race and every religion has contributed their fair share of bullshits. Be strong with each other, but have compassion as well. The voice of tolerance and cooperation has to arise otherwise I don’t think we have any chance of surviving the current local and global crises.

All have suffered. All are equally full of nonsense. Therefore, in principle, there must be a new and universal politics — a politics of no praise and no blame. By these means, reconciliation must be achieved — cooperatively, in a disposition of mutual tolerance, trust, and respect.

Adi Da
Humankind Is Literally One Family

Monday, July 14, 2008

We've seen the future ... and we may not be doomed

The Independent, July 13 (Highlights by HumbleVoice)

UN report finds life is getting better for people worldwide – but that governments are failing to grasp the opportunities offered at 'a unique time'. Geoffrey Lean and Jonathan Owen report

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Humanity stands on the threshold of a peaceful and prosperous future, with an unprecedented ability to extend lifespans and increase the power of ordinary people – but is likely to blow it through inequality, violence and environmental degradation. And governments are not equipped to ensure that the opportunities are seized and disasters averted.

So says a massive new international report, due to be published late this month, and obtained by The Independent on Sunday. Backed by organisations ranging from Unesco to the US army, the World Bank to the Rockefeller Foundation, the 2008 State of the Future report runs to 6,300 pages and draws on contributions from 2,500 experts around the globe.

Its warning is all the more stark for eschewing doom and gloom. "The future continues to get better for most of the world," it concludes, "but a series of tipping points could drastically alter global prospects."

It goes on. "This is a unique time in history. Mobile phones, the internet, international trade, language translation and jet planes are giving birth to an interdependent humanity that can create and implement global strategies to improve [its] prospects. It is increasingly clear that the world has the resources to address our common challenges. Ours is the first generation with the means for many to know the world as a whole, identify global improvement systems, and seek to improve [them]."

What is more, say the authors of the report, produced by the Millennium Project of the World Federation of the United Nations Associations, many important things are already getting better. Life expectancy and literacy rates are increasing worldwide, while infant mortality and the number of armed conflicts have been falling fast. Per capita income has been growing strongly enough to cut poverty by more than half by 2015 – except, importantly, in Africa.

Even better, it says, "advances in science, technology, education, economics and management seem capable of making the world work far better than it does today".

Medical breakthroughs, for example, are offering the hope of defeating inherited diseases, tailoring cures to individual patients, and even creating replacement body parts. And computers are spreading even to remote villages in developing countries and dramatically increasing in power to provide "collective intelligence for just-in-time knowledge to inform decisions".

The report reserves its greatest enthusiasm for the internet, which it says is "already the most powerful force for globalisation, democratisation, economic growth and education in history.

"The internet allows self-organisation around common ideals, independent of conventional institutional controls and regardless of nationalities or languages. Injustices in different parts of the world become the concern of thousands or millions of people who then pressure local, regional or international governing systems to find solutions.

"This unparalleled social power is reinventing citizens' roles in the political process and changing institutions, policy-making and governance."

And this is happening in a world that is already becoming freer and more democratic. Over the past 30 years, the number of free countries has more than doubled from 43 to 90, it reports, while those that are partly free increased from 46 to 60. Just over one-third of humanity still lives in the 43 countries with authoritarian regimes, but half of these people are in China.

On the other hand, the report warns "half the world is vulnerable to social instability and violence due to rising food and energy prices, failing states, falling water tables, climate change, decreasing water-food-energy supply per person, desertification and increasing migrations due to political, environmental and economic conditions".

These – and other threats such as increasing terrorism, corruption and organised crime – threaten to undo the improvements of recent years and blight the chance of a better future.

Food prices have more than doubled in a year and have already plunged 37 countries into crisis, greatly increasing hunger and poverty. And price rises seem set to continue because food production needs to increase 50 per cent by 2013 and double in 30 years.

"With nearly three billion people making $2 or less per day, long-term global social conflict seems inevitable without more serious food policies, useful scientific breakthroughs and dietary changes," says the report.

Global warming is occurring faster than expected. This could cause southern Africa to "lose more than 30 per cent of its maize crop by 2030" and help to increase the number of people facing water scarcity fourfold to a massive three billion by 2025.

The rate at which the world's ice is melting, it says, "has doubled over the last two years", and it quotes a US military report which predicts that global warming "can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism".

Yet nuclear power – the solution increasingly favoured by governments, which are planning to add another 350 reactors to the 438 already operating around the world – will not do the job. "For nuclear energy to eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, about 2,000 nuclear power plants would have to be built, at $5-15bn per plant, over 15 years – and possibly an additional 8,000 plants beyond that to 2050."

The report says that there is not enough uranium in the world to fuel all those reactors, that another Chernobyl-type accident could halt the expansion in its tracks, and that the rapid spread of the atom around the world increases the chances of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

It estimates that there is a 75 per cent chance that terrorists will have acquired nuclear weapons within the next 10 years, adding: "Links between terrorists and organised crime are worrisome, especially considering that, on average, there were 150 reports of unauthorised use of nuclear or radioactive materials to the International Atomic Energy Authority per year between 2004 and 2007."

Organised crime, it adds, "continues to grow in the absence of a comprehensive, integrated global counterstrategy". It reckons that it is now worth some $2 trillion a year.

There are grounds for hope, however. The use of renewable energy is growing, and China's largest car maker plans for half its cars to be hybrids within two years.

But the report's authors say that governments are not up to the job: "Many of the world's decision-making processes are inefficient, slow and ill-informed, especially when given the new demands from increasing complexity [and] globalisation." They call on world leaders to do more long-term planning, and to join in global approaches to the interlocking crises. "Climate change cannot be turned around without a global strategy. International organised crime cannot be stopped without a global strategy. Individuals creating designer diseases and causing massive deaths cannot be stopped without a global strategy. It is time for global strategic systems to be upgraded."

Jerome Glenn, the report's main author added: "There seems to be an interest in creating global strategies, but it needs a little push. There's more within us now to collaborate in the face of shared problems."

Computer power

25 years until a computer's capacity equals the power of the human brain. After another 25 years, everyone will be able to access processing power greater than that of all the brains on Earth combined.

The great melt

5 years before the Arctic could be ice-free in summer. Sea-ice last year shrank to 22 per cent below the previous record low, a level that had not been expected to be reached until 2030-50, opening up the Northwest Passage.

Fossil fuel

850 coal-fired power stations are planned to go into operation across the US, China and India over the next four years. Each station would operate for about 20 years, greatly accelerating global warming.

Solar energy

25% of Europe's electricity could come from solar-powered stations in North Africa by 2050. African leaders and aid organisations are to invest $10bn (£5bn) a year in renewable energy over the next five years.

Note by HumbleVoice:
Read it again: Governments are not up to do the job. Not Barisan Nasional (Nasional Front), not Pakatan Rakyat (People Alliance). The political scene in Malaysia is absolutely disgusting now. The way we are heading, we will be like Africa before long.

Do I support Pakatan Rakyat? Yes. Do I believe that Pakatan Rakyat is able to run the country? No. I don't even think that it has enough expertise to form a functioning cabinet. But Barisan Nasional is rotten to the core - and I am absolutely certain that we are heading for doom if it continues to rule.

Our only hope is the people power. I will lend 100% support to Pakatan Rakyat. But Pakatan Rayat has to move beyond its cultism (PKR), fundamentalism (PAS) and chauvinism (DAP). It has to become a true alliance of the people and for the people. This is my commitment. I hope it is yours too.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A timeless speech

About 15 years ago Severn Suzuki, Canada, was 12.

At the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio she made a timeless speech to the gathered delegates and to the world. Her message is more urgent and more relevant now than ever...

Below is from an interview with Severn Suzuki 11 years later:

Severn Suzuki: Over the last few years, after Rio, I was invited to many, many different conferences. Over time I've realized: this is not where we're going to see change. We've seen positive activism happening in the last ten years at the grassroots level, in small communities. It's about the individuals that make up the statistics about consumption and pollution, as well as the people who feel the negative impact, who are actually going to be the change.

It is powerful, because you realize that each individual really does count. And the more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that each person is a role model to all the people around us. Not only the children, but everybody. That's how cultures evolve and things become cool--the influence of a few individuals that catches on. (Severn Suzuki 1992, 2002, 2003, 2007, NOW)

Yes, Severn Suzuki was talking about Makkal Shakti, the collective power of ordinary you and I. Real change is not going to come from our culture or political leaders, but from each and every one of us waking up and catching on. It will probably take a bit of time - but it is a lot simpler than it sounds.

Consider this little gem by a 12 years old girl. Subject matter aside, there is a timeless quality to it. It speaks directly to the heart. It touches something deep in our heart. It transcends all superficial differences.

There is a true power and an unbroken unity at the heart of every being. This is the time for it to come forth. It is the only real power that will carry us through this most trying moment in human history.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Numbers don't lie?

So you think numbers don't lie? Give this mind teaser a try:

Three men go to dine together in a restaurant. The bill comes to $25 and they each contribute $10. The waiter takes the money to the cashier, who gives the waiter the $5 in change. Being a non-assuming waiter he takes the change back to the three men. The men take back a dollar each, hence effectively paying $9.00 each, and they leave the $2.00 as a tip for the waiter. On their way out, one of them points out that they each paid $9.00 for the meal, amounting to $27.00, and the waiter was left with $2.00. What happened to the other remaining dollar? Did the cashier pocket it?

This is a famous puzzle which supposedly first appeared in R. M. Abraham’s Diversions and Pastimes in 1933. Don't be disheartened if you can't figure it out. Many don't. I am not going to spoil your fun by revealing the answer yet.

I am very interested to know how many and who is able to solve the puzzle. I would appreciate if you can participate in the poll that I set up.

Yes, numbers indeed don't lie. But it is exceedingly easy to mislead, confuse, lie, deceive and manipulate with numbers.

While the whole country is focused on Petronas' account, perhaps we were intentionally being mislead into looking at the wrong thing?

More to come ...

(see The fallibility of the human brain for explanation)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The mystery of our vanising oil money

When common folks talked about our oil revenues we usually think of Petronas and the government as being the same entity. That was my perception when I wrote my last article: The 56 billion ringgit questions, but little did I suspect that I would have to completely reconsider my understanding almost the moment I posted the article.

I posted the article on 3:45pm June 4, and moments later I received an SMS that petrol price is going to go up. I was about the chuck the SMS away until I logon to Malysiakini and confirmed that the news was true indeed.

I was shocked by the suddenness and quantum of the increase as Najib’s reassurance of no price hike was still fresh in memory, and Shahrir was only hinting of a price adjustment in August the day before. My first reaction was that Pak Lah has just hammered the last nail in his own coffin.

I am not an economist by any means, but I came from a poor family and I have been through the years where every cent counts. It was completely baffling to me why Pak Lah would make such a sharp increase in petrol prices while the whole country was still reeling from the pain of the recent hike in the prices of food and other essential items. The combined effects are going to cause so much hardship to so many people that I seriously doubt Pak Lah is going to survive the fallout of it. And it got me thinking hard...

The Mystery of Our Oil Money

Let’s get back to the mystery of our oil money. After many hours of research and considerations – I came to realize that the relationship between Petronas and the government is much more complicated that it looks on the surface. The two are not the same entity after all; and by some recent announcements I think there could even be open hostilities between them. Read:
One key understanding is that although Malaysia is a net exporter of crude oil, our products are of very high quality and are primarily for export while we consume lower grade oils that are mainly imported from the Middle East.

While the exploration, production and export our crude oil are handled almost exclusively by Petronas, the import side is a bit more complicated. The importing and retailing of petroleum products are carried out by companies like Shell, Exxon, Petronas, etc. These companies are mandated by the government to sell below cost, thus they are compensated for their losses by the Government in the form of subsidy.

Yes – our government does subsidize our petrol. But it also receives money from Petronas in the form of royalty, taxes and dividends. Petronas is reported to have contributed 52.3 billion ringgit to the government for the financial year ended March 2007.

Is that a fair contribution to the government? I will be eagerly waiting for Petronas supposedly full disclosure. I don’t give much hope that the full disclosure will reveal details like why some big shots get to live like a king with private jet and helicopters, but it should give some basis for some intelligent guess-nalysis.

How much is the Government getting from Petronas?
The graph above shows Petronas contribution to the government over the past few years. I plotted it along with the yearly average crude oil price. The yearly contribution was obtained from Hassan Marican interview in RTM1 reported in Guang Ming Daily and the average oil price from EIA. As you can see Petronas contributions go up nicely with the price of crude oil, as most of us would expect.

What will be Petronas contribution for this year? That will be everybody’s guess. Would it be 70 billion? 80 billions? Whatever it is, it seems that Petronas is mightily reluctant to cough out its profits to the government.

How much is the petrol subsidy costing our government?

Our daily crude oil consumption is 501,000 barrels, or 183 million barrels per year. Each barrel is 158 liters, and typically yields 73.8 liters of petrol, diesel and other by products after refining (data from EIA).

Our yearly petroleum consumption is thus:
183 million barrels X 73.8 liters/barrels = 13.5 billion liters.

At the current crude oil price of 130 USD per barrel, the market price is RM 3 per liter for petrol (according to Shahrir).

Our government’s yearly subsidy on petroleum can be calculated as follows. For lack of data I will assume that the cost price of petrol and diesel is the same.

Before Price hike:
The average price of petrol and diesel =
(RM1.98 + RM1.52) /2 = RM 1.75

Subsidy per liter = RM 3 – RM 1.75 = RM 1.25
Total Subsidy = RM 1.25/liter X 13.5 billion liters
= RM 16.9 billion

After Price hike:
Average price of petrol and diesel =
(RM 2.7 + RM 2.52) / 2 = RM 2.61
Subsidy per liter = RM 3 – RM 2.61 = RM 0.39
Total Subsidy = RM 0.39/liter X 13.5 billion liters
= RM 4.0 billion

What do all these figures means?

Firstly, since Pak Lah took helm, Petronas has contributed RM 146.5 billion to the government. Petronas has been in operation since 1974 and contributed a total of RM 336 billion to the government. Pak Lah’s first 4 years in office received 43.6% of Petronas 35 years of total contributions. It is more than what Mahathir received in 20 years, inflation adjusted. And it does not even include this year’s contributions!

Is your reaction that of disbelieve? Are you wondering where have all these money gone to?

Mahathir is known for his opulence and extravagance and have created monsters like Twin Towers and F1 circuits to match his distorted ego. But what have Pak Lah done that is worthy of being mentioned? To give you a perspective, it costs RM 11 billion to build Putrajaya, and the order of RM 20 billion to build all our toll roads. Whatever happened to this mind boggling 147 billion ringgit? It seems to have just vanished in thin air. Something must be seriously wrong somewhere.

Now the 56 billions petrol subsidy quoted by Shahrir. My own calculations indicate that it should cost the government RM 16.9 billion. My calculations do not include subsidy for gas, but would it amounts to the RM 39 billions difference? Either my calculations are completely wrong or Shahrir is bullshitting. I would appreciate if somebody can verify my calculations.

My calculations show that with RM 52.3 billion contribution from Petronas the government should still be making a net profit of RM 30+ billions. And the recent price hike is going to bring extra RM 17 billions to Pak Lah’s coffer. Is it conscionable for the government to make such an obscene amount of money at the expense of such widespread suffering of the people?

I am shock beyond words by what I discovered today. The level of corruption and mismanagement by the Barisan Nasional government is way way beyond than my wildest imagination. It sickens and disgusts me to the point that I just want to cast the whole Barisan Nasional government to hell right away. Right now I will not hesitate for a moment to lend my support for Pakatan Rakyat to step in to take over the government.

Do I believe that Anwar is able to bring down the price of petrol and give Sabah and Sarawak 20% oil royalty? I have no doubt that he can, if he managed to gain back the control of the oil money. I do not agree with his oil policy, but that's a separate issue altogether. At least with Pakatan Rakyat there is hope that ordinary people like us is able to participate to bring about the right changes.

This is the time for us all to wake up. If the level of suffering and darkness of the current moment is not enough to wake you up, I don’t know what will.

Look who is suffering now? We all are. Does the 50 years of racial politics bring about the supremacy of any race? I hope our sad state of affairs is convincing enough to show us that racial politics can not work. It never will.

We have to forget about race, religion and other trivial differences and stand united as one. This is the time to exercise our collective power, our makal shakti, this is the only strength that we have to cast out the slime bag power mongers that are hell bent to destroy each other and bringing down the whole country with them.

More comments in Malaysia-Today

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The 56 billion ringgit question

(Also posted in Malaysia-Today)

I am referring to the article in Malaysiakini: Pump price at 'market levels by August'.

First of all lets get some basic facts right.

Firstly Malaysia is a net exporter of crude oil. So the government did NOT subsidize our petrol. The RM56 billion ‘subsidy’ per year is the extra amount that the government would have earned if it had exported all of our oil production. There is no 'spiralling bill', the government did not lose any money because it is our own oil and we are not paying anybody for our oil supply.

Secondly – when the government scrapes the so called ‘subsidy’ that it did not pay any money for in the first place – it is forcing the rakyat to buy back our own resources at a much higher price. Each and every one of us will suffer because of this, especially the poor.

The hike in oil prices has not caused hardships to our government. On the contrary it has already earned record profits for Petronas. And now our government is going to squeeze even more profits by squeezing the rakyat. Put it bluntly, the Barisan Nasional government will get filthy rich form the blood money of the rakyat.

Now the 56 billion ringgit question. What will the Barisan Nasional government do with the RM56 billion windfall per year? We already suffered a price hike on our petrol almost a year back, and have we seen any accounting on what has been done with the extra money that the government collected? I remembered that there were some talks of using the money to improve our public transport system. But so far I have only heard about the ailing KTM, failing bus companies and government cutting subsidry to Rapid KL.

Don’t you feel suspicious of what is going to happen to this hefty sum of money? RM56 billion is a mind boggling sum of money, it is almost enough to build 5 Putrajaya according to the official figure. The last thing I want to see is for the money to end up in political machines and lining the pockets of politicians and their cronies. I hope our Pakatan Rakyat representatives will see to it that every sen of it is accounted for.

I am not against raising the price of petrol. It is a matter of urgency that we cut our dependency on fossil fuels now as it is the main source of green house gas that is causing havoc in our weather patterns and ecosystems.

Even if global warming and destruction of our ecosystems is not your concern, you still have to consider the fact that crude oil price is not going to come down. Some analysts even projected that crude oil may reach USD 200 per barrel by 2012. Have you asked what is going to happen to our economy when our oil reserves run out in 5 years time?

Don’t you find it amazing that nobody is talking about these pressing issues now? This whole issue about oil subsidy is completely beside the point. The way it was phrased as if it was costing our government a hefty sum of money was completely misleading. The more pertinent point is really how we can best make use of the last of our rapidly depleting resource to safeguard our future. I have not seen any sensible policies regarding this from the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat camps as yet. It is already sparking riots in many parts of the world, including our close neighbors, and yet nobody here seems to think that we have a problem.

I don’t think we can look towards our government for answers. Our so called ‘leaders’ are engrossed in fighting and bringing each other down, unscrupulously stirring up racial sentiments for their survivals. They never have the track records of putting the interest of the rakyat in the forefront anyway. The whole political scene is simply disgusting and depressing beyond words.

This is the time that ordinary people like you and I have to come forward and take charge. Count ourselves lucky that we have a 5 years grace period to get ready for the end of cheap oil. But we need to make sure that every ounce of our resources is used wisely for the survival of our future generations. That can only happen if we, the rakyat, unite as one single voice to demand for the right things to be done.

There are a lot we can do together, and we are not isolated either. There are already over a million environmental and social justice organizations around the world that we can work with right now. The fisrt step is to realize that we have a problem in hand. This is not just any ordinary problem. What we are facing is a problem of epic proportion that is going to require the cooperation of the whole world.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My deepest condolences to May 13 victims

I did not expect to see the strong reactions from some people about my article What is this May 13 anyway. The purpose of the article was not to ignore the sufferings of May 13 victims and to erase the incidents from history – but to point out that the ultra right stance and continued racial instigations and propaganda have done much greater harm to the society than the incident itself.

May 13 is an incident that should not have happened, and I have great sympathy for the victims. Justice was never given in the first place, and 39 years of continued threat of it happening again was a continued relentless assault. No living soul should have to bear this agony.

Let’s recognize that we live in the same land and breathe the same air and we are as dependent on each other as Siamese twins. The Chinese as well as the Malays have contributed their fair share in the atrocities. This is not the time to find out who cast the first insult and which side has done more damage on the other. Let’s put this neighborhood war aside for now and hold each other hands to rebuild the trust that was damaged by decades of racial politics.

I sincerely hope that one day we will have an open forum where grievances can be voiced and acknowledged. For most, a listening ear, a supportive society, and assurance of justice and protection from harm would be sufficient to heal the wounds.

Lets this be a lesson for all that racial politics is not leading us anywhere.

I offer my deepest condolence to those who suffered in the event. I apologized for not making myself clear earlier.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What is this May 13 anyway?

The topic May 13 is almost a taboo; it is a subject that stirs up different level of discomfort in most people. But how many people really know what it is, how many of us actually lived through the horror of it?

It happened when I was 9 years old, and my only memory of it was a few blissful days of no school and no homework. The incident was very insignificant in terms of human suffering. It was infinitesimal compared to the Japanese occupation, which has long been forgotten in our collective memory. But why does a small incident like May 13 get stuck in our collective psyche with such stigma? Yes, there were social and political ramifications – but how many of us really – I mean REALLY – took time to understand the cause and effect of it?

I would like to suggest that most of what we think we know about May 13 are mostly false, and most of our emotions associated with May 13 are mostly irrational. They are the results of almost 40 years of insidious propaganda. We were constantly being bombarded with threats about it repeating, each time with some new connotations added, until it became a boogeyman that everybody feared or hated but nobody knows exactly what it is.

The nature of the human mind is that we are extremely vulnerable to propaganda and brain washing techniques. Read the following article: 'We can implant entirely false memories'

"We can easily distort memories for the details of an event that you did experience," says Loftus. "And we can also go so far as to plant entirely false memories - we call them rich false memories because they are so detailed and so big."

Powerful emotions, it seems, can both reinforce and weaken real memories… And false memories, once accepted, can themselves elicit strong emotions and thereby mimic real ones.

The impressionability of the human mind is a crucial survival mechanism, for without it we would not be able to assimilate a vast amount of information within the rather short human lifetime. But it also renders the mind extremely easily exploited.

The human mind can be manipulated not just in terms of believing in falsehood. Witness the trial of Altantunya, observe how the trial process and the media were being manipulated. A hideous high profile murder could have been erased from the collective memory of the whole nation in the matter of months if not for the timely reminder of our true champion Raja Petra Kamarudin.

Human being can be driven to mass hysteria very easily as well. For example it only took one person waving a weapon, followed by a few provocative slogans chanting, and the country is divided and driven into hating each other. It is as irrational as the hysteria generated from a rock concert!

Today is the 39th anniversary of the May 13 incident. Frankly this date holds no meaning to me whatsoever. For one thing I had always refused to believe in the racial hatred propaganda propagated by the Barisan Nasional government. I had always been driven by my yearning to reach out to another. I have been to many countries and made many good friends of people from different races. Skin color and trivial cultural differences has very little significance in the face to face, heart to heart relationship to another human being.

39 years is long enough for a lot of things to be forgotten and forgiven. May 13 would have been long forgotten if not because of the constant instigations from certain unscrupulous parties.

Any form of mass communication is extremely effective in influencing the population, and our mainstream media have been subverted into senseless propaganda machines for propagating all sorts of lies. It is time for the rakyat to stand together to put a stop to these bullshits.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Outrage at Cheras Toll

I am referring to the continue saga regarding the barricade in Bandar Mahkota Cheras, as reported in Malaysiakini:

Barricade row: Answers next week

Before getting into the legalities of the issue, let’s investigate why Bandar Mahkota Cheras and surrounding residents are so pissed off by the barricade. It begun when Grand Saga, the Cheras-Kajang highway concessionaire, blocked off an access road two years ago to divert the traffic to the toll. As a result of the barricade the residents have to make a 6km detour – and on top of that they have to join the jam leading to the toll plaza and made to pay the RM 0.9 toll.

Lets do a simple calculation on how much the toll is costing the Bandar Mahkota residents. Assuming the current market rate of RM 0.6 per km for petrol, car maintenance and depreciation cost. Assuming that it takes 15 minutes to travel the 6km, and human resource cost is average RM 10 per hour.

Petrol and car maintenance:
6km X RM 0.60/km = RM 3.60
Human resource cost:
RM 10/hour X 0.25 hour = RM 2.50
Toll amount = RM 0.90

Total cost one way = RM 7.00
Total cost both ways = RM 14.00/day
Total cost/month (22days/month) = RM 308/month

Now you understand why Bandar Mahkota residents are so pissed off. Just because one private company willfully asserting its rights, it barricaded a fully functioning access road and make the residents suffer RM 7.00 direct and indirect cost for every 90 sen it collected. This whole thing is utterly ridiculous no matter from what angle I look at it.

The absurdity doesn’t end here. The legality of the barricade had been in dispute since day one. Refer to the following reports in Malaysiakini: Confirmed - residents can tear down concrete barrier.

The Hulu Langat land office did confirmed a few days ago that Grand Saga indeed had NO right to erect the barricade. So the Cheras residents took matters in their own hands and tore down the barricade. That provoked a violent reaction from Grand Saga. Read the follow up reports:

Grand Saga 'advised' to re-erect concrete barrier
Cheras residents in stand-off to protect toll-free road
Police fire tear gas at Cheras residents

So there was the rebuilding of the barricade, which the residents tore down immediately. Grand Saga responded by getting the Federal Reserve Unit involved. I read in utter disbelief that that over 200 FRU armed with tear gas and water canon were activated to protect the interest of one single private company against the residents of a whole township.

The legality of the barricade was in dispute in the first place. Under such circumstance how could the police take side? How could the police use extreme force - beating up and arresting MPs and residents, and fire tear gas and water cannon at them?

The whole happening was a complete outrage. It was a subversion of justice, not to mention a complete wastage of public resources. How could a private company wields such influence over the police? Who has the authority to order such a massive deployment of the police force?

These are things that got the rakyat so angry at the government that drove us to vote for the opposition. I thought the Barisan Nasional government would have learned something from the setback in recent election. But lo and behold, our Prime Minister was not even aware of this happening when asked about it yestarday!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Why wave the Keris to begin with?

(also posted in Malaysiakini)
Last edited 7th May 2008 12:05 am

This response to Hishammuddin keris waving apology (Hisham apologises for keris act) is late in coming, but I found the whole episode so bewildering that even after writing my first response (Hisham: I apologize for my apology??) I still felt something very unsettling about it. It took me a further full week investigating the various aspects of it before I felt I have enough clarity to pen down the following questions and observations.

Let’s begin from the very beginning. I would like to post this question: what message was Hishammuddin trying to convey by waving the keris, accompanied by the ultra radical slogan from UMNO youth supporters? Did Hishammuddin thought that the Chinese were making too many unreasonable demands such that he has to wave a weapon as a gesture to defend the rights of the Malays? If that was the case, then what were the demands the Chinese made that were deemed so unreasonable to him?

Was he referring to the Chinese demands for more Chinese schools? What I recalled was that the Chinese communities were not even demanding for more Chinese schools, the demand was only to relocate some schools in the rural areas to the city, to reflect the change in demographic of the population. Or is there something wrong with Chinese education, for example that it hinders ethnic integration? If the Chinese education was not the issue, then what was it?

Whatever it is - can our leaders enter into mature dialog with each other to resolve them instead of resorting to waving weapons and chanting ultra radical slogans?

As of now, I still do not understand what this whole episode was about. Hishammuddin apology was as if it had something to do with the dignity of the keris and the Malay race. That was a lot of nonsense to me. He could have waved a parang or a Chinese Sword and people would be equally offended by it.

Similarly Najib’s follow up statements (Najib: Keris apology won't derogate Malay dignity ) and MCA acceptance of the apology was equally nonsensical.

I remembered reading about how the Beatles was being promoted at the beginning. The promoter hired a bunch of young girls and got them to scream and tear off their clothes, and that set off a whole generation of mass hysteria. Now we have one person waving a weapon with a few people responded with some slogans and the whole country is divided in semi-hysteria.

To me this whole episode was only a cheap publicity stunt, intended to further the political interest of one person.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Karpal – please leave the rotten apples alone

Also posted in Malaysia-Today
(Last edited 30 April 2008 8.52am)

As our respected Raja Petra Kamarudin said – there were rotten apples in the basket. I would like to add that if something is rotten, warn others about it, but otherwise leave it alone and let it rot quietly - least it stinks up the whole place.

Karpal should concentrate on solving the many burning problems that we all are facing – or about to face. Suing the royal family is not something the rakyat needs now. It is not about being right or wrong in principle. It is just that no matter from what angle I look at it – I could not see a positive outcome for this action. Instead it will stir up a lot of shit and provide ample opportunities for unscrupulous people to exploit.

Karpal – please understand that DAP victory in GE 12 was mostly due to our disgust with Barisan Nasional’s corruptions and racism, not so much because of our love for DAP leadership and ideology. Yes – DAP struggle has it time and place, but we are in a different era now.

Truly, there is nothing much left worthy to fight against nowadays. The whole of Barisan Nasional is imploding, collapsing under the cumulated weight of 50 years of corruption. Just take a look at the Ku Li/Badawi/Mukhriz saga, the Khir Toyo vs. Sami Velu, Lim Keng Yik vs. Gerakan, Donald Lim vs. MCA saga - the whole lot can rot in hell for all that I care. But what I do care very much that Pakatan Rayat is not anywhere near the rotten scenes.

What we need most urgently now is not somebody to fight for us – but somebody who can provide a strong leadership to ride through the impending global crisis. We need good, efficient, rational governance – and more importantly we need compassionate leadership to bring the races back together.

Is is not even that the rakyat will vote DAP out in 5 years time if it doesn't perform accordingly. It is more that if the parties as well as the rakyat don't assume a position of unity and cooperate with each other on that basis, there may not be much left to be cherished after the worst recession in 30 years hit us in full force.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hisham: I apologize for my apology??

I have to say - the article Hisham apologises for keris act that appeared in Malaysiakini got me very confused. I must have read it at least three times and I am still struggling to try to understand it. And then the following article Najib: Keris apology won't derogate Malay dignity came out today – oh man, that got me utterly confounded.

At first Hisham made an apology to the non-Malays, and then almost on the same breadth, was an apology to the Malays about having to make the apology. Sorry I am a computer geek, but something just doesn’t compute here. I mean – doesn’t the second apology nullify the first?

In the first place, what was the intention of waving the keris anyway? I am by no means a historian or a scholar, but my perception of the keris is that is a symbol of justice, courage and dignity. These are universal virtue that transcends race, religion and ideology. But the way the keris was being waved, the forum, the context, the intention, the radical stance – was every bit in contrary to the virtue that the keris represents. It was the subjugation and perversion of a sacred symbol for political means.

The waving of the keris was the act of derogation of human dignity. So Hisham apology should be to the whole of humanity, plain and simple. But the way the apologies were made, one apology to the non-Malays, and another apology to the Malays, was as if it was a matter of one race against others.

We have to put a stop to these racial bullshit. All Malaysians, regardless of race, should cherish and honor the virtues represented by the keris. We have to say no to racial politics. We have to stop the keris and other cultural/religious items from being hijacked for political means.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What? Ali Rustam a Blogger?

(Also posted in Malaysia-Today)
Something very significant happened on 8 March 2008. It was like the burst of lightning that awakened everybody from their slumber. All of a sudden the whole country is riveted to the political process, and we have unprecedented number of mamak stalls, kopitiam politicians and whatnot.

The level of participation from the rakyat on the political process is truly astounding. For example when YB Lim Kit Siang made a wrong move, within the first couple of hours hundreds of messages have already appeared all over the web condemning his move. The same thing happened when Sivasubramaniam threatened to quit. Similarly when Mohd Ali Rustam made some truly stupid remarks regarding the pig farm project in Selangor he was bombarded with hundreds of very unflattering comments in his blog.

But this is where the similarity ends. While YB Lim made a public apology and Sivasubramaniam reverted his decision promptly, Mohd Ali Rustam chose to delete the offending comments and locked down his blog to prevent further comments. I almost fell off my chair when I read about it in Malaysiakini. Was he trying to control the internet like how BN controlled the mainstream media? Was he in denial mode, sweeping the dirt under the carpet and pretend that everything was hunky-dory? I could not believe that 50 years of BN rules has produced leaders of such colossal stupidity and arrogance. The way he is going – I don’t think he will last another election. I will do my part to see to it that he doesn’t last another election.

This simple incident illustrates a dramatic difference between Barisan Nasional politics and Pakatan Rakyat politics. In Barisan Nasional politics, the leaders say and everybody listens. The leaders are high above; they cannot be criticized, beyond criticism and untouchable. And UNMO expects this bunch of arrogant idiots to run their personal blogs?

Blogging is very much about coming face to face with the readers and subjecting oneself to be judged by all. Nobody cares about your Tan Sri title, your personal palace, your Mercedes Benz, your police escorts, and there is no secretary to filter out unwelcomed guests. Everybody is on equal ground, and only one’s integrity and intelligence matter. It was never a one sided conversation. Even our respected Raja Petra, whom everybody listens to, would read the reader’s comments and change his writing style accordingly.

Today is a very sad day indeed, because Makal Osai is being shut down. No reasons were given, and no reasons need to be given. I felt a wrenching pain in my heart as Makal Osai is one newspaper that was not subjugated to being a mouth piece of the ruling party. I don’t read Makal Osai, but I strongly believe that politics should not interfere with the media. The people should be the judge. The people as a collective gathering have infinitely more wisdom to decide what is right and true than a bunch of self-serving politicians.

Yes, I am still boycotting the mainstream media. I will continue to advocate it until the mainstream media learn to uphold its sacred duty with true integrity or die a natural death. I am but one humble voice answering the call to straighten our media. If the calling is true, the number of voices will multiple and before we know it we will have another tsunami. This is how the collective process works.

If you believe in the urgency of the matter, please add your voice here: Boycott the newspapers!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

MCA – please wake up to what the rakyat is demanding

I have family members, relatives and good friends who are MCA members. I always despised politics, especially the Barisan Nasional politics, but I had reserved a soft spot in my heart for MCA, even volunteered to help out in the 1999 election. But whatever feelings I had for MCA has all but gone now.

I never thought much about politics, but I had been able to close an eye on it. I was annoyed by the ultra-radical rhetoric of UMNO youth, the keris waving etc, but I never quite believed in it. For me it was only a song and dance for some silly people to move up the rank in a crazy game called politics. I see that the politicians, the warlords and the Chinese tycoons and Ali Baba’s are so dependent on each other in minting their money and robbing the country that nobody really wants to rock the boat too much.

But the recent antics of some MCA leaders have got me fuming mad. I am referring to the PAS/Islam bashing announcements, calling DAP the traitor of the Chinese for going to bed with PAS etc. I don’t think many Chinese would take statements like these seriously, as everybody can see that the Chinese was never so well represented in the new government. But our Malay brothers and sisters are in a much more precarious situation. The welfare of the ordinary Malay – in fact any ordinary nobody regardless of race – was never really looked after by BN, and now all of a sudden they are faced with a new government with even less Malay representations.

I am not sure whether MCA is so dumb to not see this, or whether it is just a bunch of bankrupt politicians looking for cheap publicities. But statements like these that incite religious and racial tensions are downright irresponsible and dangerous in the current delicate situation. I consider these to be infinitely more sinister and dangerous than UMNO’s keris waving antics.

MCA – please wake up. The rakyat have spoken loud and clear in GE 12 that we don’t want race politics anymore. DAP and PAS, and indeed the whole Pakatan Rakyat has demonstrated their willingness to listen to the rakyat and made tremendous progress in finding a middle ground where all race and religions can cooperate and live in harmony. Please work with the rakyat to build a better tomorrow for all.

The Three Christs of Yipsilanti (2)

(Posted in 16 March 2008)

I want to reiterate that the letter I wrote yesterday (The Three Christs of Yipsilanti) was not meant to condemn any groups or individuals. The opposition parties are born out of the resistance to the constant threats, intimidations and instigations from the BN racial politics. In the case of DAP, historically, it took the role of Robin Hood, the underdog hero that fought to uphold the identity and welfare of Chinese population. Of course this is a form of chauvinism for it gained the support and sympathy from the Chinese at the expense of exclusion of other races.

To be fair we have to give credit to the DAP leaders, as without their persistence thorough the think and thin of it, going in and out of ISA detention and prison we would not have the vehicle and the grass root support to see the victory now. The underdog hero role is a baggage that need to be shed. But DAP is also under a lot of pressure, and they have to make a lot of very difficult adjustments. It is going to take time for its leaders, let alone its grass root support to understand and comprehend the new role that DAP has to take on. And worst of all is that its arch rival MCA has been busy fanning the fire from behind.

A few MCA leaders made some statements regarding the Perak Chief Minister issue that appeared in the Chinese newspapers on Friday. The statements read like “Chinese are betrayed by DAP conceding chief minister to PAS”. When I read statements like these I fume with anger. These bunch of sore losers has no sense of social responsibilities. They do not care how dangerous it is to instigate racial sentiments in a delicate time like this. So much for being the elected or aspire to be elected statesman or representative of the rakyat. For them every damm thing has to be sensationalized. This is their political chip. One criticism of Ong Ka Ting is that he was too quiet, and that is equivalent to being politically bankrupt. This the dirty nature of politics. Oh man, I do hate politics. I really want to give the whole bunch a good spanking, especially the self-proclaimed devout Buddhist Ong Ka Chuan.

I generally have been very upset by the coverage of the election in the mainstream newspapers. The incident I related above got me fuming mad. And when I saw the cat fight cartoon referring to the Perak MB issue in the front page of Friday Sun I slammed the paper down, and swore that I will not put up with any of these bullshit anymore. When I received an SMS calling to boycott of the mainstream papers last night, I promptly forwarded it to every single contact in my SIM card, even to names that I can’t remember. Guang Ming Daily is the only paper that I buy now.

I don’t want to second guess Raja Nazrin Shah’s intention on his choice of Perak’s Chief Minister. But my first impression is that it is a stroke of genius. It is going to stir the pot big time. It is going to force DAP face-to-face with PAS. It will force DAP to work closely with PAS – the one single party that DAP sworn no allegiance with. If DAP can pull it through it will demonstrate to all that DAP is mature enough to accommodate other races.

I am generally very happy with how things are unfolding. The news that the Perak’s chief minister will be sworn in tomorrow is a big relief. My salute to YB Lim Kit Siang for making a prompt apology and giving a very balanced explanation of it in his blog, and kudos to PAS youth for openly supporting the new government in Penang. This is the type of cooperation that will move us forward.

For me the greatest significance of GE 12 is not the birth of a two party system in Malaysia. The greatest victory is that we, the rakyat, are no longer helpless, isolated individuals that are subverted and manipulated by the power mongers. We have found our collective voice. It is voice that transcends religion, race and ideology, and it is powerful enough to cause a political tsunami.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Three Christs of Yipsilanti

(Posted in 15 March 2008)
This is how the story goes. There were 3 mentally ill patients who harbored the illusions that they were Jesus Christ at the Ypsilanti State Hospital of Michigan. One day a researcher psychologist by the name of Milton Rokeach had a bright idea. He decided to place the 3 self-proclaimed Messiah in the same therapy group. He thought that by exposing the three to similar delusions of the other he could bring them back to reality. To cut the story short - no - Rokeach did not managed to provoke any lessening of the patients’ delusions. The amazing thing is that the three ended up accommodating each other, and set up the very first ‘Society of Christs’, in order to persist in their delusions. The result of his experiment was a hugely insightful study into the basis of delusional belief systems.

Since the advent in communications that brought the whole world together we have seen this absurdity being played out time and again with disastrous consequences amongst the religious, national, racial, tribal etc groups. And now this absurdity is being played out by our beloved Saviors – DAP, PAS, and PKR. The way they have been behaving these few days – each asserting its ‘absoluteness’, each asserting its ‘rights’, even using underhand tactics to get an upper hand on each other, was completely stupid.

I always hated politics. I despised it. And that was why I abstained from voting until this year, my 48th year in life. I detested the hypocrisy and the one sided chauvinism being played out on both sides. Yes, I am talking about Barisan Nasional as much as DAP, PKR and PAS. Hardly one week had passed since the windfall victory and we are already seeing the ugliness raising its head in each of the respective parties. The anti-Islamic chauvinistic stance of DAP, and the hypocrisy of PAS…. I don’t want to elaborate any further here. If you want to find out more please read Raja Petra articles.

This is for the record – the first ballot that I cast last weekend, was not for any political party or parties. What I voted for is Barisan Rakyat. My vote is my declaration of solidarity to the silent movement of awakening spearheaded by Raja Petra, Haris Ibrahim et al. It is a vote of confidence for the high moral standards and selfless service demonstrated by these remarkable individuals. My vote has nothing to do with race, religion, and definitely not about any political parties.

I am not writing to condemn any particular groups or individuals, but to point out that race, or religion or ideology based politics has no relevance anymore. It is not even that the parties have to get together to come to some amicable power sharing agreements. No – that would only result in an absurd “Society of Christs”. The whole damm thing about racial, religious and ideological differences simply has to be dropped. And it can happen. The last weekend was nothing short of being a spectacular demonstration of it. The whole event was simply magical. If the Malays had known that DAP is going to win this big many would not have voted the rocket. If the Chinese had known that the 3 richest states are going to fall they would have opted for the safety of BN. I can only use Divine Intervention to describe the unfolding of events.

Winning the election was the easy part, as we are fighting a big, bad, stinking, rotten something that everybody wants to get rid of. But moving forward from here is going to be much more difficult. We have to face up to our own evils - personal ambitions, the petty differences, not to mention the soaring crude oil and commodities prices, the looming recession and sabotage from the BN stooges. Makhal Shakti has to continue. It is going to require active participation from all, and it has to continue in a much more organized and efficient manner. The collective voices of everybody has to continue to demand rightness. It has to heal the mistrust brought about by decades of misgovernance. It has to bring back to balance the distributions of wealth and opportunities. It has to wash clean of all differences and prevent any willful efforts to create separation.

I have absolutely no idea how to proceed from here, except that to pledge my 100% support and participation. The rest I will have to take it one day at a time.