Sunday, 30 November 2008

Sub-Prime Politicians

A primer on Sub-prime politicians.( thanks to analyst at large).

I remember a polemic between two intellectuals in the late 1970’s. One was the artist( Redza Piyadesa-he has passed on I think) and the other the literary critic and gadfly, Salleh ben Joned.( don’t know where he is). Cant remember what the actual quarrel was, but can remember, the metaphor used. Can the act of urinating be considered good art when captured on canvass? Some call it urinating, Malaysians call it just passing water. Passing water and urinating is the same. The same thing is viewed differently when different terms are used. Urinating is regarded as urbane, sophisticated, while passing water is regarded as crude and plebeian.

Now take the term sub-prime. Prime is tops, number one, the best. Sub means below. So when the term is used on say, mortgages, you have sub-prime mortgages, which simply mean the mortgagees are below standard. But you lend them money anyway.

How did we allow sub-prime borrowers get loans in the first place? Greedy and easily grease-palmed bank officers can be kau-teemed by borrowers. Borrowers inflate their incomes. They can do this in so many ways and the falsification scams are countenanced by bank officers. Maybe over karaoke sessions, dangdut, expensive cigars, Dom Perignom, who knows?

Lending institutions lend credibility to subprime borrowers by having the government create special purpose vehicles. Something like Dana Modal or Dana Harta. Or maybe even Khazanah Holdings. These buy up the subprime mortgages from front line banks. Banks get more money as they become more liquid. and lend some more. The institutions who mop up the sub-prime mortgages perhaps are backed by insurance/government and so they think, they have security.

Next enter the credit ratings bodies- that pool of super intelligent financial analysts, accountants, economists and so forth, who give their sage-like assessments on the mortgages bought by SPVs. They say these are AAA rated, others are EEE rated( not sure they do this or not).

The whole thing is an unsupervised scam. Borrowers bluff their way to getting loans with collusion from officers who sell loans to SPVs who take out insurance and sell to investors because their portfolio holdings are rated best in their class. Until, they run out of borrowers or until there are no more crooks around to lend money too.

Imagine the whole scam on UMNO politics.

That’s the same process on how you end up with sub-prime politicians. Call them by these terms, you have a more dignified, refined and sophisticated terminology. In reality, they are really- half past six politicians, nitwits, braggarts and so on.

How did they get past the branches? Because those active in kampong levels are basically layabouts, nothing better to do or are just people looking for easy rides. They make up the majority of the delegates at branch levels and crooks elect the best among them.

They move on to bahagian or division levels. Operators at branch levels move around the bahagian singing praises of this and that person. Giving endorsements and certification or accreditation. These newly anointed ketua cawangans enjoy some inflated reputation and earn some prominence. But the number of crooks receiving similar accreditation from professional apple polishers is large. So they compete to get approvals from divisional office bearers. Division office bearers too want continued support from these sub-prime ketua cawangans and so repeat the same process. Fearful for their own positions, they give high ratings to subprime ketua cawangans, giving overestimation on the worth of these goons.

The process is repeated and the inept among the subprime ketua cawangans and divisional officers get booted out. The fittest, i.e. the trickiest and worst lowlifes among them get elected to become the anointed office bearers at division levels.

Next enter, the credit rating agencies. These are the master spy catchers of the ketua bahagian and if the ketua bahagian is a minister, he has political secretaries, special officers, private secretaries, security officers giving ratings on office bearers. Like rating agencies, some are rated AAA and some DDD or EEE.

In the end, the inbuilt sub-priming process, gives birth to sub-prime politicians at national levels. Hence you are saddled with the Tajuddins and Bung Mokhtars of the world.

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Drag Force and further musings on Leadership

In my last post, I wrote something about drag force, a concept in Physics. I used it more as a term of symbolism. The drag force is the resistance on something(object) as it flows through something else(the medium).

In fact, one can argue that if countries have drag coefficients, which measure the movement or flow of the object, ours could be 99. On a scale of 100. Nothing moves unless you hit it with the force of a thermonuclear blast.

Again, as a term of symbolism, we discover the thermonuclear blast. The force of a thermonuclear blast comes in the form of quality leadership. A leadership that forges the will, the cohesion, the stamina and discipline of its people. That’s the primary purpose of leadership.

Consider the leadership issues on the youths of Malaysia. Pemuda UMNO is currently embroiled in an intense leadership tussle. The contenders offer their vision as the object moving through a medium. The medium is the conglomeration of young people whose vision are nothing more than repackaged self interests.

What are we then looking from the contenders? The answer so it seems, we are looking for leadership. What is the nature of the leadership are we looking for? The pattern or the quality?

Further it would seem to me, futile to debate the pattern of leadership but rather, it is more worthwhile instead, for us to look into the quality of leadership. That is more needed rather than posturing about leadership.

We want to know more for example, whether the man and his group assuming the high echelons of leadership later, have the ability, dedication and the executive drive to forge success. Thus busying ourselves on the vexed issues of pattern of leadership such as the return of Mahathirism and what not, leads us to round after round of tiresome debates. Mahathir’s style of leadership may be disliked by certain people, but the quality of his leadership is another matter. The executive drive, the ability and the dedication are there. Compare that pattern of leadership that is disliked with a leadership pattern that is apparently seen as more tolerant, more open and therefore, on those terms, is more likeable. We are pushed to ask where is the utility of such leadership pattern?

The utility of such leadership pattern stops there because such leadership pattern is insipid as there is no executive drive, no ability and infirmed dedication.

We come back again to the issue of articulation and then execution of vision. Dare to change? What are we changing? Esprit de corps- to what ideals do we bound ourselves to? from the wongjowo? Just the mission to win back lost states.

What about the medium? There’s no honour in leading an inarticulate and inchoate conglomeration of individuals. These young we are leading must be filled with the will and wherewithal to contribute meaningfully to the nation.

All the more reason, we must look through phony leadership that view the young merely as digits who formed a stepping stone for personal aggrandizement. I hate manipulative leadership which takes advantage of our malleable young.

Let us illustrate by taking a look at our young. Just like other people in the world, they want to live happy, active and eventful lives pursuing their chosen vacations. Tedium, boredom and a sense of emptiness creates a vacuum. Fill this vacuum with half past six purpose such as jumping into the arctic area or asking the mat and even minah rempits perform some ridiculous stunts so that the half past six sponsor can score political point, cannot bring us useful social results. The mat rempits will be left in the lurch, the sponsor gets his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Indeed he will be hailed as a saviour for mat rempits.

Where, you ask is the idealism needed to fill the vacuum? A purpose? Formation of habits and values necessary to ready our young? Might as well train the mat rempits in the art of Muay Thai, Silat or any of the fighting arts, where you instil among other things, a martial spirit. Jumping from the plane over the arctic serves only to fortify a sense of having a good time and life is one dandy jolly ride.

Idealism is a desirable quality in the young, otherwise without it, the young becomes an intolerable cynic. A cynic’s mind is porous in the sense that he is impossible to convince of anything worth fighting for.

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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Just some ramblings on the Pemuda Race

Sometime is 1959, Lee Kuan Yew said something like this. The pace of the social revolution in Malaya is as fast or as slow as the Malays in the Kampungs want it, not as the Chinese in towns want it.

Except imagine this now. The Malays of 1959 are the majority of the ketua pemuda delegates. With a typical mindset of a kampong regular. The contenders are the Chinese of 1959, urbane, moneyed and modern in outlook. The pace of changes that any ketua pemuda wants is as fast or slow as the ordinary delegates want it, not as the contenders want it. I think, the contenders should recognise this.

So what is the pace of the revolution that the ordinary common delegate wants?

Take your typical breakdown. A typical ketua pemdua bahagian, is likely to be a class F contractor. His vision is to be the next class A contractor, getting direct negotiated tenders. His second in command, is a junior executive maybe in some private firm. He is looking for his next break. The 3rd and 4th delegate, are likely self employed- looking for greener pastures.

So the contenders can be catalysts for change, but it is the delegates who decide. Hence those hundred of delegates pouring into KL sometime in March 2009, are looking for some breaks, a quick buck, a good time and pocket money- lots of it. The contender who wants to win is the person who recognise these foibles and who capitalise on them.

Calls for change, prayers for camaraderie or esprit de corps, are all good only in your estimation. The ordinary folks want nothing of that airy fairy sloganeering. It is they who decide what pace Pemuda will travel with. It is a pace determined by the mass and velocity of money.

I think there’s a concept in Physics known as drag force. Substitute object for battle cry, slogan and what not. Just like an object, any of the contender’s slogan is moving through a gas or liquid medium. I am more inclined to think the candidates sloganeering are just gas. In any case, an object moving through such medium, experiences a force in direction opposite to its motion. Substitute the force moving in opposite direction for the mindset of the average Joe of Pemdua delegate. Terminal velocity is achieved when the drag force is equal in magnitude but opposite in direction to the force propelling the object. The one who wins is the one with the farthest terminal velocity, achievable only, by lubricating the drag force.

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Friday, 28 November 2008

Pahangdaily and the 2009 Budget

Pahang and its budget deficit.

I came across a post in pahangdaily.blogspot.com. This blog is run and operated by sympathisers and members of non-BN parties. Recently it posted an article lambasting the Pahang MB for offering yet another budget deficit. The indiscriminate criticism is of course expected of a blog owned and operated by opposition bloggers.

I am thinking, this kind of blanket and partisan article shouldn’t be allowed to pass without a critical evaluation. I hope, these people know what they are talking about. When I was in the Dewan , I was also usually critical of the budget. And I say this without superciliousness nor smugness, that the lone opposition then, the member from Triang wasn’t ‘in the groove’ so to speak, when debating on Pahang budget. Indeed critical appraisals on the Budget came from BN ADUNs themselves- some of us that is.

Pahang has an cumulative budget deficit of probably 100 over million then and now maybe close to 200 million. When the government goes into a deficit, it means that it is spending more than the revenue it collects from taxes, and income from investments - but mostly from tax revenue.

I have said whether a deficit budget is a cause for alarm will depend on the state of the economy. If it has not reached its full development stage, you have to spend to keep growing. Not spending means not growing. If you have a balanced budget, where your expenditure and revenue are the same, it means you are stagnant. Is this what the people at Pahang Daily want?. If the government goes into a balanced budget, it means that the government is not expanding the economy. The government is not stimulating the economy by spending to boost aggregate demand.

This means that the economy will be the same size as before, unless government inaction is made up by private sector spending. But in Pahang, the private sector at this moment, isn’t too upbeat about the economy. This sentiment by the private sector is not unique only to Pahang. All over, investment spending is generally guarded.

If the government believes it can expand the economy, it needs to go into debt and spend beyond its tax revenue. It is legitimate and justifiable for the government to go into a deficit and if it is responsible, must lead the way by spending. Otherwise, running the budget deficit to zero may be fashionable, but can hardly be described as wise. It is equally stupid of us to run our mouths to say the government is stupid whenever they propose a deficit budget.

My concerns were more on :-

  1. Whether the expenditure is on productive capacity.
  2. Whether the additional expenditure is the result of lack of financial discipline by government departments.
  3. Whether the shortfall in revenue is the result of weak government management

Also my concern, is the uncritical evaluation of the budget deficit by our ADUNs. Because most of the time, our ADUNs imagined that deficits are incurred because we spend on welfare. If they care to look closely, the portion spent on welfare purposes is a very small portion of the overall deficit. So spending on welfare is not a strong point to defend the budget deficit.

Because if our ADUNs keep using this weak argument to defend the deficit, they will miss the point really. The better defence would be as we have said above. Deficit is necessary to spend on economic expansion. To induce expansion requires applying the resources more on productive capacity. To spend wisely involves instituting financial discipline on heads of government. Enhancing education and skills for example. Building and improving productive resources etc. That, my friends, are better defences for the budget deficit.

As to Pahang Daily, they would do more justice by reading the full text of the budget painstakingly reproduced in Smalltalk. The MB’s closing speech in the Dewan wasn’t meant to cover every aspect of the budget. And a closing speech wasn’t intended to be an economics discourse.

As a final say on this deficit, analyse this: a large portion of the increase in expenditure is the result of increase in emoluments and bonuses. What does this mean on the part of the government? It means the government appreciates the contribution and role of the civil service. But this must also be used as a reminder to our government servants that the increase in salaries and bonuses, comes along with the responsibility to improve performance, dedication and productivity.

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Rompin Politics

JJ is Rompin and Rompin is JJ. To talk about Rompin is to talk about JJ.

About an hour to one and the half hour’s drive to the south of Pekan, you will reach the town of Rompin. It is famous for its gudang galah- giant river prawns. I am not sure they got to that size because of all those nutritious body expellants from the hulu areas.

Any way, this is JJ country. There’s a nice ring to the shortened initials, like JR of Dallas.

Now, JJ is the accomplished student of one N. Machiavelli. Mr Machiavelli said, it is not necessary to be good, it is only sufficient to appear to be good. In JJ’s case, he has superseded the master himself- he is both good and can appear to be good. I think it was Lee Kuan Yew who said- with good people and clever one for that matter, you must be extra careful. Because the cleverer a person is, the capacity to do harm is even greater. Why is that so? Because being good and brilliant are never sufficient- you must have that one more complementary element called character. This is an indefinable quality which is essential for any leader. It will ensure that leaders keep their cool under fire.

Which brings us as to whether JJ has this elusive element or not? A few months ago, JJ achieved unwanted notoriety when he was involved in a bottom pinching incident at a 5 star hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The subsequent attempts to erase that episode, was uncharacteristically amateurish of JJ. Certainly it did not dispel public suspicions that JJ had a hand ( see how his hands moved) in trying to do a damage control exercise. That shows that JJ has a character flaw.

Recently he has further fortified our belief that JJ indeed may be suffering from character deficiency. He was so incensed at an imam’s sermon in a mosque in Kratong, that he challenged the poor imam to a fight. His retinue of followers were readying themselves for a free for all outside the mosque.

Was JJ’s motive activated by an intense desire to defend UMNO’s Islam? Or were his actions capable of being turned into political capital allowing his supporters later to ululate ( you know the wailing and high pitched sounds made by Arab women expressing joy) his stout defence of Islam?. Can anyone imagine if the name of JJ is being ululated, it will sound like JJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJjayyyyy…! Your teeth would clatter and if you have dentures, they will drop off.

But perhaps JJ was thinking the credit earned from his earnest defence of pure Islam can cancel out the debit resulting from the bottom pinching episode. But then, the area of Kratong has its own history of disrepute that can make JJ’s bottom pinching ‘indiscretion’ looked pale in comparison. Years ago, Kratong made waves around the country, when a couple in Felda Kratong, produced their home made porno film. Yes, Kratong. Rompin is a parliamentary constituency full of contradictions.

Can Rompin be a threat to Najib? No because like Smalltalk says, as long as JJ is there.

But then, there is more than meets the eye with JJ. Again it boils down to the element of character.

JJ is not native to Rompin. He was born in Pekan, the seat of the incoming PM. Indeed the good relations between them were forged over a long period of association. JJ was in fact, a former ketua pemuda bahagian Pekan, when DS Najib was its division chief. JJ can claim that he was Najib’s consigliere on many things. He was able to cement his relations with Najib by using unorthodox methods. Rosmah was introduced to Najib by JJ. Like I said, he is a master in the techniques expounded by Mr Machiavelli. During JJ’s reign of political ‘terror’ in Pekan, money flowed like water, delegates were corralled at safe houses outside Pekan only to return on voting day. This man will not stop at anything to win. Which makes him dangerous.

At the same time, can also make him reckless and careless. JJ’s see-sawing character is not lost on the watchful Najib. Najib is fond of saying that though he is in KL, he knows the goings on in Pekan. He certainly knows what JJ is up to in Rompin.

What JJ was up to, is the thing that dents his otherwise rosy relationship with Najib. You see, when the political future of Najib was once uncertain( that was perhaps only a year ago); JJ was already making his Machiavellian moves. He wanted to hunt with the hounds and run with the hare. JJ was vigorously cementing relations with KJ and Shaziman Abu Mansor. They were to be JJ’s insurance should anything untoward were to befall Najib. Those deft moves piqued Najib considerably and presently, JJ’s stock with Najib have taken a tumble somewhat.

Now that Najib’s future is almost certain, JJ has employed his usual stock in trade- unashamedly switching allegiances. Indeed there were reports that JJ went around the country ‘sedekahing’ delegates at divisional meets to prevent any other nominations but Najib’s. JJ was desperate to prove his loyalty to the incoming big boss as one that is beyond doubt. How do you handle this kind of unprincipled man?

His second in command , Dato Hassan Ariffin is a former deputy MB. Hassan was ketua bahagian before, until he lost the post to JJ. Hassan was marshalling his forces for a return match with JJ. He has now compromised by accepting the deputy chief post. With that compromise, Hassan has actually shown that he is a non entity. Maznah Mazlan is the ADUN for Muadzam and she can be easily neutralised. In any case, her own future will be in doubt if Shahrizat wins the post of Wanita Chief. Captain(Rtd) Johari is a JJ supporter and loyal servant. He will do what JJ wants him to do. Being an army man, when asked to jump, he will ask JJ, how high.

If JJ becomes more prominent, the one in danger will be YB Dato Shafri Aziz. It is no secret that JJ wanted to ‘sponsor’ his own proxy to dislodge Shafri from the ketua pemuda bahagian’s post. The timely appointment of Shahfri as EXCO may have thwarted JJ’s plan temporarily. My advice to Shahfri, watch your back.

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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Pekan Politics

My blogger friend DSN of smalltalk has given a very interesting piece on politicians in Pahang. These are living and breathing people we are talking about. True to form, DSN has given a very candid assessment, thus living up to his reputation as being always in a take-no-prisoners mode. Sometimes, I think he is the cerebral extension of the samseng kampong dusun of an MB-haha.( don’t be alarmed friends, among some of us, that kind of description is amusedly tolerated).

My first reaction when reading this post by DSN was- my, has he earned the damnation of people whom he has mentioned. But as many people who know DSN, they will take comfort, that he stands by what he has said, so typical of someone who, many many years ago, would sit casually and nonchalantly with his kampong buddies, in the middle of the road in Kampung Dong with a devil may care attitude to boot!. Imagine if a car or lorry would come speeding round the corner!

Now since I am from Pekan, I will comment on Pekan first.

Anyone going against Najib would be committing suicide. I myself have been very critical of Najib but that is the extent of my angst. I think he has treated me with bemused tolerance. I am lucky thus far. He is entrenched in Pekan with no threats at all.

The problem with Pekan beside having the constant number of opposition voters, will be the creation of sycophants unwilling and fearful of giving to DS Najib the facts. That was what happened in the 1999 elections. Najib in the end managed to come through just above his greying whiskers, errr.. moustache. When the results came filtering in, there were 2 persons in his house then, in Pekan. The others have abandoned ship.

All along, his people around him, the usual coterie of hangers on, lullaby singers, sycophants, minders and so one have been telling him, no problem Dato, everything is OK. Well, with 241 votes majority, he was nearly KOed by a would be instant political celebrity.

Which reminds me that maybe just maybe DS Najib will want to study the concept of bullet train management. Years ago, if I remember correctly, there was this article interviewing a top notch Japanese manager in Fortune Magazine. Asked how his company managed to register impressive results year after year, he replied- we appry (no spelling mistakes here), bullet( I prefer ‘ burret’, but that would sound like something else) train management concept. Elaborate please Ariff san.

In the old days, the conventional train’s movement and speed depends on the headcoach. The head fitted with one locomotive engine pulls/pushes the other carriages or train. The speed of the train, its velocity and movement, depends solely on the capacity of this one locomotive engine. Its speed was maybe 60-70km per hour. The present day bullet train can travel at speed between 200-400km per hour. A ride on the Shinkansen in Japan, especially when it passes through tunnels would leave you deaf temporarily. How can a bullet train attain such incredible speeds? Because each train is fitted with its own engine and each functions in unison with the head coach.

So if DS Najib who will become the PM for Malaysia and not Pekan or even Pahang, he needs to have engines fitted on each individual coaches. Otherwise, being the only engine fitted coach, he will succumb under the parasitic weight of so many people. Or if this one locomotive malfunctions or worse, breaks down, the whole train comes to a grinding halt.

Who in their devious mind would want to threaten Najib in Pekan? The deputy head is Dato Ishak Haji Muhamad- a play along chorus singer, devious and tricky but subservient to Najib. He may have his allegiance somewhere else but in Pekan, he knows which side of the bread is buttered. Perhaps he now entertains the idea of being the next MB of Pahang. Cerebral wise, he is a non entity, but as a politician, he has the 9 lives of the cat.

The other 3 ADUNs are just some ketua kampong upgrades. Dato Abu Bakar Harun is a Felda setller. I mean no disrespect to him when I say, at gatherings he would isolate himself avoiding engagement with inquisitive and searching minds. YB Ibrahim Awang Ismail and Yb Khairudin Mahmud were school teachers teaching in primary schools. Cikgu Ibrahim would now and then retreat to his kampong in Kampung Sawah Pekan to escape from the marauding peruntukan hunters in Pekan. Yb Khairudin has the face of a person who is shouldering all the troubles in the world.

The danger with Dato Najib is that he views his ADUNs as nothing more than robotic chairman of JKKKs. That’s no way to develop a nation. And finally, because he has not empowered his ADUN’s and because he mollycoddles the whole voter population, these poor ADUNs are usually boot -stomped and have to endure over-their heads direct to Najib treatment or mistreatment. The problem in Pekan, is the breakdown in the chain of command. The private have direct access to the general with dire consequences for the colonels.

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Winds of Change or breeze? Glacial movements in UMNO.

When I read that UMNO elders are against open debate, I regard that as signs, UMNO really does not want to change. By March 2009, it is the still the same old party without any substantial changes. But Pemuda can change all this.

That is why I have supported an open debate on the issues affecting our country. I am not altogether convinced that by having open debates, would expose UMNO’s problems/weaknesses to the opposition. The opposition already knows what’s wrong with UMNO just like Russia knows a lot about UK’s defence. I find the argument that UMNO youth and UMNO being not ready for debates ala US presidential debates unconvincing. It suggests that UMNO which has governed over 50 years and whose members are also well versed in the art of politics, have not attained the maturity to debate about issues affecting itself and the nation.

It is precisely this addiction of choosing to be buffeted and claustrophobic in mind that made UMNO believe it its own infallibility. It believes its own hype that its untouchable. That insularity has made UMNO lose touch with reality and that has caused it to lose heavily in the last elections.

Let’s sanction a debate. Because this will be a step in dismantling the insularity that has incapacitated UMNO in th efisrt place. Let us resolve to see the emergence of a know-how leadership. We don’t know who are the better of the three. We cant say beforehand that KJ can out-articulate the others. Sometimes people are more convinced by the quiet reasoning fellow than the agitated guy. For example, I am more inclined to believe what TDM said though his factual presentation than say Anwar Ibrahim’s heavily padded rhetoric.

The party elders lay the ground rules. Set questions that test the candidates personal intelligence, vision, commitment and connectivity with the UMNO members and the public at large.

In the debating ring, leave all other incidentals aside. Personal life, father in law, father. Don’t inflict collateral damage please. Fight it out using your convictions. Sell them to us. Although we are not voting, we can still counsel our Pemuda delegates.

So I want to ask, what is the cause, these contestants want to sell to us? What do these contestants want to offer Pemuda? Will it be moulded into a highly principled and visionary organisation? Will it be willing and ready to counterbalance the main UMNO body? It is time to kick out the laggards, the political laybouts, the know-who generation. Let us now have the know-how generation.

Look at the next generation. In a few years, we who are talking now, will be fossils. The next generation is something else. The new generation is better informed and being better informed breeds criticality. The level of criticality is increasing such that, the new generation is looking out for explanations on current issues relating to nation-building and race relations that will shape their future.

What will that mean?- it means that old and amorphous leadership selling snake oil solutions will be rejected. The traditional rhetoric must not only be modified but must be replaced altogether with reasoned solutions. The thirst for answers for their analytical and Internet influenced mind must be quenched by laying out the facts, toning down the spin.

So can UMNO youth think not only of a Malay agenda and start thinking about making a generational quantum leap in their thinking. The failure of the Malay agenda, whatever that means now, because I am sickened by the ever-changing agenda landscapes, was a result of a insular UMNO.

Now, can the incoming youth leadership, whoever they will be and who ever becomes the ketua pemuda, sell this agenda to us? We are watching you.

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Garrison Keillor Types



dedicated to all those Garrison-Keillor fans. You know who you are. Haha.

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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Rise of the Ringgit Democracy

Writing a little on the sports of Muay Thai, I made the following comparisons.

People fight and show their martial dexterity in the ring. The ring symbolises a permanent structure with limitations. If one fights, do it in the ring; subject yourself to the rules and regulations. You don’t fight outside the ring. You fight using the moves and techniques allowed by Muay Thai.

For politicians, the art of Muay Thai imparts important lessons. You fight your opponents in the ring. Don’t spill your fight into unsanctioned territory. You don’t defile fathers, father in laws, one’s private lives etc. you fight using sanctioned moves and legal techniques. You are not allowed to hurt your opponent when he is down.

Unfortunately, a comparison between Muay Thai and politics would place politics on the dark side. At least in the sports of Muay Thai, traditions are observed. Respect and reverence accorded to our teachers. Also to our opponents. We want to defeat our opponents yes, but never to humiliate them. We rein in our anger and viciousness by observing fight rules. We embrace each other after the fight to reinforce our promise, that the fight shall not continue outside the ring. That is why, the actual Muay Thai is preceded by the Wai Khru. As a keen fan of this sports, I have developed an equally keen foresight to predict which fighter can win by looking at the performance of the Wai Khru.

In the running contest for the ketua pemuda post, we have seen mudslinging from both sides. It is a more brutal fight than Muay Thai. As with Muay Thai, judging from the pre-fight political ‘wai khru’ I can also offer my views as to who shall win the fight.

KJ has been targeted with a lot of material discrediting his moral integrity. I have found this very distasteful. KJ’s cyber troopers too have committed various transgressions. The ones leaving the sourest after taste were the attacks on TDM. I find these most disagreeable.

I have given an opinion stating that UMNO started its downward descent when UMNO people started to defile Tun Mahathir. The notorious list included those personalities which the blogger Jebat Must Die stated in his most recent blog. By saying this, I am not at suggesting that TDM is the gold standard, the breach of which, results in dire consequences. Consider this:- The proclivity and anything -goes ruination is symptomatic of an ingrained culture that is unprincipled and visionless. When this kind of culture seeps in, it signals the start of decay. Those vile tirades originated from within the main UMNO body politic, which when not stopped, meant they are sanctioned by the permissive and glasnostic culture of UMNO. .

Cain kills Abel Politics

What does that mean? it means that the main UMNO body politic is beyond redemption. The top leadership permitted the political fratricide . It’s a Cain and Abel situation in UMNO. Because of that, reform in the main body is already too late. It is already festered by all kinds of pecuniary sclerosis which means every sober and sane senses have all been corrupted by Ringgit Democracy. You heard it right- Ringgit Democracy.

Implosion is already institutionalized within UMNO. The forces resisting change especially from the old guards are insurmountable. Those currently benefiting from the status quo would vigorously resist attempts at change. The promised gains from any change will remain just that, a promise, and only a potential until that change is successfully accomplished. The party elders are therefore a gone case, despite the assuages from the incoming PM. the whole senior corpus have too much vested interests to have the political will to change.

In the face of such forebodings, where can we get consolation and comfort? We look up to Pemuda to make up for the deficiency. Thus I say, we pin our hopes on the Pemuda.

We therefore invest much attention and focus to what is going on in Pemuda. We, politicians, bloggers and every public spirited person and even busybodies, inveigh our opinions on Pemuda hoping they will be duly influenced.

What makes the Pemuda race really interesting is not the identity of the main protagonists- MM is the son of the former PM, KT is a former MB and KJ the rank outsider who is assaulting the system. It is what they represent that makes the Pemuda Race interesting.

What do these protagonists represent? MM claims he is for change. He hasn’t spelt what those are clearly, except by broadsidedly saying they are achievable by changing the present leadership. Meaning, Pak Lah. We are not sure, the exit of Pak Lah will be able to bring in the changes that Mukhriz alluded to. I am sorry to be saying this- The preponderance of facts point to our observation that the much touted change talked about, is dangerously posturing towards becoming just a change in appearance. As to changes in substance, we have not seen them spelt out clearly. Victory for Mukhriz simply means a return to the old status quo. It will just mean a fortification of the old ways of doing things. Where will the impetus for change come from if this leadership scenario of Najib-Muhyidin-Hishamudin-Mukhriz bears out? . Will it be a back to business-as-usual ensemble?

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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Islam the orphaned religion?

A visitor to my blog, Apocryphalist said he is confused, sad and angry all at once because:-

The religion of Islam is now orphaned.

I am pitched in a mixture of perplexity, forlorn and spleen at the current state of things regarding my religion in this country of mine at this present moment. Just like the child, I feel as though it has been orphaned big time: no one would want to take care of it when it needed one, defend it at its time of need, speak for it when it needed a voice. When rude voices speak against it, against its “stupid fatwas”, the intellects, the writers and bloggers with the gab, the personalities that matter, all join in the foray of mutually condemning them too. It is as though to be associated with Islam is no longer a cool state of things. Fire a sling shot at it, and the Muslims scurry to disown their own religion faster than it takes time to say “I have faith”. In the now state of things Islam has, invariably, become an orphan religion.

The religion is left defenceless under an immortal zugzwang.

Fatwas are condemned.

….but when it comes to fatwas, all of which have been done after a series of strict methodological research and studies, I would expect that those who have differing views to arrive at them through some similar if not more rigorous analysis. Note I said differing views. Not condemnations.

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I am honoured to find a comment from this person calling himself apocryphalist. He writes eloquently and brilliantly. As this moniker suggests, he defends something whose authenticity is not shared by others. He will defend something even though it is not popular with others. Presently, he thinks, the event/issue that is not popular, is defending our religion. He therefore steps in. I find this( truly and honestly) commendable.

Who are the others? These others, of course include those who offer differing views which to his estimation have not been done through rigorous thought process and therefore can only be classified as condemnations.

How do we answer this kind of pre-judgment? We are then caught in what the writer himself aptly calls zugzwang. This term (German) used commonly to analyse a chess game, describes a situation where one player is put at a disadvantage because he has to make a move – the player would like to pass and make no move. The fact that the player must make a move means that his position will be significantly weaker than the hypothetical one in which it is his opponent's turn to move

Which, when translated now, means, if we say our views which differ from what the ulamaks say( because they have done their rulings through rigorous analysis) we are in position of zugzwang. We are condemned as those who are in concert of orphaning Islam. We cant answer because , every move would make our position worse, and so we would be better off if we could pass and not move.

To put our trust in modern ulamaks, (how rigorous can they get?) is a great leap of faith. In the examples I gave in the previous post- On To Other Things, the revision by the later fatwa council on the earlier council constitutes what? That the analysis by the earlier council wasn’t rigorous enough? What happens, if between the first and the later fatwa council, people have been put to death, or declared apostates? Are those things agreeable because the earlier fatwa was correct as it was arrived at, after strict methodological research and studies?.

But just suppose, some orphaned and disowned outsiders were to question the authenticity of the earlier fatwa, even though by doing so, brings with it, no material benefit nor any immediate economic advantage- would it be possible then, permitted to do so, could have resulted in the judgement being different? Lives could have been spared, and faith kept intact?.



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On to other things then.

I still have a few more parts on my yoga article which can be posted. After looking around blogsphere and the world around, I have decided not to continue this. It is true as a visitor to my blog, Grand Marquis said- it will lead to tiresome debates. Tiresome debates sap the vitality and energy of people. In the final analysis, I agree with his conclusion, that it boils down to our aqidah.

Also, debates and polemics on this subject will only lead distraction from the day to day matters- how the government is managing our country. As the blogger Mat Cendana has colourfully put it, these are baits and we fell for it, hook line and sinker.

As parting shots, I leave with the following and to me, chilling reminders:-

September, 1984, the Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan issued the following fatwa :

“Setelah berbincang dan menimbang kertas kerja ini Jawatankuasa telah mengambil keputusan bahawa hanya Mazhab Syiah dari golongan Al-Zaidiyah dan Jaafariah sahaja yang diterima untuk diamalkan di Malaysia

May, 1996, the Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan issued the following fatwa :

a) Bersetuju supaya keputusan Muzakarah Jawatankuasa Fatwa yang telah diadakan pada 24 dan 25 September 1984 [Kertas Bil. 2/8/84, Perkara 4.2. (2)] mengenai aliran Syiah yang menetapkan seperti berikut :

“Setelah berbincang dan menimbang kertas kerja ini Jawatankuasa telah mengambil keputusan bahawa hanya Mazhab Syiah dari golongan Al-Zaidiyah dan Jaafariah sahaja yang diterima untuk diamalkan di Malaysia.” Dimansuhkan.

b) Menetapkan bahawa umat Islam di Malaysia hendaklah hanya mengikut ajaran Islam yang berasaskan pegangan Ahli Sunnah Wal-Jamaah dari segi Aqidah, Syariah dan Akhlak….

…e) Memperakukan bahawa ajaran Islam yang lain daripada pegangan Ahli Sunnah Wal-Jamaah adalah bercanggah dengan Hukum Syarak dan Undang-Undang Islam; dan dengan demikian penyebaran apa-apa ajaran yang lain daripada pegangan Ahli Sunnah Wal-Jamaah adalah dilarang.

Which makes something like, The House of Lords is not bound by its own decisions. Then I see glimmer of hopes here; our eminences recognize their infallibilities.

Meanwhile, eons ago( in blog years) the celebrated Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul who 50 years ago said:

While the world is reaching for the moon,
We remain too busy,
Thumping through the Quran,
Debating fatwas about Talaq’.

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A Dissenting View on Yoga Ban-2

a) Standing.
The Mountain Pose (TâDâsana) is the foundation for all standing âsanas. One always begins from this and returns to it at the completion of the standing sequence. In this it very closely resembles not only the standing posture of qiyâm in salât, but also the "Return to Mountain" of T‘ai Chi Ch‘uan. Standing in Mountain Pose or qiyâm is a quiescent exercise for the whole body: feet, legs, and spine working together. With one's feet planted squarely on Earth and one's head reaching toward Heaven, this pose is of the finest metaphysical significance to the sacredness of the human state, for verticality is the essence of religion.

b) Spinal stretching.
As the yogis say, one is as young as one's spine. Hatha yoga concentrates much careful attention on deep, thorough stretches of the spine, bringing the head forward to rest on the knees. Since all the nerves of the body are channeled from the spinal cord out between the vertebrae, a healthy spine is of central importance for the well-being of the whole human body and mind. It takes much patient, persistent practice to make and keep the spine ideally flexible, and only the most dedicated yogis succeed in this. Since Islam is a path for everyone, the Islamic spinal stretch is kept easy and within everyone's reach: the bowing position called rukû‘ only requires that you bend forward enough to place your hands on your knees. Nonetheless, even this minimal stretch helps keep the spine in good condition. When I returned to yoga after praying salât for several years, I found that making rukû‘ seventeen times a day had beautifully prepared my spine for deeper forward stretches.

c) Inverted poses.
The heart does its best to circulate blood all through the veins and arteries, but it's a demanding job, and exercise is needed to help the circulation go at maximum efficiency. In particular, raising fresh blood to the brain through the carotid artery, and lifting it from the feet back up to the heart, is always going against the pull of gravity. This is why two of the most important and beneficial âsanas are the Shoulderstand (sarvangâsana, the 'whole body pose') and the Headstand (sirSâsana). Islamic prayer has taken the most essential aspect of these inverted poses: lowering the head below the heart. The position called sujûd is easy for everyone to accomplish and helps to bathe the brain in fresh oxygenated blood to keep it healthy and alert. Ashraf F. Nizami writes: "This may be termed similar to … HALF SIRSHASANA. It helps full-fledged pumping of blood into the brain and upper half of the body including eyes, ears, nose and lungs."

d) Seated postures.
The word âsana means 'seat' and the basic postures for meditation are seated ones, especially the Lotus. The Diamond Pose (vajrâsana) is practically identical with the seated position of salât called jalsah. This has, of course, not escaped the notice of both yogis and Muslims in India. Nizami writes: "This is a HARDY POSE or is like VAJRASANA." Swami Sivananda in his book Yoga Asanas writes: "This Asana resembles more or less the Nimaz pose in which the Muslims sit for prayer." Furthermore, both vajrâsana and jalsah are the same as the zazen posture of Japan. Having practiced a little yoga when young, it became easier for me to sit on the floor in mosques for long stretches of time. In turn, accustomed to this in Islam over the years, it was then much easier to learn seated yoga postures like the Lotus, since my leg and hip joints were accustomed to the floor.

When sitting in the Lotus, a yoga mudra that accompanies meditation is made by forming the index finger and thumb into a circle. The Islamic mudra, made while sitting in jalsah, is to extend the index finger in a straight line (to attest to the Oneness of God), while forming the thumb and middle finger into a circle. The figure 1 and the figure 0 can convey a Tantric symbolism, and also are curiously similar to the binary 1 and 0 of computer science.

e) Spinal twists.
A session of yoga practice normally concludes, just before final relaxation, with a thorough twist of the whole spine (ardha matsyendrâsana) to the right and to the left. It helps to even out the spine from the other poses it has done and keep everything balanced. In much the same way, salât concludes with the prayer of peace (salâm) said while turning the head to the right and then to the left. This works only the cervical and maybe a few of the thoracic vertebrae, but it is useful for keeping the neck flexible and is consistent with the pattern in salât of presenting reduced versions of the yoga âsanas.

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