October 2010 Archives

The perfect decoy

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PM Najib is not a dumb man. Neither are his advisors, certainly not those dudes from APCO. For whatever else we can say about the man, let's give him that credit at least.

From the first time i heard about the 100-storey Warisan tower to be built next to my alma mater, i think i reacted the same way as most thinking Malaysians: "What a bad idea!". To hear several days later from PM Najib himself that the idea was not actually his own but PNBs in their effort to diversify their investments didn't really help restore my faith in the whole project.

A bad idea is a bad idea, no matter what the source. And as PM, it's your job to say so especially when the bad idea comes from a GLC. I mean, caveat emptor and all of that, if PNB insists with the project, more power to them. But surely, the PM could have said something a bit more than, "This isn't my idea, but i think it's good enough to mention in my Budget speech."

Realizing all of this gets me thinking -- is PM Najib playing the smart game and flushing us out with a decoy? 

You know what all good hunters do during a hunt. They use decoys to flush out the prey. Like a duck hunter, he'll plant a decoy, make some quacking sounds, and lie in wait to ambush as the flock of ducks come by to see what all the fuss is about.

Perhaps, we're the ducks, and the Warisan tower is PM Najib's decoy. Just like all decoys, it was never real, just an imitation, a fabrication, and a tool to be used for a greater purpose. The Warisan tower was never meant to be built, but we are meant to believe that it is, and we are meant to get angry and emotional over what a bad idea it is.

Then just before the next GE comes about, PM Najib, the hunter, will blow the decoy out of the water -- what a waste of good money, PNB can do better, the rakyat deserve more, KL's problems are not a lack of real estate but a lack of proper transportation planning.

And the rest of us, like the ducks that we are, will be stunned at first, then we'll applaud him for his bravery and vision, for listening to the voices of the people. What a great PM we have! With some luck, we'll take that feel good feel all the way to the ballot box.

It's a conspiracy theory i know. But think about his advisors. I mean, APCO made the Israelis look good. Making a PM in a backward, developing nation full of gullible and ill-informed ducks look like a hero is child's play.

A little bit of Moleskin

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During my university days, i kept several diaries. One for daily life and thoughts, another one tucked into my class folder for ideas that come to me during class, and one for my travels and overseas debate competitions. I still have them at home, and revisit them longingly every so often when nostalgia hits.

Back then, i was super-fussy about the type of paper i would use for these diaries. I wanted something that could be comfortably written on, and would be able to survive the bumps and humps of uncertain storage and transport. Generally, i found Japanese branded notebooks worked best.

How i wish i had access to Moleskine notebooks back then. I bought my first Moleskine a few days ago, and have since written on it -- its amazing. The construction quality is top-notch, and the paper is the sort of premium paper that makes writing effortless and a joy. If you're as fussy about these things as i am, you'll know that when you write, the last thing you want is to be distracted by an ink blotch or a "surface tension" of the paper that makes the pen tip drag instead of glide over it.

Moleskine (pronounced mol-a-skeen-a) is a brand of bound notebooks manufactured by a small company in Milan called Modo & Modo. The range has been inspired by the legendary notebooks used by European artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway, Wilde, Proulx, etc. These trusty, pocket-size travel companions have held sketches, notes, stories and ideas long before they were turned into famous images or the pages of beloved books.

Moleskine notebooks are bound in oilcloth-covered cardboard (Moleskin), with an elastic strap to hold them closed and a sewn spine that allows them to lie flat when opened. Each Moleskine includes an attached bookmark and a generous inside back pocket designed to hold loose bits of paper.

For me, if i'm writing on a good surface (just like if i'm typing on a good keyboard), the ideas flow much faster, and the words come out much more naturally. That's just the way i am.

Moleskines are wonderful, and despite the cost (i paid RM58 for the small notebook i bought), is a writer's wet dream come true. Trust me. You can find them at Borders and Kinokuniya.

Take the best to teach the rest

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On the Volume of Interactions, i've advocated over the years a key principle that will improve the quality of the education we give our youth: take the best talent in the market, and make them our teachers.

So it gave me massive satisfaction to hear that this exact idea has been implemented in UK over the last 8 years with incredibly positive results.

This is what "Teach First" does:

    1. take the best graduates of the country, the creme of Oxford and Cambridge (by 2010, 8% of Oxbridge's graduates actually work under the Teach First program)
    2. give them professional training into how to become teachers
    3. send them to under-performing schools with difficult or under-privileged students
    4. get them to teach
    5. watch as the students and the schools transform themselves into top performers

This is the key: if your teachers are the best, smartest and brightest, then your students will become the same too.

Hacking ethics -- Unsecuring Unifi?

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There is an interesting debate going on in the Unifi forums over at LowYat.net

Basically, when TM rolled out their fiber optic internet broadband service called Unifi, they:

(a) used hardware that had known firmware security holes AND forced every Unifi customer to use said hardware

and

(b) installed a "backdoor" into each Unifi-distributed router on the pretext that the backdoor will be used by Unifi remote technicians should the customer need help. The problem is that this back door can be used by ANYONE, and not just Unifi staff

One of the LowYat.net forums members found both problems and posted an extensive guide about how users can fix the problems above themselves. However, by doing so, he has also brought visibility to the problem, and any customer who does not follow his advice is vulnerable to a blackhat hacker attack.

The same person also recently did a scan of the Unifi network, and at least 60% of the customers seem to be unaware of the weaknesses in the system or know about the vulnerabilities but have chosen not to, or are unable to do anything about it. For these people, numbering in the thousands of customers (including business customers!), the end result is the same: their networks are vulnerable to hackers and can be disabled, hacked, exploited, and invaded AT ANY TIME.

After reading the guide, and even someone like myself, who has zero knowledge about Linux or hacking should be able to get into an unsecured Unifi router with little more than a single click of a button.

Potentially, this means that someone who is really deranged can disable 60% of the Unifi network by crashing the customers' routers. Just write a script to auto-scan the network for unsecured routers, tap into each one with the "backdoor" vulnerability TM has placed into each router, and disable the router permanently e.g. replace the firmware. 

The question is whether or not this person should have released information about the vulnerability in the first place. I'm thinking that he did the right thing -- if he didn't tell the community about the vulnerability, then only the "people in the know" would have the knowledge, and then 99% of the Unifi network would be unsecure, and any person who belonged to the 1% group could exploit the network as he pleased. 

At least now, we have at least 40% of the Unifi customers who have secured their routers, and are aware of the vulnerability and have taken steps to protect themselves such as replace the vulnerable routers altogether. At least now, TM is aware that the customers are aware, and this should put pressure on them as an organization to do something about it. If they don't, does this open them up to a massive class action lawsuit? possibly. Imagine if a hacker used this backdoor to invade your network, stole all your banking account passwords and/or caused damage to your business -- wouldn't TM be liable?

This is the guide written by the LowYat forumer, and his explanation and instructions how to fix the vulnerability:


If you're a Unifi customer, i strongly suggest you read it and apply the counter-measures mentioned there.

Edit: Read this EXCELLENT follow up from the LowYat forumer who found and helped us patch the vulnerability. He discusses the sort of havoc a blackhat hacker can do to anyone on the unsecured Unifi network.

The quality mind comes from a quality education

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RPK recently wrote about a particular topic that means a lot to me: education. He believes that unless our students are taught how to think AND are allowed to think freely, the verbose from the government about "improving the quality of education" is just a lot of hot smoke.

I have to agree. When you're dealing with the human mind, it's not the same as when you deal with a car, or a plane, or the latest tech gizmo. When you're dealing with machines and objects, or even when you're dealing with the human body (such as medical research), you can generally throw more and more money into the problem and eventually you'll find a solution. Instead of having 10 doctors working on the cure for cancer, you pay 1000 doctors working on it, and you can generally expect a faster result.

That seems to be the path our DPM, Muhyiddin is referring to -- he also happens to be the Minister of Education, and his idea of "improving" the quality of education is to throw more money or resources into the problem.

But that's not how the mind works. You can't improve the quality of our thinking (which provides a net result of improving the quality of our work/deliverables) by hooking us up with bigger and better computers or paying post-graduates to be our teachers

You might get a little bit of traction, but you certainly won't shift the gears, so to speak. 

During my time as a university debater, i was fortunate enough not only to learn how to speak well in front of a crowd, but i was also taught how to think. Because when you engage through words with your audience, you need to have the right tools to be able to engage and convince their minds as well. That's where the thinking comes in -- you can't expect to win a debate without the ability to thread your thoughts with firm reasoning and logic.

Contrary to popular belief, those are skills that can be taught; i certainly wasn't born with it, but i learned it when i was not only given the freedom to think, but also encouraged to think in the debating arena. Thankfully, the skills i picked up there while debating the giants of the world's tertiary institutions of education are still relevant today, 15 years after i entered the workforce.

Without blowing my own horn, this country needs more people like me. Needs people better than me and my debating peers. We are living proof that thinkers can be manufactured; the West does it all the time -- their debaters are prepped for battle from the ages of 8 or 9. It is little wonder by the time they hit the big lights of the World Debating championships each year, they are roasting everyone else, especially those of us who comes from lesser enlightened societies. 

There is no reason why we can't do the same. But it'll take tremendous courage from the Government. Because thinkers are dangerous people -- they will apply the logic and reasoning they have to each and every idea that you propose. If you're a Government that has and is doing bad things to this country, then an army of thinkers is the last thing you want to face.

Maybe, that was the point all along.

An election budget or an "erection" budget?

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PM Najib has blown it. He had a chance to set critical things right during his presentation of Budget 2011, but instead he is being pilloried in social media spheres. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter -- Malaysian in these spaces have not spared him the ridicule and contempt his Budget largely deserves.

RM212 billion, with a large chunk of it on mega multi-billion ringgit projects? An MRT for RM40 billion, a 100-storey tower of wank for RM5 billion, RM26 billion for a Financial District? It all seems so exorbitant in a time when we need to be laying the foundations to break us out of the middle income trap and onwards towards becoming a high income nation. Instead, what the PM is trying to do is exactly what his predecessors did to get us into this trap in the first place: spend, spend, and spend some more.

Let's not be naive: in the real world, you need to spend money to make money. In country terms, you need to invest in projects to stir the economy, to get the financial juice flowing, to stimulate liquidity, to create jobs, to encourage further spending. A Government that doesn't spend is as fail as a Government that spends too much.

Having said that, it doesn't mean that the bulk of your budget should be used for this purpose, and certainly not in projects that will tend to favour the few rather than the many. An MRT in KL does nothing to stir the economies of Terengganu, Sarawak and Sabah. Neither does a tower that nobody wants, nor a financial district that will surely fail unless it's backed up by a reform of financial policies and a steady inflow of foreign capital (FDI). 

It would have been so easy to get things right, Mr Najib. I'm just a common man, and even i can see what this country needs. You, with your army of analysts and advisors, could not?

Another ones gets away

The top graduate from Cambridge Law is a Malaysian Chinese, yet he is sitting for the Bar in Singapore after receiving a ASEAN Scholarship from the Singaporean Ministry of Education after completing his pre-university studies at Temasek Junior College.

PETALING JAYA: A 23-year-old Malaysian has emerged as the top student in his final-year law examinations at Cambridge University.

Tan Zhongshan obtained a first-class honours in the Bachelor of Arts (Law) in June this year at Queens' College, which is part of the university, one of England's oldest and most prestigious.

He even scored the "Slaughter and May" prize given by the university's Law Faculty - an award given to those who achieve the best overall performance in the final-year law examinations.

Our Talent Corporation announced in Budget 2011 should not only be looking to repatriate good talent from overseas, it should also be identifying rising stars who have completed their "O" or "A" levels overseas and offer them the earth and the moon for the right to sponsor their tertiary education on condition of their return to serve the nation (and guarantee them world-class remuneration as an appreciation of their talent). 

Malaysia has no problems producing top-class minds and talent. Our problem is hanging on to them -- perhaps if we showed them more compassion and appreciation (through scholarships and grants) during their early formative years, they are more likely to reciprocate with loyalty and service as they mature.

Politically incorrect... and lovin' it.

Sometimes, i think we're all just too uptight about "sensitive" issues. We can't talk about race nowadays without being labelled racist. We can't talk about religion without accused of religionism, we can't breathe a word about women and not be guilty of chauvinism.

Just way too many -isms in the world today, too many things that we need to tiptoe around and be careful about. 

We all just need to chill out sometimes, and don't take ourselves so fucking seriously.

Seriously.

Watch this, and thank me later. 


You're welcome.

Wherefore art thou, Shadow Budget?

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I think perhaps my biggest, most severe criticism of PR is that they've played a largely deconstructionist role in federal affairs and done very little of the opposite. While it's fine and good to tell us how the Government is getting things wrong, it can get pretty hollow after a while without telling us how PR would do things differently as the Government.

Demolishing a house is just a matter of swinging a wrecking ball hard and fast enough. Building a house is a whole different ball-game altogether. 

Well, today would be a perfect day to prove me wrong. PM Najib is set to release the budget for next year at 4pm today. Widely billed as the "election budget" it's certainly going to contain some goodies for the people, and also elaborate on what the Government will be doing in order to tackle critical issues such as the budget deficit and policies to bring in more foreign direct investment (FDI). The hardest thing i think think the budget will have to deal with is how the Government's coffers are at the thinnest levels we've seen in years, and still dig up enough money to ensure that we can push through the (expensive) reforms and ideas for the next few years.

Regardless of whom is in power, this is going to be the question that will need an answer. 

PR hawks will argue that if PR was in power, this would never have happened in the first place. That's a false argument; that's like saying, if the gun was never invented, Aminulrasyid would never have been shot. The fact of the matter is that the nation's finances are in the state that they are -- what are you going to do, in exact details, about it?

Motherhood statements that we find in PR's Common Policy Framework will not cut the mustard in something as important as a national budget. Let's "remove corruption", or "eradicate cronyism" or "open tender" are just buzzwords that mean nothing when you're dealing with actual accounts with actual ringgit in them. They are fine as principals guiding policies, but they aren't policies in and of themselves. That's the problem.

PR fanboys will say, "BN has had 50 years in power", it's time to kick them out and give someone else a chance. Or, as bad as PR might be, they can't be as bad as BN has been. Whatever the fanboys will say, it doesn't remove the fact that unless PR tells us exactly what they would do when we give them power, we will have to logically deduce that they just don't know any better. To a discerning voter with a critical and rational mind (i know, we might be the minority but our vote counts just as much as the next guy), i can promise you that this is just not good enough. 

And the blows keep on coming... poor PKR

It seems that the negative press for PKR doesn't stop coming. Something bad is written about them nearly everyday now, and not just in the BN-controlled mainstream media.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 -- PKR supreme council member N. Gobalakrishnan threatened to quit the party today, alleging that party vice-president Azmin Ali and several top leaders had formed a "cartel" to tamper with the party elections.

The PKR fanboys will undoubted say that this is normal in a democracy, or even launch personal attacks on Gobalakrishnan claiming that he is a mole or "Trojan Horse" or traitor.

But my father used to say, "There won't be smoke if they isn't a fire somewhere". 

Somewhere, something in PKR is burning. Could it be democracy?

The Sultan of Kelantan has more balls than the PM of Malaysia

About time someone stood up to the jerk that is Ibrahim Ali with action and not just words.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 -- The Sultan of Kelantan today stripped Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali of his datukship with immediate effect.

Palace comptroller Datuk Abdul Halim Hamad told The Malaysian Insider that Sultan Muhammad V also revoked the former state secretary Datuk Wan Hashim Wan Daud's title.

I can't wait to hear Ibrahim Ali's next speech where he tells us that "titles don't mean anything in the fight for ketuanan Melayu".

Bravo, Your Majesty, bravo.

Edit: Its open to debate why the Sultan did what he did. It could be because Ibrahim Ali was good friends with the previous Sultan, rather than because of his controversial position on Malay rights.

Aiyo, how far the Malaysian has fallen

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Can i blame this on the failure of our education system? When a young Malaysian was quizzed on the new laws that will make it a crime to buy pirated DVDs, his response was that it was because the original DVDs are too expensive, and that it was the fault of the Government that this was so.

Accountant Ahmad Huzaimi Ghazi, 27, said it was unfair to take legal action on people who buy such DVDs, when original DVDs were too expensive.

"Those who earn a meagre income cannot afford it.

"Pirated DVDs are easy to come by, and if the ministry is serious in stopping the sale of such DVDs, then they must make the original ones more affordable," he said.

This is so FAIL on so many different levels. It's an embarrassment.

  1. Piracy is stealing. Contributing to piracy by buying stolen goods is just as bad as the original theft itself. It's made worse by the fact that the buyers know the goods are stolen to begin with.
  2. DVDs are entertainment. Entertainment is a privilege, not a right, nor even a necessity. If you can't afford that type of entertainment, you will have to settle for something less or make more money (i.e. work harder) so that you can afford it.
  3. The Government is not responsible for your entertainment, therefore you cannot ask them to subsidize it (i.e. make it cheaper). 

What a /facepalm moment. 

Nurul Izzah is the victim of dubious play

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Nigel de Jong did something terrible during Man City's last game against Newcastle: within the first 3 minutes of the game, he scythed down Hatem Ben Arfa, breaking his leg in two places. In sport, that's what dirty players do -- they disable their opponent's best player with whatever means necessary early on in the game.

Seems that this principle holds true in politics as well, in a place where we least expect it.

PKR is all about transparency, accountability and the rule of law. Chest thumping believers of the democratic process. See? We changed our constitution to allow for direct elections in our party! We are walking the talk.

What a farce it has all become. The protracted character assassination of Zaid Ibrahim; well, he isn't a tooth fairy but it did seem to me that the greater the threat he presented, the harder the PKR-influenced machinima came down on him. The mess that was the division elections at certain strategic locations; allegations of electoral impropriety, phantom votes, tampered ballot boxes. And now, if RPK is to be believed, the dismissal of Nurul Izzah from the race just as we were about to start in earnest.

Mungkin -- Anuar Zain


A beautiful song, really nice music video.

Mungkinkan bersama
Dua jiwa ini
Dalam mencari cinta sejati
Mungkinkah segala derita di jiwa
Akan terubat kini

To have a wonderful vagina or an equal paycheck

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When i was younger, in university, i spoke frequently and passionately for the rights of women. I believed strongly (and still do) that women should have full control of their bodies including rights to abortion and rights to equal pay for equal work. Most importantly, i believe in a woman's right to access. Whatever the society offers it's men, a woman should also be able to pursue the same.

Having said that, i think that equality needs to go both ways. If a woman has access to everything that a man does, she needs to also be limited in benefits the same way a man is limited by being a man. As a woman, you can't expect to have your cake and eat it too.

Consider what the French woman receives in benefits from the Government:

The French state offers mothers 10 one-on-one, half-hour sessions of perineal therapy to prevent post-pregnancy incontinence and organ descent -- and to improve sex. Ten sessions of free abdominal exercises follow; Ms. de Marsac promises Ms. Pflug a "washboard tummy."

Basically, the French government gives mothers free vagina massages and tummy trimming sessions after childbirth. In addition, a host of other benefits such as 4 month maternity leave, subsidized child care and tax breaks. In return, the French woman gives up a lot:

France ranks 46th in the World Economic Forum's 2010 gender equality report, trailing the United States, most of Europe, but also Kazakhstan and Jamaica. Eighty-two percent of French women aged 25-49 work, many of them full-time, but 82 percent of parliamentary seats are occupied by men. French women earn 26 percent less than men but spend twice as much time on domestic tasks.

Can a woman expect to have both? Great benefits AND an equal paycheck? Surely, something, somewhere needs to give.

Democracy died a little bit today

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When the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, Tan Sri Pandikar, turned down Lim Kit Siang's motion to debate the issue surrounding the racist comments allegedly made by the principals of schools in Johor and Kedah, democracy died a little. 

The issue is a pressing matter, and of significant concern to the people. The Tan Sri Pandikar claims that the issue is closed because action has been taken by the PSD. First of all, what is this action that has been taken by the PSD towards these principals? While it's not the Speaker's place to tell us, due to the nature of the incident and also the nature of the emergency request made for this debate, an exception should be made and the Speaker should give us an idea of what action was taken.

Secondly, even if appropriate action has been taken, why shouldn't the issue be debated in the Dewan Rakyat? The issue of race, racism and how it's infected our public services (including the waste of public funds otherwise known as BTN), and how it's affecting our society is THE current topic of the land. Instead of dodging the motion, you would have thought that all attempts to speak about it openly would be encouraged! At least that's what you would expect in a proper democracy. Refusing to allow debate on the issue will not make it go away, Tan Sri Pandikar. I presume that you understand this fact.

In the end, democracy suffered. I for one, just like many other concerned voters, would have liked to know what the views are of our MPs on this issue. Perhaps, during the course of the debate, some of them will reveal themselves as closet bigots. On a positive side, perhaps, Malay leaders in BN will stand up and echo Nazri's strong anti-racism position. Either way, or maybe even both could happen -- its important for the electorate to know where their leaders stand on the issue because it might just help them make their decision the next time a vote is going to be cast.

I'm disappointed in Tan Sri Pandikar. When he came to the seat of the Speaker, many wondered what type of speaker he would be. I'm sorry to say he's gone a long way towards providing the answers to that question with his decision today.

Edit: Tan Sri Pandikar also rejected a host of other questions that the people want answers to, on the basis of triviality. Isn't this supposed to be our Parliament?

Lankayan Island

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Off the Sabah coast, Lankayan Island is a very small tropical coral resort island in the Sulu Sea, 15 km from Sandakan. I have to dive here one day.

Malaysia's Killer Roads

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Some of the photos from the crash scene of the Simpang Ampat accident are making the rounds through email. It was a horrible accident by the looks of it, with vehicles piled on top of each other; images of the dead, one without his head attached, is a poignant reminder that death can come suddenly and swiftly.

Al-fatihah.

The death toll on Malaysian roads is very high. About 6,300 fatalities on the road each year, or a fatality rate of about 26 for every 100,000 people. In comparison, the fatality rate in the US is around 12 per 100,000.

Why are people dying on our roads? I mean, there will always be accidents, there will always be death on the roads. A car travelling even at 50 kmph is moving fast enough to kill someone just as surely as a bullet travelling at 1000 kmph will. The question is why does Malaysia have a higher death rate than other countries.

People driving recklessly? Speeding, or under the influence of alcohol and drugs? Vehicles are unsafe? Overworked bus drivers who fall asleep at the wheel?

I've traveled all over the world, and i can say that we have very good highways. Well designed, no sharp corners, and generally free from potholes and other obstructions. So it can't be the roads that are killing us.

A problem of enforcement? Buses that do not conform to all the necessary safety standards such as worn out wheels, or faulty breaks. Or large vehicles that should be travelling no faster than 80 kmph but are zooming around the highways at 130 kmph? How many of these racing monsters are pulled over by the police? I certainly have never seen one stopped by the police for speeding.

What will it take for better safety standards and guidelines to be formulated and enforced? Speed limiters on large vehicles. GPS tracking to ensure that any speeding vehicle will be flagged. What needs to be done is to make companies (and their directors/owners) personally responsible and liable for road deaths attributed to their vehicles. This will make them careful in the selection of drivers, and to ensure that their vehicles are always well serviced. 

Killer roads. Killer bus and lorry drivers. 5 ton bullets barreling into my car, crushing me and my family into a pulp. No thanks. Give me AirAsia or MAS any day.

Nepotism -- not in a democracy

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Its interesting how easily people are fooled into the "buzzword trap" -- give something that makes you feel uncomfortable a name, and voila suddenly that's exactly what it is. This is false logic. FALSE FALSE FALSE.

If i needed to emphasize it any more, FALSE.

All around me i've began hearing the grumblings of a "dynasty" forming within PKR several weeks ago when Nurul Izzah threw her hat into the ring for a vice presidency position in the party's direct elections. Her father is the de facto leader. Her mother is the party president. How convenient it would be for the family to control the party if she staked her pole in the mud as a VP. 

The one word that started appearing around the blogs and forums was "nepotism".

Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives or friends, with no regard to merit. The word nepotism is from the Latin word nepos (meaning "nephew" or "grandchild").

I've written about democracy often enough, and i think the clearest message i was trying to push out there was that democracy doesn't necessarily give us the government/results we want or need, but it always, ALWAYS gives us the government that we deserve.

Unifi: the Great Multiplier?

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Broadband is broadband, but high speed broadband (HSBB) is a completely different animal. Perhaps its because i've recently installed TM's Unifi in my home that spurred me to start thinking about how critical HSBB is to Malaysia. 

They say, to love you must first know. And before you know, you must first experience. That's exactly what happened with me. We never know what we're missing until we've actually had a taste of the good stuff.

The definition of a "good" internet connection varies from person to person. For some, as long as the bandwidth is sufficient to access their email and visit a few choice website, this makes them happy. Short periods of downtime or slowness is usually not a problem; email sits there until you read it, and speed is not as important as accessibility. Malaysia started at this point, and many users still refer to this as their locus of use for their internet locations. That's fine.

But saying that this is all we want is different from what we need, and certainly a far cry from what we should have as a nation. The role of the Government is not only to provide what the people want and need but also to tell the people what they should have. Malaysia has taken the right path with this with our plans for 50% internet penetration by 2010.

On its own, access to the internet certainly has a multiplier effect on its users. "Multiplier" means, whatever could have been done before, is done faster, better, more efficiently now -- therefore, it multiplies the impact of the effects of what we do. Example, if before, you could send 1 letter a day by using your typewriter to type it out and sending it to the post office, you can now send 20 letters a day using your computer and an email account. Your ability to produce has just been "multiplied" 20 times.

A last farewell

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On Oct 2, 2010, Kwa Geok Choo, Lee Kuan Yew's wife of 63 years, passed away.

They say that when a person passes, you should do your best to remember the best of them, and rejoice in the good that was their life rather than wallow in sadness and pity.

It takes a truly strong husband to do that when a loved wife leaves this world. But that's exactly what Lee Kuan Yew did in a moving and heartfelt trip down his wife's memory lane.

May she rest in peace.

Cover of the Year? Scala & Kolacny's, "Creep"

I blame the Government for King Kong

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Seeing what a Muslim missionary did on YouTube prompted me to think about my religion in a critical way. This, in part, led to me writing "The Exclusiveness of Islam and Heaven"; it's something i've considered ever since the first posting on the Volume of Interactions nearly 10 years ago, but i rarely put these type of thoughts down for obvious reasons. 

Its been a while since something i've written has generated so many email responses, some in praise, most in condemnation.

I think the thing that we need to understand as Muslims is that the Quran, the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad and the various fatwas and sermons from our clerics can be interpreted in so many ways. 

The Quran has 109 verses dealing with war and punishment, specifically against non-Muslims. Some of it is incredibly graphic including the often abused (Quran, 2:191-193) which seems to encourage the "slaying" of non-Muslims. However, i believe that there is a context for everything in the Quran, and if we strip the verse of the context, than we are doing nothing less than the gravest of injustices to our faith.

Yes, you heard that correctly. I said "our" faith -- the saddest reality of all is that Muslims are doing this to ourselves. It's not some global conspiracy by the much-maligned Jews or the scheming American Devil that is messing around with the Quran. It is us. You, me, my brother, your sister, our parents, the neighbours next door and the imam on the pulpit. Collectively, we are responsible, collectively, we are Muslims.

When an American fighter bomber accidentally bombs an Afghan village, killing women and children, do we blame the pilot, or do we blame the American people for allowing such an act to happen. After all, its their tax dollars, its their President and its their will that allowed for it. Yes, we blame America. 

Similarly, when a cleric, a respected member of PERKIM stands up and makes fun and jokes about Buddhists non-Muslims and their way of life, we as Muslims have to take the blame. In the presentation of ideas and principals, unfortunately, the collective is always responsible for the individual.

Farish Noor strikes again

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Quite an outstanding piece of analysis and verbiage. Not to be missed.

However, let us remind ourselves that we need to talk about politics here - and this means talking about institutions, power-relations and power-differentials. In a free, just and equitable society there might be some semblance of a free and independent media. And perhaps in such a Utopian society any politician can go to any newspaper and complain "Mami dat fellow in de committee say he dont want to fren me anymore so I also dont want to fren him and den I wan to sabotage his kempen because he say he dont like my face wan." (Mommy then pats politician on the head and says "there, there, Dato, here is a lollipop and you can go and create your own splinter party now with some foreign funding from abroad.")

And that's all there is, folks. 

The exclusiveness of Islam and Heaven

| 2 Comments
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Conservations between a Christian and a Muslim.

Christian: What happens to me when i die?
Muslim: Everyone dies, eventually. The Holy Quran states that once we die, God will tally our deeds, and on the Day of Judgement, He will reward those of us who believe in Him and do good deeds, and punish those who do not and do bad deeds.

But those who disbelieve say, "The Hour (i.e. the Day of Judgment) will not come to us." Say, "Yes, by my Lord, it will surely come to you. [God is] the Knower of the unseen." Not absent from Him is an atom's weight within the heavens or within the earth or [what is] smaller than that or greater, except that it is in a clear register - That He may reward those who believe and do righteous deeds. Those will have forgiveness and noble provision. But those who strive against Our verses [seeking] to cause failure (i.e. to undermine their credibility) - for them will be a painful punishment of foul nature.  (Quran, 34:3-5)

Christian: I believe in God. Do i qualify for reward?
Muslim: The Holy Trinity is not God as described in the Quran. You do not qualify for reward.

Christian: So, what will happen to me?
Muslim: The Quran says that you will receive punishment for not believing in Him.

(It will be said to them), `Is it not true that My Messages were recited to you but you went on crying them lies?' (105) They will say, `Our Lord! our misfortune got the better of us (when we gave ourselves up to evil doings) and we were actually an erring people; (106) `Our Lord! deliver us from this (Hell), we shall indeed be unjust if we return (to our evil ways of disobedience).' (107) (God) will say, `Begone with you, despised therein (the Hell), and do not speak to Me. (108) (Quran, 23:105-108)

Christian: Even if i do good things in this life like help the weak, defend the poor and respect my parents?
Muslim: Yes, the Quran is quite clear -- believing in Him is the primary distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim.

There are some of the Jews who say, `Ezra is the son of Allâh,' while the Christians say, `The Messiah is the son of Allâh.' These are mere words that they speak. They only imitate the words of the infidels of old. Allâh assail them! Whither they are deluded away! (Quran, 9:30) 

Christian: Isn't that spiritual blackmail? What your Quran is saying is that only Muslims will be rewarded in the afterlife, and everyone else will receive punishment for not believing in Him. Therefore, it means that you must choose to be a Muslim, or you choose to be punished on the Day of Judgement.
Muslim: You may call it what you want. That's just what it says in the Quran.

Christian: What about people who have never known Islam? Some people, isolated from the rest of the world, may never have heard about Islam, or may never have been exposed to Islamic teaching, or may have never even met a Muslim. It's possible to go through your whole life not knowing a thing about Islam. Will these non-Muslims receive punishment too?
Muslim: The Quran does not mention such cases. Allah knows best, and will handle such cases as He sees fit.

Christian: Isn't there a verse in the Quran that says there is to be no compulsion in religion?
Muslim: Yes, you are referring to (Quran, 2:256). While the Quran tells us that we cannot force a non-Muslim to become a Muslim, it also tells us what will happen to those who choose not to believe.

There is no compulsion of any sort in religion (as) the right way does stand obviously distinguished from the way of error. Now he that shall reject the transgressor and accepts Allâh (let such know that he) has laid hold of a support firm and strong which knows no breaking. Allâh is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Allâh is the Patron of those who believe, He brings them out of different kinds of darkness (leading them) into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are the transgressors, they bring them out of light (and lead them) into every kind of darkness. It is these who are the fellows of the Fire, therein shall they live for long. (Quran, 2:256-257)

Christian: Isn't that duress? 
Muslim: No one is forcing you to believe in Islam. Muslims believe that Heaven is reserved for those who Believe in Allah and the Prophet Muhammad as His messenger.

Christian: So Heaven is the exclusive club of Muslims?
Muslim: Yes, that is what we are taught to believe.

Even in America, the politicians are bought and paid for

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What hope do we have here in Malaysia.

You see, the thing about what i would like to call "smartly corrupt" is that you can be corrupt without anyone being able to call you corrupt. Forget those petty politicians who hire a bunch of fancy lawyers or PR apple polishers to protect them against corruption charges, the REALLY smart fellas are the ones who never get charged in the first place. The truly genius amongst this elite bunch are those who people not only see as not corrupt, but even admirable!

There are many ways to hide your "badness". Want to chop down a forest ala Taib Mahmud? Fund a bunch of environmental scientists (through various proxy-owned NGOs of course) to say that global warming has nothing to do with deforestation. For a little bit extra, you might even get those same scientists to tell the world that global warming is a fairytale!

Want to avoid paying taxes? Here's a nifty little trick for tax evasion: hire a bunch of economists to write papers about how tax cuts for the rich will actually boost the economy. It can't be that hard. The Republicans in America were doing exactly that for years!

Or even want to get rich by selling more guns and bullets. Or perhaps want to make a power grab for oil rich fields. No problem. Get the President of the United States to start a war. Presto. Instant billionaire.


Arguably, this shouldn't be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families.

By eliminating the stupidly corrupt in our own country, are we just cleaning up the landscape for the brilliantly corrupt to come in and make a killing? Less competition, more spoils.

A nugget of thought for you and you and you this bright Tuesday morning.

We live in the Turd World

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No, i didn't spell that wrong. Sometimes, things happen that make us realize that we're still wallowing in the feces of a regressed mentality, though we have First World aspirations.

You can try this at home, the next time an opportunity arises. I strongly recommend it if you're looking for a dose of stark reality. Good for the liver, i've been told.

Call the Customer Service number of a local company that you know doesn't outsource their call center to somewhere like the Philippines or India. Tell them your problem and demand, as kindly and politely as you can, an investigation into the matter, and a call back once they have found something about your case.

Expect to wait at least 2 days in vain for the full gastronomical impact.

Of course, they don't call back, so you should try calling them again. This time start taking names, and recording exactly what is said, when it's said, and how it's being said. You'll find that the person on the other side will give you a ton of information with which you can hang them with. Be polite, you'll get much more out of them that way. 

With the ammunition you now have, roll it all up into a large bazooka and get ready to unleash it on the company's senior management. For obvious reasons, you can't find their email addresses anywhere, so what you need to do is call the HQ, and politely ask for their email addresses. With some luck, they'll think that you're trying to contact their bosses for some sort of business matter and will be happy to give up all the information you need.


Once you get all your ducks lined up, let loose with the bazooka you've compiled. Guaranteed a big explosion where cerebral grey matter is splattered all over the place. Very gruesome.

Then wait for the inevitable surrender, as they finally start listening to what you're saying and do their best to help you solve your problem.

It really shouldn't have taken all of this to get the response you deserve, as a paying customer. But what can we do. We, after all, live in the Turd World.

A Third Force in Malaysian Politics

| 2 Comments
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I've had, for many years now, supported a BN candidate, if for no other reason than because, while he could have done a much better job, i did honestly feel that he has done a good enough job for me. 

When my constituency had an UMNO MP, it was well looked after -- roads were always kept clear of potholes, the MP fought against the development of a hypermarket in an inappropriate location, the MP attended weekly PTA meetings to share his support and opinions, and community grievances were generally responded to promptly. 

I've always said a good man is a good man, regardless of his political affiliation. Unlike many others i've met, i don't think we should sack a good employee from his job just because we don't like his boss. That's just me i guess, and everyone is welcome to their own views on the matter.

In recent times, i've since moved to a new area, and the MP is a man from PKR. He is also a good man, doing a lot for the community and doing what he can to ensure the people under his care are well taken care of. I'll have no doubts giving him my vote when the time comes, either.

Should i ever decide to change my position and cast my vote based on how i receive the candidate's political party, then the choices are very thin for someone like me. Everyone who reads this blog knows where i'm coming from -- i have a dislike for the race politics and corruption in Barisan Nasional, and i've also yet to develop a taste for what i see in the Opposition. PKR is a pot calling the kettle black, PAS will never abandon it's call for an Islamic state, and DAP seems very thin on good leaders beyond the charismatic and powerful personalities of Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh.

Given this landscape, i'm glad i've always taken the position of voting the candidate, rather than voting the party.

So when Raja Petra speaks of a "Third Force" it piqued by interest. The problem with a 2-way contest in an election is that its always possible for you to dislike both parties and be stuck without an alternative. Often, you then end up voting for the party you feel is less bad than the other and pray for the best.

"Lets give them one chance"

I've encountered this argument very, very regularly in comments left by readers on various blogs and news portals. This is the latest re-iteration:

Yes...! We would vote wisely but its always worth trying a new ones. Lets give Pakatan a one term chance. After all we had already given BN more than 50 years chance. Its time for change now!

When i hear this, it reminds me of my days as a young boy, when i was watching the older boys play football in the field near my house. I was too old to play with the younger kids, but just at that age when i was too young to be automatically picked to play with the older kids.

I would plead my case, "Just give me a chance (to play)", and the older boys would always say, "We don't have an opening now," or "You're too small, no one wants you."

For many years, the Opposition has had to hear the same things said to them. I wonder if now is the time the Opposition will finally get its chance to play.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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