Getting Corruption Right


December 31, 2010

Friends and Fellow Malaysians, I wish to end this year (2010) with Jagdish Bhagwati’s article on “Getting Corruption Right”. It is my New Year fervent hope that our Government deals firmly with the corrupt in our country. In 2011, we will see two senior politicians, Tun Ling Leong Sik, and Khir Toyo in our courts. More can be expected given  the fact that the new year is likely to be an Election Year  (both National and Sarawak state elections).

2011 will be a challenging year for MACC's Chief. Good Luck, Abu Kassim

Political temperatures will rise, but I am confident that as a nation of mature and intelligent Malaysians, we will be able to stay sensible, rational, and responsible as we debate issues and discuss the future of our wonderful country, warts and all. –Din Merican

Getting Corruption Right

by Jagdish Bhagwati (December 29, 2010)

NEW YORK – I just returned from India, where I was lecturing to the Indian Parliament in the same hall where US President Barack Obama had recently spoken. The country was racked by scandal. A gigantic, ministerial-level scam in the mobile-telephone sector had siphoned off many billions of dollars to a corrupt politician.

But several of the MPs had also been taken aback on discovering that when Obama spoke to them, he read from an “invisible” teleprompter. This had misled his audience into thinking that he was speaking extemporaneously, a skill that is highly regarded in India.

Both episodes were seen as a form of corruption: one involved money, the other deception. The two transgressions are obviously not equal in moral turpitude. But the Obama episode illustrates an important cross-cultural difference in assessing how corrupt a society is.

Transparency International and occasionally the World Bank like to rank countries by their degree of corruption, with the media then ceaselessly citing where each country stands. But cultural differences between countries undermine the legitimacy of such rankings – which are, after all, based on surveys of the public. What Obama was doing was a common enough practice in the United States (though one might expect better from an orator of his ability); it was not so in India, where such a technique is, indeed, regarded as reprehensible.

India certainly has corruption, like almost every other country. But India also has a culture in which people commonly assume that everyone in public life is corrupt unless they prove otherwise. Even a blind man will tell Transparency International: “I saw him take a bribe with my own eyes.” Indeed, a distinguished Indian bureaucrat, a man of unimpeachable character, once told me that his mother had told him: “I believe you are not corrupt only because you are my son!”

So, if you ask Indians whether their governance is marked by widespread corruption, they will answer with gusto: yes! But their exuberance biases India’s global ranking relative to more empirically minded countries.

A similar bias arises from the occasional tendency to view political patronage elsewhere as being more corrupt than the same practices at home. For example, when the East Asian financial crisis broke out, there followed a systematic attempt to pin the blame on the affected countries: “crony capitalism” allegedly had somehow crippled their economies! In other words, the acquaintances and benefactors of the East Asian leaders were “cronies,” whereas those of US leaders were “friends”?

In fact, it was clear that the culprits were the International Monetary Fund and the US Treasury, which had encouraged a shift to capital-account convertibility without understanding that the case for free capital flows was not symmetrical with the case for free trade.

But where substantial corruption can unambiguously be found, as it often can, one must recognize that it is not a cultural given. On the contrary, often it is the result of policies that have fed it.

India in the 1950’s had a civil service, and a political class, that were the envy of the world. If that seems shocking today, the loss of virtue must be traced to the all-pervasive “permit raj,” with its licensing requirements to import, produce, and invest, which grew to gargantuan proportions. High-level bureaucrats quickly discovered that licenses could be bartered for favors, while politicians saw in the system the means to help important financial backers.

Once the system had taken root, corruption percolated downward, from senior bureaucrats and politicians, who could be bribed do what they were not supposed to do, to lower-level bureaucrats, who would not do what there were supposed to do unless bribed. Clerks would not bring out files, or get you your birth certificate or land title, unless you greased their palms.

But if policies can create corruption, it is equally true that the cost of corruption will vary with the specific policies. The cost of corruption has been particularly high in India and Indonesia, where policies created monopolies that earned scarcity rents, which were then allocated to officials’ family members.

Such “rent-creating” corruption is quite expensive and corrosive of growth. By contrast, in China, the corruption has largely been of the “profit-sharing” variety, whereby family members are given a stake in the enterprise so that their earnings increase as profits increase – a type of corruption that promotes growth.

In the long run, of course, both types of corruption are corrosive of the respect and trust that good governance requires, which can undermine economic performance in its own right. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility to define corruption properly – and to acknowledge obvious and important cultural differences in how it is understood.

Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University and Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of Termites in the Trading System: How Preferential Trade Agreements Undermine Free Trade.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.
http://www.project-syndicate.org

Selangor’s 1-Despair Scenario


December 31, 2010

1-Despair Scenario

by Tunku Abdul Aziz @ Sin Chew Daily

The banning of the 1Malaysia logo is an act of mindlessness. It is an exercise in absurdity of the kind becoming all too common in Malaysian politics.

The real Idiot is in the Red

The decision to proscribe the display of the 1Malaysia logo within the jurisdiction of the state of Selangor is childish to say the least, and that is putting it as charitably as I can. It reflects particularly badly on the maturity of the Pakatan Rakyat state government of Selangor.

It was clearly a decision made without reference to the top Pakatan Rakyat national leadership whom I know would not have countenanced such action.

This one rash, potentially suicidal, political decision is bound to reinforce, and lend credence to, the growing conviction among many Malaysians that some Pakatan Rakyat politicians are totally incapable of shaking off their doctrinaire attitudes, including that of opposing anything and everything for its own sake. Even as they now don the mantle of the ruling elite in the Pakatan Rakyat governed states, they continue to behave in much the same way as they used to under less favourable circumstances.

The logical question to ask is whether the Pakatan Rakyat, with its politically imbecilic camp followers in tow, could really be trusted to do a proper job of taking on a bigger and more demanding show – that of administering the Government of Malaysia.

On current showing, I should be less than honest if I did not say that they would have to be more savvy and sensible before they would get my vote of confidence. I should be careless in the extreme if I did not consider hedging my bets. The Pakatan Rakyat leaders have their job cut out for them – like knocking a modicum of common sense into some of their colleagues in the Selangor state executive council.

There is, to me, nothing fundamentally wrong with the express aim of 1Malaysia. Surely it is not a bad thing to want to unite all Malaysians. My quarrel with 1Malaysia, as articulated by Najib, with or without APCO’s hidden hand, is in its shallow, barely scratching the surface superficiality. It lacks focus, with the result that its true potential for serving the public good has been severely crimped, making 1Malaysia sound like one gigantic con job.

Najib would do well to remember, before throwing more good millions after bad, that the first syllable of the word “consultant” including APCO, is CON. But I digress. I am on record as being a fierce critic of 1Malaysia but I have not allowed my personal distaste for Najib’s cheap, hollow slogan to turn me into a foaming at the mouth, saliva dripping, bulging eyed, raving demagogue.

There are surely more important issues that the Pakatan Rakyat politicians can think of doing for the benefit of the people of Selangor. Instead they chose to fall over themselves to indulge in petty, immature grandstanding. The timing could not have been worse.

Their supporters and sympathisers, who had hoped for more sober and responsible behaviour after the very ugly public exhibition of unremitting internal squabbles in the recent PKR leadership elections, were, in the event, enormously disappointed.

While the crusade against the display of the 1Malaysia logo in Selangor is being justified on the ground that it is all part of the BN political propaganda, a message has arrived, via my mobile, as if on cue, as follows: “DAP cannot have double standards. The bylaws should apply to ALL.”

The sender alludes to the fact that DAP has used its party logo to publicise its Rocket Cafe in Petaling Jaya. Why, asks the gentleman, was no action taken by the local council? A fair point that requires an official response in the interest of transparency and accountability.

Pakatan Rakyat politicians have no business to claim the moral high ground and portray themselves as ethically and morally superior if they do not renounce hypocrisy and act strictly in accordance with the high ethical standards of behaviour expected of them by their supporters.

Putrajaya is many things to many people, but it is more than a shiny political trophy to be won by hook or by crook.

On balance, I daresay BN has made a reasonable go of it given the internal weaknesses inherent in a system of patronage with its infernal attendant preoccupation with rent seeking and cronyism. That system is set in a solid bed of unbridled corruption.

I understand the Pakatan Rakyat has its demolition team in the wings ready to smash the very foundation of corruption in our society. The Pakatan Rakyat has every right to set its sights on that glittering prize, but it first has to review and change, as appropriate, its whole range of attitudes before it can change Malaysia for the better. Otherwise Putrajaya will be a destination too far. It will merely be aspirational, a gleam in the eye, and a forlorn dream.

Lim Kit Siang’s “one-term wonder” should be taken to heart and reflected upon. It is a sobering thought and the best advice there is for the Pakatan Rakyat to act on.

Concerns over Growing Debt Load of the Al-Bukhary Group


December 30, 2010

Concerns over Growing Debt Load of the Al-Bukhary Group

Concerns are rising over the growing debt load in Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s companies now that the tycoon is expected to snap up the multi-billion ringgit tunnelling contract for the city’s RM36 billion train service and the Penang Port.

Former rice trader gets bulk of fortune from Malaysia Mining Corp. (MMC), through which he holds concessions to operate a port and an airport in Johor; owns stake in power producer Malakoff. Through listed Tradewinds, recently took over national rice supplier Padiberas Nasional. Owns Harrods in Malaysia.

Singapore’s Straits Times reported today that the Kedah-born businessman’s debts could be as high as RM25 billion, with RM21 billion itself incurred by his flagship MMC Corp although his officials claimed most of it is due to project financing.

“There are a host of corporate governance issues that plague his group and the chief among them is the rising debt load,” said one chief executive of a boutique financial consultancy.

“The fear is that his group could be the Renong of this decade,” said a senior politician from UMNO, referring to the politically well-connected conglomerate headed by businessman Tan Sri Halim Saad.

Renong feasted on infrastructure projects dished out by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government. But when the regional crisis hit in mid-1997, it was crippled by huge debts and was eventually bailed out with public funds.

The Singapore daily reported that in the past year Syed Mokhtar had emerged as “the single biggest beneficiary of state contracts and concessions worth billions of ringgit, making him Malaysia’s most favoured corporate son and the government’s partner of choice.”

But close associates of the lanky and reserved tycoon insist the debt concerns are misplaced and he is not biting off more than he can chew. The newspaper said they acknowledged that the debt load of Syed Mokhtar’s corporate flagship, publicly-listed MMC Corp, which stands at just over RM21 billion, may appear high. But the lion’s share of the debt is project finance, a complex form of financing reserved for large-scale infrastructure projects where the debt is typically repaid from funds generated from the businesses.

“The debt load is manageable and is high because of the nature of the businesses the group is involved in,” said a senior corporate lieutenant of Syed Mokhtar, who insisted it can easily raise funds to finance future projects.

But some Kuala Lumpur-based bankers are not so sanguine, noting that the financial returns from many of the group’s assets — such as its power plants — are poor yielding, and that its ports, which are not performing well, could suffer should the global economy enter a slump.

The newspaper also said the shares of the listed companies in Syed Mokhtar’s corporate empire “do not seem to appeal to conservative foreign and domestic fund managers”.

Born to a family of traders with roots in Bokhara, in present-day Uzbekistan, Syed Mokhtar began his business career peddling Thai rice to the state governments in northern Malaysia before riding the boom on the stock market in the 1990s.

The capital from trading in stocks provided him with financial heft for his first major venture: the purchase of a port in Johor which today is the Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

The Straits Times said by leveraging on his strong ties with politicians such as Dr Mahathir and current Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who at the time was the mentri besar of Johor, Syed Mokhtar moved into other areas.

Admirers and close associates told Straits Times that Syed Mokhtar is often favoured because of his lavish donations to Islamic causes and political contributions. His companies contributed around RM350 million last year to his own foundation, which focuses on education and religious causes, the newspaper reported.

However, it said critics argue that the businessman’s clout illustrates how the old patronage system where business and politics intertwine in Malaysia remains in force. “He is a master at the political game first and only then a businessman,” said a financial consultant who has done work for Syed Mokhtar’s group.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

On Recovering Sime’s RM2.1 billion Loss


December 30, 2010

SakmongkolAK47 on Sime Darby’s RM2.1 billion Loss: Recovering only RM430 million

For a brief moment, most of us were probably reassured at the solemnness by which Sime Darby attempted to seek retribution. They lost RM 2.1 billion; they seek to recover a total of RM 430 million.

This amount must be what the forensic auditors recommended. RM 430 is a pure loss through breach of duty and management negligence.

The balance of the loss is operational loss and can happen through the ordinary course of business operations. The balance of the loss is therefore justifiable and not subject to recovery.

I don’t know what to say — you lose this amount of money, all you can come up with, is a civil suit? How dumb can that be? Why no criminal charges proffered? Sime doesn’t know the meaning of corruption?

How will Sime seek to prove management negligence and breach of duty? Is there some golden rule, you depart from which constitutes a breach of duty? Breach of duty means what? Negligent? Then when Idris Jala lost many millions of money through his negligent hedging should be asked to pay back the money MAS lost?

Nor Yaakob who has gone crying to see Tun Mahathir, horrified at the thought that he may be shown the exit from cabinet this time, should also be asked to pay back the money he lost when speculating on our currency. There are so many examples which will readily suggest that the move by Sime to recover money through civil suits is a stupid move.

How do you define breach of duty and negligence in business matters? Some people in Sime Darby who were before that, were probably touted as exemplary managers and excellent talent, were found to have caused Sime Darby to lose RM2.1 billion.

Sime is now seeking recovery for RM338 million from 4 people. It is further seeking recovery of another RM92 million. This means the total amount intended to be recovered is RM 430million. This will also mean that out of the RM2.1 billion lost, if only RM430 billion is the recoverable amount, then the loss of RM1.6 billion is considered loss from business operations. That is acceptable?

Clever, man (left). You come forward to pull wool over public eye by stating with the suitable and accompanying somber tone to say — we shall recover this RM430 million because of principle. People will laugh at this — because you have not fully explained how the RM1.6 billion is a loss that is justifiable and so, there is no need to recover. Sime people think it’s their father’s bloody money which they can lose.

We find it laughable amidst this gargantuan loss; some people in the Board of Directors have no iota of shame not to resign. I have written a long time ago, the entire board of directors should have resigned at the every moment the financial scandal came to light. If they had, they would still be around to be called in as witnesses to help us discover the truth.

So despite Sime’s at first sight, laudable move, there are so many questions unanswered. We shall have to do a bit of sleuthing.

http://sakmongkol.blogspot.com/

 

PKR’s Only Policy is “MAD”(Mutually Assured Destruction)


December 29, 2010

http://www.malaysiakini.com

PKR’s Only Policy is “MAD”

by Manjit Bhatia*

COMMENT: Perhaps combusting is the wrong word to describe the ongoing fracas within PKR. And maybe fracas is the wrong word to describe what clearly is amounting to a little more than a mêlée within the party that promised so much and has given little, if anything at all.

PKR’s disarray certainly must be disconcerting to its supporters, many of whom have been deserting it in droves, to those voters who took to the sidelines after the last general election, and to those who would become eligible to vote for the first time by the next poll, in 2012.

For all that, Anwar Ibrahim, the so-called spiritual leader of PKR, who is faced with his own set of personal legal woes, even if these have been politically concocted by his enemies, the ruling UMNO-BN coalition, of which he was once a high-profile member, has been quite curiously mum.

And maybe just as well – so far as UMNO-BN is concerned. Not that the ruling coalition would be worried otherwise, anyway. The fragmentation of PKR, having fallen under the spell of self-inflicted madness, has been deepening over the last 12 months.

And you can bet that UMNO-BN would be enormously gleeful about the growing prospects of regaining its two-thirds majority at the next election.

This is not to say that the 2012 poll will be a sitter for BN. But the more the accusations fly to and back, the more the dissent, suspensions, expulsions, recriminations and flight of leading politicians, the less it will take rocket-science calculations to suggest that UMNO boss and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak will be sufficiently emboldened to call a snap poll in the first half of next year.

And he will likely take Sarawak to the polls with him, if only to protect that state’s chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, and his ill-gotten wealth, just as Golkar did in protecting the Indonesian dictator and murderer, Suharto, his family and their ill-gotten wealth.

As ugly as PKR’s internal strife has looked, increasingly, it is has been extremely self-destructive. In fact PKR looks headed for calamity of the worst kind of self-annihilation.

The first round of the reformasi movement in the late 1990s had helped galvanise the regime’s opponents across the national political spectrum. It helped to forge PKR as a ‘viable’ political alternative to UMNO-BN. It had the ruling party on the run, seen glaringly by the 2008 poll result.

PKR should have been capitalising more on its popularity by hammering the ruling coalition for its embedded corruption, cronyism, nepotism and incompetence. It could have gone further to expose the out-and-out stupidity of most, if not all of its politicians, the regime’s policy bungles and its unrepentant, barefaced racism.

Instead it left these jobs to just two or three of its key and competent political hands, like Tian Chua and Pakatan Rakyat coalition partner DAP’s Charles Santiago especially, and perhaps Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh.

BN regains political momentum

The rest seem rather useless. For the rest have been too busy trying to cement their political positions by way of horse-trading, bitching, bellyaching, sitting on their hands and thinking that, like the UMNO-BN politicians, they too were entitled to equal measures of fame and fortune.

This, meanwhile, has allowed UMNO-BN to regain the political momentum through its usual, nefarious monkeyshines that are born of its long-renowned cowardice.

There’s no second coming now for PKR. The morphing of Reformasi I into its second, more vociferous and effectual reincarnation looks terribly impossible, even if Anwar were to be found guilty – again – for sodomy, and jailed.

Knowing the corruption that is inherent up and down in Malaysia’s ‘justice’ system, as indeed in its armed forces, the police and government, including most likely the cabinet, Anwar’s conviction and imprisonment will neither surprise his supporters nor him.

To that extent it is understandable that Anwar has been massively distracted from strictly running PKR and inspiring the party and its theologians for what it had promised Malaysians, or at least those whose souls the UMNO-BN had not bought like Satan.

Yet Anwar’s political debilitation also speaks volumes of his other serious weaknesses. The indictment he faces today is serious enough. It will almost certainly kill off his political career and ambition permanently.

He has become a lousy political strategist and an ineffectual leader. He has allowed other political leaders within PKR to develop tribalistic motivations and purely selfish intentions that stem, clearly, from the hunger for power and the material spoils of political office. This has now begun to seal PKR’s fate.

It matters still less if the likes of Zaid Ibrahim, either out of despair or desperation, tear themselves away from PKR to form their own opposition political parties. PKR is in tatters, but Zaid’s party , if he forms one, won’t last.

It’ll seriously lack the following required to make a 5 percent dent in the polls to be remotely relevant. And Zaid barely has the charisma that Anwar used to wield.

Fence sitting for disenchanted voters

Moreover, disenchanted supporters and general voters will return to sitting on the fence or, worse, vote for the devil they know than the devils that new parties spawn or the ones that PKR seems to have heralded.

They will vote for the BN coalition despite all the rot the regime has nurtured and protected that goes against the spirit of Negaraku and all other ludicrous, parochialistic tripe, so long as the economy plods on and their jobs are safe.

Therein lies another monumentally serious problem for Anwar and PKR: the sheer absence of any credible, alternative policies – real ones, in a real world, that seriously pursue the national interest, that will seriously challenge the regime at the next poll.

Since its formation, PKR has offered nothing. Rather, it has, at each turn, merely appealed to the basic political instincts and primordial sensibilities of the people. Its politicians, including aspiring ones, have employed parochialism and communalism wherever necessary.

pkr congress 281110 nurul izzah anwarAnd, ironically, it has promised that PKR is more just than the regime could ever be or has ever been.

PKR’s many failures require immediate redress. Its only policy has been MAD – mutually assured destruction. It looks too late for Anwar and PKR. The PKR ship is listing, badly. Salvage crews are deserting the ship.

More and more rank-and-file members are less willing to listen. They’re bailing out, even if Anwar’s eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah, positions herself to take over the party that has lost its way and shredded its promise.

 

*MANJIT BHATIA is an Australian academic, writer and journalist. He is also research director of AsiaRisk, a risk analysis consultancy. He now divides his life and work between Australia, Britain and the US.

The Erudite Professor Scott Thompson looks back at 2010


December 29, 2010

http://www.nst.com.my

The Year of Living Learningly

W. Scott Thompson*

LOOKING back over this past year and what I wrote about at these weekly intervals, I’m struck by one principal thing. It hasn’t been a year of dramatic developments but one in which a great deal was done about big problems. I would start by saying that the single most important current is the new centrality of the “20″, whose meeting in South Korea was no doubt the prompting of North Korea‘s shelling of one of Seoul’s islands. For decades, the rich countries have given lip service and crumbs from the table to poor countries, but now the successful of the latter are at the table itself, and one can literally feel a consciousness-shifting throughout the diplomatic and economic worlds. 

And while we’re on the economic front, consider that what seemed so disquieting at the time — mobs in Greece, Spain, even London — have faded from noise to grunts of losers, who have had to accept that there is no free lunch. That some of the French may have to work until 62 rather than 60 is not something garnering any sympathy in this part of the world. The fact is that the French government just went ahead and implemented the new policy. There will be more cost-cutting to come.

I’m personally struck how systematic and perceptible have been the American implementation of new financial regulations. And the recovery has been astonishing, if you remember how dire the predictions of doom in late 2008 were. I personally endured a 65 per cent drop in equity-based pensions, and now the “loss” is down to 15 per cent. But that’s against a high-water mark that, as we saw, couldn’t be sustained. But it remains to be seen if Professor-President Barack Obama can get deficit reduction really going next year, in the face of his re-election plans.

And while we are on Obama, recall I wrote that it might be unwise to write him off when everything seemed to be crashing for him. We Americans got a Christmas bonus of the new Start treaty with Moscow, and an end to gay discrimination in the military. Both of these have much more symbolic import than procedural, but that’s what’s so important. Obama delivered on his pledge. He can’t work with the Congress? Show me.

If you want proof of real progress in the world, look at what’s going on right now in Cote d’Ivoire. The leading regional organisation, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), has determined to use force if necessary to push the pretender president, Laurent Gbagbo, to step down in favour of election winner Alassane Ouatarra, a former IMF economist.

And today, a delegation of leaders is in Abidjan to demand that he vacate the palace. The thought that a sitting president would let a few percentage points against himself drive him from power was almost non-existent a few years ago. This will have bearing on the imminent transfer of power in Sudan, when the southern region votes next week to — inevitably — secede.

The paradigm in Ivory Coast is something the whole continent has to work against. An Ivorian physician named Houphouet Boigny was a minister in the French cabinet in the early 1950s, became the obvious president at independence in 1960, made his country an economic bulwark for 20 years, rigged every election and then engaged in such massive follies of self-indulgence that the economy cracked and with it the ethnic balancing that prosperity made possible.

Elections had almost always been a joke across the continent. A French professor observed that these results were “extremely predictable”. Gbagbo would never have permitted the elections if he had the slightest doubt that he’d lose his lush presidential palace. Well, the French know about African elections. They rigged them for several decades in the francophone area, and that’s part of the heritage to be unlearned as well.

I know I’ve sounded like a Luddite this past year railing against the Internet, gadgets and everything else that seems to absorb us in the IT world. Yet we are just beginning to feel the real benefits of a hooked-up world. Think not of iPhones but medicine. Most hospitals don’t even have a complete database on individual patients that can go from doctor to doctor — much less anywhere in the world.

Patients are notoriously forgetful of significant details in their medical history that would bear on future diagnoses. But we need every hospital in the world — and every patient — hooked up. It matters less now that computers can multiply their power every 18 months. It matters that they are hooked up together. We can’t even standardise power pins for cell phones. We have a long way to go.

As we approach New Year we begin to make our resolutions. I decided better to make these positive, in new things to do, learn, enjoy, rather than on the usually futile attempt to give up bad habits. Queen Elizabeth gave her Christmas message on sports. I’ve decided after a lifetime of avoiding sports (other than running marathons) to start enjoying them.

Watching Malaysia whack Indonesia on Sunday night was just great for a start. There was some bad feeling here on the losing side. But look how much such games do to bring people together. That’s overall — despite al-Qaeda, Robert Mugabe, suicide bombers and North Korea — what 2010 was about. Getting peoples and states together to make things better.

Finally, can I nominate a worst-book-of-the-year? George W. Bush’s memoirs. I laughed at the observation in a brilliant London review: Bush was “outraged” by the suggestion somewhere that he didn’t “care about black people”. He’d had Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice in his cabinet. The reviewer said, well, he got it half right. He didn’t care about people.

We’re doing a lot better now.

*W. Scott Thompson is emeritus professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University in the United States