‘We have lost a great son of Sarawak’


January 11, 2017

‘We have lost a great son of Sarawak’

Netizens, including politicians, speak highly of the Sarawak chief minister who died at 1.20pm today.

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By popular acclaim, the late Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, was a strong leader who stood up for the rights of all Sarawakians. He will be sorely missed. Dr. Kamsiah Haider  and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family.

His passing will no doubt have decisive impact on the politics of this fiercely nationalistic state. My inclination on this sad day is to dedicate Al-Fatihah to the Late Tan Sri and pray (doa) that there will be a smooth transfer of power. I also hope that Sarawak will have a successor Chief Minister who will be strong enough like Tun Taib Mahmud and Tan Sri Adenan to resist any move by UMNO to establish  a branch in Sarawak.–Din Merican

Tributes have begun pouring in from netizens, including politicians, following the news that Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem passed away at 1.20pm today.

Many Twitter users spoke highly of the PBB President. Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) president and local government minister Sim Kui Hian said: “We have lost a great son of Sarawak who devoted his whole life to the rakyat.”

Political leaders from the Barisan Nasional poured out their grief on Twitter with Prime Minister Najib Razak revealing that he would be heading to Sarawak.

MCA president Liow Tiong Lai echoed similar sentiments saying: “Malaysia lost a great leader today.”

Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan tweeted: “Greatly shocked. Great loss to all #Malaysians. My sincere condolences to the family and the people of Sarawak.”

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin expressed condolences to Adenan’s wife Jamilah, family and Sarawakians. Sabah lawmaker Rahman Dahlan said Adenan’s struggles for a better Sarawak would be continued.

“Our sincere condolences to the family members of CM Adenan & the people of Sarawak. His struggles for a better Sarawak will be carried on.”

The public, too, have been taking to Twitter to express their condolences over Adenan’s passing. One user with the Twitter handle Ahmad Tarmidzi described Adenan as a true Sarawakian fighter.

“He fought for us, Sarawakians,” he tweeted, adding that he prayed the senior politician would be placed with the pious.

Another user Miz_PhinzSJ said it was a sad day for Sarawak because the state had “lost a good leader”. Meanwhile, Twitter user syazwan said Adenan was his own man.“I actually like Adenan Satem. He is more his own man than I thought he would be as CM. Great loss.”

The Passing of John Glenn, the last genuine American hero–A Tribute


December 10, 2016

The Passing of John Glenn, the last genuine American hero–A Tribute

by Dale Butland

Columbus, Ohio — World War II and Korean War hero. First American to orbit the Earth. Kennedy family friend and confidant. The only four-term senator in Ohio history. An astronaut again at the age of 77.

Newspaper writers and evening news broadcasters will detail John Glenn’s one-of-a-kind biography — and most of them will surely observe that his passing on Thursday (December 8, 2016) at the age of 95 marks “the end of an era.”

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“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend. John spent his life breaking barriers, from defending our freedom as a decorated Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, to setting a transcontinental speed record, to becoming, at age 77, the oldest human to touch the stars. John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond — not just to visit, but to stay. …

“The last of America’s first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens.”–President Barrack Obama

To me, John actually personified an era — one that, like him, has largely passed from the scene and may never again be recaptured. It was a period whose values were forged during the Great Depression, tested in the bloodiest war and expressed most clearly at the personal level by the interlocking virtues of modesty, courage and conviction.

Beginning in 1980 and continuing for nearly two decades, I was lucky enough to work for him, including as press secretary and director of his final re-election campaign in 1992. We were also friends, and I will cherish having been able to speak with him shortly before he died.

Despite his international celebrity, the ticker-tape parades and the schools and streets named in his honor, John never let any of it go to his head. He dined with kings, counseled presidents and signed autographs for athletes and movie stars. But he never pulled rank, rarely raised his voice and remained unfailingly polite and conscious of his responsibilities as a hero and a role model until the day he died.

The courage John displayed wasn’t merely physical, though he certainly had plenty of that. Anyone who flew 149 combat missions in two wars as a Marine fighter pilot — and then volunteered to become a Mercury 7 astronaut at a time when our rockets were just as likely to blow up on the launchpad as they were to return home safely — obviously had physical courage to spare.

But for me, even more impressive was John’s personal and political bravery, especially when it came to defending the values and friends he held dear.

Perhaps the best example of what I’m talking about occurred in an incident that, to the best of my knowledge, he never publicly disclosed.

Following his 1962 spaceflight, John and Robert F. Kennedy became such close friends that their families sometimes vacationed together.

By 1968, John had retired from the Marine Corps and taken a job as president of a major American corporation’s international division.

“We were living in New York, and they were paying me $100,000 a year, which at that time was real money,” he told me. “For the first time in our lives, Annie and I didn’t have to worry about putting our kids through college or helping our parents financially as they got older.”

That spring, Mr. Kennedy decided to run for president and John readily agreed to campaign for him.

John’s employer, however, wasn’t keen on having its highest profile executive publicly supporting Mr. Kennedy. So John was soon summoned to an “emergency meeting” of the corporate board where a resolution was to be passed barring any board member from “engaging in partisan politics in 1968.”

When the meeting was called to order, John rose from his seat to say that there was something his colleagues should know before taking a vote.

“Bob Kennedy asked me to campaign for him and I told him I would. And I will, because he is my friend. And if keeping my word means I can’t be associated with this company any longer, I can live with that.

“But if that’s what happens, we’re going to walk out of this room and you’re going to hold your press conference and I’m going to hold mine. And we’ll see who comes out better.”

No vote was called and the meeting was quickly adjourned.

John’s politics, of course, aren’t the point of this story. To me, it was his fierce determination to keep a promise to a friend, even at the expense of sacrificing the first real financial security he and his family had ever known. It’s the kind of courage we don’t see much anymore.

When John passed away, we lost a man who many say is the last genuine American hero. Not because others won’t do heroic things, but because national heroes aren’t easily crowned or even acknowledged in this more cynical age.

He belonged to an earlier and more innocent era — when we trusted our institutions, thought government could accomplish big and important things, still believed politics could be a noble profession, and didn’t think that ticker-tape parades were reserved for World Series or Super Bowl champions.

But the last “good” war ended almost 70 years ago. The Cold War is almost 30 years past. The space program has lost its luster. The clarity with which John saw honor and moral responsibility seems almost quaint today. And the time when we could all cheer for the same national hero may now be past.

Farewell to Freedom Fighter Fidel Castro


November 26, 2016

Farewell to Freedom Fighter Fidel Castro

http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21710922-cubas-communist-leader-who-outlasted-ten-american-presidents-has-died-age-90

TO MEET Fidel Castro was to notice, first of all, his sheer physical presence. He was tall, erect and had a high, domed forehead that made him look naturally imperious. He was strong: as a youth he was awarded a prize as the best all-round sportsman in Cuba. He was brave to the point of recklessness; as a boy, he once rode a bicycle straight into a wall to prove his mettle. And he was determined, absolutely convinced of his own rightness, intolerant of contradiction and immune to compromise. These characteristics he had inherited from his father, a Spanish migrant who brought with him to Cuba the innate stubbornness of the gallego and who became a prosperous landowner.

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The son, who was born illegitimate in Birán, in rural eastern Cuba, in 1926, added a prodigious ambition for power. Even the Jesuits who taught him saw danger coming in the big, headstrong boy, whose country slang from the cane fields of Oriente marked him out among his urban classmates. The Cuban revolution as it turned out—though not as many of its supporters had originally hoped—was above all an expression of Mr Castro’s will and the unbridled exercise of his massive ego. In his cold-war heyday, he turned his small island into a pocket superpower, fomenting revolution across Latin America, dispatching armies to Africa and brazenly sheltering fugitives, political and criminal, from the United States.

Fidel—he was one of the few world leaders widely referred to by his Christian name—was lucky, too. He might have been killed many times: as an aspiring leader in the gangsterish ambience of Havana student politics; in his quixotic assault on the Moncada barracks in 1953, where some of his followers died; or in the desperate early weeks after the botched landing of the Granma, the overloaded pleasure boat that transported his tiny force of 82 rebels from Mexico three years later. Then there were the hundreds of attempts by the CIA to assassinate him, ranging from the farcical—an exploding cigar—to the near-misses: a dose of botulism that burst before it could be added to a milkshake by a barman at the Habana Libre (ex-Hilton) hotel.

Had it not been for a fortuitous amnesty for political prisoners decreed by Fulgencio Batista, the dictator he went on to overthrow, he might have rotted for decades in prison. Then there was Cuba’s island condition, protected from continental armies of liberation (except, as it turned out, Mr Castro’s own). This had allowed Spain to hang on to its “iever-faithful isle” for seven decades after it lost its mainland American empire. It would allow Mr Castro’s regime to survive the fall of the Berlin Wall despite the bankruptcy of his revolution. As it was, the most serious attempt to unseat him, the ill-fated Bay of Pigs expedition organised by the CIA in 1961, became his crowning triumph: submachine-gun in hand, he directed the operation that saw his revolutionary armed forces kill or imprison the invaders, deprived of air support by the hesitation of President John F. Kennedy, before they could leave the beach.

A Marxist of convenience

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That was not the Americans’ only mistake. In 1952 Batista, a former army sergeant, staged a coup which ended Cuba’s sole experiment with democracy after just a dozen years. The Eisenhower administration, obsessed with an all but non-existent communist threat in the Caribbean, backed what would be a deeply corrupt and brutal regime. Batista’s coup thwarted Mr Castro’s certain election to Congress and a promising career in democratic politics. Instead, by skilled propaganda and force of will, he turned himself into the undisputed leader not just of a ragtag band of armed guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra but of a broad and politically variegated movement for the restoration of democracy and the 1940 constitution.

The guerrillas in the mountains, together with sabotage and strikes across the island, broke the spirit of Batista’s army and government. Batista himself fled, on New Year’s Eve 1958, taking most of the Central Bank’s reserves of dollars and gold. On arriving in Havana with his band of bearded revolutionaries in January 1959, Mr Castro installed a provisional government headed by a liberal judge. Its initial programme was populist: big wage increases, rent reductions and a radical land reform. But this was merely to buy time, while he built up the armed forces and security services—including the powerful political police, the G2—and cemented an alliance, begun in secret in the sierra, with the Communist Party. Before the revolution was even a year old, the “bourgeois elements” in the government were ousted, or resigned; over the next few months, critical media outlets were silenced one by one. Within six years, all private property, down to corner shops, was expropriated. By then, most of the middle class had been definitively alienated and many of its members had fled to Miami.

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Mr Castro did not always hate the United States. He had gone on honeymoon there, buying a white Lincoln Continental and feasting on T-bone steaks. A few weeks after coming to power he visited America again, this time in combat fatigues, but eating hot-dogs like a native and offering to be friends. Eisenhower preferred to play golf, leaving his vice-president, Richard Nixon, to meet Mr Castro and to identify in him “those indefinable qualities that make him a leader of men”.

By then, however, neither side had illusions about the other. In 1958 in the sierra, having watched Batista’s air force drop American-supplied rockets and bombs, he wrote to Celia Sánchez, his closest companion, “I swore that the Americans are going to pay dearly for what they are doing. When this war is over, I’ll start a much longer and bigger war of my own: the war I’m going to fight against them.” For its part, the Eisenhower government was quick to set in train measures aimed at overthrowing him. Nixon thought Mr Castro “either incredibly naive” or “under communist discipline”.

Fidel was a Marxist of convenience, a Cuban nationalist by conviction and a Latin American caudillo by vocation. His hero was José Martí, the Cuban patriot who fought against Spain but was correctly wary of American covetousness towards Cuba. In the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States hijacked the independence rebellion Martí had started and turned Cuba into a neo-colony. Under the notorious Platt Amendment, it reserved the right to intervene in the island at any time. That was revoked in the 1930s, but American domination of the economy and the vital sugar industry continued until the revolution. It brought development—a large middle class lived well—but also deep inequality.

Fidel embraced Martí’s nationalism and anti-imperialism, but not his belief in social democracy. He turned to communism because it was useful as a tool of absolute power of a kind enjoyed by no run-of-the-mill strongman, coming, as it did, with the shield of Soviet protection (plus Soviet weapons and Soviet oil) for the duration of the cold war. The American trade embargo was even more useful: it allowed him to blame the imperialist enemy for the woeful economic failures of his own central planning.

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It was his brother, Raúl (younger by five years), who was the orthodox communist, as well as the quiet organiser who turned the tiny rebel army into a disciplined armed force of 300,000 in the two years after the revolution. It was Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Mr Castro’s Argentine companion in arms, who was the Marxist theoretician.

In the early days, at least 550 (and perhaps 2,000 or more) opponents of the revolution were executed. Many of them were Batista henchmen whose demise was popular. Once the revolution was secure, Mr Castro’s rule was repressive though not especially bloody. Nothing and nobody was allowed to diminish his power. “There are no neutrals,” he declared. “There are only partisans of the revolution or enemies of it.” And the revolution, of course, was Fidel.

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Many believe that he allowed Guevara to perish in Bolivia, or could have done more to try to save him, turning an awkward and unbiddable subordinate into a useful myth. Mr Castro was a troublesome ally for the Soviets. He took their money but not always their advice. He first embraced crash industrialisation, then dropped it in favour of the drive for a 10m-tonne sugar harvest. Both involved serious economic reverses. Though sometimes persuaded to decentralise economic decision-making (which usually boosted output) he always ended up concentrating all power in his own hands again.

He gave Cubans first-world education and health services, and did not care about the cost of these to the economy. But he offered neither opportunity nor prosperity, least of all freedom. Dissenters faced a grim choice: the risky crossing to Florida, or the grim jails of Cuba’s gulag. Most chose silence. Eventually Mr Castro would open a safety valve, letting those who might stir up trouble go abroad.

Fidel was the inspirational leader, the man of action, the master strategist, the obsessive control-freak who micromanaged everything from hurricane preparedness to the potato crop. He was, above all, tireless. In marathon sessions, often beginning after midnight and lasting until after dawn, he would interrogate visitors about every facet of the political situation in their country. He loved details—the statistics of food production in every Cuban province or the properties of Chinese electric rice-cookers. He kept them in his head, and would recite them in those interminable speeches.

He was careful to discourage an overt personality cult. He kept his private life, most of his nine children and Dalia del Soto Valle, whom he married in 1980, largely hidden from public view. He promoted younger men only to discard them if they aspired openly to succeed him. His was the overwhelming presence, brooding like a weather system over Cuba’s dilapidated streets; and his was the voice, droning on in televised speeches for hour after hour, alternately rising to a peak of righteous indignation and falling to a whisper of injured innocence. He never listened, said his sister, Juanita, who left for Miami.

The revolution abroad

Mr Castro operated on the world stage as no other Latin American leader ever had since the days of Francisco Miranda and Simón Bolívar, the South American independence heroes of two centuries ago. He turned himself into an important player in the global conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, between capitalist democracy and communist dictatorship. In seeking the protection of Soviet missiles he came closer than anyone else to turning that ideological confrontation into nuclear war.

Under his leadership, Cuba, an island of just 10m people, became a “Latin American Sparta” (in the words of Jorge Castañeda, a Mexican critic of the revolution). In the 1960s he aided a generation of idealistic young Latin Americans who perished in doomed guerrilla ventures whose main achievement was to help trigger takeovers by bloodstained anti-communist military dictatorships. A decade later Mr Castro dispatched his armies to Africa, to combat apartheid but also to prop up corrupt or repressive (but anti-American) regimes in places like Ethiopia and Angola. In the 1980s he armed and aided leftist revolutionaries in Central America. With the end of the cold war, in the past two decades, it has been Cuban doctors rather than soldiers that have been sent abroad, first as missionaries for Fidel’s revolution and then as earners of scarce foreign currency.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union brought great privation to Cuba. The economy contracted by a third. Many forecast the imminent demise of Mr Castro and his revolution. He responded by declaring a “Special Period in Peacetime”, cover for some limited and pragmatic reforms. He reluctantly allowed Cubans to set up small businesses, such as restaurants, home repairs and farmers’ markets. He also legalised the use of the dollar and sought foreign investment, especially in developing a mass tourism industry. Once again, as it had under Batista, Havana’s hotels became a venue for sex tourism, as young black women sold their bodies to escape the revolution’s privations. Remittances from Cuban-Americans, tourism and nickel mines, run by a Canadian firm, replaced sugar as the mainstay of the economy. The health-care and education systems were tapped for hard-currency earnings, too, with the development of biotechnology and of medical tourism. State companies were given more autonomy to manage their budgets and to trade. All these measures helped Cubans to get by, but they introduced new inequalities and resentments, and loosened the regime’s control over daily life.

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Then, unexpectedly, new benefactors appeared, in the form of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and, to a lesser extent, a booming China. Venezuelan subsidies grew to match the old Soviet largesse. With the economy growing again, Mr Castro reversed or reined in many of the economic reforms and became far more selective about foreign investment. As he had several times since 1959, he veered back towards Jacobinism, recruiting lumpen youth as “social workers” to wage war against corruption. In 2003, with the world distracted by the American invasion of Iraq, he launched a new political crackdown, arresting and imposing long jail sentences on 78 democracy activists, and executing three would-be migrants who hijacked a ferry in a desperate attempt to get to Florida. Two years later he declared the Special Period over.

Half-life in Havana

One evening in July 2006 Cuban state television broadcast a terse statement from Mr Castro saying that he had to undergo emergency abdominal surgery and was temporarily handing over his powers to a collective leadership headed by Raúl, his deputy. In 2008 Raúl formally replaced Fidel as Cuba’s president, and three years later as first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party. He pushed out Fidel’s protégés and would-be successors, including Carlos Lage, the de facto prime minister. And he proceeded, quietly but methodically, to prepare Cuba for the time when a Castro would no longer be in charge.

Raúl is temperamentally Fidel’s opposite, a tidy, practical man, lacking his brother’s messianic streak. He is Sancho Panza to Fidel’s Don Quixote. They even looked the parts (Raúl is said to keep statues of Cervantes’s heroes at his house). There were no more late-night meetings. Raúl announced economic reforms (officially called “updating”) that abolished many of the petty restrictions suffered by Cubans, who could once again buy and sell houses and cars, stay in tourist hotels and have access to mobile phones and the internet. He cautiously began to dismantle Fidel’s centrally planned economy: more than 500,000 Cubans are now self-employed, working in small businesses or as private farmers. The island began to move inexorably towards a mixed economy. Some of Raúl’s advisers talked enthusiastically of the Chinese and Vietnamese models.

Fidel didn’t think much of that. China was a decadent consumerist society that had lost its values and its commitment to preserving equality, he thought. But he admitted to a foreign visitor, in an unguarded moment, “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us any more”. Fidel kept his criticisms largely private. He wrote a newspaper column in Granma, the official organ, for a while, but its main subject matter was his increasingly incoherent ramblings about what he saw as the apocalyptic problems facing the world. He became a spectral presence in his compound in Siboney, a leafy enclave in the west of Havana of mansions built by the sugar barons he had expropriated. He was occasionally photographed with visiting leaders looking increasing frail and doddery. But he had outlasted ten American presidents and all his enemies.

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True, he lived long enough to watch his revolution start to be dismantled. He even saw Cuba restore diplomatic relations with the United States in 2015 and an American president, Barack Obama, visit Havana and broadcast a call for the Cuban people “to choose their government in free elections”. Of course he did not approve. “Cuba’s president has taken steps in accordance with his prerogatives and powers,” he wrote stiffly in a letter published in 2015. But, he added, “I don’t trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged any words with them,” he growled.

No other man in the 20th century had ruled as long or, through a mixture of charisma and tyranny, dominated his country so completely. On one hot summer night during the days of penury that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, a crowd of disgruntled youngsters on Havana’s malecón, the seafront drive, threatened to overwhelm the police and start a riot. Fidel appeared out of the night, and talked them out of it. Even many of those Cubans who abhorred him were in awe of him. That will not apply to any of his successors, not even Raúl.

How Trump happened?


October 16, 2016

How Trump happened?

by Joseph E.Stiglitz

Joseph E. Stiglitz, recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 and the John Bates Clark Medal in 1979, is University Professor at Columbia University, Co-Chair of the High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress at the OECD, and Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute. A former Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank and chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton, in 2000 he founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, a think tank on international development based at Columbia University. His most recent book is The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe.

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As I have traveled around the world in recent weeks, I am repeatedly asked two questions: Is it conceivable that Donald Trump could win the US presidency? And how did his candidacy get this far in the first place?

As for the first question, though political forecasting is even more difficult than economic forecasting, the odds are strongly in favor of Hillary Clinton. Still, the closeness of the race (at least until very recently) has been a mystery: Clinton is one of the most qualified and well prepared presidential candidates that the United States has had, while Trump is one of the least qualified and worst prepared. Moreover, Trump’s campaign has survived behavior by him that would have ended a candidate’s chances in the past.

Newsart for Is Populism Being Trumped?

So why would Americans be playing Russian roulette (for that is what even a one-in-six chance of a Trump victory means)? Those outside the US want to know the answer, because the outcome affects them, too, though they have no influence over it.

And that brings us to the second question: why did the US Republican Party nominate a candidate that even its leaders rejected?

Obviously, many factors helped Trump beat 16 Republican primary challengers to get this far. Personalities matter, and some people do seem to warm to Trump’s reality-TV persona.

But several underlying factors also appear to have contributed to the closeness of the race. For starters, many Americans are economically worse off than they were a quarter-century ago. The median income of full-time male employees is lower than it was 42 years ago, and it is increasingly difficult for those with limited education to get a full-time job that pays decent wages.

Indeed, real (inflation-adjusted) wages at the bottom of the income distribution are roughly where they were 60 years ago. So it is no surprise that Trump finds a large, receptive audience when he says the state of the economy is rotten. But Trump is wrong both about the diagnosis and the prescription. The US economy as a whole has done well for the last six decades: GDP has increased nearly six-fold. But the fruits of that growth have gone to a relatively few at the top – people like Trump, owing partly to massive tax cuts that he would extend and deepen.

At the same time, reforms that political leaders promised would ensure prosperity for all – such as trade and financial liberalization – have not delivered. Far from it. And those whose standard of living has stagnated or declined have reached a simple conclusion: America’s political leaders either didn’t know what they were talking about or were lying (or both).

Trump wants to blame all of America’s problems on trade and immigration. He’s wrong. The US would have faced deindustrialization even without freer trade: global employment in manufacturing has been declining, with productivity gains exceeding demand growth.

Where the trade agreements failed, it was not because the US was outsmarted by its trading partners; it was because the US trade agenda was shaped by corporate interests. America’s companies have done well, and it is the Republicans who have blocked efforts to ensure that Americans made worse off by trade agreements would share the benefits.

Thus, many Americans feel buffeted by forces outside their control, leading to outcomes that are distinctly unfair. Long-standing assumptions – that America is a land of opportunity and that each generation will be better off than the last – have been called into question. The global financial crisis may have represented a turning point for many voters: their government saved the rich bankers who had brought the US to the brink of ruin, while seemingly doing almost nothing for the millions of ordinary Americans who lost their jobs and homes. The system not only produced unfair results, but seemed rigged to do so.

Support for Trump is based, at least partly, on the widespread anger stemming from that loss of trust in government. But Trump’s proposed policies would make a bad situation much worse. Surely, another dose of trickle-down economics of the kind he promises, with tax cuts aimed almost entirely at rich Americans and corporations, would produce results no better than the last time they were tried.

In fact, launching a trade war with China, Mexico, and other US trading partners, as Trump promises, would make all Americans poorer and create new impediments to the global cooperation needed to address critical global problems like the Islamic State, global terrorism, and climate change. Using money that could be invested in technology, education, or infrastructure to build a wall between the US and Mexico is a twofer in terms of wasting resources.

There are two messages US political elites should be hearing. The simplistic neo-liberal market-fundamentalist theories that have shaped so much economic policy during the last four decades are badly misleading, with GDP growth coming at the price of soaring inequality. Trickle-down economics hasn’t and won’t work. Markets don’t exist in a vacuum. The Thatcher-Reagan “revolution,” which rewrote the rules and restructured markets for the benefit of those at the top, succeeded all too well in increasing inequality, but utterly failed in its mission to increase growth.

This leads to the second message: we need to rewrite the rules of the economy once again, this time to ensure that ordinary citizens benefit. Politicians in the US and elsewhere who ignore this lesson will be held accountable. Change entails risk. But the Trump phenomenon – and more than a few similar political developments in Europe – has revealed the far greater risks entailed by failing to heed this message: societies divided, democracies undermined, and economies weakened.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trump-candidacy-message-to-political-leaders-by-joseph-e–stiglitz-2016-10

The Musical Compositions of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand–A Tribute


Your Weekend Musical Guest–The Musical Compositions of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand


บทเพลงพระราชนิพนธ์ในพระบาทสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัวภูมิพลอดุลยเดชฯ

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Dr. Kamisiah Haider and Din Merican have chosen to play the musical compositions of the dearly departed, much respected and admired, and loved His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

For this weekend, we pay tribute to a multi-talented long serving  His Majesty King of Thailand for his many contributions to socio-economic development of the country he loved very much. By listening to His Majesty’s compositions, we  should not be surprised that His Majesty  The King is regarded as the Soul of Thailand. His Majesty’s musical compositions reflect his love and passion for the Thai People.

His Majesty is not just a wise and compassionate King but also a pioneer agriculturalist, humanist-environmentalist, scientist and talented musician. Let us and all mourners in Thailand listen to His Majesty’s wonderful compositions that will be remembered and appreciated through the ages by us in ASEAN and around the world.

Once again we wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the people and the government of Thailand, in particular to our Thai friends, associates and readers of Din Merican’s blog. We join you in your moments of grief of His Majesty’s passing. At the same time, let us celebrate His Majesty’s life and legacy through his music.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

 

The revered, saintly and loved His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand has died


October 13, 2016

Note: The late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the First Among Equals of Asia’s monarchs, who was loved and respected by his people. His passing today will be mourned by the Thais.

Dr. Kamsiah Haider and I wish to express our sincere condolences to the members of the bereaved Royal Family, the Government and the People of Thailand including our friends and associates on the passing of their revered and admired monarch.–Din Merican

The revered, saintly and loved His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand has died

Thai people wearing yellow shirts, the color of the king, hold pictures of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as they pray during the celebrations of the monarch's 70th anniversary 

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who has died aged 88, was the world’s longest serving constitutional monarch and played a unique role at the centre of national life.

The only Buddhist monarch in the world, King Bhumibol (pronounced Poomipon) was unexpectedly elevated to the throne when just 18 years old on the mysterious death by shooting of his brother Ananda in 1946. At the time, the institution of monarchy in Thailand was at a low ebb. Absolute monarchy had been abolished following a military coup two decades previously, and for the better part of those years no king had been in residence and republican sentiments were strong.

The young Bhumibol had spent most of his life abroad and at the time of his accession was studying at Lausanne University. The new king, a shy, bespectacled, almost withdrawn young man, took the dynastic name Rama IX and became the ninth sovereign of the Chakri dynasty.

Despite these inauspicious beginnings, over the following decades King Bhumibol turned Thailand’s new constitutional monarchy into a resounding success. During years of political turmoil and rapid change which saw numerous coups or attempted coups and more than 20 prime ministers, he was seen as a consistent, selfless presence and symbol of national unity. For most of his reign he was credited with being a moderating influence on corrupt politicians, scheming bureaucrats and ambitious generals; it was only recently that some suspected him of interfering in the political process, to the extent of tacitly endorsing a coup in 2006.

In his first address to the Thai Parliament after his coronation in 1950, the King urged its members to do everything in their power to prevent the entry into Thailand of communism from neighbouring countries. Deeply conservative by nature and with a strong belief in stability and order, he was convinced that improving the lot of the peasants would be the best protection against the spread of communism, and thereafter he devoted himself to that end.

He developed an extraordinary rapport with ordinary Thais, and would spend most of every year traveling between a series of palaces around the country. From these he would lead 40-strong convoys of assorted Jeeps and Land-Rovers down dusty roads deep into the countryside meeting local people, visiting rural projects or entertaining local dignitaries.

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Foreign ambassadors to Bangkok would often be dragged from the capital’s cocktail party circuit to spend days bumping around the outback inspecting drainage schemes. Always the King radiated a curious touching innocence.

There seemed no end to the good works in which King Bhumibol was involved. They ranged from lettuce farms and cottage industries such as silk or cotton weaving to dams, schools, clinics and even rain generation plants. The King himself led development programmes in the poorest parts of the country and funded many of them from his own private funds. Successful projects would be passed on to the government for further development.

His excursions to the further reaches of his kingdom sometimes involved risk. In 1977, during a visit to a southern province, a bomb exploded near the royal entourage, but the King was unharmed. Whenever he traveled near the Laotian or Cambodian borders, a helicopter gunship would circle overhead and large numbers of troops would form a ring of protection on the ground.

The King of Thailand has little direct power under the constitution, but on several occasions Bhumibol used his considerable personal and moral authority to resolve political crises that threatened national stability and to try to inch Thailand nearer to stable democracy.

In 1992, for example, when a bloody cycle of pro-democracy protest and military repression seemed about to spiral out of control, the King summoned General Suchina Kraprayoon, the leader of the junta, and his principal civilian opponent for a late night audience.

In a nationally televised humiliation, the two men crawled on their knees to the feet of King Bhumibol for a royal reprimand: “You have not followed the people,” the King scolded quietly. “You talk democracy but you don’t do anything about it.” In one telling moment, the King defused the confrontation, paved the way for fresh elections and destroyed the two men’s careers.

King Bhumibol took great care to re-create the mystique that had surrounded Thai kings of old and revived ceremonies that had not been used since the time of his grandfather, Rama V. In addition to the title of King, he was revered by ordinary Thais as Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power, Brother of the Moon, Half-Brother of the Son, and Possessor of the Twenty-Four Golden Umbrellas.

He demanded, and usually received, absolute respect from his subjects. Every Thai house contained a prominent photograph of the bespectacled monarch, but it was considered impolite for a commoner’s feet to point directly at the picture. Those meeting the King were expected to do so with heads bowed, on their knees.

But it was not just his good works and popularity that boosted the royal image. That was also protected by a draconian lèse-majesté law which made it an offence punishable by between three and 15 years in jail to “defame, insult or threaten” any member of the royal family. The law was strictly enforced, and as recently as January 2009 an Australian writer was jailed for insulting the monarchy. “The moment you take away the mystique,” King Bhumibol explained, “the moment you expose the institution to the daily scrutiny of the modern media, you’ve had it.”

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej 

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej pictured in a wheelchair in April 2015. Credit: EPA/Royal Household Bureau

Prince Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua Bhumibol Adulayej was born on December 5 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Prince Mahidol of Songkla, half-brother and heir of the last absolute monarch of Thailand, King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) and the younger son of King Chulachomklao (Rama V, reigned 1868-1910).

The Chakri dynasty into which he was born dates back to 1782. Prince Bhumibol’s great-grandfather King Mongkut (King Chomklao, reigned 1851-1868) was splendidly, if inaccurately, brought to life in Anna and the King of Siam and, later, The King and I.

Prince Bhumibol’s father, Prince Mahidol, had married a Siamese commoner and studied to be a doctor. At the time of the birth of Prince Bhumibol, he was studying public health and medicine at Harvard and his wife was studying nursing and economics at Simmons College close by.

Prince Bhumibol was the youngest of the family’s three children, having an elder brother and sister. At the time of his birth, he was several steps removed from succession to the Thai throne, and his elder brother, Prince Ananda, had precedence.

Prince Mahidol died in 1928, when his son was a year old, and the family returned to Thailand where, as a young boy, Prince Bhumibol briefly attended Mater Dei Primary School. But in 1933, following a military coup, King Prajadhipok ordered the family to move to Lausanne, Switzerland. There the Prince attended the Ecole Miremont and the Ecole Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande, Chailly sur Lausanne. Later he enrolled at the Gymnase de Lausanne.

While the family were living in Switzerland, political changes in Thailand started the chain of events that would eventually elevate the young Prince Bhumibol to the throne.

In 1932, following the coup, King Prajadhipok agreed a new constitution that would replace Thailand’s absolute monarchy with a constitutional one, and in 1935 he abdicated the throne in favour of his nephew, Prince Ananda, then 10 years old. The two young princes visited Thailand briefly in 1938-39.

During the greater part of the Second World War, Thailand was controlled by a pro-Japanese puppet government, so that Princes Ananda and Bhumibol did not return there until late 1945, when Prince Ananda went to Bangkok for his coronation.

Before the ceremony could be performed, however, on the morning of June 9 1946 Prince Ananda was found in bed with a bullet in his skull and a revolver by his side. Despite a seven-year murder trial and the execution of three junior palace staff, there has never been a satisfactory explanation of why he died, and the death was officially ruled an accident. A book which suggested that Ananda killed himself because he had been forbidden to marry a Swiss girlfriend was banned in Thailand.

As King Ananda’s brother, Prince Bhumibol was named his successor by Act of Parliament. Two months later, after the legislature had appointed a two-man regency council to rule pending his coming of age, he returned to Switzerland to complete his education.

The young King had planned to become an architect and had enrolled at the University of Lausanne to study Engineering. Following his brother’s death, however, he changed his course to Law and Political Science.

When King Bhumibol attained his majority in December 1946, the Siamese government allocated several hundred thousand dollars for the ceremonial cremation of the remains of King Ananda, a necessary preliminary to the coronation of his successor who was required by religious custom to light the funeral pyre. Unsettled conditions in 1947 following a coup d’état forced a postponement, and court astrologers settled on March 2 1949 as the most auspicious date.

But in October 1948, King Bhumibol was seriously injured in a motor accident in Lausanne which left him blind in one eye and paralysed half his face. Both cremation and coronation had to be postponed once more.

By the time of his coronation, the King had married Princess Mom Rachawong Sirikit Kitiyakara, a great-granddaughter of a former king and thus a distant cousin. In the 1960s she would be described as one of the 10 most beautiful women in the world.

King Bhumipol had first met Princess Sirikit in Paris, where her father was serving as ambassador. She was 15 years old and training to be a concert pianist. While in hospital recovering from the motor accident, King Bhumibol asked to see her and they soon became engaged.

Their wedding, on April 28 1950, was described by The New York Times as “the shortest, simplest royal wedding ever held in the land of gilded elephants and white umbrellas”. The ceremony was performed by the King’s ageing grandmother, Queen Sawang Vadhana.

A week later, on May 5 1950, the formal coronation rites took place in the Baisal Daksin Throne Hall in the Grand Palace. It was the first coronation ceremony of a Thai sovereign to rule under the system of constitutional monarchy.

The royal couple spent their honeymoon at Hua Hin beach in southern Thailand before they returned to Switzerland, where the King completed his studies. They returned to Thailand in 1951.

In 1956 King Bhumibol followed Thailand’s spiritual tradition of entering the Buddhist monkhood of Sangkha for 15 days to practice meditation. He was ordained by the Supreme Patriarch on October 22 at the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace.

King Bhumibol remained sensitive to the way in which Thailand is perceived by the outside world. As well as making numerous state visits, he often employed his powers of clemency to secure the release of westerners held in the country’s jails.

He always liked to keep abreast of the latest developments in science and culture. He was an accomplished painter and photographer, and was the first member of the Thai royal family to be granted a patent for an invention. The registered patent is for the Chai Pattana Aerator Model RX 2, an apparatus for water treatment which can be seen operating in many polluted waterways in Thailand.

King Bhumibol was also a writer and musician. He translated several works of literature into Thai. He also composed a number of pop songs, including HM Blues and a little number called Oh I Say! One of his compositions, a beguine entitled Blue Night (with lyrics by the royal chamberlain) was incorporated in the 1950 Broadway revue Peep Show.

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His Majesty King Bhumibol played jazz with Benny Goodman and his band

As King, Bhumibol would serenade the population every Friday night on the saxophone, performing with a jazz group in the studios of the royal radio station. He would also become the first Asian composer to be honoured by being made a member of the Viennese Institute of Music and Arts.

The King had been a keen sportsman, fond of skiing, tennis and diving. A skilled sailor, he once sailed a dinghy single-handed across the dangerous Gulf of Thailand; in 1967 he won a gold medal in dinghy sailing for Thailand at the fourth South-East Asia Peninsula Games.

Although the King continued to be revered by most Thais, the palace had recently come in for some unprecedented, if discreet, criticism. There were allegations that the royal advisers interfered in politics, specifically that they played a part in inspiring the bloodless military coup of 2006 that ousted the democratically elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra, who had been prime minister for five years. In late 2008 both of Bangkok’s airports were closed by anti-government protesters, and in April 2009 100,000 demonstrators demanded the resignation of the King’s chief adviser, General Prem Tinsulanonda, whom they accused of masterminding the 2006 coup – which some believed that the King had privately endorsed. Although implicit rather than explicit criticism of the monarchy, this represented a significant change in the tenor of political debate.

King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit had one son and three daughters who, according to official sources, were all “deeply involved in activities to better the lot of the Thai people and are themselves loved and respected”.

The truth, suppressed in Thailand, was rather different. As a student in America, the King’s eldest daughter, Princess Ubol Ratana, fell in love with an American fellow student and settled in America as plain Mrs Jensen. Her photograph never appears in public in Thailand.

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His son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (pic above), was widely regarded as a playboy, and rumours about his dissipated lifestyle were legion. After divorcing his first wife, claiming that she spent too much time playing table tennis, he married a commoner by whom he already had teenage children. That marriage too ended when his second wife walked out to live with a retired air marshal in London.

In 1996, on the day his father celebrated 50 years on the throne, the Crown Prince pinned a proclamation on the walls of the Palace accusing his wife of adultery.

The Thai constitution was amended in the 1970s to allow a woman to succeed to the throne, and there were said to be many in Thailand who would have liked to have seen the crown pass to the King’s second daughter, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. In recent years, however, the Crown Prince’s standing has improved as he assumed more of his father’s ceremonial duties.

In October 2007, the king suffered the symptoms of a minor stroke; the following year he was unable to make his traditional annual birthday speech. Rumours around his health persisted over the following years, sometimes affecting the Thai financial markets.

He is survived by Queen Sirikit and their four children. He is succeeded to the throne by HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

His Majesty King Bhumbol Adulyadej of Thailand, born December 5 1927, died October 13 2016.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/10/13/king-bhumibol-adulyadej-of-thailand–obituary/