The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump


January 7, 2018

The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/the-increasing-unfitness-of-donald-trump?mbid=nl_Daily%20010618%20Nonsubs&CNDID=49438257&spMailingID=12695455&spUserID=MTg4MDU2MzU5MDA5S0&spJobID=1320480111&spReportId=MTMyMDQ4MDExMQS2

The West Wing has come to resemble the dankest realms of Twitter, in which everyone is racked with paranoia and everyone despises everyone else.

Image result for the west wing of the white house

The Calm Exterior of the Trump White House

Photographing the White House Grounds

The Politician of the worst kind–UMNO’s Jamal Ikan Bakar Mad Yunos


January 4, 2018

The Politician of the worst kind–UMNO’s Jamal Ikan Bakar Mad Yunos

by James Chai@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for jamal ikan bakar

UMNO’s Jamal Madd Yunos–Not Funny but stupid

If there is one name that Malaysia was introduced to in 2017, it is UMNO Sungai Besar division chief Jamal Md Yunos. This name takes different variations depending on his latest antics, sometimes he is “Jamal Tuala”, other times “Jamal Ikan Bakar”.

It is the name that, when mentioned in any social group, will arouse a shared sense of disgust and delight. Jamal is like what badly burnt ikan bakar does to you: at first, you relish its crunchy charred sides, but then you realise that it is awful for your body.

Once Jamal was a nobody, now he is a household name. When asked what made him famous, we could at best identify a laundry list of silly tactics like hitting a table with a sledgehammer in angry protest, wearing a towel and showering in front of the Selangor State Assembly building, breaking boxes of beers, and parading effigies of numerous politicians in public places.

 

We know what made him famous, but we still frown and ask: Why is he famous? When Jamal announced his intention to run for the UMNO Youth chief position, we knew that some of the fun and games had to come to an end. The attention we had fed to a person of no real value to our political landscape had now become the reason for his success.

Jamal acquired legitimacy through his actions, premised on intolerance and fury. This is the new viable modus operandi for political success – and it is toxic for us all. We must take some responsibility for creating him.

Media, audience, and politicians

It is expected that the media would cover Jamal’s grotesque and bizarre acts. This is because the media functions on sensationalism in order to get more views and share counts. In some ways, the media’s coverage is merely responding to our worst basic instincts as an audience that relishes the entertainment provided in a political space that is not known to be fun nor interesting.

The more inexplicable, the better; the more unpredictable, the better; the more Jamal, the better. For the media, covering Jamal is like striking gold.

Politicians also kept themselves away and let Jamal carry on with his ways. The opposition grossly underestimated how indifference could pave the way for Jamal’s notorious insurgence that was irreversible once it passed a certain threshold.

On the other side, UMNO politicians are ever-ready to exploit any increased popularity as they understand that that is the primary tool for capital accumulation in politics. Without a moral doctrine of right and wrong, even the prime minister is ready to embrace the popularity of Jamal.

Did we create Jamal?

If we are in agreement that the rise of Jamal is a bad thing for the country, it bears asking: Who created him? Is Jamal a result of our creation (inadvertent or otherwise), or is he merely a product of the normal operation of democracy?

 

Regarding the latter, could we infer that Jamal is merely the face of a growing portion of society that is increasingly intolerant and shamelessly uncivil? I would argue no. He has no such representative truth. Violence, insult, and provocation have never been part of the history of Malaysia.

This is not merely a wishful assertion; instead, it is based on careful dissection of our history since the 1800s and a contextualisation against the backdrop of world history. Malaysia is one of the most peaceful countries in the world.

When early colonisers and immigrants visited this land, the consensus was that this was a land comprising “nature’s gentlemen”. All forms of violence, intolerance, and incivility were widely denounced in every culture that stepped on this land, and the preference for peace had endured through the test of time.

Is Jamal funny?

While it may be argued that humour is indeed in the veins of Malaysians, we only laugh when it doesn’t come at the price of another. And we only laugh when it is funny. The sooner we realise that Jamal is a politician interested in the leadership ranks of the country, we have to draw a line to defend our future against the worst ascendancy. He is, in other words, too serious to be taken lightly – too serious to be laughed at.

But the conclusion is inevitable: We created him. There is a dire urgency to recognise this reality so that we can respond accordingly. We need to relegate him back to where he belongs and stop him in his tracks.

It is difficult to attach moral considerations to every news story that we read. Most of the time, we only read what is shown to us, and we respond in a knee-jerk fashion. But we must choose to be more aware of the larger trajectory, because bad things come at you slowly at first, then all at once, we are greeted with a monster of our own creation.


JAMES CHAI works at a law firm. His voyage in life is made less lonely with a family of deep love, friends of good humour and teachers of selfless giving. This affirms his conviction in the common goodness of people: the better angles of our nature. He tweets at @JamesJSChai.

 

Letter from The Editor, New Mandala.org


December 24, 2017

Letter from The Editor, New Mandala.org

Image result for New Mandala.org

The Editor of New Mandala is James Giggacher. James holds qualifications in journalism and international relations from the University of Technology — Sydney and the Australian National University, and has worked across print, radio and television, including stints with national broadcasters the ABC and SBS.

He has also been published across a range of Australian and international media inlcuding The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, ABC’s The Drum, SBS News, Business Spectator, CNN, Rappler and The Establishment Post. He’s also contributed to specialist academic websites like Policy Forum, the Asian Studies Association of Australia’s Asian Currents and, of course, New Mandala.

From The Editor

It’s the time of the year when New Mandala joins the rest of Australia to disappear for the Christmas and New Year holiday. We’ll be taking a break from publishing from today, and will be back online in early January.

Who’s going to miss 2017? Certainly, nobody who cares about human rights, ethnic and religious tolerance, or democratic institutions, given what a horror show this year has been for all of those things throughout the region.

New Mandala’s top posts of 2017

Revisit our 20 most-read posts published throughout the year. 21 December, 2017

But bad years for Southeast Asia have a grim tendency to be good ones for this blog. Notwithstanding the subject matter that authors have had to address, the quality of the contributions we’ve hosted this year has been outstanding. (See our list of 2017’s most popular posts at the left, and a few of my personal favourites—yes, I have immodestly included one co-authored by myself and a colleague—at the bottom of this post.)

I’d like to extend my thanks to all of the contributors who volunteered their time to write something up for New Mandala, especially from the time-scarce academics and students among you. Your contributions have been a testament to the benefits of scholars weighing in on debates about political and social developments as they happen, in a format accessible to broad, non-academic audiences.

I should note that New Mandala has been in good company here: the University of Melbourne’s Indonesia at Melbourne and Oxford University’s Myanmar-focused Tea Circle blogs have also done good work throughout the year in bringing important scholarly perspectives on Southeast Asian topics to the table. Let’s hope that what all these platforms are part of is a comeback of the blogging medium, in the face of some stiff competition in recent years from the Twitter thread and Facebook status.

A big thanks, of course, is also due to our readers, and your engagement with the content of New Mandala posts on social media and elsewhere. You might think some takes were brilliant, some were rubbish, but if you happened to be introduced you to a new topic you didn’t know much about beforehand, or were made to see a well-known topic from a new perspective, then this blog has done its job.

Looking forward to 2018

We’re heading into a big year for Southeast Asian elections. Before long Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will pull the trigger on a general election, and New Mandala will once again be a platform for must-read analysis of Malaysian politics, from the fine grained to the big picture.

Our old friend Thailand may well see an election of some description in 2018, if the latest pronouncements from Government House are to be believed. Indonesia will also hold a wave of major regional polls that will set the scene for 2019’s national legislative and presidential elections. Indeed, the presidential election campaign begins, for all intents and purposes, in late 2018 with the registration for candidate deadlines set for October. In Cambodia, July’s general election might be the final nail in the coffin for the pretence of democracy maintained by Hun Sen over the past two decades. In all of these elections, New Mandala will be there for critical, up-to-the minute commentary and analysis.

From next year we’ll also be making a few changes to our modus operandi on Twitter. We’ll be rebooting the @IndoNewMandala account, which you can follow for news and updates on new Indonesia posts, as well as news updates and recommended reads. You can keep up on the latest from Malaysia’s election campaign through out dedicated GE14 stream at @GE14NewMandala. Our Associate Editor Mish Khan will be tweeting from Yangon at @MMatNewMandala, our new dedicated Myanmar feed.

Lastly, I’d just like to say that I’m always keen to hear more from readers about how we can make this site as useful a resource as it can be both for readers and contributors alike. Send me an email any time at liam.gammon@anu.edu.au to share your thoughts.

To everybody celebrating Christmas: Merry Christmas. And to all, a happy new year and best wishes for 2018.

Editor’s favourites of 2017

Holy places and unholy politics

Ahok’s support of an Islamic pilgrimage site amid Jakarta’s container port illustrates the intricacies and paradoxes of Indonesia’s politics of religion.

A better political economy of the Rohingya crisis

Crude speculation about ‘land grabs’ obscures the complex historical roots of today’s Rohingya persecution.

Class dismissed? Economic fairness and identity politics in Indonesia

Exit polls from the Jakarta election are a good starting point for thinking about the nexus between identity politics and inequality in Indonesia.

 

The State of Mainstream Journalism and Integrity of Malaysian Ministers


November 13, 2017

The State of Mainstream Journalism and Integrity of Malaysian Ministers

by R. Nadeswaran

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Tengku Adnan MansorNajib Razak and Tengku Adnan Mansor– Chickens of the same feather

COMMENT | It will not be the first time a minister has put his foot in the mouth without even realising it. It will not be the last either. The quality of people who are addressed as “YB Menteri” has certainly deteriorated.

Whenever this comes about, many will rush to the cause – to defend the faux pas or in most cases, words, phrases and views uttered that had caused more damage to reputation and status.

Usually, the common cry is “I have been misquoted” or “my words have been taken out of context”. They never admit that they uttered those offending statements and explain their reasons or justify the stand they had taken.

But when the Almighty is dragged into the defence and punishment in the after-life is offered as a threat, the whole issue takes a different dimension.

Suddenly, the journalist and media outlets are told that they have to answer to God – not the laws of the land or the Home Ministry, which has the power to revoke licences, suspend licences and block websites.

Speaking at a press conference after attending a public transport ceremony in Putrajaya yesterday, Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor entered the fray and said journalists have to be responsible for their reporting.

“I believe, after this, I will be (at fault), just like what Hamzah (Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainudin) faced when he mentioned (the government’s) effort to reduce the cost of living in his speech, which was later spun to mean something else.

“I don’t know what will happen to this world, especially (to) all of you journalists. You are all responsible, what you are doing is… Remember, you all are going to see God and we will accuse you of lying and slandering towards the community, just to help some people gain success,” Malaysiakini quoted him as saying.

 

A Fake Hadith ?–Economics is Adam Smith’s and Adam Smith is a Man. The Prophet pbuh was  a merchant who understood Islamic Economics.

Hamzah (photo) had said the rise in living costs is God’s will, and quoted a saying, or hadith, attributed to Prophet Muhammad which states: “Verily, it is God who sets prices, who makes things hard, easy and gives out blessings”.)

Having read what Hamzah said and what was reported, why is Tengku Adnan taking umbrage? In the first place, what is the co-relation between God and food prices? What mortal sin have the journalists committed to face the wrath of God?

These are not problems but self-inflicted damage because most politicians open their mouths without engaging their brains in gear. When their words sometimes border on the ridiculous and ludicrous, they think they have found the escape hatch – blame the journalist and the media.

No journalist worth his salt wants to be labelled as a purveyor of fake or false news. Neither does he want to be accused of “manufacturing”, “creating” or attributing quotes which have been picked from thin air.

Editors who re-write to slant news

In some sections of the mainstream media, journalists have complained that their copy had been re-written by editors and seniors to slant towards certain parties and individuals. The editor has the final say and when he exercises his power, the only recourse the journalist has is: “I don’t want a byline as I don’t want to be associated with this article.”

There are few who take such courageous steps while many remain silent as they too become tools of the editor, usually a political appointee.

At a World Press Freedom day seminar a few years ago, I remarked that journalists first need “freedom from their editors” before even talking about anything else. The in-house censorship, the re-write desk and those politically connected have and will continue to change the course of events.

When was the last time you came across “1MDB” in the mainstream newspapers? Last week, US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions described 1MDB as “kleptocracy at its worst” in practice. That is how our country was described. It was not fake news. It was from a man in authority speaking of an organisation which was set up with taxpayers’ funds and has incurred billions of ringgit in borrowings. Aren’t we, as Malaysians, entitled to know about a Malaysian-owned government company?

Did you read about it in your daily newspaper or did you hear it on our news channels? Was it not news worthy to be shared with fellow Malaysians? Herein are the problem and a big difference. Some editors are professional and decide what is good for the country while there are those who decide what is not good for the government and its leaders.

Many believe that the “government censors news” but it is far from the truth. No government official is present when the newspaper is put to bed. It is the editor who decides what you should read.

Having said that, editors have a role to play in ensuring journalists don’t get carried away by taking all and sundry presented to them as gifts. Attempts will be made to feed information by one party which is detrimental to another. They have to ensure that the organisation and individuals do not become tools of certain people.

But to harass journalists for reporting what was said is certainly unacceptable. Having suddenly realised what had been said sounded idiotic, don’t blame the journalists.

They should not be allowed to be bullied by the likes of Tengku Adnan. If this minister and his colleague are aggrieved by what has been written, there are proper channels. Journalists, who now have recording equipment, cameras and mobile phones as tools of their trade, will be able to substantiate what they had written. Therefore, the likelihood of journalists misquoting anyone has been minimised.

It is rather surprising that no one has come to the defence of the journalists. Editors should not succumb to threats. They must be able to draw a thick line between the citizen’s right to know and officialdom’s attempt to cover wrongdoings.

So, let journalists do their jobs without outbursts, threats or invoking the name of the Almighty at the drop of a hat. We are doing them a service in educating, entertaining and informing our fellow citizens on issues that affect all of us. If that cannot be done, then the government will have to replicate the Pravda, a relic of what used to be the Soviet Union. Surely, we can’t come down so low.


R NADESWARAN is passionate about journalism and says freedom of expression and free speech must be encouraged and practised for democracy to thrive. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com

Taking on the Fourth Estate –Trump, Saudi Arabia and The Free Press


July 18, 2017

Taking on the Fourth Estate –Trump, Saudi Arabia and The Free Press

by Azmi Sharom@www.thestar.com.my

What’s the real reason for the demand that Qatar shut down the Al Jazeera Arabic channel?

Image result for Sword Dancing--Saudi Arabia and Trump

 

WHAT is the similarity between Donald Trump and the Saudi Government?Well, apart from a penchant for sword dancing, they both have taken a hard line on the free press.

Both have taken different levels of action, though. Trump, being the type of person that he is, reacts with thin-skinned petulance when the press say things he disagrees with or when they criticise him. His fingers will reach for his phone and tweets will come flying out as fast as his little digits can type.

Image result for Al-Jazeera Arabic

These tweets are in equal mea­sure childish, misogynistic and – how shall I put this delicately – lacking in any sort of sophistication.   He has, however, upped the ante recently by having a video of him “wrestling” posted.

This is an old video from when he was merely a media mogul and had some sort of role in the WWE and it was, of course, staged. The thing is the video has been changed a bit with the wrestler’s face superimposed with a CNN logo.

So far, so infantile. It’s a bit less funny when you think that recently a Republican candidate actually body-slammed a journalist from The Guardian because he did not like his line of questioning. A strangely prescient wrestling move that Trump applauded. Of course.

redditor trump vs cnn

 

The American press feel a little under siege and nervous because they argue that what their President is doing is essentially saying it’s OK to attack the press and their members, even in a physical way.

Of course, one could pooh-pooh this as a bunch of entitled journos being a bit limp.

After all, unlike many journalists around the world, the Americans do not suffer governments who actually have oppressive laws and the lack of ethics to use those laws against the press. Nor are they subject to brutal murders and other acts of serious violence.

Still, knowing how some Trump supporters are – again, how shall I put this delicately – simple, I suppose these concerns can be given some credence.

The situation is somewhat diffe­rent in the Middle East. The Saudis and their allies are attacking Qatar, at the moment only economically. The reason is ostensibly that Qatar is supporting terror groups.

The rights and wrongs of this claim are not the subject of discussion here.

Neither will I discuss the irony of a country that exports a most lite­ralist brand of Islam, which provides the ideological grist for terrorist mills, calling another nation supporters of terror.

The point I want to talk about is that among the terms that the Saudis have made on the Qataris if they want the blockade lifted, is that Qatar must shut down their news channel, Al Jazeera Arabic (AJA).

Here’s the thing though: is that really the reason for it or is it because AJA is the only Arabic-language news channel that is consistently critical of the governments (mostly unelected) in the Middle East?

That they provide aspirations for democratic governance and civil liberties, and that they give space to voices which would normally be suppressed in the Arab world?

At the end of the day, I think it boils down to simply this: there are governments and leaders that do not like being criticised and they will do all that they can to shut the media up.

They will try to justify their attacks on the press, whether it be by screaming “fake news” in every other sentence, or by claiming that the media is biased against them, thus casting aspersions on the vali­dity of reports; they can use laws to cower the press; or they can go the whole hog by threatening war.

And what is the press to do? Roll over and play dead? Merely think of their livelihoods and their shareholders? Or does it keep striving and pushing? Does it keep on working in a professional, well researched, impartial manner, to provide news that can be relied on?

Because in this age of the Internet, there is a lot of rubbish floating around, and as retro as this may sound, the mainstream press (and by this I mean all journalistic endeavours that are professional and working within the ethical boundaries of their profession, including online news portals) is still vitally important.

If the media does not play their role as the Fourth Estate properly, the question then is, what is their purpose?

 

Be Wary of Spin Doctors


July 14, 2017–The Bastille Day

In the Run up to GE-14: Be Wary of Spin Doctors

by R. Nadeswaran@www,malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | In 1984, British journalist Henry Porter published a book outlining the excesses of what used to be Fleet Street newspapers. He chastised them for their lack of concern for simple matters such as the truth.

Image result for Najib Razak's Spin Doctors

Smart and Decent  Malaysians say Prime Minister Najib Razak, is a Crook

Image result for Najib Razak's Spin Doctors

Golf Buddy Tan Kay Hock thinks Prime Najib Razak is the best Prime Minister Malaysia ever had.

It was written in an era before the advent of the mobile phone which became a necessary tool for journalists to survive. And if not for this gadget, the world would not have knowledge of the phone-tapping technology which journalists in the red-tops in England used (illegally) and made headlines worldwide.

It was also an era when the term “fake news” was unheard of and when we scribes prepared our stories on the Olivetti or Remington typewriters on several sheets of carbon paper in between specially-cut A4-sized newsprint.

In one chapter, Porter describes how a Daily Telegraph journalist created a fictitious character with a military background living in Gloucester, through which he expressed right-wing views. Even when it became apparent that he did not exist, the newspaper reported that “Raphael Duvant died when lightning struck his metal leg while he was umpiring a cricket match.”

In a way of sorts, Duvant or a number of Duvant clones have been resurrected right here in Malaysia to be the new darlings of political parties who seek to embrace the new media.

Image result for R. Nadeswaran

R. Nadeswaran–Malaysia’s Foremost and Gutsy Investigative Journalist

Nothing wrong with that, except that these specially-created Duvants claim to have been given access to all meetings. Even when two opposition leaders are having a cuppa, he or she can sit and record every word they utter. Their ears are so powerful that they can generate first-person accounts describing the words whispered between sheets in someone’s bedroom.

But their mind-reading capabilities must take the cake. They can conjure what someone is planning to do and even have knowledge of the inner secrets that circulate in the minds of third parties. This is no ordinary boast. In their writings, they appear to give the impression that they have front row seats.

Image result for The New Straits Times, The Star and Utusan Malaysia

They cannot be expected to be factual, reliable and truthful since they are owned by UMNO and Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)

The mainstream media is popularising these non-existent characters by quoting them extensively to give them an aura of legitimacy and authority without even knowing their identity.

Yes, everyone is in the pre-election mode or to put it more bluntly, survival mode. The affairs of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and the court filings of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) are indeed part of it. Praise the former, demonise the latter and you are guaranteed to be in the news.

During the last general election, I took umbrage with the newspapers publishing full-page advertisements, making all kinds of claims against the opposition without any substantiation.

The riposte was not unexpected. Instead of addressing the issue, Vincent Lee, the then Executive Vice-chairperson of the Star Publications group replied: “I am disappointed with him (Nadeswaran) because when I was President of the 4As, I sided with him when he took on the issue of corruption in the outdoor advertising industry. At that time, I received death threats after speaking up against illegal billboards in the Klang Valley.

“After a year, the situation has remained unchanged. However, he has moved on from his anti-corruption stand to talking about advertising, but his own newspaper has accepted and carried the same advertisement.”

But writing about advertising is not exclusive to anyone, and I responded thus: “The fact is that although the management of theSun (my employers at that time) may not see an issue in the same light as the writer, it sees it as expressions of opinion. It may not necessarily reflect the stance of the newspaper. The publication of such articles does not mean that the newspaper endorses my views.

“It was in a plain and simple language that journalists have no control over newspaper operations and the final decision on content – advertising and editorial are left to the management.”

I then posed a vital question: “The outburst in cyberspace reflects the anger of ordinary Malaysians who view such audacious campaigns as insulting their intelligence. On a similar note, will the same newspapers publish an advertisement paid for by well-minded citizens which reads: ‘Can you trust a party which is led by a crook?’

“This question can only be answered by none other than owners of publishing houses who have accepted and consented to publish those questionable and code-breaking advertisements.”

In dire straits

This time around, the election campaign will be dominated once again by the media – but with a difference. The worms that have crawled out of the woodwork will get their five minutes of fame, albeit writing under pen names or pseudonyms.

How else to explain government mouthpieces taking the stand that the 1MDB is a non-issue? Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s stance that 1MDB has contributed to the people in many ways which they are unaware of, has further added to the continued parroting of praises of the state sovereign fund which is in dire straits.

Yes, the company has financed haj pilgrims, built houses and sponsored students’ education but at what cost to the nation and its people? Committing the taxpayer to several billion ringgit in debt and giving away a few million makes little sense because it is akin to robbing the bank to feed the needy.

As this article is being written, news has just filtered of yet another episode in the 1MDB saga. Former Singapore banker Yeo Jiawei, who is serving the longest jail term in Singapore’s probes linked to 1MDB, has admitted to charges including money laundering.

Yeo, who also pleaded guilty to cheating his former employer, agreed to help with Singapore’s money-laundering investigation, which prosecutors described as the largest in the country’s history. He was sentenced to 54 months in jail. He was handed a 30-month term last December on charges of trying to tamper with witnesses in the probe.

Yeo’s admission of guilt came after the Monetary Authority of Singapore wrapped up a two-year probe into flows related to the 1MDB. Prosecutors named him as a central figure linked to Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who was identified by Singapore police as a “key person of interest” in their probe. Low has also been described by DOJ investigators as the controller of a plan to steal billions from 1MDB.

According to international news organisations of repute, 1MDB is at the heart of several money-laundering and corruption probes across the globe.

Against such a background and given that the people in Putrajaya and their spin doctors can make black look white and vice versa, would anyone be surprised if any of these worms would come out with this incredulous statement: “Singapore and other countries are deliberately carrying out investigations and taking action to discredit Malaysia and its leaders because they are jealous of our success and that 1MDB has been able to help people in times of need?”

I wouldn’t be, but would you?

Last words:  When comparing state sovereign wealth funds, Singapore’s Temasek Holdings on Tuesday announced that its global portfolio is worth US$197 billion (about RM850 billion). Can someone tell us what 1MDB has to show besides a large amount of borrowing and crooked deals?

R NADESWARAN is an award-winning veteran journalist who writes on bread and butter issues with one agenda – a better quality of life for all Malaysians irrespective of colour, creed or religion. He can be reached at citizen.nades22@gmail.com.

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