November 8, 2017
July 28, 2017
Smooth Talking New Yorker Le Mooch–Trump’s Hatchet Man in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave
by David Remnik
Le Mooch–Trump’s Lapdog–Hatchet Man.
Customarily, when you are in the first couple of weeks of a new job, it’s best to learn the names of the people around you, absorb the rudiments of your new workplace, maybe figure out the lunch situation. This was clearly not the way of Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director for the Trump White House. The Mooch is a man in a hurry. But while he looks to most like someone racing into a wall, he is, to his patron, doing precisely what is required.
Within moments of arrival, Scaramucci was declaring his everlasting fealty to the President (“I love the President”), erasing the digital evidence of his previous contempt for the President (“an inherited money dude from Queens County”), and comparing his relationship with Reince Priebus, the White House Chief of Staff, to that of Cain and Abel, the killer and the killed. And then, the other night, he called Ryan Lizza, of The New Yorker. First, Scaramucci tried in vain to unearth the source who revealed that he had dined at the White House, and wrongly presumed it was Priebus. He then went on an obscene tirade about Priebus’s mental stability, Steve Bannon’s dorsal flexibility, and, most alarming of all, his intention to “fucking kill all the leakers” by employing the capacities, human and technological, of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago,” Scaramucci told Lizza. “This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice.” He then ended the nearly nine-minute colloquy by saying, “Yeah, let me go, though, because I’ve gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy”—meaning Priebus—“crazy.”
The reaction to all this was predictable. It roiled, yet again, the sense of vertigo that has accompanied the Trump era. And there were laughs all around, can-you-top-this jokes on Twitter, gleeful one-liners on late-night television, grave pronouncements on the morning shows. And yet the reaction that matters most was that of Scaramucci’s patron, the President of the United States. Mike Allen, the co-founder of the Web site Axios, wrote, “We’re told the President loved the Mooch quotes.”
Of course he did. After all, Scaramucci was, in language and in manner, channeling Trump himself. What about Scaramucci’s rant could possibly have offended Trump’s sense of propriety, dignity, or politics? As so many audiotapes, tweets, interviews, and speeches have made clear, Trump has no compunction about treating people, even his most self-abnegating loyalists, as vassals; he speaks in the language of obscenity and contempt. What previous President could have delivered an oration so filled with political bile that his host, the Boy Scouts of America, would find it necessary to apologize to anyone who might have been offended? He is unique.
Scaramucci, who was endorsed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, seems to have been installed to carry out Trump’s form of personnel management—to help demean and get rid of retainers who have proved disappointing or threatening to his interests. Sean Spicer. Reince Priebus. Steve Bannon. Jeff Sessions. And, ultimately, Robert Mueller.
In other words, the Mooch matters because the Mooch–The new White House Iago- helps to clarify what matters most to the President and his family. What matters most is Trump’s grip on his base voters and his survival in office. Everything else—a sane health-care policy, the dignity of the transgender people who have volunteered to serve their country, a rational environmental policy, a foreign policy that serves basic democratic values, rule of law—is of tertiary interest.
Trump’s focus is not impossible to divine. He is increasingly anxious that Mueller and congressional investigators are exploring the details of his business transactions and financial holdings, and how they might have exposed him to being targeted by the Russian government.
In the meantime, Trump’s capacity to demean and diminish everyone in his proximity continues apace. H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, is said to have an increasingly rocky relationship with the President, and to have been on the receiving end of his contempt; Secretary of Defense James Mattis was informed of the ban on transgender soldiers merely as a courtesy; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finds himself in a turf battle with Trump’s son-in-law, who believes himself capable of untold diplomatic achievements. How long can these people last? Priebus, Bannon—if they are swept away, do not expect them to be replaced by models of probity.
Lapdog Le Mooch and his Master, Donald J. Trump–The 45th POTUS
Last week, while Trump was battling to repeal Obamacare, Scaramucci told CBS, “I don’t know if he’s going to get what he wants next week, but he’s going to get what he wants eventually, because this guy always gets what he wants. O.K.?” Scaramucci matters because he has divined what Donald Trump wants, and he is speaking in his language. Last night, John McCain and many others refused to be cowed or intimidated. They acted in favor of the most elemental notion of rationality and principle. Who else will follow?
Video: How Trump Could Get Fired
The Constitution offers two main paths for removing a President from office. How feasible are they?
David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992. He is the author of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.”
September 30, 2016
Manufacturing Consent in a Democratic Society
June 24, 2016
The normalisation of Racism in Malaysia–Thanks Farouk for Socking to Insolent Nik Abduh and Biro Tata Negara
by Farouk A. Peru
In a week that saw Nik Abduh advising Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to spend his remaining years on the prayer mat seeking forgiveness, I thought I had seen my fair share of ludicrous remarks for the week at least.
Nik Abduh has taken over his late father’s place as the purveyor of silly comments, it seems. He told Tun Dr M that the latter’s time was short and so he should spend it in worship. How does Abduh know how much time anyone has left? And why should anyone spend it solely on the prayer mat when he could be helping society? Is Abduh saying Islam is only practised on the prayer mat? If so, he should withdraw from politics and spend it on the prayer mat himself.
The UMNO-sponsored BTN Troopers are told that” racism is a good thing”
But even Abduh’s comment could not overshadow those by the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) or National Civics Bureau in terms of ludicrousness. BTN used to be very sheepish about its institutional racism. After all, being racist is a shameful thing.
Around six years ago, one of its officers was caught using derogatory racial epithets to describe Malaysian Chinese and Indians. At the time, the usual excuses were given. Misquoted, misunderstood etc. Though I doubt anyone actually believed those excuses at the time, at least there was a sense of shame about it.
Fast forward to the present and BTN is actually saying that racism is good to bring about unity! There were no more excuses or being sheepish about it. This is a blatant, audacious and brazen proclamation: racism is a good thing!
I had to read the headline a few times to ensure I got it right; it had occurred to me that language may have betrayed them. Perhaps they meant “racialism” instead of “racism.” “Racialism” is the focus upon a particular racial group to benefit them but does not entail oppressing other racial groups. Call it cultural empowerment, if you will. Perhaps BTN meant this instead of racism. Except they did not.
They actually meant racism. They contrasted this racism with the fact that other races had their fair share of human rights (notwithstanding child abduction and bodysnatching for the purposes of religion, of course). They even said that most of the wealthiest people in the nation were Chinese as if this somehow absolves us of the sin of robbing others of educational and economic opportunities.
Apparently, they had lifted this concept of racism from the Arab nationalist tendencies of “asabiyyah” which was discussed by ibn Khaldun. Perhaps, in their uncritical approach which accepts anything Arabic as “Islamic”, they failed to understand that Ibn Khaldun was a sociologist and not a theologian.
Khaldun’s ideas were not necessarily Islam. In fact, the Quran does not condone any kind of racism or even nationalism. It sees our cultural diversity as a means of recognising one another (49/13) and that human disunity only came out of exploitative tendencies. That should sound very familiar to the BTN and their overlords, UMNO.
Let us now take a rational perspective. Can racism actually bring about any benefit? The proof of the pudding is in the eating and after nearly 50 years of affirmative action supposedly benefitting the Malays, even our leaders admit that they have grown used to their crutch! Instead of developing our competitive capacities in the wider world, we have chosen to create a controlled environment full of jaguh-jaguh kampungs. Kings of the small pond who would get devoured in the wider world.
These racist policies have had a terrible effect on the Malay mindset. We have come to have a privileged mindset and a sense of entitlement. Who could forget the speech last year by a young Malay woman bemoaning her struggle to make it once she graduated? Her sense of expectation is a depiction of the mindset Malays tend to have. This does not tally with our competitiveness at all and our lack of skills, especially in English, has been made into comedy material.
Racism must be also blamed for our current lack of national cohesion. Despite people seeing this as an increase in religious consciousness, Malays have not become more religious. Rather, they have mistaken another kind of racism (pseudo-Arabic racism, to be precise) for piety. Now, we even have organisations shamelessly peddling Islamisation while claiming their Malay rights!
The Kuala Lumpur Logo Controversy–Reality vs Myth
Does a tacky logo point to the return of authoritarianism in Malaysia?
When institutional failures are commonplace, institutions are expected to fail. This cynical expectation may be passed off as sarcasm, but it is intrinsic to a growing sense of political detachment between the Malaysian government under Prime Minister Najib Razak and the people. Worse, the authorities have a vested interest in maintaining, rather than closing, this gap, to deter more direct political participation.
Kuala Lumpur’s new logo, recently released by the city council Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL), was never destined to be popular. Rather, it is the public’s reactions that give it currency.
When it was first unveiled online, the logo prompted ridicule. Within the span of a week, a free template was created, in addition to several step-by-step tutorials , allowing netizens to make their own version of the logo with just a few clicks. Social media was immediately awash with parodies and caricatures, with netizens customising the logo with personal or corporate names, repurposing it for reasons other than its own initial intent.
This is the Reality since 2009
While one could however laud the creative aftermath of this controversy, the reactions in fact display more cynicism than optimism. The parodies are suggestive of a growing detachment between the Malaysian government and the people, one that amounts to a credibility gap. But this gap should not be understood solely as a problem. Rather, it is an ideological façade perpetuated by the authorities to consolidate their power.
After the negative reception of the logo, DBKL responded that the design cost RM15,000, inevitably creating a greater stir. The logo received its second wave of media coverage when Visit KL, the Tourism Unit of DBKL, released a video on YouTube (removed from the official Visit KL channel, but re-uploaded by a private organisation) showcasing a row of tin ingots gradually crackling and breaking apart to reveal the logo. The tin ingots are supposed to symbolise Kuala Lumpur’s history “as a major tin mining and trading centre”, whereas the serif font selection is supposed to display “an Islamic scripture character with a modern twist”.
Nonetheless, any clarification provided by DBKL will never suffice. Be it RM15 or RM15,000, the reactions will be the same. In Malaysia, cynicism has been thriving during most of Prime Minister Najib administration, escalating with the 1MDB fiasco. It is a symptom that has developed over an extended period of time and out of repeated institutional failures. That these failures have become a norm means that not only are failures commonplace, they are expected to be so.
The expectation of failures feeds into cynicism and the credibility gap. This phenomenon should not be underestimated. Within the broader contemporary state of affairs, cynicism becomes integral to the political economy of the nation-state. To the Malaysian authorities, failures are ideologically productive: failures, again and again, produce cynical expectation, deepen political detachment and expand the tolerance for more scandalous failures.
If the banality of repeated failures cultivates cynicism, cynicism furthers the banalisation of failures and completes the crisis of political detachment.
Far from being a standalone problem, this crisis should be read against the context of the privileging of the personal over the public domain. It is a moment where political actions become more about the individual rather than the collective. . Parodies of the controversial Kuala Lumpur logo point to this direction. Amid the breakdown of the public political realm, accruing personal cynicism can only be satiated through further individualisation of political expression. That is, in this case, through the personalisation or customisation of the logo.
The credibility gap has effectively disempowered the public and has deterred the possibility of more direct political action. The Kuala Lumpur logo controversy and the subsequent reactions are but a sign. Resistance is now impelled to operate in a separate discourse of politics, which can resist and react accordingly without the gap ever closing, because it has been decoupled from the hegemonic operation of power.
The response towards the Kuala Lumpur logo has taken up a form that fuels political detachment. Increasingly, resistance has to capitalise on this detachment for more radical advocacy. Yet, it is on the very same detachment that the hegemony of power thrives. It is in this fashion that authoritarianism in Malaysia is returning.
Through the maintenance of credibility gap and political detachment, institutional failures are constantly rehearsed to accustom the public to expecting failures with amusement rather than anger. The crisis of institutional credibility has become so ordinary that recurrent failures sit within one’s comfort zone. And as the cronies do what they do best, resistant politics can only react more radically by deepening the sense of political detachment, and implicitly, by making failures ever more tolerable.
Tan Zi Hao is a postgraduate student in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He is also a conceptual artist whose artworks can be viewed at www.tanzihao.net. As both artist and writer, he is interested in the arts, language, cultural politics and mobilities.
May 20, 2016
Malaysian Civil Service: Can they think, raise the right issues, and do things right?
No one of substance in government is bold enough to raise the right issues as most prefer wallowing in self-consolation hoping things will eventually self-correct.
by TK Chua
There is a management thought that says we must be honest and bold enough to raise the right issues or to ask the right questions. If we do not have the right questions, it does not matter much that we have the right answers. Right answers to wrong questions are useless.
1MDB is Malaysia’s Najib-inspired Blue Ocean Strategy Bull
Today, Malaysia is reeling from the reality that no one of any substance in government is bold enough to raise the right issues or ask the right questions as most prefer wallowing in self-consolation, hoping things will eventually self-correct. Rarely do they rock the boat and challenge the established paradigm. Instead, they pretend to support every phoney reform undertaken – from Pemandu, BR1M, BRAM, BROOM, NBOS Initiatives (watch video above), to GST and all the baloney that takes place in GLCs (e.g. 1MBD).
Malaysia’s Top Civil Servant with his Brains Trust
We know from history it is never easy to reform a system or a country from within. The death of the Qing dynasty and the French Revolution convey the same story – failed reforms.
People in power usually cannot see it or refuse to see it. They become insensitive and insular to the needs of others. Hence, while many in the country are struggling to get by, the ruling elite shamelessly and effortlessly indulge in obscene extravagance even for a simple event like a birthday or wedding celebration. We used to laugh at Marie Antoinette’s infamous “let them eat cake” joke, but I don’t think we have ever learnt anything worthwhile from it.
Why do I say we are addressing the wrong issues? Let me list a few examples:
i. We use the GST to perpetuate our wasteful ways, not instill financial discipline and prudence in the public sector. The GST, therefore, will not solve our fiscal unsustainability problems. It will not help stabilise and strengthen the ringgit. It will only reinforce the government’s spendthrift ways.
ii. Pemandu did not transform the government machinery.Like any bureaucracy, it only added more outfits and programmes to it and drains our national coffers. Therefore, it will only incur more expenses but with no efficiency gained.
iii. National development is not about issuing bonds or raising debts, setting up giant corporations and listing GLCs that the earlier generations have taken decades to nurture and build. Why are we indulging in buying, investing, selling, restructuring, paying off debts, and renegotiating with “partners” endlessly? Why instead of creating value, are we moving from one protracted problem to another? This is worse than children playing the game of monopoly.
iv. Foreign workers are supposed to come here to supplement our needs, not dictate the “production function” of this country. Now we have Malaysians leaving the country in droves while foreigners are allowed indiscriminate entry. In the process, our value chain goes down the drain and our way of life turns upside down.
v. We keep saying the future of this country is in the hands of the young. But what future have we created for them – an increasing pool of unemployed and unemployable graduates?
vi. We were told to be magnanimous and live in harmony, but every day we are reminded of protests over altars here, tokongs there and the general lack of piousness everywhere. If we are so godly, why are we so filthy and depraved? Why are we experiencing mass food poisoning so often? Why are our children so prone to mass hysteria? Why are our women subjected to snatch theft, attempted rape and rape so often? I know what you are thinking – when compared to other countries, Malaysia is not so bad. Maybe that is why some say we are good in jumping on the spot.
vii. Our idea of multiculturalism is when one marries a spouse of a different race or religion. Our racial tolerance is to adopt a son or daughter from another race or foster a child of another race. Our idea of inclusiveness is to produce a video portraying groups of different racial backgrounds dancing or singing together for a GLC’s advertisement or a national event. However, in our daily life, we don’t care whether our policies are fair and just.
When push comes to shove, we just hoist our flag of race and religious supremacy. We just need to divert blame onto others – and cry out at how others have tried to sabotage and undermine our vital interests; how we must be ever vigilant to keep them in the box.
I think it is enough for now. You may add on to the list if you want.*
*There is no need to add to Mr. Chua’s list. We must take the blame because we continue to allow an incompetent UMNO-BN government led by the corrupt Prime Minister Najib Razak to operate. We are indifferent and do not have the guts to sack the Prime Minister and his cabal who are in charge of our national coffers. To make matters worse, we have a political opposition which will do the same if they are given the opportunity, that is, they can be equally arrogant and corrupt. We are already a failed state.
Only a failed people will want the status quo. So, our voters will allow UMNO-BN to win the forthcoming by-elections in Kuala Kangsar and Sungei Besar like they did in Sarawak recently. We deserve the government we get. –Din Merican