Rally shows need for a radical revamp of the curriculum
by Dr.Azly Rahman@ www. malalaysiakini.com
by Dr.Azly Rahman@ www. malalaysiakini.com
May 10, 2018
by Mike Minehan
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Elect, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
The seismic shift that is the recent change of government in Malaysia raises more questions than it resolves.
These questions are:
1. How will the economic and social distortions caused by the former regime’s preferences for powerful Malays be resolved? This group of powerful Malays are members of the majority ethnic group who were originally cemented into power by the new Prime Minister himself. How threatened will they feel now that they have lost power, and will their influence be diminished?
2. How will the defeated Barisan Nasional coalition be able to regroup into an effective opposition after six decades of uninterrupted rule and after persistent and prolonged accusations of corruption?
3. Will the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak, be prosecuted for corruption following revelations while he was in power that billlions of dollars had been siphoned from the State Investment Fund 1MBD? US investigators say that at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014, including $700 million that landed in Najib’s personal bank account. The new Prime Minister Mahathir says he is not seeking revenge, but he qualified this statement by saying that those found to have breached the law will be prosecuted.
The missing billions from 1MBD made headlines around the world, and this issue is probably the major factor that motivated voters to change government. The BBC Malaysian channel explains:
But back to other questions about Malaysia that also need to be resolved:
4. Will the new Prime Minister Mahathir really allow Anwar Ibrahim to succeed him as Prime Minister in 2 years’ time as he has promised? Anwar is currently in jail, serving his second sentence for sodomy – which he claims was politically motivated. Anwar was a former protege of Mahathir, but Mahathir had him jailed in 1999 when it seemed he was becoming too powerful and popular. Mahathir and Anwar joined forces in 2018 to defeat Najib, but this is a very unlikely political alliance with a very uneasy history.
5. Now that the Mahathir coalition has enjoyed such a resounding victory, will the role of the conservative Islamic party PAS be diminished?
6. Will Mahathir be able to reduce the cost of living in Malaysia? Corruption, and the higher cost of living brought about in part by Najib’s introduction of a 6 per cent VAT-type goods and services tax, were the core of the new coalition’s election platform. And if Mahathir can’t reduce the cost of living (a virtually impossible task) how will voters react?
7. And finally, will a 92 year old (the age of the new Prime Minister) be able to defy time and grasp the reins of power effectively again? Can a nonagenarian live up to the weight of expectations now on his shoulders?
April 4, 2018
The NRA controls The White House and The US Congress. Fact or Fiction (Fake News)? Student activism may change that.
Polarization of extremes in politics is nothing new. But political polarization seems to have hit a new low in the USA.
This is because the National Rifle Association (NRA) is taking aim at the teens who were the survivors of the February Parkland school shooting in Florida.
These teens and their activism on gun policy have now become the target of the NRA and its supporters, who claim that the Democrats are using these student survivors as pawns to advance the Democratic agenda of tighter restrictions on firearms.
The NRA’s most outspoken board member is the musician Ted Nugent, who says the protesting students are liars and are soulless:
Ted Nugent is also notorious for inviting the then Presidential Candidate Obama to “suck on my machine gun” in 2007.
CNN provides more details about the Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, who attacked one of the Florida high school survivors, and then found that advertisers were deserting her show:
CBS News reported on the 2nd April that at least 15 companies have now pulled their advertising from Ingraham’s show in protest after her criticism of Parkland High School Senior David Hogg.
Polarization in America is most noticeable in reactions to news outlets themselves. According to the American Pew Research Centre, 9 out of 10 Democrats now say that criticism of leaders by news outlets helps prevent these leaders from doing things that they shouldn’t. But only 4 in 10 Republicans agree. The other 6 out of 10 argue alternatively that this criticizm stops leaders from doing their job.
This divergence is a 47 point gap, and it’s worsened dramatically since the Presidency of George W Bush, when the same gap between Democrats and Republicans about news media was only 27 per cent.
It’s interesting to speculate on the reasons why this chasm has widened, and why there is now so much toxicity. Perhaps the Trump mantra of ‘fake news’ is contributing. Perhaps the confrontational politics of President Trump are another causal factor. Or perhaps the way Trump uses the power of the Presidency to publicly pursue his own vitriolic vendettas might be yet another accelerant.
But whatever, targeting school kids who have just survived a massacre in which 17 of their school friends were killed, well, that’s an all time low that should be out of bounds for even the NRA. Especially the NRA, which at other times, is at pains to project its image of law abiding citizens trying to protect the Second Amendment.
I can’t help feeling that America is becoming another victim. The politics of viciousness now seem to be the norm.
And anyway, what sort of a culture is it that kicks kids when they’re down? I would say this is a careless culture, because these kids and their supporters will step up to the ballot box very soon.
March 23, 2018
In 2006, a local pollster in Nepal was kidnapped by Maoist rebels while conducting opinion surveys on behalf of the American political strategist Stan Greenberg. The Maoists, who had been waging a long-running insurgency against the government, did not issue their typical ransom demands—money or weapons in exchange for the prisoner. No, they wanted the polling data that Greenberg’s team had collected, evidently to gauge the political climate in the country for themselves.
Alexander Nix, pictured here in 2016, was recently suspended from his position as the C.E.O. of Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the center of a data-mining scandal involving Facebook.Photograph by Joshua Bright / The Washington Post / Getty
The researchers eventually handed it over. In his book “Alpha Dogs,” the British journalist James Harding cites this story as an example of how the business of political campaigning is being remade, across the globe, by a profusion of fine-grained data about voters and their habits. Where the consultants of the nineteen-sixties and seventies obsessed over how to use television to beam ideal images of their clients into voters’ homes, today’s spinmasters hope that big data will allow them to manipulate voters’ deepest hopes and fears. “What’s the currency of the world now?” one of Greenberg’s partners asks Harding. “It’s not gold, it’s data. It’s the information.”
Twelve years later, the fixation on data as the key to political persuasion has exploded into scandal. For the past several days, the Internet has been enveloped in outrage over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the shadowy firm that supposedly helped Donald Trump win the White House. As with the Maoist rebels, this appears to be a tale of data-lust gone bad. In order to fulfill the promises that Cambridge Analytica made to its clients—it claimed to possess cutting-edge “psychographic profiles” that could judge voters’ personalities better than their own friends could—the company had to harvest huge amounts of information. It did this in an ethically suspicious way, by contracting with Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, who built an app that collected demographic data on tens of millions of Facebook users, largely without their knowledge. “This was a scam—and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, told the Times over the weekend. Kogan has said that he was assured by Cambridge Analytica that the data collection was “perfectly legal and within the limits of the terms of service.
Despite Facebook’s performance of victimization, it has endured a good deal of blowback and blame. Even before the story broke, Trump’s critics frequently railed at the company for contributing to his victory by failing to rein in fake news and Russian propaganda. To them, the Cambridge Analytica story was another example of Facebook’s inability, or unwillingness, to control its platform, which allowed bad actors to exploit people on behalf of authoritarian populism. Democrats have demanded that Mark Zuckerberg, the C.E.O. of Facebook, testify before Congress. Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, wants to talk to him, too. “Facebook needs to clarify before the representatives of five hundred million Europeans that personal data is not being used to manipulate democracy,” he said. On Wednesday afternoon, after remaining conspicuously silent since Friday night, Zuckerberg pledged to restrict third-party access to Facebook data in an effort to win back user trust. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” he wrote on Facebook.
But, as some have noted, the furor over Cambridge Analytica is complicated by the fact that what the firm did wasn’t unique or all that new. In 2012, Barack Obama’s reëlection campaign used a Facebook app to target users for outreach, giving supporters the option to share their friend lists with the campaign. These efforts, compared with those of Kogan and Cambridge Analytica, were relatively transparent, but users who never gave their consent had their information sucked up anyway. (Facebook has since changed its policies.) As the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has written, Facebook itself is a giant “surveillance machine”: its business model demands that it gather as much data about its users as possible, then allow advertisers to exploit the information through a system so complex and opaque that misuse is almost guaranteed.
Just because something isn’t new doesn’t mean that it’s not outrageous. It is unquestionably a bad thing that we carry out much of our online lives within a data-mining apparatus that sells influence to the highest bidder. My initial reaction to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, though, was jaded; the feeling came from having seen how often, in the past, major public outcries about online privacy led nowhere. In most cases, after the calls to delete Facebook die down and the sternly worded congressional letters stop being written, things pretty much go back to normal. Too often, privacy scandals boil down to a superficial fix to some specific breach or leak, without addressing how the entire system undermines the possibility of control. What exciting big-data technique will be revealed, six years from now, as a democracy-shattering mind-control tool?
Yet I eventually found reason to be genuinely repulsed by the story. On Monday, the U.K.’s Channel 4 published video footage of an undercover sting operation that it had conducted against Cambridge Analytica. A man working for the channel, posing as a political operative from Sri Lanka, met with the firm’s representatives to discuss hiring them for a campaign. On camera, over three meetings in various swanky hotels around London, C.A.’s employees offer an increasingly sordid account of their methods and capabilities. The most unseemly revelation—and, in the context of the sting, the most ironic—comes when Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s C.E.O., seems to offer to entrap the client’s political rivals with secretly videotaped bribes and rendezvous with sex workers. (Nix was suspended on Tuesday.)
Like much of the best investigative journalism, the Channel 4 video gives viewers the queasy sense of a rock being overturned and sinister things being exposed to the light. It is difficult to watch the video without becoming at least a little suspicious of the entire business of democracy, given how large a role political consultants such as Nix play in it these days. Perhaps it is naïve to be scandalized by the cravenness of political consultants in the age of Paul Manafort, whose global democratic-perversion tour took him from buffing the image of the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in the nineteen-eighties, to running Trump’s campaign, or to fighting a fraud case for allegedly laundering his fees from the Ukrainian kleptocrat Viktor Yanukovych. But there was something shocking about the stark double identity of this posh “Old Etonian,” as all the British papers call Nix, who presented himself as a big-data wizard at marketing events but proposed basic gangsterism to clients in private. And in the same spiffy suit.
Watching the video makes you understand that the ethical difference between outright electoral corruption and psychographics is largely a matter of degree. Both are shortcuts that warp the process into something small and dirty. You don’t need to believe Cambridge Analytica’s own hype about the persuasive power of its methods to worry about how data-obsessed political marketing can undermine democracy. The model of the voter as a bundle of psychological vulnerabilities to be carefully exploited reduces people to mathematical inputs. The big debates about values and policies that campaigns are supposed to facilitate and take part in are replaced by psychographically derived messages targeted to ever-tinier slivers of voters who are deemed by an algorithm to be persuadable. The organization of all of online life by data-mining operations makes this goal seem attainable, while an industry of data scientists and pollsters pitch it as inevitable. Candidates, voters, and pundits, enthralled with the geek’s promise of omniscience, rush to buy in—at least until it’s used by someone they don’t like. Cambridge Analytica is as much a symptom of democracy’s sickness as its cause.
March 19, 2018
by Kaushik Basu
As inequality continues to deepen worldwide, we do not have the luxury of sticking to the status quo. Unless we confront the inequality challenge head on – as we have just begun to do with another existential threat, climate change – social cohesion, and especially democracy, will come under growing threat.
At the end of a low and dishonest year, reminiscent of the “low, dishonest decade” about which W.H. Auden wrote in his poem “September 1, 1939,” the world’s “clever hopes” are giving way to recognition that many severe problems must be tackled. And, among the severest, with the gravest long-term and even existential implications, is economic inequality.
The alarming level of economic inequality globally has been well documented by prominent economists, including Thomas Piketty, François Bourguignon, Branko Milanović, and Joseph E. Stiglitz, and well-known institutions, including OXFAM and the World Bank. And it is obvious even from a casual stroll through the streets of New York, New Delhi, Beijing, or Berlin.
Voices on the right often claim that this inequality is not only justifiable, but also appropriate: wealth is a just reward for hard work, while poverty is an earned punishment for laziness. This is a myth. The reality is that the poor, more often than not, must work extremely hard, often in difficult conditions, just to survive.
Moreover, if a wealthy person does have a particularly strong work ethic, it is likely attributable not just to their genetic predisposition, but also to their upbringing, including whatever privileges, values, and opportunities their background may have afforded them. So there is no real moral argument for outsize wealth amid widespread poverty.
This is not to say that there is no justification for any amount of inequality. After all, inequality can reflect differences in preferences: some people might consider the pursuit of material wealth more worthwhile than others. Moreover, differential rewards do indeed create incentives for people to learn, work, and innovate, activities that promote overall growth and advance poverty reduction.
But, at a certain point, inequality becomes so severe that it has the opposite effect. And we are far beyond that point.
Plenty of people – including many of the world’s wealthy – recognize how unacceptable severe inequality is, both morally and economically. But if the rich speak out against it, they are often shut down and labeled hypocrites. Apparently, the desire to lessen inequality can be considered credible or genuine only by first sacrificing one’s own wealth.
The truth, of course, is that the decision not to renounce, unilaterally, one’s wealth does not discredit a preference for a more equitable society. To label a wealthy critic of extreme inequality as a hypocrite amounts to an ad hominem attack and a logical fallacy, intended to silence those whose voices could make a difference.
Fortunately, this tactic seems to be losing some of its potency. It is heartening to see wealthy individuals defying these attacks, not only by openly acknowledging the economic and social damage caused by extreme inequality, but also by criticizing a system that, despite enabling them to prosper, has left too many without opportunities.
In particular, some wealthy Americans are condemning the current tax legislation being pushed by Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump’s administration, which offers outsize cuts to the highest earners – people like them. As Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Group and a certain beneficiary of the proposed cuts, put it, the plan – which is all but guaranteed to exacerbate inequality – is a “moral abomination.”
Yet recognizing the flaws in current structures is just the beginning. The greater challenge is to create a viable blueprint for an equitable society. (It is the absence of such a blueprint that has led so many well-meaning movements in history to end in failure.) In this case, the focus must be on expanding profit-sharing arrangements, without stifling or centralizing market incentives that are crucial to drive growth.
A first step would be to give all of a country’s residents the right to a certain share of the economy’s profits. This idea has been advanced in various forms by Marty Weitzman, Hillel Steiner, Richard Freeman, and, just last month, Matt Bruenig. But it is particularly vital today, as the share of wages in national income declines, and the share of profits and rents rises – a trend that technological progress is accelerating.
There is another dimension to profit-sharing that has received little attention, related to monopolies and competition. With modern digital technology, the returns to scale are so large that it no longer makes sense to demand that, say, 1,000 firms produce versions of the same good, each meeting one-thousandth of total demand.
A more efficient approach would have 1,000 firms each creating one part of that good. So, when it comes to automobiles, for example, one firm would produce all of the gears, another producing all of the brake pads, and so on.
Traditional antitrust and pro-competition legislation – which began in 1890 with the Sherman Act in the US – prevents such an efficient system from taking hold. But a monopoly of production need not mean a monopoly of income, as long as the shares in each company are widely held. It is thus time for a radical change, one that replaces traditional anti-monopoly laws with legislation mandating a wider dispersal of shareholding within each company.
These ideas are largely untested, so much work would need to be done before they could be made operational. But as the world lurches from one crisis to another, and inequality continues to deepen, we do not have the luxury of sticking to the status quo. Unless we confront the inequality challenge head on, social cohesion and democracy itself will come under growing threat.
October 9, 2017
by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com
Two Respected Malaysian Activists–Farouk A. Peru and Mariam Mokhtar
COMMENT | The Malaysian Special Branch is one of the most effective in the world. Its main role is intelligence gathering and the analysis of the information, for use by other government departments.
Predictions of the Special Branch about voting patterns and trends are highly respected. However, recently it was unable to tell Najib Abdul Razak and his cabinet the lie of the land, and how the rakyat will vote in the 14th general election (GE14). That does not augur well for the prime minister, who must call GE14 soon.
We are a divided nation, with Malays pitted against non-Malays, Muslims against non-Muslims, and East Malaysians against peninsular Malaysians. Fracture lines also exist within the communities, for example among the Malays.
The saying “Divide and conquer” has been used by successive Malaysian governments. Despite Najib’s boasts that the economy is doing well, and that everything is under control, he has delayed calling GE14? Why?
Is Prime Minister Najib unable to contain UMNO extremists and Zakir Naik or is he fermenting unrest by using race and religion so that he can declare Emergency Rule?
The recent steep rise in religious and racial intolerance, which has resulted in events like the Oktoberfest being cancelled and deemed a national security risk, is indicative of Najib’s increasing loss of control over the overall situation in Malaysia.
The bigots in the various government departments need to control the masses. Religion is their answer and Najib has provided them the means. Enter Abdul Hadi Awang, the leader of PAS. They are like a tag-team. Hadi has provided Najib the legitimacy to act in the name of Islam. Take one away, and their grip on the Malays is rendered useless.
Rallying call to reject the opposition
On a daily basis, we find the Malays being fed an unwholesome diet of the lies that the non-Malays would conquer them, if the Opposition, in particular the DAP, were to triumph in GE14. The rallying call to reject the Opposition is that the Malays will be driven back to the kampung, Islam will cease to be the official religion, mosques will be removed and Malay will soon be a forgotten language.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Zahid Hamdi who refuses to be outdone by his boss also embraces Indian Fugitive Zakir Naik
You may laugh and wonder why anyone should believe this rubbish, but when you tell this to many so-called “educated” Malays, you will discover that they actually believe this inflammatory rhetoric.
So, why should the Malays feel threatened? They hold top jobs in the civil service. They have no problems obtaining government grants, government contracts and government licences. Education is tailored to their needs, especially after one former UMNO education minister decided that the pass mark be lowered for Malays who sit for public examinations.
The Malays are admitted into the civil service and the armed forces. The royal households are all Malays. You are correct to point out that only those with “cable” (connections) to the top will prosper. But then, who are these people? Are they not mostly Malays? In other countries, this knowledge would be seized upon, questions asked in Parliament and protests demanding swift action, but not in Malaysia. Are we that cowed?
More fearful of Jakim’s officials, than of God
The Department of Islamic Development in Malaysia, Jakim, with its RM1 billion budget, spends much of its time policing our morals and telling us how to live our lives. Many of the Malays who do as Jakim tells them, are more fearful of this department’s officials, than of God. The irony is that we ignore the Quran because we are too lazy to learn.
Malaysians who can afford the fees send their children to study in international schools. Malaysians buy properties overseas so that they can send their children to schools in that country. This shows that they have no faith in the Malaysian education. Instead of demanding that the government improves the situation, they simply allow the system to get worse.
Mat Rempit and Minah Rempit in Action and then this (below)
Why are many local graduates unable to get jobs? Why do many Malay teenagers drop out and end up being Mat Rempit in stead of finishing school?
Many Malaysians are rant and grumble about with the state of economy, the education system and the simmering tensions in the country, but they are too scared to do anything about it. Why do they leave it to a few activists when they can take part in the movement for change?
You, too, have the power to change Malaysia. You can contribute your best. It may be in the form of one article, one poster, one talk, one interview, or one vote. It takes a flutter of a butterfly to create a tsunami to remove UMNO-Baru from the seat of government in Kuala Lumpur/Putrajaya, which it has held since Independence.