In Books on Donald Trump, Consistent Portraits of a High-Decibel Narcissist


August 27, 2017

by Michiko Kakutani

http://www.nytimes.com

Image result for  dystopian Donald Trump

Over the last year, we’ve been plunged into the alternate reality of Trumpland, as though we were caught in the maze of his old board game, “Trump: The Game,” with no exit in sight. It’s a Darwinian, dog-eat-dog, zero-sum world where greed is good, insults are the lingua franca, and winning is everything (or, in tangled Trumpian syntax, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!”).

To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s “Inferno,” where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue.

That the subject of these books is not a fictional character but the Republican nominee for president can only remind the reader of Philip Roth’s observation, made more than 50 years ago, that American reality is so stupefying, “so weird and astonishing,” that it poses an embarrassment to the novelist’s “meager imagination.”

Books about Mr. Trump tend to fall into two categories. There are funny ones that focus on Trump the Celebrity of the 1980s and ’90s — a cartoony avatar of greed and wretched excess and what Garry Trudeau (“Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump”) calls “big, honking hubris.” And there are serious biographies that try to shed light on Mr. Trump’s life and complex, highly opaque business dealings as a real estate magnate, which are vital to understanding the judgment, decision-making abilities and financial entanglements he would bring to the Oval Office.

Because of Mr. Trump’s lack of transparency surrounding his business interests (he has even declined to disclose his tax returns) and because of his loose handling of facts and love of hyperbole, serious books are obligated to spend a lot of time sifting through business and court documents. (USA Today recently reported that there are “about 3,500 legal actions involving Trump, including 1,900 where he or his companies were a plaintiff and about 1,300 in which he was the defendant.”) And they must also fact-check his assertions (PolitiFact rates 35 percent of his statements False, and 18 percent “Pants on Fire” Lies).

Image result for  dystopian Donald Trump vs Hillary

Perhaps because they were written rapidly as Mr. Trump’s presidential candidacy gained traction, the latest of these books rarely step back to analyze in detail the larger implications and repercussions of the Trump phenomenon. Nor do they really map the landscape in which he has risen to popularity and is himself reshaping through his carelessness with facts, polarizing remarks and disregard for political rules.

For that matter, these books shed little new light on controversial stands taken by Mr. Trump which, many legal scholars and historians note, threaten constitutional guarantees and American democratic traditions. Those include his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and the “extreme vetting” of immigrants; his talk of revising libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations over critical coverage; an ethnic-tinged attack on a federal judge that raises questions about his commitment to an independent judiciary; and his incendiary use of nativist and bigoted language that is fueling racial tensions and helping to mainstream far-right views on race.

Some of these books touch fleetingly on Mr. Trump’s use of inflammatory language and emotional appeal to feelings of fear and anger, but they do not delve deeply into the consequences of his nativist rhetoric or his contempt for the rules of civil discourse. They do, however, provide some sense of history, reminding us that while Mr. Trump’s craving for attention and use of controversy as an instrument of publicity have remained the same over the years, the surreal switch of venues — from the New York tabloid universe and the world of reality TV to the real-life arena of national and global politics — has turned formerly “small-potatoes stakes,” as one writer put it, into something profoundly more troubling. From WrestleMania-like insults aimed at fellow celebrities, Mr. Trump now denigrates whole racial and religious groups and questions the legitimacy of the electoral system.

A “semi-harmless buffoon” in Manhattan in the waning decades of the 20th century — as the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, terms the businessman in a foreword to Mark Singer’s book “Trump and Me” — has metamorphosed into a political candidate whom 50 senior Republican national security officials recently said “would be the most reckless president in American history,” putting “at risk our country’s national security and well being.”

Two new books provide useful, vigorously reported overviews of Mr. Trump’s life and career. “Trump Revealed,” by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, draws heavily on work by reporters of The Post and more than 20 hours of interviews with the candidate. Much of its material will be familiar to readers — thanks to newspaper articles and Michael D’Antonio’s 2015 biography (“Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success”) — but “Trump Revealed” deftly charts his single-minded building of his gaudy brand and his often masterful manipulation of the media.

It provides a succinct account of Mr. Trump’s childhood, when he says he punched a teacher, giving him a black eye. It also recounts his apprenticeship to a demanding father, who told him he needed to become a “killer” in anything he did, and how he learned the art of the counterattack from Roy Cohn, Joseph McCarthy’s former right-hand man, whom Mr. Trump hired to countersue the federal government after the Justice Department brought a case against the Trump family firm in 1973 for violating the Fair Housing Act.

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Donald is not Ronald Reagan

“The Making of Donald Trump” by David Cay Johnston — a former reporter for The New York Times who has written extensively about Mr. Trump — zeros in on Mr. Trump’s business practices, arguing that while he presents himself as “a modern Midas,” much “of what he touches” has often turned “to dross.” Mr. Johnston, who has followed the real estate impresario for nearly three decades, offers a searing indictment of his business practices and creative accounting. He examines Mr. Trump’s taste for debt, what associates have described as his startling capacity for recklessness, multiple corporate bankruptcies, dealings with reputed mobsters and accusations of fraud.

The portrait of Mr. Trump that emerges from these books, old or new, serious or satirical, is remarkably consistent: a high-decibel narcissist, almost comically self-obsessed; a “hyperbole addict who prevaricates for fun and profit,” as Mr. Singer wrote in The New Yorker in 1997.

Mr. Singer also describes Mr. Trump as an “insatiable publicity hound who courts the press on a daily basis and, when he doesn’t like what he reads, attacks the messengers as ‘human garbage,’” “a fellow both slippery and naïve, artfully calculating and recklessly heedless of consequences.”

At the same time, Mr. Singer and other writers discern an emptiness underneath the gold-plated armor. In “Trump and Me,” Mr. Singer describes his subject as a man “who had aspired to and achieved the ultimate luxury, an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul.” Mr. Kranish and Mr. Fisher likewise suggest that Mr. Trump “had walled off” any pain he experienced growing up and “hid it behind a never-ending show about himself.” When they ask him about friends, they write, he gives them — off the record — the names of three men “he had had business dealings with two or more decades before, men he had only rarely seen in recent years.”

Mr. Trump likes to boast about going it alone — an impulse that helps explain the rapid turnover among advisers in his campaign, and that has raised serious concerns among national security experts and foreign policy observers, who note that his extreme self-reliance and certainty (“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain”) come coupled with a startling ignorance about global affairs and an impatience with policy and details.

Passages in his books help illuminate Mr. Trump’s admiration for the strongman style of autocratic leaders like Russia’s Vladimir V. Putin, and his own astonishing “I alone can fix it” moment during his Republican convention speech. In his 2004 book, “Think Like a Billionaire,” Mr. Trump wrote: “You must plan and execute your plan alone.”

He also advised: “Have a short attention span,” adding “quite often, I’ll be talking to someone and I’ll know what they’re going to say before they say it. After the first three words are out of their mouth, I can tell what the next 40 are going to be, so I try to pick up the pace and move it along. You can get more done faster that way.”

In many respects, Mr. Trump’s own quotes and writings provide the most vivid and alarming picture of his values, modus operandi and relentlessly dark outlook focused on revenge. “Be paranoid,” he advises in one book. And in another: “When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.”

The grim, dystopian view of America, articulated in Mr. Trump’s Republican convention speech, is previewed in his 2015 book, “Crippled America” (republished with the cheerier title of “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America”), in which he contends that “everyone is eating” America’s lunch. And a similarly nihilistic vision surfaces in other remarks he’s made over the years: “I always get even”; “For the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect”; and: “The world is a horrible place. Lions kill for food, but people kill for sport.”

Once upon a time, such remarks made Mr. Trump perfect fodder for comedians. Though some writers noted that he was already a caricature of a caricature — difficult to parody or satirize — Mr. Trudeau recalled that he provided cartoonists with “an embarrassment of follies.” And the businessman, who seems to live by the conviction that any publicity is good publicity, apparently embraced this celebrity, writing: “My cartoon is real. I am the creator of my own comic book.”

In a 1990 cartoon, Doonesbury characters argued over what they disliked more about Mr. Trump: “the boasting, the piggish consumption” or “the hideous décor of his casinos.” Sadly, the stakes today are infinitely so much huger.

A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2016, on page C19 of the New York edition with the headline: A Tower of Trump Books, at High Volume 

Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?


August 23, 2016

Is the Malaysia project a non-starter?

by Dr. KJ John

http://www.malaysiakini.com

In the Seven (7) Habits series, Stephen Covey’s central thesis is that we must grow or develop habits for growth and development in meaningful and significant ways. He argues that all human or organic systems must first grow from total dependence (and appreciate all its full meanings) to independence or human freedoms, and then, finally and fully appreciate interdependence with others of like-heart and mind. This is also the Hearts and Mind agenda of our NGO.

Full understanding and appreciation of real and true meaning of interdependence must belong to every one of the stakeholders and partners in a shared and common enterprise. It must become a shared vision for posterity; and never to be compromised.

Whether it is the UN or the EU, or even federated states like the US or Malaysia, or our simple OHMSI Sdn Bhd; interdependence properly understood and stewarded defines real and true meanings of the so-called freedom we ‘pretend to enjoy’, it then becomes real ‘merdeka’.

Covey’s 7-Habits

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Habit 6: Synergise
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw”

– Stephen R Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Malaysia-Land of Beauty

I will try to evaluate our Malaysia project, not simply from a historical perspective, but more importantly from a worldview perspective and see what Covey might be saying to us. Such a perspective puts a very high premium on human values for growth within the ethics and culture of lived life; in seeking to move organic systems from the full dependence towards voluntary and volitional inter-dependence.

The Malaysia project

Malaysia came into existence on September 16, 2016. But, that fact is not clearly taught in history. Not many of us today can change that false reality interpreted today. Before that date we had four independent states called Federation of Malaya, Singapore, and the North Borneo States of Sarawak and Sabah; each with their own unique story about the movement from dependence towards independence and now interdependence.

Rightly or wrongly, for reasons of their own, in August 1965 Singapore chose to leave Malaysia by mutual agreement and consent between the leaderships of Malaysia and the island state. I am not sure if and whether Sarawak and Sabah or the United Kingdom had any direct say in this matter.

Therefore, after a short marriage of two years, Singapore exercised their ‘move from total dependence from the United Kingdom towards independence from the new Malaysia’. They wanted to learn and grow the experience and freedom with true independence.

Sarawak and Sabah may have had views about such a move by Singapore, but I do not know those facts, but they too surely want to experience movement from full dependence towards true independence. And their growth experiences will be surely very different.

Sarawak and Sabah’s self-governance experience

Have the Sarawak and Sabah governments and their political leadership learned true independence and interdependence from their many years as a one-third partner of Malaysia; even as the Malaysia Agreement gave them some clear and separate jurisdictions?

Many of these legal rights and privileges were captured within the revised Federal Constitution of Malaysia and including recognition of their 18 and 20 point submissions. Was there ever consensus on those two documents by the political leadership of Malaysia?

But why therefore, after more than 50 years within Malaysia, do they now put their foot down about Petronas’ governance and staff recruitment strength and raise issues about employment permits? As a public policy person, I am simply wondering loudly.

What have they really learnt about independence, or interdependence, or is it still merely dependence, if anything at all? Or, do these jurisdictional governance regimes feel like, we the Malayans, have thoroughly abused them altogether?

Learning from Covey

In my Pet Theory R, relationships are an important and elemental R. Therefore, building and growing our knowledge about ‘nurturing and growing mature relationships’ using the Covey’s three-step process and applying them to his seven habits for Sarawak and Sabah relationships with Malayans may be instructional:

  • Malaya was proactive in nurturing a relationship with Sarawak and Sabah; Brunei however did not respond in the same way. Why? We still grew Malaysia. Did we ask Indonesia at all?
  • Our end in mind was always National Unity and regional stability; and more recently, we have added words like integration and integrity. I call that agenda: integration with integrity.
  • What is our First Things First? Is it Malaysia, ‘Melayusia’, or ketuanan bumiputra for now or centre versus periphery in governance of lived life and stewardship of resources; including all human beings especially citizens?
  • Do we think win-win every time we have bilateral issues in our relationships concerns? Or, can we really begin to think win-win-win to endure stewardship as the third win for the sake of all human beings?
  • Do we seek to understand before we seek to be understood? I did not understand Sarawakians until I met the Kelabits earlier and now, after I spent 10 days in Baram Valley. Maximus Ongkili, Beth Baikan and Bernard Dompok taught me to learn to understand Kadazans.
  • Have we really learnt to synergise? Why then is the Malaysian Public Service still more than 80 percent made up of peninsular Malays (non-Malays are less than 10 percent I believe)? This issue is reflective of the Petronas case story. Synergy would allow for creating new values; not simply depreciating existing values.
  • Finally, from my experience on the ground, and meeting so many smart and equally ambitious Orang Ulu Sarawak and Kadazans; these questions are my Covey test for all of Malayans to sharpen our saw or ‘tools of execution and evaluation’ so that we can see and learn the real meaning of Malaysian interdependence and not allow it to become a foolhardy project.

KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of an Icon.


August 19, 2016

Reading about the life and death of Robert F. Kennedy, the reader can’t help but be reminded of the striking parallels between the late 1960s and today — polarized politics, racial tensions and growing social anxiety and tumult. It’s also impossible not to think about the vast gulf between the idealistic hopes Kennedy inspired among his young followers, and the fear and cynicism that have marked this year’s presidential campaign.

No one has captured Kennedy’s 1968 race with as much visceral immediacy as Thurston Clarke did in “The Last Campaign” (2008), but Larry Tye’s absorbing new biography, “Bobby Kennedy,” does a compelling job of showing how a tough-guy counsel to the red-baiting, demagogic Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s became, in the next decade, “a liberal icon” beloved for his dedication to the poor and disenfranchised.

In light of the abundance of works on Kennedy (including Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s massive “Robert Kennedy and His Times” and Evan Thomas’s “Robert Kennedy: His Life”), there’s not a lot substantially new in this volume, but Mr. Tye — the author of a critically acclaimed biography of Satchel Paige — has a keen gift for narrative storytelling and an ability to depict his subject with almost novelistic emotional detail.

Instead of echoing the young Kennedy’s own proclivity for seeing things in absolutist Manichaean terms, Mr. Tye does not rely on the reductive “good Bobby” and “bad Bobby” dichotomies that the scholar Ronald Steel employed in his judgmental 1999 book, “In Love With Night.” Instead, the fair-minded Mr. Tye thoughtfully maps the many contradictions in his subject’s life, and his gradual evolution over the years, as he began to clarify his own beliefs (as opposed to those handed down by his father and older brother), shedding his “Cold Warrior” reflexes and growing increasingly concerned about the poverty and injustice that plagued his country.

The assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, is frequently cited as the watershed moment in Robert’s life — the grief cracked open his “hard-as-nails shell” and sent him into a profound depression from which he would emerge transformed: more fatalistic, more empathetic, more inclined to display in public the tenderness his family and friends knew at home. He immersed himself in reading (Camus and Aeschylus and Shakespeare) and contemplated going away to study for a year, and there was a gradual softening of his hard edges and righteousness.

Mr. Tye gives us a visceral sense of the heartbreak Robert suffered in losing the brother he had ardently served for so many years as confidant, consigliere and enforcer. But he also situates that loss within the larger arc of his subject’s life. The Robert who emerges from this book is both a dreamer and a realist, “an idealist without illusions” in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s words — the most passionate of the Kennedy brothers and, as one journalist observed, a man “constantly at war with himself.”

Robert “embraced contradiction in ways that neither Jack nor Teddy wanted to or could,” Mr. Tye writes. “His realism butted up against his romanticism even as the existentialist in him looked for ways to coexist with the politician. He was half ice, half fire.”

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was sent to jail in Georgia in 1960 over a traffic misdemeanor, Robert and John helped win his release — not out of a simple sense of justice, Mr. Tye says, but out of a complicated calculus of politics and conscience. During the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, Mr. Tye adds, Robert was both hawk and dove, and he worried about the human cost of the botched Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba, “even as he plotted new ones.”

The missile crisis, with its harrowing possibility of nuclear catastrophe, Mr. Tye argues, helped Robert understand that “a leader could be tough without being bellicose,” and it helped him find his own voice on foreign affairs and step out of “his brother’s long shadow.” Though it would take time for him to speak out against the Vietnam War, when he did so in 1967 it was with passion and a recognition of its futility and the suffering of the Vietnamese. He was able, Mr. Tye writes, to give voice to the outrage of the war’s opponents while bringing leverage to their cause in Washington with his Cold War “anti-Communist credentials.”

In these pages, Mr. Tye conscientiously strips away the accretions of myth that have come to surround Robert F. Kennedy, while at the same time creating a sympathetic portrait of this complex, searching man — a genuine pilgrim and a hard-nosed politician, a fierce romantic dedicated to “the art of the possible.”

Bobby Kennedy’s Grave at Arlington National Cemetery

“The Bobby Kennedy of 1968,” Mr. Tye writes, “was a builder of bridges — between islands of blacks, browns and blue-collar whites; between terrified parents and estranged youths; and between the establishment he’d grown up in and the New Politics he heralded. At age 42 he was on the way to becoming the tough liberal — or perhaps tender conservative — who might have stitched back together a divided land and whose vision seems at least as resonant in today’s polarized America.”

Follow Michiko Kakutani on Twitter: @michikokakutani

A version of this review appears in print on August 16, 2016, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Pragmatist Converting to Idealism. Today’s Paper

 

Who’s afraid of Dr M?


August 18, 2016

Who’s afraid of Dr M?

Cmdr(rtd) S.Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

My strong suspicion is we get the world we deserve.”

– Ray Velcoro in ‘True Detective’

In my last article, I made three points. The first, that the creation of another Malay power structure was unproductive and what the Najib refuseniks “need to do is work with the opposition without causing any more political fissures”.

The second was that “having the same interests [in removing Najib] and ‘not repeating the mistakes of the past’ are mutually exclusive”. The third, to “radicalise the Malay community by advocating ideas that would make any red shirt-clad Malay nationalist quiver with rage because it comes from former UMNO power brokers.”

I would like to elaborate on these three points because I am an outlier “keling” and sometimes, something more is needed than just “podah”. By registering this new ‘Malay’ political party, former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is attempting to do what political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim failed to do.

Do not get me wrong, Anwar had much success in changing the political landscape of this country but he did not manage to galvanise the Malay vote to the point where PKR alone, up to a point until Anwar landed in Sungei Buloh, was a credible alternative to UMNO.

This is why PKR’s over reliance on PAS has resulted in the neutering of the oppositional front. However, the charges that this is “just another racist party” are disingenuous considering the ethos of the so-called alternative pact. From a purely descriptive stance, there are only multiracial opposition parties in Malaysia. In substance, these parties are either pandering to the Malay vote or outright concerning themselves with furthering the agenda of the ‘Malay’ polity to sustain political survival.

Therefore, what we have in the Peninsular are mainstream Malay power structures like UMNO and PAS, a political party like PKR whose leadership has publicly stated that the Malay vote is paramount to their survival hence political rhetoric and policy decisions are based on the sensitivities and preoccupations of this particular community.

Meanwhile, DAP continues to seek ways to increase its Malay membership in an effort to shed its so-called Chinese chauvinistic image, only to be hampered by operatives suffering from foot-in-mouth disease, an epidemic that the DAP leadership seems reluctant to confront.

The idea that this new Malay political party could galvanise the rural Malay vote is misguided. About the so-called “rural vote”, I said this in a piece on the recently concluded by-elections – “So if UMNO delivers everything it says it will deliver, the cycle of complicity will continue. Disenfranchised people will continue voting for a regime which puts rice in their bowls. I am not talking about the urban class but rather those people who have depended on real power, federal power exercised corruptly for their benefit. That is the culture some people forget that we are dealing with. We nurtured this culture.”

The only way this new party is going to get the rural Malay vote is to outspend UMNO or to destabilise the UMNO state level machinery. The latter is possible considering the Mahathir sympathisers within UMNO but unless this new party is willing to commit massive sums, the idea of outspending the King of Cash is ludicrous.

A shared goal

My second point is where it gets messy. The agenda of removing the current UMNO Prime Minister, which no doubt is a shared goal, and with reforming the system, are unfortunately (in my book) mutually exclusive. Many of my friends have taken exception to this statement arguing that they are not mutually exclusive. I sympathise with their argument and indeed in the past have put forward the same argument.

An Indian opposition supporter sent me an email, questioning how I could advocate the opposition working with Mahathir after he used the “keling” word. The first thing I did was send him links of every racist or bigoted utterings of oppositional political figures and asked how could I sincerely advocate for the opposition?

This is not meant as some sort of apologia on behalf of the former prime minster but rather that nobody in Malaysia get to ride on his or her high horse. Political adversaries working together is unfortunately what democracy is all about and this has nothing to with having a saviour – an unfortunate straw man – but capitalising on political and resources to overcome a political foe who is turning this country into another failed Islamic state.

Concerning ideas that “correct past mistakes”, what new ideas have the opposition actually advocated? The New Economic Policy (NEP) is redefined as class-based with the provision that the ‘Malay’ community as the majority will benefit the most. Supposedly secular parties fund Islamic organisations in an effort to get more ‘Malay’ votes.

Academics that propose equal opportunity laws or advocate ideas that slay communal scared cows are vilified as “idealists” and lectured on the “reality of our political system” or reminded that UMNO is the biggest racist party ever when in substance; their preferred political alliance operates in the same if subtle manner.

In one of my numerous pieces about the racial game here in Malaysia, I wrote, “In addition, this idea that voting across racial lines as some sort of evidence of burgeoning multiracial solidarity is complete bunkum. The real test is when people vote across ethnic and religious lines in support of ideologies that run counter to the interests of their communities and by this I mean egalitarian ideas that run afoul of constitutional sacred cows and social and religious dogma.”

Indeed, opposition parties like to promote the idea that they have dropped their racial and cultural baggage but the reality is that political expediency wins out every single time because people say one thing but do and mean another. I am referring to the voting public and not only politicians.

With regards to PAS and DAP, I wrote this: “The old PAS and the old DAP were offering up ideological alternatives to Barisan National that the voting public rejected for various reasons. I would argue that the DAP and PAS of old were more ideologically pure than they are now but that is a story for another time.”

This brings me to my final point, radicalising the Malay community. I have written how the non-Malay community played a big part in the mess we find ourselves by sustaining Umno all these years. I also concede that the opposition for whatever reasons is chasing the Malay vote at the expense of egalitarian ideas, therefore offering no real alternative for Malaysians to take refuge in, intellectually and spiritually.

In a piece praising PKR operative Wan Ji Wan Hussin, I wrote, “I have always been sceptical of the opposition and downright scornful of the UMNO establishment. While UMNO during elections season attempts to bribe non-Muslims with goodies – and it is open season on non-Muslims when votes need not be counted – the religious politics of the opposition has been a mess of political opportunism and homages to political correctness. Neither approach is suitable for the long-term social and political stability of Malaysia.”

We have had many Malaysians who champion egalitarian ideas. PSM for instance is one such political organisation that states their ideas and goals clearly but observe how they are treated by the average opposition supporter and intelligentsia.

Therefore, I know where I stand politically and hopefully some readers do too. In one of my earlier pieces, I wrote about how the Indian community should slay some of their scared cows. I also wrote of the DAP and the Chinese community, which was met with howls of racist indignation.

I will not be held responsible for whatever problems facing the ‘Malay’ community using the “we are all Malaysians” argument. Malays should speak up for themselves, demand leadership from their own community much like how minorities everywhere in the world demand it. Do not blame the existential crisis of the Malay community on the non-Malays and use the idea of a Malaysian identity as short hand to circumvent hard questions about one’s own community.

I would argue that every minority community in this country has done its share of soul searching and even though we may find fault in what they have discovered or are discovering, this idea – actually, I would use the term propaganda that being “Malaysian” means ignoring race and culture in favour of bromides – is the kool aid Malaysia does not need.

Lowering the Bar in support of Malaysia’s Already Mediocre Leadership


August 10, 2016

Lowering the Bar in support of Malaysia’s Already Mediocre Leadership

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

I am baffled at the continued praise and support for Prime Minister Najib in the face of the mounting 1MDB mess. To be sure, those come only from Malays, specifically those in UMNO, plus a few scattered voices elsewhere. They are lowering the bar for Najib’s already mediocre leadership.

Najib is but a Third World corrupt kleptocrat robbing billions belonging to the people of Malaysia, to quote the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Meanwhile those toadying Malays continue blathering “let justice take its course” or “innocent till proven guilty.” Those may be fine in a courtroom but for leaders we demand and impose a much higher standard, as “without even the hint of impropriety.”

Those praises for Najib come in various contortions. Consider the absurd statement from PAS Hadi Awang who ventured that DOJ must produce four witnesses or that the accusation against Najib could come only from Muslims. Which cave did Hadi emerge from?

The evidence of Najib’s impropriety abounds, not just in the DOJ filings or complicated charts tracing the cross-border flows of illicit money as reported in The Guardian, Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, rather by the simple and obvious fact that 1MDB has saddled Malaysians with billions worth of debt and little to show for it. The proposed Tun Razak Exchange site is still empty while power plants once locally owned are now in foreigners’ hands.

Najib denies that he is the “Malaysian Official 1” referred to in the DOJ documents. I wonder who could that top Malaysian public official related to Reza Aziz be? Najib also denied being linked to the DOJ’s lawsuit. Poor Najib! Despite his expensive British boarding school education, Najib could not comprehend the difference between the legal term “defendant” and the everyday meaning of “linked.”

This 1MDB mess is now being investigated in no fewer than six jurisdictions. Singapore has already frozen the assets of Jho Low, Najib’s financial confidant. Switzerland terminated the license of its bank involved in the transactions. It would take great effort on Najib’s part not to know that. Perhaps his staple of reading does not extend beyond UMNO newsletters New Straits Times and Utusan Melayu.

The behaviors of Najib’s courtiers and political whores, like his ministers and party chieftains in UMNO-BN, do not surprise me. They are paid to pleasure the man. The Rahman Dahlans and Khairy Jamaluddins remind me of Saddam Hussein’s cartoonish Information Chief “Bagdad Bob” just before the fall of that city. The American tanks could be heard and seen rolling in the background but he kept insisting otherwise in a televised press conference. Those UMNO boys fancy themselves heroes defending their leader, but the world sees them as cretins.

As for Najib’s nonchalance, I am certain that Saddam Hussein felt the same way right to the very moment before he had to flee to that rat hole in the desert; his Bagdad Bob had earlier assured him that everything was fine. Muammar Gaddafi probably felt likewise moments before he was caught and butchered by his fellow Libyans.

Najib’s personal fate does not concern me; Malaysia’s does. If Najib were not to get off the stage on his own volition and soon, the price for him as well as Malaysia would be high. Malaysia must be spared such a fate. Leaders in the mold of Najib, like Saddam and Gaddafi, have an unwarranted sense of invincibility, surrounded as they are with their flatterers.

It annoys me only a tad to read the toadying comments of the Khairys, Rahmans, and Nazris. What upsets me is that these characters are seen by non-Malays as the best of what our community could produce.

What pains me most are comments by the likes of Tunku Aziz, former Chairman of Transparency International and member of the Anti Corruption Advisory Committee. Does he think keeping the Auditor-General’s Report secret increases transparency? Then there is Bernama Chairman Azman Ujang who quoted an obscure Malaysian-born Australian lawyer’s opinion that the DOJ’s filing was flawed! Azman must have undertaken quite a search to find that character!

The shocking silence of our ulamas and intellectuals too disturbs me. Surely there must be a competent economist in the Majlis Professor Negara (Professors’ Council) who could enlighten us on the implications of 1MDB’s massive debts and the associated opportunity costs.

There were notable exceptions of course but few and far between. Dr. Asri (MAZA), the Perlis Mufti, chastised his fellow ulamas for their silence. Mustapha Kamil, Group Managing Editor of the New Straits Times finally reached his limit and quit. Former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim continues to warn Malaysians of the danger Najib’s leadership poses for Malaysians. Law Professor Azmi Sharom is another brave soul. For that he is often charged with sedition. So far they have not been able to nail him. Rest assured that Azmi will not be nominated any time soon to the Professors’ Council.

Those mute carma (contraction for cari makan; lit. looking for food) professors and ulamas, as well as the Tunku Azizs and Azman Ujangs must remember that although Najib may have appointed them, their salaries are being paid for by taxpayers. Their duty and loyalty should thus be to the public. They should also remain true to their calling.

I could sympathize with their support of Najib if those characters were showered with gravy on the same scale as that Malaysian Official 1’s relative Reza Aziz, or Jho Low and that Goldman Sachs’ bond salesman. Instead those Malays were getting only the crumbs, and for that they were willing to soil their reputation. Meanwhile those who had received the juiciest morsels were too busy enjoying their loot to comment.

There is only one certainty; Najib’s tenure will end and Malaysians will be saddled by his legacy. The questions our children and grandchildren would be asking then would be: Were we part of the solution? If we were not, then we were the problem.

Malaysia could descend into chaos–Another Turkey


August 8, 2016

Malaysia could descend into chaos–Another Turkey

by Zainah Anwar

http://www.thestar.com.my

WHERE is the light and hope for change in the Muslim world today? The Arab Spring of five years ago has turned into an endless winter of despair.

The optimism of a long-awaited democratic transformation in the Middle East brings us today authoritarian rule in Egypt, civil war in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and the barbarism of Islamic State (IS) on the global stage. Only Tunisia remains a source for hope with a peaceful democratic change of government, and an active civil society determined to push the reform process forward.

But what is even sadder is that the two Muslim countries that many Arabs saw as models of the kind of democratic developmental state they aspired to in 2011 are also today in turmoil.

Turkey and Malaysia are no longer a source of hope to the Muslim world as their leaders become mired in political and financial turbulence and their governing institutions undermined.

In 2011, President Recep Erdogan of Turkey went to Egypt and promoted the compatibility of  Islam with democracy and pluralism. He presented his party and government as the model that Arabs should be looking to emulate. The world welcomed the success story he was touting.

Similarly, Malaysia’s success story in economic development and a political framework to govern an ethnically divided society was another model touted to the Arabs to follow.

But how fast hopes are dashed. Even before the failed military coup, Turkey was already isolated in the Middle East as Erdogan was accused of taking the side of the Muslim Brotherhood, and aligning himself with conservative forces, and undermining his own rhetoric on democracy, pluralism, and rule of law.

And now, Turkey is in chaos as all major institutions of government, judiciary, military, police, schools, universities and media outlets have been purged of much of their leadership and staff or forced to shut down.  A party and its leader that had aspired to turn Turkey into a global player and leader of the Muslim world as the country approaches 2023, the 100th  anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic, is today decidedly authoritarian, and wrecked with instability and uncertainty.

Erdogan’s grandiose Vision 2023 seems illusory in the light of a colossal purge of tens of thousands of leaders and personnel that will have long term effects on its people and its governing institutions. How do you rebuild and bring together a country ripped apart at all levels towards your vision of a Grand Turkey by 2023?

In Malaysia, the politics of race and religion is the only antidote this government knows to counter the avalanche of evidence of malfeasance in office. This government has all but abandoned any pretence at pursuing a reform agenda to address long festering disgruntlement among the urban middle class and its eroding popular support.

As he took office in 2009, the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia ominously warned his party to change or perish. He called on the people to restore the bridges that brought us together and tear the walls that separate us. He introduced 1Malaysia and he wanted repressive laws repealed.

But the top news story on the BBC World service on August 1 ominously implied that Malaysia was heading the way of Turkey. From the promise of reform in 2009, we have instead adopted the National Security Council Act which gives the Prime Minister unprecedented powers to declare security zones where troops may be deployed, citizens may be evacuated, search and arrest can be made without a warrant, curfew can be imposed, force can be justified and inquest into deaths can be dispensed with. And no judicial action can be instituted against any act of the National Security Council.

A leader who knew if the party did not change it would perish in 2009 found little courage nor will to bring real change. For the first time in its history, it lost popular support winning less than 50% of the votes in the 2013 general elections and it performed from bad to worse in two successive elections.

The signals are clear. The last poll conducted by the Merdeka Centre in October 2015 saw support for the government among Malays down to an unprecedented 31%, plummeting from 52% in January that year. The government’s overall approval rating also nose dived to 23%, the lowest ever since polling began in 2012. In 2013, the Barisan Nasional went into the general elections with a 43% approval rating and saw its worst electoral performance ever.

If at all, things have gotten from bad to worse since then as investigations into 1MDB and individuals and companies linked to it in the United States, Singapore,

Switzerland, Hong Kong, and reportedly six other countries promise to reveal more evidence documenting all manner of violations and transgressions. Now, if only the Barisan can look at the transformation that has taken place in Taiwan and South Korea.

It is possible for strong and dominant ruling parties in the face of defeat to transform themselves, embrace democratic values, remain a major force in a new democratic era, and even win again in freer and fairer elections.

But by now, we know this government and its leadership is devoid of will and courage to do what is right, even for its own long-term survival.

So is the only alternative then a headlong plunge into emergency rule? Are the Red Shirts priming for chaos should Bersih 5.0 take place, thus providing the perfect opportunity to declare an “emergency” in all but name and elevate the National Security Council into power?

As desperate citizens and civil society gather together to prevent what they see as the inevitable, is there any institution that they can depend on to do what is right for this country before we lose forever the path – no matter how flawed – so painstakingly negotiated and treaded by our past leaders?