Paul Krugman : Racial hatred is still a potent force in the US

June 24, 2015

Paul Krugman : Racial hatred is still a potent force in the US

by Paul

America is a much less racist nation than it used to be, and I’m not just talking about the still remarkable fact that an African-American occupies the White House. The raw institutional racism that prevailed before the civil rights movement ended Jim Crow is gone, although subtler discrimination persists. Individual attitudes have changed, too, dramatically in some cases. For example, as recently as the 1980s half of Americans opposed interracial marriage, a position now held by only a tiny minority.

Paul KrugmanYet racial hatred is still a potent force in our society, as we’ve just been reminded to our horror. And I’m sorry to say this, but the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy, the reason America is unique among advanced nations in its harsh treatment of the less fortunate and its willingness to tolerate unnecessary suffering among its citizens.

Of course, saying this brings angry denials from many conservatives, so let me try to be cool and careful here, and cite some of the overwhelming evidence for the continuing centrality of race in our national politics.

My own understanding of the role of race in US exceptionalism was largely shaped by two academic papers.

The first, by political scientist Larry Bartels, analysed the move of the white working class away from Democrats, a move made famous in Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Frank argued that working-class whites were being induced to vote against their own interests by the right’s exploitation of cultural issues. But Bartels showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon – it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy.

And this party-switching, in turn, was what drove the rightward swing of American politics after 1980. Race made Reaganism possible. And to this day Southern whites overwhelmingly vote Republican, to the tune of 85 or even 90 per cent in the deep South.

The second paper, by economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote, was titled “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State?” Its authors – who are not, by the way, especially liberal – explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: “Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”

Now, that paper was published in 2001, and you might wonder if things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the answer is that they haven’t, as you can see by looking at how states are implementing – or refusing to implement – Obamacare.

For those who haven’t been following this issue, in 2012 the Supreme Court gave individual states the option, if they so chose, of blocking the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, a key part of the plan to provide health insurance to lower-income Americans. But why would any state choose to exercise that option? After all, states were being offered a federally funded program that would provide major benefits to millions of their citizens, pour billions into their economies, and help support their health-care providers. Who would turn down such an offer?

The answer is: 22 states at this point, although some may eventually change their minds. And what do these states have in common? Mainly, a history of slaveholding: Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 per cent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War.

And it’s not just health reform: A history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.

So will it always be thus? Is America doomed to live forever politically in the shadow of slavery?

I’d like to think not. For one thing, our country is growing more ethnically diverse, and the old black-white polarity is slowly becoming out-dated. For another, as I said, we really have become much less racist, and in general a much more tolerant society on many fronts. Over time, we should expect to see the influence of dog-whistle politics decline.

But that hasn’t happened yet. Every once in a while you hear a chorus of voices declaring that race is no longer a problem in America. That’s wishful thinking; we are still haunted by our nation’s original sin. — The New York Times

* New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is an American economist who won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for his work on international trade and economic geography.


Malaysia’s Long Road to Change

June 21, 2015

Malaysia’s Long Road to Change

by Asia Sentinel Editors

Taken in the current context, it is remarkable that Prime Minister Najib Razak remains in power. In an actual democracy – instead of the kind of purpose-built one-party state in Malaysia – he would presumably be long gone and perhaps in the dock.–The Asia Sentinel Editors.

Adam AdliAdam Adli- A  Rebel with Causes

The headline issues behind Malaysia’s current political crisis often puzzle outside observers, not just for the specific and sometimes bizarre details but for what they reveal about a system designed to maintain the status quo at all costs. Taken in the current context, it is remarkable that Prime Minister Najib Razak remains in power. In an actual democracy – instead of the kind of purpose-built one-party state in Malaysia – he would presumably be long gone and perhaps in the dock.

Najib's ScandalsThe 1Malaysia Development Berhad debacle, with its overtones of greed, political favoritism and inside deals is exactly the kind of sleaze that should and does bring down governments worldwide. Add to that the lingering issue of the 2006 murder of the misbegotten Mongolian party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu by bodyguards linked to Najib, the shamelessly cooked-up jailing of long-suffering opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the poisonous stew of bitter racial politics manipulated by the ruling elite and the widespread disgust with the acquisitive ways of Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and it is a wonder that anyone can keep a straight face while claiming Malaysia’s system is anything but a thinly disguised playpen for the Barisan National and its cronies.

Still, and finally, we may be witnessing the endgame in the country’s painful transition from the 20th century politics and governance that started with the transition from British colonialism to rule by the Barisan Nasional, the race-based coalition of political parties led by the United Malays National Organization. In power since 1957, the Barisan is the world’s longest-ruling parliamentary coalition.

Malaysia, a much richer and more sophisticated country now than it was when the kampungs could so easily be fooled by the elite, may finally have no choice but to adapt to the demands of the 21st century and the digital era.

Finding its own way

If it happens it won’t be anything like the Arab Spring, the sudden downfall of Indonesia’s Suharto or the tumultuous and joyous chaos favored by the Philippines when its people and elites overthrow governments. Instead it will be the result of a long, frustrating process that began with Anwar’s premature and frustrated effort to supplant then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1998 during the chaos of the Asian Financial Crisis.

anwar_ibrahim2Curiously, 17 years after those first attempts at reformasi, it almost looks as if the country is back where it started. Mahathir is lashing out, only this time at the sitting Prime Minister; Anwar is back in prison on trumped-up charges; the PM is again facing a financial scandal.

But in those days, Anwar’s movement had virtually no media voice. His supporters dreamed to no avail of a radio station that might take up the cudgels. But in keeping with the digital age, today’s political drama is being played out on the Internet by contending blogs and social media chatter that even has the royalty getting in on the act, such as the Johor Crown Prince’s recent weighing in via Facebook. Malaysians are also skewering Najib and Rosmah with vicious spoofs on YouTube.

It remains for the system to catch up with the popular mood and realize that Malaysia will stand still or go in reverse if racial gerrymandering and rank corruption prevail over change. Perhaps the real significance of the recent tantalizing news that Najib’s powerful banker brother, Nazir Razak, is poised to lead an NGO that will seek to build a unity government is that big business may finally be putting the nation’s best interests ahead of the payoffs and perks handed out by UMNO

Indeed, if UMNO chooses to align itself with the medieval minds of PAS in imposing sharia law and hudud amputations in parts of the country as a cynical way of clinging to power, an admirably modern business sector that has accomplished much could see itself mortally damaged.

The long race

Here is one way to look at this marathon drama. 1998 marked the year when Malaysians first threw off the shackles of fear by protesting in the streets. They marched, they had no fear of being arrested, they began speaking out. Later, Internet sites like Malaysiakini, Malaysia Today and Malaysian Insider kept the flames of free thought alive at a time when the mainstream media were all owned by the ruling political parties.

In 2008, a decade later, this manifested itself in the electoral field. The ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in parliament to the Anwar-led opposition; the then-PM was shown the door by his party colleagues led by Mahathir; and Najib took over. But in the 2013 election, the BN did even worse. It’s taken 17 years to get to this point, but the once-unthinkable question is finally being asked by more and people: is Malaysia’s single-party-rule system finally in its death throes?

Unlike more obvious dictatorships such as those that once existed in the Philippines and Indonesia, Malaysia’s collective party-certified dictators could hide under the guise of legality. That curtain is falling away and the only system most Malaysians have ever known seems as close as it has ever been to real change.

That such change carries with it risks and unease is certainly the case. The alternative – a seemingly crooked and ossified elite clinging to power through corruption, court manipulation and racism – seems far worse. Just as other countries have found a way forward without their once-entrenched despots, we are certain Malaysia will find its path.

Biro Tata Negara: Close it down

June 2o, 2015

COMMENT: Yes, I agree with Azrul that:

” [T]he continued existence of the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) is an affront to Malaysians everywhere. It dishonours the memory of the founders of this country, the women and men who fought and died to gain independence. It besmirches the struggles of all those who believe that there is a place for all under the Malaysian sun. It directly contradicts and works in opposition to the ideals espoused under the Rukun Negara”.

BTN Chief

rani kulup ahmad maslan


Whoever came up with the idea of using public funds to create an institution  which is designed to “indoctrinate” impressionable minds of young Malaysians of the present and future generations and civil service recruits must have been trained by Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister of Hitler’s  Nazi Germany. That person belongs to Tanjung Rambutan’s mental asylum together with the people who run BTN.

The Nazis had a distorted version of German history and culture; they promoted the idea of the superiority of Aryan race. The Third Reich was supposed to last a thousand years. But Hitler was defeated in 1945 after ceasing power in 1933, and Germany was humiliated and practically reduced to rubble  (e.g. The Ruhr Valley, Dresden and Berlin) due to the  Allied invasion and massive aerial bombing.

It is clear to me that BTN has a similar aim which is to perpetuate UMNO’s rule and protect Malay sovereignty. Like Hitler’s, the UMNO of the Mahathir-Badawi -Najib (1981-2015-?) era is about to come to  an ignominious end. Unfortunately, we will be left to pick up the pieces and rebuild on new foundations.Yes, we must and we can.

BTN cannot be allowed  to poison the minds of new generations of Malaysians. It must be disbanded. We can no longer accept UMNO hegemony. Its divide and rule politics of race and religion,  and rent seeking economics are leading us along the path of  economic decline and moral decay. –Din Merican

Biro Tata Negara: Close it down

by Azrul Mohd

Ask anyone who has ever done their undergraduate degree in Malaysian public universities and quite a few of them will tell you how they were forced to attend and endure the Biro Tatanegara courses.

Each year, hundreds of students join civil servants from various departments, ministries and institutions to be indoctrinated or brainwashed into becoming unthinking, obedient and compliant drones whose allegiance is arguably not towards God, King and Country but more likely leaning towards Melayu and of course, UMNO.

BTN LogoWhat they often produce instead each year are groups of people who are often embarrassed, cynical and frustrated listening to a bumbling group of individuals who have no business being instructors of anything other than potty training.

Many former attendees admit to being shocked and mortified at the content of these courses which are often unashamedly racist, bigoted, and ignorant and Malay Muslim supremacist in nature. The thing is  the attendees are often multi-ethnic and reflect the rich diversity of Malaysian society.

Instead of fulfilling its stated aims which are to nurture the spirit of patriotism and commitment to excellence and good values among Malaysians, and to train leaders and future leaders to support the nation’s development efforts, this government agency which exists under the Prime Minister’s Department has for decades promoted racial and religious discrimination and divisiveness.

In its programming, the BTN has cultivated concepts such as “pendatang” and “Ketuanan Melayu” which run contrary to the values and ideals of the Federal Constitution.

It has been used to stir up animosity and hatred towards those who think differently from the government and oppose the status quo. They have promoted belief that if you are not in support of the government, therefore you are being disloyal to the country.

While so many have been picked up for alleged and imagined offenses which are supposedly seditious in nature, this lot have been able to operate and spread their views through the cover of government national civics courses which are anything but.

As can be seen from recent documentation from the BTN itself, they are even trying to justify the practice of racism as something good for the country. Not too long ago, Malaysia stood by Nelson Mandela’s struggle and together with the countries of the world spoke out and condemned the ultimate expression of racism, apartheid. Today, these people are trying to justify and legitimise institutionalized racism in our country. This is how far these people have lost their way.

These are scared and ignorant people who jump at shadows and create enemies where there are none. In their arrogance, they refuse to learn from others. They expect people to obey and not to think and argue. In time-honoured tradition, they even consider writers, book publishers and even books themselves as threats. Tyrants fear the power of the written word.

I can’t believe that such a Bureau continues to exist under the direct aegis of the Prime Minister’s Department and whose staff and activities are paid for in the millions each year by the Malaysian taxpayer.

The continued existence of the BTN is an affront to Malaysians everywhere. It dishonours the memory of the founders of this country, the women and men who fought and died to gain independence. It besmirches the struggles of all those who believe that there is a place for all under the Malaysian sun. It directly contradicts and works in opposition to the ideals espoused under the Rukun Negara. Based on its actions and words, it certainly cannot be said to support Vision 2020 or even 1Malaysia.

One thing that I am glad about though. It is very clear that these people of the BTN do not speak for us. That their bigoted, hateful and prejudicial views are rejected by most Malaysians. The recent outcry against their “programming” is proof enough that there is no place in a modern Malaysia for cultivating such beliefs and views.

Let us end these attempts which work at cross purposes to nation building. Let us call for the dissolution of the BTN. Let not another day go by that the money from the sweat and tears of all Malaysians is used for such purposes.

Shut down the BTN.

Being Malay, so what?: Only a Political Construct

June 18, 2015

Selamat BerpuasaNOTE: My wife, Dr Kamsiah and I wish Muslims around the world Selamat Berpuasa (Happy Fasting) which commences today. May there be Peace and Goodwill in the Month of Ramadhan).–Din Merican

Being Malay, so what?: Only a Political Construct (Article 160 of the Malaysian Constitution

by Dyana

…we should not let politicians decide what is Malay and what is not. Our identities are our heritage, and the government has no right to tell us what we are. As Syahredzan said, “The greatest tragedy that has befallen Malay culture and the Malays over the years is actually the hijacking of Malayness by those with vested interests.”–Dyana Sofya

Dyana SofyaLast weekend, Projek Dialog, a non-governmental social discourse project aimed at promoting healthy debate and understanding within multicultural Malaysia, organised a forum entitled Melayu dan makna-maknanya, or “Malay and its meanings.”

I had the honour of being a panellist at that forum, together with Dr Lawrence Ross from Akademi Pengajian Melayu, Universiti Malaya; Syed Muhiyuddin from HAKIM; Syahredzan Johan from Lawyers for Liberty, and Nurhayyu Zainal from Parti Sosialis Malaysia. The forum was moderated by Projek Dialog’s Yana Rizal.

The forum began with Syahredzan enlightening the audience on the Constitutional definition of Malay. According to Article 160 of our country’s highest law, a Malay is defined by three characteristics, viz. a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, and conforms to Malay customs.

Mahathir the Political ConstructMahathir–The Political Construct (Art.160)

This legalistic definition of Malayness is interesting, because it effectively means that Malay is a political construct rather than an ethnic concept. Technically, this means that a Malay in Malaysia need not necessarily have any Malay genes whatsoever. For example, only in Malaysia would a Javanese identify as a Malay. In Indonesia, for example, no Javanese would ever claim to be a Malay.

Curiously, the Malaysian definition of Malay also prevents other ethnic Malays from qualifying as Malays. For example, the great Filipino nationalist, José Rizal, an ethnic Malay who is hailed by history as an icon of the Malay race, would actually not qualify as a Malay in Malaysia, by virtue of the fact that he was not a Muslim.

A colonial legacy

In truth, the peoples of the Malay Archipelago are made up of over 300 diverse ethnic groups, such as the Javanese, Batak, Sundanese, Achehnese, Boyanese, Minangkabau, Malay, Mandailing (of which I am descended from) and many others, including the Bugis who are reputed to be great warriors, though such a reputation is today in doubt. Therefore, ethnically, Malays represent a small ethnic group that is one of many others.

How then did Malay become the popular reference for the native ethnic groups in Malaysia (in Indonesia, Malay refers to a small minority ethnic group)? Firstly, it was the British (such as founder of Singapore Stamford Raffles) who began to use the label.

This is mainly because most natives in the region spoke the Malay language ― the de facto lingua franca of the region due to the fact that it was the language used along the Straits of Malacca and the coastal areas of the Archipelago. Hence, even though the Malay ethnic community itself was small, the Malay language was adopted by both foreigners and locals as the trading language of the region.

Having decided to label all the different ethnic natives as Malays, the British decided to streamline it through its official documents such as the government population censuses. And through the colonial policy of divide and conquer, the seeds of polarisation in our country were sown.

Standardisation of Malay is against the Malay nature itself

It is important to bear in mind that ethnicity is a concept that is far from monolithic or homogenous. Every geographical province or tribe, even within the peninsula itself, has diverse cultural practices and backgrounds. Therefore, ethnicity is an amalgamation of many cultures merged  and fused over time.

Malay_1The UMNO Malay

For example, the Malays in Terengganu and Sarawak have very different dialects. As a Perakian, even I find the east coast Malay dialects to be quite alien. Even cultural practices were different. For example, the Mak Yong, which has Hindu-Buddhist origins, is popular with the Kelantanese Malays, while the Kuda Kepang with its Javanese influence is popular in Johor.

As Dr Lawrence Ross noted, the Malay culture was never homogenous and will always expand and evolve by adapting to its surrounding influences. Therefore, the culture is also not easily defined and should not adopt strict labeling.

However, our own history has been rewritten by the authorities, as over six decades we have experienced a systematic campaign of standardisation of Malay culture and language. This is in line with the Marxist concept of cultural hegemony, in which the ruling class captures the dominant culture of a society by imposing its own worldview on the masses.

According to Syed Muhiyuddin, Malays should not be afraid to reject the attempt by leaders to enforce an artificial identity upon them. However, in order to do this, we first need to understand our own roots better. Therefore, it is high time that we revise our history textbooks in order to produce a new generation of Malaysians who are proud of their roots.

Reclaiming our identities

In summary, we should not let politicians decide what is Malay and what is not. Our identities are our heritage, and the government has no right to tell us what we are. As Syahredzan said, “The greatest tragedy that has befallen Malay culture and the Malays over the years is actually the hijacking of Malayness by those with vested interests.”

Therefore, it is time we reclaim our identities. Echoing Syahredzan, I am a Muslim, a Malay and a Malaysian, in no specific order. I am all three. That is my identity and no one has the right to take it away from me.


Dr. Farish Noor on Bangladesh and Myanmar

June 16, 2015

Dr. Farish Noor on  Bangladesh and Myanmar and the Rohingyas: A Bit of History

farish-a-noorListen to Rajaratnam School of International Studies @NTU Scholar Dr. Farish Noor tell  the story of Bangladesh and Myanmar and the Rohingyas, the Stateless People. I have always admired my dear friend Dr. Farish for his efforts in promoting inter-faith dialogue, tolerance,  mutual understanding, peace and cooperation in our region, ASEAN.

Like this respected academic and dedicated public intellectual, I too cannot understand why a people who have lived in Rakhine for centuries are today victims of racial and religious discrimination, and ethnic cleansing and are being denied their right to citizenship in their own homeland.

Understanding History can help us all to deal with our current problems. That is probably an understatement. Thank you, Dr Phua for bringing this to my attention.–Din Merican

Ancaman Kepada Bangsa

June 9, 2015

Kertas Draf untuk Komen

Ancaman Kepada Negara dan Bangsa  Malaysia Kini

oleh Kassim Ahmad

Kassim Ahmad arrested by JAKIMKassim Ahmad

Kertas ini ditulis untuk menarik perhatian patriot Malaysia dari pelbagai kaum tentang ancaman yang mereka hadapi sekarang supaya kita semua  tanpa kira kaum dan agama mengambil tindakan-tindakan untuk mengatasinya.

Sejak kemerdekan negara kita ditadbirkan berdasar perkongsian kuasa oleh pelbagai kaum, khasnya Melayu, Cina dan India. Oleh kerana Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (Malaya) berasal dari Kesultanan Melayu Melaka, maka kita hari ini merdeka sebagai sebuah negara demokrasi berparlimen beraja. Dalam sistem ini UMNO, MCA dan MIC menubuhkan Kerajaan Pusat. Sistem Prikatan ini kemudian dilebarkan menjadi Barisan Nasional yang terdiri dari banyak buah parti, dengan parti UMNO menjadi tulang belakang.

Pada waktu UMNO ditubuhkan pada 1946, ia penuh dengan idealism. Setelah ia berkuasa serta merasai nikmat kuasa, seperti biasa dengan semua entiti yang hidup, ia merosot dan menjadi korup. Kata-kata arif Tun Mutahir, Bendahara Melaka, tidak harus dilupakan, “Wahai emas, Tuhan bukannya engaku, tetapi segala kehendakmu berlaku!” Korupsi menjadi Tuhan!

Inilah bahaya pertama yang kita hadapi. Parti tulang belakang pemerintahan Malaysia sudah menjadi korup, dan korupsi ini di perinkat yang amat teruk sekarang. Retorik transformasi yang dilaungkan oleh presiden UMNO dan perdana menteri tidak boleh membersihkan korupsi yang parah ini. Pembersihan UMNO sekarang memerlukan seorang Herculis, satu pimpinan yang berani dan tegas.

Bolehkah UMNO melakukan ini sekarang? Tentu boleh. Kata pepatah, hendak seribu daya; tak hendak seribu dalih. UMNO boleh melakukan perubahan ini dengan syarat semua patriot dalam dan di luar UMNO tampil dalam satu barisan untuk melakukan kerja besar ini. Ini boleh dibuat dalam Perhimpunan Agung Tahunan UMNO atau dalam satu Perhimpunan Agung Khas.

Dari luar UMNO, patriot dari semua kaum, tua dan muda, lelaki dan wanita mesti memanggil satu persidangan politik nasional untuk tujuan ini.

Bahaya besar yang kedua timbul dari fahaman agama yang sempit, jumud dan fanatik. Mengambil kesempatan dari peruntukan dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang menyebut Islam sebagai agama Persekutuan dan perishtiharan UMNO bahawa Malaysia sebuah negara Islam (sebagai satu strategi untuk melawan PAS), banyak institusi “Islam” telah muncul dan dianggotai oleh petugas-petugas yang sempit dan jumud pemikirannya. Di sinilah bahaya yang kedua.

Bagaimana kita hendak mengatasi bahaya ini. Seperti dalam kes bahaya pertama tadi, begitu dalam kas bahaya ini. UMNO mesti membangunkan fahamam Islam yang luas, terbuka dan humanis dalam dirinya. Demikian juga patriot dari agama-agama lain. Dari luar, demikian juga: satu persidangan politik nasional mesti diadakan untuk menimbulkan kefahaman politik agama yang luas, humanis dan progresif.

Inilah analisis kita tentang ancaman terhadap negara dan masyarakat Malaysia sekarang. Kami minta satu perbincangan yang ikhlas dari para patriot yang cintakan bangsa kita.

KASSIM AHMAD 26 Mei, 2015, Kulim, Kedah, Darul Aman

Emel <>


KASSIM AHMAD seorang penulis Malaysia bebas. Laman web beliau ANCAMAN


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