Monday, 28 July 2014

The Killer Dictators

This is why dictators get such a bad name: Which Dictator Killed The Most People?

A lot of south-east Asian nations have had dictators - some good and some bad for the country.

But most of the time, power corrupts.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Malaysia In The Commonwealth Games

Malaysia is so high maintenance.

Not only are we trying to hog all the attention from the world, but now, even the Scottie dog introducing our country refuses to walk during the opening ceremony parade for the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

The damn dog had to be carried!!

From The Herald Scotland:

Around 40 Scotties took part in the celebrations in Glasgow, with many "recycled" to accompany more than one nation.

But it all became too much for some weary animals and they had to be carried around the stadium.

Jacqui McKinnon said that her pet Jock had auditioned for the star role in the opening ceremony, but when the big day came he unexpectedly staged a sit-down protest.

She said: "The dogs dealt with it really well; it's just Jock decided he wasn't walking. As soon as I put his Malaysia coat on he thought, 'I'm sitting down'. So Jock was the one who was carried around the Celtic stadium."

She said her Scottie was giving the world a taste of the breed's trademark stubbornness.

"They are very good-natured, they have great temperaments, but in Scotland we say they are thrawn, which means they are stubborn", she said.

"And when they take a notion, there is just no budging them. You can try food, everything. They will take the food, but still not budge."

Some may say that the dog staged a sit-down in solidarity with Malaysians over our two airplane crashes in the last 4 months.

Come to think of it, that's the version I'm planning to adopt myself.

But what is utterly irksome is that Singapore's Scottie dog calmly walked along. No tantrums, no fuss.

Nothing like our friendly neighbour down south still trying to show us up. Pooh.

Apparently, Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa takes exception to this display of dogs. I'm really not sure what his point of contention was.

That the dogs were incredibly cute?

That the Malaysia dog staged a sit-down protest solidarity?

That dogs were used as an introductory mascot and Muslims object to dogs?

That the Commonwealth Games were staged in Scotland and therefore Scottie dogs were used (instead of Corgis, the Queen's favourite breed)?

That they didn't use a dog for all other countries and use a monitor lizard for Malaysia instead? Since we're so special and all.

One day all things will be made clear and we will understand the mind of that strange critter.

Until then.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Future Of Malaysia Airlines

I believe that the worst of times are, ironically, the times of golden opportunity.

Malaysia Airlines has taken such a beating that fewer people would be willing to fly it, save the pragmatic, logical thinkers who know that the disasters have less to do with negligence than with pure bad luck.

However, given that Malaysia Airlines is turning into a white elephant rather than a cash cow, hopefully, the Malaysian government regards it as being a low priority and gives it to a non-crony to manage.

Naturally, as we have seen in the past, when this happens, the airlines has always managed to tighten its belt and back in the black after years of being in the red.

It always happens and I am looking forward to it happening again.

Radical change is what we need and it's not going to happen within our ruling coalition and its cronies. As Malaysians, you and I know that.

TIME has a piece on it: Malaysia, the World’s Unluckiest Airline, Will Now Struggle to Survive

The next months could prove humbling for an airline that had grand ambitions. The Malaysian government had high hopes that its national carrier would compete with the region’s best, and invested much money and emotion into building it.

But Malaysia Airlines got badly squeezed in the fiercely contested Asian airline industry. Its cost base is too high to compete with lean and mean budget carrier AirAsia, also based in Kuala Lumpur. At the same time, it lacks the prestigious brand image to raise its ticket prices and take on East Asia’s more premier airlines, such as Singapore Airlines and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific. As a result, the company has been bleeding for years.

The airline’s Kuala Lumpur–listed parent, Malaysian Airline System, has racked up losses of more than $1.4 billion since 2011. Management has tried cutting costs and improving service to turn around the airline’s fortunes, but such efforts were making only minimal progress.

The sentiments are that of foreign observers and may not necessarily have a pulse on what exactly is going on, but it gives the mood on how fragile the situation is.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Why Are We Being Punished Like This?

Two major air crashes within 4 months and involving almost 500 people is no small matter.

We Malaysians have barely recovered from the grief of MH370, not to mention the absence of closure because we never found the aircraft. We don't know why it happened.

And maybe we never will.

But why, out of the hundreds of other airlines that fly over the troubled airspace, was Malaysia Airlines yet again selected for tragedy with MH17?

Haven't we suffered enough? Are we being punished for something we did? Have we incurred the wrath of God or the universe?

Why were so many Chinese people killed? And then so many Dutch people? Did they deserve it? Do we deserve it?

Why should conflict between Russia and Ukraine affect innocent passers-by?

So many questions, but so few answers.

A few days after I had posted this, someone from PAS Youth again (previously about the MH370) remarked that this incident was retribution from God (or Allah) for Malaysia Airlines serving alcohol in-flight and its flight attendants (particularly female ones) wearing the uniforms that they do.

I never got round to posting about it, but I found a superb response from Azly Rahman: IS ALLAH ANGRY at THE MALAYSIAN AIRLINE? and at Muslims?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Remember The Names Shamsul And Redzuan

There are two men that Malaysians today look up to:

1) Professor Datuk Dr Mohamad Redzuan Othman - Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, director of Universiti Malaya's Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel)
2) Tan Sri Shamsul Abbas - CEO of Petronas

Find out why: When principled men like UM’s Redzuan lose a battle, but win the war

Monday, 30 June 2014

Malaysian Food In America

You and I know that there is nothing more that we Malaysians are proud of than our food.

Chef Christina Arokiasamy is a fifth-generation descendant of a family of spice merchants.

She grew up in Kuala Lumpur, trained in Bali and Thailand, and today makes her home in Seattle, Washington.

Arokiasamy says she is now on a mission to introduce the melting-pot style of Malaysian food to Americans.

Read the rest here: Malaysia's Melting-Pot Cuisine Comes to America

Friday, 27 June 2014

Muslims, The Middle East And Civilisation

I have never broached the topic of Islamic civilisation being taught in history class with any of my Malay/Muslim friends.

In hindsight, I can't think why not. Perhaps I assumed that they approved of the laborious detail with which we were taught Sejarah Islam in Form 4 and then later in university, Tamadun Islam.

Perhaps I did not want to let on that I loathed the very subject of Islamic history, firstly because I didn't believe any of it was true - just grandstanding by the Muslim government to exert their alleged superiority.

Secondly, I had a Muslim history teacher who felt compelled to preach to the entire class how much superior Islam was to Christianity. Til today, I am not sure why Christianity was singled out as there were numerous Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists in the classroom.

Obviously, that is not a thing of the past. Malaysia's greatest Islamic warriors are out in full force, more so these days than ever.

But, I don't live in Malaysia anymore. And therefore, I am freed from the grudges that I would have borne against Islam, had I still lived in Kuala Lumpur.

So I am driven to find out why people act as they do. What made the Middle East the screwed up place that it is today. Who were they a century ago?

Baghdad in 1965

Iraq (or Mesopotamia), believe it or not, was a major centre of civilisation back in the 9th century. I kid you not.

From the New Yorker:

Baghdad had become the storied and romantic place it would forever be in popular imagination. Under enlightened, poetry-loving caliphs like Harun al-Rashid, Mansour’s grandson, Baghdad attracted scholars from all the domains of Islam, in keeping with Muhammad’s teaching that educated men are next to the angels and that “the scholar’s ink is more sacred than the blood of martyrs.”

A Chinese method for making paper from flax and hemp appeared in the Middle East at about the time of the city’s founding, and the new technology produced books in quantities impossible before. Almost everybody in ninth-century Baghdad could read and write.

While Europe still moiled in its Dark Ages, Baghdad was a city of booksellers, bathhouses, gardens, game parks, libraries. Harun al-Rashid was the first chess-playing caliph; Baghdadis also played checkers and backgammon.

Translators took Greek works and rendered them into Arabic, in which they were preserved to be translated into European languages several centuries later.

Today, we use Arabic words in our daily conversations: From Baghdad’s best years we get words like “zenith” and “nadir,” as well as “algebra,” “algorithm,” “alcohol,” “alembic,” “alchemy.”

There are numerous accounts of Baghdad's glory from different people of different origins.

It was a golden era, and while they heard rumours of invasion by the Mongols, they did not appear to be perturbed. The Mongols did eventually show up and brutalise the nation, destroying its buildings and taking away the women.

I think nations never recover from catastrophes like that. I have never understood why nations, be they Mongolia, Russia, Spain, Britain or the USA, feel compelled to invade and destroy. But they do - shame on them - and the consequences are long-lasting.

America has not quelled its war-mongering nature just yet. Apparently, they need to go back into Iraq to "sort things out". The people calling for these measures are mainly Republicans who think that Obama is a coward and that everything could and should be resolved by war.

There is massive brainwashing by Fox News (a Republican-funded news channel that is similar in nature to broadsheet Utusan Melayu) that feeds lies and propaganda to the feeble minds of white Americans who believe everything they're told and support the call for war.

Apparently, the displays of the previous "shock and awe" tactics in Iraq are not enough. For the record, I don't feel any awe, just revulsion. About 10,000 Americans have died since 2003, and God knows how many Iraqi civilians - never mind their military.

It is ironic, however, that the Republicans are happy to send America's youth out to war only for them to return in body bags, but they would never dream of sending out their own children. These people are UMNO to the core.

How will the Middle East ever regain its glory days when they are besieged by so much violence and terror? Saddam Hussein was a bad man with an evil regime, but his assassination has not brought any improvement to the nation of Iraq.

I hope that the people in power today realise that life is a cycle and change can happen when you least expect it.

Like the complacent and possibly cocky Caliph of Baghdad who did nothing despite hearing rumours of a Mongol invasion, an overly confident America should not expect to remain forever in power.

Golden eras fade very quickly.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Can KL Be A Bike City?

I have blogged in the past about London's initiative in encouraging the use of bicycles that could be rented using an Oyster card.

They have been called Boris-bikes, after the mayor (he of the strange hair-style) who claimed to first moot the idea.

I'm not sure how well they've taken, as I have heard reports of inadequate bike paths or paths that just end abruptly, forcing the cyclist to merge with traffic or end up on the pedestrian path.

Either way, it's not good.

Lately, Malaysia has taken up the idea of making KL a bike city, apparently in an effort to emulate Copenhagen, which is deemed to be the first bike city in the world.

There has been a vague mention of building the proper infrastructure to encourage more people to take up cycling.

I can see how this will reduce pollution and the traffic congestion, but if there are no proper cycling paths, then we are just going to have a higher accident rate, or sensible Malaysians will just cast the idea aside as another stupid brainchild of the Malaysian government.

The problem is, I see this as a good idea and would be sorry if it is dismissed.

Car-Free Morning means you don't have big machines trying to mow you down as you cycle about, but it can only be feasible one day of the month (and on a Sunday) as is currently done.

I look forward to seeing how this goes.