Saturday, 15 December 2018

Environmental Issues In 2018

If you live in Greater KL / Klang Valley, you would know that we have had our share of flash floods. This is frequently due to plastic and other rubbish clogging our sewers and inhibiting smooth flow of water.

We have ignored it for long enough.

In fact, it seemed like the previous administration under Najib Razak did nothing about it. There are bicycle lanes in the city, but that seems to be the extent of their "green' credentials.

The Pakatan Harapan administration has made rather unpopular rulings with regard to single-use plastics, and hopefully, this will reduce both production and usage.

Not everything is bad news these days; Malaysia is being recognised for its efforts in cleaning up the world in 7 countries that shook up our planet in 2018:

In September, Malaysia announced that it aims to eliminate single-use plastic by 2030, making it the first country in Southeast Asia to take bold action against plastic pollution. Its weapons in the plastic battle include a nationwide charge on plastic bags and a market for environmentally-friendly alternatives. A month later, the country moved to restrict imports of plastic that had led to the rise of illegal recycling plants across the region after China’s waste ban in January.

The new government also has the region cheering for its appointment of Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s newly minted Minister of Energy, Green Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment. A few months into office, she exercised her power to bust the country’s long dependency on fossil fuels, cancelling four independent energy contracts this year that would have otherwise gone to coal companies. The country’s youngest female minister in cabinet is also ready to take legal arms against Australian company Lynas for their accumulation of radioactive waste within their Malaysian operations.

I am glad we have reduced our dependence on coal. It's dirty fuel, and the pollution from emissions has to go somewhere.

The difficulty of being an oil-producing country is that we probably use a fair amount of it ourselves. That would be step two in improving the environment, reducing its use if not eliminating it altogether.

Most readers know what I think of Lynas. It needs to go.

But things are looking up. We can preserve this planet.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Anti-ICERD Rally

No, I haven't gone down to ground zero to cover it.

It's probably the first rally that I haven't attended despite being in KL - for obvious reasons. Haha.

I am, though, unpleasantly surprised to note that the participants number 30,000 approximately (Update: Turns out it was closer to 80,000 people). That's a huge number of unhappy customers, much bigger than I was expecting, if I was completely honest.

It's about 0.1% of the Malaysian population.

It's a big number of people who are that insecure about their future.

I am not sure which part of their Bumiputera privilege is what they're fighting for.

Property ownership - reduced price and allocated percentage; despite that, most property developers have disclosed that this allocation never gets fully utilised by the Bumiputera. There is, after all, a financial limit to the number of houses you can buy, even if you are one of those professional property buyers with 20 loans in your name.

University placement - those who have the brains pass their exams and graduate and those who don't, they just pick up an unfulfilled student loan debt and a low self-esteem.

Jobs - if they're good, the headhunters lure them abroad, if they're not, they just work for a lousy salary. Often some of these members of the workforce belong to the group that really should not have graduated university. In which case, they live in a lot of fear as they do not want to be identified as under-performers in the job scene. Frequently, they work for civil service.

As always, I have never believed in placating people by giving them something they don't deserve. That's how America became so ... lembap.

Not the booming tech sectors that are frequently populated by migrants, mind you, but the sectors soon to be taken over by robots. Also, industrial workers, shop assistants etc. Basically the people who are expecting Trump to improve their lives.

I have met loads of Malays (who are Bumiputera) who are willing to work hard, given sufficient mentoring and encouragement.

I really hope they don't feel compelled to join a rally that does nothing to improve their quality of life.

Related: The anti-ICERD protest is a chance to show this government is different from the past administration

Friday, 7 December 2018

Goldman Sachs And 1MDB

It is difficult to have any sympathy for a financial company like Goldman Sachs as they frequently screw up and get bailed by their governments/banks, but this time it looks like Goldman Sachs has bitten off more than it can chew.

Aseef Shameen rightly sets the tone on Goldman's impending doom in the Edge Singapore piece, Goldman Sachs' 1MDB cover-up is bigger than the scandal:

Malaysia wants all of the US$600 million in fees 1MDB paid to Goldman and restitution of a big chunk of the US$3.5 billion it lost. Attorney General Tommy Thomas said recently that reports of him filing a suit in New York claiming US$5.1 billion from Goldman were “premature”.

Of course, it may be premature to be discussing this as investigations are still underway but one does suspect that this Pakatan Harapan government had this task in mind when it appointed Tommy Thomas to the role of AG.

You may be wondering how Goldman has a hand in this 1MDB scandal. This is why it's in trouble:

It raised US$6.5 billion for 1MDB. The DOJ alleges that over US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from those funds by Jho Low, a close confidant of Najib. In pleading guilty to money laundering and bribery charges, Leissner blamed the 1MDB shenanigans on Goldman’s “culture” of working around internal legal and compliance controls, as it was highly focused on consummating deals. Jho Low has been charged in absentia with money laundering and violation of bribery laws by the DOJ. He remains on the run and is reportedly in hiding in China.

A lot of people are dying to get their hands on the Whale.

Given the excesses detailed in the book and judging by the calls to BFM over the issue, Malaysians are livid.

Predictably, Goldman Sachs have denied knowing Jho Low.

They're not the only ones.

Najib Razak now claims that he was cheated by Jho Low, and more ludicrously, claimed he was not aware that anything was wrong because he was not told about it.

Tong Kooi Ong of the Edge Media spills the beans and sets the story straight on what really happened in You didn’t know Jho Low cheated us? I showed you evidence and you showed me the door:

He put the blame solely on Goldman Sachs and 1MDB’s lawyers and auditors for allowing wrongdoings to take place.

“They should have informed me if something was not right,” Najib said. “They clearly failed in carrying out their responsibilities.”

While Najib plays the victim for the peanut gallery, it's rather intriguing how he appears to have such a close relationship with Jho Low.

Tong Kooi Ong describes it:

I then proceeded to tell Najib that Jho Low must be held accountable and be prosecuted. This upset him. He immediately stood up, walked to the door and asked me to leave.

I was taken aback that he was so sensitive about Jho Low.

While The Edge’s reporting was focused on 1MDB and Jho Low, [Paul] Stadlen [(Najib's media adviser)] made it very clear that any attack on Jho Low was an attack on Najib, and that he was conveying this message from his boss.

If you choose to read just one article this coming week, I urge you to make it Tong Kooi Ong's expose. If this piece does not go viral, Malaysians are not worth their salt.

Najib wants you think that he was cheated and that he is innocent, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Do not be fooled.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

GM Lay-Offs Extremely Depressing

I don't know if these are the stirrings of a tide that is to turn against Trump. It probably may not though, as his steadfast supporters haven't exactly been those who take thoughtful deliberation over emotion.

General Motors make a lot of cars, albeit not always well. They own a lot of brands. They diversify their operations and they certainly diversify their product.

Most of their American operations is based in the midwest, specifically in Michigan and Ohio. If you have ever lived in the US or met any midwesterners, you would know that these places are called the rust belt, i.e. there used to be quite a bit of industrial activity in the past, but that has largely waned - mostly because the jobs went east.

As Robert Reich writes in the Guardian:

Last week GM announced it would cut about 14,000 jobs in the politically vital swing states of Michigan and Ohio.

This doesn’t quite square with the giant $1.5tn tax cut Trump and the Republicans in Congress enacted last December. Its official rationale was to help big corporations make more investments in America and thereby create more jobs. Trump then told Ohio residents “don’t sell your homes”, because lost auto-making jobs “are all coming back”.

GM got a nice windfall from the tax cut. The company has already saved more than $150m this year, according to GM’s latest financial report. But many of those Ohio residents probably should have sold their homes.

What did GM do with the money that they got from the tax cut and the wages they do not have to pay anymore? They bought back their own shares!! - this is frequently done to boost the share price.

Reich continues:

In 2010, when GM emerged from the bailout and went public again, it boasted to Wall Street that it was making 43% of its cars in places where labor cost less than $15 an hour, while in North America it could now pay “lower-tiered” wages and benefits for new employees.

So this year, when the costs of producing many of its cars in Ohio and Detroit got too high (due in part to Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel), GM simply decided to shift more production to Mexico in order to boost profits.

In light of GM’s decision, Trump is also demanding the company close one of its plants in China. But this raises a second reality of shareholder-first global capitalism that has apparently been lost on Trump: GM doesn’t make many cars in China for export to the United States. Almost all of the cars it makes in China are for sale there.

In fact, GM is now making and selling more cars in China than it does in the United States. “China is playing a key role in the company’s strategy,” says GM’s CEO, Mary Barra.

Even as Trump has escalated his trade war with China, GM has invested in state-of-the-art electrification, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing technologies there.

I don't know what to say. America is shooting itself in the foot on a rather consistent basis.

There's a part of me that agrees with Robert Reich. The emphasis on keeping shareholders happy while depressing workers' wages is wrong.

But I lived and worked in the US as an engineer for 5 years. During that time, I was always looking to prove my worth (yes, I know, typical Malaysian inferiority complex) and add value to whatever I was doing.

The unfortunate part was that my American co-workers were less keen on going the extra mile. It was always assumed that they were entitled to the job they had and the key thing was to keep to themselves what they knew, lest someone steal their job from them.

The problem with that is, this sort of defensiveness suppresses innovation. It only encourages complacency. Americans think that their nation is (or once was) successful because they are inherently successful people.

It may not be quite so obvious to the average joe, but if you think carefully, this is White Supremacy 101. This is also something that Malaysians are frankly unable to understand and digest because they have been shafted over by Malaysian politicians too many times.

From their perspective (and understandably so), the brown guy is every bit as bad as the white one.

American Exceptionalism is actually a new way of expressing white supremacy, which is why when Trump dog-whistled, they came running.

This is also why they are comfortable sharing technology with the Chinese, because deep in their hearts, they cannot come to believe that the Chinese would have equivalent ability to take over the industry, learn their skill better than themselves and one day have economic and socio-political dominion in the world.

I don't know why Chinese people like American cars. I have never owned one - preferring Japanese cars myself, having owned two of them in my lifetime.

Perhaps it's because Chinese have been deprived of Western culture having lived under the heavy-handed rule of Communism for so long. Maybe American cars, which in my personal opinion, are neither aesthetically appealing nor exceptional in performance, are a symbol of freedom to the Chinese.

One day the Chinese will acquire a sense of entitlement and superiority, just like the Americans today. It's the circle of life, after all.

But for now, they are slowly but surely plodding ahead, and the Americans, once the people who were gung-ho to achieve anything, are blissfully oblivious.

Trump’s Broken Promise to General Motors | The Daily Show

Friday, 30 November 2018

Changing The World

Perhaps changing the world is too tall an order; let's start with the country.

Of course, if you read Haris Ibrahim, he recommended starting with the government.

That has been achieved. May 2018 proved historic for us in so many ways.

Malaysia is home to a very large middle class population, and a fairly sizeable upper class one. You and I probably have very little connection with the poorer members of society, and thus have no idea of the obstacles they face.

For one, I had no idea the minimum wage was RM1050.

The minimum wage has not increased because to quote the official line, "it will be problematic for industries, and affect the competitiveness of the nation".

Let's break that down.

The poor are being targeted because everyone knows that they do not have options like the rest of us, and therefore, will always remain in this country and work for whatever we offer them.

Now, you may say that the economy must be protected at all costs. Even Donald Trump ran his campaign on promises to make America great again. Most people believe that he meant economically powerful.

Obviously, that is why he is bringing fossil fuels (not just oil but coal too!!) back, and enforcing tariffs on China because he correctly perceives them to be of great competition.

He will eventually run the country to the ground, but that is another subject altogether.

America is a case study on what not to do. They spent most of a century oppressing their poor, even though ALL Americans started out with humble beginnings. Europeans didn't migrate to America because they were wealthy.

Quite the contrary. They migrated because they were either oppressed in their home country or experienced famine. They just discovered opportunities in America and it made them wealthy.

Anyway, the reason I am bringing this up, is because I firmly believe that we as a nation, will not be successful unless we raise the lowest of our members.

Currently we are taking advantage of their helplessness instead of empowering them to go on and provide more value. There's a nasty word for it: EXPLOIT.

Malaysians are happy to migrate to foreign countries (or greener pastures) because they pay better, or are more stable economically, socially and politically. Ironically, these countries pay a high minimum wage, but you don't see Malaysians objecting to it.

Why not, instead of migrating, adopt the principles of these stable nations, and improve the nation we live in and make it better?

Just a thought.

Activist group calls for anti-poverty law

Friday, 28 September 2018

Billion Dollar Whale

The book has become a bestseller amongst Malaysians and even the rest of the world.

BFM went stark, raving crazy and had one of the authors on while spending other moments just gushing about it. Yes, perhaps in this time and age (censorless!) people just want to get it out of their system.

Unauthorised, pirated PDF copies of the book also went viral, which was ironic, because the book is about the kleptomanic tendencies of an insecure, but very privileged fat boy.

Of course, the authors of the book were no choir boys either; they were supposed to credit their sources, but very conveniently avoided doing so.

Rewcastle-Brown said that Tom Wright said: “Let’s leave out Sarawak Report, you are talking to the big boys now,” when speaking to the intermediary between the source and WSJ writers.

Very naughty. In the interviews, one could get a sense of raw ambition and desire to achieve fame through this book.

You can get it straight from the horse's mouth HERE.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Predicting Financial Crashes

Everyone enjoys a good, "I told you so" moment. Not least of all, American media.

Newsweek has come up with an extremely ominous sounding article predicting that THERE COULD BE A FINANCIAL CRASH BEFORE END OF TRUMP'S FIRST TERM.

Even Goldman Sachs (of 1MDB money-laundering complicity) has weighed in on the situation, predicting that this year's U.S. fiscal outlook would be "not good". Well.

Makes you want to sell up all your earthly possessions and go live in a bunker, doesn't it?

The US of A is a land of hype, and has been for the last 50 years since things got going for them, so they struggle with communicating issues in moderation, and they frequently live in a polarised state.

If you've observed them (and not just during election season), you would observe that the Democrats and Republicans even struggle to see eye to eye on almost anything!

Two things though: student debt and household debt.

Those have skyrocketed from the good ole 60s. Most households today in 2018 do not have any savings set aside for a rainy day, given that a significant portion even live on minimum credit card payment.

This household debt is even higher than the 2008 subprime mortgage lending crisis; that's how serious it is!

Now you may say that this is also common in Malaysia, and I would agree, because another thing we have in common with the US is a massive deficit that will take ages to settle, thanks to the monumental 1MDB fiasco.

The difference is, the new Malaysian government actually appears to be alarmed by this and is taking cautious measures to combat this. The US government on the other hand, is blissfully talking about building a wall, hitting China with tariffs and developing a ridiculous program called Space Force (which given their deficit is just ...)!

I don't see how the US is going to repay its debts. US economic commentator Peter Schiff says, "The U.S. government is going to be given a choice between defaulting on the debt, or else massive runaway inflation."

It is no longer the most technologically advanced nation; it has been overtaken by China. The US, sadly, has been paralysed by complacency and a sense of entitlement.

Its saving grace? Migrants. Thousands from all over the world. But now that Trump makes them feel unwelcome, they will probably up and leave at some point.

They are held back from returning to their native countries because of religious and socio-economic politics (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan) and lack of progress on the ground (India). Most Chinese migrants have beef with China, as do the Japanese with Japan.

It's a bit arrogant to start predicting when it would happen. Brexit has artificially boosted the US economy because investors have lost confidence in the UK and even EU. So the US unwittingly became a safe haven.

What the investors don't see is China happily wooing the very countries that America, in its infinite wisdom, has snubbed. These include African, Latin American countries and the Caribbean, not to mention the neglected cities of America - like Flint and Detroit.

The US isn't the fortress of economic superiority as it once was. It is no longer the country that was brought to its knees as it staggered through the 1920s Depression - and still emerged triumphant.

Nothing could be more ironic when seen through hindsight.

The financial crash will happen, but I wouldn't bother predicting when.

Related: Total student debt in America now exceeds cost of Iraq War

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Die Lynas, But Don't Bother To Rest In Peace

Sometimes when time just flies past, it's hard to remember that the Bentong MP, Wong Tack, started out as an activist against Lynas, back in 2012 and even before that.

First they threatened to block Kuantan Port, then they protested a celebration of Australia Day.

If you're going to ask why all that was necessary, you have your answer HERE; brilliantly compiled by Walla.

All that protesting appears to be fruitful as Lynas could possibly be closed down.

The Australian Commissioner to Malaysia calls this closure a 'tragedy'. I know there are a lot of Malaysians who have migrated to Australia for a better life and now call Australia home, but seriously, Australia can go to hell.

Wong Tack does tell them so himself, though in not so many words. "The further threat by the High Commissioner that the closure of Lynas will result in a pullout of Australian investments in Malaysia is an insult to the intelligence and dignity of the Malaysian people."

Does Australia think they are so important to Malaysia? Seriously? Most of the time I don't even remember that Australia exists; they are that insignificant.

Lynas appears to be a welfare queen, on top of that:

a) They were given tax breaks for 12 years by the previoius regime
b) They have no plans to remove their radioactive waste out of Malaysia
c) They have not even paid up their security deposit of USD50mil.

This shows what levels of greed people can stoop to, firstly the previous Malaysian regime who approved everything without considering the needs of its own citizens, the Australian politicians and then finally corporate Australia for whom Malaysian lives do not matter.

Piss off Lynas, and take Australia with you.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A Foreign Concept

You know what still bothers me in this country?


Occasionally I meet up for a chat with old friends about current events. Sometimes, the conversation steers to foreigners in this country.

Not the privileged ones. (You know, the white type.)

No, usually the disparaging comments are reserved for the Bangladeshis, the Nigerians and sometimes, the Indonesians.

The originators of such comments are frequently the same people who complain about being unfairly selected for discrimination.

I point out, that if they didn't like being discriminated against, perhaps the foreigners don't either.

This earned me blank looks, as if I was preaching an utterly foreign concept. No pun intended.

Perhaps this Merdeka, it might be a good time to reflect on how we perceive others, and how others may perceive us.

How will we change as a nation, if we can't even change ourselves?

Friday, 17 August 2018

Projek Mendaftar Anak Malaysia

I have, in the past, criticised the political parties who fall over themselves to woo the majority, while ignoring marginalised minorities.

I am pleased to note that this is changing.

Turns out that Gobind Singh of DAP (MP Puchong) and Dr Mariah Mahmud of Parti Amanah (ADUN Sri Serdang) are jointly organising a registration drive for Malaysians who have issues with citizenship legalities.

It's held today and tomorrow (17 & 18 August) so if you know of anyone who needs help, please direct them to this.

This has been an ongoing issue for years and has exacerbated within the past 10 years.

My previous blog posts can be found here:

1. Stateless
2. Trying To Obtain A Birth Certificate
3. No Identification Is A Violation Of Rights