How should we judge a government?

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan
Was he referring to Malaysia? Seems so apt...

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist?

MyCen News

Monday, June 30, 2008

Out of touch with reality

My son was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, a county in Britain, famous for its Yorkshire pudding and Tetley beer and tea and TV serial, Emmerdale Farm; Jane Austen, authoress of Wuthering Heights set in the Yorshire Dales, and many more just quoting from my memory. I could have written a whole article on this if I continue.

Anyway, with our stories about life in UK and photos to show, Cheng made up her mind while in primary school that she would have none other than UK for her further education. That really threw me off balance in my finances, if there were any to plan about. To cut a long story short, I even tried to convince her sister to think New Zealand as an option because of the lower exchange rate. But as it turned out, my wife sacrificed her savings to see them through tertiary education in UK, with some assistance from their big brother, who happened to be privileged under ‘Right of Abode’ there.

Even though my daughters could have been eligible for JPA scholarships, we were glad we did not have to go through the false hopes as evidenced from the many letters of complaints about unfair discrimination in their selection process. Under the circumstances, I would like to think that they have made possible two successful candidates who might not have been selected if they were to be vying for scholarships as well. Even though, our family has gone past the stage, I still believe in fighting for a fair system of selection for future truly deserving candidates.

I wrote to Dr. Chua Soi Lek in his blog and enquired about scholarships for Masters with nary a hope of anything positive. He was kind enough to publish my letter even though he did not comment. But days later, by coincidence, JPA published a list of requirements for different types of scholarships which provided what I needed to know. The more important part is the information must have been useful to many who wanted to apply for scholarships, and as to their chances. On the other hand, I cannot help thinking that proper rules on selection do not necessary mean proper application of the rules in practice, and sure enough, someone was quick to question, ‘why not publish the full list of successful candidates and their grades?’

I remember having read of one disappointed ex-student’s letter who sarcastically ‘thanked’ the discrimination for having given her the chance to have an overseas education.

Actually, what I meant to post was ‘how out of touch with reality our present Minister of Education is’ judging from the following article:
http://www.malaysia-today.net/2008/content/view/9372/84/
Was he being altruistic or more likely, ‘do what I tell you to do but not what I do’?
Ok, it is unfair to disallow a Minister's children an overseas education (in his case, totally sheltered from government education system), but why not have a locally educated one who is more likely and able to empathise with the problems faced by the public? When are we able to raise the standard of education so that our noble Ministers can be proud of and have confidence in?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Telling pictures...

of $aiful and his $odomy police report.















Power of the Web

Just after 7am this morning, I logged on to check my email box and the first was from a friend, BH on Anwar being accused again for sodomy. Next, I visited my blog and read Malaysiakini's headline on it under Mycen news feed. Now that I have a blogroll, there are six bloggers posting on the same subject. I can imagine the huge number not on my list, writing away on this latest news. Text messages using mobile phones will be transmitted, with Maxis, Digi, and Celcom getting a boost in their earnings.

From the brief browsing of the comments by top bloggers like Rocky's Bru and Zorro, the general sentiments seem to suggest a sign of desperation by powers that be, abuse of power, or even lack of creativity since it was 10 years ago that Dr. Mahathir did the same. I can safely say that most people either disbelieve the accusation or would consider it such a small matter, more personal than national, when compared with the current issues of the day. Most people are wondering who is in charge now? I cannot help comparing the situation with the Taikos seen in Chinese movies, where even if the Taiko wanted to give up, the 'machais' are definitely not giving up their golden 'rice bowls'.

Anwar would need more than the Sabah and Sarawak sympathisers this time. My bet is on the support of the people (result of backlash) come next election to make at least Wan Azizah the next PM if this present case cannot be solved in his favour.

We are certainly in for an interesting time, but I am more worried about the collateral damage to the ordinary folks.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tax laws work like leeches

I have this personal vendetta against our tax laws. To put it mildly, they are the most discouraging disincentives to any would-be entrepreneurs, and pain in the arse to those unsuspecting business people who got caught in their web of disallowables.

Anyone wishing to start a business has to think of capital and some basic management support, be it on his own, with spouse or family members. Once you start making money, you will have to face the IRD. In most cases of small businesses like hawking, we can get away until we bought a new car and especially a house when we have to explain how we manage to afford it. Fair enough. But just think, you put up the capital, take the risk and when you lost money, they are not the least bothered. Only when you start making money, they come to you.

Then, you have the one-sided laws that require you to pay on time, otherwise you are penalised 10% followed by 5%, while they can take their own sweet time to refund any overpayment on your part without interest.

In the case of private limited companies, I am sure many businessmen complained about so many items disallowed for tax. Even newspapers and journals are considered irrelevant to the business. For own businesses, the directors can feel good by having the company pay the expenses, even though disallowed for tax, which in effect are borne by all the shareholders.

My wife had a concussion and was advised to be admitted to a private hospital for observation. Catscan and diagnostic imaging was done and she stayed overnight. Even with nominal fee charged by specialist (grateful thanks to Dato), the bill came to about Rm1,000. After discharge, she enquired and told me that the bill is not allowable for tax purposes. Of course, if she wanted, she could have asked the company to pay even though disallowed for tax (big difference being whether it comes from our pockets or not). She was given 5 days medical leave.

The next day, being responsible for her family business, we set off to Selama to supervise the harvesting of their small oil palm estate. While waiting for the contractors men to collect the fruits (I actually feel uneasy not doing any physical work each time I watch them labouriously hook the fruits up the lorry) I thought about the tax implication.

What if my wife decided to 'work to rule' and took the 5 days off and the harvest was stolen? For those not in this business, a ton of fresh fruit bunch (depending on percentage) is now Rm700. It just need 2 tons of pilferage and it is more than the Rm1,000 which the tax law disallows. The point I am trying to put forward is, it is ok if we lost any amount due to carelessness, mismanagement and so on, but we would be wasting our time arguing with the tax man over allowability of the medical expense.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The last rule which should have been first...

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Rule 1 : Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2 : The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. (up-graded)

My comment: Also, don't look down on the company's name.

Yet another Pak Lah rhetoric on Judiciary?

I am sure Azmi Sharom must be gaining new fans from his column Brave New World in The Star, like his latest article, ‘Is the Government serious or not’ which I have it linked here.

I would agree with him totally on ‘Personally, I would like to see the Prime Minister, as the head of the Executive, having nothing at all to do with the appointment and promotion of judges. Only in that way can there be true separation of powers, our main safeguard against tyranny.’

Excerpts of his article:

‘…Zaid then promised not only a JAC but also to return Article 121 to its original form.

Article 121, for those of you who have never slept through a Constitutional Law lecture, is about judicial power. It used to be that the Judiciary determined its own jurisdiction, i.e. what cases it could, and could not, hear.

Article 121 was amended in 1988 to give that power to Parliament. So now Parliament has the power to tell the Judiciary what sort of cases it can judge. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the separation of powers.
Frankly, I think that is the only reason for this plan to be “put on hold”. The Government wants to control the Judiciary. It doesn’t want an independent bench. It doesn’t want the citizens of this country to enjoy the security of a competent court whose powers are separate and safe from the political machinations of the Executive and the Legislature.

If a JAC made up of reputable “primary stakeholders”, and not by toadying civil servants and politicians, is not established, and if Article 121 is not returned to its original form, then whatever shred of credibility this government may have will be destroyed.

His objectivity is excellent for a judge, if only he were one, and, provided the judiciary is truly independent of the Executive.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Useful to have a Hits Counter

I am glad to have a hits counter when my previous blog posting was mentioned in Malaysiakini in Blogs, as I could note the difference - about 700 hits in a day! Since last night, I noticed an increase of over 100 hits. The number of hits would drop as soon as my post is pushed off by newer ones by others.

Besides the popularity of the blogger, the number of hits also depends on the subject matter. The usual ones will be the friends who visit to find out what's cooking in his mind. The habitual surfers who visit a few times a day make some difference.

Unusual circumstances relating to someone already well known, like in Po Kuan's dilemma just before General Elections, saw over a thousand comments alone in her Chamber of Thoughts! I can imagine the number of hits must be at least tens of thousand.

As Confucius said, 'Journey of a thousand miles begin with the first step', I shall plod on until I achieve a million! Something to work on for someone like me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oil sold forward to cronies at favourable prices?

I wish to refer to Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan’s letter, Who are the six 'option holders' of Petronas? http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/84969 in Malaysiakini. If it is true, I can understand and empathise with the frustration of the CEO under circumstances of big jump in crude oil prices, when it should have been joy.

It was an amazing coincidence that I had a chat over the phone with an old friend in Sabah yesterday, who expressed his support for Yong Teck Lee’s stand like what most Sabahans do.

On the question of oil, like all Sabahans, he said the 5% given to the State is peanuts compared to what rumours had it that Petronas oil is being sold forward to some cronies of the PM, who must have made so much that an ordinary calculator cannot handle the zeroes!

On the other hand, years ago, I heard about Ananda Krishnan having some kind of monopoly over oil trade in Malaysia, being a known crony of Dr. Mahathir. All these rumours will be treated as truth if Petronas did not come clean with their dealings.

I am sure there is some truth in such rumours, now that we know the Prime Minister is the only one in full control of Petronas, as spelt out in Sections 2 and 3 of the Petroleum Act 1974. Another item wrapped under the Official Secrets Act?

Attempting Petronas Jigsaw puzzle

Most of us have been barking up the wrong tree when we call on Petronas CEO to reveal more of Petronas accounts. According to former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Datuk Param Cumaraswamy:

"It is bad enough vesting the exclusive irrevocable ownership of the nation’s lucrative natural resources like oil in a single corporation when in fact it should be vested with the people. But vesting the exclusive control of Petronas with the prime minister of the day is mind-boggling. This power is personal to him. He does not have to even consult the cabinet. Whatever directions he gives from time to time are binding on Petronas which must comply. What is most appalling is that even if the prime minister’s directions are contrary to the laws of the country, Petronas must comply. Under the Interpretation Act and the Federal Constitution "written law" includes the federal and state constitutions. Hence, even if the prime minister’s directions are contrary to the federal and state constitutions Petronas must comply. Technically even if the prime minister’s directions violate the penal laws of the country, Petronas must comply!" His article in full:
http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=23351

With this in mind, we should ask for, or perhaps someone should choose it as a dissertation for his or her Masters degree, details in the following format:
Prime Ministers: Tun Razak/Tun Hussein Onn/Tun Dr. Mahathir/Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi
Periods in service:since Petronas 17.08.74 to 13.01.76/13.01.76 to 15.07.81/15.07.81 to 31.10.03/ to date
Roughly (number of years): 2 / 5 / 22 / 4 = 33 years
For each year (easier for public, adjust to calendar year if accounts made to 31 March) show:
Revenue (as detailed as possible where public can relate number of barrels produced to prevailing oil prices)
Profit before tax
Tax (goes to the Government)
Profit after tax
Dividends (goes to the Government)
Retained profits (with the company)

Government would have received from Petronas:
Any tax imposed on oil revenues
Tax on yearly profits
Dividends declared yearly

It would then be the responsibility of the CEO to reveal if any substantial amounts included in expenditure which can be considered to be not related to the oil business and actually 'national service' as instructed by the PM of the day. According to him, accounts were published for the past 18 years, which are likely to be from 1990 to 2007. This meant accounts were not published since inception in 1974 to 1989.

The public would then expect the current PM to reveal all the monies received in the form of taxes and dividends from Petronas over the years and what they were spent on. For now, even figures from November 2003 to March 2008 would be greatly appreciated.

For someone with the privilege of immunity from OSA, it does not make sense for him to make the following statement as reported in The Star:

Khairy said Petronas had been tasked with safeguarding the nation’s most important natural resource on behalf of the people and, "therefore, should be held to a higher level of scrutiny.

He claimed that the summarised financial figures found in Petronas’s annual report did not meet this higher level of scrutiny.

"I would suggest that Petronas commits itself to greater transparency and accountability by agreeing to give a special briefing to all MPs on the company’s corporate activities and financial position, and open the briefing to questions from the floor.

"This would provide the MPs, and therefore the public at large, with a more meaningful insight into Petronas apart from the financial summaries that are currently available to the public,” Khairy added.

Indecent proposals...

guided hidden message:

to the point:

Learning by 'trial and error'

I was pleasantly surprised when I visited my own site at 8.00pm last night and saw an increase of 118 hits over 12 hours! I am more used to 10-20 hits each time I logged on. I tried to find out why and realised that it was the first time I had used the 'link' function linking my previous post to Tony Pua's and my page title showed on his blogsite. I have in effect, hanged on to his current popularity to increase my blog hits! I am not sure whether it was automatically done, being blur as usual. There are lots of features to learn and I am not in a hurry to use them. I rather be at my own pace and learn what I need to.

The top blogs have already earned their 'million hits' with Tun Dr. Mahathir achieving a record (?) by a blogger within one month. Well, hoping I do not sound like a sour grape, it can mean either one is particularly popular or otherwise. Ali Rustam got his due when he first started and had to suspend it to stop further vicious criticisms.

In the case of a particular article posted in a well known news portal, Mansor Puteh wrote one on 'Billionaires' which he commented something like the non-Malays seem to demand everyone of them to be one before they are satisfied. It was a pity I did not save it as it was taken off the next day either because he asked for it or the editor of Malaysia Today pitied him. In fact, I like his articles except that one, as it seemed so shallow and unlike him. Maybe, it is difficult for someone on the other side to realise the pain and frustration of being left out simply because of government policies, which though with good intentions, were largely hijacked to benefit a few self-serving ones.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Small-minded Napoleons in Education Ministry?

I chanced upon this matter when I visited Tony Pua’s post on The Malaysian Oil Dilemma forum.

It brought back memories of when I complained about why our MP for Batu Gajah was not invited for an official opening by our Sultan, of a new building in SMK St. Bernadette Convent. Cheng was Head Prefect then.

Donor dignitaries who were present included Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, an old pupil of SMK Sultan Yussuf, Puan Sri Siew Yong Gnanalingam, and Datin Seri (wife of Datuk Seri Lim Gait Tong) who were both old girls of the school, because of the Sultan’s presence.

If I remember correctly, the school principal later invited YB Fong to present a souvenir to her, probably to make up for the slight.

But what happened to Hannah Yeoh is unbelievable. Details are in Tony Pua's and Hannah Yeoh’s blogsites respectively: Philosophy Politics Economics: Banned From School Reunion? and Hannah Yeoh: SMKSU Prefects' Reunion

I wish our Minister of Education will set a good example by looking into this matter and hopefully clear this ludicrous situation of ‘us’ and ‘them’. What will the students think of the adults? A bunch of big boys and girls into ‘don’t friend you’, ‘your friend is not my friend’ and so on and so forth. Shameful indeed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fuel price hike: cruel to be kind

Last Wednesday when I was still in PJ, I was about to set off with Cheng to buy some breakfast when I noticed a distinct lack of vehicles passing by. It was 8.30am and I was sure it seemed like a holiday. Later, I actually phoned my friend to ask if it was one!

This morning back in BG, when I bought the Sunday Star, I looked at the front page header 'Going Public' with a big picture of a usually busy part of KL but with an unusual lack of traffic jam. So it is confirmed we are actually travelling less.

Though I am among the many who still want to know how much of Petronas earnings had gone to waste, it is a blessing in disguise that we are more careful when we want to travel. Now, we are more conscious and actually plan our journeys.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

It is going to be a long Sunday

Po Kuan mentioned Parliament session starts on Monday and asked if Cheng would be interested in attending. But she had already booked to visit her friend in Hanoi, followed by a visit to Sabah’s diving spots.

With the sensational SAPP’s proposed motion to pass a vote of no confidence, this coming Monday’s Parliamentary session will be packed and everyone in and outside the building will be waiting for news of whether it will be allowed and if so, the reaction of the rest of the MPs. Though every MP is expected to toe party line, most people are expecting some unexpected actions, either by individuals or political parties.

These days, with the many flip-flop decisions, what we hear at a moment in time might be different at the next. The latest unbelievable flip flop related to a court case where the magistrate had earlier freed the accused and later sentenced him to jail, based on the same case and evidence adduced!

Anwar had counted on the two SAPP MPs as Pakatan’s and require only 28 more to take over the government. Many people do not take him too seriously and Zorro was not too bothered about political correctness and principles in his post, if indeed Anwar has the numbers to do so.

I would like to think that Anwar is testing the waters in stages, depending on the reactions of the PM, parties, MPs and the public. The stakes are too high to expect an easy take-over, not that I expect it to happen on Monday. This Sunday is going to be a long one while we wait for the outcome.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A chance to meet, missed

Last Monday, I drove Cheng to the new Immigration office in Jelapang to renew her passport. To make sure she gets it renewed the same day, I suggested we try to reach there just after 8.00am. We had to rush back to Station 18 where she had a dental appointment at 9.30am.

I have not been to the new Jelapang office complex before and I was told about the latest machine, which we can use to renew without having to fill in any form. I was disappointed that it was out of order that day and it had to be form filling like before.

These days, I have a phobia of form-filling because of my poor eyesight and I was glad Cheng could remember her Bahasa enough to do it without my help (not that I could be of help). While she was doing so, an older man approached me, very disappointed over the need to fill form as he was told it is unnecessary. I pointed to the sign and explained that it was out of order. The next thing, he approached me for help. Not knowing the procedure or how long it takes to submit, I did not promise him immediately. Cheng, was more helpful by asking him to wait for a while. She managed to submit her form by 8.30am and she looked for the man. She explained to me that she relied on others many times because of language problems while in foreign countries, so it is kind of payback time. I was really glad that she offered to help without any prompting from me. It sure made a change as young people these days are always in a hurry.

Later, at the phone shop in BG I was told that petition writers at the Immigration department charge Rm10 for filling each form. So, inadvertently, we had taken business from someone. Still, the grateful thanks from the man made my day. His passport expired in 1996! And he had to go to Singapore because his son had ‘choot chor si’ (something untoward happened) so it was an emergency visit. After submitting our forms we met again at about 11am, after our visit to the dentist and he, after having bought his bus ticket.

Later, I sent Cheng straight to her best friend’s house in BG as she had promised to take her to the hairdresser. It was only a couple of days later in PJ, that she told me they had seen Po Kuan during lunch but Cheng did not introduce herself. They have met only once two and a half years ago at a forum in Ipoh. I couldn’t get over the chance ‘meeting’ between ‘Homegrown Cilipadi’ and Cilipadi herself! While in PJ, I called Po Kuan about it and she even offered a lift to my wife to join us in PJ. But it was not to be because SP had a few things to sort out before she could leave. I appreciate her kind gesture.

By the way, Batu Gajah town constituents will be looked after by YB Sivakumar, the new Speaker of the Perak State Assembly as Po Kuan had moved her BG office to Bukit Merah New Village.

Top Dog

Did we have an impostor before?

Danger of Mis-interpretation?

Just wondering what happened just before we obtained Independence from Britain. The much quoted Social Contract, unwritten like the Common Law but unlike it, always unfair to the immigrants.

Did the Chinese, so eager in making a living, agree to whatever was put to them? "Gua lapat tengki, lu suka apa apa pun ehsai" Later those Chinese who did well also said "Gua lapat Latok" and the Alliance and then Barisan Nasional ruled happily until March 8, 2008.

Have a good laugh at the following:

The Danger of Mis-interpretation:

HOW THE CHINESE STAY PUT IN ITALY

About a century or two ago, the Pope decided that all the Chinese had to leave Italy .

Naturally there was a big uproar from the Chinese community. So the Pope made a deal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Chinese community. If the Chinese win, they could stay. If the Pope wins, the Chinese would leave.

The Chinese picked a middle-aged man named Ah Pek to represent them. Ah Pek asked for one condition to be added to the debate. 'To make it more interesting', he said, 'neither side would be allowed to talk'.

The Pope agreed. The day of the great debate came. Ah Pek and the Pope sat opposite each other.

Then the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Ah Pek looked back at him and raised one finger.

The Pope waved his fingers in a circle around his head. Ah Pek pointed to the ground at where he sat.

The Pope pulled out a loaf and a glass of wine. Ah Pek pull out an apple.

The Pope stood up and said: 'I give up. This man is too good. The Chinese can stay.'

The cardinals were all around the Pope asking him what happened?.

The Pope said, 'first I held up three fingers to represent the holy trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still one God common to both our religions.'

Then I waved my finger around me to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground and showing that God was also right here with us.'

'I pulled out the wine and loaf to show that God absolves all sin. He showed me an apple to remind us of the original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?'

Meanwhile, the Chinese community had crowded around Ah Pek. 'What happened?' they asked.

'Well,' said Ah Pek, 'First he indicated to me that all Chinese had 3 days to get out of here. I replied to him f*@k off and not one of us was leaving.'

Then he pointed that this whole city would be cleared of Chinese. I showed him that we are staying right here.'

'Yes, and then???' asked the crowd.

'I don't know', said Ah Pek, 'He took out his lunch, and I took out mine!!!'

yba

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blogging: If I can do it, everyone can

I started with just writing what I feel like writing, much like a diary, though a digital one.

It took me a long while before I could upload pictures, following Cheng’s step-by-step guide (for dummies).

Then I decided to have a picture to go with the blog, sent by a friend, BH which I had kept in memory earlier.

I have always wanted to do hyperlink but no one had the time and patience to show me.

I was glad, I followed TV Smith’s guide on ‘how to add Mycen news to your blog’ with success. This encouraged me to add favourite links as the steps are quite similar. I find including hyperlinks in writing very clumsy as I have yet to know the tricks to an easier way.

A local young civil servant teased me why I did not have a hits counter. I replied that I tried but could not decide on a suitable starting figure. I got the Free Counter from Patrick Teoh's Niamah!!! I decided to start at 5,000, by assuming that I had an average of 5 hits per day for 1,000 days. Well, judging from the figures so far, my estimate was not too presumptuous. What I would not know were when my blog was mentioned in ‘Malaysiakini in blogs’, a number of times before, what difference it made, as some bloggers claimed a marked increase in hits recorded.

Now, I have included some quotable quotes too! Once started, blogging has to be maintained, otherwise it would be without visitors except myself!

For some funny reference, I took the liberty to include the following:

Excerpts from
BLOGGING FOR DUNGUS
by TV Smith
17/10/04

What is a blog?
The word blog is coined from weblog (web log). A blog is a journal, diary, commentary or opinion series that is published online. The content is usually presented in a chronological order and is archived. The entries may be frequent or intermittent, the topics irreverent or topical. There are no hard and fast rules for the bloggers (blog keepers) or their visitors (readers).

What is satire?
If you don't know what it is even if it bites you in the ass, just call it a "joke".

What if I have no readers?
There should be at least one reader, unless you don't read your own postings.

Are blogs and websites the same thing?
A blog is a website but a website is not necessarily a blog.

Are bloggers journalists?
Bloggers are not journalists but some journalists are bloggers.

Can we trust blogs?
Yes. Blogs are as trustworthy as our journalists and politicians.

Can I really stay anonymous?
You can post from a internet café but the originating IP can still be traced. I was told that some sneaky geeky cyber cafes track their customers with stealth keystroke recording software, or have hidden cameras. If you are paranoid, go to a typical noisy, smoky Jinjangish "internet café" where the disinterested operator is happily gaming along with the faceless customers.

Can I get into trouble blogging?
It depends on what you write. You may be held under the ISA, charged with sedition, sued for defamation, copyright infringement or get sacked for badmouthing your boss.

What is a permalink?
Since blogs are usually presented in a chronological order, a permanent link allows you to hyperlink or bookmark a specific entry. The permalink for this posting is http://www.tvsmith.net.my/duasen/171004_blogging.html

What is blogrolling?
In a generic sense, it is a collection of links to other blogs the blogger reads or recommends.

I find Salvatore_Dali’s comments and advice useful too:

I think out of every 100 new blogs started, only 10 will be around after 6 months. Most just die a natural death from it being a chore or from infrequent updates. It’s very close to the closure rates for new restaurants.

I have to always refresh my LINKS as I will need to delete those blogs that have "passed away". If you blog for social reasons, its different, because your audience is already limited. If you blog on a subject matter such as politics, technology or business - your audience is enlarged, and you have something worthwhile to say, at least most of the time.

Below are some useful advice for aspiring bloggers:

a) You should have frequent updates. Weekly is the bare minimum. Even then, it is usually insufficient to attract most readers. I would suggest at least twice to three times a week. Daily would be the best.

b) Should you use your real name or a nick. Depends on the subject matter. Some people think there is less sincerity and bravado if you use a nick. It all depends on your current situation. Maybe your job is sensitive, and the blog may compromise your career. Hence no hard and fast rules. The other side of the coin is that some will say using your own name is self-promotional. You cannot win over everybody. Damn if you do, damn if you don't.

c) Can you be rude, sarcastic, vulgar, etc.? that's the beauty of blogging. It’s your blog. If you are rude, sarcastic and vulgar for no good reason, people will be turned off - soon you will blog to empty internet space. It’s not an English test paper presentation, it’s your blog. But it should be clear, concise and have points to make. Rude words, sarcasm or vulgar words should be for clarity and emphasis. They should be able to carry the mood and your character. You cannot please everyone.

d) It’s your blog. You cannot aim to please everyone cause then you will be writing for the lowest common denominator. The blog must please your own self first. There will always be critics. There will always be people who criticise your style of writing and your views. Answer them as best you can. Ignore them if you want. It’s your blog.

e) For a blog to make sense for you, it has to mean something to you. You must have something to share. You hope that something has value in it. You have to have an almost altruistic bent as you will probably get zero returns. It is a good mechanism to voice your views, and indirectly release some stress. It’s probably the next best thing to writing and publishing a book. Everybody wants to have a book published for egotistical reasons - a good blog goes a long way to satisfy that "desire", I guess.

f) Your character should come through your blog. I know most readers think I am curt in most of my replies, or impatient with silly questions - still am, but that's who you are. No need to paint a superhero alter-ego.

Coping with Friday 13 and Murphy's Law

Well, there is always the first time for most things. I made a mistake of referring to Cheng’s original flight schedule and with poor memory, did not realise it until SP checked with MAS counters and offices and even police (to try to get security pass to check with immigration) within KLIA – any lead she could think of, and found out (to my horror) we were 1 day early!

I would normally allow 3 hours to travel between BG and KLIA even though one can reach within 2 and a half. We actually set off at 5.05am and the arrival time was 6.05am and even with an hour allowance for the short ride, baggage collection, immigration and customs clearance, we would not make it in time to greet her. Before we set off, I texted her ‘we r late, if on schedule pls wait near pick up point’. We actually reached KLIA at 7.25am and SP got off while I drove to the car park.

At level 2, next to the car park, I checked ‘Arrivals’ list which was constantly changed to show all available information. Yet, there was none for MH 17 from Amsterdam. By the time I got to the arrival hall, SP said the same and that she had checked with the information desk that the plane had landed at 6.48am. With this information, we just waited, looking out for any girl that looked like her, in anticipation. Minutes turned to hour and SP double-checked with info desk and a lady even confirmed that the last bag was collected at 7.10am!

After 2 hours of waiting, with increasing worries, I remained where I was while SP went to check for further information at level 5. Twenty minutes later, she called for me to go to level 5 to explain that I have got the date wrong. I was more upset because I just could not recall how I got it wrong. Then, vaguely, I remembered Cheng changed the date because she had to accommodate a visiting Professor’s schedule. When we called Cheng on her handphone, it was on voice message but looking back, since she was not travelling, it was between 2 to 3 am, and she was asleep. Later, I texted her again to explain the calls were because of the wrong date. She felt a bit responsible for our ‘ordeal’ and kept us informed of her flight, which happened to be delayed by 3 hours!

The evening of Friday 13, we were at Amcorp Mall again because SP had some unfinished business with the Burmese couple trading in crystals and jades. At the basement carpark nearing closing time at 10pm, I discovered a flat tyre! Even with my experience in changing tyre, it was not easy with Xtrail’s. I even had difficulty putting the tyre in position because of my poor eyesight and poor lighting. Well, managed to changed the tyre and was glad it had enough air pressure.

At the house, past 1 am, SP’s nephew opened the autogate and the malfunctioned sensor sent the gate off its rail! Another problem to sort out and we had to be at KLIA the next morning. We took out the punctured tyre as it was too early for repair. I told SP that I hope I do not need the service of AAM as my membership expired on May 31! Actually, my cheque was posted on June 8 (date of receipt of reminder), after an attempt to pay by Maybank2u failed because the TAG expired after 1 hour(?) and I was thinking it was valid for 24 hours! I did ask if I could inform AAM first while the cheque is on its way and the girl said only if I paid by credit card over the phone, which I refused. I had registered my old handphone number with M2U and I remembered (vaguely) having problem changing it once before.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I am thankful

For a lawn that needs mowing,
plants that need pruning,
windows that need cleaning,
and walls that need repainting,
because it means I have a house to come home to;

For all the complaining
I hear about the government (thanks to their inefficiencies)
because it means
we have freedom of speech (though not necessarily after);

For the banks, offices and shops within walking distance
because it means I can choose to walk, and I am capable of walking;

For the lady and gentleman who sing karaoke daily (in neighbour's entertainment room)
who sing off key
because it means
I can hear (and not tone deaf);

For the pile of laundry (to be dried, collected and sorted)
because it means
I have clothes to wear;

For weariness and aching muscles (being old more than anything else)
at the end of the day
because it means
I have been capable of working hard;

For the crows of castrated cockerels (neighbour's enterprise for Chinese New Year)
in the early morning hours
because it means I am alive;

And finally, for too much E-mail (clogging up my mailbox because I can't open them)
because it means
I have friends who are thinking of me (thank you).


(from someone's work, edited to suit my circumstances)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reflection of a Blogger...


Thank God, He created Pusing Hakka women...

in response to this joke passed round in the net:

Men asked for it!!

And what about the lot of a woman???

God created the donkey
and said to him.
'You will be a donkey. You will work un-tiringly from sunrise to sunset
carrying burdens on your back. You will eat grass,
you will have no intelligence and you will live
50 years.'

The donkey answered:

'I will be a donkey, but to live
50 years is much. Give me only 20 years'
God granted his wish.

God created the dog

and said to him:
'You will guard the house of man. You will be his best Friend.
You will eat the scraps that he gives you and you will live
30 years.
You will be a dog. '

The dog answered:
'Sir, to live
30 years is too much,give me only 15 years.
' God granted his wish.

God created the monkey

and said to him:
'You will be a monkey. You will swing from branch to branch doing tricks.
You will be amusing and you will live

20
years. '
The monkey answered:

'To live
20 years is too much, give me only 10 years.'
God granted his wish.

Finally God created man ....

and said to him:
'You will be man, the only rational creature on the face of the earth.
You will use your intelligence to become master over all the animals.
You will dominate the world and you will live
20 years.'

Man responded:
'Sir, I will be a man but to live only

20
years is very little,
give me the
30
years that the donkey refused,
the
15
years that the dog did not want and
the
10 years the monkey refused.
' God granted man's wish

...............................................................................................

And since then, man lives

20
years as a man ,

marries and spends

30
years like a donkey,
working and carrying all the burdens on his back.


Then when his children are grown,
he lives
15 years like a dog taking care of the house
and eating whatever is given to him,


so that when he is old,
he can retire and live
10
years like a monkey,
going from house to house and from one son or
daughter to another doing tricks to amuse his grandchildren.

Well, as for the woman, God created Pusing Hakka women to take on the role of the man.

My wife used to joke to my son that if he were to marry a Pusing Hakka girl, he won't die of starvation.

But the catch is, instead he will die of exasperation or provocation (the nearest I can think of in translating the word 'kek' (in Cantonese) or 'kit' (in Hakka).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Get our priorities right...

Just wish to share this story, forwarded by a friend:

The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 CUPS OF COFFEE:

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 Hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty Mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things - God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

So...

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play With your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

"Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities.

The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked". It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Monday, June 09, 2008

How to deal with increasing fuel prices...

change your life style wherever possible:
Avoid unnecessary alteration to clothes:


See if horse power can reduce fuel intake:


Use a cheaper alternative:


Use taxi instead, share if possible:


Small is not only economical, but safer sometimes:


Piggy-back towing saves fuel:


Last resort:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

If Petronas is transparent, please provide info

We are now paying for the extravagances during the Mahathir years of 1981-2003.

Petronas’s profits paid for most of the mega projects like KLCC and Putrajaya and helped in bailing out failed privatisation projects. Nobody dared to question his decisions then.

With the oil reserves drying up, the government of the day had no alternative but to bite the bullet. The urgency of it all could suggest an even more serious situation than admitted.

Besides the high costs of developing Putrajaya, especially to reflect its grandeur and aesthetics, which include man-made lakes and beautiful bridges and landscaping, we now have to maintain it at higher than normal costs. Imagine having to maintain a Rolls Royce instead of a Kancil.

Instead of solving the traffic jams in KL, we have created traffic jams between KL and Putrajaya, as most of the civil servants and public commute. Except for some ministries, the public is beginning to feel the pinch of having to travel to sort out their dealings with the government, more so now, with the increase in fuel prices. They are already discussing on the viability, or is it necessity now, to have a LRT service to Putrajaya.

To refute any wild allegations and rumours, Petronas should have someone in charge of providing information each time someone somewhere wrote something untrue. If, as the Chairman insisted, Petronas has been transparent all along, why did people keep accusing Petronas of not revealing their accounts?

For starters, I am sure the public would like to know the revenue, profit and other relevant figures – particularly money spent by the government on mega projects, since 1974. If there is no one responsible to provide these figures, then it is about time, the company set up a special PR body to handle it. The public is going crazy based on perceptions that Petronas has been secretive because the truth might be detrimental to national security and public disorder or something to that effect, much like the NSE contract under OSA.

I find the following letter in Malaysiakini, sensible among the many complaints and wild allegations:

Mismanagement - the gov't stands accused
Halibullah Abdul Majid Jun 6, 08 4:47pm

The prevalence of thinking that petrol prices in Malaysia should be kept low because we are a net oil exporter is incorrect and to a certain extent it is being irresponsibly manipulated by those with vested interests.

Applying this same thinking, cooking oil should also be very cheap in Malaysia as we are the world's largest exporter of palm oil. Stretching this argument further, diamonds and gold should be very cheap in South Africa and Zimbabwe since that's where the bulk of this stuff is produced in the world.

Now back to the argument as to why fuel prices in Malaysia cannot be kept depressed:

The government is the ultimate owner of the oil and gas deposits in Malaysia; this applies to other natural resources like sand, tin, iron ore and timber, etc.

However, for the oil and gas to be of any value, it has to be extracted from wherever it is, which in Malaysia is entirely deep in the ocean. The process of exploration and production - especially in the ocean - is technologically very complex and expensive.

Before Petronas was set up in 1974, this was done mainly by Shell and Exxon via a licensing agreement with the government. They made investments, extracted the oil and sold it at market prices. In return, they paid the government normal corporate tax and a royalty on the oil produced.

In 1974, after discoveries of huge deposits of oil and gas in Malaysia, the government very rightly realised that they need to get more value for these resources. Thus Petronas was set up and given ownership of all the oil and gas deposits in Malaysia on behalf of the government.

Petronas then gave out new licences - mainly to Shell and Exxon - on very stringent terms. Shell and Exxon made investments and produced the oil and gas. Under the agreement with Petronas, the bulk of the oil and gas produced by Shell and Exxon was returned to Petronas.

Petronas then sells the oil and gas at international market prices and the revenue is accounted for in Petronas' books.
After many years of its existence, Petronas today also explores and produces oil and gas on its own like Shell and Exxon. Petronas makes its own investments for its operations and keeps the profits.

As for the consumers, they have to buy petrol and diesel at international market prices, just like gold. If the government insists that the sellers charge a price that is lower than the market, then the government needs to subsidise and we can see how disastrous this can get.

Many governments in the world, especially major oil-producing countries with large populations like Indonesia, Nigeria, etc, have destroyed their economies by depressing pump prices. Indonesia today is a net importer and did not get any value for their oil and gas during all those years they were an exporter as their people wasted this resource.

In fact, there are many books on the subject of the 'Curse of Oil' as politicians mismanage this resource through corruption and populist policies designed to win votes.As Malaysians, we have the right to ask the government to explain and be accountable for all the profits Petronas is generating, which is in the region of RM50-70 billion currently. Of course, a large part of this is paid to the government which is reflected in the annual budget.

The major concern is also that with the dwindling oil and gas reserves in Malaysia, the government will face a major shortfall in revenue in 5-10 years’ time. We can then expect that income taxes will increase as it is not likely that the government has any significant source of revenue to compensate the reduction in revenues contributed by Petronas.

Ultimately, we all have the right to question the government on its management of our country's finances during all the good old yesteryears and going into the future. Obviously, a big chunk of the oil and gas revenues has been frittered away through corruption and wasteful projects.

For instance, all those privatised highways (which in total did not cost more than RM20 billion) is one good example of where Petronas revenues should have been spent and saving us consumers the kind of burdens that we are now faced with. Instead, Dr Mahathir Mohamad chose to build monuments like KLCC and Putrajaya.

Also, the government has a totally flawed approach in managing wages in the private sector. Whilst civil servants are granted hefty increases, the government has the gall to deny the right for a decent level of minimum wage in the private sector.

In many well-managed countries, wages will rise in tandem with inflation including increases in fuel prices. The government's approach of keeping Malaysia as a ‘low-cost center’ has benefitted foreigners rather than locals.

This is causing major social upheaval in Malaysia which is amply reflected in the rejection of the BN in the last election.

So ultimately, in my view, the government stands accused, not for increasing fuel prices but gross economic mismanagement. I am, however, not confident that the Pakatan Rakyat policies in this respect are right either.

We are entering a very challenging period and all of us Malaysians must demand that our politicians behave ethically and responsibly in charting our future, failing which the consequences for Malaysia will be seriously negative if not disastrous.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Pak Lah, please get off your high horse…

I mean gas-guzzling jet, before you pass this message to us.

At the time when we are still shocked and yet to get used to the high fuel prices, this news in The Star prompted me to post this:

Change the way we use energy, urges PM

PUTRAJAYA: The effects of greenhouse gases coupled with the recent increase in global fuel prices should bring about a new structural change in the way Malaysians use energy.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the private sector should not merely celebrate World Environment Day by merely planting trees or other such activities.

"These programmes should be coupled with new initiatives based on technology and innovation. Private companies - together with the cooperation of other government agencies - should focus their attention on developing technology that is more efficient in the usage of resources and renewable energy such as solar, wind and waves.

"Besides 'greening' our economy, such technology will lead to other business opportunities and new jobs as well as creating new industries," he said Thursday in his speech at the Langkawi Awards for sustainable cities here.
His speech was read out by his wife Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah.

Just for comparison, I think the message if given by Nik Aziz or Lim Guan Eng would have been more palatable.

Who is to know where the savings from fuel subsidies go to?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wanted...

employees who can work independently, at any place and time;

special preference for an extrovert with exhibitionist tendencies, able to perform in public.



The toilet in Switzerland, viewed from the outside:


It is made entirely out of one-sided glass. No one can see you in there, but when you are inside, it looks like you are sitting in a clear glass box. Would you use it???

Humour amid the complaints over fuel hikes

Spotted these two in someone else's blogs. The first is copied from Susan Loone's with credit to indiadaily.org, while the other... sorry to say, cannot remember.

Excerpts from Raja Petra's article in Malaysia Today:

Yes, let us get angry, but about the right things

The blame for the increase in the price of petrol should not be placed on the shoulders of one man and it should be seen within a bigger picture rather than in isolation. Could Abdullah Ahmad Badawi have done anything about it even if he wanted to? Or is Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a victim of circumstances, who anyone who was heading the government today would also have to endure?
And the most unpopular move a government can make is a move that affects your pocket.Do anything. Kill detainees in the police lockup. Detain political opponents and dissidents without trial on the lame excuse that they are threats to national security. Spend billions of the nation’s money on white elephants and monumental projects. Siphon out billions of Ringgit in ‘commissions’ from government projects and stash the money in numbered Swiss bank accounts. Kill of all the Rainforests. Mess up the environment. In short, do whatever you want. Just don’t put any strain on my pocket. The instant you touch my pocket, then, and only then, will I rise up in anger. That is the mentality of the Malaysian Rakyat.
We should not get upset with the increase in the price of petrol. What we should get upset about is the fact that over 34 years since 1974, Malaysia has earned an estimated RM2 trillion in oil revenue. I say ‘estimated’ because that is the only basis we can use in figuring out what the actual amount is. Petronas’ accounts are not published and are not tabled before Parliament. According to the Petroleum Development Act 1974, Petronas need not make its accounts public. Petronas need not even report to anyone, not even to Parliament. Petronas reports to just one man, the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Petronas is too important to the nation. Petronas is the backbone of the Malaysian economy. Without Petronas this country would be dead. Should something that important be under the control of just one man where even Parliament has no say over it? That is what we should be angry about. We should not be angry that the price of petrol has increased. It is not Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s fault.
Okay, if we want to still be angry with Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, then let us be angry about the fact that just before the 8 March 2008 general election the government promised the voters that the price of petrol would not be increased. Then, even before 100 days after the general election, they go and increase it. They lied to us. They led us to believe that if we voted for them the price of petrol would not be increased. Then, after 50% or so of Malaysians voted for them, they go and increase the price of petrol. If they had been honest and had said that as soon as the general election is over they will increase the price of petrol, then 50% of Malaysians would not have voted for them. If they had been honest and had said that as soon as the general election is over they will increase the price of petrol, then more than five states would have fallen to Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional would no longer be the federal government.
I am not angry about the increase in the price of petrol when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could not avoid increasing it. I am angry that he was forced to increase it. Why was he forced to increase it? And what happened to the estimated RM2 trillion that Petronas has earned over 34 years since 1974? And why are the accounts not made public or tabled before Parliament? Was not Petronas set up through an Act of Parliament via the Petroleum Development Act 1974? Therefore, should not Parliament have the power and authority to demand that Petronas table its accounts before Parliament? Why are the accounts secret? And why should Petronas report to only one man?

A look at the major oil production situation elsewhere

I have just read this from Malaysiakini's beritamalaysia section and I think it helps in our understanding of our country's fuel price policy. As I have mentioned in my earlier post, I cannot understand why higher prices for oil to a net exporter of oil cannot translate into bumper profits for Petronas to take care of the subsidies. I would tend to think after reading that open letter, that perhaps our oil reserves are in fact running too low for comfort!:

View From Britain

Your Majesty, We Have Gone Mad

An open letter to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: Our prime minister isurging you to increase production of oil. Please ignore him. Like the other leaders he is delusional, and is no longer competent to make his own decisions.

GEORGE MONBIOT

Your Majesty,

In common with the leaders of most western nations, our prime minister is urging you to increase your production of oil. I am writing to ask you to ignore him. Like the other leaders he is delusional, and is no longer competent to make his own decisions.

You and I know that there are several reasons for the high price of oil. Low prices at the beginning of this decade discouraged oil companies from investing in future capacity. There is a global shortage of skilled labour, steel and equipment. The weak dollar means that the price of oil is higher than it would have been if denominated in another currency. While your government says that financial speculation is an important factor, theBank of England says it is not, so I don't know what to believe. The major oil producers have also become major consumers; in some cases their exports are falling even as their production has risen, because they are consuming more of their own outpu.

But what you know and I do not is the extent to which the price of oil might reflect an absolute shortage of global reserves. You and your advisers are perhaps the only people who know the answer to this question. Your published reserves are, of course, a political artefact unconnected to geological reality. The production quotas assigned to its members by Opec, the oil exporters' cartel, reflect the size of their stated reserves, which means that you have an incentive to exaggerate them. How else could we explain the fact that, despite two decades of furious pumping, your kingdom posts the same reserves as it did in 1988?

You say that you are saving your oil for the benefit of futuregenerations. If this is true, it is a rational economic decision: oil in the ground looks like a better investment than money in the bank. But, reluctant as I am to question your majesty's word, I must remind you that some oil analysts are now wondering whether this prudence is a convenient fiction. Are you restricting supply because you want to conserve stocks and keep the price high, or are you unable to raise production because your fabled spare capacity does not in fact exist?

I do not expect an answer to this question. I know that the true state of your reserves is a secret so closely guarded that oil analysts now resort to using spy satellites to try to estimate the speed of subsidence of the ground above your oil fields, as they have no other means of guessing how fast your reserves are running down.

What I know and you may not is that the high price of oil is currently the only factor implementing British government policy. The government claims that it is seeking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, by encouraging people to use less fossil fuel. Now, for the first time in years, its wish has come true: people are driving and flying less. The AA reports that about a fifth of drivers are now buying less fuel. A new study by the Worldwide Fund for Nature shows that businesses are encouraging their executives to use video conferences instead of flying. One of the most fuel-intensive industries of all, business-only air travel, has collapsed altogether.

In other words, your restrictions on supply – voluntary or otherwise – are helping the government to meet its carbon targets. So how does it respond? By angrily demanding that you remove them so that we can keep driving and flying as much as we did before. Last week Gordon Brown averred that it's "a scandal that 40% of the oil is controlled by Opec, that their decisions can restrict the supply of oil to the rest of the world, and that at a time when oil is desperately needed, and supply needs to expand, that Opec can withhold supply from the market." In the United States, legislators have gone further: the House of Representatives has voted to a bring a lawsuit against Opec's member states, and Democratic senators are trying to block arms sales to your kingdom unless you raise production.

This illustrates one of our leaders' delusions. They claim to wish to restrict the demand for fossil fuels, in order to address both climate change and energy security. At the same time, to quote Britain's department for business, they seek to "maximise economic recovery" from their remaining oil, gas and coal reserves. They persist in believing that both policies can be pursued at once, apparently unaware that if fossil fuels are extracted they will be burnt, however much they claim to wish to reduce consumption. The only states which appear to be imposing restrictions on the supply of fuel are the members of OPEC, about which Gordon Brown so bitterly complains. Your majesty, we have gone mad, and you alone can cure our affliction, by keeping your taps shut.

Our leaders, though they do not possess the faintest idea of whether or not the oil supplies required to support it will be sustained, are also overseeing a rapid expansion of our transport infrastructure. In the United Kingdom we are building or upgrading thousands of miles of new roads and doubling the capacity of our airports, in the expectation that there will be no restriction in the supply of fuel. The government's central forecast for the long-term price of oil is just $70 a barrel.

Over the past few months I have been trying to discover how the government derives this optimistic view. In response to a parliamentary question, it reveals that its projection is based on "the assessment made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its 2007 World Energy Outlook." Well last week the Wall Street Journal revealed that the IEA "is preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast". Its final report won't be released until November, but it has already concluded that "future crude supplies could be far tighter than previously thought." Its previous estimates of global production were wrong for one simple and shockingreason: it had based them on anticipated demand, rather than anticipated supply. It resolved the question of supply by assuming that it would automatically rise to meet demand, as if it were subject to no inherent restraints.

Our government must have known this, but it has refused to conduct its own analysis of global oil reserves. Uniquely among possible threats to the economy and national security, it has commissioned no research of any kind into this question. So earlier this year I asked the department for business what contingency plans it possesses to meet the eventuality that the IEA's estimates could be wrong, and that global supplies of petroleum might peak in the near future. "The Government," it replied, "does not feel the need to hold contingency plans". I am sure I do not need to explain the implications, if its forecasts turn out to be wildly wrong.

Your majesty, I recognise that this is not among your usual duties as the ruler of Saudi Arabia. But I respectfully beg you to save us from ourselves.

Yours Sincerely,

George Monbiot

www.monbiot.com

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Leadership by example, PM should fly economy

This morning, a friend texted me about the expected increase in fuel prices tomorrow, the August date being a red herring, to avoid people rushing to fill up. Now that it has been confirmed, I think the petrol stations would have been dry by now. I am still trying to imagine the impact of the following:

Rm2.70 a litre for petrol and Rm2.58 a litre for diesel from midnight
- an increase of 40% and 63% respectively and I believe our inflation rate will continue to stay at 3%?

While our PM and DPM jet around in their government provided planes and vehicles, we have to change our lifestyles. I hope our PM can continue to sleep well while we ponder whether to take the car or cycle to work, or in my case, for breakfast. Going to KL by car is prohibitive now and going by bus is dicey. The fast train service using the double-tracking is unavailable for another 2 years.

I would have supported the decision for reducing the subsidies, if not for the many instances of wastage by the BN and Petronas as instructed by BN. Can someone enlighten me why higher prices for oil do not translate into bumper profits for Petronas which could have taken care of subsidies?

My friend, BH had forwarded the following email, supposedly by a civil servant, in response to PM’s request for ideas on how to tackle the subsidy problem:

My two cents.

The PM has asked us civil servants for ideas on ways to tackle the subsidy problem amidst the rise in the price of fuel and food. How thoughtful of him. I wonder why he didn't ask for our ideas when he was initiating all those corridors, North, South, East and West. If he had asked us for ideas then, now he wouldn't have needed to ask for ideas any longer.

Well anyway here are some ideas from a layman, common civil servant who is not an economist, who has no experience running a country but all the same someone who is not blind to what is going on in this country.

Hey I am not blaming you for the increase in the price of crude and food for you are not that important so as to have an impact on the price of crude and food in this world. I feel sorry for you to have been cornered such that you have to ask us for ideas. I am sure you would get many ideas from us civil servants and I am more sure you are not going to pay any heed to them because any idea coming from us would involve prudence, something considered a sin to be even whispered in your circle of people.

Nationalise Petronas which should have been the case in the first place. By this I mean, all income from Petronas goes straight into the treasury's coffers. Heck, Petronas doesn't even have to pay tax. All profit goes straight into the governments bank account.

If a road costs a million a mile than pay only a million a mile for it. The present trend of paying 3 million a mile so that some UMNO bigwigs and some well connected businessman could enjoy a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the people should stop immediately. The same goes to buildings and whatever that needs to be built. You save billions here.

Stop centralised contracts for the supply of stuffs to all government agencies. All government agencies should be allowed to buy stuffs at current market price rather than wait for them to be supplied by a central contractor who charges 2 to 3 times the market rate. More billions saved here.

Negotiate directly if there is a need to procure military hardware so that we don't have to bear hundreds of millions of ringgit in payment of commissions. It doesn't matter who pays the commission because once commission is payed that amount is factored in the purchase price. It doesn't matter if the party who receives the commission is local or foreign. Don't be stupid and don't pretend to be stupid.

Do away with PLKN which serves no other purpose but to enrich cronies and kill young ones who could otherwise be productive in later years.

Get your people to go after all tax evaders. Many highly connected businessmen are not paying the amount of tax that they should be paying. They are fooling the government left right and centre and you just take it because these people are important to you to maintain your lavish lifestyle and also they supply you the much needed funds come election.

Please for god sake do away with money and time wasting official ceremonies where canopies are rented at exorbitant prices; food given out free to people who are not actually hungry but because some officials could make a bundle by negotiating for it; halls or convention centers need to be rented out at very high price and the giving out of expensive gifts. We seem to have a ceremony for everything and when Ministers are invited lots of time is wasted not to mention the expense.

Be business friendly by having a clean government with a clean and trustworthy judiciary. This will definitely attract foreign investments, which creates jobs and with jobs, more taxes collected.

Be self reliant in food production. Do away with BERNAS once and for all. Encouraged padi planting even in states controlled by the oppositions. If there is still a need to import rice, no monopoly should be given to any party to import this item. No permit should be needed to import.

These are some of the suggestions that this stupid government servant could think of right now but maybe some of my friends could come out with some more. Yes, I know they are not going to listen but then at least we have done our part.

Meritocracy remains a sensitive word...

when used on entry requirements to institutions of higher learning and entitlement to scholarships.

I am referring to Malaysiakini’s Vox Populi: 'PSD scholarships: Publish names, results' and 'Wee: PSD scholarships should be given on merit'.

Our political leaders should be able to take the bull by the horns and deal with these problems unless they admit they do not have the political will.

Meritocracy is made out to be a dirty word as though it means only the non-Bumis are going to grab them all. If this perception is true, then there are serious faults in their mindset and being defeatist is one of them.

While compromise might be necessary, it should not be at the expense of quality. Once we have decided on the minimum requirements, there should be no exceptions. After 50 years, it should be clear to the people, that if the individual is not up to it, there is no point in giving him or her the chance. Let it be known that the opportunities are there and he has to make the grade.

Similarly, the scholarships are available to them, and it is up to them to go for it by working hard to achieve the grades set. Many people believe that the drop in standards of education and qualifications has a lot to do with tinkering by the examiners at the behest of political leaders.

According to PT Tan: “Looks like those in charge of uplifting academic achievements cannot understand the difference between a bursary and a scholarship. Scholarships are strictly based on merit, nothing more. Meaning the best gets it, period. Bursaries are for those who need financial help to carry on their normal studies and may not necessarily be for top students only.”

Whatever it is, our government should try to meet the needs of all those who qualify, based on the set criteria like minimum grades, parents’ incomes and so on. The people would wish those who have the means, do not compete with those without. It is not uncommon to find Ministers’ children getting scholarships due to their influence and even able to choose the country of their choice! While it might be unfair to discriminate against them, some ministers are wealthy for all to see and this is the cause for complaints. It is up to the conscience of the Minister whether he wants to displace someone more deserving under the circumstances.

I know of a relation who is a Professor in a local university and her husband worked for a quasi-government body. Their elder son applied for scholarship to study medicine and was given a different course instead. He applied on his own and obtained admission and for unknown reasons, he was offered the scholarship. The reasons could be, if they had to show a few to be given to non-Bumis, he seemed most deserving, based on merit as well as his parents’ occupations. A couple of years later, his younger brother’s results were just as excellent, and he was offered a scholarship but the parents did not feel nice to accept another offer and rather gave the chance to someone else! This is an example of selflessness, which we should emulate.

What I find confounding is that while we are short of medical doctors, we refuse to offer more scholarships to those deserving cases. In a matter of years we would have more doctors. Yet, we rather offer to those foreign doctors who have yet to comply with our requirements for local practice.

We are also prepared to offer unusually good terms to entice those who are well established abroad, to come back. For long term planning, I am sure it is better to offer opportunities to those who made the grade, regardless of race, than to try and attract people who left because of unfair conditions and who are already earning way beyond what we can offer locally.

I know of someone who made good in IT in the USA and was offered a salary of between Rm10,000 to Rm20,000 per month to help our MSC programme. Even in USD, the salary offered was way below what he used to get!

We could have tap on those who did their first degree on their own overseas and need scholarships to do their post-graduate or other specialist courses, on the condition that they work for the government for a number of years.

In the meantime, countries like Singapore, Britain, USA and Australia, can easily attract the disillusioned Malaysian students, causing brain drain to our country, thanks to our insecure and narrow-minded leaders.

Perhaps, we can look at it with pride that we are generous in freely exporting brainpower while offering employment to our neighbours’ overpopulation!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dealing with our conscience

A few years ago, I asked my daughter Cheng, whether I should change my mindset just to prove that I can be money conscious and grab whatever opportunities that come along, to see if I could make millions like what people around me did. She replied, “Pa, I rather you remain as you are, with principles.”

I used to work for my brother’s small development companies. I could have done what some used to do, taking advantage of under-counter money since the demand far exceeded supply. But I played by the book and left it to him to decide who should get the units for non-Bumiputeras. While on this, I cannot help thinking Pak Lah reminds me of him, the incorrigible ‘Mr. Nice’ even when there is no hope for any changes.

For example, even when the units were allotted and letters of offer were issued, he would still give others hope with replies like, “I will see what I can do” or “When there are rejections, I will let you know”.

As a manager, I could not bear to see the ‘white lies’ being said and ‘false hopes’ given to those eager to own their first house. To me, the longer one continued with the lie, the greater the disappointment. Why not be honest about it from the start?

I could have learnt the ropes from him since he was known for his efficiency in obtaining Certificates of Fitness. For all those in the know, there was no magic in dealing with government bureaucracy. Call me naïve, or one without business sense, but I just could not get into the act.

I met my 80-year old school senior again on Sunday at his favourite complex, Amcorp Mall, which is within walking distance from his house. Incidentally, the Mall is owned by another school senior, Tan Sri Azman Hashim, who is his junior.

This time, he told me a story about his one-time junior who rose through the ranks to become a bank manager. It was a classic case of rise and fall as a result of dishonesty. As an example, he asked him to share in their office lottery pool in the then Social Welfare which paid a first prize of Rm375,000, a big sum then. He got a shock when told that one-tenth of that prize was pittance to him! Years later, he met him again and it was just months after he was sacked for using bank’s name to speculate in the stock market.

I was prompted to write on this subject by Dr. Azly Rahman’s article which first appeared in his column in Malaysiakini and now in Malaysia Today:

Should I cross over for those millions?

You will die satisfied that you have not sold your soul to any other party in whose ideology you actually do not subscribe to. These 'party jumpers' have no clear intention, just clear benefits for themselves.

That is a two million ringgit question.

How much does one get for 'crossing over' these days? I do not know. But if there are millions of ringgit involved, this nation will continue to rot as corrupt politicians continue switching allegiances, getting appointments to good positions, and making horror decisions for you and your children.

We must destroy this culture and heal anew.

We were convinced things will be better after the elections. We were sure that the revolution was going to benefit the masses and no party hopping would occur.

We are wrong. Things are getting more complex, in a complex time of rising prices.

This is my template letter to anyone on the verge of party hopping for money:

Dear sir/madam,

Don't make this mistake.

Don't do it if it's for two million ringgit. Stay to be free, and speak up against internal party corruption.

You will die satisfied that you have not sold your soul to any other party in whose ideology you actually do not subscribe to. These 'party jumpers' have no clear intention, just clear benefits for themselves.

Principles not resource

If resource is the issue, think of how you can take your party to newer heights without more money. Make your party appeal to the younger generation. Know your party's roots and make it dynamic.

You may not have the money, machinery, and the media at your disposal as means to influence the masses, however you have the will. Focus on helping people and problem solving at the grassroots level. 'Small is beautiful'

Think about the 'class' struggle we are in. Prevent a generation of our children from the dehumanisation of a new class system. Worker rights need championing in this globalised economy and you can win them their minimum wage for starters.

Figure out how to deliver what you promised and will promise, and find your place in the party's equation. Phenomenological questions that can help you understand your existence and purpose. Without it you are just part of a game of hypocrisy.

Don't flatter yourself with state honours and your finer language. You are not meant to be a 'yes man/woman' for powerful people and make others beg for your favour. Politics is about doing societal good not Machiavellian scheming.

A simple life is a virtuous life. Love others and commit yourself to good.

On the question of limited financial resources, here are some thoughts.

Leverage the Internet as a cheap and powerful tool of your campaign, while leaning on traditional methods of appeasing your constituency. Also the SMS system to mirror 'multilevel marketing' for effective campaigning.

Brainstorm with the young. Be creative. The greatest tool of human progress is the two pound universe one carries around - the human brain.

Past wisdom

The great soul MK Gandhi did not have much at his disposal yet he brought down the British empire. He was armed with a deep sense of spirituality and the principle of satyagraha.

Ahmad Boestaman, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Dr Ismail, Onn Jaafar, Nik Aziz, Lim Kit Siang, V Rajaratnam, and others have shown us what dignity and ethics mean. Learn from them but enrich these concepts of ethics to meet the needs of changing times without losing sight and vision of political realism. Learn from the many around you who are not servants of money.

However if you are logically convinced that your party is on the road to destruction due to massive corruption amongst its leaders, then by all means leave! You have one life to live - make it the best life, for yourself and for others. At a time when we have entered the world of multiculturalism, do not revert to blind ideology of racism.

Ultimately if you take those millions offered, sit in Parliament making decisions for our children, you will be a major crook who continues to rationalise his or her crookedness. You too will sink with the Bahtera Merdeka. The rakyat will help you sink with your two million, bahtera and all.

Abdul Rahman Abdul Talib's article which appeared in Malaysia Today is highly critical of Pak Lah's promises for reforms (excerpts):

Pak Lah's Reform? Hogwash, that’s what it is

We are hoping for a bunch of govt, appointed individuals to act as checks and balance against the government? Call me a fool but that to me sounds very logic defying

Many have been said about reforms being spearheaded by Pak Lah post 2004. But allow me to expose the fallacy of his reform programs. To me, the movements are far from reforms. In fact, they are just part of his political maneuvering to maintain his position as Prime Minister and President of UMNO.

Unfortunately, we do not see such step sponsored by Pak Lah and his cabal (otherwise known as “4th Floor Boys)”. In fact, soon after the election, when the newly elected Menteri Besar of Selangor officially requested for air-time on the radio that is operating from the State Administrative building, he was flatly turned down by Pak Lah’s regime courtesy of Minister of Information, Date Ahmad Sabery Chik.

The unpleasant gesture by the Minister of Information alone is testimony that freedom of media is not on the Pak Lah’s list of reform. Incidentally, during Sabery Chik’s S46 days, he is one of those who complain the loudest about the one-sidedness of Malaysian media. Now that he has a small window of opportunity, he blew it. I guess Ahmad Sabery Chik doesn’t think that integrity is an essential ingredient to life.

Now, why is freedom of the media an acid test? A prerequisite for reform? A must-have on the “shopping list”?. Simple. When there is free media, there is free flowing of information to the people.

The people, then, being properly and equally informed, will then be able to participate in the eradication of corruption, the improvement of public service, the fight against injustice and cruelty, the prevention of abuse of power.

Without the people’s involvement, all efforts towards reform are futile and mere political rhetoric. How can we hope for a small group of bureaucrats to act as a force of checks and balance against a corrupt regime standing in the current administration?

Malaysiakini report on the NUJ meeting with Zaid Ibrahim is another testimony that Pak Lah’s reform does not include freedom of the press and media. Zaid is quoted as saying:

"You must ask yourself first - do you take up an unpopular issue with your news owner?" asked Zaid in the dialogue, which was hosted by the NPC. “Don't assume all ministers are unreasonable," he said, receiving a chorus of boos from those in audience after his speech.”

It’s clear that from Zaid’s speech that media freedom is a very difficult topic to bring up with Pak Lah or with the government.