Thursday, September 30, 2010

Musings on Lat & Zunar

I thought Marina Mahathir was on the nose in her “musings’ (Star, September 29, 2010, p N43) that today the powers-that-be have totally lost the plot.

She wrote about how cartoonist Lat “pokes fun at our attitudes towards driving, queuing, eating and our relationships towards each other? Or the way we interpret government policies?” – and that Lat has never gotten into trouble for his cartoons.

“It may be because we once had a better sense of humor, or our politicians were once more secure.

But it was certainly unheard of to prosecute a cartoonist for anything”, she maintained.
Today, we know this is not the case – I am referring to Zunar’s unhappy brush with the law, and which as Marina says, is “a sign of paranoia gone to extremes”.

Image credit: 

But I do not quite agree with Marina that Lat be compared with Zunar.

About the only thing both of them have in common is the fact that they draw cartoons – but when we examine their cartoons, we can easily appreciate that Lat is a social commentator while Zunar is a political cartoonist.

Lat’s cartoons will draw knowing smiles but certainly, I don’t believe they will invite any retaliation, not even mild rebukes. They’re harmless, some may say they’re sterile even.

Image credit:

Zunar’s cartoons bite because they sear our consciousness and strip away the phony layers of half-truths and falsehoods that we constantly wrap ourselves in, in order to hide away the many troubles afflicting our beleaguered country.

It’s like intentionally locking ourselves away in a closet of self-denial. We do not want to know because we couldn’t care less/we can’t be bothered/we’re just not interested. And we know that if we do free ourselves from this self-imprisonment, then our next step is to act!

But how many of us will take action?

Zunar already did us a favor by revealing to us an ailing Malaysia, whose raw wounds bleed and fester because of the greed-induced shenanigans of a rapacious political fossil whose sell-by date has expired long ago.

I am referring to BN – this governing coalition of disparate forces who are already disconnected from the electorate that now they seem hopelessly out-of-touch and out-of-place.

Zunar’s cartoons make us sit up and be concerned. Zunar is giving us a much-needed dose of reality.

Arsenal maintained their 100% start to this season's Champions League with a 3-1 win against 10-man Partizan Belgrade.
Andrey Arshavin fired Arsenal ahead (15) before Cleo levelled for Partizan with a penalty (33) after Denilson's handball. The Gunners produced a second goal from Marouane Chamakh’s well-placed header (71) and finally the third came also from another header – this time by Sebastien Squillaci (82).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No Printing Permit

Thanks to Lee Chen Choon whom I have had the privilege of meeting when I last visited the Ernst & Young Toastmasters Club – and who’s also a Monash alumna – was kind enough to invite me to a forum enticingly titled “The taste of tweet success: harnessing the power of social media for business success”. This event was organized by Monash University Alumni Relations, in conjunction with the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI), and indeed, it gave me some insight into the world of social media and its application to marketing and communications practice. I thought the discourse was pretty lightweight but still interesting. The two speakers were okay – decent speakers actually – Associate Professor Colin McLeod, executive director of Monash University's Australian Centre for Retail Studies and Premesh Chandran, co-founder and CEO of Malaysiakini,com. Anyway, I met interesting people like April Yim, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Melody Song, writer with The EDGE. And surprise, surprise – two other Toastmasters besides Chen Choon.

And Malaysiakini, Malaysia's leading online news portal said Wednesday it has launched a legal challenge after authorities rejected its application for a permit to publish a newspaper. The pioneering website has over the past decade become a leading source of information in the Southeast Asian nation, where major newspapers and broadcasters are largely government-linked.
Premesh Chandran said Malaysiakini, which has 1.8 million readers per month, wants to launch a newspaper to reach out to a wider audience. This just goes to show that traditional print media is not dead nor dying! Not yet, anyway!

Battle over Lotus

Yesterday the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters Club had their regular bi-monthly meeting, and I was not in a happy mood because my well-prepared meeting agenda was unraveling. Some role players were excusing themselves at the eleventh hour and as the Vice President Education, I had to band-aid as best as I could. This meeting saw 23 members and guests converging at the IJM Cobra Clubhouse in Petaling Jaya, and when you hit past the 20-people mark, you know a Toastmasters meeting will be really warm and engaging. If it is a Taman Indrahana meeting, it will be much more than that – it will also be lots of fun! This meeting had a Mid-autumn Festival theme and so, we had a chance to sample a good array of different types of mooncakes. Food aside, I presented my CC speech # 4: How to Say It titled “The Beautiful Language” – of course, referring to the alluring elegance of the English language. It was very much an impromptu effort because I didn’t get to work on my speech. How could I? I was busy finding replacements for those who have bailed out on me. Still, it was amazing that as I stood there in front of everybody, I could there and then, craft a 5-plus minute speech armed with just a simple title. Looking back, the thought of me pulling off this stunt is unnerving! Never again, I swear! Next time, I promise I will prepare. I was fortunate that the words came out and I could string them together into a coherent speech And the bonus came when I was voted the Best Assignment Speaker for the evening. I think I am improving my speechmaking skills by the day!

The country’s two motorsport bigwigs – Proton Holdings Bhd and Lotus Racing Formula One team – are set to clash in the British courts over the rights to the Team Lotus name. This is going to be an interesting and potentially bruising fight because on one hand, Tony Fernandez and company claimed to have acquired the rights to the trademark Team Lotus through their purchase of Team Lotus Ventures Ltd from David Hunt, but on the other hand, Proton, the company which owns British-based Lotus sportscars are insisting they are the owners of this brand, and will take all necessary steps to protect it.

Proton chairman Nadzmi Salleh explained: "We believe the Lotus brand to be one of the most valuable brands in Formula 1 today.

On Tuesday, Lotus Racing chief executive officer Riad Asmat denied Proton Holdings Bhd’s contention that Lotus Racing had no right to use the ‘Team Lotus’ name and said they intended to clear the issue.

“We have, therefore, today issued proceedings in the English High Court for a declaration that Team Lotus Ventures has the rights to use the Team Lotus name and everything associated with that brand in relation to Formula One™,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“However, given that this is contested by Group Lotus we think now is the time to clear this matter up so there can be no further arguments,” he said. He is stating the obvious!

According to this webpage, accessed today, Team Lotus Ventures rights to use ‘Team Lotus” (Trade Mark 2297413A) for Class 41 goods or services (i.e. motor racing, etc) were revoked this year itself.

As this Proton statement said, Group Lotus is the owner of all rights in the Lotus automotive brand including those relating to Formula One (Webpage, posted today)

All I know is that both Proton and the Tune Group are spoiling for a fight!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fellatio Mix-Up

I returned to the Phoenix Toastmasters Club again on Monday after an almost one-month absence. That evening this club had a marathon speech session with 6 speakers. I took on the role of evaluator for one of three Ice Breaker speakers. Well, Sofiah acquitted herself quite well. And I was also voted the Best Evaluator amongst the six of us who did the evaluations. Good meeting because there were 29 people in attendance!

As reported by BBC News yesterday, France's ex-justice minister Rachida Dati mixed up the words "fellatio" and "inflation" – the French word for fellatio is "fellation", which sounds similar to the word "inflation" – during a TV interview.

She told Canal Plus: "I see some [foreign investment funds] looking for returns of 20 or 25% at a time when fellatio is close to zero". And within hours, the video was an internet hit on websites such as YouTube.

Dati, now a Euro MP, later laughed off the whole episode saying she had spoken too quickly. She also said she was happy to have provided some entertainment.

Well, when a simple faux pax involves a glamorous person (more so, a political person) like her, you can be sure there will be this immense publicity on most news channels – maybe, not in Malaysia lah!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Green Art

With concrete buildings being built at a frenetic pace in many Asian cities – Kuala Lumpur is also not spared – I know that the price we have to pay may become too hot (!) for urbanites like me. Then I read in Sunday Star yesterday (pp SM4-SM5) that the newspaper had featured this “green man” by the name of Patrick Blanc – a botanist, artist, and inventor of Le Mur Vegetal or Vertical System Garden – a much imitated concept now. And he explains his philosophy: “Over half of the world’s population now lives in cities; I think it’s very important to combine nature with cities instead of separating both from one another”. And so this brilliant man with the green thumb has created what is popularly described as “forested” walls.

In fact, his works of green art adorn over 140 walls around the world from London, Berlin and Madrid to Sao Paolo, Bangkok and Seoul. Indeed if you look at the pictures I have uploaded, these show walls that have been transformed into facades clothed in verdant greenery that they appear to be true extensions of the outdoors. These splashes of living green are reinvigorating tapestries that bring a breath of wilderness into the urban landscape!

And the dense sheet of vegetation on the walls goes beyond aesthetics. They help reduce the urban heat island effect (caused by heat building up by reflecting and bouncing off the huge expanses of artificial material); they have also proven their ability to filter air particulates, which helps improve air quality; they can filter and absorb rain, thus helping to slow storm runoff and mitigate urban flooding; and they can add welcome humidity to sealed indoor spaces that are usually dry thanks to ubiquitous air-conditioning. But the biggest green contribution is that they help preserve flora, as Blanc pointed out: ”Any naked wall has the potential to be turned into a vertical garden and thus become a shelter for biodiversity”.

Blanc is really inspiring and what’s more, he is not called “the green man” because of his living walls alone, either – it’s because Blanc wears only clothes that have the color green in them, has green-streaked hair and long, glittery nails painted with what is undoubtedly his favorite shade! To view more of Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens, visit

^ Athenaeum Hotel, London
^ The Green Symphony installation at the Taipei Concert Hall, Taipei

^ Caixa Forum, Madrid

^ The Musee du Quai Branly, Paris

^ Skyteam lounge at London's Heathrow Airport

^ Pont Max Juvénal, Aix-en-Provence, France

^ Bangkok Emporium

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has called on the Malaysian prime minister to intervene in Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial, calling the issue “a thorn” in Malaysia’s otherwise good reputation. “If you’re a bold leader, you should get rid of things like this which are damaging your reputation,” he said today at the “Dawn of the New Decade: Alternative Investments in Asia” conference hosted by MIDA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and reported by The Malaysian Insider (Webpage, posted September 27, 2010).

“This has gone on for a long, long time. It looks bad overseas.” He added that it was incumbent on the prime minister to address the “damaging” trial as good leaders looked after their citizens well, much like how good employers take care of their employees.

Branson is naïve; he probably doesn’t understand the political environment in Malaysia. Najib cannot afford to let Anwar walk free from this trial. To ensure BN continues to govern this country, Najib must eliminate Anwar, especially before the next national elections. Anwar’s sodomy trial will resume October 14.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Found in Conversation in Bangsar

This evening, I went to Bangsar to attend The Nut Graph-organized "Found In Conversation" forum – today’s topic was on “Creativity and Innovation in Eco-Friendly Living”. I must confess that I found it both stimulating and engaging. And equally important was the opportunity to meet Jacqueline Ann Surin (center) in person – she was after all, the facilitator for this illuminating discussion. In fact, it was great to be there and I had an enjoyable time. I even took home two books: “Shape of a Pocket” (authored by who else, but Jacqueline) and also “Reuse” – a collection of reuse ideas that serves as an invaluable guide to eco living! I am thankful to The Nut Graph for the first book and Callie Tai (right) of Just Life Shop CEO for the second “book”. Another interesting panelist was Wild Asia Advisor Toh Su Mei (left), who gave good input. I am already looking forward to the next forum!

Cabinet ministers cannot sack or suspend any civil servants who are categorized as “permanent Government officers”, so claimed Muhyiddin and for good measure, he added that he has not seen any record of a minister taking such actions against these officers, who are under the jurisdiction of the Public Services Department (Sunday Star, September 26, 2010, p N4). As Deputy Prime Minister and also Education Minister, is he trying to tell us that he is powerless? If what he says is true, who is tasked to execute cabinet directives? What is the role of the Education Ministry if it does not have any jurisdiction over the conduct of teachers and principals? I am getting more confused whenever Muhyiddin speaks because he doesn’t make sense most of the time – perhaps because his intellect – I am being polite here because I am assuming he had one in the first place – may have abandoned him the day he slithered into the business of self-serving politics. Sigh, and Malaysians keep asking why our academic standards are declining?

Zunar on Police Bail

I just read in Sunday Star (p N6) this morning that Malaysiakini cartoonist Zunar has been released on police bail. He was freed from the Sepang police station several hours after police obtained a one-day remand extension order yesterday. And Sepang police chief Supt Zahedi Ayub confirmed the 6.30pm release. According to the news report, the remand extension was earlier granted by the Sepang magistrate’s court to keep Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anawar Ulhaque, in custody for further questioning.
After his release, Zunar told newsmen at a press conference that he was taken to seven police stations. He added that he was first taken to the Brickfields police station on Friday, then to Petaling Jaya, Bukit Puchong, Serdang, Sepang, and finally the KLIA police lock-up. He was then brought back to Sepang yesterday morning, where he was questioned by the police.
“I want my books back,” Zunar said, adding that the incident would not stop him from selling his books. His lawyer Latheefa Koya said she would file complaints with the Bar Council and Human Rights Commission over Zunar’s ordeal.
Now where can I buy this book?

Cartoonist In Hot Soup Again

According to Yahoo! News, Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar said Friday he had been arrested under the Sedition Act and his offices raided by police over his new book, just hours before its planned launch (Webpage, posted September 24, 2010).

Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque (better known as Zunar) uses cartoons to highlight contentious issues such as the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and police shootings. Known for his wit and grit and critical observations of Malaysia’s political scene through his hilarious sketches, Zunar has always shown his determination in calling a spade a spade. He has effectively exposed abuse and corruption in a simplistic manner, which a thousand words would find difficult to achieve. He should not be penalised for doing a great service to the nation even if his views came into conflict with those of the powers-that-be.

Zunar said police seized more than 60 copies of his latest book, called "Cartoon-O-Phobia", at his home and held him ahead of its scheduled launch Friday evening.

"Police came and raided my office in the afternoon... now they said I am arrested under the Sedition Act," he told AFP by telephone while in custody at a police station. "They say my new book is seditious. Certainly this is intimidation of cartoonists," he said, adding that police had not told him which cartoon in the book was considered seditious. Police officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Zunar’s arrest is a worrying testimony of the state of freedom of expression in Malaysia.

In the SPL, Celtic triumphed 2-1 over Hibernian. Former Hibs midfielder Scott Brown gave Celtic their first goal when he volleyed in from 18 yards (5) and then after the break, a Glenn Loovens header sneaking in (54) stretched Celtic's lead. Riordan pulled a goal back for Hibs when he sent a superb lob from the edge of the penalty box over the towering Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster and into the net three minutes later.

But in the EPL, both Liverpool and Arsenal disappoint. Liverpool only managed a 2-2 draw against Sunderland, the Reds had goals courtesy of Kuyt (5) and Gerrard (64). Meanwhile, Arsenal was outclassed by West Brom – the latter struck three times before the Gunners replied through Nasri (75, 90+1).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2nd Placing in Division B Evaluation Contest

It was a rather complicated journey but in the end, I did manage to locate Putra Intelek International College – the venue of the Division B Humorous Speech & Evaluation Contest. Thanks to Kay and Emil for giving directions. There were 5 contestants in each of the contest, with the Humorous speech kicking off first. I thought Emil Anthony had a strong chance to win although Anna Chin was funny too. But when the results were announced, it was Anna who won first place, with Mohd Syafiq Abdullah coming in second and Emil third.
In the speech evaluation contest, I was the first contestant and when I finished, I knew I didn’t do as well as I wished. Therefore, I knew deep down, I would not win. True enough, I came in second and Bernard Louis came in first place. Third placing was won by our Kuantan Toastmaster Burney Choo. Well, I am just not good enough! Today, I lost to a better evaluator. But I wish to record my appreciation to Kay, Chrristine, Alice and Choi Woon for turning up to give me support – and I am so sorry to disappoint fellow Indrahanians!
I keeled over and went into a 3-minute fit of hysterics when I read this bold statement made by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Sutinah Sutan who yesterday said that "Malaysia is seen as a role model as a nation successful in combating corruption”. And then she made another claim "They say we have managed very well to control corruption with our strong political will" (New Straits Times, September 25, 2010, p 7). This got me into another 3-minute spasm that eventually gave me a tummy-ache.
On both counts, Malaysians know this to be totally false!

Firstly, Malaysia is among the vast majority of the 180 countries included in the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) scoring below five on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 10 (perceived to have low levels of corruption). Our score was only 4.5 which was below-average, and this was our lowest CPI Score within the last ten-year period. So there’s no way we can be considered a role model! No way!!

Secondly, Malaysia’s CPI standing is getting from bad to worse. In 2007, we were in 43rd placing and this ranking slid further down to 47th placing in 2008, and slipped even more to 56th placing in 2009. So, how can we say we managed to control corruption?

But then again, Sutinah may not be intentionally misleading us because we have to understand the context in which she made those pronouncements. She did not identify who were the ‘they”. If “they” refer to countries that are sitting at the bottom 20 of the CPI – perhaps it is very understandable that they would be singing our praises. Or perhaps if everyone perceives Malaysia to be a corrupt country, the fact that we could still be ranked in the top half of the CPI table among the 180 countries that were measured, we did quite well. So perhaps, it is all about how you interpret this issue of corruption, isn’t it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wet in Shanghai

Have you read The Sun today? To brighten up your Fridays, read the piece on “Pavilion of shame”! Take a look at the picture on the left. Notice the bucket? It was taken at the Malaysia Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo on September 13. Apart from Ogawa massage chairs, 3-in-1 coffee and orang utan soft toys at the foot of a two-storey replica of the Twin Towers, visitors to the pavilion were also given a glimpse of another facet of Malaysia – leaking roofs!

Yes, already Malaysians at home are very much acquainted with this phenomenon during rainy days! Malaysians know very well about such wet scenes at court houses, the National Registration Department’s headquarters and Parliament – and with this Shanghai incident, we are now showing off our questionable construction standards to the world. Another worthy example of Malaysia Boleh!

As Terence Fernandez wrote, “One would think that at a cost of RM19.5 million (though according to estimates it has shot up to RM40 million), we could have done a better job in showcasing what Malaysia has to offer. It is bad enough that the pavilion was akin to an exhibition put up by schoolchildren at an open day, now visitors to the pavilion also have a taste of what to expect during wet days in this country” (p 13). Syabas, Ng Yen Yen!

Mahathir Mohamad should be immediately admitted into the geriatric ward at Hospital Bahagia! Yesterday he declared that he was not a racist, but almost immediately, he raged that Malays would lose power if Pakatan Rakyat (PR) came to power – he was implying that a (Malaysian) Chinese or a (Malaysian) Indian could become prime minister if PR took federal power because there was no constitutional restriction on race for the position. Furthermore, he was claiming the political marginalization of the Malays had already become a reality in PR-controlled states even though those administrations were led by Malays. Now if this is not scaremongering – I don’t know what is! If this is not against the spirit of Najib’s 1Malaysia, then I must be stupid! But then, what’s new? Mahathir Mohamad has been playing the race card so well these days that I now regard him as a full-blown racist. I am so tired of him; I wish he will just shut up! Of course, the authorities will lie low and not do anything – he is the "Special One", after all!

Perhaps that’s why he is so vociferous in his rantings! And perhaps that’s why he is so fearful of PR coming to power! He will have a lot to answer for – if you are still an unbeliever, read Barry Wain’s book! And folks, he's the smart-ass who labelled meritocracy a racist agenda! After yesterday’s latest invective, I can now confirm that he is both senile and mad!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Powerless Muhyiddin

I went to UMW at Jalan Utas in Shah Alam to attend the UMW Toyota Toastmasters meeting this evening. HICT Toastmasters who were there included Mike, Alan, and Jamie. In fact, Alan was the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening although he was still very much unsure of his role. Jamie did his CC speech # 9 and he had certainly improved! His delivery style was good, his voice projection was good and he was even trying to inject humor in his speech! I was happy to hear him speak. My grouse is that this meeting started 17 minutes late! What is it with Malaysians? Sigh!

The Malaysian Insider today reported that Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has admitted that he is powerless to take action against the two school principals who allegedly uttered racial slurs, despite his position as the country’s Education Minister. He explained that this was because disciplinary matters involving high-ranking civil servants comes under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Department (PSD).
So if PSD decides not to take appropriate disciplinary action against the two recalcitrant individuals, then nobody can do anything. Wow, there is a different set of rules that governs civil servants that I didn’t know of. Non civil servants can be hauled up by the police, and even charged with sedition or worse, arrested under the ISA – but civil servants, well, they are treated with kid gloves. Didn't I say, double standards apply? Didn't I mention hypocrisy?
And I was so fuming mad about Liverpool's football travails, that I forgot to mention that in the Carling Cup match between Arsenal and Tottenham, the former had humbled the latter 4-1. The Gunners opened scoring when Henri Lansbury confidently slid in the first goal when Jack Wilshere fed him the ball (15). In the 49th minute, Robbie Keane slotted in from 18 yards to level for Spurs. But Arsenal stamped their mark when Samir Nasri scored two penalties inside of 6 minutes of extra time – first, when Sebastien Bassong tugged him back and second, after Steven Caulker fouled Marouane Chamakh (92, 96) and finally, Andrey Arshavin firing in a fourth (105).

Completely MAD

When I read “The Completely MAD Don Martin", I almost died laughing. He is after all, my all-time favorite cartoonist.

At BookXcess in AmCorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, you can get this mammoth two-volume hardcover set at a bargain price of RM99.90! It is overflowing with absurdist gags that routinely bordered on the berserk – MAD’s MADdest artist featured a keen and detail-rich comedic sense that is sure to provoke illimitable laughter. Terrific stuff that is guaranteed to have you chuckling, chortling and cackling from panel one. Highly recommended!

Here’s a sample of his famous slapstick-y style:
^ Volume 2, p 253

^ Volume 2, p 99

Celtic cruised to an emphatic 6-0 win and progressed to the quarter finals of the Co-operative Insurance Cup at the expense of Inverness Caley Thistle, the brace of goals coming from Samaras (17, 37, 57); Hooper (21); and Stokes (penalty 74, 81).

As for Liverpool, the less said the better! The Reds made a shock Carling Cup exit in the third round as League Two's Northampton won 4-2 on penalties – the match had ended in a 2-2 tie. What has happened to Liverpool FC? They are no longer playing attacking football. They are no longer winning. Their fighting spirit seems to have deserted them.

Fish Art

The other day, I received an email with these winning pictures! A real work of art, don’t you think?

I also almost missed this news report that was featured in Star on Tuesday.

Indonesia’s Aceh province and Penang have signed a MoU to promote collaborative and joint business and investment projects between the two entities. I would like to describe this Aceh-Penang arrangement as being both intriguing and exciting. Intriguing because this interesting initiative was conceived independently from their respective central governments. Exciting because this landmark accord can offer huge economic potential to benefit both Aceh and Penang. It’s what you would call a symbiotic relationship between the former with its vast wealth of natural resources and the latter with a ready pool of industry and business prowess. When you talk of development expertise, Penang, which houses one of the largest concentrations of high-tech multinationals in the region as well as having a highly evolved logistics sector that has an important supporting role can do much to assist Aceh in supplying the necessary human capital.

InvestPenang’s Lee Kah Choon (left) exchanging documents with Aceh Investment and Promotion Board ‘s Anwar Muhammad. With them are Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf (second from right) and Penang CM Lim Guan Eng.

What’s more, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has offered Penang as a platform for Aceh to distribute oil and gas in the region. And Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf has promised to consider. In fact, in The Sun today, Himanshu Bhatt wrote that “Penang and Aceh have each courted ties with regional neighbors in auxiliary attempts to strengthen their economies, under constricting and strenuous relationships with their federal governments” (p 12). So when they do record real progress that is benefiting both parties – this may well be the first baby step to making this grand plan for regional economic co-operation a reality.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Idris Jala Show

I attended this special meeting hosted by the UniRazak Toastmasters Club today. I evaluated Emil Anthony and the General Evaluator, Lum Woon Foong, DTM (Metropolitan Bilingual Toastmasters Club) generously consented to furnish me with feedback on my evaluation. Even Jamila Khan (MAS Melor Toastmasters Club) graciously did the same. I accepted their evaluations in all seriousness and with an open heart. Yes I am determined to win the Division B speech evaluation contest this Saturday – so any opportunity to practise is helpful but more importantly, any evaluations I received for my evaluation are really appreciated.

Idris Jala made an appearance yesterday to unveil ambitious plans (collectively called the ETP) to jumpstart Malaysia’s economy by mobilizing hundreds of billions of dollars of private investment in the next decade.

A government think-tank said it had identified investments worth US$444 billion (RM1.4 trillion) over 10 years, of which 60% would come from the private sector, 32% from government-linked companies and 8% from the government.

Many will be asking if this is a realistic proposition or is it something that Idris Jala conjured up? There’s going to be real magic if we can summon this mega sum of massive investments! After all, in the past 10 years, private companies invested just RM535 billion, according to official data and Malaysia's private investment rate of around 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) is among the lowest in Asia (Webpage, posted September 21, 2010).

Actually I find all of this somewhat confusing. We are inundated with all sorts of grandiose ideas coming out from labs. As it stands, there is now the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP), the National Key Result Areas (NKRAs), the National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs), the New Economic Model (NEM), and the Strategic Reform Initiatives (SRIs), leading many of us round and round the mulberry bush!

Methinks the government bureaucrats intentionally created all these big names and fanciful acronyms just to bury us under a seismic swell of bombast. DAP’s Lim Kit Siang today described the ETP as being rich in rhetoric, business-school clichés and lofty speeches, along with unrealistic assumptions about the country’s economic growth prospects. He also pronounced Idris Jala’s ETP presentation to be more confusing than enlightening.

“The concepts embodied in the ETP are beyond the comprehension of the public at large. Each event at which these so-called policies are unveiled lays bare the inability of and impotence of the government to boldly deal with the core and fundamental policy distortions that are responsible for the country becoming trapped in the middle-income group,” said Lim.

If you read the mainstream newspapers, everyone is euphoric and elated over the government’s grand designs. As for me, I am already choking on the pompous ideas and elaborate plans that I am being asked to swallow. What irks me is that this time around, Idris Jala is singing a different tune. Now he is abandoning the call for discreet and disciplined spending, and instead he is asking to spend without a care in the world. Where is the money coming from?

I really don’t know, honest. This is just a crazy version of Malaysia Boleh!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sime Darby Confirms

I was at the Maxis Toastmasters meeting on Tuesday evening and at the eleventh hour, I was asked to be the Table Topics Evaluator. This is actually a community club, rather than an in-house club. And this club boldly bill itself as "The Club of Champions"! The meeting started late and guess what? All speakers ran over their time limits, and even the evaluators did likewise! Otherwise, it was an interesting meeting.

Conglomerate Sime Darby, which announced massive cost overruns this year, said it has unearthed evidence of wrongdoing in four energy projects. It was reported late on Monday that auditors and legal consultants had completed their investigations and submitted reports to the board. “The investigations have found evidence to suggest, on a prima facie basis, that there may have been breaches of duties and obligations and inappropriate conduct,” a Sime Darby statement to Bursa Malaysia declared. When huge sums of money are involved, it surely is not negligence, izzit? Sime Darby said the projects reviewed by forensic audits including the controversial multi-billion-dollar Bakun hydroelectric dam in Sarawak, and two oil projects in Qatar. The Bakun project should be put under a microscope to ascertain who actually profited from this – I bet you that people in high places dipped their fingers in the money jar! And I am not talking about loose change for a petty state official.

Transformers, Russian Version

A Russian amateur filmmaker called Alexander Semenov produced this 2.5 minute bootleg Transformers short with a couple of sub-$1,000 cameras, two hours' of footage and a month in the editing suite. It is insanely bad-ass: a perfect vision of an alternate universe where shirtless Russian thugs go bot-to-bot on dusty distant roads; supposedly more fun that the big-budget Hollywood equivalent. It's intriguing and I found this on yesterday:

Transformers from repey815 on Vimeo.

The Teoh Beng Hock inquest resumed yesterday with the police investigating officer ASP Ahmad Nazri Zainal telling the Coroner’s Court that he was the person who found the mystery note among Teoh Beng Hock’s belongings on July 17 last year. The document, which is widely speculated to be a suicide note, was submitted at the inquest when Ahmad Nazri took the stand. Today, under questioning by Gobind Singh Deo who is representing the DAP’s political aide family, Ahmad Nazri had admitted to the court that he had not sent the note for any handwriting comparison. And this is an admission from the investigating officer? WTF!

Gobind and Selangor government lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar had questioned the relevance of the new evidence the AG’s Chambers has now tendered after Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand said that strict protocol was necessary in handling such evidence. The Thai forensic pathologist had testified last month that her institute mandated strict protocol in handling evidence like documents, such as conducting fingerprint dusting and DNA testing immediately after discovery.

Teoh’s family had expressed outrage with the AG’s Chambers for trying to tender as evidence in the Coroner’s Court a note it said was penned by him before he was found dead under mysterious circumstances last year. They said it was highly “suspicious” that Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail’s office would choose to bring up the evidence as the inquiry into Teoh’s death winds down, and ten months after it was allegedly found. They had expressed bewilderment as to why the AG had not immediately sought their help after the note was allegedly found among Teoh’s belongings two months after his death.

Abdul Gani has been put on the defensive after his office gave notice in the coroner’s chambers last month that they intended to introduce the note as evidence. Gobind had criticized the AG’s attempt of tendering new evidence at the final stages of the inquest as an abuse of the judicial process.

Monday, September 20, 2010

1Malaysia is Work in Progress

This evening, I was at the Prasarana office for the KL Advanced Toastmasters meeting. Only this morning, I volunteered to do a speech because the third speaking slot was available. Again, I did my CC speech # 6: Vocal Variety and my evaluator was Teddy Lesmana, a visiting DTM from Jakarta Motivators Toastmasters Club. I didn’t get the chance to properly prepare for this speech but Lincoln’s speech yesterday at the Sai Masters Toastmasters meeting gave me inspiration. I titled my speech “I love you, Billy” and I acquitted myself very well. I know that my gestures and vocal variety especially were much improved and personally, I am very satisfied. Of course I could still improve but that is not the point. What is important is that I met the speech’s objectives and I am happy with my own performance. And you may be relieved to know that I didn’t win the Best Assignment Speaker award – Monica Jo, the third speaker won and deservingly so! Anyway, what is special about today’s meeting is that we had a guest speaker from the UK, Evelynne Fisher who generously recited three poems that kept all of us adequately enthralled and sufficiently entertained. We were indeed privileged to be able to listen to Lorna Fisher’s mom.

On September 17, Prime Minister Najib Razak defended his 1Malaysia concept, claiming it had not failed but was merely a “work in progress” (Webpage, posted September 18, 2010). “I want to say that…, it’s a journey. Even this concept of 1Malaysia... it cannot be a full realization today”, Najib had said. I didn’t respond then because I have been thinking a lot about what he said regarding 1Malaysia. It’s a strange way of implementing something that has not been properly put together – it’s like a jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces.

Of course lah – when it is a work in progress – it means that nobody else has a clue as to what 1Malaysia really stands for beyond creating this illusion of a majestic niagara of nice-sounding words overflowing into well-meaning sentences. The work is never done because we are seemingly embarking on a neverending journey (‘journey’ is his word, mind you!) that may not have a destination. After all, it is constantly changing and we can always give the excuse that the environment is also continually changing – so nobody can pin anything down for long. It will be easy for politicians like him to do his famous flip-flops and he can just keep moving the goalposts to confuse everybody. Then, of course, nobody will be none the wiser!

Blame It On the Opposition

Mukhriz Mahathir who’s the Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister farted an unbelievably stupid comment on Saturday. The words that were expelled from his posterior end had the effect of claiming that the disparaging remarks by the Opposition (i.e. PR) directed at the BN government had instilled fear in foreign investors, so much so that FDI in 2008 and 2009 dropped by up to 81 percent (Webpage, posted September 18, 2010).

And then he gave off another farty claim that the resourceful efforts by his government had successfully yielded RM5.60 billion in FDI in the first three months of this year, almost as much as the RM5.66 billion in FDI for the whole of last year. I suppose the Opposition must have been too preoccupied with their internal politics this year – therefore, our benevolent government was able to pull in the much-needed FDI on the sly! That’s why I have developed this theory that any Malaysian who actually listens to our bovine ministers talk, will end up becoming very stupid.

Yesterday, US officials declared BP's broken well “dead", five months after the deadly oil rig explosion that set off one of the costliest and largest environmental disasters ever – the busted undersea well had gushed 4.9 million barrels (206 million gallons) into the Gulf of Mexico. Retired admiral Thad Allen, the US pointman for the response to the disaster, said the operation to intersect and cement the deepwater well had been successfully completed.

No oil has leaked into the Gulf in the three months since the well off the Louisiana coast was plugged in a so-called "top kill" operation, but the US administration insisted that it also be sealed from the bottom with a relief well. A final pressure test of the cement seal was completed at 5:54 am (1054 GMT), officials said. And finally, it is over.

The Obama administration also imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling, setting back another mainstay of the Gulf economy. Multiple investigations into the disaster are still under way and official responsibility has yet to be meted out. And BP has already spent eight billion dollars trying to contain the disaster and has forecast it will eventually cost the energy giant more than 32.2 billion dollars.

Najib & Rosmah on Biscuit Tins

Last Tuesday, Dr. Devi Menon invited me to attend the Sai Masters Toastmasters meeting and so on Sunday afternoon, I did. I was the evaluator for Terry Netto (Midvalley Toastmasters Club) who was delivering his CC speech # 3: Get to the Point. What I liked about him is that he’s got a great voice – I had described it as being “richly-textured”. Anyway, I didn’t think I did the evaluation as well as Dr. Devi did when she evaluated Lincoln Leong (Sunway Toastmasters Club) who gave us a touching story – an Advanced speech. Actually I voted for her. And oh not forgetting, Priya Darshini for giving a helpful evaluation too for Ramesh Kumar and even Ravindran who did likewise for Kumara Devan. I still won the Best Speech Evaluator award though. And when I was one of six participants in the Table Topics session, again, I was voted the Best Table Topics Speaker. I must say that I did enjoy this meeting even though it started about twenty minutes late. I suppose you can blame it on external forces – there was massive traffic congestion along the Federal Highway at about 3:00 PM – very unusual for a Sunday – and there was a very brief but heavy downpour at about 4:00 PM. But I would like to come back to this Club again.
There's something new in the meeting agenda that I would like to copy – they've highlighted their DCP progress. This is a great idea because it permits every member to know where the club stands with regard to their DCP points and therefore, serves as a regular reminder that members must play their part to help their club earn these points.

In the New Sunday Times yesterday, it was reported that at the Open House hosted by Najib and his wife in Pekan, guests were also taking home kuih raya in tin containers (p 6). That’s okay (although I am tempted to ask, who is actually paying for this?), but when these containers bore the images of the couple – then I really begin to wonder whether we are starting to see the self-glorifying antics of somebody out to promote herself and her husband!?!?

In the much-anticipated EPL game between Liverpool and Manchester United, I was not surprised when the Reds lost 2-3! I was at the Cock & Bull at Merchant Square to see a very subdued Liverpool being outplayed by an aggressive Manchester United. Dimitar Berbatov’s brilliant hattrick gave Man U certain victory (42, 59, 84) and Steven Gerrard saved us the blushes when he replied with two superb goals (penalty, 64; 70). I had secretly hoped for a draw but really, if I was to be honest, Liverpool didn’t deserve even a draw.

On the other hand, I had read that the SPL match between Celtic and Kilmarnock was indeed entertaining. The latter had an impressive opening when Kilmarnock’s Conor Sammon collected an Alexei Eremenko pass to sweep the ball home past Celtic’s goalie (7). But Celtic fought back and managed to equalize through Daryl Murphy, who calmly converted a 41st-minute penalty and then, Anthony Stokes' close-range effort (52), won the game for Celtic.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

World University Rankings

Rankings are getting to be extremely popular and even academics are jumping onto the bandwagon. Granted that ii is not uncommon for critics to lambast rankings for “being based on questionable data and flawed methodology” – they still serve a very useful purpose!

The attraction of these rankings is the sheer simplicity of the tables and their easy-to-understand presentation. To many of us who may not be well-versed about universities and their achievements, we will rely on rankings to provide the basis upon which we decide on whether a university is successful or otherwise. Notwithstanding our questions on the rankings systems’ validity, reliability, and fairness – we take these rankings with pride and joy if our institutions do well, or derision if they perform less well.

So when the QS World University Rankings were published on September 08, 2010 – it was with some disappointment that Malaysians noted that none of the local universities made the top 200 list. The best local university remained Universiti Malaya even though they have slipped from 180th place to 207th place. Although they weren’t rejoicing – Why should they? Dipping 27 places is not exactly a commendable achievement, izzit? – the ones that did rejoice were the lower-ranked local institutions that did improve on their rankings, even if they were way below in the less-noticed places! Kinda funny, don’t you think?

And then we have the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2010-11 – announced on September 16, 2010 – and yet again, no Malaysian public universities made it to the top 200 listing (Sunday Star, September 19, 2010, p E3).
Understandably, the Malaysian response was silent. I scanned the pages of both Sunday Star and New Sunday Times today, but there was none. As I’ve said, if you do well – you’re likely to shout about it; if you don’t, it’s wise to just stay silent.

That explains why when the THE rankings pronounced Harvard as No. 1, of course, the university is naturally ecstatic about its standing. As Harvard spokesperson said in an emailed statement: “Harvard University is always honored to be recognized among such high-caliber institutions of higher learning”.

THE rankings supposedly looks at the top one percent of all the world’s universities. And of course, traditional strong nations in higher education, such as the US and the UK will still dominate ranking tables. This year’s THE table saw 72 US and 29 UK universities on the list of 200.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Times' list is unique in its attempt to rank institutions based on quantifiable, rather than subjective measures of value. Whatever the methodology, whichever the rankings that we refer to, whether we like them or not – rankings are here to stay.

Najib, Do Right for Sabah & Sarawak!

Now that the euphoria of the Malaysia Day celebration has died down, I say this to Najib! Seize the moment! It is time for the country’s Federal leaders to re-examine the Kuala Lumpur-Kota Kinabalu-Kuching relationship in order that they can address the imbalance between the center (i.e. Semenanjung) and the periphery (the two states of Sabah and Sarawak). As a Malaysian from Semenanjung, I acknowledge that we have been unjust to both our East Malaysian brethren. And please don’t divert lots of money to the two states just so to defend your BN vote bank! Do it because after 47 years of independence, Sabah and Sarawak – save the cities and large towns – are still backward in terms of infrastructure and economic development. Do it for the people, for fellow Malaysians!

Last Friday, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad posted photos in his blog, showing UMNO and MIC politicians speaking in mosques and suraus and presenting checks (Blogpage I am reproducing only one photo – that of MP Hulu Selangor, P Kamalanathan and others in Masjid Sg. Tengi Selatan this year itself. Is this not hypocrisy? Why pick on Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching?

Arsenal and Sunderland battled to a 1-1 draw in this EPL match. Ten-man Arsenal was a pretty much subdued team and it was the Black Cats who actually played with more aggression! The Gunners took the lead when Cesc Fabregas's block on Anton Ferdinand's clearance flew in from 40 yards (13) – what you would call a lucky goal – and Darren Bent’s injury-time strike (90+5) deservingly evened the score for Sunderland.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mahathir Losing his Marbles

Human Resources Minister Dr S. Subramaniam delivered an address at the 5th Apec Human Resource Development Ministerial Meeting in Beijing boasting that Malaysia is to create an additional 3.3 million jobs, of which over 60% will be in medium or high-income salary brackets to help turn it into a high-income nation by 2020. Then he made another claim that 600,000 people will move out of the lowest salary bracket and the number of people working in middle and high-income salary brackets will increase from 5.1 million to 9.2 million” (Star, September 17, 2010, p N26). It’s all very nice to hear but I say these are empty boasts because there are no details of how this ambitious plan is going to pan out. What type of jobs? Which industry? What time-frame? And when he referred to “more robust measures will be taken to transform our education system” – what are the specifics?

It must also be said that even now there are jobs but many Malaysian graduates are unemployable because they have the wrong skills set. And worse, they lack communication skills, and their English is at best, weak and at worst, incoherent. It has been stated that the average manager spends 80% of their time communicating in different ways (30% speaking, 25% listening, 15% reading and 10% writing) and if you cannot properly communicate, then who will employ you in the first place?

I think it’s fantastic that Pakatan Rakyat’s fresh set of leaders dared to speak out, that they found the courage to tell off Mahathir Mohamad that his racial politics are outdated (Webpage, posted September 16, 2010). Keadilan’s Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Nurul Izzah Anwar, DAP’s Liew Chin Tong and PAS’s Dzulkefly Ahmad have all observed that Mahathir’s arguments are growing increasingly stale among the younger generation of voters who are more concerned with how Putrajaya handles bread-and-butter issues in an increasingly competitive global landscape.

In fact, Dzulkefly said Mahathir is the nation’s biggest obstacle to racial harmony and pegged him the “Father of All Racists”, paraphrasing minister Nazri Aziz’s criticism against the ex-premier in a rare show of support across the political lines.

“He himself is admitting there is a serious racial divide in no uncertain terms. His only denial is that he is the catalyst for that,” Dzulkefly said. He contends the 85-year-old’s patronage of hawkish Malay rights group Perkasa had further fanned racial conflicts here. I agree. Mahathir may have completely lost his marbles.

Second Skin and Other Interesting Products

I found this on – a Cory Doctorow posting (September 16, 2010) that refers to this footwear as “rainboots with depth-gauges”. Interesting, huh?

If I am Phua Chu Kang (below), I would discard away my yellow galoshes and replace them with the above! Definitely, they are more useful, given that Singapore is no longer spared from floods!

Photo credit:

Another interesting product that appeared in a Mark Frauenfelder posting (April 08, 2010) – also from – is beer bottles re-blown into drinking glasses. Glassblower Nick Paul of Chicago drinks beer. (Hey, I don’t mind helping him drink the beer!) Then he takes the empty bottles and blows out their necks to make flat-sided tumblers. Then, in a stroke of packaging/marketing/recycling genius, he puts them back in their original six-packaging and sells them through his online storefront, Windy City Glass (Check out

And finally, an amazing invention that was reported on Thursday (Webpage, what about clothes that fit like a second skin? It’s a liquid clothing spray that hardens on the body and turns into a reusable garment. So in the mornings, instead of trying to pick between different shirts, you reached for a spray can instead. Scientists at the Imperial College London have made it a reality, using a cocktail of cotton, polyester, plastic and solvents.

Amazingly, the material peels away from one's skin as it dries, and at that point you can even take it off and run it through the washer to use again. The downside? It looks like someone went nuts with some silly string – you’ll be turning heads, but not in a good way. Check it out in the video below, though be forewarned, this spray-on clothing is tested on a pretty lady:

The spray may in the future be used to create not only garments but also medical dressings and upholstery for furniture.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thierry Mugler's New Creative Director

Just in case there are those who believe that Lady Gaga’s fashion sense is over the top and not only that, but you think that it can never be appreciated by mainstream fashion, think again! The stylist behind Lady Gaga’s larger-than-life stage look is taking over as creative director for Thierry Mugler’s ready-to-wear lines. This stylist is none other than 33 year-old Nicolas Formichetti. As Joel Palix, the chairman of Clarins Fragrance Group and director general of Thierry Mugler said, “Formichetti was a perfect fit, as a ‘major actor of contemporary pop culture’, with a rich multicultural background and a skill set ranging from ‘fashion to public relations, image and entertainment’.” (The Sun, September 17, 2010, p 22).

Formichetti was born in Japan and brought up between Tokyo and Rome, and he works as stylist for a range of brands including the Japanese high-street giant Uniqlo, and as editor for fashion magazines from Dazed and Confused to Vogue. In an interview with New York Fashion on June 16, 2009, Formchetti described his personal style as “Prada mixed with Uniqlo” (Webpage

And to a question as to how he could gauge what Lady Gaga would like, he replied: “It needs to be something no one's seen before, something that's a bit tongue-in-cheek and outrageous. And maybe some people would really hate it. That's what I love about her – it’s very similar to my work” (ibid).

In the Europa League, Liverpool won by a comfortable 4-1 margin. Joe Cole steered in a shot only 27 seconds in after pouncing on a poor back pass by Steaua Bucharest’s Octavian Abrudan. The Romanian team equalized when Cristian Tanase chipped over on-rushing keeper Pepe Reina (13) but a David Ngog penalty restored the Reds' lead (56). And then, a stunning Lucas Leiva 22-yard strike (81) and a late angled Ngog effort (90+1) completed the Reds’ victory.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Failed Leadership Sank the Titanic

Yesterday, over dinner, a few of us (well, four of us) talked about the subject of failed leadership. Of course invariably, the conversation turned to HICT – I remember as far back as June 30 last year, I had highlighted this issue in this very blog, but things are still the same, if they are not getting worse. Anyway, I have no intention of talking about this organization anymore, but this article "The Sinking of the Titanic: An Analogy of Failed Leadership" by Gregory P Smith (Webpage that I happen to chance upon, makes great reading on this same subject. I reproduce it in its entirety:

“We have struck iceberg . . .sinking fast . . .come to our assistance.” On a cold evening in 1912 that message came blistering across the airwaves. Before they tapped the last bit of Morse code, those words became the epitaph over the lives of the 1200 people lost on the Titanic. The ship was doomed as it slowly sank into its watery grave. Why did the largest, most advanced ship of the time fail?

Those of us who study history or remember the movie may know why. It wasn’t the iceberg that caused the disaster, but something else. Clear in my mind was the real cause – failed leadership.

The Titanic still rests on the bottom of the ocean, but we can resurrect the truth and apply a few lessons learned to help us become better leaders.

Leadership is Always Responsible. Leadership is responsible for everything the organization does or fails to do. Leadership is more than a wooden figurehead. A leader is not a position, job title, or in this case, the captain of the ship. Leadership is not about power, ego, or pride. Leadership is ever present, touching, motivating, talking, and checking, removing barriers, training, preparing, breathing, and moving about. This was Captain E.J. Smith’s retirement trip. He was headed for the easy life. All he had to do was get to New York. God only knows why he ignored the facts, why he disregarded seven iceberg warnings from his crew and other ships.

Biggest Is Not the Best. Today’s businesses must change course quickly. It took over 30 seconds before the Titanic turned away from the iceberg . . .but it was too late. The larger an organization becomes, the greater its inflexibility. The more difficult and cumbersome it is to steer, to direct, and to change. Large businesses soon grow into huge bureaucracies where rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and “I need permission to make a decision” become the norm.

Rank Has It’s Privileges? Ranking is good for command and control, but not good for change and innovation. Ranking people limits their potential. Today, businesses rank and classify people--sometimes unintentionally. Whether it is reserved parking spaces for the privileged, or being categorized as blue collar, white collar, temporary, part-time, those with cubicles, those with offices etc, the results are the same. Clear the lines between the classes and make everyone feel they are rowing in the same direction, for the same purpose. In a disaster, everyone is equal.

The Truth Changes All the Time. The Titanic was unsinkable, so they thought. They were so confident in their ship they only had enough life boats for half the passengers. The thinking that made us successful yesterday will cause us to fail tomorrow. Our unlearning curve must be greater than our learning curve if we are going to succeed.

Good Technology is Never a Substitute for Bad Leadership. When technology fails, leadership must prevail. Captain Smith said years before the Titanic’s voyage, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder . . .Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” Many businesses today have placed the wrong people in charge. They are not leaders, but managers. So – when disaster strikes, who is going to step up and lead or will your technology pull you under?

Leadership is About Training and Development. As the stern of the Titanic lifted out of the water; the crew and passengers struggled with the lifeboats. There were no drills, no rehearsals, and the crew stood unfamiliar with their responsibilities. The boats were improperly loaded and only one boat went back to try to recover survivors. A good leader helps people improve their skills so they can become more productive.

What Lies Below Is More Destructive Than What Is On Top. The greatest dangers lie unseen below the surface. That night in 1912 was smooth like glass – deceptively dangerous. The iceberg lurked below. Like steel fangs, it tore at the rivets along 300 feet of the Titanic’s hull. Those below, the “crew and steerage,” felt and saw the damage first. Like a gasping breath, the steam billowed above as chaos reigned below. Then and now, those who know what’s wrong with your “ship” are those below decks. Those people on the front-line usually have the best ideas and solutions to your problems. Consider asking them for their ideas and suggestions before catastrophe strikes.

Leadership Looks Beyond the Horizon. A good “Captain” is on the lookout for shifting trends, changing needs, storms, and icebergs. Sam Walton identified and met a need while other retailers did not. Apple saw the need for the Ipod while others were still happy with CD players. The vision of the Sony Walkman existed in Akio Morita’s mind way before the competition. Get the picture? Be on the look out scanning the horizon for the next wave of change instead of waiting for it to hit you in the face.

Gillard, PM for the Second Time

Julia Gillard was sworn in as Australia’s prime minister on Tuesday, September 14 – capping weeks of drama after she deposed ex-leader Kevin Rudd in a party revolt and called elections that produced the first hung parliament in decades. Gillard controls just 76 seats in the 150-member House of Representatives, and so, this is going to be a delicate balancing act for her as she governs a fragile coalition that few believe can survive in the long-term.

As political commentator Peter van Onselen said “I think it’s going to be inherently unstable.” (Star, September 15, 2010, p W37). What he meant is that Gillard will have to manage this minority government on an issue-to-issue and day-to-day basis because just one single defection or even absence can precariously result in a stalemate. And already, one day after the swearing-in, opposition leader Tony Abbott has indicated his ambition to bring down Gillard's vulnerable minority. It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride for Gillard, that’s for sure.

In the Champions League game on Wednesday, Arsenal was in devastating form when they hit six past Braga without reply. Cesc Fabregas opened with an early penalty (9) before the Gunners raced to a 3-0 half-time lead thanks to Andrey Arshavin's drive (30) and a wonderful goal capped off by the impressive Marouane Chamakh (34). Arsenal scored their fourth goal when an unmarked Fabregas headed in Arshavin's cross from the left (53). and the fifth and sixth goals came from Carlos Vela (69, 84) to seal the Portuguese side’s misery.

"We want to maintain a high quality in every game we play and we think we can do better”, Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger had said. "We believe when we play like that it will be very hard to stop us” As long as the Gunners can maintain consistency, Wenger may be proven right. But it’s still early days…

Malaysia Day, 2010

Malaysia Day is special because this is the day that we become united as one – Malaya (i.e. peninsular Malaysia), Sarawak and Sabah coming together to become one nation. And this awesome DiGi video clip probably best illustrates what Malaysia Day is really all about.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bad Romance

Yesterday, it was the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting, and Lorna Fisher finally made an appearance as the General Evaluator. And because of Durai’s pullout, I stepped in to fill the empty slot for Assignment Speeches – a CC speech # 3: Get to the Point, titled “Busy, Busy, Busy”. This was really an off-the-cuff speech because except for the speech title, there was really zilch preparation. You can say that I spoke from the heart! Koon Kow, my evaluator claimed it was a stupendous speech – and I suppose others must have agreed with him to vote me the Best Assignment Speaker, and collecting yet another award ribbon.

On Sunday, pop star Lady Gaga took the MTV Video Music Awards by storm as she won in eight of the 14 categories in this year's event.

The flamboyant pop singer tied Norwegian rock group a-ha, the big winners of 1986, as the second most honored act on a single night. British rocker Peter Gabriel set the record of nine competitive wins in 1987 for his innovative video "Sledgehammer."

In addition to winning video of the year for "Bad Romance," Lady Gaga took home the prizes for female video, pop video, dance video, choreography, direction and editing. And her raunchy lesbian prison-themed video for "Telephone" featuring Beyonce won for best collaboration.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Very Bumpy Ride

Exactly one year ago, chairman of RGE Monitor and economics professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. Nouriel Roubini (left) told CNBC that he saw the US economy facing “death by a thousand cuts”. And he even painted a frightening scenario where more than 1,000 financial institutions could fail before all is said and done (Webpage, posted September 14, 2009).

Even Boston University professor Laurence Kotlikoff echoed this sentiment: “Let’s get real. The US is bankrupt. Neither spending more nor taxing less will help the country pay its bills” (Webpage, posted August 11, 2010).

And it seems that the IMF is saying much of the same thing. Section 6 of the July 2010 Selected Issues Paper is advising that in order to close the US fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 percent of U.S. GDP” (ibid).

The fiscal gap is the value today (the present value) of the difference between projected spending (including servicing official debt) and projected revenue in all future years.

In very simple terms, what the IMF is really saying is that the US must run a surplus equal to 5 percent of GDP this year, rather than a 9 percent deficit. And it’s not just for one year but for many years to come to pay for the spending that is scheduled. It’s also saying the longer the country waits to make tough fiscal adjustments, the more painful they will be.

While doomsayers continue to pontificate about the US economy, it is a reflection of the dire straits that the US has found itself in when even US President Barack Obama has admitted in a White House news conference that progress in pulling the American economy out of recession has been "painfully slow" (Webpage, posted September 10, 2010).

While we can express skepticism about smart-alecks giving judgments on the US economy, numbers don’t lie!
The US government keeps trying to pump up the economy with debt, and in the process things are getting wildly out of control. According to a US Treasury Department report to Congress, the US national debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015 (Webpage, posted August 14, 2010).

The interest on all of this debt is becoming increasingly oppressive. As of July 01, the US government had spent $355 billion so far in 2010 on interest payments to the holders of the national debt. The total for 2010 should be somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 billion. According to Erskine Bowles, one of the heads of Barack Obama's national debt commission, the US government will be spending $2 trillion just on interest on the national debt by 2020. Keep in mind that the entire U.S. government budget is less than $4 trillion for the entire year of 2010 (ibid).

I happen to think that the US predicament is indeed grave. I keep asking myself. What if all the above reflect today’s and tomorrow’s reality?

And if the US gets clobbered good and proper, then the rest of the world will greatly suffer too. Including Malaysia. Some of us can still try to be positive, believing that at best, the world economy will face a protracted period of anemic, below-trend growth, but that the world will be none the worse for it. Can we afford to be optimistic?

Just to be on the safe side, it may be worth to pay heed to Roubini’s cautionary advice: “Fasten your seat belts for a very bumpy ride (Webpage, published August 16, 2010).