Warren the Welch to Trump’s McCarthyism?

American politics is fascinating to watch. It can be depressing but it can also be so uplifting.

Depressing is when we see Donald Trump bluster his way to become the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, making him a very possible next president of the most powerful country in the world. Depressing is when you see him get away, even thrive, on racist, irrational attacks and bullying of others. Depressing is when you have his closest contender, the Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton not having the personality, the rhetoric or the ability to strip the Donald of his deceit and bluster.

Depressing it must have been for Americans when Senator McCarthy was on the ascendent with his with hunts in the 1950s. Like the Donald blustered, he lied, he bullied and he intimidated and instead of being called out his rise seemed unassailable. No one, it seemed could take him on and stop the juggernaut of hatred and spite.

 

But then it happened. In a congressional hearing into alleged Communist activities into the army, the army’s chief counsel stood up to McCarthy by delivering the now immortal lines: “Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

His missive hit the mark and all but stopped the McCarthy dominance on its tracks. All of a sudden, the Emperor had no clothes. McCarthy’s career collapsed soon after that.

Something similar to Welch’s deflation of McCarthy is now taking place in America to the Trump ascendency. Now, finally, there is someone with the conviction, the integrity and the rhetorical skills to deflate the Trump balloon.

It is a joy watching Senator Elisabeth Warren, who is likely to be Hillary’s running mate (just think of that a 2-woman ticket to the White House!) eviscerate Trump. Like the spoilt brat he is Trump has retaliated by calling Warren Pocahontas in reference to the native American ancestry she is supposed to have.

But you get the feeling that this time, against this particular person Trump has met his Welch. Unspun’s bet is that Warren will I’ve Trump a beating that his fat privileged ass won’t recover from.

A light seeming shines out of the depth of despair. And that’s why American politics is so fascinating and uplifting as well.

Watch Warren lace into Trump here and the parallels with Welch start to make sense:

 

 

 

 

The Trump Ogoh-ogoh

The ogoh-ogoh are effigies built for the Ngrupuk parade on the eve of Nyepi that took place yesterday.

Ogoh-ogoh usually are fashioned after mythological beings or demons and they represent the Balinese people’s spiritual or temporal aims.

Often they also serve as social  or political commentary. Hence this year they had an effigy    of the sea god Baruna crushing a backhoe, the symbol of the unpopular move to reclaim Benefits oa Bay by some business interests.

What does it mean then when they have an ogoh-ogoh of that grotesque short-fingered demon Donald Trump? What manner of demon slouches toward Kuta Beach?

Trump

The ogoh-ogoh are usually burned at the end of the parade. Anyone with a photo of The Donald going up in flames?

(Thanks Adri for forwarding the photo).

Jonan the Jonah of Transportation

Common sense is not common and nowhere is it more uncommon than in the mind of the Transport Minister Ignatius Jonan.

His latest feat of uncommon sense is in banning – and this is not very clear from statements his Ministry has made: online applications for commuter transport or anything less than three-wheeled modes of transport for commuting. This effectively puts a ban on Gojek and its imitators Grabike etc as well as Uber and its imitators. And there is some speculation that such a ban should apply to operators like Blue Bird too since they have a mobile app for ordering taxis.

This is such a WTF decision that it leaves most people flabbergasted and at a loss to find out how someone could be so extraordinarily stupid to sign off on a law like that.

Fortunately, President Jokowi is wise to this and in a Tweet this morning says he’ll be summoning Jonan to explain the ban. His excuse is that Ojeks are needed by the rakyat and no regulation should unduly inconvenience the rakyat.

Joko

While there is nothing wrong with championing the Ojek and the convenience of the Wong Cilik, there is another reason why Jokowi should give the over-promoted stationmaster of trains a drubbing: the banning of Gojek.

Gojek has evolved to be more than just a business in Indonesia. IT has become a symbol that many Indonesians hold dear on many levels. On one level is the fact that it is a home-grown success story; on another it represents the best of Indonesian creativity (of using technology to solve a huge problem that Indonesians face – traffic jams – by organising a readily available resource – the thousands of ojeks and their riders); on still another level it is a great startup success story in a field where there are very few successes.

All these reasons are good ones for the President to put Jonan out of his misery of holding a post that he is not ready for. Let’s not forget that this is the same minister who shot his mouth off on aviation investigations before the NTSC had a chance to do their work and on the banning of Airlines to sell air tickets at airports after a LionAir mishap.

So here’s a win-win solution for the President: Demote Jonan from Minister to his old post at the head of Indonesia’s Railway network. That way the nation would lose a bad minister and gain a good railway manager. Things will once again get back on track.

The incredible silence and welcome to China’s effrontery to Malaysia

Something incredible, unprecedented and potentially dangerous happened in Malaysia last Friday that most Malaysians do not seem to have paid much notice to.

In fact many of the Malaysian Chinese actually welcomed it, fed up as they were by Malay hooligans trying to stir up Malay supremacist and anti-Chinese sentiments in Malaysia.

Photo from Free Malaysia Today: “He was there to assure Chinese traders that they will be safe tomorrow and that the police were watching over them in the event there was trouble.”

The incident took place in Petaling Street, an enclave of Chinese traders and shopkeepers right smack in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, that has become the symbol of Chinese presence in Malaysia ever since the Red Shirt Rally on September 16.

Before we go on, a bit of context for those that don’t follow Malaysian political developments closely. The Malaysian Prime Minister is in trouble, not least because of his own stupidity. Already unpopular, he was caught with a smoking gun – US$700 million deposited in his personal account.

His refusal to explain how a large sum come to be in his account, apart from it being from a mysterious Middle East donor, has added to the attacks on him and his government. Adding on the pressure was a huge rally of about 500,000 people that was organised by Bersih, originally an elections watchdog grouping on August 29.

Besieged, Najib or his followers retaliated with a Red Shirt Rally on September 16. The Red Shirts ostensibly were rallying to protect “Malay dignity” and the disrespect the Chinese (the predominant ethnic group in the Bearish rally) have shown to the Malays and their leader, Najib. During their rally a group of the Red Shirts attempted to enter Petaling Street but they were stopped by Malaysia’s Federal Reserve Unit, a specialist division of the police that deals with crowd control.

They were left licking their wounds but threatened to stage a comeback on September 26 where the Red Shirts would enter Petaling Street to stage a protest and demand better conditions for Malay traders so they can also do business there. That was the ostensible reason but in the meantime the organiser Jamal Yunos threatened violence and was, rightly arrested by the police on September 25, a day before the planned rally.

In the meantime, though, the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Hui Kang made a bizarre visit to the traders at Petaling Street on the evening of September 26 where he calmed the nerves of the traders by saying, as reported by Free Malaysia Today:

PETALING JAYA: China’s Ambassador to Malaysia has stated his firm belief that all Malaysians, save a handful, already enjoyed racial harmony and appealed to those bent on causing trouble tomorrow, to kindly refrain from doing so.

At a press conference, after distributing mooncakes to those present, Huang Hui Kang said, “I believe that 99 per cent of the Chinese and Malays live harmoniously and only a small number of them want to cause trouble tomorrow.

“We told businesspeople here that they can open as usual tomorrow if they want but if they feel unsafe, the choice is theirs to close instead.”

He also said that the traders at Petaling Street only wanted to carry out their business in peace and that for those who chose to open tomorrow, the police would be on standby to offer security in the event there was trouble.

“So far, about 50 per cent of traders, which equals to around 600 in number, are still fearful of opening tomorrow. However we will keep abreast of the news and act accordingly,” he said.

If you look at the social media feeds, his actions have been lauded and praised. The Chinese welcomed his comments and visit as a show of solidarity and brotherhood. Some even gave the impression that they would welcome China being their benefactor.

Others, including Chinese and Malay leaders in the Government and Opposition have been strangely silent. Only Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry, Wisma Putra, seems to be concerned by this development and has leaked the news that they will be summoning the Chinese Ambassador  for a discussion.

Where foreign relations go this is an incredible development on some levels.

On one level you have China blatantly meddling in the internal affairs of another sovereign country. The ambassador was making statements more appropriate for a Malaysian Minister than an envoy. Who begs the question of whether his message and gesture was sanctioned by China’s government. If it had been we should all shudder as you ask what China has to gain by stoking the racial fire. If it had not, was the Ambassador totally out of line and why has he not been recalled yet? The Chinese Embassy’s explanation sounds as credible as Mao doing a hip hop song. 

On another level, the Malaysian Chinese are making a grave mistake by accepting the Ambassador’s words and deeds as a sign of solidarity and empathy. The ancestors of the malaysian Chinese have been migrating out of China for at least the last couple of centuries – and for good reason, China is not a place that they would want to live in because of the socio, political and economic hardships. IN the intervening years, whole generation of Malaysian Chinese have grown up in a different political and social environment. The last thing they would want is China dictating their politics and social norms. China’s interest is not necessarily the same as those of the Malaysian Chinese and they should never forget that. Yet no prominent Chinese leader has come forward to denounce the Ambassador’s blatant assault to Malaysia’s sovereignty. And why? Because what’s popular now among the Chinese is anything slamming Najib and Umno. They won’t do the right but popular thing. 

 

On the third level is the response of the government. Has it become so weak that Wisma Putra has to leak stories to the media that it was summoning the Ambassador to chastise him? His offence has very clearly broken diplomatic protocols. Will this weakness lead to even bolder moves by China? The only criticism so far has come from the Government mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia and Umno Youth but no officials?

 

Light at the End of the Road for Bersih?

Then commentary in Malaysiakini by Neil Koh headlined End of the Road for Bersih?  is great food for thought.

Unspun agrees with the author that by allowing the Bersih 4.0 rally to go on Najib has let the steam out of the pressure cooker.

Part of the allure of the Bersih 4 rally was that it was forbidden fruit and as such it provided many Malaysians a forum to vent their frustration and defiance at the Government. But if there was nothing to defy in the calling of the next protest rally, would the Malaysians turn out in such numbers again? One doubts this.

“So, what is next for Bersih? ” the author Neil Khor asks, and answers: “I see a network of micro-neighbourhood level action that is truly colour blind and that serves to connect Malaysians at the individual level.

“Only then can the movement breach the walls that politicians have put up to separate us. Only then can we truly connect.”

That might be the case but IMHO that would not do much for the future for Malaysia. With a ruling Umno-led coalition that is corrupt to the core and will cling on top power at any cost; and an opposition that is helmed by outdated leaders that have a difficult time keeping the opposition intact, let alone being able to imagine ruling the country, it is clear that no change will come if Malaysia leaves politics to the politicians.

Perhaps it is time for the people behind Bersih and other concerned Malaysians to think of taking politics away from the politicians. Perhaps they should think of organizing themselves to, as a first step, take a few crucial urban parliamentary seats from the government at the earliest opportunity. Any why not?

Social media has resulted in a much more informed public. It has also made the cost of disseminating messages extremely low. With social media, you can effectively have your own newspapers (blogs), radio stations (podcasts) and TV stations (YouTube channels, periscope etc). You can easily level the playing field, especially when you can crowdsource support.

In Indonesia, for instance, a whole new crop of politicians like jakarta governor Ahok and Ridwan Kamil are riding high and securing lots of support through the use of social media. Granted they both came to power on the backs of political parties. But in Ahok’s case when the party tried to rein him in he resigned from the Gerindra party. He’s now an independent, his supporters are the ones using social media to support him, and if he has to run for Governor again without any political party backing, he’s likely to win.

Consider, for instance, if, say, the Parliamentary seat of Federal Territory of KL were to become vacant for some reason. Someone of Ambiga’s stature stands for election to the seat. What would happen? The DAP would probably field their candidate, the Barisan would field theirs. The party machinery would swing into action.

But Ambiga would have a groundswell of supporters and followers. They would use social media to broadcast her messages, coordinate support and raise funds. In a plugged-in, urban electorate this has a good chance of working.

let’s just say she wins. What are the implications then? It would change the power equation in Malaysia entirely. Both Barisan and Pakatan or whatever form of coalition the Opposition takes would be shocked to their core because their duopolistic hold on political power in Malaysia would have been broken. They would have to truly change or face one defeat after another as other Malaysians, inspired by Ambiga’s win, take them on.

Such grassroots leaders would unlikely capture seats where there is no urban, educated and plugged in populations. They would never capture enough seats to be a significant opposition. But they would become symbols that the people can take power from the politicians. And that’s a lesson that Malaysia’s politicians must learn quickly before the country gathers too much momentum in its decline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The talk about Chinese-Malay participation in Bersih 4

As a Malaysian who has lived overseas for most of his adult life, the last two decades spent in Indonesia, Unspun cannot help but marvel at the racial divide in Malaysia, even during a unifying event such as Bersih 4, that took place over this weekend.

For those not familar with Malaysian politics Bersih 4 is the wildly successful and popular rally of Malaysians over the weekend to protest the rotten system of political patronage and corruption among the elite in Umno entering on its leader and Prime Minister Najib Razak (for a primer on this issue see here).

So  hundreds of thousands of Malaysians turned up for the rally in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend. Smaller groups of Malaysians all over the world also gathered in their cities to show support and solidarity with their compatriots. This included Jakarta that held their gathering at a restaurant at Epicentrum (see photo below).

IMG_9466
Malaysians in Jakarta demonstrating support for and solidarity with the Bersih4 protests in Kuala Lumpur

What’s interesting is how one major threat of the conversation about Bersih 4 is going. And it’s all about race. There are those that say that most of the protesters in Kuala Lumpur are of Chinese descent, and that those of Malay descent were under represented. (But I do a disservice to the Malaysian nomenclature – careful phrasings of Chinese descent, ethnic Chinese and ethnic Malays are all abbreviated into Chinese and Malays).

Just Google Bersih4+Chinese+Malay and you will see how obsessed with race Malaysians have become
Just Google Bersih4+Chinese+Malay and you will see how obsessed with race Malaysians have become

Such observations have given rise to inferences and polemic. Some say that this reflect the political conservatism of the Malays, others say that the Chinese have now become politically dominant at the expense of the Malays; still others disagree and say that the Malays were actively participating, that the overwhelming population in Kuala Lumpur is Chiese, and that many Malays earned less and therefore they had to work serving everything from KFC to McDonalds to Starbucks to the bearish 4 protesters.

Without getting into the merits of their inferences, Unspun  it is telling about Malaysian society how race remains the single most important factor of their lives. It is difficult to imagine such conversations gaining so much play in Indonesia, where protests can happen often and often with the numbers that can make even the Bersih 4 rally a middling event.

That Malaysians are so aware of their race is a testament of how damaging and polarising the Government’s policies have had on the populace. Everything revolves around race and interpreted through the racial prism. Even the most well meaning Malaysians who proclaim that they did not see Malays, Chinese or Indians among he protesters but only Malaysians belie the fact that they are conditioned by this polarisation to have such mindfulness of race.

So where does this leave Malaysia, assuming the Bersih 4 protest achieves its objective and they get rid of Najib?  A bit of a better place but still sitting on a powder keg. Race is polarising, emotive and easily stoked as an issue. It is so entrenched that it will take much effort and many years to undo the harm that the Umno-led government (beginning with Mahathir Mohamad) has done.

But it needs to be addressed. So perhaps when Najib is shoved aside the focus should move toward a depolarisation of race, rather than anything political on the agenda?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jokowi to connect better with new Communications Team?

It appears that after months of having no one to tell the story on behalf of the Government and giving rise to uncertainty and confusion about government policies and decisions, President Jokowi may finally be taking a step in the right direction.

According to the Jawa Pos News Network (below), he has appointed Teten Masduki and Sukardi Rinakit to head his communications team, that no one seems to know exists until now.

Teten is an Ombudsman, and the Secretary General of Indonesian Corruption Watch.

Sukardi is a political observer better known by his nom de plume Cak Kardi. Both are long-time associates of Jokowi.

But wait, this is the Jokowi administration so things may not be what they seem. The Communications Team, according to Sukardi here, will not act as the Government’s spokespersons.

Rather they’ll merely be information gatherers to inform the Government what is going on. Not much glory in being media clip vendors but even this might be an improvement from the seemingly clueless and ill informed performance of Jokowi and his Cabinet so far. Sukardi adds that in Jokowi’s view his Ministers will be his spokespersons.

Oh Lord! This is precisely what Jokowi’s government doesn’t need.

Jokowi’s Government has been suffering from cluelessness in how to use communications strategically. They have shown so far that they do not have the means to intercept acquire and process up-to-date information, to plan ahead and coordinate a common line for the President and Ministers to take and to anticipate questions and issues.

The failure to intercept and acquire data may be addressed by the Communications team but what about the planning, coordination and anticipation? This is a communications function and Jokowi would do well to appoint a Communications Chief and a team that can do all these but also to act as a spokesperson for the government.

Then he can on background add context for the media to what the President or his Ministers say or do. Others the media are left paddling in an information vacuum trying to second guess the rationale between what’s being said and done.

Unspun hopes that the new Communications Team would pass this piece of unsolicited but well-meant advice to Jokowi – if they actually manage to intercept it, and are in a position to advice the President based on the information that they get.

Jadi Tim Komunikasi Jokowi, Dua Orang Ini Singkirkan Andi Widjajanto – JPNN.com

 

JAKARTA – Presiden Joko Widodo telah menunjuk Staf Khusus Sekretaris Kabinet Teten Masduki dan Staf Khusus Menteri Sekretaris Negara (Mensesneg) Sukardi Rinakit, untuk memimpin tim komunikasi kepresidenan. Keduanya akan berstatus sebagai Staf Khusus Presiden.

Sekretaris Kabinet, Andi Widjajanto mengatakan, keputusan presiden (Kepres) mengenai penunjukan Teten dan Sukardi sebagai tim komunikasi presiden sudah ditandatangani Jokowi, sapaan karib Joko Widodo.

“Mereka berdua nanti yang nanti akan mengkonsolidasikan tim komunikasi presiden, langsung di bawah presiden. Jadi tanyakan langsung ke mereka,” kata Andi di kantornya, Senin (11/5).

Dengan penunjukan Teten dan Sukardi sebagai pengurus tim komunikasi presiden itu, seskab mengisyaratkan, bahwa Presiden Jokowi tidak akan menunjuk seorang jubir.

Setelah ini, Andi mengisyaratkan dirinya tidak akan lagi sering tampil di media massa. Mengenai kemunculannya di media selama ini, menurut Seskab, karena ia ditugaskan menyampaikan berita kepada media massa selama menyiapkan tim komunikasi presiden.

“Idealnya Sekretaris Kabinet itu back office, tidak muncul ke media. Saya selalu mengatakan ke teman-teman media diusahakan pertanyaanya langsung ke kementerian lembaga yang terkait. Tugas saya back office, di belakang,” tegas Andi. (flo/jpnn)