Friday, January 29, 2010

North Korea's monetary reform plays at the New York Korea Society

The New York Korea Society is the right venue for discussing things North Korea. Its management is well vetted by the US government; Pyongyang finds it a useful instrument for meeting the US power elite in and out of government. It is the carrot to the Washington stick in US's confused policy towards the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK aka North Korea].
So it drew a full house at Marcus Noland's slide show on 'the winter of their discontent: Pyongyang attacks the market'. Noland is a senior economist, a deputy director of the influential and conservative Peterson Institute for international economics, and a senior fellow at the East West Centre in Hawaii. More, he is fluent in Korean, and has visited many times the DPRK; he has a healthy list of publications on North Korea, and has sired around foreign business leaders looking to invest in the DPRK.
GuamDiary suggests its readers link up to, for Noland and Haggard's policy brief on Pyongyang attacks the market.
Noland is a smooth talker. He has his facts at his finger tips. He is the first to admit that Kim Jong il & co. play their cards close to their chests, so much so that putting one's teeth into something solid seems almost impossible. Yet, not completely impossible. Though the angle of behavioral economics, and by skilfully interviewing North Korea refugees, he is able to reconstruct modes of economic trends that he sees in a brutal Stalinist handover, a failing state which is simply not imploding or going quiety away.
Pyongyang's recent devaluation of its won, he claims, came upon North Koreans with the suddenness of a tsunami. By lopping off two or three zeros on the old won, forbidding the use of foreign currency in transactions, Kim Jong il's coterie, which Norland characterises as 'Bonapartist', has visited untold misery on the Norht Korean people, including the core elements, in the party and the army. It is a kamikaze hit on the 'market'. It is an attack on the burgeoning 'free market'.
Obviously, Pyongyang has been trying to reaffirm its complete control of the economy in the wake of the famines of the 1990's and the abrupt end of Soviet and Russian aid. To survive, it allowed the existence of private markets and a release of control in the provinces in agriculture, small and medium enterprises, and a free market of sorts. Economic hardship and the black economy and more openness in the market place has enriched many, fostered corruption, and put food and household comforts in the family dwellings. Furthermore, the central government's control of the money supply appears to have been escaping the central bank's purview, so on and on.
The monetary reform, theorettically not a bad thing in itself, in the DPRK, aroused some popular protest which did not escape the outside media's eye and the analyst who track North Korea. Pyongyang softened restrictions to calm public anger, especially in Pyongyang, but held firm on the won's reevaluation.
Noland sees in this, a way of retaining the loyalty of the nomenklatura and the military, and the reimposition of barter which is visiting dire consequences for the little people.
To Noland, Kim Jong il & co. have violated the market. He condemns Pyongyang's desecration of the 'market' as a kick in the head of Pareto efficiency. And here is the Achilles heel of Noland's approach.
Economist Noland is a cheer leader of free market capitalism. And to him the 'market' is sacrosanct, no doubt about it. Never for a moment does he entertain the idea that 'socialist' North Korea has another definition of the 'market'. The two use the same concept but mean totally different things. Difficult as it may be, since Noland is fluent in Korean, reading North Korean economic literature may be instructive.
And here's where Noland's slip is showing. Evans Revere, president of the Korea Society, gave the game away of sorts, at the end of the question and answer period, by pointing out an article in Korean that Noland shared with him from a DPRK publication which bore the name of Kim Jong il's sister, without other attribution as to title and position. The article in question appeared in September, strongly hinting at a currency reform, so that the elite who did suffer somewhat [how much? that's hard to make out], was alerted to the change of the wind's direction.
So, to say that demonetarisation had come out of the blue, is not particularly true. Also, during the q&a, Noland lifted a hem on his berating the DPRK, by pointing out, what say the Swiss, who are funding a business school in Pyongyang, reported a year or two before: the further away you get from the centre, that is Pyongyang, foreign investor from abroad will find a more decentralised economy, not necessarily a seedling of capitalism, but plants and business who can adapt to the demands of foreign customers, which would bring benefits to workers.
This is hardly ground breaking news since Pyongyang's unofficial ambassador in Japan, Kim Myung chol dangled the economic advantages of doing business with the DPRK 7 or 8 years ago, during a dinner the Korea Society sponsored.
Noland's 'lecture' was of use, with the caveat that he sees the DPRK through capitalist lenses, and is frustrated to the extent that Pyongyang is unwilling to share with the outside world its economic data or give hints as to who is planning the economy. Yet other European economists, it seems, appears to be able to offer different narratives, cutting and pasting together bits and pieces of data, gleaned here and there and further there.
Let's say, it ain't easy being a Pyongyang watcher.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

North Korea: flavour of the month

Suddenly US publishers are rushing books on North Korea into print. Yesterday and today [27 & 28 January, 2010] the old grey lady 'the New York Times' and the 'Wall Street Journal' reviewed Barbara Demick's 'Nothing to envy' and BR Myers 'the Cleanest race'. The NYT went the WSJ one better by talking of Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh's 'Everyday life in the hermit kingdom'. Last year, Columbia University Press brought out Kim Yong's 'Long road home'. And the granddaddy of them all Chol hwan Kang's 'Acquariums of Pyongyang' has not gone out of print. Why the more than unusual interest in what all these books, in one way or the other, describe North Korea as the land of unremitting repression and a vestige of Stalinism?
Bad mouthing the Kim dynasty is nothing new. Former US president Bill Clinton went to Pyongyang in early July 2009, to seek the release of two American journalists, who in chasing a scoop of North Korean refugees fleeing to China, crossed the border at the Tuman river, and got caught by North Korea's border guards.
Euna Lee and Laura Ling were tried and found guilty on illegal entry to North Korea, with a pinch of salt of spying thrown in. Sentenced to 12 years each of hard labour, the US ended up sending Mr. Clinton on a private errand of mercy to seek their release. Meeting Kim Jong il, to whom the 42 US president delivered a letter from Barack Obama, he obtained the release of these two young women.
Now soon their account of the their 'travails' in a Pyongyang court and stay in the comfort of the equivalent of house arrest in a dacha, will soon appear in print.
For a country dismissed as opaque, US jouranlists and researchers and analyst are piecing together enough material for a book. Yet in spite of first hand accounts or the parsing of what North Korea thinks of itself, on the whole, violations of human rights not withstanding, the accounts are anecdotal at best, and simply add to a pile of a never ending telling of Pyongyagns' wart, with some variation.
More broadly speaking, heaping tales of woe and suffering on Pyongyang, will not bring North Korea back to the six party talks in Beijing, nor quiet the renewed cold war which both South Korea and the US are intensifying.
Narratives are a poor subsitute for a political solution to outstandin matters going back more than 60 years between North Korea and South Korea and the US.
Speaking of the bottom line, more likely than not, sales of these books will not cover costs...and then thinking conspiratorially, it is likely that huge dollops of private and government money are defraying expenses and advances.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Creature comforts for Tibetans!

After more than a half century of brutal colonial rule, China's Hu Jintao, president of People's China, has come up with a solution to taming a restive Tibetan population bristling under Beijing's heavy thumb.Give them the creature comforts of bourgeois life, no less!
GuamDiary simply likes to ask, what has taken Hu so long to come up with this genial idea? He after all was the Communist party's pro consul who lorded it over Tibet with brutality and unrelenting harshness; he helped sinicising Tibet through the massive influx of Han settlers; he was part of a central government plan, to amputate Tibet's hold on heavy areas of Tibetans, by remapping them into two or three Chinese provinces, to break the loyalty they hold for the Dalai Lama in exile.
What makes the smug Mr. Hu so sure creature comforts can buy off Tibet which the naked iron fist of the military and particularly him as satrap could not do?
This carrot has come too late. It is an act of desperation and indirectly an admission that China has lost the heart and mind of the Tibetan people!n
Will Mr. Hu recommend a similar tack for Xinjiang? The Qyghurs won't be any less duped than the Tibetans.
When it comes to swaggering around like a colonialist or an imperialist, Hu Jintao & co. join a long list of countries who walked in the tried and tired tacks of repression even going to extermination. China is a proud member of this club!

The Israeli military goes on the attack to discredit the Goldstone report

Israel's defence force [IDF] has deliberately chosen 27 January 2010, to go on the attack of the UN Goldstone report on Israel's preemptive, collective punishment war against Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, which wrought ruin and havoc mainly on the civilian population of the Gaza strip, but hardly toppled Israel's nemesis Hamas.
27 January 2010 marks the 65 anniversary of the liberation of the dead camp at Auschwitz.
At first the right wing government of Benjamin Netenyahu dismissed the Goldstone report as not only one sided but biased. It refused to take part in the eminent South African jurist Richard Goldstone's UN mandate to investigate the war in Gaza. GuamDiary has already written about Jerusalem's intransigence, stressing that Judge Goldstone himself is Jewish, and a supporter of Israel. But to Israel, he is but yet another example of a 'self hating Jew'.
Israel's cold shouldering and at first dismissal of the report, did work wonders among the gaggle of geese which is the US government. The houses of Congress voted a resolution condemning the report, regardless of its findings, and US president Barack Obama [BHO] said words to that effect.
What did the report say, briefly. It condemned both Israel and Hamas, cataloging alledged war crimes for both; it called upon Israel and Hamas to conduct their own investigations to get to the bottom of responsibility for the war and the high number of Palestinian victims, and the utter destruction of infrastructure---hospitals, schools, homes, utilities, the only flour mill, so on and on. However the lion's share of blame fell on Israel's shoulders, which didn't go down well for Jerusalem at all at all. Fault in carrying out the investigations after a period of grace, the Goldstone report recommended bringing the matter to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. And that stuck in the Israeli caw!
Israel flatly refused to doing anything that the Goldstone report suggested. Arrogant and self assured, and buoyed by its own propaganda mill and political action committees abroad, and thinking that the weight of the US government's condemnation of the report, others wouldn't treat Judge Goldstone's conclusions, backed by the authority of the United Nations, with seriousness.
Well, Israel misjudged the matter, and how!The world did take the Goldstone report seriously, and especially in Europe which began criticising Israel, and questioning its positions on other issues.
In brief, Judge Goldstone's report had given Israel a black eye. And Israel's image as 'the eternal victim', a people that survived the demented extermination plans of the Nazis, a race long sanctifed by God, was above suspicion and reproof, was thought to be beyond the pale of blame. Wrong! And begrudgingly, Israel's defence establishment took to attacking the Goldstone report by parsing through its inconsistencies and its logic and its selectivity of the horror its own forces visited on the civilian victims of Operation Cast Lead.
We all know that the best defence is the offence. And the IDF has gone on it in a big way. Let's cut to the chase of what the IDF report will say. It is not too hard to fathom since it is made up of the stuff Israel comes up with when it is under the glaring light of scrutiny. One, it was the Palestinians in Gaza's own fault. They are to blame for the over the top punishment they sustained. Yes, blaming the victim is a facile instrument to bludgeon even more, a people left homeless and in mourning and what's more kept on the edge of starvation by a vindictive Israeli government which keeps enough food and building matters and medical supplies, etc. etc., and deliberatively!
But the big kahuna of the IDF's 'apologia pro sua vita' is the tar brush of anti Semitism. Yes, the Goldstone report is fundamentally anti Semitic. Which means in Israeli think, any rebuttal to the IDF's charge is not only indefensible but downright Hitlerian!
What Israel has not reckoned with, is the simple obvious truth that its war in Gaza, tore of the veil of its own temple to its inviolability and its own self centred sense of invincibility.
Israel is now reaping the whirlwind it so sowed. And there is no way of escaping that conclusion.

China gags over Google

Google's threat to pull out of China, has turned into a donnybrook. It tore off slim plaster papering over Sino US relations. Once again Beijing's heavy hand has sent things into a spin.
Google turns a goodly profit by doing business in China. Chinese users like it, because it is a superior search engine, despite central government restrictions and interference.
Google has complied with China's domestic spying on its own citizens by yielding to the Communist authorities a list of its users. Why upset a good deal, then reasoned Google which stands for freedom of expression? Google's knuckling under to China's censorship worked up a tempest in a teapot without much damage to its reputation. The fallout was minimal.
But things took a nastier turn when Beijing began hacking into Googles' mainframe in California. Google drew a line in the sand. China was China, but when the Communist authorities began poking noses into its own computers, well, that wouldn't be tolerated. And, so, the threat to withdrew from China unless Beijing ceased and desisted in spying on Google.
China being China, swaggering with the arrogance of a waxing capitalist power, denied spying and putting censor blinders on Google. It was simply applying its own law.
Google did something that even US president Barack Obama [BHO]failed to due. It stuck its face into Beijing's, challenging its right to censor and to spy. Conforming to China's law in China was one thing, t'was another when China committed illegal and unlawful acts in spying on Google and its users on Google's home turf!
Google's stiffened spine gave heart to China's internet users who rightfully saw what was building up to a challenge to China's government's paper tiger threat to Google. To make matters worse for Beijing, the US government got into the act, since it provided the issue to bash China for censorship, illegal tapping into US databases, so on and on.
China is a dirty fighter. It went into an attack mode, on one hand, but on the other, sought to keep Google from leaving China. For Google's abandonment of the mythical China market would be a stain on China's reputation, which for the Communist authorities, is as innocent and as pure as Caesar's wife!
And her the matter rests for the present. China has lost face, but won't admit it. To Google leaving China will put a dent into its bottom line but won't bankrupt it. Wittingly, it has become a poster boy for freedom of thought when it touches on its mother company in California; otherwise, for the almighty $, it has and did cave into China's harsh censorship laws.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Arrogant Israel shots itself in the foot with Turkey

The right wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netenhayu has had to engage in serious damage control to rescue to its ties to Turkey after deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon publicly humiliated Turkey's ambassador Oguz Celikkol. Ayalon who is stepping in for the "disgraced" hard line foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who is currently under investigation for malfeasance, exhibited a most diplomatic behavior best put into words by the "Jerusalem Post": "Yes, it is essential the Islamic government in Turkey know that there are consequences to its unbridled derision of Israel, but the public humiliation of a diplomat shifts the onus from Turkey’s bad behavior to Ayalon’s boorish performance.”
The parting of the way occurred 12 months ago when president Shimon Peres publicly rebuked Turkey's prime minister Erdogan for critizing Israel's preemptive war against the Hamas government in Gaza. And the long ties which have bound Ankara and Jerusalem for a good half century are fast loosenly.
It is foolhardy for Israel to show bad temper at a time its Turkish ally can serve and has used its good offices with Arab governments and the Palestinian Authority to bring closure to the seemingly intractable Arab Israeli and Palestinian Israeli problems. In short, Ayalon's display of arrogance has shot Israel in the foot, and poisoned the waters of an alliance and a friendship which could serve Jerusalem well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Behind the "Allah' spat in Malaysia

GuamDiary strongly recommends reading Kevin Brown's 'Global Insight' contribution 'The 'Allah' spat masks ethnic Malays' feelings of insecurity' in the 13 January 2010 edition of 'The Financial Times of London'.
Mr. Brown is that rare journalists who parts the curtains of confusion and vanilla pudding analysis of the recent bombing and burning of churches and a convent in Malaysia, over the use by non Muslims of the word for God in Bahasa Melayhu, which is 'Allah'.
Scratching away the religious veneer to these latest troubles which set one ethnic group and against other ethnic groups [Chinese and Indian who profess belief in Christianity], Kevin Brown puts his finger on the politics of the matter.
As GuamDiary has noted, the Malay discontent lies in the challenge to the monopoly of power and privilege enshrined by the UMNO [United Malaysia Nasional Organization], yea these 50 years since Malaysia became independent of British rule.
'Bumiputra ism', favouring the Malay [read Muslim] majority, in a mild form of apartheid, was the brainchild of the UMNO elite, principally by the former prime minister and father of the current Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
The loss of control of parliament and 5 key states suddenly looked to Malays that the years of positive discrimination which favoured them in all phases of political, economic, social, and cultural life, as an assault on what they considered writ in stone, sanctified by the gods that be, and with hardly a thought that seemingly impregnable fortress of privilege and comfort, would ever be breached. And such is the perception which led to the bombings and threats against the non believers, although of the Abrahamic faith.
Suddenly, the long oppressed Chinese and Indians are through alliances with moderate and progressive and yes Islamic Malay parties, are pushing for a place in the political sun, and one which the original architects of the union of Malay states thought of a harmonious nation of ethnic groups. This went by the wayside after the 13 May 1969 racial riots which released government documents lay at the feet of UMNO's youth wing. In the aftermatch, prime minister Najib pere erected the Malaysian form of apartheid which is now for Malays under siege, and which newer political forces are calling for modification if not total scrapping.
And Kevin Brown's article is, as stated above, a ray of sunshine in the obtuse cloud of explanations as to the whys and wherefores of the 'Allah' contraversy.
As a foil, let's look at Jaime Metzl of the prestigious US Council of Foreign Relations. Highly photogenic, he spouted the usual pap with an emphasis on the positive side of waiting for the brouhaha to blow over. It won't since the 'Allah' spat goes to the heart of what type of society will Malaysia become, one which, it seems, is distancing itself from the Islamised model originally proposed and now repudiated perhaps by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and the harsh long rule of Mahatir Mohammed who roils and moils against UMNO the party he led for decades, for offense to his ego and the patronage system that he re enforced and populated with his cronies.
Already capital has taken flight. Foreign investment is holding back, testing which way the wind is blowing, as Malaysia is trying to make up its mind. Malaysia has move up three notches among a corruption index, and as a result, the 'Allah' spat is skewing economic if not political development. Many now fear outbreaks of racial strife.
The ball is in prime minister Najib Razak's court. Has he the political will to dismantle the poison legacy of discrimination and apartheid his father left him? Or will he muddle through?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Allah or Tuan, Malaysia continues on the road of the benighted

The issue causing much bleeding of printer's ink is whether Christians in Malaysia can use 'Allah' in place of 'Tuan' when Malaysian Christians invoke or speak of God, in church ritual, publications, and among themselves.
The Catholic newspaper 'The Catholic Herald' has been using it for the last two years, thereby causing a legal 'sturm und drang'. The mullahs have raised objection to the use of 'Allah', which in the national tongue Bahas Melayu, is the word for God. Pressure has been put on the government to move against the 'Herald', forbidding the use of the Arabic word for God which is the same in the local language. Straightaway, let's state that the Muslim dominated government ruled by a coalition where UNMO [United Nasional Malays Organisation] has held the reins of power for more than 50 years, allows the printing and distribution of the 'Herald' only for Malaysian Christians. This well known fact is besides the point in religiously turbulent Malaysia, which for the past quarter century or more, has tilted more and more away from a secular, multiracial society, towards a Muslim domination which discriminates in ways many and not so subtle, against the Chinese and Indian minorities. Let's also point out that Bahasa Melayhu is a language in which touches on all aspects of a Malaysian's life. Knowledge of English or Mandarin or Tamil for example, is secondary, since all education is Malay.
As a result the Catholic paper has been in litigation for the past 24 months. 'The Herald' recently won a victory in court. A Malaysian judge of Chinese origin ruled in its favour.The UNMO dominated government immediately appealed the decision, on the basis that for a Christian to use the Malay word for God, that is 'Allah', would confuse Malaysia's Muslims, and what's more would open the door to conversions. Which simply adds confusion to the panic to ban Christians the use of Allah and pushing them back to the older term Tuan. And this in a society which at the drop of the hat emphasises its Muslim and Arabic roots, and is trying to revive the use of 'jouai' or Arabic script for Malay, which has fallen out of widespread use, and replaced by the more practical Romanised alphabet.
With strong government pressure on a Muslim judge, it is more likely than naught, that the judgment will be overturned. Yet a slim ray of commonsense meay prevail, and it won't. Which goes a way to explain the fractures in the Malay dominated UNMO party, long beset by corrupt, scandal, and restive minorities who for the past 40 years have lived under an 'apartheid' style regime, which puts up road blocks in employment, education, home ownership, loans, and the like.
Ironic it is that the current prime minister Razak is the son of the man who waged a coup d'etat after the May racial riots which documents prove began by UNMO's youth organisation, mainly against the Chinese, which corseted Malaysia tightly in a rule of questionable laws, for Malays, thereby providing the glue of corruption of a society which has modernised through the wealth of its oil and natural gas, and through the commercial genius of the discriminated, second class Chinese.
A cloud of murder and scandal tracks the younger Razak. Elected under the banner of reform, his government has weakened in that his successor Abullah Badawi, lost a 50 year hold on parliment, and major urban areas to the opposition. More, not only does scandal and corruption dog his government's tracks, but it now turns out thatd all some of his ministers have been cselling government military aircraft to unname South American countries, for personal gain!
Ironic, too, is that the major opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim, once a shinning star of UNMO, put on trial and sentenced for malfeasance and buggery, has been able to cobble a heteroclite coalition of parties to topple UNMO's stranglehold. Ironic because Anwar in his younger days was a rabble rouser who preached an embracing of Islamic dress and observance, and by extension, a tightening of discriminatory measures against Chinese and Indians. He wrote a manifesto which won public acclaim and wide readership. He succeeded all too well since a slab of Malays took to the preaching of Al Qaeda and provided the leadership of Jamiyat Islamiyah which has been very active most notably in Indonesia. Although he repudiated his youthful transgression more in deed than apology, Anwar bears great responsibility on the Islamisation of secular Malaysia.
Equally to blame is Mahatir Mohammed the long reigning prime minister who not of Malay origin did everything to out Malay the Malays in pushing for a pronounced Islamic character to Malaysia. And what's more Kuala Lumpur has welcomed Al Qaeda gathering, the most noticeable being the planning for 9/11 [which it seems implausible that Mahatir's secret service remained in the dark!]
Mahatir has raised the issue on the use of Allah by Christians by pointing out that it is only in the last two years that they began using the word, substituting it for Tuan. A reasonable objection until you examine the fact of the central importance of Bahasa Melayhu in public discourse, and that it compared to the poverty of the language compared to Indonesia's Malay, it is a language of constant upgrading. And the 'Catholic Herald' is merely following a trend, to improve the spoken language it uses for its faithful, no more,no less.
GuamDiary has spoken on the issue months ago. Take the Bible in Arabic translation. The word for God is Allah. In Christian services, it is widely used. And it is in current use among Muslims, Jews, and Christians, in the course of everyday use. Take as an example, 'tabakara Ullah'..may God bless you, is coin of the realm. Of course, this has been pointed out to Malays but as proof
that Allah is the word for God in Arabic and in the language of the prophet Mohammed, it has barely sunk in. What has is the fear that by allowing say Christians the use of Allah, the political and religious power of Malays will crumble. Eye wash.
The struggle will go on, but time is against the changing tides and times in today's Malaysia. Change will come about one way or another. The pride of place of prejudice favouring Muslims, is long a thing of the past, but like all things, it will persist until the Malaysian electorate gain a better governing class.

'Fraidy cat China

GuamDiary had thought of calling this 'the paper tiger that is China', but didn't. We thought the image of a cat afraid of its own shadow, worked better.
China has to might to crush, to main, to kill its own and the subject races that are Tibetans and Turkogmen or Qyghurs in Xinjiang, we full well know. It has deep pockets to corrupt at home and abroad. It is driven to defeat its enemy the US, by one fashion or another. It is confident, for the future, it believes, is theirs.
And yet a single human in saffron robes the Dalai Lama or a woman who lives and breathes the hopes of the Qyghurs Rabiya Kabeer, can make Beijing shakes in its boots, especially at international film festivals.
The Chinese thump a steel fist on the table in demanding a film say 'the sun behind the clouds: Tibet's struggle for freedom' be removed from the Palm Springs International Film Festival in California, or in 2008, at the Sydney film festival, it threw thunderbolts and boomed out in threatening tones, were the organisers to show a documentary of Rabiya Kabeer.
Beijing drew a line in the sand like a petulant child in a sandbox who is not getting his way. If you don't play by our rules, we're going to pick up our marbles and go away. And so there with its fat tongue stuck out.
The organisers in Sydney and now in Palm Springs were not impressed, nor moved by China's threat to pull the rug under its own films. So, 'Nanjing, Najing', a film about the Japanese occupation and bloodletting in 1937 won't be shown at the California film festival.
The organisers proved of sterner mettle than US president Barack Obama who broke White House tradition by receiving the Dalai Lama, in order not to ruffle Chinese feathers.
For all its power, and GuamDiary in no way scants China's penchant for violence and easy resort to brass knuckles, to have its way, when it comes to the Dalai Lama and Rabiya Kabeer, the chink in China's armour is very evident.
Like a country mouse, it scurries for the comfort of a hole. Like all bullies, it takes French leave on a level playing field when it has to match its own propaganda with the glaring truth of daylight which is its brutal repressive rule of Tibet and Xinjiang.
If the Dalai Lama and Rabiya Kabeer gives the Chinese authorities diarrhea, a good b out of loose bowels, imagine what a united resistance movement of its own dissident or critics can do!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Malaysia burns its 'halal' fingers in the kitchen. Political, moral, and racial hypocrisy

Today, it seems as though Malaysia is trying on its own tied shoe laces. And the latest brouhaha is over a Teochew dish called 'bak kut teh' or 'pork rib soup and tea'. Now we know the consumption of pork for Muslims, is 'haram' or illicit according to the precepts of Islam.
But Malaysia is a racist society which discriminates against its Chinese or Indian citizens in ways write large and small. Licences for businesses are hard to come by for them, without bribes or greasing palms in one way or another.
Chinese food hawkers full well know that by adding 'hallal' [licit or 'kotheir sher'] a food licence is easier to obtain. Since the Teochew fare is so identified by its original names 'bak kut teh', the food sellers kept the name but substituted beef or turkey for the pork, and with a change in the meat was created 'hallal bak kut teh'. And thus began a brisk commerce until the mullahs put two cents in. They drew the line. They objected more to the use of 'halal' than to 'bak kut teh'. The whole commotion simply underscores the break on Malaysia's society as a whole. It points to the preponderant role Islam plays in a supposedly secular, multinational democracy; it is a break on 'entrepreneurship', especially when it comes to the Chinese. [Yet, the unspoken secret is that the Chinese are the brain and brawn behind Malaysia's economic prowess and development.] It re enforces hoary prejudices, accelerating a brain drain, it can ill affor d. It wallows in its own ignorance and call it 'a return to the source of all wisdom', and finds solace in its own ignorance.
Saying this, it doesn't escape GuamDiary's notice that oddly enough, in Malaysia's posh hotels, 'halal' champagne can be got for asking. Which once again highlights in glaring light, the hypocriscy of it all. And sends out loud and clear, what the Malay elite say is the law, and the font of all wisdom. Malaysia's mullahs and elites may take cold comfort in that, but even to its lowliest peasant, the pretense of moral superiority is a laughable matter!

2010: the turmoil goes on

Sweep aside the bromides of welcoming in a new decade which it is hoped, will bring us bigger, better, and brighter things.
The coming recession belies seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
George Bush's war against terror continues, and at an accelerating pace and in a larger global context. Before yesterday, Afghanistan; yesterday Iraq; today Afghanistan and Pakistan; and tomorrow Yemen and points north, west, and south and east of Suez. We won't visit the small brush fires of war and ethnic and racial and religious strife, which are burning yea these many long years now.
US president Obama [BHO] suggests that we should drop the grandiose description of war on terror for something a more manageable label. Call it what you will, we are living through an on going, low level war, with an elusive enemy who wears the djellaba of Islamic fundamentalism.
The long lived Orientalist Bernard Lewis, who is not welcome in some ideological quarters, wrote an interesting study on the 'Hashishim', a group of assassins, who smoked or chewed the hemp weed, for narcotic courage to kill for political or religious reasons, during the dying Abbasid caliphate and the Ottoman empire. These 'assassins', a radical Islamic sect, have very much in common with today's Al Qaeda and Taliban. Lewis' 'Assassins' is worth reading, if its available in English; he well tells a tale of caution of the centuries it took to search and destroy the fanatics surfing on a drug induced high, to achieve political goals. It took centuries then.
Will it take that long for the 'war on terror' to achieve its end?
Probably not. But the moral of the tale is the same. Ripping out root and ranch the 'tree' that nourishes these fanatics who for paradise now, will self destruct whilst they kill the enemies of theirs. Or wage a guerrilla war against troops who are less skilled in non conventional warfare.
Sadly the tried and true path lies in 'exterminating the beast', which is sugar coated with social improvement of the down and out of traditional third world countries.
Thus, it is a sad truth, an old truth of an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It however is more. It has to convince a population to abandon protecting terrorists, through persuasion or terror. It is never clean; it is never clear cut. It is not strictly efficient, but the oceans of blood spilt, and the toll of death among the 'believers' becomes so great that they either abandon the fight or remain a fanatical kernel who against the tides of time, persist in following a god that hnotas failed.l
Some may raise a fist in anger, saying that today's Al Qaeda or Taliban, has no need for a drug induced reason to die for his ideal. Maybe so. On the other hand, the suicide bombers say on the Afghan Pakistan border, young men hardly out of adolescence, are feed a savvy dose of opium, for
the courage to blow themselves and others up.
Opiate fueled or not, the terror which induces a seemingly face and timeless war, continues into 2010 and beyond.
It is a long war, for it is taking the US, the west, and other nation states a good length of time, to remember old lessons of war, or adapt to fighting and defeating the Islamic fundamentalists of every stripe. Yet the war itself is sapping the strength of the countries engaged in the war of terror. The resulting exhaustion is worth it in the longer run.