Spare us the sodding nodding.

Is it true or just my (mis)perception that more and more Australian politicians spruiking their opinions to the TV cameras are adopting the practice of positioning somebody behind or beside them for the purpose of nodding along as they speak in the hope of prodding us neddies to agree with them?

Whatever, as far as I’m concerned it’s not working, as since I’ve become aware of this particular technique of attempted audience manipulation, my entire attention has become focused on the nodders, not the noddees or their messages.

Back in my days in advertising, this kind of visual distraction of the viewer from the principal point or main message was known as a ‘video vampirism’, and thus avoided at all costs. And of course it’s been deplored for aeons by actors in the theatre and elsewhere as ‘upstaging’.

But a great many Australian politicos and their media minders apparently haven’t even a nodding acquaintance with how costly such distractions can be to what are supposed to be the star attractions they are striving to keep in the spotlight, and so the nit-witted nodding-along continues.

As neither a politician nor political fixer myself, of course it’s not the unprofessionalism of it all that upsets me. As both a viewer and a voter, however, I’m totally irritated and even infuriated by how hard all this nodding makes it for me to concentrate on the truths/lies the talker is trying to tell or sell me.

Given that politicians and their ‘expert’ staffers and underlings are as unlikely to read, let alone heed my complaints here about this nodding business, the only source of hope I can see is TV cameramen and program directors, who have it in their power to frame shots of spokespersons so tight as to keep the nodders out of sight.

But failing that I suppose I can resort to sourcing statements by politicians from print quotes in newspapers, soundbites from radio or the net, or from television by listening to them via the audio but not risking annoyance and alienation by ever looking at them on the sodding, nodding video.

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Umno’s general ass-embly.

As they do without fail every year, Umno leaders, bleeders and pleaders are busy putting the ‘ass’ into ‘general assembly’ with a series of speeches so false and fatuous they would disgrace a herd of donkeys.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak opened proceedings with an astonishing combination of braying and praying.

‘God, do not let this country, and the fate of this race (Malays) fall into the hands of traitors and the wicked,’ he beseeched Allah, as if the Almighty wouldn’t be as aware as the rest of us that the true traitors and wicked are Najib himself and his Umno accomplices.

But nothing daunted, he then went even further, with ‘oh, great God, we promise to fight to the death until we have spilled our last drop of blood.’

Let me interject at this point with the perhaps obvious but nonetheless pertinent remark that a great many of us would pay good money to witness Najib and his fellow members of Umno deliver on this promise.

In fact, however unwillingly and even unwittingly, Malaysians have paid countless billions of dollars over the past half-century or so through theft by Umno, and it’s high time that the people got some value for their money through witnessing demise of the regime blood-suckers.

Not that such a desirable denoument is likely, of course, at least on the part of Najib himself, as at every sign of conflict or trouble he goes into hiding and gets his ministers, police force, judiciary, mainstream media and paid gangs of thugs to do his fighting for him.

And in any event, in this very speech he revealed how utterly empty his fighting words were, as he proceeded from promising the last drop of his blood to spouting some story about the Prophet and the Angel Gabriel in support of the totally conflicting conclusion that ‘so I think we should no longer waste our time and energy to entertain or fight traitors to the race and country.’

Similarly confused and confusing, if not so blood-thirsty, was the call by Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin to the Malays on whose credulity and racial and religious paranoia Umno has so successfully promoted and preyed on all these years to ‘discard their defensive mindset and chase after progress.’

‘Malays,’ he continued, ‘should not be a race that is anti-knowledge, anti-competition and seeking for a “crutch” to aid them,’ before going on to thank Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak no less than 11 times for the complex of crutches that Najib has provided in his so-called ‘TN50’ program for the betterment of Malaysia (but especially Malays) by not the year 2020 as previously envisaged by Mahathir Mohamad, but by 2050.

By which such time, unless he has fought to his last drop of blood for Najib before then, Khairy, as he said, will be 70 years old.

And the rest of us who happen to survive that long will be feeling more like 700 years old, after decades more deadly-dreary Umno general ass-emblies like this one, in which Deputy Prime Minister preposterously compared the Malaysian opposition to the Nazis by claiming that allegations of Najib’s massive embezzlement of public funds via the fake national wealth fund ‘1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is a Hitlerian ‘big lie’.

When of course, as has long been glaringly obvious, there is nothing so Nazi or fascist as Umno, in every way from its destruction of democratic institutions to its politically-complicit police and judiciary and its mendacious, regime-propagandist mainstream media.

Meanwhile, wife of the principle suspect in the notorious RM250-million National Feedlot Corporation scam and Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat Abdul ‘The Cowgirl’ Jalil joined Zahid Hamidi and Khairy Jamaluddin in blaming Umno’s (and thus Malaysia’s) woes on such diverse scapegoats as Dr Mahathir, perennial regime bogeyman Jewish-American financier and philanthropist George Soros and the Bersih movement.

Bersih being the biggest regime bugbear of all, as the Umno gang is not so asinine as to imagine it can survive the kind of clean, free and fair elections for which this admirable organisation keeps loudly and publicly calling.

And this 2016 annual Umno general ass-embly is likely the last one before the general election that Najib clearly intends to call as soon as he thinks he can get away with it.

Before, that is, investigations in the US, Switzerland and sundry other countries around the world can reach their findings in investigations of the 1MDB fiasco, and possibly then institute criminal proceedings against Najib and his partners in this scam.

So it is more urgent than ever for all of us who are sick to death of Umno’s making a Malassia out of Malaysia and Malassians out of Malaysians to do everything in our power to finally find a way – any way – to kick this gang of crooks out on their asses.

 

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I am Maria Chin Abdullah.

I and all others who care for the well-being of Malaysia, are Maria Chin Abdullah these days, as she languishes in prison for the ‘crime’ of leading a rally calling for clean, free and fair elections.

Clean, free and fair elections that, let us remind ourselves, are specifically required by the Malaysian constitution.

A document whose provisions have been so perverted over the endless decades of Umno/BN domination of the nation as to currently constitute something more like a copstitution.

Thus rendering Malaysia a police state in which the ruling putras or rather putrids can get away with any number of crimes they please, while regime opponents and critics can be penalised for lawfully and peacefully protesting against this appalling situation.

So that currently we not only see Maria Chin Abdullah serving 28 days’ solitary confinement without charge or conviction under the provisions of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak falsely stated was specifically for use against terrorists, not his political opponents, but also threats against citizens peacefully calling for her release.

Inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar has warned that participants in candle-light vigils expressing sympathy for Maria and calling for her release ‘should brace themselves for a crackdown.’

Continuing that he was ‘fed up of issuing warnings,’ Khalid declared that ‘any assembly held needs to be done according to rules and regulations’ before posing the rhetorical question ‘if we do not follow these rules and laws, what is the use of the laws then?’

This raises an issue that has greatly troubled me, not to mention the majority of Malaysians, for years: the fact that the police and other regime-complicit agencies routinely fail to uphold rules and laws against crimes of which their political masters are suspect, including theft, embezzlement, bribery, corruption, money-laundering and even murder.

Yet opposition figures can be accused, ‘investigated’, and with the help of regime-perverted courts of ‘justice’, convicted of crimes on fake charges and false evidence, as most notoriously in the two cases of sodomy alleged against Anwar Ibrahim.

And the same grotesquely inequitable application of rules and laws applies in this current persecution of Maria Chin Abdullah. In leading the Bersih rally she was calling for reform of the incumbent Malaysian government, or more specifically for the cleaning-up of its filthy election-fixing illegalities and outright crimes; and not, as her arrest and detention under Sosma implies, advocating the overthrow of Malaysia’s system of government, either through terrorism or otherwise.

In fact she herself has been the victim of terrorism in the form of death threats and other forms of violence by the so-called ‘Red Shirts’ and other groups of thugs and agitators in the pay of the Umno/BN regime.

In any case, IGP Khalid’s attempt to portray himself as some kind of good or, perish the thought, honest cop with his ‘if we do not follow these rules and laws, what is the use of the laws then?’ question is totally given the lie by his and his political bosses’ hands-off treatment of a far more dangerous adversary than Maria Chin Abdullah.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the man who more than anyone else was responsible for creating the mess that Malaysia is in today, has not only been unrelenting in calling for Najib Abdul Razak to go, but has also taken pains show his public support of Bersih, even to wearing the yellow t-shirt.

But Najib and the gang including their hired-gun IGP haven’t had the guts to lay so much as a finger on him, as making a martyr out of Mahathir with the many Umno/BN members who still unaccountably remain admirers of the old man would most certainly prove a bad move.

So Mahathir, like other deposed Umno/BN bigwigs and now enemies of Najib if not his entire regime like Muhyddin Yassin, remains untouchable whatever he says and does, while Maria Chin Abdullah takes the rap and rots in solitary.

Without, or so we’re told, without the comfort of so much as a mattress. Which in itself is a touch ironic given the prominence the regime’s prosecutors gave to a mattress in the process of ‘proving’ trumped-up charges against Anwar Ibrahim.

But to return to and restate the point of this column, today and every day until she is released from her illegal, indeed criminal imprisonment, I am, you are, we all honest, true and freedom-loving citizens of Malaysia or any other country, are Maria Chin Abdullah.

Just as, both individually and collectively, we are also Anwar Ibrahim, Teoh Beng Hock, Altantuya Shaariibuu and the countless other victims of the evil, viciously repressive and long-overdue-for-removal Umno/BN regime.

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Psychling in Sydney.

As far as I’m concerned, people are crazy to ride bikes in Sydney. And apparently Australian cycling legend and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans agrees with me.

In town recently to launch his autobiography, Evans told reporters that he brought his bike with him, but kept it in his hotel room because Sydney ‘is too difficult and high-risk to cycle in.’

Citing factors including the narrowness of the streets, volume of traffic, poor cycling infrastructure and lack of respect from motorists, he added that ‘I’m not intimidated to ride in many places, but Sydney is one of them.’

What Cadel failed to mention, however, was that people cycling in Sydney not only put their own lives and limbs at risk to a virtually psychotic extent, but also drive the rest of us insane by impeding our progress on the roads.

Or worse still, for those of us who prefer to walk on pavements rather than pedals, they have a tendency to invade pedestrian spaces in way that can only be described as positively psychlopathic.

Every time I’m confronted by a psychlist speeding towards me or recklessly rushing past me from the rear on a footpath, or, as earlier this evening, refusing me my legal right to safely use a pedestrian crossing, I get hopping mad with ride rage.

Of course spokespersons in favour such two-wheeled terrorism love to peddle the proposition that psychlists are both healthily exercising and doing their bit for the environment by reducing their carbon footprints.

But as far as I’m concerned, a good many of them deserve footprints on their saddle-sore asses from being kicked off their bikes and told to take hikes.

To the nearest gym, for example, where they can cycle to their hearts’ content on stationary machines that are safe for all concerned.

Or else to any of Sydney’s countless parks, and other open spaces or quiet roads where cycling doesn’t bother anybody.

Otherwise, they should express their clean, green ecological concerns in the same ways that the rest of us environmentally- citizens do: by walking or taking public transport.

I’m all too aware, of course, that most psychlists may be too far gone in their narcissistic senses of self-entitlement to delay drivers and endanger pedestrians to see reason any time soon.

Especially since they’ve been so encouraged by the untold squillions of dollars and countless kilometres of traffic lanes have been squandered on them by grossly misguided city and local governments.

On the other hand, the fashion for psychling could be cyclical, and just as it has mysteriously come it may sometime mercifully go.

But let’s not get our hopes up too high. That other closely-related fad that has driven us all crazy for decades both on-road and off, skateboarding, shows no sign of disappearing.

And even more depressing is the thought that the two syndromes could be linked, in that as soon as sufferers become sufficiently skate-bored, they’re highly likely to turn into psychlists.

 

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Bersih! Bersih! Bersih!

Here’s to success for Bersih in its fifth public rally in support of its campaign for clean, free and fair elections in Malaysia.

Not that I, or I imagine anybody else, expects anything like success, at least in the short term. But even false optimism beats succumbing to feelings of despair and defeat.

Though it must be terribly difficult not to concede defeat in the face of an electoral system so corrupt that it leaves Malaysians with no choice but to vote with their feet.

To either walk away from the criminal cesspit to which the Umno/BN regime has systematically reduced the country, as millions of Malaysians including my wife and daughter have done, or to stay and walk the talk like the Bersih marchers are doing on this November 19.

Of course both sets of walkers are playing their parts in striving to perform the feat of forcing Umno/BN to clean-up the disgusting mess it has made of the country in its greed for power and plunder, or to clear-out in favour of an honest, people-friendly government.

Countless Malaysian emigrants and expatriates around the world in Global Bersih gather together to agitate, rally and march in support of their fellows back home.

And many work hard individually for clean, free and fair elections and clean, free and fair government for Malaysia.

My wife, for example, who as a Malay-Chinese married to a matsalleh is a living exemplar of multiethnic accord, is close to completing a PhD at Sydney University on the possibility or otherwise of Malaysian’s achievement of a unifying national identity despite Umno/BN’s determination to maintain its domination of the nation by preaching unity but actually promoting racial and religious division and discord.

A PhD that wouldn’t be totally impossible to pursue in any of Malaysia’s local or internationally-affiliated universities, given their all-too-obvious domination by regime-friendly management and academic appointees.

Meanwhile our daughter, as dearly as she loves going balik kampong to spend time with her maternal relatives, has been inspired by the fact that she feels physically and spiritually ‘grubby’ every time she visits Umno/BN’s Malaysia, to aspire to an eventual career in human-rights law.

My own motivation for at least metaphorically walking in support of Bersih and indeed all other Malaysian organisations and individuals working to clean-up the malodorous mess that Umno/BN has made of Malaysia by writing this Malaysiakini column for the past decade or so is both personal and a matter of principle.

As vividly aware as I am of the unceasing power-struggles within our human psyches between opposing forces for either good or evil like virtue and vice, greed and generosity, creation and destruction, co-operation and conflict, truth and falsehood and so on, I find myself driven to support and seek the light along with those of my fellows who similarly try and avoid the dark.

And thus I’m delighted to declare my solidarity and write if not literally walk in step with Bersih and its supporters, especially those with sufficient spine to stride out on the streets in demonstration of their disgust at government corruption and sundry other criminalities, rather than settling for complaining in secret.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that I wish all power to Bersih in its latest street-march calling for Malaysians to be accorded their constitutional right to clean, free and fair elections, and by extension clean, free and fair government.

And conversely, all the bad luck in the world to every member, supporter and crony of the basih Umno/BN regime, from its 1MDB-billionaire Crime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his scummy cabinet, through its grubby judiciary, polluted police force and germ-ridden mainstream media, on down to its very dregs, those dedak-hungry dirtbags, the so-called Red Shirts, all united in their efforts to keep empowering and enriching themselves and in the process sending Malaysia and Malaysians on the road to ruin.

 

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What to do about dementia?

Almost every morning on my way to or from my favourite neighbourhood cafe, I see a fellow senior citizen on what seems to be his daily walk to buy a newspaper, or rather the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

Despite his deplorable taste in tabloids, I have always given him a smile and a ‘good morning’. But he has never yet shown the slightest sign of noticing my presence, let alone of recognising me or responding to my greeting.

I haven’t given-in to the inevitable temptation to start ignoring him in return, however, as I suspect that he’s not so much rudely snubbing me as suffering some kind of mental or emotional problem.

Which, in light of his advanced years, could well be a stage of dementia that is still sufficiently mild to mild as to enable him to make it from home to the newsagent and to read or at least enjoy perusing the pictures in the daily paper.

In any case, I find myself at a total loss as to whether I’m doing him a good turn by continuing to acknowledge him, or whether I’m depriving him of his right to unsociability if not outright invisibility.

My slight feeling of discomfort at this dilemma is nothing, however, compared with my sensation of relief at having been at least thus far apparently spared any of the dreaded symptoms of dementia.

On second thoughts, however, it occurs to me that one sign of dementia could be lack of awareness of having it, and thus the entire experience described above could be a figment of my faltering mental faculties.

And similarly, speaking of faculties, my self-identity as an undergraduate in Arts at Sydney University could be entirely fanciful, or in other words a sign of my disordered thinking.

Just as the perception that I’m sitting here typing right now and making some kind of sense could be just an illusion; a triumph of long-term recall of my earlier life as a writer over current cognitive confusion combined with short-term memory-loss.

It’s all too scarily possible, and, with my 74th birthday coming up, more probably with every passing year. Today I read – or at least think I did – two discouraging pieces of news. That dementia, already the second-most-common cause of death in Australia, is now the leading cause of mortality in the UK.

And, perhaps even more dire was the report that researchers have determined that, once dementia is diagnosed, its brain-draining effects are neither slowed nor reduced by so-called ‘brain-training’.

But, thank goodness, nobody has yet established that it can’t be entirely prevented by brain-straining. The kind of straining involved in studying such subjects as philosophy, anthropology and gender studies as I’ve been doing in my second youth, or, if you prefer, undergradolesence, at university.

Besides, of course, trying to keep my wits about me by continuing to write what, for all I know, may seem like a total mess to mentally-healthy readers, but still makes perfect sense to me.

 

 

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Making America grate again.

As hugely as I’ve always admired (the United States of) America’s avowed ideal of achieving greatness by grating against every ideology devoted to denying its own and other people equal rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, I’ve simultaneously regretted its many failures to keep this noble goal in sight.

Even from the very first, for example, the ringing core statement in the Declaration of the American states’ Independence from the intolerably grating Great Britain that ‘all men are created equal’ and are endowed with ‘unalienable Rights’ including ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,’ was given the lie by the continued acceptance of slavery.

And it took almost a century of berating and grating, not to mention a catastrophic civil war, to unite the previously disunited States in the abolition of this evil obstacle to the nation’s ethical if not economic greatness.

Meanwhile, native Americans or so-called Indians continued to be disgracefully denied not only their allegedly ‘unalienable rights’ to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also the freedom to inhabit the lands of their ancestors and ‘Great Spirits’.

Perhaps America’s nearest apparent approaches to ethical and moral and thus not merely territorial or economic greatness came when it belatedly helped save Europe from German militarism in World War 1, and again intervened in the nick of time to rescue the entire planet from domination by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War 11.

Though in both cases economics arguably took precedence over ethics, as the US profited mightily through what President Eisenhower later identified as the ‘military-industrial complex’ in his famous warning of the American people against permitting this monster to retain too much power.

But the Cold War and the disastrous expedition into Vietnam that cost the populace so dearly in deaths and dollars so mightily enriched and empowered the military-industrial complex that it morphed into the unholy alliance of the Pentagon, Wall Street and Washington establishments that is so grating on today’s American workers and their families that they have elected Donald Trump to the presidency.

Of course Trump was all too aware that resentment at the political establishment’s apparent dedication to the further enrichment of the rich and impoverishment of the poor might appear somewhat hypocritical on the part of a candidate who has so flagrantly used and abused the same system he claims to so greatly abhor to make himself a billionaire.

So he also ranted as gratingly as possible against everything else that his potential voters could possibly be revolting against, including female and marriage equality, equal rights for non-white citizens and minorities like LGBTIs, universal, affordable health care, Mexican and Muslim immigration and free trade with China or indeed any other nation.

In other words, far from intending to genuinely ‘make America great,’ be it ‘again’ or as I and I’m sure a good many others would argue, for the very first time, he’s on a mission to ensure that America becomes more grating than ever.

But I’m not against grating as such. As I mentioned much earlier in this column, the US founded the United States of America by grating against the government of people by autocratic, repressive, self-serving and otherwise unjust regimes.

So, when Trump assumes office, the task for the US Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, the media, presidential advisers, not to mention the American people and the heads of other nations, is not to render him any less grating, abusive, abrasive or even aggressive, but to redirect his angst against the right targets.

Against the Chinese Communist Party, for example, for their repressive one-party misrule of their people; not against the people of China for taking Americans’ jobs, as many of Trump’s supporters simplistically and indeed falsely believe.

Against rogue governments like Putin’s kleptocratic Kremlin clique and al-Bashar’s murderous Syrian regime; not against the majority of Russian and Syrian people who are fighting to the death to rid themselves of such anti-democratic rulers in their struggle for the principles of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ so allegedly sacred to Americans.

Against Islamic State and all the Islamic and Muslim-majority governments around the world – like, for example, Malaysia’s criminal Umno/BN – that make their citizens’ lives a misery under the false pretence of representing or supporting Allah; not against the good Muslims so impoverished and suppressed by such regimes as to seek refuge in the US and elsewhere in the so-called ‘free’ world.

And finally, as my word-count is running out, against sexists, racists, religionists and other species of bully in America and everywhere else around the world; not against those innocent and defenceless people such bigots like to feel free to vilify and victimise.

In summary, far from the catastrophe that so many of his opponents fear he will be as Commander-in-Chief of the US, if only President-elect Donald Trump can be persuaded to be as grating as possible against the mad and bad of his nation and the world, and not the harmless and blameless, maybe, just maybe, he can make America great after all, if not necessarily again.

 

 

 

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