Saturday, February 28, 2009

We Could Never Be This Fortunate...

This would be awesome, but there's just no way...
Already in conflict with his party’s leaders, Sen. Jim Bunning has reportedly said privately that if he is hindered in raising money for his re-election campaign he is ready with a response that would be politically devastating for Senate Republicans: his resignation.

The Kentucky Republican suggested that possible scenario at a campaign fundraiser for him on Capitol Hill earlier this week, according to three sources who asked not to be identified because of the politically sensitive nature of Bunning’s remarks.

The implication, they said, was that Bunning would allow Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to appoint his replacement — a move that could give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block Republican filibusters in the Senate.

I do kind of like how the old man is playing hardball, though...

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Perak Coup D'etat:: What Say You

Klang MP Charles Santiago will be holding a forum on the Perak coup d'etat as follows:
Date : 17th Feb 2009 (Tue)
Time : 8:00pm
Venue : Dewan Hamzah, Majlis Perbandaran Klang, Klang
Speakers include Ngeh Koo Ham, A. Sivanesan, Lim Kit Siang, Khalid Samad, Dr. Dzulkifli Ahmad, Haris Ibrahim, Charles Santiago

Please contact Yap (016-2026300) / Sarah (016-6267797) if you have any further enquiries.

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They're Back!!

February 20, 2009, 12:10 p.m.

They're Back!!
(brought to you by*)

[Credit: Carol Ann: "They're back." Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986), The Internet Movie Database/Quotes.]

Who is back? The auto companies -- GM and Chrysler.

G.M., the nation’s largest automaker, . . . is assuming it will be able to pull off a remarkable turnaround if gets the additional loans.

In its restructuring plan filed Tuesday [Feb. 17] with the Treasury Department, G.M. projects it will end 2009 with a $14 billion cash shortfall, but then improve to a $6.6 billion surplus by 2012.

That would be a swing of more than $20 billion, and whether G.M., which last earned a profit in 2004, can realistically achieve it is among the biggest questions for the Obama administration as it reviews the company’s latest loan request.

G.M. has received $13.4 billion in loans since late December . . .. Most of the new loan money that G.M. requested would be used to cover its continuing losses. The company has been losing roughly $2 billion a month since last fall.
Bill Vlasic and Nick Bunkley, "G.M. Says New Loan Is Adequate to Save It," New York Times, February 19, 2009.

Frankly, I see nothing that has happened during the last three months, or that GM is now proposing, that leaves GM's request for more funds as anything other than even less compelling than it was last November and December.

I don't see the business plan that explains how $30 billion more from taxpayers -- essentially $300 from every family in America -- is going to recreate the profitable and vibrant GM of old.

And I sure don't see how a proposal that includes laying off 47,000 workers and closing 14 plants can be characterized as either "a jobs program" or a part of a stimulus to our economy. ("G.M. contends that . . . losses will shrink . . . because of savings from cutting 47,000 jobs worldwide and shutting 14 plants in North America." Ibid.)

After all, GM's problem is not that there aren't enough GM cars in dealers' showrooms -- or that there could not quickly be. The problem is that those vehicles are not selling -- and that there is nothing in its proposal designed to increase sales. ("United States vehicle sales this year are at their lowest point in more than 25 years, and many industry analysts do not share G.M.’s optimism for a recovery by 2012." Id.)

Nor is this just my opinion: "in a scathing review of the restructuring plans submitted by G.M. and Chrysler, Moody’s said there was a '70 percent' probability that one or both of the companies [i.e., Chrysler as well as GM] would have to file for bankruptcy protection." Id.

Giving more taxpayer money to "the automobile industry" -- meaning GM -- primarily benefits its shareholders and handsomely paid top executives. It doesn't put money in the pockets of potential car buyers. And it essentially turns its back on the UAW members who, as a potential part of the consumer spending that is 70% of our GDP, could actually do something to boost the economy.

Insofar as those auto industry suppliers and their workers are concerned, their welfare turns on vehicle manufacture and sales -- which the GM bailout does nothing to improve. There is still an automobile market in the U.S. -- albeit substantially less (10 million vs. 13 million cars a year) than it used to be. The cars that will continue to be manufactured to satisfy that market, whether Fords or Toyotas, will continue to need parts -- all the parts for which the U.S. auto industry has a need (with or without GM). Will those suppliers take a hit? Absolutely. But it shouldn't be much greater without a GM than with it.

Here are links to eight of the blog entries from last November and December that explore some of these issues in greater depth. Almost all of them seem equally applicable today, if not more so.


Nicholas Johnson, "Why America Needs a Jobs Program: Because When Your Auitomobile (Industry) is in the River It Makes More Sense to Go For the Shore Than to Continue Bailing it Out," in "Jobs, Not Unemployment, Key to Recovery," November 8, 2008

Nicholas Johnson, "Trust Your Instincts, Auto Bailout's Terrible Idea," November 14, 2008

Nicholas Johnson, "Auto Bailout: An Open Letter to Congress," November 19, 2008

Nicholas Johnson, "Auto Loan Makes Too Few Dollars Even Less Sense," December 4, 2008

"What Was Wrong With the Auto Proposal?" in Nicholas Johnson,"Quick Fix for the Economy," December 12, 2008

Nicholas Johnson, "A Car in Every Garage," December 16, 2008

Nicholas Johnson, "Of Theaters and Automobiles," December 20, 2008

Nicholas Johnson, "Et Tu, Toyota?" December 22, 2008


* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source -- even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson

# # #

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House Democrats propose $410B spending bill

Spend spend spend.

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Bolivian electoral system changes

I'm going to link to another article on Fruit and Votes in order to make another point about electoral system change worldwide. In Bolivia, following the constitutional referendum, the electoral system is changing somewhat.

The single-member seats in the lower house are now to include seats set aside for indigenous representation. In practice, commentators think this won't have a significant effect - since the reserved seats are to be from rural areas which have a large Indian population. However, it does seem like an effort to redress the imbalance caused by five centuries of colonial domination and minority rule. It does, of course, restrict the choice of voters who would like to vote for a white, mestizo or other non-Indian candidate.

The changes to the second chamber electoral system are interesting as well. It seems that each district in the Senate will return 4 members. These districts formerly elected 3 senators each. The leading party was supposed to get 2 and the second placed party 1. The old system thus ensured an 'artificial' majority for the strongest party in a district but also helped the second-placed one (especially if the 2nd placed one got less than a third of the vote). The new system is supposed to be based on proportional principles and so, in theory, up to 4 different parties could be returned per district. And, alternatively, a popular party might be able to win 3 of the 4 seats [and conceivably, of course, 4 seats if they got more than 75%].

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Azmi's latest Despatch

"... inspired by Anwar". I am quite surprised that Azmi Anshar used this line in "The King's Tacit Message to Paktan - Respect Sultan Azlan's decision." The last time I said some people were inspired by Anwar, they took real great offence ...

By: Azmi Anshar
DEWAN RAKYAT Feb 16, 2009

In the confusing, sound-byte laden and boisterously outrageous aftermath of the Perak crisis of state governance, a pitiable circumstance has emerged - the feeble idea that you can cling on to your seat of power although you, in polite terms, have been instructed to vacate the position, or in harsh terms, have been sacked, no less by the Ruler of your state ...

So who got inspired by DSAI this time? Just click here to read MORE.

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Gotta Have You

I'm not normally keen on this kind of thing - acoustic downbeat - but these two have really got stuck in my head lately. Quite sweet songs:

1. Weepies - Gotta Have You

2. Kings of Convenience - Surprise Ice

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Two MLK quotes

Today's Quote-a-Day entry comes from Dr. Martin Luther King.

And I wanted to post another quote from Dr. King, which raises an important issue that we can hope that our new President Barack Obama will address:

Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Wankers of the Day

Mexico reinforces troops in Juarez

LA Times:

Amid growing alarm over drug violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the Mexican government will deploy as many as 5,000 more troops to the border city, officials said Thursday.

The increase would triple the number of troops and federal police officers operating there as part of President Felipe Calderon's offensive against drug traffickers.

Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said the added troops would give the military a higher profile by taking control of police functions, including street patrols. Currently, soldiers tend highway checkpoints, guard crime scenes and take part in special operations, such as house searches.

The city is without a police chief. Roberto Orduña Cruz quit last week after several officers were slain and someone posted threats saying more would be killed unless he stepped down.

On Wednesday, top Mexican security officials traveled to Ciudad Juarez to reassure local leaders and vowed to significantly boost the federal presence.

There is more.

The need for additional forces in Juarez has been apparent for weeks. They may need even more than the ones sent this time to get an adequate force to space ratio to regain control of the city. The situation has deteriorated to the point where the government may need to also install barriers similar to those used in Baghdad that helped stop the violence.

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Senator Robert Byrd (!?) challenges centralization of power in the Exeuctive Branch...

From Politico via h/t Real World Libertarian:

In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.” ??

While it's rare for Byrd to criticize a president in his own party, Byrd is a stern constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House. Byrd no longer holds the powerful Appropriations chairmanship, so his criticism does not carry as much weight these days. Byrd repeatedly clashed with the Bush administration over executive power, and it appears that he's not limiting his criticism to Republican administrations.

Byrd also wants Obama to limit claims of executive privilege while also ensuring that the White House czars don’t have authority over Cabinet officers confirmed by the Senate. …. ?

“As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, and to virtually anyone but the president,” Byrd wrote. “They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability.” ……

What happens in times of crisis (thank you, Rahm Emmanuel) is not so much that government assumes new powers, because that's pretty much what government does.

What happens is that times of crisis are used as explanations why pragmatism should replace principle because we can suddenly no longer afford the deliberative democratic process.

Never thought I'd be complimenting Senator Byrd (and I'm sure some commenter will tell me I should remember he's a former Klansman, whines a lot, and has been a long-term advocate for increasing government power, as if I didn't know), but when anybody gets it right, they deserve the credit.

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Buy Up PLUS: Yes or No?

Frankly speaking, I quite like the new Works Minister, Dato Mohd Zin Mohamed. He's the only Minister I know to date, that actually replies to every small query which was raised within any of my speeches. And when Parliament's not in session, his office will mail the answer(s) to me. I was frankly speaking, impressed. And honestly, I think (for whatever reasons), he does try to improve things within his very very limited means and scope.

But you'll certainly have to help me here with the cryptic answer he gave in a short interview with Malaysiakini after announcing the embarrassing 24-hour U-Turn of the toll rates increase for several highways.
Why can’t the government buy up the highways?

That is the principle of privatisation to nationalisation. We have to look at the financial capabilities of the government, what would be total liability, who are the shareholders. It is not also technical parameters but financial parameters we would have to address.

Are you looking into it?

I’m just defining the parameters we have to is a question if whether we want to stick to privatisation vis-a-vis nationalisation.

What do you think of DAP’s proposal for the government to buy up Plus highway?

Anyone can come up (with such plans). What Tony Pua should do is not look at Plus as a standalone. The whole concession is operating as an integrated entity.

Are you rejecting his proposal?

I didn’t say that.
So what say you? I can assure you that based on the declassified contract agreements, the Government can certainly afford to "expropriate" many of these toll concessionaires.  But  I didn't understand his "operating as an integrated entity" bit, but if it's any consolation, he hasn't yet rejected our very constructive PLUS buy-back proposal ;-)

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We, on the Other Hand, Reimburse Promptly

Little known fact: John Bolton was, like, a HUGE fan of the UN until the UN stuck him with the tab for lunch back in 1978. After that, it was all downhill...

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Don't Rape the Country Twice!

I've blogged on "We Want Our Water Back Too!" two weeks ago. The Selangor state government has since issued offer letters to the concessionaires to take back the water concessions.

The four Selangor members of parliament [Charles Santiago (Klang), William Leong (Selayang), Dzulkifli Ahmad (Kuala Selangor) and myself] who are involved in the Water Review Panel issued the following press statement today. Additional comments are available at The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini and The Star.

Call Upon the Minister of Energy, Water & Communications to support and endorse the Selangor Government's Offer to Acquire the water assets and concession in the state

The water privatisation exercises in Selangor was started in the early 2000s by the Mahathir administration, where hugely lucrative concessions were granted to politically-linked private companies with neither the skills or experience in the water industry, nor the necessary equity funds to operate these businesses. As a result, the residents of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur were forced to pay high prices for the water supply, unreasonable penalties as well as often poor service quality.

In view of the clear unsustainability and failure of the privatisation exercise, where some of these concessionaires are facing serious concerns in repaying its bonds and water tariffs are scheduled to increase beyond tolerable range, the Federal Government has embarked on an exercise to nationalise the water-related assets nationwide under the new Water Industry Services Act (WISA) enacted in 2006.

The people has suffered once already when the assets were forcibly piratised by the Government. We will like to call upon the Minister not to rape the country twice by buying back these water assets and concessions at inflated prices. Doing so will only provide the basis to the dictum that the Barisan Nasional government privatises profits and nationalises losses.

The Selangor members of parliament who sits in the Selangor Water Review Panel call upon the Minister, who is granted wide-ranging powers under WISA, to not only support, but help execute Selangor's fair and reasonable offer to acquire the water assets and concessions in the state. The offers to the concessionaires were made last week on Friday, 13th February.

The offer made by the Selangor Government was made on the basis of one-time book value of the water-related assets in the concessionaires as at 31st December 2007, and a fair and reasonable return to the actual equity invested by the concessionaires since the industry was first privatised. It should be noted that the offer made by the Selangor state government is guided by and in compliance with the terms and conditions willing signed by all parties in the concession agreement. Therefore contrary to press reports in the last few days, the acquisition offer is neither a cynical offer which is too low, or without basis.

It should be noted that all investment analysts have been using the “discounted cashflow model” which results in significantly higher valuation for these concessions. However, the “discounted cashflow model” is just a technical term for paying the concessionaires its future profits, which in itself is a totally unreasonable proposition, and defeats the purpose of the Governments' water restructuring exercise.

If we were to acquire McDonald's today, it will be fair to put a value to its future profits as it's a wholly private enterprise. However, we are acquiring government concessions in this case – which means that the Government should not be paying for future profits for licenses and rights which it has itself granted!

The Minister is granted wide-ranging powers under the WISA (2006) Clause 191(5) where:
The determination of what amounts to national interest issues arising from the coming into operation of this Act shall be made by the Minister and such determination shall be final and binding upon all persons and shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or questioned in any court.
Therefore with the powers vested in the Minister, Dato' Shaziman Abu Mansor, a newly minted Minister since the last elections, we call upon the Minister to do the right thing and act to ensure that the rights and welfare of Selangor people and that of all Malaysians.

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Media malpractice

The trailer is pretty good and Ed Morrissey has his own review. The documentary will be shown in selected theaters soon.

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A good sign from the administration on weapons acquisition...

... is the appointment of Harvard Professor Ashton Carter as the Pentagon's chief weapons purchaser, as a counterbalance to Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn.

From Stars & Stripes:

President Barack Obama has nominated Harvard professor Ashton Carter, a leading authority on arms control and a longtime academic, to serve as the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, the White House announced Monday.

The choice of Carter to run the office that oversees hundreds of billions of dollars for new weapons and research — and is the focus of intense lobbying by defense firms, retired generals, and members of Congress — sparked concern within the defense industry and parts of the Pentagon bureaucracy when it was first rumored last month, the Boston Globe reported in its Tuesday editions.

But that may be exactly what Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wanted, the Globe noted.

Unlike most of his predecessors, Carter has no professional ties to America’s arms makers or manufacturing industry, nor has he spent his career in procurement, according to the report. Instead, from his perch at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Carter has been criticizing the Pentagon for buying too much armament it does not need.

Advocates told the Globe that Carter was chosen because of his combination of technical expertise and knowledge of defense strategy. He served in a senior Pentagon policy post from 1993 to 1996. But as a relative outsider, the Globe wrote, the 54-year-old Carter should be better positioned to make what Gates has said will be "difficult choices."

"He is not being brought in to help the defense industry thrive," Loren Thompson, president of the Lexington Institution think tank told the paper. "He is being brought in to decide what we need and what we can do without."

Credit where credit is due: this is an excellent move.

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Watch, read mayor's State of the City Address

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima gave his State of the City Address earlier today. You can watch it online by clicking here. You can read the full text of the speech, as prepared for delivery, by clicking here.

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What is it with this family?

The Bushes continue to amaze.

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Oh, Canada...

Interesting bit of news from our northern neighbors. Seems like a Canadian transit committee is preparing to ban a Humanist Association ad from running on the public buses. The ad goes: 
On what grounds? Apparently they committee felt that:
"...the language of the ads was specific enough to attract religious debate and polarize members of the community."
Let's simply ignore the cultural debate about the merits of religion in public life. Politically, this just reveals the arbitrary nature of what is allowed and disallowed whenever we have "public" institutions and boards claiming to represent all of "society". Inevitably, they end up discriminating against certain minority points of view, views which may not be able to otherwise be heard due to the monopolistic nature of many of these public services. If it were easier for private companies and institutions to emerge, I'd venture to say that there would be ample opportunities for nearly all viewpoints to be heard - without having to ban certain others.   

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Saturday Events

Yesterday afternoon presented tough choices - two events I wanted to go to on at the same time.

I plumped for Shih-Li's launch of Ripples at Silverfish. Shih-Li read the title story which is one of my favourites in the book, and fielded questions from her audience - most of them wanting to know about how she writes ("In bits and pieces, here and there.") and where her ideas come from.

(I've managed to nab her for Readings at Seksan's on Saturday, which I am very happy about.)

Gwen filled me in on the event I missed, which I thank her for :
I was lucky to be one of those who were at Kinokuniya KLCC yesterday to hear Oliver Jeffers talk about his books.

He had a lot of fascinating material to show us how he worked.

He showed how he made his collage for backgrounds and how he used the concept of light source in the portrayal of characters and scenes.

The corner where he was giving his presentation was overflowing and inadequate to allow all the people who came to see and hear what he had to show and say.

I bought a copy of How To Catch a Star for my grandchildren and there was an impressive line of people waiting to get their purchases signed. The signature is a personal one with a tiny sketch as well.

We need more visitors like Oliver Jeffers here in KL. There is a growing group of people interested in producing good books for children.

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Forget infringements of liberties. Populism is the problem.

The Henry Porter Convention is attracting more followers to the banner.

The latest is the normally-quite-good Tim Garton-Ash. Reading his unconvincing article, you get the impression that he's scrabbling around for reasons not to be left out. 

Yet, oddly, buried towards the end, is the key point:

"A couple of years ago I asked a very senior New Labour politician if his government had not got the balance between security and liberty wrong. "Well", he replied, "one thing I can tell you is that if you ask the British people they will always choose more security." And this is where the ball comes back to us. Since our leaders are now mainly followers - following the latest opinion poll, focus group or newspaper campaign - it's up to us, the people, to change their view of what "the people" want."

Now, that final sentence is pure bullshit. Columnists from the Guardian - even in coalition with a handful of (hanger!) Tories such as David Davies - are not going to do this. The point isn't to change people's minds - the public have always been deeply illiberal, and collectively stupid - as Matthew Parris illustrated very well a while ago here.

The point is - instead of banging on and on and on about specific infringement of our Aynchunt Wibberties - real or imagined - it is to campaign with equal gusto against those who promote and excuse the populist mode of democracy that is the cause (as Tim seems to acknowledge) of this illiberalism.

If you want to stop the intrusive and ill-thought out legislation, you have to demand a return to deliberative policymaking.

This week, the Tories have launched possibly the most odious and reactionary proposals ever to go into a draft manifesto of a major British political party - demands for direct democracy and elected officials on a number of fronts - and I've not heard a squeak about this from any of the refugees at Henry's bash.

If you want to see "great thinkers compelled to drink Hemlock at the whim of the masses*" then that's what the Tory proposals will give you. Legislation that is thoughtless and reflexive to a greater extent that that promoted by the current government - if that were possible?

*Not my own aphorism, sadly - but I can't find it's origin now

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Giving Away the Show

Shorter Verbatim Dave Schultheiss: "What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that." Well, you have to, ah, appreciate the honesty.

I think this is the most instructive look into "pro-life" psychology since the VP of Focus on the Family defended one of their silly policies by claiming it created "greater legal liability and danger of internal bleeding from a perforated uterus." Boy, I'm more persuaded by Will Saletan's assertions that they occupy the moral high ground all the time!

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BN Rubs Salt On Our Wounds

At a time when Malaysians are facing the greatest economic challenge, when 100,000 Malaysians are expected to be out of a job by the end of the year as projected by the Minister of Human Resources, the Barisan Nasional Government has decided to increase toll rates from 5 to 25% for 5 toll concessions, while at the same time still pay compensation amounting to RM277 million to these toll concessionaires! The act is clearly a case of rubbing salt onto the wounds of anxious and suffering Malaysians.

In announcing this, Works Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Zin Mohammed said the increase was “minimal” and hoped the public understood that the increase was “stipulated in the concession agreements” that the government had signed.

Firstly we will like to reiterate that the increase was by no means minimal. For PLUS itself, even a 5% increase in toll rates will increase toll revenue by as much as RM120 million in 2009. This doesn't yet take into consideration the fact that the Government is likely to have to compensate PLUS for the other 5% which has yet to be increased, which may be an additional RM100 million. It is an insult for to all Malaysians to say that RM220 million to be incurred by road users and tax-payers “minimal”, especially in times of economic hardship, and shortfall in Government revenues.

In fact, we would like to ask the Government if the compensation sums being paid to concessionares are part of the “economic stimulus packages” to help turnaround our economy, badly affected by the global economic crisis.

Secondly, while the toll rate increase is indeed “stipulated in the concession agreements”, there were also other clauses stipulated in the agreements such as the “expropriation” clause which the Government has chosen to blatantly ignore. This selective compliance to the legal agreements smacks of a government favouring the interest of cronies instead of those of the people.

The DAP Ops Restore team has demonstrated using many examples over the past 2 months how expropriating these highways as per the terms “stipulated in the conession agreements” are more economical and cost effective for both the Government and the road users. But the Government continues to turn a blind eye to these constructive proposals.

Just yesterday, the team have outlined a detailed proposal on how the Government can “take back” PLUS Expressways Bhd without costing tax-payers a single cent and without unfairly penalising minority shareholders (they are to be offered 15% premium to the current share price) which will result in a toll-free North South Expressway by 2016.

Why does the Government who owns directly 65% of PLUS Expressway, continue to choose the route of unfairly “taxing” road-users and tax-payers (if compensation is paid) instead of taking appropriate actions to help the people?

It should also be noted that PLUS Expressways is extremely profitable. PLUS made RM1.31 billion in net profits before tax, which translates into an enormous net profit margin of 57.3% in 2007!

The privatisation policies a-la Barisan Nasional have brought an enourmous burden on all Malaysians and have profited only Barisan Nasional crony businessmen. If Prime Minister-elect, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak wants to commence his term on the right note, then we call upon him to take back these highways, and other unfairly privatised projects to relieve the burden of the rakyat, especially in these difficult times.

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To Ipswich

I'm off to Ipswich later to see if Billy's bounce is not one of the dead-cat variety.

I always like going to Portman Road- I've a few mates who are regulars there, and they always bring people along to the pub afterwards who are a good laugh.

Back in the day, we hammered them 5-1 in the Charity Shield. I was 14 and it was my first visit to Wembley - we went with a load of the family that day. There'll be a few drinks to absent friends tonight.

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Creating a good bank

Willem Buiter writes about creating a good bank . The existing banks do appear to have vast liabilities and are being increasingly seen as 'bad'. He thus puts forward the idea of creating a good bank from good assets of the old banks and then these institutions would be in a position to resume lending. The bad banks, on the other hand, would be wound down.

This sounds like a good idea - but perhaps there are better ones. It strikes me that private 'good' banks and state-owned 'bad' banks are a bad combination from the financial view of the government. The state is left holding onto the losses but not having much profitable business. Surely it would be better for the banks to be nationalised and re-capitalised? The state would thus be turning bad banks into good ones and - if it retained ownership - could reap the profits in good times.

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Canadian Broadcaster to head Al Jazeera English


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February 15, 2009 - reminder to update your bookmarks

Please remember the new URL for Heidi Li's Potpourri: http://heidilipotpourri. New entries added daily or every other day.

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Is Coyote dissecting Chrysler or conducting an autopsy?

Whichever it is, you should read his extensive take on why Chrysler should not receive another penny of public support.

Here's a key excerpt:

In section one, they blame it all on the credit markets. Specifically, the lack of ability of the Chrysler finance arm to lend to customers. But I showed the other day that consumer lending is still strong by banks. What they are really saying here, but they are smart enough not to utter the actual words, is that their sales depended on a finance arm that was willing to lend at below-market rates to people with bad credit scores, and the lack of this hidden subsidy is what is making it hard to sell their cars. Credit exists — what no longer exists is zero-percent-interest-to-anyone-who-walks-in-the-door-no-questions-asked financing. Instead of figuring out how to make cars that don’t require hidden subsidies to get off the lot, they are trying to get the government to fund their hidden subsidies.

Two problems here:

1) This is a thoughtful, critical economic analysis, based on real accounting and rigorous logic. Thoughtful is not in, today, when we have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars immediately, if not sooner without even taking time to let people read the legislation.

2) Too many people will say that we have to save Chrysler for the sake of the workers. I'd much rather provide direct economic support to the workers while they find other jobs than to put their industry on the public dole, forcing me to continue to subsidize a failed upper and middle management corps. You want the big wigs punished? Then let their companies go under....

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"Pro-freedom Coalition on Fox"

The Judge, Andrew Napolitano, has launched a weekly show on Fox News titled "Freedom Watch". I wrote him an e-mail and said we might as well call it "Tyranny Today" or "Socialist Watch", since all we've been observing is tyranny and socialism nowadays. Who's watching freedom? I'm watching freedom fall.

Judge Andrew Napolitano is a staunch Constitutionalist, free marketeer of the Austrian tradition (I recall him expressing his views, meeting him briefly at the Ludwig von Mises Institute's Gold Supporter's Summit this past October) and a talented lawyer in every sense. A few free-market advocates from Wall Street, Peter Schiff, Lew Rockwell and Congressman Ron Paul are also featured.

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House price inflation is still inflation

Polly Toynbee rightly warns about the danger of directing lending policy to ensure a housing market 'recovery' (i.e. rising house prices).

For most products, people say they want low inflation. People don't like it when the price of transport, food, fuel and so forth goes up. But, some people seem to think that the prices of their home should go up faster than the general price level. This does seem rather strange. Why is inflation of more than 2 or 3% considered bad for most things but not for houses? The fact is, logically, if prices are going up by 2% a year - then houses should go up no more or no less than them. If they do go up faster, it indicates a shortage of supply and that people are putting 'too much' money (or getting too much credit) to buy them.

Polly Toynbee suggests that capital gains tax should be levied on the profits made from selling houses. This is theoretically already the case for second homes and buy-to-let properties. It is primary residences that are exempt. This exemption does make some sense though - and is not just a subsidy to the middle-classes. After all, if someone sells their main home, they need to buy somewhere else. This thus means that they are not really taking their profits out of property. Their capital gain is not truly realised. It would only be realised in the event that they were to downsize to a notably cheaper property. As such, I can see why primary residences are exempt from capital gains tax.

It strikes me that governments should be logical and, if they want low inflation, should accept that this means low inflation in the price of houses as well. This will obviously be unpopular with many owner-occupiers (which is why neither Labour nor the Tories are keen on mentioning it) but perhaps it is time for people to stop thinking that they can make capital gains merely from buying and selling property. It is, after all, better that an economy makes goods or provides services that people need rather than that it focuses its attention on buying and selling and speculating in houses that have been already built.

If, in future, when house prices cease falling they then start rising again by more than the rate of inflation then this suggests that there are supply constraints in the system. This should spur on more house building to deal with these constraints. Additionally, if house prices are rising more than inflation, then a government committed to 'avoiding boom and bust' and to encourage responsible lending should also be thinking of imposing some degree of credit controls. This is because, in many cases, it is only the ready availability of credit that allows people to keep pushing house prices up - beyond a level that is affordable.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Preeta on Commonwealth Shortlist!

The Commonwealth Writers Prize shortlists for the South-East Asia/South Pacific region have been announced, and Preeta's nominated for Best First Book Award!!!!!!

We send our biggest congrats and loudest Malaysia Boleh shouts!

The list :
Best Book Award: South East Asia and the South Pacific :
  • Between the Assassinations -Aravind Adiga (India/Australia)
  • The Spare Room -Helen Garner (Australia)
  • The Good Parents - Joan London (Australia)
  • Forbidden Cities -Paula Morris (New Zealand)
  • The Slap -Christos Tsiolkas (Australia)
  • Breath -Tim Winton (Australia)
Best First Book Award: South East Asia and the South Pacific :
  • The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga (Australia)
  • The Boat - Nam Le (Australia)
  • The Year of the Shanghai Shark -Mo Zhi Hong (NZ)
  • Misconduct -Bridget Van der Zijpp (NZ)
  • Evening is the Whole Day - Preeta Samarasan (Malaysia)
  • The Shallow End Clouds of Magellan - Ashley Sievwright (Australia)
But you'll note that she's up against some stiff competition. The White Tiger was the 2008 Booker Prize winner, and Nam Le's The Boat won the Dylan Thomas Prize.

More about the prize and the finalists in other regions later ... just wanted to hit you with this news first.

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You know what I want (or maybe you don't)

One uncomfortable truth about this still incredibly rich country is that fully half of middle-aged and older Americans own essentially nothing. The median 50-year-old has no retirement savings to speak of. Not "inadequate savings to retire comfortably with," but none, or so close to none as to make no difference.

Arguments about Social Security and Medicare often manage to avoid any contact with this fact.

Of course as soon as the Dow gets to 36,000 these problems will seem less acute.

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This Is Excellent News For the Republican Party

In comments, America's most dangerous professor directs us to this Jacob Weisberg classic, which puts his comments about Hillary's excessively ambitious and calculated iPod and how it spells doom for the Democrat Party in the relevant context. Even if you haven't read it, you know the argument: unnamed and uncited war opponents "appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously," which we can tell because for some mysterious reason they don't see the invasion of a country that posed no security threat to the United States and had no substantial relationship with anti-American terrorism as a logical part of a response to 9/11. And, most importantly, the acceptable boundaries of foreign policy discourse are established by Jacob Weisberg (and such boundaries can never involve opposing even the most misguided war when it matters, and also always seem to mean that nobody else is opposing the war in the right way even if it's gone so badly that nobody can defend it.) All of which leads to this highly convincing argument about why Ned Lamont's victory means that the Democrat party is doomed, doomed, especially if they nominate an anti-war candidate like Barack Obama:

In a similar way, the 2006 Connecticut primary points to the growing influence within the party of leftists unmoved by the fight against global jihad. Nixon had the gift of hippie demonstrators and fellow-traveling bluebloods like Ned's great uncle Corliss Lamont as antagonists. Today's Republicans face an anti-war movement with a different tone and style, including an electronic counterculture of enraged bloggers and callow entrepreneurs like Ned himself. Yet the underlying political dynamic is not altogether different.

Whether Democrats can avoid playing their Vietnam video to the end depends on their ability to project military and diplomatic toughness in place of the elitism and anti-war purity represented in 2004 by Howard Dean and now by Ned Lamont. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for 2008, is trying to walk this difficult line, continuing to express support for the war in principle while becoming increasingly strident in her criticism of its execution. As the congressional elections approach, many Republican candidates are fleeing Bush's embrace because of his Iraq-induced unpopularity. But Lamont's victory points to a way in which Bush's disastrous war could turn into an even bigger liability for the Democrats.

I think we can all agree that the disastrous failure of the Bush presidency was excellent news for Republicans. After all, I created a playlist for Howard Dean on Pandora and a Jewel cover of "The Bewlay Brothers" came up, and...well, must I paint you a picture? It's all deeply connected with the demise of the Democrat Party in ways you hippies could never understand.

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It's Good to Be Back.

Was I missed, even a little?

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Jed Yoong Faces Police Harrassment

A sometimes controversial blogger, and often a critic of Tony Pua, Wong Chun Wai and many others, is currently being harrassed by the Police. Honestly, I'm not a fan of Jed Yoong but I respect her right to freedom of speech and I never once attempted to stop her from say her piece.

But then again, I'm no fan of the Malaysian police either, who has a tendency to beat up citizens who light up candles for a cause in a peaceful manner, and take on (or ignore) investigations at the whims and fancies of their political masters. Clearly, Jed is now being investigated for sedition for one of her blog pieces, due to police reports filed by some UMNO ultras in Petaling Jaya.

Without dwelling on the merits of her case, the police investigation against her shows the bias of the force, for a similar report I made against "Kelab Penyokong Maya Umno" last year was never investigated despite my statement being taken.

The police attempted to intimidate bloggers last year, for example with the high profile arrest of Nathaniel Tan, and it appears that they'll only continue to exert such pressure on bloggers, possibly increasingly so, after Najib takes over as the new Prime Minister.

Anyway, below is the press statement issued by Jed Yoong to all press.

February 25, 2009 WEDNESDAY

Inspector Mohd Riduan Abd Majid (Office Phone No.: 03-26163989 / H/Phone No.: 019-9890484) from the Bukit Aman Commerical Crime Department's Cyber and Multimedia Crime Investigation Unit emailed me this morning, saying:

"I want to continue a statement recording with you. There are several questions to ask, so it will make your statement very clear. Hope you to come at JSJK Bukit Aman this evening at 5pm or 6pm. I will make it fast."

I've agreed to go in at 7pm this evening (Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009).

On Monday (23/02/2009), I went to the Bukit Aman Commerical Crime Department's Cyber and Multimedia Crime Investigation Unit and gave my statement to Inspector Riduan from about 6pm -- 10pm after he called and emailed me on the same day. I was unrepresented by a lawyer as, when asked, Inspector Riduan says he doesn't need one.

Under tremendous pressure, with my handphone taken away from me, facing two officers and one or two that came in and out, I felt I had no choice but to give and sign a statement against my wishes in order to ensure my safety. Riduan at many points refuse to allow me to give me the answers that I want and changed my statement many times to fit his preferred answers. I was also not allowed to see the police report and had no idea why I was being interrogated. However, the police were courteous and professional at all times and I am happy to cooperate with the police who are merely doing their jobs.

Following that, at about 10pm, as instructed by the police, I brought four policemen (ASP Hazizi Bin A Samad, Insp Mohd Faizal B Zainal, Insp Zurina Bt Alias and KPL 128548 Zawahid Bin Nik) to my family's house. I led the way with Insp Zuraina in the car while the others followed my car.

Before entering my house ASP Hazizi informed me that he is entering the premises and seizing my computers under the Sedition Act, which I am being investigated under. They came in drew floor plans of my house, took photos, recorded videos and confiscated my laptop, its power cable, a desktop CPU, a router and a modem. At all times, the police were professional and courteous.

The next day (Tuesday, February 24, 2009), I lodged a police report at the Brickfields police station/IPD about the the items confiscated as I am concerned that the data in the items would be tampered with as I am not the only one using the computers (which are not password protected) and I did not check the data before I handed over the items to the police.

I feel that I am being set up by the police and my rights has been violated as I've not been shown the police report, my statement taken from me under conditions in which I feared for my safety, items seized from my house and I've not been advised by the police to get legal representation.

If I have broken any laws, I wish to say that it is unintentional and there is no malice involved, what more an intent to incite hatred of any sorts. I am merely expressing my opinion using modern technology in the 21st century.

I feel that the country's laws are not equally applied to everyone but used to silent dissent, in particular ordinary bloggers with no political backing.

My blog is not particularly influential, compared to mainstream newspapers like Utusan, The Star, Sin Chew, etc, and other news outlets like TV3. These media have the potential to easily incite hatred and cause racial riots. In my view, in many cases, the Malay-vernacular press have published many articles that can be said to incite racial hatred, for instance, Utusan's frontpage yesterday that claimed DAP Hina Islam? (DAP Insults Islam?) ( )

Hence I strongly feel it is ludicrous and absurd to say that I can even influence anyone what more incite racial hatred or any sort of hatred towards anyone. If anyone is hateful, they will be so without reading my blog. I am not God.

I also wish to say as a Malaysian, I am loyal to King and Country. In many posts I've always expressed my gratitude towards the country for allowing my family to have a happy prosperous live, especially under the Barisan government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad. If I've offended anyone with my honest feelings based on facts, it is not my intention to do so. In the 21st century, rulers of all kind should be open to feedback because after all they are not gods that are are beyond reproach.

It would be much appreciated if the media will carry my statement or send reporters to the Bukit Aman Commercial Crimes Unit tonite. I will be there from 7pm and am not sure what time this second interrogation will end.

I've lost my handphone and can only be contacted via email now till I get a new handphone later today.


Jed Yoong Yui Foong

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American Showcase on CNN

A school bus driver with 2 kids in an 800k house? And she wants Obama to bail her out? Are you kidding me? This family needs to end up on the street before the end of this year. Any other outcome, short of her winning the lottery, is ludicrous.

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Does lobbying matter? Of course not. I'm only bringing this up because I hate the President and want the country to collapse.

Fausta points out that the number of lobbyists in high places--despite the Executive Order prohibiting them--continues to multiply:

• William Lynn, deputy secretary of Defense (and registered lobbyist for Raytheon from 2003 to mid-2008)

• Bill Corr, deputy secretary of HHS (and registered lobbyist as recently as September 2008)

• Mark Patterson, chief of staff of Treasury Department (and registered lobbyist as recently as last year)

• Tom Vilsack, secretary of Agriculture (and registered lobbyist until March 2008)

• Cecilia Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs (and registered lobbyist as recently as last year)

How much does the presence of those once and future lobbyists matter?

Just visit Nancy at Delaware Way for a discussion of the effectiveness of the PMA Group in the current Congress:

In the spending bill managed by Murtha, the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriation, 104 House members got earmarks for projects sought by PMA clients, according to Congressional Quarterly's analysis of a database constructed by Ashdown's group....

Those House members, plus a handful of senators, combined to route nearly $300 million in public money to clients of PMA through that one law (PL 110-116).

She includes this link so you can see, Congressman by Congressman, exactly how a major lobbying effort co-ops our government.

The PMA Group has been shut down, but the great game of lobbying for the public's money continues.

And the existence of highly placed former lobbyists in the Obama administration suggests that when they knock on the door somebody will be answering.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The vain ambitions of liberalism

David Brooks:


When I was a freshman in college, I was assigned “Reflections on the Revolution in France” by Edmund Burke. I loathed the book. Burke argued that each individual’s private stock of reason is small and that political decisions should be guided by the accumulated wisdom of the ages. Change is necessary, Burke continued, but it should be gradual, not disruptive. For a young democratic socialist, hoping to help begin the world anew, this seemed like a reactionary retreat into passivity.

Over the years, I have come to see that Burke had a point. The political history of the 20th century is the history of social-engineering projects executed by well-intentioned people that began well and ended badly. There were big errors like communism, but also lesser ones, like a Vietnam War designed by the best and the brightest, urban renewal efforts that decimated neighborhoods, welfare policies that had the unintended effect of weakening families and development programs that left a string of white elephant projects across the world.

These experiences drove me toward the crooked timber school of public philosophy: Michael Oakeshott, Isaiah Berlin, Edward Banfield, Reinhold Niebuhr, Friedrich Hayek, Clinton Rossiter and George Orwell. These writers — some left, some right — had a sense of epistemological modesty. They knew how little we can know. They understood that we are strangers to ourselves and society is an immeasurably complex organism. They tended to be skeptical of technocratic, rationalist planning and suspicious of schemes to reorganize society from the top down.

Before long, I was no longer a liberal. Liberals are more optimistic about the capacity of individual reason and the government’s ability to execute transformational change. They have more faith in the power of social science, macroeconomic models and 10-point programs.


Yet they set off my Burkean alarm bells. I fear that in trying to do everything at once, they will do nothing well. I fear that we have a group of people who haven’t even learned to use their new phone system trying to redesign half the U.S. economy. I fear they are going to try to undertake the biggest administrative challenge in American history while refusing to hire the people who can help the most: agency veterans who are registered lobbyists.

I worry that we’re operating far beyond our economic knowledge. Every time the administration releases an initiative, I read 20 different economists with 20 different opinions. I worry that we lack the political structures to regain fiscal control. Deficits are exploding, and the president clearly wants to restrain them. But there’s no evidence that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have the courage or the mutual trust required to share the blame when taxes have to rise and benefits have to be cut.

It makes you wonder why Brooks has such a high regard for Obama.

History has shown that the unintended consequences of liberalism are extremely costly. They managed to destroy the black family and create a class of dependency. They are trying to restore that class with the stimulus bill.

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Iran Propaganda

Oh, how convenient that they "misunderestimated" the amount of nuclear material Iran has.

Watch the propaganda, go long oil and gold, and build a bunker to hide out in.

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From Bacchus to governor?

The god of wine? That’s Val Kilmer’s current project as King of Bacchus for the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans. See for yourself:

Now ponder this question: Can you really picture this guy in a suit and tie giving a State of the State Address to the New Mexico Legislature? Following in the footsteps of King Bill, maybe it isn’t such a stretch to imagine…

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I know what Sultan Azlan did last March ...

DO YOU? But first, it is quite obvious that Anwar Ibrahnim and Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin are trying to push the issue to the streets. All the ingredients seem to be there: disregard the Sultan's wishes, to hell with the state's Constitution! This morning, Nizar reported for duty as usual despite the Sultan having asked him to step down and pave way for a new state government.
NST 10.07 am Nizar and exco members have entered state secretariat building after minor scuffle, Nizar says he will remain in office
BH 09:58 pagi Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin dan Exco masuk ke pejabatnya di SUK jam 9.43 pagi. Katanya tiada arahan tinggalkan pejabat dan kediaman rasmi.
Nizar is fighting "till the last drop of his blood". So the police had to come in.
NST 10:27:21 MB's office taken over by police who receive orders to escort Nizar and exco members out. Press conference interrupted by state secretary
STAR 10:27:47 Nizar was escorted out of his now emptied room at the state secretariat at 10:15am by Ipoh OCPD who stopped Nizar press conference
What now? Another mammoth rally to show the Sultan the might of "Ketuanan Rakyat"?

What the Sultan did last March. I was reliably informed of this story only yesterday. So, before anyone thinks of burning down Ipoh and Kuala Kangsar or fight till the last drop of blood, listen up. This was how it was told to me:

"I know that you do not know what Sultan Azlan Shah did last March when UMNO, the party with the biggest number of ADUN seats, sought his consent to re-form the state government of Perak. Not many people know. I'm going to tell you so that you will know that the Sultan has acted in the best interest of his State and his Rakyat in the case of Nizar.

"You see, on the night of March 8, after securing more Adun seats than the other parties, UMNO made a representation to the Sultan to form a new state government.

"But Sultan Azlan is a wise Sultan. He knows the law and he could read the situation well. He did not accede to UMNO's request even though UMNO had won the most number of seats compared with DAP, PAS, or PKR.

"So the Sultan told UMNO that he had a feeling that DAP, PAS and PKR would join hands and if they do so UMNO will not have the support of the majority in the state assembly. He requested that UMNO wait until had had mete the reps from DAP, PAS and PKR.

"That was how the Sultan called in all the DAP, PAS, and PKR state assemblymen. He decided after that to allow Pakatan Rakyat to form the new state government in Perak. The rest is history. Or, rather, was history.

"You see, Sultan Azlan, our former Yang diPertuan Agong, is a professional and he knows his law better than you and I, Nizar or Anwar. He was the former Lord President."

In Malaysian cyberspace, "reliably informed" could mean a tall story, so don't just take my word for it. Read also what constituional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi had to say here [Not in Constitution, but Sultan can dismiss MB].

And Big Dog writes about "ingkar", which is the correct Malay translation for defiance against one's Sultan.

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Dear Governor Jindal,

Please, please, please reject federal stimulus funding; we'll get to find out if someone who rejects federal money can get elected dogcatcher in Baton Rouge.

Yours truly,


Jindal is far too smart to actually reject the funding (like Alaska and so many other red states, Louisiana is utterly dependent on the federal government its leaders purport to despise), but I suspect he'll pay a local political price even if the legislature overrides. What this nonsense reveals is a pretty straightforward list of the Republican governors who have Presidential ambition; any governor who supported the stimulus would come under severe attack during the 2012 primary.

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Mat Marshall is getting a tatoo...

... or, at least he will be if he loses his argument with me over at Down With Absolutes.

Mat wants proof in a naturalistic sense that god exists, and--not to put too fine a point on it--he wants it by or before March 7. Apparently the apocalypse occurs the next day and he doesn't want to miss the Rapture.

If you satisfy him that god exists, he gets the tatoo of your choice in the location of your choice.

So many of my good friends and readers here are confirmed atheists and agnostics that I thought you might have some fun reading (or even commenting upon) my attempts to get Mat decorated...

All good fun, but worth thinking about.

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Bailout of Water Concessionaires Begins

Almost as if on cue, the Federal Government has dismissed the Selangor state government's attempts to return the rights of cheap water and efficient water supply to the people of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Two days ago, National Commission of Water Services (SPAN), on behalf of the Ministry of Energy, Water & Communications, surprised the state and the public by declaring that the Federal Government will unilaterally proceed to negotiate with the water concessionaires in the state directly, by-passing the state.

The CEO of SPAN, Dato Teo Yen Hua (one of those behind the failed original water privatisation exercise which screwed Malaysians throughout the country in the first place) gave some flimsy excuse of an alleged non-existent deadline which was missed by less than week, acting almost like a lackey for the concessionaires.

This came while the state government was still waiting for a response from the respective concessionaires on our earlier buy back offer. In fact, the SPAN U-turn trespasses the constitutional rights of the state and the Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim rightly rapped SPAN and demanded that Dato 'mischievous' Teo declare his interest in the matter.

It was a clear attempt at sabotaging the state negotiations as the concessionaires will clearly reject the offers by the state as they know that the Federal Government will definitely pay much more money to take back their concessions!

Unsurprisingly, as if on cue, these concessionaires rejected Selangor's offer today (Puncak Niaga & Syabas here, Gamuda & Kumpulan Perangsang here) while obviously twiddingly their thumbs and licking their lips for a much more lucrative offer from the BN Government to line their pockets.

As highlighted in my earlier post, the Minister in this case has near absolute powers to determine the outcome of the restructuring exercise. It now appears that he will not use these powers to protect the rights and interests of the rakyat, but instead abuse it only to enrich and bailout the water concession cronies. The country is getting raped twice, right before our very eyes.

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TUESDAY @ 8 PM: Dr. Nigel Ashford of IHS to speak on "Changing the World for Liberty"

"Changing the World for Liberty"
Dr. Nigel Ashford of the Institute for Humane Studies
Tuesday (2/17), 8 PM, 303 Hamilton

Join us for a special meeting this Tuesday with Dr. Nigel Ashford of the Institute for Humane Studies. Dr. Ashford will speak for about 30 minutes on "Changing the World for Liberty," and will then open up for questions and discussion.

A professor of politics, Dr. Ashford has written widely on the subject of liberty, and has worked for a number of libertarian and free-market think tanks. This is an excellent opportunity to learn from a respected political expert within the libertarian movement. A more detailed biography can be found here.

This week's meeting will be earlier than usual, at 8 PM in 303 Hamilton. Please come on time so as to not interrupt Dr. Ashford's talk, and bring your liberty-minded friends!

If you would be interested in joining us for dinner with Dr. Ashford before the event, let me know; we have room for a few more people. Shoot us an email at

See you Tuesday!

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No Investments

The clients who trusted Bernard L. Madoff still do not know exactly what he did with their money. But they know what he did not do with it: He did not buy any of those blue-chip stocks and Treasury bills listed on their account statements over the last 13 years.

The court-appointed trustee who is winding down Mr. Madoff’s business said on Friday that his team had searched records going back almost to 1993 and found no evidence that any securities were bought for investors during that time.

One theory had been that Madoff was investing, but that at some point the investments went south, and he couldn't pay off all of his commitments. Turns out not so much; just a straightforward pyramidponzi scheme from the start.

Note to self: After establishing extremely lucrative pyramidponzi scheme, make CERTAIN to regularly update escape plans...

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Komikazi liberalism mugs Tennessee governor

Opinion Journal:

"You have the spotlight shined on you and then come along and get mugged." That's how Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, describes his recent ambush by after his name was floated as a possible secretary of Health and Human Services.

Mr. Bredesen would seem to be the kind of pragmatic problem-solver that President Obama claims to favor. He's a Democrat elected twice in a red state and has been the CEO of Nashville-based HealthAmerica Corp. More important, he has seen how easily hopes for "universal coverage" can be dashed against the realities of cost and perverse incentives.

Mr. Bredesen came into office in 2003 when the TennCare Medicaid program was bankrupting his state. Launched in 1994 on the promise that it could expand coverage and lower costs via subsidies and managed care, the program had grown to consume a third of the state budget. TennCare participants paid virtually nothing, so they had no incentive to control costs.

The Governor spent two years trimming around the edges but was stymied by lawsuits and critics unhappy with any benefit limits. In 2005, he finally struck at the core of the program by paring back eligibility. About 170,000 people were cut from TennCare rolls in the first year, and some 320,000 have faced benefit cuts over three years.

Then Mr. Bredesen tried a different idea: He offered state-subsidized insurance to low-income workers, but with incentives to control costs, including co-pays and monthly premiums. The plan includes a cap on benefits of $25,000 a year. That's not enough to cover catastrophic medical events, but it does cover the health-care needs of most in the program. Monthly premiums are $150, with the state, employers and employees each picking up a third of the tab.

For MoveOn and the single-payer lobby, Mr. Bredesen's approach is unacceptable because government doesn't run everything. In a petition it has been circulating, MoveOn says that Mr. Bredesen would be a "bad choice" to run HHS because he "gutted" TennCare and made a "fortune acquiring and running HMOs." Never mind that TennCare was breaking the state before Mr. Bredesen arrived.


The MoveOn Democrats are desperate for rationed health care that will bankrupt the country that is already being pushed to the edge by the big Democrat stimulus package monstrosity. Obama needs to stand up to MoveOn on this before they ruin his presidency.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Defections and [hail Pak Lah!] more defections

You can check out anytime you like
But you can never leave. - Hotel California
I'm not sure what or how to make out of the circus in Perak.
1. Did the two PKR men quit or were they sacked? [Two PKR Assemblymen in Perak resign]
2. Were they abducted by their political rivals or did they stay away from their pursuing comrades? [Two PKR State assemblymen deny quitting]
3. Are their resignations legal and Constitutional? [Resignations Unconstitutional]

One thing I'm sure about is that those who want Pak Lah to stay on as PM will hail him no matter what. And Pak Lah says there WILL BE defections from PKR. [Pakatan Rakyat reps may join Umno]
So hail Pak Lah, no?
"They want to join because they are confident of Umno's struggle, so we will accept them. When they submit their forms, then we will make an announcement." - [Defection drama in Perak]
If you are suffering from headaches over the defection issue, despair! Because Panadol Actifast dah habis di Ipoh.

Btw, my view on defections is quite simple: it's politician nature. You want to stop defections, you introduce anti-hopping laws. Some says that will stifle democracy but they stifle democracy anyway.
My view on defectors is also simple: they are turncoats. You can't really trust them. But then, who really trust politicians, anyway?
Additional notes: It is different if you are an ordinary member of Umno and decides to quit to join Pakatan or you are a member of PKR and you decide to quit to join BN. That, in my book, is not a defection.
But if you are a Member of Parliament or State Assemblyman of BN and you defect to Pakatan and suddenly you are a PKR MP or Adun, that's something else.

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