Wednesday, August 7, 2013

May the festive spirit of Hari Raya Aidilfitri strengthen our resolve to begin anew!

To all those celebrating with their loved ones,
please drive safe & return with spirits refreshed.

This beautiful & bountiful land
is ours to reclaim from
falsehood, injustice & tyranny!

George Duke, weaver of dreams, a musician's musician, has gone home...

It has been confirmed that veteran jazz, R&B, funk and fusion keyboard virtuoso George Duke has died aged 67, after battling and being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This news comes after a difficult period for the acclaimed keyboardist and composer whose wife Corine passed away just over a year ago. Duke's record label Concord-Telarc have confirmed he died on 5 August in Los Angeles, his passing coming after he had just launched his latest album, DreamWeaver, which he’d dedicated to his wife’s memory and had debuted at #1 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart. Mark Wexler, General Manager of the Concord-Telarc Label Group has stated: “We are all devastated by the sad news of George’s passing. He was a great man, a legendary, one-of-a-kind artist; and our hearts go out to his family. George will be missed by all.”

George Duke’s career spanned jazz, funk and fusion beginning with his modern own jazz group in the 1960s backing the likes of Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon, but he was soon moving into the fusion terrain that would define much of his career as he began a longstanding musical partnership with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty in the early 1970s. He was invited to join Frank Zappa’s ground breaking band The Mothers Of Invention and worked with them from 1969-1975, while also going on to work with Sonny Rollins and co-lead a band with Billy Cobham. His solo career began to take shape too as he released a number of classic albums for MPS and Epic including Faces in Reflection, I Love the Blues, The Aura Will Prevail, Brazilian Love Affair, Master of the Game and Thief In the Night.

In the 1970s his producing credits also began to mount up and included work with Raul de Souza, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and A Taste of Honey as well as many funk and R&B artists such as the Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson, 101 North, George Howard, Gladys Knight, Najee, Take 6, Howard Hewett, Chanté Moore, Everette Harp, Rachelle Ferrell (his key collaborator in the early-1990s), Gladys Knight, Keith Washington, Gary Valenciano, Johnny Gill and Anita Baker. The 1980s saw him team up with bass icon Stanley Clarke in their ongoing Clarke/Duke jazz fusion project as well as sessions with Miles Davis, while the 1990s and 2000s saw Duke focus on his solo career as producer/composer and performer – leading one of the leanest and meanest live bands around.

Duke had recently returned to form in the studio and remained a hugely popular live draw at festivals and jazz clubs around the world. He will be sorely missed by his legions of fans from both R&B/soul and jazz-fusion worlds.

[Source: Jazzwise Magazine]

Featuring George Duke on keyboard & lead vocals

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Two bombs killed nearly 250,000 people 68 years ago. Never, never, never again!

The first deployment of atomic weaponry in war: Hiroshima destroyed on 6 August 1945

The atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan were conducted by the United States during the final stages of World War II in 1945. The two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.

The aftermath of "Little Boy" (code name for the atomic device that leveled Hiroshima)

"Little Boy" - innocuous name for
a diabolical device that claimed nearly
170,000 lives 
Following a firebombing campaign that destroyed many Japanese cities, the Allies prepared for a costly invasion of Japan. The war in Europe ended when Nazi Germany signed its instrument of surrender on 8 May, but the Pacific War continued.

Together with the United Kingdom and the Republic of China, the United States called for a surrender of Japan in the Potsdam Declaration on 26 July 1945, threatening Japan with "prompt and utter destruction." The Japanese government ignored this ultimatum. American airmen dropped Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, followed by Fat Man over Nagasaki on 9 August.*

Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day.

Mushroom cloud over Nagasaki
as "Fat Man" is detonated
on 9 August 1945, killing at least
80,000 civilians
The Hiroshima prefecture health department estimated that, of the people who died on the day of the explosion, 60% died from flash or flame burns, 30% from falling debris and 10% from other causes. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness. In a US estimate of the total immediate and short term cause of death, 15–20% died from radiation sickness, 20–30% from burns, and 50–60% from other injuries, compounded by illness. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizeable garrison.

On 15 August, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies, signing the Instrument of Surrender on 2 September, officially ending World War II. The bombings led, in part, to post-war Japan's adopting Three Non-Nuclear Principles, forbidding the nation from nuclear armament. The bombings' role in Japan's surrender and their ethical justification are still debated.

[Source: Wikipedia]

Hell on Earth: a scene from Dante's Inferno following the blast
Victim of radiation burns in Nagasaki
Isn't it ironic that Japan was forced to agree never to arm itself with nuclear weapons - even though it was clearly not the aggressor in this instance? Today the two most warlike nations with nuclear capability are the United States and Israel (an undeclared nuclear power).

The tragic aftermath
Nameless, blameless victim of human insanity
Children who miraculously survived the bombing of Hiroshima

Hiroshima & Nagasaki: A Zionist Experiment?

*It was only after the war that the American public learned about Japan's efforts to bring the conflict to an end. Chicago Tribune reporter Walter Trohan, for example, was obliged by wartime censorship to withhold for seven months one of the most important stories of the war. In an article that finally appeared August 19, 1945, on the front pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times-Herald, Trohan revealed that on January 20, 1945, two days prior to his departure for the Yalta meeting with Stalin and Churchill, President Roosevelt received a 40-page memorandum from General Douglas MacArthur outlining five separate surrender overtures from high-level Japanese officials. (The complete text of Trohan's article is in the Winter 1985-86 Journal, pp. 508-512.)

This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at the formal surrender ceremony on September 2 - that is, complete surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. [Read the full report here.]

Monday, August 5, 2013

If I were a secret policeman...

After a few of my friends got thrown into Kamunting during Dr M's infamous Operation Lalang in October 1987, I became rather paranoid about the Malaysian police, especially the Special Branch or Malaysian secret police. Every time I heard a crackle or mysterious whir while talking on the phone I immediately suspected my line was tapped.

It wasn't a healthy state of mind, to be living under a dark cloud of Orwellian fear.

My clearest memory of the Mahathir era is how afraid people were to talk politics in public places. Every time the name "Mahathir" was mentioned, everyone would quickly look around to see if there were suspicious SB types in the vicinity. That was Dr M's greatest contribution to the nation - he turned it into a police state akin to East Germany during the Cold War period.

Talk to Dr Munawar Anees about this, if you think I exaggerate.

Don't point with cretinous pride at the KLCC Twin Towers or the colossal architecture of Putrajaya. Any tyrant with unlimited access to the public purse can build any number of monuments to their own pharaonic megalomania.

I love elephants - but not when they're painted white! Do we really need an "official residence" for our top civil servant that costs the public RM9 million a year to rent and maintain? What an atrocious scam that is!

Anyway, I decided it was stupid to live in constant anxiety about the secret police. It's true the army and police ultimately exist to protect the privileged few from the wrath of the exploited multitudes whose toil and drudgery support the system; and so long as the masses remain asleep, the status quo remains unthreatened. However, the situation dramatically changes when a few leaders become enlightened and realize the unsustainability and inherent instability of any top-heavy feudalistic social hierarchy.

One day I stumbled upon a small shop in the Chow Kit area selling trophies, medals, military insignia, and police paraphernalia. I bought a PVC wallet emblazoned with the PDRM logo and began pretending I was an undercover cop. It was astounding how swiftly that altered my perception of the police force. Each time I spotted a cop on the street or driving around in a patrol car, I experienced the pleasant buzz of bumping into someone from your hometown when you're traveling abroad. Soon, I began to harbor friendly feelings towards the police, rather than hostility.

This simple game had far-reaching consequences. I began to relive my childhood fantasies of being an undercover cop (I had been deeply impressed as a 9-year old by the Hollywood glamorization of the FBI in a movie called The FBI Story, starring James Stewart).

As a teenager I relished a long-running series of vivid dreams in which I featured as a top-ranking Bond-style secret agent and death-defying commando, narrowly escaping the most harrowing situations and invariably getting to kiss the leading lady.

Never underestimate the power of the imagination. I experienced a major shift in my attitude towards security personnel. Now, each time I was on the phone and heard some static, I'd simply assume my colleagues in Bukit Aman were on the job, recording my wit and wisdom for posterity.

It's been some years since I played this little game, but I can snap into this mode of consciousness anytime I want. It allows me some insight into the mind of the secret policeman and an empathetic glimpse of the policeman's intrinsic humanity.

In any case, as I grew older I began to see through the façade of the power structure and realized that there was no government on earth worth killing and dying for - they were all fronts for an invisible network of demented and bedeviled plutocrats. If I were a true-life James Bond, I'd opt to join the rebel forces or drop out completely.

Around that period, I had an unexpected encounter with a Special Branch officer planted in the middle-class audience at a British Council screening of Terry Gilliam's cult classic, Brazil. As the lights went on after the show, my companion expressed a bit of confusion about the whole point of the movie. I told her it illustrated the stupidity of governments. As we filed out of the British Council (which was then located near Bukit Aman), a mild-mannered Indian gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could have a quick word with me.

"Sure," I said, and told my companion to wait in the car for me. My suspicions were confirmed when the guy introduced himself as a Special Branch officer. Our conversation lasted no more than 15 minutes but what he essentially wanted to communicate to me was that I ought to be more careful what opinions I expressed in public.

"Walls have ears," the SB guy said, which elicited a sermon from me about the questionable morality of serving an immoral government. I could sense that this guy was actually a decent bloke, just a bit jaded from having been a copper almost his entire life. He was due for retirement in a couple of years. Finally, the guy confessed to me that he was utterly demoralized by the dirty politics he had seen in the line of duty. "Sometimes I wish somebody would just press the red button and blow up the whole world. It's already too rotten to save!"

"It's sad to see you've become such a nihilist," I said. "I can understand your viewpoint, but I believe change is the only constant, and that the status quo is really not quite as static as most people believe."

We parted with a friendly handshake but our little unscheduled chat left me with much food for thought. I could see myself in his predicament. A decent bloke stuck for years in an indecent job, carrying out stupid orders from superiors he had no real respect for. The only way he could deal with his disillusionment was to become a crusty old cynic.

Of course, he could have quit - like my friend Johnny Goh, a former SB officer who told me he was due for a promotion in 1998, but he felt so sickened by the manner in which the police were being used against Anwar Ibrahim, he decided to resign and start a stationery business. Not everyone has the wherewithal to begin anew after decades in a particular job.

And not too many have the balls to blow the whistle on the evils inherent in the system. Nevertheless, the few that do have the clarity of mind, the courage, and the strength of their conscience to do so may well be Malaysia's only hope at this point.

I know that for every crooked cop in the PDRM, there must be at least 500 who are still straight; who still believe that the police ought to be a force for the public good, not a bunch of uniformed thugs serving a handful of white-collar gangsters. Indeed, there would be absolutely no way out of our present mess if there weren't ultimately a lot more honest citizens than criminals in our country.

Call me a perpetual fool, if you will, but I remain convinced that there will always be an inner core of decency to be found in any institution - even one that has been corrupted and twisted by years of despotic misrule. Most times, the decent chaps choose to earn their wages and keep a low profile, convinced it's beyond their power to reform their workplace, safer to simply serve out their time and collect a comfortable pension.

So let me dedicate this blogpost to my friends and fellow warriors in the Special Branch, some of whom have been diligently monitoring what I say and occasionally leaving cryptic comments on my blog. I'm sure many of you love this country as much as I do. I'm sure many of you would like to see real change happen - especially regime change, even if you may be a bit uncertain as to what these changes mean in terms of special privileges for the Malays and whatnot.

May I suggest you pause for a moment and look at the situation from a purely HUMAN perspective - forget about bangsa dan agama for a minute. I bet most of you have enough intelligence to know that sort of talk is complete hogwash anyway. Your big bosses aren't particularly religious people - they only believe in the unholy power that money buys - the money stolen from all of us.

You guys (and gals) are merely pawns in their evil game. Same as anybody else. Think on that, please, and act on what your heart prompts you to do.

Remember how the Marcos regime finally ended in the Philippines? Ferdinand's downfall was triggered by a small group of women hired by the Election Commission to monitor the vote-counting process. Realizing someone had tampered with the computers, they decided to blow the whistle by fleeing the Election Commission headquarters and running across the street to seek sanctuary in a church - where they were greeted by the international media who were only too happy to broadcast abroad the news of gross electoral fraud. Within days, Marcos had to flee Manila with whatever he and his acquisitive wife Imelda could carry by hand.

[First published 15 April 2009 as part of an essay series titled "Where Malaysia Is Headed..."]

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The politics of xenophobia (or the short happy life of a dog named Senget)...

This is the tale of an odd-looking little dog I rescued from the street early in 2010...

I saw this rat-like creature running on spindly legs after a motorbike. A few moments later it was chasing a 4-wheel drive in the opposite direction. It must have got separated from its siblings and mother, I thought. So I picked the critter up and took him out of harm's way, intending to investigate where he came from and return him to his family.

Prudence, one of the Magick River bitches, had just given birth to eight healthy pups - actually seven, as she slept on one of them overnight and the poor thing suffocated. The spindly-legged mutt was about the same size as Prudence's own pups even though his features looked more mature. Prudence herself had been rescued a year earlier from Kuala Kubu Bharu where I'd spotted her with a noose around her neck, being dragged along the road by a fireman. I stopped and asked why he was using a noose on a puppy and he explained that the dog was pissing inside the fire station, so he had to drag her as far away as possible before releasing her. The noose on a stick was improvised so he could handle the mutt without touching her.

Two of my dogs had recently been murdered by some drunken Orang Asli, so I decided to adopt this street urchin who looked like a Prudence to me. Roger was delighted to welcome her into the menagerie and treated her like a princess, constantly grooming her. Anyway, as it turned out, Roger didn't get to deflower Prudence. Mary's macho dog Baggins got in first.

And now, Prudence had her full quota of eight pups again. After rejecting the newcomer initially, she relented and allowed him to join the other pups whenever they suckled. A few days later the foundling appeared sufficiently well-fed, so I took him over to a neighbor's house where a few spindly-legged pups had been spotted. It was obvious that the runaway had been part of that litter. However, the neighbor vehemently denied that the pup belonged to her. Looking at the four other pups under her house, it was impossible not to conclude they were from the same mother. Yet, this woman was telling me an outright lie without flinching.

Sad to say, there are lots of people who tell lies as a matter of course. It's a survival mechanism young children acquire to avoid punishment or deflect responsibility. Those who become compulsive liars often believe their own lies, once the tendency becomes ingrained in the chromosomes. Hence we have to deal with entire communities of congenital liars who assume everybody else also lies, and that's it's perfectly okay to lie. When their own tribal chiefs are in the habit of lying their way out of tight spots, honesty becomes an extremely rare commodity. But I digress.

After asking around and getting no satisfactory leads, it became obvious that we were stuck with the little foundling. He adapted fast to his new reality and soon charmed his way into Mary's heart and onto her veranda and furniture. She named him Senget ("slanting" in Malay) because he had a habit of looking at people with one ear up and the other down.

While Senget was happily romping with the other pups, the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (now renamed Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli or JAKOA, in line with Barisan Nasional's policy of sneakily acquiring control of all Orang Asli Reserve Lands) was working overtime doing what they do best...

In April 2010 JAKOA had been busy campaigning on behalf of the Barisan Nasional (anyone who feels government agencies should be politically neutral might wish to consider migrating - unless we succeed in forcibly removing these deadbeats from the catbird seat they've occupied for 50 years through an electoral force majeure). They had arranged for Umno members and pro-Umno NGOs to encamp themselves for nearly a whole week in Pertak Village just prior to the 25 April by-election.

During the campaign period JAKOA was acutely irked by the fact that a couple of houses at the far end of the village were proudly displaying Pakatan Rakyat insignia. Traditionally, all Orang Asli communities could be counted upon to vote Barisan Nasional - they really were given no choice, since JAKOA officials physically escort them to their voting booths - and pay them a cash incentive in two instalments - one before casting their ballot, another afterwards, provided they voted "correctly."

The Batin or Headman of Pertak Village was incensed that this time around the Barisan Nasional had totally bypassed him and handed at least RM7,000 to one of the junior village officials under the JAKOA's tutelage. The money was supposed to be distributed amongst 70 registered voters to reward their voting for the political status quo. There could have been an extra RM1,000 to buy his personal loyalty and support. However, the guy decided to keep mum and pocket all the cash - and that's what infuriated the Headman, not the fact that serious corruption was involved. RM100 can buy quite a few bottles of unbranded whiskey.

Barisan Nasional won this by-election (by hook and by crook) and that's when JAKOA began plotting to pull out as many thorns in its side as possible. They filed a report to Selangor JAKOA complaining that "outsiders" were influencing the Orang Asli against the government. Some of these "outsiders" had actually embedded themselves within Pertak Village by renting a few empty houses from Orang Asli families.

I got wind of this (and a rather stinky wind it was too) when a Special Branch officer called me, politely inviting me to have a friendly chat with him and his colleagues. From this I learnt that JAKOA had been unhappy about the presence of large numbers of "outsiders" in what they continue to view as their fiefdom. Apart from the anti-BN campaigners during the by-election, they also disapproved of the constant stream of "Mat Sallehs" arriving and departing from Magick River.

JAKOA were referring specifically to the Love Bus, who represent all the positive human qualities they themselves desperately lack. The Love Bus phenomenon is, in effect, part of the manifestation of Heaven on Earth - and this really scares all those who have been programmed to serve as mindless agents of Hell on Earth (any reality where you can get thrown in jail for 20 years for eating pussy, sucking dick, or lubricating your butthole- and risk getting caned for knocking back a couple of beers or getting clobbered to death in police custody for being dark-skinned - is undoubtedly Hell on Earth).

That's right. It's really all about marking one's territory and protecting one's own culture from deleterious western influences, isn't it? Every redneck rabble-rouser knows how to scare his rustic audiences into fearing the pendatang (immigrant) bogeyman. What JAKOA has been systematically doing over the last 50 and specifically over the last 20 years is to encourage the new generation of Orang Asli to think and feel and react like pathologically insecure and aggressively territorial Umno Malays. The embracing Islam bit is difficult to pull off as no Orang Asli will ever give up eating the flesh of recently killed wild boar. Nor are the menfolk likely to become teetotalers. Indeed, alcoholism has taken a turn for the worse since one of the villagers began selling cheap plonk at RM3 a bottle. In the old days, they had to go all the way to town (8 miles away) to replenish their supply. Now they can score another round of brain-pickling brew just by staggering a few yards up the road.

This is the generation of Orang Asli that grew up being entertained by TV3 and RTM instead of listening in rapture to grandmother and grandfather's stories. All the young ones now own cellphones and motorbikes; a few drive secondhand Proton Wiras, Nissans, and even Pajeros (if they happen to have worked in JAKOA and acquired the art of pocketing commissions from loggers and developers).

Long story short, JAKOA instigated a small cabal of Orang Asli in their mid-30s into putting pressure on my brother-in-law Ali to terminate the rental agreement that had existed since 2003 with friends from KL who appreciated access to an idyllic weekend retreat. They also browbeat another family into not accepting rent from a Canadian musician who had been using one of the houses as a Southeast Asian base for a couple of years. The families were informed that these houses belonged to the government - and the Orang Asli required clearance from JAKOA if they wished to sublease their homes to anybody. Complete crap, of course, since the Orang Asli have been issued 99-year leases on their homes and they are at liberty to sublease any houses they don't actually occupy.

The upshot of this sudden surge of xenophobia and unfriendliness towards orang asing (literally, "aliens") was that the house next to mine was handed over by the JAKOA to Wati - a single mother who reportedly converted to Islam a few years ago. I've known this woman since she was 13 years old and she has always been friendly and sweet-natured. However, she met an Orang Asli guy named Man from a different village about a year ago and he moved in with her. They now have several kids and two houses in the same village.

Within hours of becoming our neighbors, Man began to cause ill feeling. Every time any of our dogs barked at him, he would confront them with maximum aggression rather than attempt to befriend them. Orang Asli are used to dogs. They have kept dogs for thousands of years. Surely they know that dogs react to body language. If they show no fear and send out friendly vibes, the mutts will immediately regard them as persona grata. Whipping out a can of insect spray and blasting the vile poison in the dogs' faces is certainly no way to establish good relations with one's new neighbors.

One morning I heard a loud yelping and as I went out to investigate I saw Senget running away with an intensely traumatized look on his face. Man was holding a catapult, his face contorted by unmitigated hate.

"Why did you shoot the dog?" I asked and he gestured towards a small tree he had just planted in the front garden. "The dog was disturbing the plant," he muttered. Well, there was no plant in that spot the day before, so how would any of the dogs know to avoid running into the tiny tree? He could have put a low fence around the seedling to protect it, which is what anyone with a functional brain would do. I shook my head in utter disbelief that this guy could be so dumb. It seemed as if he was going out of his way to be a hostile neighbor. This had never happened in the village in all the years I had lived here.

A few hours later my wife announced that Senget had died. I found him rigid beneath a clump of banana trees. His tiny body was already in an advanced state of rigor mortis. We found no visible wounds on his body, so Man must have aimed for his head and released the stone from his catapult with such unrestrained violence the dog suffered brain hemorrhage and collapsed. Senget was buried just before dusk. I felt angry and sad that he had been so cruelly punished for doing what any young dog would do. We discussed the possibility that Senget might have been a nature spirit in a dog's body. When Mary saw Man walk past the next day, she asked if he knew he had killed our dog, and he just turned his head away without answering. He has avoided looking us in the eye since. His wife informed me she had scolded him for being such an unthinking hothead.

Not much good that did. In the following weeks Man persisted in antagonizing my mutts by coming home tipsy late at night; waking me up with his bushcutter on a Sunday morning, and conspicuously leaving a tiny clump of grass uncut just because it was growing a couple of feet on our side of the garden; and, saddest of all, advertising his poor choice of role models by sporting a Barisan Nasional T-shirt. [As fate would have it, our Neighbor from Hell was forced to move out less than a year later - after he attempted to rape my wife's 11-year-old niece.]

All this negative energy that has been injected into what used to be a fairly contented and peaceful village can be felt throughout the entire country. The insidious pall of dark energy became a tangible sense of evil in early 2009, when an innocent 20-year-old named A. Kugan was pummeled to death in police custody and the entire government went into overdrive to cover up the atrocity. Nothing has been resolved.

Within weeks a popularly elected state government in Perak was toppled by utterly devious means (with royal connivance); and on April 3rd, a pink-lipped crime minister and his ruthlessly ambitious wife were foisted upon us by 191 Umno division chiefs (again with royal acquiescence). Three months after that, a 30-year-old political secretary named Teoh Beng Hock was found dead outside the Selangor headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission after a totally unjustifiable late-night interrogation over a RM2,400 accounting discrepancy. More than four years later, nothing has been resolved either.

Indeed, if you consider the unfortunate turn of events that have befallen this country since 20 October 2006, you're likely to conclude that the ghost of a brutally murdered Mongolian woman will not rest until she sees justice done - and that won't happen till all the thieves and murderers are removed from public office- and all the bigots too.

Thanks for the fond memories, dear Senget.

[First published in September 2010]