Sunday, March 28, 2010


Here's a particularly troublesome paradigm that I've noticed among people, especially that very curious breed that calls themselves voters.

Its called Populist Political Mentality.

The premise is very simple. To victims affected by this disorder, it means that whoever is in power must give them what they want (not need) as quickly as possible, else, regardless of what else this government did for them, they'll not vote for it. Another defining characteristic of this group is the complete unwillingness to sacrifice short-term benefits for extreme long-term gain, as well as being extremely gullible to populist statements by irresponsible politicians and thus, judging by their hearts and never with their heads.

These people are the American 'Tea-Partiers', who would rather let people die due to a lack of health insurance just because they feel the government shouldn't interfere in personal healthcare. These people are the Greeks who vote a new government in to slash the debt, yet riot when the government talks about going thrifty to save cash. These people are also, tragically, the Malaysians who would never allow prices to be raised, despite the deficit reaching 47 billion ringgit last year.

Populism does go a long way in helping to fish for votes, especially from Low Information Voters. But its real cost is terrible. It causes a rapid cooling of political favor towards a certain candidate once he's been elected and finds out that getting parliamentary approval can be slow and agonising. At the same time, people become more willing to vote for the next flashy opponent who comes with all style and little substance (insert Sarah Palin joke here). And it means that these opponents (like the US Republicans) will keep blocking necessary legislation to keep up the image of the bold, upstart opponent.

In Malaysia, PPM often causes displays of hypocrisy in people, who typically complain of higher prices, yet spend on things like smartphones for all the kids before they start school, etc, etc. Sure, there's nothing wrong with buying goods, but when there is a debt crisis looming that could affect you much worse in future, why complain about reduced subsidies and yet splurge unnecessarily?

When countries go bankrupt after excessive borrowing to support a PPM infested population, bad -no, terrible- things happen to its people. Stock markets worldwide crash, the people lose ALL forms of government benefits, salaries are trimmed and the currency becomes worthless, driving up prices far more than they would have been had subsidies been slashed earlier on.

PPMs effects vary depending on the kind of policy attacked by the government. In more advanced democracies, where people argue about the environment, healthcare, nuclear energy and such, an attack would be something like climate change doesn't exist, or bluefin tuna should continue to be fished. Either way, the effects are destructive, silly and unnecessary.

So, lets start acting with a little bit more maturity, and be prepared to make some sacrifices and judge things by what is being said, not how loudly people say it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Going green is one of the hottest issues around right now (apart from the recent string of celebrity sex scandals). Almost every major company (and a few definitely un-major ones) now have some product, service or initiative that promises to be green.

But are they?
The comic is a perfect example of greenwashing- its meaning, and its dangers.

There is plenty of evidence to prove plenty of these wrong. Resoundingly so. So much so that the term greenwashing was coined to refer to the "practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly, such as by presenting cost cuts as reductions in use of resources.It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing"- quoted from Wikipedia.

Anyway, one of the biggest greenwashing scams are the cleaning up of rivers through the throwing of EM mudballs into rivers. The story goes that the microbes in the mudballs digest the pollution in the rivers. Hundreds of politicians (who really should know better, but hey, they ARE politicians), corporate figures (who need to be seen doing SOMETHING "green" for the dullards who are pressmen), NGOs, old wives (who need something to do in their retirement) and school kids (this is one reason why many grow into classic Malaysians), gather round and hurl balls of mud into rivers, then go home feeling all saintly because they made a difference.
Note the number of wealthy looking Malaysians and incredibly misled do-gooders. Wonder why none of the reporters had the sense to report the truth.

Some difference. It turns out that EM mudballs have to be thrown continually into a river to produce even a small effect, and this results in a tremendous cost to those involved. Money which could be spent really going green- like installing LED bulbs, or replacing the company cars with Priuses. In the worst case scenario, these disillusioned masses of old wives, CEOs and government officers could be doing serious damage to river ecology by throwing billions of microorganisms into the river and turning it into a giant microbe reactor site.

What if some sort of mutant emerges from Sungai Kinta and swallows up SMK. St. Michaels?
SMK. St. Michaels, located next to the banks of Sg. Kinta, where a massive, environmentally unfriendly project is going on. Lets hope they don't start throwing EM balls in there to 'go green'.

Another great lie we are all swallowing is the so-called green efforts by petroleum companies. I'm sure you've seen those wonderful chalk-drawn ads by Shell showing a complex but meaningless diagram that supposedly ends up with a bottle of green natural gas.

Excuse me?
Very nice, but can anyone at Shell tell us what in the name of Charles Darwin does this have to do with going green?

In case the numskulls at Shell haven't noticed, NG isn't much greener than petroleum. How about pouring those precious ad dollars into solar power at Shell offices? And that includes showing us how much of their money they put in, not one ad about some obscure wind plant somewhere .Or what about really throwing its' full weight behind a climate deal, instead of leaving world leaders afraid to offend the big oil companies with tough environmental laws? And, no, "clean coal" doesn't count as going green.
This is coal, and clean coal will only exist if the world's entire population became blind.

If you've actually held a piece of coal, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


The UTP Inter-School Debate Finals were on March 3rd. Our school very graciously agreed to send a busload of around 40 Form 1 and Form 2 supporters. Delightful little creatures they were, although they casually ruined our chances of getting any shut-eye.The gallant debaters of SMI after qualifying for the finals. From left- James, me, Kenny and Fred, the reserve.

So, the debate. It was close, but that was to be expected, given that our opponents were Malay College Kuala Kangsar. They are exceptionally good, with a powerful command of English and a heavy assortment of facts, figures and ideas.

They were proposing the motion "Health, Safety and Environment Education should be Introduced in Schools." Which left us opposing, a somewhat tougher battle. And the result?

Since many already know it, I'm just going to come out with the fact that we lost.

It was close, very much so, and we did speak well, and the judgement could have gone to us as well. But we could have done a whole lot better, by focusing more on certain key issues, and by explaining some a little more clearly. I, personally, could have touched on a number of more powerful rebuttals. But well..

Thanks to all who helped. The school for their support, our teacher advisors, Mr. Rajan and Mr. Waran, our family members, and the supporters who went with us. Apologies for not turning in a win. And to the rest of the squad: I'm proud to have spoken with you all. You guys rock!

Its' ok though. Second place isn't too bad, considering. And it turns out that the main Parliamentary English Debate competition is back on. So, onward.

(Many parts of this post have been written with a lot more optimism than I really feel)