For their latest music video, ‘Home Is A Fire’,Death Cab For Cutie collaborated with street artist Shepard Fairey. The outcome is a manifest to the natural link between art and music.

“You can probably see now how these things connect. It was a logical step in my mind to take a song about redefining familiar space and connect it to the visual artistic expression of street art, which also, to me, is rooted in artists redefining familiar spaces” says bassist Nick Harmer, who initiated the collaboration.
‘Home Is A Fire’ talks of endless traffic and the constant fear of shifting plates, both very iconic and significant words to the residents of Los Angeles, where the video was shot. The music video is composed of the juxtaposition of spaces and lyrics. Redefining the places we inhabit, long or short term, seems to be the fundamental message of the song. And what better way to send that message than with the most diffused form of art?
“Street art, like everything, is ephemeral but I hope that in watching this video and listening to the song, people see a little magic and potential in the unappreciated details of the landscape of their lives, no matter how fleeting they may be,” writes Fairey, a man who knows a little bit about the ephemeral nature of projects.
Mariam Mokhtar

edited and posted
Abdul Taib Mahmud’s victory is a hollow one. What is there to be victorious about when you have allegedly cheated and defrauded the people of Sarawak from exercising their true democratic rights? Power is the glue of politics. That is why a government is expected to be in array and opposition generally in disarray. Ideology is a fickle custodian of unity in an age of convenience. Its absence has eliminated the difference between single-party rule and coalition government. Both are held together by individual or sectarian self-interest, which is why they last. Ideology is a differentiator; it makes a partnership untenable even if the partners consider it sustainable. Sentiment is irrelevant to any political marriage. This is true of all democracies where coalitions become necessary. Politicians live for power; why would they invite a premature death?

NONEThere were various allegations of vote-rigging and other voting irregularities, coupled with the rumour that Taib had handed out cash and gifts to voters just before polling day.

We shouldn’t be surprised, as BN has been practising for over three decades, to perfect their technique at cheating. Naturally, the Election Commission has joined the police and the judiciary, to act like it is another extended arm of BN.

The opposition’s impotence to deal with the undesirable outcome of the Sarawak election is very revealing.

In addition, public apathy towards vote-rigging is disgusting. The outrage felt by a few pockets of the community hardly registers. Many Malaysians would prefer to look the other way. They don’t care which party, corrupt or otherwise, wins, as long as they can cari makan.

Those who are still in a state of puzzled excitement over the denouement of the most exhilarating melange of soap opera and crime thriller to appear in the Malaysian media, have clearly never read Agatha Christie’s classic ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

Or seen Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot in the film and TV versions. Poirot’s priceless grey cells went into overdrive and overtime seeking the murderer, who had to be one of the dozen passengers on this fabled train. But those grey cells never failed: they hit upon the startling truth. Everyone was guilty.

A friend had lent me Mahathir Mohamad’s memoir ‘A Doctor in the House‘ to read. This was followed with the request for me to review it. I have read it but would decline his request for its review.

I have a reason for this refusal. It is that Barry Wain (the author of ‘Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times‘) has already made one such authoritative and well-reasoned review inMalaysiakini (April 4, 2011). Any additional attempt on my part would be sheer duplication.

Instead I’d now highlight one major point raised by Wain in his review and use it to ‘review’ Mahathir’s memoir.

It is that Wain claims that Mahathir has used facts mixed with fiction in his writing to become a mixture of both, a ‘faction’. Wain cites the case of the construction of the North-South Expressway of a Mahathir faction and I quote:

“Mahathir claims that ‘eventually a group of Malay contractors was persuaded to build and operate’ the North-South Expressway. Actually, United Engineers (Malaysia) Bhd did not take much persuading. The company was controlled – secretly, for a time – by his Umno and given the contract to build the road and collect the tolls for 30 years to secure the ruling party’s financial base.”

This revelation is very sobering, and I have noted too that Mahathir has used faction constantly during his tenure as prime minister.

I understand that faction is also known as a portmanteau. It is a familiar usage in English, like morphing or fusing ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’ to become smog, and ‘stagnation’ and ‘inflation’ to become stagflation.

I’d highlight another faction which occurred during Mahathir’s time. It’s the two words ‘information’ and ‘entertainment’ morphed to become ‘infotainment’.

I am not aware whether it was Mahathir himself who introduced this fusion to the Malaysian domain. But during his time he made use of the mass media, especially radio and television, to disseminate government information while providing entertainment to the general public.

At first glance there is nothing wrong there.

But soon enough the word ‘information’ had become ‘propaganda’ when only good news (i.e. good things done by the government) were disseminated and highlighted while bad ones suppressed.

It did not end there. ‘Government’ morphed into the ‘national ruling coalition’ or ‘political party’, namely Barisan National (and especially Umno).

When this happened the line between ‘government’ and ‘political party’ disappeared into thin air. Ever since then in this country ‘government’ has always been understood to mean ‘Umno’ and ‘Barisan Nasional’.

Disappearance of the line of separation

To wit, the disappearance of the line of separation between ‘government’ and ‘Barisan National’ has resulted in the people becoming beholden to the whims and designs of the political bureau.

Infotainment has been used by the political leaders to hide their shortcomings, exaggerate their achievements, while moulding the thinking of the people to conform to party design. More than this, the ruling party has gained control of what the people can hear, read, say, see, and most importantly, think.

I am of the opinion that the Mahathir has not only introduced the principle of portmanteau to the Malay thinking domain but had used it constantly, regularly and effectively.

The result has been spectacular. There was the breaking down of the check-and-balance or the separation of power inherent in the democratic system. This was followed by the breaking down of the rule of law, the tampering with the democratic process and the elimination of the transparency, responsibility, and accountability in governance.

Since then civil servants lost their bearing, and instead of showing loyalty to the people they show deference to the political leaders. Indeed the public perception today is that even the AG’s office, the MACC, and the police are beholden to political leaders but not to the national interest and people’s well-being.

Now Mahathir is no longer in the party hierarchy but has left the principle of portmanteau very much alive in the minds of the Malay polity. Portmanteau might well be Mahathir’s gift to the Malay intellect. It is practised even to this day!

To substantiate, let me highlight some ‘products’ of portmanteau gripping the country even now. As it is a product (i.e. the pattern of behaviour arising from the thinking) I have to introduce a new word, it being percefaction, morphed from the words ‘perception’, ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ to label it; with thanks and deference to Wain.

In this case a perception is taken as fact, and this is then disseminated as the Quranic truth, i.e. the perception that everyone else has to subscribe to.

The country is now having a lot of percefactions, under the presentKetuanan Melayu leadership and management. I’d cite a few below examples to illustrate.

The first is the term ‘Ketuanan Melayu‘ itself: just what does this mean and where does its legitimacy lie? Nobody seems to know but the Malays have absorbed it as a ‘given’ factor. To me it’s a coinage that has captured the imagination of the Malay community who then resorts to it to suit their advantage.

Secondly it’s the case of Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa. To him Malay ‘privilege’ (the word used in the constitution) is equitable with ‘right’. So he has been protecting Malay rights while accusing non-Malays of wishing to deny him of this right.

Thirdly, this country is secular with Islam identified as the religion it is associated with. This has been the background and content of the constitution pertaining to religion. But percefaction does not stop bigots from believing and insisting it is the official religion. It did not stop Mahathir from proclaiming Malaysia as an Islamic country in 2001.

The fourth case is the case of Pembela, the Muslim organisation in defence of Islam. Pembela has noted that there has been a decline of Islam in this country. This is of course a debatable point. But Malay percefaction has blamed Christianity as one of the biggest contributing factors for this perceived declined.

Then there is the swearing on the Quran i.e. when a person resorts to swearing on the Islamic holy book to establish a truth when conventional means (like producing facts, evidence, witnesses) are dicey. The on-going Datuk T saga is a case in point.

Re-writing of history

Next is the re-writing of history. This is when Malaysian history is re-written to get rid of unpalatable or non-existing Malay historical facts and replace them with myth, mystery and perhaps a bit of mysticism.

More tellingly, percefaction would tend to confuse the simple mind of the simple-minded Malay, as in the Allah case. Here the Malay would just forbid non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ to mean ‘God’. To him the Islamic God is the One God Almighty, but in Christianity God comes in three forms, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So when it is used by non-Muslims it confuses the Malay no end – and he hates to be confused!

There is a very long list of other percefactions taking place in this country. How could this be happening?

This was made possible when Mahathir made use of one form of percefaction – that ‘might is right’. He has made himself as the moderniser of the country and saviour of the Malay people, and persuade, coerce and force the people believe this. Woe to those who’d disagree and rebel. His memoir is full of this double claim.

To ensure he gets what he wants a whole series of laws were either renewed or legislated, all designed to silence or eliminate dissent. The list is equally long and I’d just mention the ISA, the Sedition Act and the OSA as immediate examples.

I am of course not at all in favour of faction when abused in the manner illustrated above. When improperly used it tends to produce percefaction. It’s might is right supporting stance protects the abusers, and overtly and truly pulled the ignorant by the nose. Quran swearing is a perfect example of such abuse.

Moreover social indices during Mahathir’s time would indicate the ills of percefaction and its precursor faction. The country prospered, yes, but crime rate went up and corruption soared. The economy plunged, the people splintered with many running away to more hospitable countries, investments both foreign and local dried. The entire social fabric of the country has been shaken.

International indices like transparency, per capita income, education standards, and corruption were also plunging down.

All of this happening with the people blissfully believing they were under the good care of a most benevolent, caring, just, fair, and democratic government: the country’s denial mode is rather spectacular, and for this I do not believe Mahathir’s thinking legacy is good for the country.

With this I hope to have appeased my friend who has thoughtfully lent me Mahathir’s memoir.

The lips of royalty are conveniently sealed. This is the rare occasion when we would have welcomed their input, at voicing their displeasure with BN’s version of democracy strangling the nation.

One of my guilty pleasures is the long-running TV show “NCIS,” a drama focused on the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The hero is Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a former Marine and disciplined detective with an uncanny ability to observe and interrogate criminal suspects. He doesn’t say much or display much emotion in the interrogation room — indeed, his cool demeanor is his trademark — yet he is a keen lie-spotter.
Psychological scientists are fascinated by real-life versions of the fictional Gibbs. Detecting lies and liars is essential to effective policing and prosecution of criminals, but it’s maddeningly difficult. Most of us can spot barely more than half of all lies and truths through listening and observation — meaning, of course, that we’re wrong almost as often as we’re right. A half-century of research has done little to polish this unimpressive track record.
But scientists are still working to improve on that, and among them is cognitive psychologist Aldert Vrij of the University of Portsmouth, in the U.K. Vrij has been using a key insight from his field to improve interrogation methods: The human mind, despite its impressive abilities, has limited capacity for how much thinking it can handle at any one time. So demanding additional, simultaneous thought — adding to cognitive “load” — compromises normal information processing. What’s more, lying is more cognitively demanding than telling the truth, so these compromised abilities should show up in detectable behavioral clues.
Why is lying more demanding? Well, imagine for a few minutes that you’re guilty of a murder, and Gibbs is cross-examining you. To start, you need to invent a story, and you also have to monitor that tale constantly so that it’s plausible and consistent with the known facts. That takes a lot of mental effort that innocent truth-tellers don’t have to spend. You also need to actively remember the details of the story you’ve fabricated, so that you don’t contradict yourself at any point. Remembering a fiction is much more demanding than remembering something that actually occurred.
That’s just to start. Because you’re naturally worried about your credibility, you’re most likely trying to control your demeanor. Surprisingly, “looking honest” saps mental energy. And what’s more, you’re not just monitoring yourself; you’re also scanning Gibbs’ face for signs that he’s seeing through your lie. Like an actor, you have the mental demands of staying in character. And finally, you have to suppress the truth so that you don’t let some damning fact slip out, another drain on your mind’s limited supply of fuel. In short, telling the truth is automatic and effortless, and lying is the opposite of that. It’s intentional, deliberate and exhausting.
So how can Gibbs exploit the differing mental experiences of liars and truth-tellers? Here are a few strategies that Vrij and his colleagues have been testing in the laboratory, which they describe in the most recent issue of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.
One intriguing strategy is to demand that suspects tell their stories in reverse. Narrating backward increases cognitive load because it runs counter to the natural forward sequencing of events. It also disrupts the normal reconstruction of past events using mental schemas, which give coherence to isolated events. Since liars already have depleted cognitive resources, they should find this unfamiliar mental exercise more taxing than truth-tellers do — which should increase the likelihood that they will somehow betray themselves. And in fact, that’s just what happens in the lab: Vrij ran an experiment in which half the liars and truth-tellers were instructed to recall their stories in reverse order. When observers later looked at videotapes of the complete interviews, they detected more clues to deceit in the liars who were burdened by this mental task. Indeed, observers correctly spotted only 42 percent of the lies in the control condition — way below average, which means they were hard to spot — but a remarkable 60 percent when the liars were compromised by the reverse storytelling.
Another strategy for increasing liars’ cognitive burden is to insist that suspects maintain eye contact. When people have to concentrate on telling their story accurately — which liars must, more than truth-tellers — they typically look away to some motionless point, rather than directly at the conversation partner. That’s because keeping eye contact is distracting, and makes narration more difficult. Vrij also tested this strategy in the lab, and again observers detected more clues to deceit in those who were required to look the interrogator in the eyes.
NCIS Special Agent Gibbs may be a fictional version of what psychological scientists call “wizards”– those rare people who have extraordinary lie-detection skills. Researchers have been trying, without a lot of success, to unravel these wizards’ strategies, but until do, less sophisticated lie-catchers may be able to exploit the mind’s cognitive weaknesses to catch the bad guys in their web of lies.

So how did Malaysians react to the fraudulent election results? In typical tidak apa fashion, we continued as if nothing unusual occurred.

NONEBN knows it has the upper hand in every aspect of our lives. The leaders in BN are too thick, too arrogant and too blind to acknowledge that riding roughshod over citizens is denying every Malaysian their basic human right, which is the right to vote in a free, fair, transparent and open election.

In other parts of the world, countries which experience similar vote-rigging would have seen mass unrest and an outpouring onto the streets to demand that things are put right.

In addition, there would have been condemnation from the international community. Ambassadors and High Commissioners have important roles besides having cocktail do’s to promote trade, but this time, they preferred to keep quiet.

Britain, Malaysia’s former colonial master was silent. It, too, was weighing the economic considerations rather than risk jeopardising relations with Malaysia.

Prime MinisteNONEr Najib Abdul Razak is very generous when he goes on his shopping sprees, to purchase defence equipment.France had two Scorpenes and an Agosta which no other nation wanted. These were bound for the scrapyard but the French managed to sell them for a handsome profit to a nation with vain leaders who must be seen with the latest gadgets.

Obviously, countries with arms to sell, will hesitate from criticising us. Even the Commonwealth has been muted.

The US has also said nothing. Malaysia is their model, moderate, Muslim nation and we have fallen in with the US policy to impose sanctions on Iran.

President Barrack Obama knows that Malaysia is highly regarded within the community of Muslim countries. He values our influence with these Muslim nations, many of which are highly volatile, like Iran. So why should the US say anything about Taib and BN allegedly spending in excess of RM500 million to rig the latest Sarawak election?

Taib has won

No one is suggesting that there should be violence on the streets but a mass demonstration might be the only way to show the authorities our displeasure.

Didn’t we elect our MPs to be our servants? Don’t we pay their wages? They are not chosen to manipulate us for their own means.

If we protested and acted as one, and refuse to give up after the first failed attempt, what can the authorities do? There aren’t enough cells to contain several hundred thousands of us.

We have not registered our disapproval forcefully enough. Our response has been less than lukewarm, that the foreign media does not consider us worthy of a few column inches in their papers.

Some Malaysians have blamed the Ibans for accepting money from Taib. Perhaps money did exchange hands. But if you are on RM10 a day, RM1,000 does seem like a lot of money.

Taib’s strategy has been to keep the indigenous population uneducated and ignorant, so that they can be easily manipulated.

To blame the people for accepting money is not fair because prior to the elections, the sentiment on the ground was that BN was finished.

What if the bribe is a smokescreen to hide the worse of two evils – that of swapping the original ballot boxes with ones stuffed with BN votes?

There have been unsubstantiated reports of ballot boxes being ditched in rivers, jungles or the sea and substituted with boxes which will determine a BN win.

When the voting is rigged and fixed, there can be no meaningful analysis of the results. It would be pointless to do so. What the people voted for has been swapped for something completely different. An analysis would not be a true reflection of the voting pattern.

Naturally, BN wouldNONEnot dare to radically alter those seats which are obvious DAP strongholds, for instance. That would only cause a backlash which would invite intense scrutiny that would immediately reveal Taib’s dirty tactics.

Hence, Taib would only swap boxes in those areas which will not invite too much attention. He has had many decades to practise.The fact is, whichever way the Sarawakians have voted, Taib has won.

Taib was never going to allow the opposition to win. He might tinker with the figures, but he would make sure BN will triumph.

Just imagine what RM500 million could have done for Sarawak. Sadly, this was taxpayers’ money – yours and mine. We would have preferred that money to be used for building more schools, clinics, roads, bridges and flood barriers, and to lift the people out of poverty. Instead, the money was used to keep Taib in power.

How many of Taib’s promises will he fulfil before GE-13?

This is not the first time the question is posed but what can we do, as a team, to rid us of a corrupt government?


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