Rabu, 10 Julai 2013

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PM Says One Thing, Ministers Say Another!

Posted: 09 Jul 2013 08:26 PM PDT

The real reason the Government would want to retain the Sedition Act – and Zahid should really be honest about this – is to use it to silent political dissent. And this has been proven in practice over the decades. Only last month, it was again selectively used to prosecute six people – Opposition politicians, activists and student leaders – while pro-Government individuals who made seditious statements got away scot-free.

Kee Thuan Chye

How ridiculous it is that the prime minister says one thing and his home minister says the opposite. Last year, Najib Razak announced that the Government would repeal the Sedition Act and replace it with the National Harmony Act, but now Zahid Hamidi says the Cabinet has decided to only "amend and review some aspects of the Act, not to abolish it"!

Another minister, S. Subramaniam, is neither here nor there about it when asked about the matter. He takes the typical noncommittal MIC approach by saying that the idea of repealing the Act was a "suggestion" by Najib. "He has to bring it back to the Cabinet and state his suggestions," Subramaniam says.

Only a suggestion? Subramaniam was a member of the Cabinet when Najib announced the repeal in July 2012 and yet he says it was only Najib's suggestion? Is it because he dare not tell the truth?

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz contradicts Zahid and confirms that the Cabinet did indeed agree to repeal the Sedition Act last year. He even says the Attorney-General's Chambers is looking into framing the replacement law. Unlike Subramaniam, he is unequivocal about it.

"It's a public commitment made by the prime minister. I don't see why any minister would go against it," he adds.

It was indeed a public commitment. Najib's announcement of the repeal of the Act and its replacement with the National Harmony Act was reported extensively in the media, and political observers – me included – commented on it. We certainly didn't imagine it.

Surely, Najib would have made the announcement only if he had got the agreement of his Cabinet. If not, his action would have been highly irresponsible. So, what gives?

Nazri showed charity to his fellow Cabinet member when he was asked by reporters about Subramaniam's comment. Nazri replied, "It was made last year, maybe he doesn't remember. Maybe it's (because of) so many cabinet meetings."

Oh? Really? But the matter was publicly announced, so how could any Cabinet member fail to remember? A case of Alzheimer's affecting the health minister? Or selective remembering a la Mahathir Mohamad?

As for Zahid, why would he contradict Najib? Is he trying to undermine the latter as the build-up begins for the Umno general assembly in November when elections will take place and Najib could be challenged for his leadership of the party? Is Zahid also working overtime to try and retain his vice-presidency in the party, knowing that the position will be hotly contested?

He says he doesn't want the Sedition Act abolished because people can start questioning the four taboo issues – the special position of the Malays, the sovereignty of the Malay rulers, the position of Malay as the national language, and the position of Islam as the religion of the federation.

That sounds like the thing to say to impress the Umno delegates who will be voting in November. Let us also not forget that a by-election is coming up on July 24 for the Kuala Besut state seat in Terengganu. Harping on Malay issues could well score points for the incumbent Umno.

But Zahid disingenuously chooses to ignore that these four issues are already protected under the Federal Constitution. Article 181, for example, guarantees the sovereignty, rights, powers and jurisdictions of each Malay ruler within their respective states. Other Articles take care of the other three.

In any case, there should be no harm in questioning these issues if we are to be a true, healthy and mature democracy. Placing a ban on it has only deprived Malaysians their constitutional right to freedom of speech. Besides, what can questioning do? Bring about the removal of these guarantees? Who is going to sanction it? Who would dare to? It's not going to happen even in the distant future.

The real reason the Government would want to retain the Sedition Act – and Zahid should really be honest about this – is to use it to silent political dissent. And this has been proven in practice over the decades. Only last month, it was again selectively used to prosecute six people – Opposition politicians, activists and student leaders – while pro-Government individuals who made seditious statements got away scot-free.

Really, Zahid doesn't serve the Government cause well to speak as he does. And Subramaniam doesn't inspire confidence among the public for his wishy-washy conduct. Both of them can't seem to get their facts right, and they sow confusion with their befuddling statements. What kind of ministers do we have? It reflects badly on Najib for selecting ministers like these.

Speaking of Najib, why has he said nothing since in response to Zahid's statement? He may be overseas now, but the least he could do is make a statement to clear the confusion. Unless, of course, he is considering flip-flopping on the idea. Especially now that the general election is over and he doesn't need to win votes.

Is that the reason why the A-G's Chambers is taking so long to come out with a draft of the replacement National Harmony Act? After a year and still nothing to show? Is this going to be yet another government janji yang tidak ditepati (promise unfulfilled)?


Read more here: http://my.news.yahoo.com/blogs/bull-bashing/pm-says-one-thing-ministers-another-101023396.html

A case against the minimum wage

Posted: 09 Jul 2013 02:28 PM PDT

What determines the level of productivity and hence the wages? asks the writer. 

By Medecci Lineil, FMT

I was very pleased to read last week's headlines all carried a variant of minimum wage and its logic that are usually ignored in mainstream discussions.

However, the discussion has become for the most part, ignoble. It is obvious that the minimum wage advocates including the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Human Resource Minister Richard Riot do not pursue their own logic.

There is more emotion in the discussion because it is a bit more personal experience. To apply the faculty of reason requires understand; to experience emotion does not.

Ludwig von Mises puts forth an account of economic laws based in logic not experience. To understand the reality requires looking beyond the data and into the core of the complex structure of production and its overall health.

It requires thinking about the money wage, real saving, productivity, subjectivism and human labourer. None of these can be obtained by simply watching data and numbers appear at the bottom of your LCD Samsung TV screen and pretty economic research papers.

Sadly, it is the emotions and the notion of "letting the facts speak for themselves" that appeal are now made. When we engage in poor reasoning and faulty economic logic in support of a noble cause, we can end up doing much more harm than good in the pursuit of liberty and economic freedom.

In seeking solutions, the logic of economic and the dynamics of human history are largely neglected. As a result, many government attempt to solve these problems by means that will not accomplish the desired ends.

People are not familiar with the rules of logic. It is one of those subjects that people shy away from, feeling that it's too complex to understand. What people do not realize is that they employ logic every day. Logic is often applied to human problem in an attempt to determine truth and since truth is the foundation of liberty, free men must apply the rules of logic rigorously.

But first, what is logic? From one of the most widely used text of Copi and Cohen in Introduction of Logic (1994) "Logic is the study of the methods and principles used to distinguish good (correct) from bad (incorrect) reasoning"

While famous British economist and logician, William Stanley Jevon viewed logic is the method of thinking.

He described logic as "briefly defined as the Science of Reasoning" he went far argued "The laws of thought are natural laws with which we have no power to interfere and which are of course not to be in any way confused with the artificial laws of a country, which are invented by men and can be altered by them"

Correct reasoning, fundamental propositions are grasped intellectually, true knowledge, self-evident about reality and not empirically, therefore known to be a true a priori; foundational truths of praxeology such as the action principle.

For example, Mises points out that when we see a person trade one good for another, we simply have to assume that they value the received good more than the one given away. We do not have to run millions of experiments to see that people value the good received in an exchange over the good given away.

We do not have to run any at all because the good received in exchange is valued more than the good given away is something that is true. Like Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant argues that "Every event has cause under constant laws" is a claim we know to be true because it is a condition for knowledge.

For Mises and Austrian school, human action takes the acting person in whatever surroundings he finds himself as its most crucial starting point, in this regard, the subject of individualism, productivity and money wages.

Defining problems logically

In Malaysia, the minimum wage policy is implemented to ensure that the basic needs of workers and their families are met, to reward and protect them from exploitation and to incentivise firms to move up the value chain by investing in technology and boosting productivity.

Let us define this problem logically. First, wages received have been termed very low compare to national productivity rate over years, the wages are the amount of money earned by a labourer within a given time period excluding any reference to the goods and services which that money would purchase. This is the most popular premise I believe.

Second, wages are very low according to the quantity and quality of the goods and services obtained by the labourer. The labourer then bought two packets of sugar now buys only one. To be more specific, it is the falling of purchasing power with his money wages.

Third, wages have recorded slower growth compared to labour productivity growth. The main reason why the minimum wage is adopted in Malaysia and leading the labourer and capitalist are always directly opposed to one another.

And fourth, wages are low and very labour intensive (unskilled labourers). Minimum wage encourages firms to invest in automation and newer technologies that can enhance productivity capacity rather than relying on low cost foreign workers.

Let me also start deducing the problems here; for the first and second problem, understanding of money and its value is very important.

I encourage the readers to read my previous articles on this matter. Remember, it is important that knowledge of money starts from the view if individual and not of society. For it is the subjective value of individuals that determine all human actions and in market transactions.

It is not the money men want; it is the money's purchasing power that greatly affected by the quantity of money available and the demand for it.

When the government and Bank Negara increase the quantity of paper money, the result is that the purchasing power of the monetary unit begins to drop and so prices rise. This is called inflation.

The essence of inflation is not a general rise in prices but an increase in the supply of money which in turns sets in motion a general increase in the prices of goods and services. Real wages fall, undermining production of real wealth, eroding money's purchasing power, eroding real savings and causes a misallocation of scarce resources.

There has never been any serious argument against the economic interpretation of the relationship between prices and the quantity of money, or the exchange between money and other goods and services.

The root of inflation has been camouflage and utterly confused by special interests and government to preserve the culture of political dependency. They then pride themselves on being the only true friends of labourers, social justice and logic.

The productivity of labour

I also read a number of news items where mainstream economists say an increase in economic activity is almost always seen as trigger for general rise in prices which they erroneously label inflation. But why should an increase in the production of goods and services lead to general increase in prices?

If the money stock is intact, then we will have a situation of less money per unit of a good – a fall in prices.

Effective policy to help poor people, don't you think? The solution is to leave the money to the market regulated by profit and loss. Do not leave the money regulated by Bank Negara and Putrajaya.

Here is another explanation; government budget deficits divert funds from the purchase of capital goods and the payment of wages by business firms, their effect is sooner or later to reduce the total costs of production in the economic system and equivalently to increase the aggregate amount of profit in the economic system.

Those costs of production, of course must be deducted from sales revenues in calculating profits. So government budget deficits are part of the explanation of profits rising relative to wages. This is not a joy we should celebrate. That is an illustration of the dichotomy identified by David Ricardo that often exists between monetary value and physical wealth.

Money profits up, capital goods expenditure being down that will reduce in the supply of capital goods for use in further production.

In real life, tools, machines, and other capital goods wear out or become obsolete one by one. Real wages in the future will suffer from less production and prices being higher than they otherwise would have been.

Let me proceed with deducing the third problem. A lot of people think that when labour productivity increases or is expected to increase, say 3%, wage rates should also be raised by 3%. Most unions argue about the productivity of labour and they demand increases of the wages to the extent of labour productivity. I have problem with this concept.

Every human being is different and has a different work quality in working hours. To some extent, they are connected to all the occupations on the job market.

They are different types of labour in a production process with different degree of exertion undergone in different employment / industries in the same country during working hours.

Employer has no power to set wages

The established annual holidays in Malaysia are 50 national, school and state and ranks in the top 10 countries with the most public holidays in the world. These holidays are confined to a certain portion of the Malaysian population like the labour, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Dayak, Orang Ulu and others.

Again the productivity is limited to the unpredictable weather like rain, flood, draught, haze and natural disasters.

No common measure of the toils undergone by a miner and a tailor or those of a shop man and an iron founder – vary indefinitely in intensity. So it is obvious that the rate of wages given all these differences.

The increased wage rates (real money wage) in the expanding economy are not primarily due to the workers themselves but the capitalist entrepreneurs who have invested in capital goods.

It is also not necessarily mean that the increases of wages over the years caused by his own improvement. It is primarily due to the increasing of capital goods provided by the capitalists.

If wages were really set by employers, why is it that employees such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Gareth Bale, Brad Pitt, Liam Neeson, Bradley Coopers, Kim Hyuna and Korean pop stars all earn mega money?

No, the reason they do is because their productivity enhanced by capital goods (stadium, stage decorations, Dolby sound surround movie theatres, concerts, high definition equipment). The employer has no power to set wages.

What determines the level of productivity and hence the wages? Given the explanations above, this is based on how intelligently people work and the amount of and sophistication of the tools and capital equipment they are given by their employer to work with.

We have examined the money and its purchasing power and productivity based on deductive logic in favour of raising real money wage.

Now let us deducing the last one, minimum wage often substitute machinery of unskilled workers or foreign workers.

Actually, David Ricardo, the most influential British classical economist is the author of the proposition that a rise in wages (increased cost of workers) will encourage capitalists to substitute the machinery for workers and vice versa.

It generates technological improvement and raises the productivity of workers. In forcing the reluctant employers to raise wages, the policy makers become the pioneers of progress and prosperity.

However, the interpretation of Ricardo's proposition that machinery is substituted for workers is purely misleading.



Questions on two-party system

Posted: 09 Jul 2013 11:32 AM PDT

Does the uniqueness of Malaysia simply defy the logic of FPTP?

Wong Chin Huat, fz.com 

SINCE 2008, "two-party system" has become a defining phrase in Malaysia's political discourse. Most opposition supporters desire it while most BN supporters dread it. 
Few have gone beyond the dichotomy of yes or no and asked if a two-party system would work for Malaysia or if it can be brought about by a change in government. 
(For ease of discussion, I will use the term "two-party system" throughout, rather than "two-coalition system" or "two-bloc system", which may be more accurate but is also clumsier. In political science, if parties form permanent coalitions and do not compete against each other, then they are not too different from formalised factions within parties, hence, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat can be seen as two parties.)
Why two-party system?
Vis-à-vis multiparty system, the two-party system is desired by many, including beyond Malaysia, for two reasons. 
First, its means single-party governments, which in turn means "responsible government", as the single ruling party has to assume full responsibility for its performance. 
In contrast, if a coalition government fails, the partners can always blame each other. Even when a coalition government collapses, some parties with substantial seats may find their way to the next coalition government. And if the government lets the voters down in a two-party system, the voters get to "kick the rascals out" – party alternation is wholesale and complete.
Second, it encourages moderate moderation. Since there are only two parties, the winner has to win the middle ground. Therefore, to not alienate the centrist voters, the two parties are forced to take moderate positions and meet in the middle. 
The extremist members of the two parties cannot pull the parties to the flank, because they cannot pose an effective threat – supporting the other party is further against their interests.
In Malaysia, single-party government means political stability – ad-hoc coalition would likely see the partners bickering before the next election. And political stability in turn derives from moderation. 
A two-party system is seen as the ideal model because Malaysians – including both the opposition and civil society – have learned to believe in the virtue of the multi-ethnic permanent coalition model of the Alliance/BN. 
Hence, a substitute for the BN must not be better than it, but also somewhat looks like it.  
Despite or because of FPTP? 
Conventionally, following the propositions by French political scientist Maurice Duverger, the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system in Anglo-American democracies is thought to tend to produce two-party system, while the Two-Round System (TRS) in France or the Party List Proportional Representation in many other European countries tends to produce multi-party system.
We are then with the right electoral system since 1955. But why didn't we see a more permanent two-party format until 2008? 
After being purged from Umno, both Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (then already in prison) united the Opposition parties for the 1990 and 1999 elections respectively. 
However, both the Gagasan Rakyat-Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah and Barisan Alternatif were effectively dead before their second elections.
How do we explain this? 
This happened despite FPTP or because of FPTP? 
The former implies that there is something wrong with our society while the latter implies that there is something wrong with the electoral system – at least it is incompatible with our society.

Read more at: http://www.fz.com/content/questions-two-party-system#ixzz2Ybe4PsdW


How to leak and not get caught

Posted: 09 Jul 2013 11:26 AM PDT

If you hope to leak national security information and avoid prosecution, don't do it solo, as Snowden (and perhaps Cartwright) did. Bring a posse of like-minded leakers with you to muddy your tracks. 

Jack Shafer, Reuters

If U.S. prosecutors ever get their hands on Edward Snowden, they'll play such a tympanic symphony on his skull he'll wish his hands never touched a computer keyboard. Should U.S. prosecutors fail, U.S. diplomats will squeeze — as they did in Hong Kong — until he squirts from his hiding place and scurries away in search of a new sanctuary. But even if he finds asylum in a friendly nation, his reservation will last only as long as a sympathetic regime is calling the shots. Whether he ends up in Venezuela or some other country that enjoys needling the United States, he'll forever be one election or one coup away from extradition.

Even then, he won't be completely safe.

"Always check six, as we said when I used to be a flyer in the Air Force," said NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake recently. "Always make sure you know what's behind you."

Solitary whistle-blowers like Snowden, Drake and Daniel Ellsberg draw targets on their backs with their disclosures of official secrets, either by leaving a trail from the heist scene, being the most logical suspect, or because they admit their deed. Escaping prison time, such whistle-blowers have learned, depends on the luck of prosecutorial overreach (Drake) or self-destruction by the state, which derailed the prosecution of Pentagon Papers liberator Ellsberg.

The solitary whistle-blower, usually a career government employee, isn't really a leaker, as Stephen Hess explains in his enduring typology of leakers. Typically, the whistle-blower seeks revolutionary change, not piecemeal reform. He doesn't share information with journalists to purchase their goodwill or to loft a trial balloon or to give himself an ego boost. He's motivated by principle, not self-interest or Machiavellian intrigue, and seeks to correct what he considers an intolerable wrong. And in most cases, his whistle-blowing results in career suicide if not jail time.

Most leakers — mindful of the fate of the pure and solitary whistle-blowers — scale the size of their leaks to avoid detection. Rather than giving the whole puzzle away to reporters, they break off pieces for distribution, in hopes that it can't be traced back to them. Or, if crafty, leakers dispense pieces of the puzzle that aren't especially revealing and therefore not precisely classified, but provide hints about the location of the next puzzle piece. Investigative reporters who excel at fitting a mosaic together benefit the most from this class of leaker.

The best way to escape detection, however, is to leak as part of a flock, a flock that may or may not fly together. The best recent example of this kind of leaking can be found in two excellent stories about the NSA's machinations published earlier this week, the New York Times's "In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of NSA," and the Wall Street Journal's "Secret Court's Redefinition of 'Relevant' Empowered Vast NSA Data-Gathering."

Read more at: http://blogs.reuters.com/jackshafer/2013/07/09/how-to-leak-and-not-get-caught/ 


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