Wednesday, July 30, 2008
And now I come across the film 'Zeitgeist' floating on the internet. The first part is a fascinating account of how the Christian religion drew much inspiration from astronomy, astroogy and the study of the natural world. Because 'religion' for some reason (err, lack of reason?) develops an unquestionable infallibility because, well, it is religion, we never hear of accounts such as this one. If we offer a class on the history of Christianity, either we gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of faith or we all convert to something else. I'm betting on the latter.
This FASCINATING stuff. Not for the faint of heart.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
There they were, the leaders of this country - bonggaciuosly dressed, perfumed and coiffed. They all were busy socialising 45 minutes before the arrival of Madame La Gloria. I wondered why they all looked so cheerful and content. Like the cat that had feasted on the canary the night before.
I hadn't expected the event to be all seriousness, as one would expect from committee hearings (that I have yet to witness), but I wasn't expecting the overly cheerful vibe emanating from the floor either. Are these people completely so inured from reality that they could afford to celebrate and reaffirm themselves in such a disgraceful manner?
One after another, Congressional wives (and female representatives) floated on the floor, parading their shining, shimmering and splendidly expensive ternos. I thought to myself - I must have helped pay fort that.
In times where more and more Filipinos cannot afford to eat thrice a day, there they were flaunting their excesses.
Some of the personalities I recognised fromt the uppermost galleries were US Ambassador Kenney - in a black gown with a fuschia pink collar. Pink must've been the colour of the day - that and purple. Seated a couple of rows in front of her was former President Fidel Ramos. He was sitting in the foreign dignitaries box.
Manny Pacquiao arrived with Mayor Atienza and Chavit Singson. Boy, they were stuck to the champ's side like a leech to a fat cow.
A few minutes before 4pm, some of the our representatives started forming a queue to welcome the president. Her chopper flew in at quarter to the hour. On two giant screens we saw her alight from the vehicle, and then welcomed by some personalities I cared not to know.
On the way in, she made beso to Miriam Defensor-Santiago (in pink) and another lady in pink. Enthusiastically narrating it all on NBN is a former professor (allegedly) one of this administration's spinmeisters and co-author of this SONA. I tell one of my bosses, seated to my left, how I detest said spinmeister - first for being an asshole sexist (must be overcompensating for his short-comings) and second for giving me the lowest grade in grad school.
At first I could not see La Gloria amidst the throng. While her salmon pink terno might have been easy to spot from our spot, her tiny royal self was hidden by the perfumed mob of her court. All the way to the front, she was greeted by besos and handshakes galore.
As all of this was happening, the most annoying music was being played by (what certainly sounded like) a live band. I suppose the music was supposed to trumpet her royal majesty's greatness.
When they played the national anthem, there I stood, hand over heart, gazing balefully at the huge flag. I was supposed to hear the state of the nation from this country's single most powerful being. It was a bittersweet moment. I no longer felt like crying, as I did when I went to the Black and White Movement's ZTE Presscon and I'd heard the anthem played for the first time since my return from Oz. Nevertheless I felt overwhelmingly sad. What was I witnessing this farce for?
And then her address commenced. And she painted a beautiful picture of her private la-la-land. Seated near us were a couple of her palas. They kept looking down at what looked like a copy of her speech, spread on their lap - and clapped on cue.
My colleagues said this SONA was a lot less noiser, with less applause, than last year's. By far people cheered the loudest when La Gloria announced telcos halving the text message price. We Filipinos certainly know how to get our priorities straight.
After the hour-long spectacle, I felt overwhelmingly tired. Our bill looks like it will be trashed for the nth time. I asked the troupe, how they can keep on doing this day in day out. These battle-weary warriors looked at me with wisdom belied by their not-so-old bodies. And then they smiled. You take it a day at time.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I first learned about homosexual behaviour among different species of animals on National Geographic, ergo homosexuality is natural.
And now this.
If compassion exists in the strangest circumstances in the natural world, then there must be hope for us humans after all.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Deaths and Suffering in the Name of Doctrine: The impact of Catholic bishops' interventions on contraceptive policies
For a woman suffering from ill health, another pregnancy could put her to death. Every year, around 2,000 Filipinas die from unintended pregnancies.
For a poor family suffering from hunger, another child may push them over the edge. The poorest families want four children but end up with six.
Contraception can prevent most of these tragedies. Catholic bishops never have to worry about death or injury from pregnancy. They never have to worry about hunger for themselves or their children.
Yet, as leaders who regularly preached about love and justice, the least we expected was a bit of sympathy.
A truly caring leader once said, "Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do unto me."
To the Catholic bishops we say: women and the poor are among the least in our society. Listen to them. Or at least listen to your mothers, your married aunts and sisters.
Fifty seven percent (57%) of married Filipino women had used a modern contraceptive method. So said a national, scientific survey of 13,633 women aged 15-49, of whom 82% are Catholics.
This suggests that most Catholic bishops and priests have a mother or a sister who had used a contraceptive method.
In another survey, 90% of Catholics said that it is "important" for the government to fund modern family planning methods like the pill, IUD, ligation, condom and vasectomy.
Communions and Church Collections The unreasonableness and unpopularity of forbidding contraceptives explains why Catholic bishops focus their pressure tactics on policymakers and not on Catholics as a whole.
Threatening to withhold communion from millions of Catholic contraceptive users will result in a nightmare scenario for bishops: half-empty pews and a dying church.
The Catholic hierarchy may also have learned its lesson about unilaterally withholding religious rites from its dark colonial past. More than 200 years ago, a Spanish priest refused a person Catholic burial rites. The place was Bohol, the dead man's brother was Francisco Dagohoy, and the event triggered the longest revolt against Spanish occupation.
However, there is a simpler and more principled solution to the bishops' dilemma. If the Catholic bishops truly believe that contraception is evil and users are sinners, they can announce a simple policy: refusal of church collections and contributions from contraceptive users and supporters.
Simpler and more principled. Especially since calling people sinful while profiting from their contributions is nothing but crass hypocrisy.
 Nearly half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended(Singh S et al. Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion inthe Philippines: Causes and Consequences, New York:Guttmacher Institute, 2006), and around 4600 maternal deaths,from all types of pregnancies, occur annually (Maternal Mortalityin 2005, Estimates developed by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, andThe World Bank, WHO 2007.)
 National Statistics Office and ORC Macro, NationalDemographic and Health Survey 2003. (NDHS 2003)
 NDHS 2003.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Fact: The Philippines is one of the few predominantly Catholic countries with no clear policy on population management and reproductive health.
Fact: The Catholic hierarchy of our closest socio-cultural cousins - Latin Americans - expressed a need to contextualise the encyclical Humanae Vitae as soon as it came out in 1968. Latin American bishops endorsed the responsible use of contraception.
Fact: The Philippine constitution renders the separation of Church and State inviolable.
Fact: As a republic, the government should express the will of the people - not the will of the Catholic clergy.
Fact: ARMM suffers the highest rates of maternal an infant mortality as compared to other parts of the country.
Fact: As a republic, the government must also be accountable to non-Catholic Filipinos. In March 2004, Muslim religious leaders have allowed legal and safe methods of contraception.
Fact: 473,000 abortions occur annually (estimates based on 2000 data, its probably higher now).
Fact: Abortion happens whether it is legal or not. Or whether the Church acknowledges it or not.
Fact: Western Europe, which has legalised abortion, has the lowest abortion rate in the world.
Fact: The bigger the family, the higher the poverty incidence rate.
Fact: The poor outnumber the non-poor.
Fact: The non-poor shoulder the burden of taxes.
Fact: YOU are presently paying for subsidies which keep the poor afloat.
Fact: YOU pay taxes. The Church does not.
Is it any wonder why we have fallen behind our Asian neighbors, and are likely to be left behind by the rest of developing Asia? We’re still debating such rudimentary matters as the population issue and fiscal deficits, while our neighbors have moved on to focus on more contemporary economic concerns, such as global competitiveness, investment climate and productivity growth.
A common view was that rapid population growth – of two percent or higher per year then prevailing in many developing countries – was more likely to hinder than foster economic development. This negative effect operates via reduced child care and human capital investment, lower household savings for private and public investments, and constraints on allocative efficiency, entrepreneurship and innovation. Rapid population growth results in available capital being thinly spread among many workers, as well as in fiscal and environmental externalities.
Other countries in East and Southeast Asia have experienced sharp reductions in poverty as a consequence of rapid and sustained economic growth, attributable to sound economic strategy that included strong population policy. These countries have benefited from a "demographic bonus" resulting from marked increases in the share of workers (population ages 15-64) relative to young dependents (ages 0-14), while the Philippines continues to bear a "demographic onus" – a large share of young dependents relative to workers (and savers). Thus, in the 1990s, research and the debate on the population issue in the developing world began to taper off, except in the Philippines.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I am finding my new work environment incredibly fascinating. So much to say, so little energy left. Just some random observations:
I know the blogging "network" to which I belong - yeah you guys, are at best ambivalent with civil society types who regularly hold protests and rallies. Now that I am in, let me tell you that these rallies are just the tip of the iceberg. If anything, its just a publicity stunt. So much more happens behind the scenes. Real honest-to-goodness lobbying and policy peddling. There's planning and strategising. Almost like launching a war without bloodshed. In a day it is a roller-coaster ride - high one moment and despondent the next. Its almost fun - up until the moment you again realise that the stakes are very high.
The CS networks are deep and huge. Our organisation alone is coordinating with a host of other NGOs.
My work (so far) is a lot like blogging - except I get paid, have to reference, and put my name on what I write. And my audience. Oh boy. My audience are people who can actually make a change.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Incidentally this is where I found out that Pope Pius VI commissioned a report prepared by theologians. The report recommended that the church rescind its ban on contraception.
A recommendation which was then promptly ignored by the Pope.
It is this one man's decision that is still being upheld by the Philippine Catholic hierarchy.
Seriously. Are we devolving back into the age of the Holy Roman Empire?!?
Global Call to Action Against Poverty-Philippines (GCAP)
UPD School of Economics Student Council
UPD Economics Towards Consciousness (ETC) and
UPD College of Social Science and Philosophy Student Council
Invites you to a Forum on
The Philippines in Crisis: The Failures of Economic Governance
University of the Philippines- Diliman School of Economics
July 23, 2008 9:00AM-1:00PM
9:00AM Arrival and Registration
10:00AM Welcome Remarks
UP Economics Towards Consciousness (ETC)
10:15 AM Presentations
Under the Shadow of Debt: Global Trends and the Philippine Economy
Professor Walden Bello
President, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
10:30AM Under a Perfect Storm: The Power and Oil Crisis
Co-convenor, EmPower Consumers
10:45AM The Starving Nation: The Food Crisis in the Philippines
Arze Aglipo (to confirm)
Executive Director, Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF)
11:00AM The Lingering Political Malady: The Failure of Democratic
Loretta Ann Rosales
Three-time Party-list Representative
Chairperson Emeritus, Akbayan! Citizens’ Action Party
Dr. Emmanuel De Dios (to confirm)
Dean, UP School of Economics
School of Economics Student Council
11:30AM Open Forum
Coordinator, Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Click photo to enlarge.
Upper-right shot: Joggers look bemused.
Lower-right shot: An older guy does an awkward salute in tribute of QC's own super hero.
Main photo: He had a plastic bag of pan-de-sal slung around his 'tool belt.' Deadly stuff.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Kristine Alave's news article yesterday, entitled "Army of priests ordered to talk to 50 lawmakers" seems to mirror the battle raging in Congress these days. Alave writes the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines "has directed its army of priests to 'reach out' to lawmakers supportive of the reproductive health bills in Congress to pressure them into withdrawing their support for the measures."
Now if that isn't lobbying, I don't know what is.
Should we start electing our parish priests? If they get a say on these matters - and if members of Congress - representatives of the People, must explain themselves to the Catholic hierarchy, and whose chances at re-election are threatened, then there should be some mechanism to make these purveyors of morality accountable as well.
So, who's for electing our Catholic hierarchy?
In the meanwhile, Mary Racelis notes the absence of poor women's voice with regard to the raging debate. These women, after all, bear the burden of lack of access to alternatives.
Of the 473,400 Filipino women per year estimated in 2000 to have undergone an abortion (about equally divided between induced and spontaneous), statistics from 1,658 hospitals revealed that 105,000 women wound up in hospital beds from complications, mainly hemorrhaging and infections. An estimated 12 percent, or 12,600, died. How many more never made it to a hospital but met the same fate, or continue to suffer lifelong disabilities, is anyone’s guess. Research on the subject is taboo in official Catholic circles and viciously attacked by militant “pro-life” groups. The conspiracy of silence triumphs again.There are also shades of the class divide in Racelis' article. A Catholic faithful, perhaps representative of the Pro-lifers, denies the statistics. A bold assertion to which women from the grassroots organisations retort "Totoo po iyon. Iyon po ang ginagawa ng mga babae sa amin kapag ayaw na nilang magkaanak."
Although abortion is linked in the public mind to panicky, unmarried pregnant young women, it is actually married women with children who form the vast majority of those seeking it.
Racelis ends her article with a biting commentary. I agree 100%
Here is a copy of Representative Edcel Lagman's bill on Reproductive Health. Although I myself see nothing wrong with legalising abortion, Lagman's proposal is still quite conservative.
The conspiracy of silence among Catholics becomes even more appalling because the Church of the Poor exhorts us to “listen to the voices of the poor.”
Although the face of poverty in the Philippines is clearly that of a woman, are Church leaders listening to the voices of poor women? Is the Church of Poor women enabling women to speak without condemnation about the fear of having another child she knows she cannot properly care for—and helping her do something about it?
Is the Church of Poor Men teaching Filipino males that marital rights do not include forced sex—and eventually another child—anytime they feel like it? Will both Church and government offer the meaningful and practical family planning solutions poor women and men seek?
This bill continues to proscribe abortion which is a crime under the Revised Penal Code. However, when abortion is resorted to, despite the prohibition, there is a need to manage post-abortion complications in a humane and compassionate manner. The patient should not be suffered to die due to her desperation.So what is the fuss all about Fathers?
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Ateneo de Manila University
School of Humanities
“QUIAPO MON AMOUR”: THE GLOBAL MAPPING OF A STREET CINEMATHEQUE
Jasmine Nadua Trice
18 July 2008, Friday
4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Faura Audio-Visual Room
About the lecture:
This lecture provides an overview of my dissertation project, tentatively entitled Imagined Communities, Imagined Cosmopolitanisms: Spaces of Cinema Circulation in Manila, Philippines, 2006-2008. Grounded in cinema studies, the work examines the circulation of independent cinema in Manila, Philippines, focusing on "alternative" sites of exhibition and their positions within the overlapping arenas of art and politics. Combining participant-observation with analysis of cinema texts and their surrounding discourses in media and institutional documents, the project argues that examining the processes of these works' production, distribution, and exhibition within a specific, urban setting offers new frames for studying local cinematic cultures in the contexts of globalization, frameworks usually approached through audience reception ("resistant" readings of global mass culture) or production (textual analysis of radical works). Rather, by viewing the circulation of small scale works whose experimental aesthetics or radical politics place them at a distance from the more commonly examined global mass culture, the project aims to develop a new approach to cultural goods' local and transnational flows. It examines the ways this model operates within a distinctive system of cultural capital driven by aesthetics, politics and the cachet of internationalism, but ultimately, committed to local artistic communities and political solidarities.
About the speaker:
Jasmine Nadua Trice, a PhD candidate of the Department of Communication and Culture/American Studies Program of Indiana University, takes research interest on cinema theory, history and production, globality, cinema exhibition, new media, reception and audience studies, national cinema, experimental cinema, third cinema, post-coloniality, media spaces, ethnography, gender, and the everyday. She was also an associate instructor in the Department of Communication and Culture, Indiana University.
Kritika Kultura Lecture Series
invites you to a lecture
Time Passante: From Forensic to Interrogation Modernity
Professor of English, University of Southern California
22 July 2008, Tuesday
1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Faculty Lounge, De la Costa G/F
Ateneo de Manila University
About the lecture:
The lecture will discuss Walter Benjamin on Baudelaire, Bobby Sands's prison ballads and contemporary techniques of in-depth interrogation. It will draws on the experience of Irish political prisoners to explore the way in which interrogation has become a generalized mode of subjectification in late modernity (as opposed to the forensic mode of earlier periods).
About the speaker:
David Lloyd, Professor of English at the University of Southern California , is the author of Nationalism and Minor Literature (1987); Anomalous States (1993); Ireland After History (2000) and Irish Times: Essays on the History and Temporality of Irish Modernity (forthcoming 2008). He is currently at work on two further books, A History of the Irish Orifice: the Irish Body and Modernity and a study of Samuel Beckett’s visual aesthetics. He has co-published several other books: Culture and the State, co-authored with Paul Thomas (1997), The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (1997), with Lisa Lowe, and The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse (1991), with Abdul JanMohamed. A poet and playwright, he is in the International Board of Editors of Kritika Kultura. His major publications easily mark Prof. Lloyd as an important intellectual in literary and cultural studies today.
I stepped out of the perfect allegory today. Almost three hours of Chris Nolan's philosophising brilliantly packaged in a multi-million dollar Hollywood summer flick. Batman's good battling with Joker's evil. Batman's order duking it out with Joker's chaos. And Harvey Dent, caught in the middle. The ordinary bloke who struggles to do good. Two-face, he is called. He has in him both the capacity to be heroic and to do harm.
I got an important call today. A call to arms. Is this it? Time to climb down my cherished Ivory Tower - where it is safe, far above the din below. From where I perch the bigger picture is clear. Goodness and order are crystal. But the reality on the ground has long been beckoning. On Monday begins the end. I am afraid reality up close might look uglier than expected. Time to test your mettle Sparks. Time to grow a pair. Butch asks me why I am scared shitless. I tell him I fear not reality. I fear myself.
On both interviews I did my best to dissuade them not to take me. In what job interview do you admit your inexperience? In what job interview do you admit knowing nothing? On feeling intimidated? On being way in over your head? And still they took me. Butch says it might be because I am young. Not quite jaded. Not yet battle-weary. Still full of bright shining light.
Stay the course Sparky. Stay the course no matter what.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Admittedly the ubiquity of information these days- terabytes of it - on the internet is making us concentrate less on reading one article or one website even. Probably because we know there's so much more information to be had out there. We want instant gratification. We want it. We need it now.
So, is the machine dumbing us down for that revolution which will take place some time in the future - humans versus artificial intelligence? Haha. Maybe so. Guy Billout of the Atlantic writes:
The author admits to not having read a book in a while. Read the rest of the article - longish - and see if you can stick to it.
But a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information.
They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it.
According to my library records, I took out 255 books last year. I find that if I only read PDFs, it is quite difficult to concentrate. But when I have a book on hand, it calls to me - it is warm and solid - unlike the coldness of my computer screen. For worrywarts who think they are getting dumber because of the net - just have a real book nearby. Your talisman to ward off the devil.
What think you? Maybe I should start writing about celebrities...
Here are the results for some of my regular haunts.
These results are probably not surprising, however keying in Resty's blog, this came up:
If you read Resty, I think you need to have graduated from high school and then some.
Jessica Zafra probably needs to start really blogging soon.
Aaaand. Apparently you need to be a genius to read Celebrity Gossip
Butch and I were just talking about it the other day.We weren't even aware there have been rumours circulating about an Eraserheads reunion concert! Yesterday this was confirmed by the Philippine Star's Ricky Lo. The concert will be on August 30 at CCP grounds. Tickets are FREE. However you will have to register at the Marlboro website and you'd be lucky if you win tickets! More details here.
Monday, July 14, 2008
There is surcease for the hopeful after all. I've a feeling I've clinched the research officer position for a development advocacy NGO. Hah. No more bitching without doing anything. Omfg. I have no experience selling policy positions ... but they liked my sample essays and I apparently said what they needed to hear in the interviews.
And then! My three referees have finally faxed my reports to Wellington. All on the same day. Wow. I am giddy. Here's to life - you brilliant, fickle, complex bitch.
Through adversity the stars.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
When her first story came out, I thought, wow this person must have balls to write something that could potential destroy a decorated diplomat's legacy. But then looking at Rosca's own achievements, her credentials are nothing to scoff at.
Ah, yet another one of our own, lost to the world, and found again through the www.
Rosca blogs here.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
This is my favourite so far. The brothers singing Avril Lavigne's Girlfriend
And Marimar comes in a close second. Hahaha.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Ateneo de Manila University-Department of Political Science
would like to invite you to:
A Forum on the Brand of Political Leadership in Today's Nation-Building
featuring talks by our most inspiring Local Government Leaders today:
Gov. Eddie Panlilio (Pampanga)
Gov. Grace Padaca (Isabela)
Mayor Jesse Robredo (Naga City)
Mayor Sonia Lorenzo (San Isidro, Nueva Ecija)
July 30,2008 (Wednesday)
4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Leong Hall, Ground Floor, Ricardo and Rosita Leong Center for Chinese Studies,
Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, MM
Seats are limited. Please confirm your attendance to this event by sending at email to Kai Pastores at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact us at (02) 426-5657.
COMMITTEE FOR CULTURE AND THE ARTS
in cooperation with the
Department of Musicology
UP COLLEGE OF MUSIC
CMu STUDENT COUNCIL
musiKolokya: Musical politicking, political musicking: a forum on the interaction of music and politics
Jonas Baes, Ph.D.
Raul Navarro, Ph.D.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Museum of Instruments
UP College of Music
The forum explores the impact of politics on musical creation and reproduction and, conversely, the role of music in the political arena. Of particular interest will be the function of music as a tool of social persuasion, transformation or dissidence.
Dr. Jonas U. Baes is a composer, ethnomusicologist and activist who has written on the Iraya-Mangyan of Mindoro and issues of hegemony and cultural politics. He currently chairs the Department of Composition and Music Theory.
Dr. Raul C. Navarro is chair of the Department of Conducting and author of Kolonyal na patakaran at ang nagbabagong kamalayang Filipino: Musika sa publikong paaralan sa Pilipinas, 1898-1935. He has also lectured on the music of the Martial Law era.
Noel Cabangon is an acclaimed singer, songwriter and musical director; he is the voice behind the popular song “Kanlungan”.
Ang musiKolokya (dating kilala bilang Music Colloquia) ay tagpuan ng mga mag-aaral, guro, mananaliksik, manlilikha, artista, kritiko at manunulat sa musika. Layon ng tagpuan ang pagpapalitan ng mga ideya at pananaw tungo sa pagpapayaman ng kaalaman sa musika, kultura at lipunan. Ang mga diskusyon, bagama’t malalim ay impormal at kaayaya. Ang tagpuan ay bukas para sa lahat. Para sa karagdagang impormasyon, tumawag sa telepono bilang 981-8500 lokal 2635 o magpadala ng e-mail kay Dr. Verne dela Peña, Tagapangulo ng Departamento ng Musikolohiya, sa email@example.com.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The world has not been kind to neo-liberalism, that grab-bag of ideas based on the fundamentalist notion that markets are self-correcting, allocate resources efficiently, and serve the public interest well. It was this market fundamentalism that underlay Thatcherism, Reaganomics, and the so-called “Washington Consensus” in favor of privatization, liberalization, and independent central banks focusing single-mindedly on inflation.
For a quarter-century, there has been a contest among developing countries, and the losers are clear: countries that pursued neo-liberal policies not only lost the growth sweepstakes; when they did grow, the benefits accrued disproportionately to those at the top.
Though neo-liberals do not want to admit it, their ideology also failed another test. No one can claim that financial markets did a stellar job in allocating resources in the late 1990’s, with 97% of investments in fiber optics taking years to see any light. But at least that mistake had an unintended benefit: as costs of communication were driven down, India and China became more integrated into the global economy.
While I am now far too old to reify global regulating institutions like the IMF and the World Bank and label them as 'evil' and such, maybe it is time to recognise them as open to politicisation and personal interests. Robert Zoellick, current WB President, was appointed by El Dubya. This might explain why the biofuel report was suppressed - Zoellick didn't want to make his benefactor look like an ass. Among other things.
Maybe it is also time for a bit of diversity amongst the twin institutions' staff. They have not benefited from intellectual in-breeding - their staffers coming from pretty much the same universities and such. And wouldn't it be great if they actually put a non-American and a non-European as heads of these institutions? Especially for the World Bank. I mean, come on. This should be common sense. How can you make policy prescriptions for the Third World having never lived there?
I volunteered for a development conference in Brisbane last January. I took away a couple of things from the week-long experience. First, 'development' really has become an industry of sorts. There is an army of professionals out there who make 'developmen' their business. Second, there were two moments that would forever be etched in my mind.
I sat in the opening plenary session where Graeme Wheeler, WB Managing Director, was speaker. I sat there and heard him tell me that the world has experienced 'unprecedented growth' in the last forty years. I do wonder where this 'growth' has occured. In the same breath he then said that income inequality has increased in less developed countries. And with new calculations based on purchasing power parity, surely there was now more than one billion people living on less than a dollar a day. Huh?!?
During one of the coffee breaks I had a bit of talk with a young economist from Portugal. I think my questions became a bit too critical, I mean, questions are by nature critical aren't they? He had a bit of a start as though a thought had just occured to him. After which he looked me accusingly in the eyes and said, "Oh wow. You're one of the NGO types aren't you?" As though that invalidated everything else I had said. I was not an economist and therefore I was not worth wasting his breath on. He said the words as though they left a filthy aftertaste in his mouth. I cringe now at the memory. I hope he doesn't ever climb the ranks.
Monday, July 07, 2008
NEW YORK -- AMBASSADOR Lauro Liboon Baja Jr., who headed the Philippine Mission to the United Nations from 2003 to 2007, is one of four defendants in a civil complaint alleging trafficking, forced labor, peonage and racketeering.Wow. If the allegations are true, how many articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights was violated by this big-time diplomat? You can also read more about Ambassador Baja's sterling diplomatic record here.
...The complaint was filed by 39-year-old Marichu Suarez Baoanan through lawyers Aaron Mendelsohn of Troutman Sanders and Ivy O. Suriyopas of the Asian merican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Ambassador Baja, 71, was also president of the UN Security Council in June 2004.
Baoanan...said she stayed at the five-story Philippine consular residence at 15 East 66th Street, New York—a townhouse where she was made to work 16 hours daily, seven days a week, in the Baja household.
Baoanan said she was paid only a total of $100 for three months of work, and another $100 for taking care of Facundo’s son who, she said, was allowed to hit her.
Oh my Ambassador. How far you have strayed. If the allegations are true - all that you have achieved and all you have done - will have become meaningless.
Last week I found out about this Arab News article written by Abdullah Al-Maghlooth praising Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. Red's Herring posted the item at Filipino Voices. Al Maglooth writes:
Saudi Arabia has the largest number of Filipino workers — 1,019,577 — outside the Philippines. In 2006 alone, the Kingdom recruited more than 223,000 workers from the Philippines and their numbers are still increasing. Filipinos not only play an important and effective role in the Kingdom, they also perform different jobs in countries across the world, including working as sailors. They are known for their professionalism and the quality of their work.
Nobody here can think of a life without Filipinos, who make up around 20 percent of the world’s seafarers. There are 1.2 million Filipino sailors.
So if Filipinos decided one day to stop working or go on strike for any reason, who would transport oil, food and heavy equipment across the world? We can only imagine the disaster that would happen.
In an exercise of futurology, let us imagine a Saudi Arabia without its 1 million Filipino workers. More importantly, what would this absolute monarchy look like without all of its 6-7 million migrant labour? The symbiotic relationship between the Kingdom's foreign workers keeping the balance and stability of the Saudi society will be broken.
If migrant labour were to leave en masse, nobody will be left to man Saudi industries. The co-opted middle class - all feeding off the riches of the Saudi rentier state - will be galvanised into action. There will be mass discontent among the likes of Mr. Al-Maghlooth as he is forced to really work hard for his living. Social forces - i.e. the nascent working and middle classes as well as civil society types best embodied by (moderate) Islamists - will be unleashed to topple the Saudi political tyranny. The reign of King Abduallah and his 10,000 or so princes will come to an end. Saudi Arabia, doubtlessly the political linchpin of the Middle East, and the geo-economic linchpin of the world, will finally join the twenty-first century.
A democratic Saudi Arabia will probably try to gain better control of its oil industries, and may have some ambition to unite the fragmented heart of Islam. For this to happen, all of the Arab world's migrant labour will also have to leave. The GCC alone has most of its nationals working for their States - highlighting the fact that there are no independent social forces to challenge the State's supremacy.
External powers, however, will not sit idly by and allow such events to happen. Superpowers to West and the East will make sure that all of the Middle East do not do another Iran.
Ha. So. Imagine a world without migrant Filipinos.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
We do not doubt that objects can be valuated differently, but my question is about the calculative underpinnings that sustain inequalities between food producers (humans). It is one thing...to show that pricing and valuation of goods is socio-technically produced. It is quite another to pinpoint just how these prices have, in actual cases, participated in created economic inequalities capable of wiping out entire agricultural industries and shifting the geo-politics of production in favor of some populations over others.
And then this exchange on the blog comments yield yet more interesting questions:
alisonkemper1: "I see in this post some concerns about economic justice. Can SSF help to explain why economics that reinforces unequal distribution of value created has increasingly dominated the landscape?...Are we another form of dirty hippies guised as social scientists? Why do we care about the price of bananas?"
marthapoon: "Is interest in inequality necessarily about justice? SSF has a bad rap in sociolology for being about elites. I thought the post was about ‘bredth of question’ more than anything else…! "
alisonkemper1: "The range of discourse is itself a political decision, is it not? If you begin to speak of the inequality of distribution, you will begin to look for an answer to some difficult problems that others do not wish to open.
The only rightist response to the creation and buttressing of systems of unequal distribution of goods is willful obfuscation. If you ask why the low prices of bananas picked by black people in Jamaica are predicated upon the lower worth of the pickers’ labour, you are asking a dangerous question. BTW, isn’t almost all fruit in North America picked by Mexican and Caribbean people, whether as migrants or as workers in their homes and native lands?"
marthapoon: "A choice of discourse may be political but the question is, is this politics always necessarly defined on a classical spectrum of left and right? Aren’t there analytic questions that (are politically interesting precisely because they) defy these (rapidly shifting) classifications?
What you write about labour is interesting, becuase contrary to your reading, I actually thought this piece was about how the labour of the local Carribean worker is potentially higher in value than elsewhere since this fruit is actually more expensive that the one coming from abroad."
alisonkemper1: "I have no idea why North Americans needed bananas so cheap that it was worth having paramilitary forces aligned with fruit companies. It makes little sense to me.
But we must also explain why tropical fruit prices have fallen in real terms so radically. We don’t demand cheap bananas and pineapple, we demand them at a cost not much higher than zero.
We are willing to pay for mangoes, papayas, durian, pomelos and lichis. But we have to use masked goons all over Latin America to gain the prices we want for bananas.
We must explain both phenomena: the violence as part of the price, and the difference with other tropical fruit."
Contrary to President Bush' claim that price increases can be blamed on more Indians and Chinese eating, the report shows in detail how world food prices have gone up 75% in the last six years due to the drive for biofuels in the world's largest agro-producing regions - the EU and the US.
It argues that production of biofuels has distorted food markets in three main ways. First, it has diverted grain away from food for fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of biodiesel. Second, farmers have been encouraged to set land aside for biofuel production. Third, it has sparked financial speculation in grains, driving prices up higher.
In what world is it possible for some investor (i.e. food speculator) in one of New Yorks finance firms able to influence the price of wheat??? Tom Philpott writes:
But when you think about it, why did speculators suddenly start bidding up the price of grains and soybeans two years ago? Answer: because they knew the U.S. and European governments were insuring a steady, and rising, market for those goods in the years ahead. So the big speculation wave stems from the welter of mandates and subsidies propping up the biofuels market.
In the meanwhie, 100 more people join the ranks of the starving poor. Yes, including those whom you see queueing for susbidised rice on Visayas Avenue and elsewhere. Including those random people knocking on you doors asking for lose change to buy food.
Aside from speculators, multinational agro-industries such as Monsanto are also raking it in. Forget the sub-prime crisis Nomi Prins writes, "The next price bubble to watch is food speculation.":
But without strong regulation of electronic exchanges and the derivatives products that enable speculators to move huge proportions of the futures markets underlying commodities, putting a bit of regulation into the London-based exchanges will not alleviate anything. Unless that's addressed, this bubble is going to take more than homes with it. It's going to take lives.
In the meanwhile, the world's rich country club meets in Tokyo to find solutions for problems they do not directly experience and which they cause either directly or indirectly through policy prescriptions. Of course they know better. Governments which represent 2/3 of the world's population (i.e. the suddenly ravenous Indians and Chinese) are invited, but they hold meetings in a separate room. Still not quite part of the 'club.'
Energy crises + food crises + casino capitalism = globalised misery.
Seriously, what kind of world is this?
Walden Bello fo TNI writes:
What is so shocking about the current state of affairs is that our capacity to influence developments in oil has deteriorated from 25 years ago. Then we had a pro-active energy strategy, we had a government energy complex working to diversify our energy sources and we had mechanisms to influence the domestic
price of oil.
Today, in the era of oil deregulation, we are 100% at the mercy of Chevron-Caltex, Shell and Aramco, which controls Petron — the Philippines formerly state-run oil company. The OPEC countries that dominate the production of crude are often cast as the villains, yet the last few years have been years of record profits for the oil majors.
In the first three months of this year, the five largest US oil companies made a record $36 billion in profits, prompting the Democrats in Congress to push a bill to impose a 25% tax on “unreasonable profits”.
In the Philippines, the subsidiaries of the majors have been doing very well. In 2007, Shell’s net profit rose 54% over 2006, from P4.12 billion to P6.36 billion. Petron’s net profits rose 6.3%, from P6.02 billion to P6.4 billion. These are the reported figures, not necessarily the real profits, which are most likely higher.
The major oil companies act as a cartel and pretty much set whatever price they agree on, with no government intervention and little monitoring. All our officials can do is to exercise what economists call “moral suasion”, but we still have to find an oil company that will allow itself to be swayed by morality.
In the US, it takes four to six weeks before a rise in the price of crude is reflected in the pump price. In the Philippines, with the rapid succession of pump price rises, the truth is we no longer know how prices are being determined.
We don’t know if prices are being determined in response to actual past rises in crude prices or in anticipation of future price rises. Non-transparency is the rule in the oil industry.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Manila Queen of the Pacific
Manila Castillian Memoirs
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Yesterday I went to the spanking new building of the UP Registrar to follow up my request for yet another batch of my Transcript. For some magical reason I was apparently underassessed by my old college waaaay back in 2002. At the clearance station I gave my claim stub to the man behind the window. Apparently the ToR claim stub was not the same as the clearance stub - which unfortunately did not have my name. I noted it was this same man who gave the same form to me some weeks back. It was in fact his fault that he did not put my name on it, and had not adviced me that I needed to do the seneseless act of writing my name when in fact all I needed to present him was a valid ID for him to process my request.
I give respect where it is due. However I will not tolerate being disrespected, even with the tone of voice. I particularly despise being made to feel like an inconvenience, as though I were a supplicant to the almighty public office of the man behind the desk. I noticed he had not bothered to look at me, and must have assumed I was a fresh grad - a youngling he could afford to intimidate.
"Eh pa'no ko hahanapin yan wala namang pangalan?" (So how will I find this if you don't have your name?"
I pointed to the ToR claim stub which bore my name in capitals. "Di ba pwede na ho ito?" (Isn't this enough?)
"Eh iba namang form yan eh." (No, but that is a different form).
Pasensya na ha, nagpanting talaga ang tenga ko.
When I am upset my eyes usually widen into huge saucers and my voice deepens noticeably. I realised this even as I looked him in the eye and asked him for his name. He asked for my ID. I asked for his name again. He said ID. Again I asked for his name. This went on for about 30 seconds. It would have been comical had I not been so incensed. Finally he gave his name. And I gave him my ID. Afterwards he became noticeably more civil.
Ah these bureaucrats. I have been on your case since before I left. And here I am doing battle with you again. Argh. To reiterate:
The Bureaucracy, unfortunately, is unavoidable in any modern society. They are supposed to provide the backbone for any government. They are assured tenure so that they may continue to provide services irrespective of who occupies Malacanang. It is assumed that the Bureaucracy is immune to politics.
Tenure and a modicum of "isolation" from politicians jockeying for position makes for a cadre of government workers who may serve tenure until they die or retire, whichever comes first. You wonder why they wear a certain kind of expression on their faces as they sit behind those desks and windows? Well they have security of employ running at the back of their mind. Whether they actually do work or not, they simply need to show up to get paid.
So you know they have a certain attitude, coupled with a notion that they are entitled to work as slowly and as inefficiently as possible because they are government employees, then what have you got? A bureaucracy that will move as slo.o.o.owly as possible. A bureaucracy that will seek to work as little as possible because there is nothing prompting them to do otherwise. A bureaucracy ripe for all sorts of rent-seeking possibilities.
Click here to read the rest.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
In my classes I gave the requisite pep talk to my students. That yes life is hard but we must continue the battle. It is in the fight that we know ourselves truly - and we come to grips and learn to live with our strengths and our weaknesss. Hopefully it is also in the fight that we find meaning. That we are not here, occupying space, merely to eat, shit and breathe.
There were a few of us who responded to the invite of the former dean to pray for LT's passing. Flanked by two colleagues from my department, I was a few minutes late. They had already started the ceremony, but the secretary ushered us in and gave us a prayer pamphlet. It was a long prayer - one obviously meant to redeem the soul of someone who has wilfully taken his life. I did not know LT well. He only came to class a handful of times. And yet I was truly saddened by his death. The prayer was awfully repetitive. We must have said his name dozens of times. It was saying his name that made me cry. One moment there was a living being. And another there was none. Where has he gone?
It is moments like these where I am glad I have not made my final decision not to believe. And yet I knew, even as I said the words along with everyone else, that I was not praying for LT. Yes, I was paying my respects, but I also understood that the ceremony was for us who are still living. To reassure us that he has gone to a better place. Thankfully the ambiguity of an agnostic allows flirting with such a notion. The ceremony was also to assuage us of our guilt. The rational part of me knows that I could not have done anything to stop what happened. And yet there is a also a part that feels strangely complicit.
Confronted with death, it is unsettling not having any anchor onto which to frame the loss. A devout Christian will have faith in God - that embodiment of Truth under which all of life's events are subsumed. In God such a loss becomes rational - it has meaning. His death was God's plan. He will go to a better place. The rationalisations of the faithful give hope.
I remember a lengthy talk with a friend I left in Oz, a devout Baptist. Being the snob intellectual that I am, I still cannot reconcile intelligence with religiosity. And yet she is without a doubt brilliant. After this talk, filled with plenty of sobbing, I understood that her religion allowed her to function. I had since become more sensitive of the faithful, having also become fast friends with a devout Muslim. I also lived with a young atheist. How uncomfortable was one dinner conversation when we were all sitting at the dinner table. Whilst I did not believe in any of their religions, I thought it was worth defending their right to believe as they chose.
What of my own philosophy? I have no faith in god. Humanist that I am, I have faith in people. In redeeming myself, and in wishing redemption for others, I see reason. I see meaning.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
At the school supply shop I waited patiently for the boy to have his photocopying business done. When he was about to finish a woman came in and had the audacity to want to be served first. Incensed I asked the sales person to serve me first, as I arrived earlier. My tone of voice clearly communicated I was upset. The lady who came after me had the audacity to smile knowingly, as though she actually thought I was reprimanding the sales person and not her.
Ah. The courtesies of the bourgeoisie. We queue and wait our turn because we expect to be treated fairly - by the school supply shop, by the bus stop, by the restaurant, by the government bureau. We often turn up our noses at this rude and uncouth practice of the 'masses.' Cutting in line over everyone else. It is, after all, the ultimate sign of disrespect. But coming from their perspective, it is completely rational behaviour. Because the system does not treat everyone fairly. Those who have the means purchase public service 'more expensively' to avoid inconvenience. And those who have no means invent ways to circumvent the system.
In the society we have evolved into these past few decades, it is clearly every person for herself. Everyone wants to "one-up" everyone else. From the littlest things, as the queuing incident, to the biggest multi-billion-Peso-worth things. How cruel. And how feudal.