Friday, February 29, 2008

What's in a Name?

Hillary Clinton must be getting desperate. She probably knows she's losing so she and her campaign team are getting down and very dirty. Her camp is harping on this photo of Barack Obama wearing a traditional African Muslim dress in his Kenya tour in 2006. Kenyan elders demand an apology.

From the right, A Republican talkshow host Bill Cunningham, called Obama a "Manchurian candidate" and kept repeating his middle name "Hussein" in his show.

Obviously all these are designed to draw attention to the fact that Obama is not white and does not have an Anglo name, therefore he is a shade closer to being an "Other." Worse he could be a dirty Muslim who is more than willing to negotiate with hated, evil Muslim terrorists. His opponents' main line of attack, now that they look set to lose, is questioning Obama's authenticity as an American.

As a thoughtful reflection, here's an excellent article from Salon tracing the etymology of names borne by prominent American figures. Benjamin (Franklin) is apparently Semitic.

If Barack (blessed) Hussein (good) Obama becomes the next US President, then Americans will have made a gigantic leap forward with redefining what it means to be American and defining what an "American" is vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

China's Web (To be concluded)

While Manolo's blog is again suspiciously inaccessible, I respond to one of the comments by BrianB:

China do not even educate diplomats.

Without a doubt China is still a developing country and it is threatened internally by poverty, peasant unrest, unequal development and environmental degradation.

Having said this, China has been preparing and planning for the last forty years when it is finally in a position to re-arrange the world order so to speak. It is hoarding capital (the US is probably its largest sovereign debtor) and it is investing and building economic, cultural and political ties not only in the Eurasian continent but as far away as Africa and South America.

We are in the neighbourhood, so we need to prepare for China's plans. Without a doubt China will be this region's superpower very soon.

In the last 10 years the claimants seem to have been content with the status quo. But the Chinese are advancing their foreign policy goals slowly and stealthily. The Spratlys is the single most explosive issue between China and the ASEAN. Not only is it energy rich (and China is desperate for energy while it continues to industrialise), but 80 percent of China's oil from the Middle East passes through the South China Sea.

From strategic, security and economic aspects, China will find a way to control the sealanes. While it has diversified its sources of energy away from the US-controlled Middle East towards its neighbours Russia and the Central Asian -stans, Venezuela and North Africa, the energy under the SCS is not only conveniently close and easy to transport but a disunified ASEAN easy to manipulate.

I have met some would-be Chinese diplomats. They are all, again without a doubt, brilliant.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leaving on a Jetplane?

“…the growth of trade seems to have reduced rather than increased migratory pressures. And this means that the restrictive immigration policies of industrialised countries have effectively served to create or aggravate the problem of clandestine immigration, mainly of low-skilled labour…

There are reasons to worry that many developing countries will find it hard to accumulate human capital and that this will undermine their long-term growth prospects. At the same time, for the majority of the developing countries, international migration leaves their most pressing labour market problem – that of surplus unskilled labour – unaffected. International migration today cannot do for developing countries what it did for Europe in the nineteenth century (2003: 93).”

- A.K. Ghose. Jobs and Incomes in a Globalising World. Geneva: International Labour Organisation.

I refuse to take this sitting down.

Yes the pattern of migration from poor to rich countries tend to see an outflow of high-skilled workers. And yes high-skilled workers tend to remit less than low-skilled ones because they also tend to come from relatively well-off families.

But remittances have to count for something. Where are we spending our remittances? I wish these were the things the technocrats of NEDA would spend time ruminating on, rather than contemplating the finer arts of kickbacks not "making bukol."

When Elections Matter

After the 11 years under John Howard and the Liberal Party, Australia's new government has so far made a complete 180 degree turn on three issues. In December it finally ratified the Kyoto Protocol (now the United States is the only hold out). This February Parliament has officially apologised for past legislations which sanctioned what is tantamount to kidnapping of young aborigines from their parents. This in contrast to the Liberal Party's staunch refusal to apologise for anything. PM Rudd's speech was quite devastating.

And finally, Australia begins troop pull-out from Iraq. What a difference a single election can make.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Slaving away on weekends, the girls and I have little opportunity to speak. The only sounds bouncing off the walls of the office are mouse clicks, keyboard licks, the occasional phone calls and the whir of the airconditioning . The other day, on a rare exchange of casual, even fun talk, the girls articulated something that had been dancing on the outskirts of conscious thought. Yes, Aussie men are hot. Yes (many) Aussie men are sexist. I have said before how men here seem to be caricatures of manhood, and the women their polar opposite.

I have never had an "asexual" conversation with an Australian man. And by this I mean a conversation where I wasn't acutely aware that I was not a man, that I was a woman and all that that implies. I remember the countless conversations I have had over the years with my Filipino guy friends and how I had grown used to exchanges where we were simply human beings. Obviously there are the characteristic sexual dynamics involved when men share time with women, but there in the dynamics are woven egalitarian undertones. Speaking with my Filipino male peers, I have never felt excluded. Speaking with Filipino male elders I have never felt patronised.

Here, in this little patch of Aussie soil, men tend to band together to the exclusion of women. They call it mateship. I call it homosocial.

Open Skies, Open Flies

So the Philippines is the third fastest growing domestic air travel market in the world. No mean feat in this day and age. I wonder how much of this is fuelled by locals travelling more and tourists flying to various parts of the country from the Manila domestic airport.

Its getting more and more difficult now to police our dating sites, as all sorts of people, interests and agenda converge. There are innocent romantics who truly want to meet partners whether in the Philippines or abroad. There are local women who see a foreign husband as their path to economic salvation. There are lonely overseas Filipinos who want a little piece of home. We are also getting more and more members signing up not only from traditional high income countries but from the Middle East. There are Europeans and North Americans who are shopping for younger, foreign brides (with all the power inequalities that suggests). Recently we are seeing a lot of Arab men looking to hook up with Filipinas in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. The Filipina is truly "in demand" for various reasons.

Back home there are men pretending to be girls to scam unsuspecting old retirees half a world away. There are people who look for sex tourism clients. More and more there are women, boys and ladyboys who strip on a webcam. They trawl our sites looking for customers. Day in, day out they create profiles and spam our members with links or more personal invitations on a third party instant messaging service (Yahoo or MSN). More often than not their "virtual pimps" are men overseas operating a "virtual brothel" with a transglobal market.

A few times while monitoring the chatroom I have seen people have full on sex on cam for everyone to see. I wonder where they are, are they back home in the Philippines? Are they in Norway? In Germany? In Malaysia?

Prostitution is the fourth-largest income generating "industry" in our country. So we prostitute our people overseas to meet the global market's demand of childcare, medical care, home care, and sexual care. All around the world women bear the burden of poverty more then men. Filipinas prove the rule.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Scammer Nation

These two are the most commonly used photos by our scammers. I know they're commercial models, but does anyone know what their names are?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

China's Web

This is news to me. We have relaxed our hold to our Spratlys claim in exchange for ODA from the Chinese government. It is Chinese foreign policy not to intervene in the domestic affairs of its sovereign business partners, and has been more than willing to deal with pariah states such as Iran and failed states such as the Sudan. Oo nga naman. Its not their business our country is run by thieves. Makes it all the more easier for China to weave its East Asian web.

"Ganito na ba'ng klase [ang] lipunan natin? Magsabi ka lang ng totoo, bayani ka na?" - Jun Lozada

Friday, February 22, 2008

While Everyone Obsesses over Exploding Phallic Symbols

"The world needs a more pragmatic, country-by-country approach, with room for neomercantilist regimes until such countries are firmly on the convergence track. Poor nations should be allowed to do what today's rich countries did to get ahead, not be forced to adopt the laissez-faire approach. Insisting on the merits of comparative advantage in low-wage, low-growth industries is a sure way to stay poor."

Bruce Scott - "The Great Divide in the Global Village"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Civilising Philippine Politics

Since we have inherited a Western political system and our consciousness, our ways of life, our identity is tied to the State, so must we look back to its history to see where we are going wrong. Where some are obsessed about the idea of adhering to what has been written in the highest law of the land - well, because we must obey the "rule of law," they seem to miss the big picture in favour of the details.

From the earliest Anglo-Saxon political philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes, all the way to the continental ones - the State, that construct, is supposed to be a metaphorical and physical space where its inhabitants can live safely from "the state of nature," where its literally every person for herself.

The State is a social contract. It is a promise between those who give up some of their rights and privileges to the Leviathan - the State - that entity which has the legitimate and supreme authority of to kill and tax. The State is a promise to its people that they can live civilly with each other - that there be absence of violence within its borders and that there be security of life and livelihood.

It is the task of civil society - all of us - to hold accountable our State to this promise. That there be security for all who live within its jurisdiction. That there be justice for all. That the letter of the law be applicable to everyone - and not only those who can afford it.

Given these simple concepts, how has the Philippine State fared? In recent history, has it guaranteed security for all of us? Has it guaranteed that physical space where we can live civilly with each other? How has it used its exclusive power to maim and to tax?

Given these simple concepts, what must we, civil society, do?

Monday, February 18, 2008


Anti-politics is a new type of politics because it is not about the capture of state power; it is the politics of those "who do not want to be politicians and don’t want to share power; it is a counter power that cannot take power and does not wish to. Power it has already, here and now, by reason of its moral and cultural weight..."
Of course, I am small before the great, weak before the powerful, cowardly before the violent, wavering before the aggressive, expendable before IT, which is so vast and durable that I sometimes think it is immortal. I don’t turn the other cheek to it. I don’t shoot with a slingshot; I look, and then I collect my words.

- George Kondrad, Anti-Politics

A Catholic Umma?

In the age of classical Islam, Muslims weaved their political, cultural, economic and social existence with the state, the bazaar and the mosque. When Muslims exhibited the exemplar of civilisation, the church was seen as an integral part of civil society.

So those of us obsessed with the Western conception of the separation of church and state in politics need not despair. More importantly, we need only look to the example of the United States and the very active "Bible-belt" constituents of the Republican party. So really, we are not special when it comes to religion mixing with politics.

In Support of Democracy?

Like a master patting its favourite pet on the head, Uncle Sam's mouthpiece commends our "lively, noisy democracy."

And here she is demonstrating just how much she is delighted by this renewed citizens' interest.

Bye Bye Haloscan

I have valiantly tried to re-install Haloscan to this new Blogger system to no avail. For someone who knows diddly squat about computer languages, I am at a loss as to how to fix the thing. I was with Blogger pre-Google days, and like most of us, had to make do with a third party for commenting. Hence, I have been with Haloscan since the very beginning and I have literally hundreds of comments archived. Since I am a free member, I cannot export my comments to Blogger. There are ways and means I know, but I am too lazy to fight the system. A system telling me I need to switch to Blogger's commenting system now. Damn you Google, for running the world.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Power of the Powerless

An excerpt from Vaclav Havel's Power of the Powerless:

Thus the power structure, through the agency of those who carry out the sanctions, those anonymous components of the system, will spew the greengrocer from its mouth.

The system, through its alienating presence in people, will punish him for his rebellion. It must do so because the logic of its automatism and self-defense dictate it.

The greengrocer has not committed a simple, individual offense, isolated in its own uniqueness, but something incomparably more serious. By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system.


The Power of the Powerless comes simply from saying that the empress has no clothes.

Blame Government?

"Something wrong with your life? BLAME THE GOVERNMENT!" reads KapeNiLattex's twit today. A flurry of short twits seem to express the weariness of those of us who just want peace and stability.

It is our civic duty to criticise, even oppose government, should we discern it is not heading in the direction we want it to go. And because our polity is still democratic, and most of us who have voice to speak still seem to value plurarlism over authoritarianism, then in theory all of us who count ourselves as part of this society are free to express our grievances against the government.

We cannot blame government for everything that goes wrong with our lives, but we can blame it for its failure to perform its public functions and failure to deliver on its public duties. When we mean public we mean everything that affects all our lives. What these duties and functions are depends on what we the Filipino people have agreed on. The Philippine Constitution is a good place to start.

An example of when we can legitimately blame government is when it fails to adequately deliver public services - i.e. good roads. If your national road has been baku-bako for decades, then you can blame government.

How our taxes are spent is probably the most personal of all public duties of government. Why should we blame government for the ZTE deal? Because each time our taxes are automatically deducted from our monthly salary and each time we pay VAT for every purchase, the funds should be spent on fixing your baku-bako road. Instead it goes to the fat cats running the show in Malacanang. Even more insidious is that government also has the power to borrow money on our behalf as the people, and spend the borrowed money as it sees fit. If it borrowed money to pay for the ZTE deal, and then pass on the expense to the public, we should not only be morally affronted but recognise that we have been personally robbed.

Nagpapakahirap ka'ng kumayod araw-araw, tapos yung 10 percent ++ ng kita mo ibibigay mo sa mga magnanakaw sa gobyerno?

Who wouldn't blame government for that?

Edited to add:

The ZTE deal was overpriced by US$130 million dollars. That is the sum we, the Public, were supposed to shoulder on behalf of our officials/thieves who cannot moderate greed.

Given today's exchange rate that amounts to:

P 5,306,339,820.29

Monday, February 11, 2008

Realist Politics

Dear Teacher,

First let me say I think you are an exceedingly good-looking chap and you certainly have some very admirable qualities. But for someone who professes to be a "realist" in politics, you seem to know very little about how the world really works.

I am sorry your lecture today has made me exceedingly depressed. All this talk of "national interest" inevitably makes me think of my own country. I am deeply sorry that it simply doesn't apply. Since my state can willy-nilly make me disappear and my state regularly robs me, I simply cannot associate my interests as a national with my state. While my state gives me the "privilege" of having a nationality - it does not necessarily follow that it is the guarantor of security. If anything, it is a major purveyor of insecurity.

But then it is my country's problem - and not the international system's...that is, until my state fails and poses an international security problem in the scale of Afghanistan's for example. After which it becomes your country's problem too. But anyhow, our case is different from Afghanistan, still quite a ways away from most of Africa's as well. But since we all agree we are lagging behind every single one of our neighbours aside from Myanmar, then falling down the hierarchy of the state system, i.e. becoming part of the fourth world, is not an impossibility.

Last year my President has set a record of sorts as the head of state who has visited China the most (in 2007 that is). Theoretically she is acting on behalf of 84 million Filipinos as Chief foreign policymaker and diplomat. Now it looks like she was brokering a deal between herself (and her cohorts) with a Chinese telecoms company. It is obviously not the Chinese' fault to turn a blind eye to my "state" padding the cost of laying down a national broadband network, and then making the Filipino public pay in the coming decades. Perhaps the idea of corporate social responsibility has not yet entered this nascent capitalist country's vocabulary. At this point the Chinese are only interested in one thing - getting rich, if ingloriously.

Your Student from (still) the Third World

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Under Construction

My blog celebrates her fifth birthday this month and I haven't fiddled with my layout in a while. She's begging for a makeover, so you'll be seeing some changes these coming days. I've been reluctant to switch to Blogger's new template system...but I'm finally taking a leap. Wish me luck!


I cannot figure out how to put haloscan back in, so until I do, I'm making do with Blogger's own commenting system. Anywho, I'd appreciate some feedback. :)