smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

This isn’t bridge building

One of the Latin titles borne by the Roman Catholic Pope is Pontifex Maximus. Today, that title is translated as Supreme Pontiff, or even High Priest. Pretty accurate, right?

But Pontifex is of much older vintage than that. The word actually comes from the ancient Roman  religion – the one where they worship Jupiter, Neptune, etc – and literally means “bridge-builder.” This was important on two levels. First, in the physical sense as it related to the worship practices of those times, it was only the priest – the pontifex – who was able to address the river god to “get his permission” for the erection of bridges. And bridges were critical to the financial and political well being of the Roman empire.

Second, on the symbolic level, it was the pontifex who was expected to “bridge” the gap between the gods and men. This is the sense of the word that prevails now and makes “Pontifex Maximus” such an apt title for the Roman Pope. He – Pope Francis today – is the one who bridges the divide between the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom; he is the one who brings billions of Catholics in communion with the one God.

Breathtaking responsibility, isn’t it?

Over the last few years, however, more and more Catholics have been feeling more and more alienated from that one God who is supposed to welcome them with open arms. And the fault is often laid at the feet of the Catholic Church and its Pope – particularly the unpopular Benedict XVI – due to its policies on reproductive health, homosexuality, and child abuse by priests.

The Church’s hardline positions on these issues have been driving a deep wedge between itself and the faithful, causing the latter to drift away. Now if you were to take the hardline stance, that isn’t such a bad thing. After all, there have been bishops who have shrugged of the dwindling congregations by saying that those who remain are the true Catholics. There is a certain amount of sense in that. Religions are, by their very nature, meant to be exclusive clubs open only to those who believe in the core faith. It follows therefore that if you don’t believe, you’re welcome to leave.

But the inescapable fact is that these issues – RH, homosexuality, and child abuse – cut across religious boundaries because of the Church’s preeminence. Let me explain.

Today, the largest non-government healthcare provider in the world is the Catholic church. Considering the state of government run health facilities in many countries outside of the developed world, this means that even non-Catholics basically have no choice but to go to Catholic institutions for health services.

Now imagine going to a Catholic clinic and asking for condoms because you already have more children than you can feed? Or asking for a morning-after pill coz you’ve been raped and don’t  want to get pregnant? Nope and Nope. Condoms are prohibited, and contraception and abortion are strictly verboten. Abortion actually results in automatic excommunication.

But beyond health services, consider also the effect of 1.1 billion Catholics on public policies regarding non-discrimination against homosexuals, and the treatment of priests found to have molested minors.

These are real-world situations that, by rights, should have nothing to do with religious beliefs, and yet the very pervasiveness of the Roman Catholic Church practically define how they are professionally and officially addressed.

As a result, many people – finding their religion being used to deprive them of service and solace – end up losing their religion. Remember how I said that isn’t such a bad thing for purists? Yes, well, the Roman Catholic Church is also pragmatic and the fact is, the Church pulls down at least 4 billion US dollars a year in donations, from the American churches alone! If the number of faithful diminish, so too will the collections. It really is as simple as that.

Now this isn’t to say that it’s just a money-grubbing industry. While the Church has its share of embezzlers, much of that money still goes to funding the thousands of hospitals and missions maintained by the Church in developing countries.

Nevertheless, that’s the quandary the Church is in right now. It’s hemorrhaging believers and losing dollars. Downstream, this will mean less money for charities, hospitals, and missions. Everybody loses.

The proximate cause of this exodus of believers, everyone agrees, is the Church’s stance on reproductive health, homosexuality, and the treatment of child abuse cases. Ironically, these are the very same issues that the Church refuses to  give ground on. Again, understandable from a strictly purist point of view, but murder on the pragmatic side of the Church. In a very real sense then, the bridges of the Church to its flock are crumbling and, as a bridge builder between men and God, the Church is failing miserably.

Which is why many Catholics – and Church observers – are over the moon with Pope Francis now. This affable, selfie-taking, Argentinian has taken the world by storm with his humility and no-nonsense attitude. Many hail him as a breath of fresh air, and people are just quivering with excitement at his decidedly forward-looking statements.

In 2013, his statement “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  had everyone and his gay uncle jumping for joy. Here in the Philippines, formerly implacable critics of Benedict XVI were suddenly more inclined to give the Church the benefit of the doubt.

And certainly, doubt we should.

Here are the other things Pope Francis says, compiled by Salon.com

Here, a collection of his very worst quotes on the issue.

1. A Senate vote on gay marriage is a destructive pretension against the plan of God

From a letter to the Carmelite Sisters of Buenos Aires on the perils of marriage equality:

“Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

2. Gay marriage will destroy the family

More from the same letter to the four monasteries of Argentina:

“The Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family… At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children.

3. Gay parenting is a rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts

Again:

“At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

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4. The political struggle against marriage equality is war

And finally:

“The bill will be discussed in the Senate after July 13. Look at San Jose, Maria, Child and ask them [to] fervently defend Argentina’s family at this time. [Be reminded] what God told his people in a time of great anguish: ‘This war is not yours but God’s.’ May they succor, defend and join God in this war.”

5. Gay adoption is discrimination against children

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Francis called gay adoption a form of “discrimination against children.” A comment that resulted in a public rebuke from Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who said that Francis’ remarks suggested “medieval times and the Inquisition.”

This isn’t bridge-building. Not in the least. And the worst part is that this dark core of anti-gay thought is now being clothed in the purest white and being sold to an adoring public, and for the most cynical of reasons – money.

 

Filed under: church and state, international, sex, sheepage, , , ,

Which type of Filipina is sexiest?

I’m pretty conflicted about this article from the Huffington Post. On the one hand, it’s a kick to see that Filipinas are considered the fifth sexiest women in the world, ranking after the British, Colombians, Russians, and Brazilians. But on the other hand, I have to wonder, which Filipinas they’re talking about?

For those of you who don’t know or are too chickenshit to admit, there are several kinds of Filipinas, depending on how much foreign blood has been introduced into the mix.

A basic Google Image search ought to illustrate.

First, you have your Basic Malayan – the type I like calling Pinays.

Very beautiful I think, and that pug nose can be quite adorable at times. Nice doe eyes add a hint of oriental mystique, and of course the hair. Now the big boobs in the picture aren’t exactly a common occurrence, but admittedly, when they do happen, they look very nice.

And then there’s the Filipina-Chinese. Let’s call them the Shobes.

Heart Evangelista would fit in this category, but I’m not using her as an example simply because she is a celebrity. And well, celebrities do take extra care of their appearance so, she would hardly be representative of the average Filipina. SO yeah, this chick.

The thing with most Filipina-Chinese is that they tend to have cute rounded cheeks. They rock the look, though.

There are also the Bonitas, Filipina-Spanish. Take a look at this stunner.

While profiling looks is probably one of the least politically correct things to be doing, the physical differences in the appearances of these three broad (and admittedly arbitrary) categories of Filipina women are striking enough to be noticeable. I think these pictures make that pretty obvious.

Bonitas tend to have sharper, more delicate features, such as patrician noses and thin lips. Pinays have fuller features, especially noticeable with the pouty lips and pert noses. Bonitas have rounded eyes, while Shobes and Pinays normally have chinky peepers.

Bonita faces have more angular planes than do the typical Shobes and Pinays. Shobes have softer features, tending to be heart-shaped and Pinays tend to have the oval to oblong face shape characteristic of Malays.

Body-wise, I think Shobes have the best figures. Boobs not to big, tending to be long in the torso, and tall. Bonitas and Pinays are more likely to be petite, with Bonitas being really slightly built while Pinays are more on the robust side.

ASIDE: before you go ballistic on me for doing this kind of comparison, remember I’m only talking about averages here. There are outliers for all three types I’m describing, naturally.

So there you go. I wonder what type of Filipina they considered when they ranked us as the fifth sexiest. What do you think?

Filed under: international, musings, sex, vacuity, , , ,

Why I don’t believe John

Over at POC, Cocoy writes about the plight of John de la Cruz, effective framing the piece via the title: “Why Filipinos shouldn’t work in Vietnam.” Having once been offered precisely that opportunity, I was naturally curious. But what I was hoping would be a rational piece explaining why employment in Vietnam would be a bad idea for the descendants of Jose Rizal, turned out to be nothing more than an exercise in jingoistic chest beating.

John de la Cruz – in case you didn’t get it the first time around, Juan de la Cruz – claims to have been “unjustly” terminated and complains to the Philippine Ambassador to Vietnam. Presumably – the piece doesn’t provide a lot of background information – he did so seeking legal assistance to pursue his claim against his employer. Again presumably, this claim included a recitation of his employer’s “many violations.” What those violations are, the piece forgets to detail.

Anyway, as it turns out, the employer actually replies:

“He wants all things at GLN have to follow him, even me,” Bui Thi Le Hang wrote. She goes on. “He didn’t respect my request/ email. He always said that I am so nice with everyone. Yes, I am nice and patient enough to work but I am too headache to listening complaints about his behavior from our Branch Manager. Once customers complaint about his teaching style, we gave this comments to him and he started to fight with our students, this behavior made our students scare to study with him and they had asked to change to other class or change to other teacher many times. Some students even not returned to continue their study with him even their tuition fee still left. We have lost a lot of customer due to this behavior but he never accepts or agrees that it’s because of his service, he will blame because of our staffs or our student. Therefore, it’s really dangerous to giving him a class. We had reduced this risky by offer him a position as Head teacher as his request and our Academic Manager’s request but his behavior still not change.

Moreover, he refused to work on Sunday as in the contract, this day he should work from Sunday to Friday. Although he used to beg for this favor from me, I did not agree with that but he always said to staffs/Branch Manager he worked with me already and I agreed. He only worked on Sunday if we have marketing events/workshop. In addition to this, he also refused to work at Nguyen Thi Dinh branch as our request.”

Breaking that down, the Vietnamese employer seems to be complaining, first, that Johnny didn’t go what he was asked; second, that Johnny had been complained about by the employer’s branch manager, and the school’s students; third, that confronted with these complaints, Johnny had tried to pass the blame on to other staff and had actually taken it out on the students and that some students had actually packed up and left the school because of him; fourth, that, confoundingly, Johnny had actually been given the position of Head Teacher but that the promotion had not mellowed him out; and fifth, that he refused to work Sundays, even if it was in his contract.

In reply, Johnny wrote the Ambassador.

Dela Cruz argued in his letter to Ambassador Santos that he did not refuse the work. He simply wished that the class be moved to his branch.

“I was the Head Teacher at the main branch and I had a lot of duties. I did not refuse the class, I wanted it moved to my branch where I work because since my contract ends in May, I wanted to have the opportunity to train the teachers, and I had other responsibilities in my branch given to me by the Owner/BOD: Ms. Bui Thi Le Hang, and Senior Admissions Officer: Ha Thuc Dieu Linh.”

In his letter to the ambassador, dela Cruz wrote many alleged violations of GLN English Learning Center. In July 2010, according to Dela Cruz, General Manager Bui Thi Le Hang ordered then Tran Dai Nghia Branch Manager Hoang Nhung to forcibly take the Philippine passport of one Filipina teacher there. In the same year an electrical fire broke out at the Nguen Thi Dinh branch. According to his account, there were no fire extinguishers and no fire safety procedures in place, which he said was in violation of the Vietnam’s Labor Code. According to him, there were still no fire extinguishers when he left their employ.

According to Dela Cruz, on February 21, 2013, at 2pm, a meeting was held at GLN’s Head Office. GLN’s HR Manager Nguyen Thi Lan Huong and Keangnam Senior Admissions Officer Ha Thuc Dieu Linh represented the company. The Philippine Consul joined dela Cruz in that meeting. The Human Resources Manager, according to dela Cruz talked about his poor performance.

Dela Cruz countered with an annual performance appraisal letter, congratulating him of his achievements and a hand written note from the General Manager over New Year’s saying that she liked how dela Cruz “strictly follow rules and regulations”. Dela Cruz argued that there were no official records of complaint filed against him by students. Dela Cruz claims that the company falsified public documents. Dela Cruz said his work visa was for “Business Staff”, but his contract stated that he was an “ESL Teacher”.

So, Johnny’s response to the five points raised by his employer?

  1. That he did not refuse the Sunday class, but that he had wanted it moved to the branch where he was.
  2. That his employer were guilty of many violations, although he specified only two: the taking of the passport of one of the Filipina teachers, and the lack of fire extinguishers in the place.
  3. That, in response to allegations of poor performance, he had a positive annual performance appraisal letter and a hand-written note from the General Manager saying that she liked him being a stickler for the rules.
  4. That there was no official record of complaints filed against him; and
  5. That his contract called him an “ESL Teacher” but his work visa said “Business Staff,” and that therefore, his employer was guilty of falsifying public records.

In a Skype chat, the piece reports, Johnny goes on to drop the statement that the owner “explicitly said” that she can hire Filipinos anytime, and that she once refused to see the Filipino consul.

All of this, of course, goes to the argument that Filipinos are – as Johnny said – brutalized, mistreated by Vietnamese employers, and therefore, Vietnamese employers should be prevented from hiring Filipinos.

Whoa, right?

First of all, shouldn’t we ask Johnny why the company had to move the class to his branch, just because he said so? And if the company refused to do as he said, would that refusal justify anything other than his compliance with the terms of his contract? I can think of several reasons why the company would refuse to move a class from one branch to another, but at the top of that list would be the students. Why should one teacher’s preference be paramount over the paying clientele’s convenience?

Second, the employer’s behavior – for which we only have Johnny’s word, btw – towards any other Filipino employee, is hardly a justifiable reason for Johnny to be anything less than a good employee himself. Neither is the absence of fire extinguishers a good excuse. Seriously, if the working conditions made him that uncomfortable, Johnny should have just upped and left. But he didn’t, did he?

Third, a positive annual performance appraisal letter doesn’t guarantee that an employee will always be a model employee. In fact, the usual track is for people to start out spectacularly and for performance to dip over time, as things like ennui or complacency creep in. At best, this claim by Johnny only proves that he had at least one good year with the company – a situation not incompatible with a later deterioration of his desirability.

Fourth, the fact that there were no official records of complaints against him proves squat. For one thing, any description of the character traits of Vietnamese will include assertions that they are timid, polite, easily frightened – remember how his employer said “[his] behavior made our students scare to study with him?” – and not very self-confident, preferring instead the strength that comes from collective action. None of these character traits would seem to predispose to the filing of official complaints against a person in authority. In other words, the absence of such complaints seems, in fact, inevitable.

And fifth, I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t bring up the disparity in job titles earlier. Also, there seems to be no great difference between business staff and esl teacher, with the former being a more generic description of his relationship to his employer, and the latter being a more specific designation of his duties within the business. And besides, what the heck does any of that have to do with his termination???

As for the claims he made via Skype – presumably talking with the author of the piece, or at least someone already predisposed to accepting his sob story – about how Filipinos can be hired anytime, well, don’t we go to Vietnam to work? How is this particularly offensive? In a similar vein, are we supposed to get all offended when a foreign national, on her native soil, refuses to see our diplomat? While it may have been bad manners for his employer to not come out to see the consul, can that snub really be significant to the question of whether he was unlawfully terminated?

Hardly.

Reading this piece, which intrinsically exhorts a kind of stop deployment order for Vietnam and is marketed on Twitter as a call for Filipinos to avoid employment in Vietnam on the basis of one disgruntled employee’s largely incoherent claims of unfair treatment, I imagine that the more responsible take would be an attempt to discover whether the 30-day notice requirement was actually complied with. But then again, this didn’t seem to be the goal in the first place.

Instead, this piece clearly set out to portray the Filipino as a victim, once again; tapping into the collective outrage at Filipinos being mistreated as a kind of shortcut to generating support for this particular Filipino. Better by far to have just avoided the victim card altogether.

So why don’t I believe John? I don’t believe him because he – and the author of this piece – seems content to just paint a picture of himself as an oppressed Filipino without bothering to clearly and definitively debunk the accusations against him. That’s lazy and it doesn’t do justice to all the other Filipinos who, by hard work and integrity, have made it abroad.

Filed under: Filipino, international, ,

Audio/Video

AUDIO

A tip o’ the beret to LaTtEX for this ‘un. garygGary Granada takes on GMA Kapuso Foundation for using his revisions to their lyrics (for a jingle he was commissioned to compose) without attribution – and here’s the kicker – using an audio-cast! Pure public relations genius, that! On one level, you’d think that the choice of medium – new media – was prolly a no-brainer. Granada was talking about music and lyrical composition after all, and it packs a helluva lot more punch to have the audience actually hear the claimed IP klepto-ing than to just say “I wuz robbed!” But on a PR level, Granada got his side out first, and did it in a way that puts GMA on the defensive in a really bad way. For one thing, Granada’s tone was calm and even throughout – not hysterical in the slightest. That alone clues you in that this is serious. But not so serious that he doesn’t joke a little. The touch of humor tells you that he isn’t desperate for sympathy – and by extension, that he’s not desperate for allies and is not out to raise a jihad. Like a general closely following Sun-Tzu’s play, Granada has chosen his battleground, and has clearly chosen it well. GMA is now on a slippery slope that it will, perforce, have to try to defend using legalese. In a country positively exhausted with the concept of “legally-right even if morally-questionable,” good luck with that

!

SIDEBAR: My quick and dirty analysis of the situation: Granada isn’t claiming that GMA used his music. What he claims is that GMA used his revisions of the lyrics – original copy was given to him and he tweaked it to fit the music he wrote – and set it to someone else’s music. According to Granada, the industry practice is that if the client isn’t happy with the work and decides to give it to someone else, then the client ought to give the new artist the original copy and let that new guy tweak it himself. GMA, according to Granada didn’t do that. Instead, GMA gave the new artist the lyrics as tweaked by Granada. Granada in effect says that the tweaking he did constitutes intellectual property, and that the use of his tweaked lyrics sans attribution is, at the very least, objectionable. I haven’t read GMA’s reply, but from what Granada himself quoted, it seems that GMA’s tack has been to claim that the tweaking of the lyrics was a ‘group effort.’ Granada admits that at least some of the changes were made during a pow-wow with GMA’s creatives – where presumably he suggested a few changes that the creatives agreed with. But he takes exception that that made it a group effort. At this point in the audiocast, Granada attempts to distinguish a song-writer from a copy-writer. Listen to the ‘cast and come to your own conclusions of course, but Granada’s distinctions seemed logical if a bit fuzzy. He basically says that adapting written copy – essentially a kind of poetic prose – to fit a song is something that only a song-writer can do; and that even if a song-writer does the tweaking in the company of a group of copy-writers who eventually agree, that still cannot qualify as group-writing. Group-writing to me implies that there was cooperative give and take; that it wasn’t Granada alone who made the changes but that some of the changes were proposed by the copyists. GMA may be implying that this is exactly how it went down, and Granda himself does not clearly refute this. He only sez that it’s ridiculous to call it a group effort. Like I said, fuzzy. Also: It is important to note that GMA has already telegraphed it’s potential defense that Granda’s tweaking was too minor to transform the original lyrics – copyright owned by GMA obviously – into a new work whose copyright belongs to Granada. But then again, even if the tweaks were major enough to create a new work out of the old, looking at the situation from an IP p-o-v, it is fairly safe to say that even tho’ the person who commissions the work does not necessarily own the copyright, he will usually have the right to use the work for the purpose for which the work was commissioned. And if GMA actually paid Granada for his work, you can imagine that it’ll be even easier to assume that GMA did have the right to use the work for their ad. On the other hand, the creator – Granada (assuming that the tweaked lyrics can be considered a new original) – also has the moral right to attribution. Now he can take action if the work is attributed to someone else, but does he have an actionable right if there was no attribution at all? Again, with only Granada’s ‘cast to go by, still pretty fuzzy. You can bet everything you own that this will be GMA’s playground if this tiff with Granada gets any bigger.

Over-all, even if GMA does prove that it owes Granada nothing, it will still come off as the bad-guy in this story. And for that, Granada has to be thankful to the power of new media. Me, I’m inclined to go with the moral aspect – the moral obligation of GMA to attribute at least some of the work to Granada. Besides, having Granada’s name attached to the project can only bring greater goodwill. Ironic that GMA apparently ignored that truth. VIDEO Hat tip to TSD for this one: Apparently, some people are starting to grumble about this ad, complaining about how it portrays Filipinos as ‘hungry’ and prone to violence. The prone to violence aspect is obvious. As for the ‘hungry,’ that can only make sense in the original tagalog idiom: patay-gutom. A better translation for that would be ‘greedy’ I guess. Or ‘greedy-guts.’ Whatevs. You get the point. Course, I would be happier if the guy who broke the mirror weren’t Filipino. But since he is, I have to wonder: so the fuck what? On another note, doesn’t the Skittles guy look familiar?

separated

Filed under: blogging, Filipino, international, pop-culture, , , ,

Red Cross

redcross

Filed under: crime, international, law and order, news, ,

Can it happen here?

The Warrior Lawyer gives an excellent overview of the burning of Mumbai and posts the question:

Can it happen in Manila ?

Funny thing that, because just this morning, one of the people here in the office offered up the opinion that such a thing could never happen in Manila. The Warrior Lawyer believes otherwise, but sees the Mumbai attacks as a model for other terrorists to follow; a perverse kind of best practices thing.

And this may serve as a template for other terrorist attacks in other areas of the world, wherein a relatively small number of determined killers, estimated at a mere two dozen, could hold an entire country hostage. Our anti-terrorism forces, such as they are, should consider this as a wake-up call.

I guess Sonny Trillanes has pretty much mooted the question. Admittedly, he took over the Oakwood and the Manila Pen with a largely benign game-plan, but the fundamentals of a sudden attack, a protracted seige, and a bloody end-game were all in place. If he had wanted to turn malignant, he could have easily managed it. 

So it can be done. That shouldn’t be a question anymore. The thing to ask now is who – in the Philippines – would be able to do such a thing? And the answer to that is prolly gonna keep me up nights.

Who can do it? Practically anyone.

The most suited, of course, would be the military. Rogue elements – like Trillanes was – have access to everything they need to make it work: guns, ammo, explosives, vehicles, and warm bodies. The trick is not to expose themselves as rogues prematurely. Oh and – this is where Trillanes screwed up – not to do the deed with a political goal in mind. 

Political goals muddle operations effectivity. There should be a desire to win, above all else, regardless of the cost, without regard for tomorrow. Let politics – and considerations of whether you will be received as a hero or as a murderer when the dust settles – enervates the attack and leaves it vulnerable to defusing. 

After the military, the best suited would be radicals. Based on what limited knowledge I get as a fly on the wall, I would say that Islamic radicals have the upper hand on ideological radicals in this arena. Islamic radicals, it is said in official circles, have not cut off logistic support to their various cells scattered throughout the country despite the continuing engagements in Mindanao. In theory, therefore, when the call comes through, these groups can mobilize with significant rapidity – certainly enough to overwhelm our complacent, under-equipped, and under-manned police force.

After the military, after the radicals, who else can do this sort of thing? Practically anyone – although prolly not on a similar scale, much lesswith the same kind of coordination. But just think of all the crazies that have given our newspapers and politicians hard-ons over the years, and you’ll see what I mean. Remember that loon with the bus? Or the motorcycle bomb at the House of Representatives? Or the various bus bombs in the south?

The thing is, whoever gets it into his head that terrorism is the thing to do doesn’t only have the advantage of surprise, he can also capitalize on our society’s strident distrust for the government and its instrumentalities – particularly those instrumentalities that pack heat and have the ability  to pry into our private lives. 

Obviously, the distrust is well-earned, but even assuming that it isn’t – taking for the sake of argument that we can trust the government – a major part of our society would be up in arms the minute we see more uniformed men on the streets or we feel that we are being inconvenienced by new procedures that objectively help diminish the possibility of a surprise attack.

The goal of most human societies is to live in peace, and for the most part, we have been pretty successful. Unfortunately, we have also become the victims of our own success. In moving towards peaceful co-existence as a paradigm for human society, we have also practically bred out tolerance for the dirty work that is needed to keep the surface of things placid. We hold the peace in high esteem, but we honor our peacekeepers only when they appear genteel and polished. But when we are forced to confront them while they are doing their job – with their dirty faces and bloody hands – we shiver in disgust and we call them animals. It’s kinda like those old houses where you enjoy the food you are served until you see the dirty kitchen where the food was prepared. 

taj_230Mumbai, far from being a wake-up call to just our anti-terrorist forces, should be a wake up call to US as well. We should never forget that these things can happen, and that there are people out there who hate our way of life so much that they will suffer their own death simply to ensure that they take us to ours. Along with that acknowledgement, there must also be the willingness to give those who we expect to protect us the benefit of the doubt that they are doing everything necessary to do their job right.

Filed under: international, law and order, society, , , ,

BBC hearts Filipinas

I’m not even going to pretend that I understand the context of this clip from the BBC. I’ve no idea what ‘mating the filipina maid with the northener’ means, except that it seems to be a dig at this northener for not being able to get interested in a sexy girl ‘presenting her rear’ (which is zoologist talk for the kind of sexual body language that features giving prominence to the rump). This interpretation – which again is arrived at without the benefit of context – seems to be borne out by the fact that the angry man’s friend seems only too eager to get with the filipina at the end of the clip. Apparently, he was turned on.

SO now the question is, was this clip particularly degrading to Filipinos?

I suppose if you consider the overt sexuality of the french maid stereotype as offensive to French women, this BBC sketch could be offensive.

Ah, but then we don’t worry about portraying the Chinese as drooling and devious cheats in our sitcoms, do we? Good god. Can you imagine what would happen if the Chinese were to suddenly take offense?

And what about portraying Indians as smelly usurers? Or Muslims as traders in ridiculously shitty products (like the wristwatch that’s so water proof that when the water gets in there, it never gets out).

Apparently, our sensitivities run only one way, and our sense of irony is as dead as a doornail. Classic pikon, as they say in the playgrounds. Can’t take as good as we can dish out.

Mesself, I’m seeing another dimension in all this: a victim-mentality. The predisposition to see everything as potentially victimizing us; the belief that we are in a constant struggle to prove our worth, and that the abuses visited upon our nationals are unique to us – that other nationals are not subjected to the same kinds of abuse. Want to talk about Filipinas being considered whores? Let’s talk about Russian mail-order brides and exported prostitutes. Let’s talk about the Chinese whores brought into this country by the boatload to work in brothels in Manila. 

The point being that we are not being singled out by the universe for abuse. It’s just the inferiorty complex talking.

So get a grip, Riza.

Filed under: international, society, , , , , , , ,

Cold War 2.0

The war on terror. Listening to Obama and McCain campaign, you’d think that those four words summed up all that’s important in American foreign policy. But, as important to American interests the war on terror is, the fact is that what goes on in Washington DC can be a game-changer throughout the world. And when the game changes, it isn’t always for the good.

Take for instance the situation in South America.

The US just expelled the Venezuelan ambassador, apparently in retaliation for the US ambassador to Venezuela getting the boot as well. Hugo Chavez, of course, is saying that he recalled the Venezuelan ambassador. Who did what first doesn’t really matter though. What matters is that this tit-for-tat only deepens the divide between the US and Chavez – who happens to be quite a popular figure in South American politics. A popularity he obviously wants to bolster; he says he expelled the American ambassador in solidarity with Bolivia.

And its not just South Americans that gravitate towards Chavez. Now the Russians are getting cozy with him too, setting up joint military exercises in the Caribbean. Remember Russia?

After the Cold War, many Russia experts advocated reaching out to Russia with an open hand. Instead, the American government insisted on cultivating an atmosphere of distrust, to the point of actively moving to expand NATO right up to Russia’s doorstep. 

Now the Bear has always been paranoid about being encircled by unfriendlies – which was exactly what America was doing. This doctrine of containment may have worked well in the Cold War, but after the collapse of the USSR, all it did was make the Kremlin feel that it wasn’t being welcomed by the west. 

But now, that containment strategy has been shown to be more bark than bite. When Russian tanks rolled into Georgia – a key US ally – all the Americans could do was issue denouncements. It was like breaking the four-minute mile; all of a sudden, American superiority wasn’t so scary anymore. 

So here’s the situation: Chavez in South America, and Russia – neither one feeling warm and fuzzy towards the US, beginning to cozy up to each other. There’s a lot for them to agree on, but principally, one suspects that they really just want to challenge the perceived American hegemony. And with both being major oil producers, that challenge – perhaps nascent for now – can sure shape up to be a major headache for the US. It’s just not as obvious yet as the war on terror; but when it becomes Cold War 2.0, well this is where it started folks.

So shouldn’t the candidates be talking about that? Maybe they are, but I just haven’t read anything about it. 

And then there’s the perennial problem with North Korea. First off, they build nuclear launch sites; then there’s this rumor that Dear Leader isn’t recovering well from his stroke – leading to fears about internal instability. Of course, if Kim were to croak without leaving a successor, there’s also the probability of his successor opening up the Hermit Kingdom and dropping the saber they’ve been rattling for almost two generations. But then again that that’s all North Korea really has – the threat of nuclear conflagration. Without that threat, it loses the billions of dollars of bribe aid money it receives in exchange for not causing trouble. So it’s also perfectly plausible for Kim’s successor to keep on rattling the saber – thereby prolonging the uncertainty in that region – or to go James Bond villain and just launch the damned missiles. 

I’m sure the candidates are talking about that too. I’m just not hearing it over the din of the potshots being taken at Obama for being a community organizer and at Palin for being an empty-headed campaign ornament.

So why is this relevant for the Philippines (a question that’s recently been asked over at FV, btw)?

Well, for one thing, everyone knows that when the US sneezes, damn near the whole world catches a cold, and we develop pneumonia. For another, Filipinos are one of the largest ethnic groups in the US today. But the bottom line is, US foreign policy is determined by its President. And US foreign policy affects the world. We become collateral damage if the US screws up. For instance, the invasion of Iraq contributed heavily to the sky-rocketing of the cost of oil and so does the US’ antagonizing of Chavez, and we all know what expensive oil does to economies – including our own.

US foreign policy also dictates US actions on foreign soil. I know its all apocrypha, but its been said often enough that the US meddles in local affairs. Chavez says a coup was being planned in Venezuela that had American blessings, for example. Closer to home, it’s been suggested that the MOA-AD was part of a greater American plan to ‘spread democracy.’ Look what that brought us.

All in all, it’s not just Americans who have a stake in the outcome of the presidential elections in November. And as people who stand to be affected by that vote, we need to have an opinion too; even if our opinion stands a snowball’s chance in hell of shaping the American decision.

Filed under: international, politics, , , , , ,

Guess what KL stands for?

 

Malaysia’s top anti-government blogger arrested under law allowing detention without trial

By SEAN YOONG | Associated Press Writer

3:26 AM CDT, September 12, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Police arrested Malaysia’s top anti-government blogger Friday under a law allowing indefinite detention without trial in a move likely to face public reproach.

 

I felt sad that I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.

Filed under: blogging, international, ,

Pirates of Metrowalk

PHILIPPINES

The Philippines will remain on the Watch List in 2008. The United States is concerned about U.S. industry reports of an apparent increase in piracy in the Philippines, particularly in the areas of book piracy, illegal downloads using mobile devices, piracy on the Internet, and the illegal camcording of films in theaters. The United States urges the Philippines to take steps to reverse these trends and strengthen its enforcement regime against piracy and counterfeiting.
Specifically, the Philippines should pursue final determinations in outstanding IPR cases, including those related to cable piracy, with imposition and implementation of deterrent-level penalties. The Philippines also should strengthen the Optical Media Board and provide it with adequate resources to expand and improve the effectiveness of its activities; strengthen the Customs IP unit; ensure that its patent regime complies with the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights; enforce copyright protection of printed material; and seek to obtain amendments to the Copyright Act to implement the WIPO Internet treaties. The United States will continue to work with the Philippine Government under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement to strengthen the Philippines IPR regime.

This made me laugh. “The Philippines should strengthen the Optical Media Board”? LOL!

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to find local movies and porn in Metrowalk? I did. I was out looking for a DVD of Sarah Geronimo’s latest movie – after having read the jester’s blog post about it … no, really! LOL. – and the lady at this legit video store told me they didn’t have it and that I should go to Metrowalk. So, off I went, and within minutes, it was obvious that nobody carried tagalog movies.

I asked one of the stall minders and she helpfully told me that they didn’t stock tagalog movies or porn. I was like, whut?! As it turns out, this decision is not because of the market – God knows even the rich and perfumed trip on gang-bang videos and Sarah Geronimo; it’s because they’ve has entered into a gentleman’s agreement with some guy: they don’t sell porn or tagalog movies, he doesn’t bust their asses.

Now, I can’t vouch for what the stall minder told me, but there it is. You decide. Mesself, I’ve stopped wondering why Metrowalk actually got a special mention in the 2008 Report of the US Trade Representative:

Neighborhood of Quiapo (Manila, Philippines). Street stalls in this neighborhood are notorious for selling counterfeit and pirated merchandise. Other notorious markets in Manila include Binondo, Greenhills, Makati Cinema Square, and Metrowalk.

Isn’t it funny, though, that out of five ‘notorious’ markets for pirated stuff, three are arguably high-brow? Does that make the argument that the best customers of these pirates are the more well-off members of society? If so, what does that make ay about us? I’d say that paints a picture of Manila’s well-heeled as a bunch of posing bastards, strutting about town with designer stuff that are actually fakes. LOL! Apparently, Brian was right and the Gucci Gang has more members than even they know.

And if it is true that there is this cozy deal with the pirates of Metrowalk, who knows what other deals he might have with them. The stall minder who told me about ther deal also told me that they were obliged to cluster three operations per stall instead of the usual one operator-one stall set-up. This made it easier to bust them, and it turned them into spies against each other. Kinda like a pirates’ Nash equilibrium.

In fact, if this deal exists with the pirates of Metrowalk, what’s to prevent there being similar  deals with other pirate havens?

Filed under: international, society, vacuity, , , , , , , , , , ,