Thursday, September 25, 2008

Look Who's Arrogant Now

This could be a first, watching someone on television and become infected. In this breakthrough case, George W Bush demonstrates how a tv screen is unable to stop fear from spreading rapidly. Months from now, a retrospective study should establish how many people stroked-out during that performance.

Who put that guy and Cheney up there in the first place? How they succeeded in convincing millions that a Vietnam veteran was less patriotic than somebody who used his connections to stay out of harms way or got out through multiple deferments is the great question now haunting all law-abiding taxpayers.

Bush gives a simple description of how we got to this mess but takes absolutely no responsibility for the utter failure of his administration to regulate the abuses that could occur in an environment of untrammeled capitalism. How the very wealthy and billion dollar corporations continue to benefit from inequitable tax laws. How the billion-dollar-a-day war in Iraq has siphoned off much needed capital for improvements in education, healthcare delivery and infrastructure.

He did succeed in scaring the living crap out of everybody and asked us to blindly trust him with a blank check for $700 billion. Just what is a retiree who depends on some dividends do? Or someone nearing retirement with a portfolio that is 45% smaller than what was projected? Or couples looking to secure a loan for a house, a vehicle, tuition?

This crisis should decrease the super-saturated climate of arrogance prevailing. Whenever we reduced social services because we wanted our own little tax cuts, whenever we began blaming immigrants for our societal ills and restricted them from working jobs that nobody else wanted, whenever we thought we could save entire nations by violently deposing their leaders, whenever we thought we were doing things for the very first time and putting order in the world through our measly efforts.

“What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!‘ has already existed in the ages that preceded us. There is no remembrance of the men of old; nor of those to come will there be any remembrance among those who come after them.” Eccl 1: 9-11

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hold On A Minute

Ordinary taxpayers heaved a sigh of relief when it was announced that the government was putting out $700 billion to rescue the foundering financial system. The stock market staged a furious rally and we suckers felt better when our meager investments recovered a little bit.

Those who cheered the loudest however were the financial wizards, routinely paid tens of millions of dollars in bonuses, who are specialists in crafting arcane transactions that assign value to otherwise worthless negotiable instruments.

$700 billion is plainly a lot of money. Managed properly, the sum can handle the healthcare needs of the entire planet for 50 years--I’m referring to obstetric care, vaccinations, antibiotics, screening tests, angioplasties, chemotherapy--the works. Instead, I pity the next President of the United States because he won’t have any funds left for improving education, upgrading infrastructure and increasing the efficiency of healthcare delivery.

And the din from all the cheering is deafening because the overwhelming majority of US taxpayers including all the contributions coming from outcast illegal immigrants, will be covering the ill-gotten wealth amassed by these greedy money lending criminals.

This disaster wouldn’t have happened if Reagan had not been so successful in demonizing government that resulted in massive deregulation which allowed the well-connected (read as those who lobbied through monetary contributions for favorable rules that lavished undue advantages to those who already had a lot of money to begin with) to get away with nothing less than criminal avarice. While we were tricked into believing that our tax cuts were proportionally as large as the upper echelons of society making more than half a million a year, when we were distracted by social issues that tactically divided us from collectively asserting our rights, these villains kept on piling up their profits.

We need to think long and hard before we commit this breathtaking amount of money to bail out common criminals. In a just society, they need to be punished, they need to return the loot. The collapse of the US economy is a terrifying, almost unthinkable prospect. But the destruction of the nation’s moral character will be a fatal consequence.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Who says the China Syndrome was pure fantasy? In the event of a total meltdown, molten nuclear products from a reactor in the US would eat its way through the earth’s bedrock all the way to China.

Stock markets in Asia predictably mirrored the heavy losses sustained by the Dow. The contagion spread all over the world.

It was bound to happen. Who was going to pay for all those $100 million yearly bonuses of those executives from Lehman, Bear, Morgan, Goldman? This phenomenon has gone on for too long, a cruel caricature of capitalism gone mad. While a laborer in India or China would work under the sun for 12 hours or more and get paid $2, these hotshot moneymen would be managing all these financial transactions online, producing nothing of value and be paid very hefty commissions.

To those who were in the game, it was easy to make a lot of money. These people made it so easy for others to acquire loans with no down payments, 50 years to pay without disclosing that the money was ultimately coming from China or Saudi Arabia and other nations we had become dependent upon for “cheap” commodities and services. And that’s why a carpenter in Vermont could make $45 an hour while his counterpart in Vietnam would earn $4 a day. Because Grandpa and Grandma Vermont accumulated enough capital for their descendants to live far more prosperous lives than they ever dreamed of living.

Stewardship is all about acknowledging responsibility. When you begin feeling entitled to a different standard: working less, paying fewer taxes, going on more vacations, achieving less training and education and expect to be paid the same or even more, you are in for a meltdown surprise.

Those brokerage firms turned out to be wildly successful. They succeeded in making a lot of us broke.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Word for the day is Obscurantism, defined by the dictionary as opposition to the spread of knowledge: a policy of withholding knowledge from the general public (Latin obscurans, "darkening"). Plato was an early advocate of selectively restricting the propagation of knowledge, justifying the concept of a “noble lie” that a philosopher-king may sometimes commit “for the own good of the people”.

Totalitarian societies extensively depend on obscurantism whenever it allows dictators to decide on what is best for the people. Our colonial status for close to four centuries was maintained largely because of obscurantism. Because we were deemed unworthy of knowledge, we were also considered unprepared for independence. Whenever our greatest and most effective heroes saw another order when they were permitted to travel abroad was the beginning of the end of our subjugation.

Nietzsche wrote: "The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence.”

Obscurantism as a tool of public policy does not respect the right of individuals to make informed choices. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "...anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authority in ignorance of true fact imposes a demand that offends against his clear conscience, should perish in excommunication rather than violate his conscience." Jose Rizal in his two novels repeatedly railed against the near absolute obscurantism reigning in his day. He ascribed most of the blame to the one sector in Philippine colonial society whose presence remained fairly constant, the various religious orders. An ironic situation, considering Matthew 10:24 “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known”.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

It's Our Turn

Already, a good number of our eternal politicians have made known their intentions to seek even more political power in the elections scheduled in 2010. What dismays this observer is the seeming redundancy of the personalities vying for leadership positions. It’s as if they all want us to believe that as soon as they succeed in getting our votes, they will completely change and proceed to inform the country that very difficult times are ahead and the miserable poor will be asked to sacrifice even more for the common good.

Anyone with a modicum of perception will realize that any solution short of peaceful revolutionary change will fail to arrest the decline in our society. We are far behind because we have lamely hoped after all these years that our system of dynastic politics, depending on the wisdom and experience of our traditional politicians will finally produce a different result without changing the methodology.

All the solutions and novel ideas are out there, we only need to replace the cast and give a chance to a completely new group of Filipinos with markedly different experiences and backgrounds to implement changes that a deeply entrenched and compromised class can never be expected to apply.

An astounding majority of our people have become inured to the system-wide corruption and have begun to take this reality for granted, seeking instead to focus on other areas that would mitigate the substantial losses that result from this mindset. We do not have to accept that we are intrinsically a corrupt people. But we also cannot expect the same entrenched and compromised people to convince us otherwise.

Filipinos are neither fundamentally corrupt nor lazy. There are millions of Filipinos abroad who serve as shining examples to dispel this prospect. We can do better without any help from the entrenched and compromised. They have stunted our country enough. We need to apprehend, try and punish these criminals who have destroyed our country. The grossly unequal dispensation of justice is a direct result of the convoluted web of corruption that dynastic politics weaves.

In order to provide more healthcare and education, we urgently need to fund these investment programs with money traditionally reserved to service our huge debts. Essentially, we are at a point when we are borrowing new money so that we can pay off our old debts. This dependence on loans and importation has turned us into an unproductive force. We need to break out of this cycle that can account for the fact our neighbors have left us behind. The entrenched and the compromised are too fearful to unshackle us lest they disturb an arrangement that has traditionally benefited their narrow, selfish interests.

We need to be bold and we need to be confident that as a united country, there is no challenge we will not courageously face. This year, despite the struggling world economy, $17 billion will be remitted through official channels versus $1.5 billion in direct foreign investments. If we pull together and sacrifice side by side, this crisis will ultimately pass and we will become a stronger nation peopled by citizens working for the common good. Our nation will be lifted by our youth made more vigorous and competitive by the investments we will be making towards their health and education.

Over a period of three election cycles, every elected official will serve only one term; relatives to the first degree of consanguinity may not seek elective office simultaneously. This is to provide an opportunity for everybody to participate in the political processes of the community. This regulation will also emphasize the sacrificial aspect of public service, that political office is not a lucrative way of securing a livelihood.

Legislation is serious business and those elected to create laws must focus on crafting public policy which will be for the benefit of the common good. The pork barrel system needs to be immediately abolished.

The comprehensive agrarian reform program is not working because the entrenched and the compromised lack the credibility and moral courage to effect meaningful change. It is grossly insufficient to simply redistribute land to poor farmers without providing them with intensive support. It is also a terrible injustice to take away land that is productive and award it to someone who is incapable of acting like a responsible steward.

There is so much disease, pollution and crime because we do not sufficiently stress the concept of property rights. Squatting has always been a felony but those entrenched and compromised take continuous advantage of these unfortunate people and view them as a dependable source of votes notwithstanding their perpetual state of misery. Felons must not be allowed to vote. The government needs to embark on a program similar to Gawad Kalinga on a national scale. We must build communities that will transform apathetic dependents into productive stakeholders.

Overhaul the civil service commission. Government service is an honorable career that requires citizens who need not become afraid of politicians as long as they discharge their duties with competence and integrity. Political appointments must become restricted to senior executive positions.

Immediately double the salaries of teachers and develop a curriculum that teaches students to read early and voraciously. Students need to become proficient in Tagalog and English. Magnet schools in the sciences and in the arts should be established in all the provinces in order to identify and nurture gifted students. Vocational schools must become widely available throughout the country. We must exploit the benefits of information technology. Even students in remote areas in the country can have access to the latest news, opinions and analyses from renowned institutions.

Expand and develop the citizens military training program as an instrument to instill civic duty and commitment to the common good as well as producing more physically fit youth. This will also allow us to maintain a smaller army.

Establish nurseries and seedling banks throughout the country and aggressively plant fruit bearing trees, energy-producing flora and ornamental flowers. Reforestation must become a national priority.

Explore alternative sources of energy, specifically solar and wind. Restudy the potential yield of nuclear power as quite a number of developed nations rely on nuclear power for the generation of electricity. Heavily tax energy-inefficient vehicles and invest in a national program to develop a fuel-efficient Filipino automobile.

As in most countries, results of elections have to be determined and published within 24 hours. The shameful conduct of our electoral process has been in the stranglehold of the entrenched and the compromised because this has been the most effective scheme of staying in power. It will be the responsibility of government media outlets to provide equal time for all national candidates. Television and print advertisements will be strictly monitored and regulated. Election Code violations will be enforced.

I am opposed to abortion and various forms of birth control after a serious and thoughtful evaluation of the available methods. We must however respect the right of every person in the spirit of education and enlightenment to evaluate for themselves these available methods and allow them to follow the dictates of their conscience. There are far too many abortions occurring in our country and to be silent amid this tragedy is an immoral choice.

Gambling weakens the national spirit and prevents people from becoming optimally productive. The gaming industry should be confined to islands developed specifically for that purpose, away from the general population.

In lieu of dole-outs, the government should embark on massive work programs like dredging and cleaning the Pasig River using many thousands of laborers to demonstrate the lesson that if we act together, there is no problem too difficult to solve.

This is by no means a complete and definitive list. I did this on my own. I will get together with my friends and debate, discuss and dream unendingly. Our country deserves better. Our children are entitled to a more hopeful future. We need to take our country back.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Letter to a Cousin

My support for Obama made me write a rejoinder in our family e-group in response to a post of a reprint of a Pat Buchanan article why Catholics and evangelical Christians could not vote for Obama because of his support for Roe v Wade. I received a particularly sincere message from one of my cousins that was replete with quotations from the Bible. I was tempted to mischievously engage in selective quotation by citing Mt 19: 3-7, a passage where Jesus specifically proscribes divorce: “Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, ”Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

Instead, I began by telling a story about a woman who had washed clothes for a living for over 50 years and who was now fighting for her life in the hospital for what appeared to be a cerebrovascular bleed.

30 years ago, this woman found out she was pregnant with what would have been her third child. In her simple heart, she knew she was never going to be able to provide for this child and so she did what millions of Filipinas to this day do when they learn they are pregnant again: no, she did not go to a clinic, for that would have meant an expense she could not pay for. She went to a bazaar in Quiapo and bought a concoction containing quinine and started engaging in heavy physical exercise. In 3 days, her period returned but that episode has haunted me since. I can’t imagine how much more that continues to haunt her still, even in the deep recesses of a coma, because I agree with you *, as a sinner, who am I to judge what goes on in our own heart of hearts?

“Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribe and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” Mt 23: 1-3.

I want to assure you * that despite the dehumanizing poverty so prevalent here in the Philippines, we try to pray often and do good works and try to follow the Lord’s way but there are very practical considerations we need to understand. If we don’t teach women what forms of family planning methods are available, how do we expect to decrease these unacceptably high rates of abortion? So while I am firmly opposed to abortion, I cannot in conscience claim that I am fulfilling the second greatest commandment of loving my neighbor as myself if I choose to remain quiet and smug in my comfortable circumstances with all the material and spiritual poverty swirling around me. Help me and help others try to find answers to these complex problems. What we have right now is not working. Pray for us.

Please be patient with this Liberal sinner. There will be rejoicing when people like me are found, just as the Shepherd gladly leaves his flock of 99 sheep in order to look for the solitary castaway. “Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.” Mt 12: 1-3 Jesus reminded them about the companions of King David, about how they ate the bread of offering at the temple. “I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Mt 12: 7-8