Friday, August 31, 2007

ZTE Deal - Acquired Narcissism

Here is a Press Release from our friends at The Black and White Movement (BnW):
The Black & White Movement
29 August 2007


In a recent story reported on CNN about an American senator busted for lewd behavior, the reporter coined the term "acquired narcissism" to explain how people in high places find it easy to behave in bizarre ways, as if their stature entitled them the license to do what they please, believing they operate under different rules because of that stature.

We are tempted to use this description in regard to the actions of some of our leading political personalities. Take, for instance, the purported actions of some government officials connected to the ZTE deal. Did the "Comelec official" mentioned in Jarius Bondoc's recent column (ZTE deal conceived in hotel 'sexcapades', Philippine Star) think that his alleged trips to China, ostensibly to broker the ZTE deal, would go unnoticed and unreported? Did this official think that the mantle of protection offered by his position would be enough to render him "invisible" to scrutiny?

Does DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza think that the charges being leveled against him by Rep. Carlos Padilla in regard to the ZTE deal will go the way most cases go in this country - nowhere?

The answer to these questions is, of course, yes. Absolutely. The ZTE deal, like all the issues bedeviling the administration, will not go away. Not least because the more they try to confuse the issue, the more that the public zeroes in on official wrongdoing.

To be sure, many people in the present and past governments have been behaving with impunity for years. As if it was their right to act without fear of penalty, raid our coffers and subvert our institutions without a care in the world. Elected and appointed officials seem concerned mainly with enriching themselves, not serving the people.

The "Comelec official" should have been busy working on giving us the honest and orderly elections we deserve, not running around China receiving dubious hospitality while brokering shady deals. The DOTC Secretary should have been immersed in improving our telecommunications networks with our benefit in mind, not his, if the allegations against him are true.

Slowly but surely, people have been working to combat that culture of official impunity, this "acquired narcissism". And so there is hope - through the writing of Jarius Bondoc and other journalists, the arrogance of some officials to bamboozle us via the ZTE deal has been brought to light. Through the actions of Rep. Padilla, we may get some relief.

The Black & White Movement lauds the actions being taken to uncover the elusive truth we have been seeking. We need to lift the veil of obfuscation, to clear our vision of smoke and mirrors. Only then will we be able to find resolution to these, and many other, important issues that this government wishes to keep obscured from view.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Misquoting Spiderman's Uncle Redux

It wasn't that long ago when the issue that occupied bloggers who counted themselves as part of the Oppostion was the threat of government repression. Around the time of PP1017, CPR, EO464 and all that, it was Mike Defensor who was admonishing us that freedom comes with great responsibility to which journalist Carlos Conde penned a magnificent rebuttal. I am reposting his essay since i feel the time is right to revisit its message:

With great power…*

By Carlos H. Conde

I find it extremely ironic that this administration, which exploited the sins of the press to justify a campaign of harassment and intimidation against its members, itself committed what would amount to a journalistic infraction: it misquoted the uncle of Spider-Man.

We hear them much too often these days, all the president’s men pontificating on television, on the radio and in print about how we, Filipinos, particularly journalists, should exercise more responsibility given the tremendous freedom we have.

Freedom of the press is not absolute, says the always smug secretary of justice. It comes with it a great amount of responsibility, chimes in Arroyo’s chief of staff, he who is so young and so…

But Uncle Ben never said, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” What he told Spider-Man was: “With great POWER comes great responsibility.”

Please ponder for a moment this difference in the quotes. And while you do that, let me tell you a thing or two about my opinion of freedom.

I think there is no such thing as a partial freedom. Either you have it or you don’t. In an ideal world, people should be free to do whatever they want. It goes without saying that they know the consequences of that freedom.

In the context of the press, journalists expect unbridled freedom. If they abuse this freedom, freedom itself – in this case, the freedom by consumers to switch channels or subscribe to another paper — will check them. Freedom has a way, you see, of punishing those who abuse it.

I am willing to concede, however, that the State may be justified in its desire to sometimes attempt to curtail our freedoms. We see that in countries in which contending forces, if not checked, could end up destroying themselves, their people and their nation.

But for this regime to invoke the importance of responsibility vis-à-vis freedom in order to supposedly keep the peace is an arrogant and self-righteous notion. Self-serving, too, because, as we all know, this regime’s motives in declaring a state of national emergency was not the protection of the State. It was for the protection of its president.

This brings us to Uncle Ben’s quote about responsibility being a corollary of great power. Guess who acted irresponsibly in using its great power?

Guess who, according to various testimonies and allegations, used great power to subvert the results of the 2004 elections?

Guess who used great power to compromise the armed forces, which today is more politicized than ever before?

Guess who used great power to promote the same military officials implicated in the 2004 election cheating, thus assuring that nothing would come out of whatever investigation that was going to happen?
Guess who used great power to sow discontent within the military?

Guess who used great power to quash the ideals and dreams of these young men and women in the service?

Guess who used great power to arrest constitutionally elected members of the House of Representatives?

Guess who used great power to murder dozens of activists and journalists, constrict the democratic space and stifle dissent?

Guess who used great power to send troops storming the office of a puny but noisy newspaper?

Guess who used great power to intimidate and harass the press, threatening media companies of actual takeovers if they don’t toe the regime’s line?

This regime has had great, great power, and never had any compunction to use it – irresponsibly, if needed — in order to survive.

*Posted March 14, 2006 in Davao Today
Today, the calls for freedom with responsibility in support of the issue of the day comes from fellow Oppositionist Bloggers.

It's been said before that the measure of free speech is the degree to which our society can accommodate opposing (and even offensive) views. Asking someone to shut up is a sign that we fear not being able to win the argument fair and square. More importantly, what is being lost is the all important element of consistency. We can be sure that the government and other interested parties are just waiting for the right moment to turn our arguments (which used to be their arguments) against us. Compelling a person's (or a group's) silence will only come at the expense of the common space of freedom that we all share and need.

Monday, August 27, 2007

BoA The Live - The Love Bug ft M-flo

A catchy, upbeat number from BoA and rap group M-Flo.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Languages Used and the Perception of Intelligence

Thanks to educator-activist Antonio Calipjo Go, the errors found in Philippine school textbooks are now well publicized and discussed. The focus has rightly been on how the Department of Education (DECS) can allow obviously poor quality textbooks to be distributed for use. Apart from this issue however, i believe that another aspect needs to be looked at. In an earlier post by Jessica Zafra, she listed ten examples of errors found in these textbooks:
  1. “Walang ulap kung umaga. Nasinghot na ng lumalaking populasyon.”
  2. “Many Filipino men and women have brains.”
  3. “He seemed to be waiting for someone, not a blood relation, much less a bad blood.”
  4. “People are not made to float like a bird.”
  5. “Seeing a rainbow in the sky is like a dream that disappears that’s why a child wants it painted permanently in the sky.”
  6. “As the campers trek through the trail at the rainboat they’ll stop now and then. They had huffs and puffs.”
  7. “The chicken was dressed. They stripped off her feathers, served her quite bare and everyone poked at her breast.”
  8. “God’s footsteps bulged the mountains up. God like morning bending over her baby kneeled down in the dust.”
  9. “On Basilio’s skull, fire nicked. The tiny fire had a blow, huge and quick. He touched the fire on his skull. Past all that is beyond, he runs.”
  10. “Si Pres. Garcia ay kumita ng unang liwanag sa Talibon, Bohol.”
Assuming the sample list is representative of the population of errors, we can see above that a majority are errors that can be attributed to the author's inability to express himself/herself in English.

A switch to Filipino language would eliminate these kinds of mistakes. What is true of the textbook authors all the more applies to the majority of Filipinos. As an example, the humor from this post at Expectorants is derived largely from the same sort of mistakes (intentional or otherwise).

Mistakes in the use of English encourage the impression that the speakers are less intelligent that they actually are. Since English is widely used in the Philippines, mistakes occur quite frequently and the impression of lack of intelligence is reinforced. Our more prosperous neighbors, Japan and China also have their share of well publicized English mistakes but these do not have a widespread negative affect on the perception of intelligence of the ordinary Japanese and Chinese because they largely express themselves in their local tounge.

I believe textbook authors and most Filipinos will be able to express themselves more intelligently if allowed to use the language they are more comfortable with.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Malu Fernandez' Apology

Via Slap Happy, Malu Fernandez resigns from the two publications and issues the following apology:
"I am humbled by the vehement and heated response provoked by my article entitled 'From Boracay to Greece!' which came out in the June 2007 issue of People Asia. To say that this article was not meant to malign, hurt or express prejudice against the OFWs now sounds hollow after reading through all the blogs from Filipinos all over the world. I am deeply apologetic for my insensitivity and the offensive manner in which this article was written, I hear you all and I am properly rebuked. It was truly not my intention to malign hurt or express prejudice against OFWs.

As the recent recipient and target of death threats, hate blogs, and deeply personal insults, I now truly understand the insidiousness of discrimination and prejudice disguised as humor. Our society is bound together by human chains of kindness and decency. I have failed to observe this and I am now reaping the consequences of my actions. It is my fervent hope that the lessons that Ive learned are not lost on all those who through anonymous blogs, engaged in bigotry, discrimination, and hatred ( against overweight individuals , for example )

I take full responsibility for my actions and my friends and family have nothing to do with this. To date I have submitted my resignation letters to both the Manila Standard and People Asia, on that note may this matter be laid to rest."
I do hope she is sincere with the above apology which i think is as good as any that i've come across. A clear victory for OFW's, for bloggers (who did not need the help of Old Media in this campaign) and against elitism. However, i think the attacks directed at her weight will be historically viewed in a negative light. I also believe that the campaign to fire her is a setback for free speech and sets a potentially dangerous precedent as explained by Jego.

Update Aug-24-2007 10:15PM: Despite its being, in my view, a setback for free speech, it can also be considered a victory for a form of direct democracy that blogger Sparks calls the Cyber Counterculture Movement. I believe that at least some of the credit for this phenomenon goes to this individual.

Update Aug-24-2007 10:21PM: Via Manolo, Jove Francisco posts one of the most moving tributes to the OFW that i've read (particularly because it does not go over the top).

Update Aug-26-2007 3:27PM: Blogger Dominique compares the recent blogstorm to a Lynch Mob. While there are similarities with real life lynch mobs, i think that the analogy can be stretched too far. After all, what makes lynch mobs unnacceptable is the element of physical violence which is not possible in a virtual environment. For example, in the Blogosphere, Malu Fernandez can always put up her own blog where the worst thing that can happen to her is to be ignored.

Update Aug-27-2007 11:03PM: Blogger Smoke points to an interesting twist a-la Poltergeist II.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summer Scent - Zuo You Wei Nan Song

Excuse the cheesy music video, but i have been looking for this song from way back. I have no idea what it's about but i like the melody.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Elitist Mindset in Action

Via Schumey, it is clear that whatever school this lady came from did not teach history properly. It is also unfortunate that her parents failed to teach her the right values. As expected, she and like-minded individuals would rationalize that they are just 'being real'. Of course, such an excuse is self-serving because facing reality in its fullness would require admitting to themselves that they are grotesque specimens of humanity.

Either that or she's just channeling Simoun and trying to manufacture another EDSA Tres moment, in which case all i can say is congratulations and keep up the good work.

Update (August 17, 12:25pm): It turns out that the columnist is Migz Zubiri's aunt.

It figures.

Update (August 18, 2:33PM): I'm not in favor of having her fired for the same reasons given by John Marzan. It was really only a matter of time before the inevitable Tu Quoque would be brought up, which as has been discussed before, is logically flawed but may be morally compelling depending on the context. I've been in enough conversations (with both fellow OFW's and home-based Pinoys) where we have criticized other nationals for the very same reasons that Malu Fernandez has so i would have to toss aside the stone on this one.

Update (August 18, 8:29PM): As a response to those who are not in favor of getting Fernandez fired, blogger Sparks stresses the importance of distinguising between private communication (e.g. among a circle of friends) and writing for public consumption. I still have to digest the significance of this line of argument. My ambivalence towards firing is that i don't want this line of thinking to go underground. Here in Singapore, the government has legislated 'Out of Bounds' (OB) markers, i.e. matters that cannot be talked about. I wouldn't want our own version of that. If the Manila Standard wants to build itself up as the newspaper for the elitist mindset, then that's their lookout. It's better if the elitists and racists are where we can see them so that we can put them up as negative examples. For one thing, Malu Fernandez' name dropping could be useful for the purposes of a future transitional spring cleaning.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

EDSA Tres and the Filipino Majority

Ten days ago over at Manolo's, i made the following comment...
grd, to me mlq3’s blog site roughly* represents the sensibilities of the EDSA Dos crowd which has fragmented to different camps because of Gloria’s illegitimacy. ellen’s site roughly* represents EDSA Tres and therefore the Filipino majority. Our nation can only move forward if both sections of our society engage in an honest dialogue, but that can only be built on an atmosphere of mutual respect. As it is, i see that many over here still subscribe to your (and Benign0’s) attitude of refusing to empathize and understand and instead assuming an air of unwarranted superiority. Just as One Voice is supposed to reunite the EDSA Dos crowd, there should be an equivalent attempt to do so between EDSA Dos and EDSA Tres camps. As it is, post election dynamics seems to be going the opposite direction.

* Please note emphasis on the ‘roughly’. which Rom reacted:
"cvj:just a minor quibble - edsa tres cannot represent the majority of the nation, whether numerically or ideologically."
I promised an explanation so i did some research. I got hold of this book that Manolo recommended two weeks back and this in turn led me to the Pulse Asia’s October 2005 Ulat ng Bayan Survey Report: Media Release on People Power. The survey reports on the in EDSA, EDSA Dos and EDSA Tres. As shown in the table below, for the latter, it was at around 2 percent nationwide:
Source: Pulse Asia

Two percent of the adult (over 18) population is around 1 million, clearly not a majority but we already knew that. The real question is, how much support did the crowd have? This is answered by the survey question on the level of support for such a mass action which according to the table below is eight percent nationwide:

Source: Pulse Asia

Eight percent is about eight million, again clearly not a majority. To cross-validate this data, we can use the votes given to Loi Ejercito Estrada during the May 2001 elections as proxy for support of EDSA Tres which is at 10.5 million.

Therefore**, linking the EDSA Tres crowd to the majority does not stand up to scrutiny. On this assertion, I stand corrected. Whatever electoral majority that the Opposition achieved in the recent elections has sources other than (or in addition to) that particular People Power event.

** Assuming the above survey results are representative of the general population and subject to the margin of error.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Civil War as Psychotherapy

I am disturbed at how often i hear Civil War being proposed by the very people who would most likely be its victims. Just the other day, commenter BrianB over at mlq3 sounded like a true Jacobin when he declared:
"Pare, France is a great place to live in because of the Terror. Besides, we have smarter people than Danton and Robespierre. People who know how to blog and look at their email."
Naturally, I was heartened when another commenter Devilsadvc8 responded:
"You’ll be surprised at how many “smart” people revert back to being barbaric when surrounded by evil. I believe Winnie Monsod called it Lucifer Effect (or something) That’s what happened to the French revolution. anger got out of hand, and fellow revolutionaries who showed a hint of sympathy with the enemies, were hanged along with them. it’s like the NPA purges. anything less than blind obedience (or great acting) would be branded as a betrayal of the cause... and btw, if this were to happen (an Bastille-like event), you think those who blog and email will be the ones leading it or the ones being dragged out into the streets? use your imagination man."
Nicely said, i thought to myself, which is why i was taken aback when on the very next day, the same Devilsadvc8 pretty much endorsed BrianB's idea from the day before:
"I believe civil war can do what everyone has failed to do. unite the survivors of that war in a common goal of correcting our past’s terrible effect on our psyche, and forging a new history for the Filipino people. spilling blood and fighting for a cause are what Filipinos need."
I have since had further exchanges with him over at that thread on the merits of this option. What i find specially curious is the commonly held belief in the supposed benefits of such an event on the Philippine national psyche. Back in 2005, another mlq3 commenter 'X' made a similar suggestion:
"you know ive been thinking about something similar to what the automechanic said. Perhaps is lies in the fact that the price we pay for our democracy is too cheap. assemble a few thousand people in Edsa, convince a few influential people to be there too and convince the military to join. it’s too easy.

unlike with bloodshed. it something that nobody wants to experience, and if we as a people carry some sort of baggage in our psyche about not wanting to have bloodshed again, perhaps FIlipinos would be more protective of TRUE democracy.
I really don't understand how they can assume that those are precisely the lessons that will be learned.

Update 08-11-2007: Devilsadvc8 provides a background on the circumstances that has led him to reach his above recommendation. [Devils, thanks for explaining your side.]

Monday, August 06, 2007

Climate Change and Salt

I just finished watching the 'Mega Disasters: Mega Freeze' documentary in The History Channel which explains how global warming can disrupt the Thermohaline Circulation (THC)* causing an abrupt drop in temperatures in Europe and North America similar to what happened during the Younger Dryas** (12700 to 11500 years Before Present) setting off a chain of disasters that will reduce the estimated carrying capacity of the planet from the current 8 billion people to 2 billion.

If the THC is as important to maintaining the present climate as that documentary says it is, a simple (and perhaps simplistic) solution would be to throw more salt into the Ocean to maintain present levels of salinity. How much more salt and how to do this would be the challenge facing the world's scientists and engineers.

Update 08-11-2007: Via, a pointer to Mad scientists vs. global warming.

Update 01-01-2008: Via, a pointer to The Year's 10 Craziest Ways to Hack the Earth.

*For those who watched The Day After Tomorrow, the disruption of the Thermohaline Circulation is what triggered the Ice Age in that movie.
**Al Gore also talked about this in his movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

Sunday, August 05, 2007