Friday, October 31, 2008

Princess Princess - 世界でいちばん熱い夏

Update Jan-15-2009: Earlier video taken down so i reposted another version.

Update Feb-11-2009: Video taken down again, so i reposted another version.

Update May-26-2012: Video taken down again, so i reposted another version.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jun Lozada's Open Letter to Joc Joc Bolante

Jun Lozada offers some advice to Joc Joc Bolante.
Dear Joc-Joc,

Allow me to call you Joc-Joc as you have been known in the media and by many Filipinos too. As of this morning of the 24th of October, 2008, news about your lawyer petitioning the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the implementation of the arrest warrant issued by the Senate upon your arrival, hugs the headline of the major dailies together with the radio and TV news broadcast. The whole country seems to be anxiously awaiting your return, I am sure your family is also eager to see you back as well.

It is about your family that I am writing you about, because of what my own family went through when I was in a similar situation that you are in now. Being a father myself, I know that the welfare and safety of your family is your foremost concern in the middle of all the controversy and the uncertainty that you are facing.

There is so much fear right now that pervades your life along with your loved ones. Questions such as: how safe are you in Manila? Is there a possibility that someone may attempt to harm you or your family? How are the people that you are covering for, going to help you? How are you going to answer questions from media? How can the people you are covering be trusted with their dilatory tactics to get you off the hook, away from the prying questions of the opposition senators?

We get caught up in all of these questions of “us versus them” way of thinking, that we almost forget to ask the right questions anymore, right questions such as: how are my children hurt with the truth that I am generally perceived as a corrupt criminal by the Filipino nation? How are my children going to explain my involvement in this fertilizer scam to their friends? How is my wife going to face our friends and still be seen as a person with integrity? What legacy am I leaving my children? Is leaving them with millions of money and big houses in Ayala Alabang better than leaving them with a good name?

I am sharing these with you, because if there is one thing that I did regret in telling the truth about how this Arroyo administration has been stealing from the very people it is supposed to serve, it is that I was not able to prepare my wife and my children well enough against the backlash of this government’s wrath against me for telling the people about their crimes. You still have time to discern your next move, whether or not you are going to tell the people the truth about the fertilizer scam or bring the secret to your grave, just like Romy Neri. As a father, I am asking you to please think about your children, please consider the legacy you are going to leave to them. Are you going to forever leave them as pariahs branded as children of a thief–or as children of someone who did wrong and yet chose to serve his country at the end, rather than to be a captive forever of the dark forces he used to serve? And please prepare your family whatever way you may wish to choose. Discuss this together with them because at the end of it all, they will suffer or be affected more as a consequence of your decision.

Secondly as a fellow Rotarian, how about asking the Four Way test as part of your discernment process? Is it the Truth? Is it fair to everyone concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendship? Will it be beneficial to everyone concerned? You have been a good Rotarian for many good years of your life. Will you now turn your back on these ideals in the biggest test of your Rotarian values?

Lastly, let me share with you one of the most profound lessons I have learned in my own journey towards the truth, a truth not as a goal to be reached but rather as a way of life to be lived. I have found that the opposite of all the fears I am confronted with is not courage but faith. It is faith in a God who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”, a just God who will judge us not in terms of the wealth we have on earth but in terms of what we did to our fellow human beings. It is my faith in this God that allowed me to face all the fears that I am confronted with when I decided to tell the truth that I know about the NBN-ZTE scam. May you find the faith to lead you to the Light of God’s love that no darkness can ever defeat, not even a President of the Republic of the Philippines.

May God bless you with the wisdom to choose your path.

Jun Lozada
(Also via Ricky Carandang and Ellen Tordesillas.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Paul Krugman Wins the Nobel Prize

Excellent and timely choice for the Nobel Prize in Economics. Here's a comprehensive background courtesy of Tyler Cowen as well as an overview of Krugman's New Trade Theory by Alex Tabarrok. Krugman's books The Accidental Theorist and Pedding Prosperity are among my favorites. For more, you can visit his Unofficial Web Page.

Update Oct-16-2008: Here's Paul Krugman explaining in layman's terms the work for which he was given the award.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why Not the Philippines? the Conservative's 'Canada'. I'm confident the Red State voters will find a lot of ideological soulmates over here.

Update 9:55pm: Let me clarify, this is by no means, an invitation.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bhangra Michael Jackson

From Britain's Got Talent. (Hat Tip 3Quarksdaily)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Snapping out of the Financial Crisis

Back in the year 1582, the dates October 5 to 14 (inclusive) did not exist in the Roman Catholic world* by virtue of a decree by Pope Gregory XIII. This meant that October 4 was followed by October 15. Skipping over ten days was a necessary step to compensate for the misalignment with the seasons that crept into the Julian Calendar over the centuries.

I wonder if the Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve (whose authority is often compared with that of the Pope) can fix the current subprime mortgage-induced Financial Crisis in a manner similar to Pope Gregory's approach.

This is not to say that the Fed can solve the USA's very real economic problems by decree, nor do i think that it is possible to avoid a recession. However, i believe that these real economic problems are being compounded by a crisis involving artifacts of finance and accounting. It is this latter element which i believe can be eliminated by decree. The current crisis can be broken down into a few related, but distinct elements:

A. Collapse in House Prices: The bursting of the Housing Bubble has impaired the ability of mortgage holders to pay off their housing loans.

B. Reduced Demand: With the fall in the values of houses and other investments, the elimination of the Wealth Effect has resulted in a decrease in consumer demand which feeds the economic downturn.

C. Credit Crunch (Internal): The reluctance of banks and other financial institutions to extend loans to each other due to the uncertainty in the financial health of these institutions as a result of their having traded in potentially toxic financial instruments.

D. Credit Crunch (External): The unwillingness by banks and financial institutions to extend loans has spilled over to a general to businesses, government and the general public.

Figure 1: Elements of Economic Crisis (click on image to enlarge)

While nothing much can be done with the collapse of house prices ('A') and the resulting decrease in consumer demand ('B'), i believe there may yet be an opportunity to decree-away the Credit Crunch among Financial Institutions ('C'), and save the real economy from the worst effects of such a credit crunch ('D').

Update Oct-6-2008: Economist blogger J. Bradford DeLong, gives an indication of the relative proportions of some of the above categories:

CategoryValue (in US Dollars)
Mortgages (A)11 Trillion
Financial Assets(C)60 Trillion
Business Borrowings (D)**0.2 to 1.4 Trillion

Former Lehman Brothers Chairman Richard Fuld, in his testimony before Congress made the following recommendation moving forward:
"We need to set up a master netting system where all trades and transaction, positions, are all downloaded nightly. The regulator would have a complete view of the financial landscape."
This is an opportune statement since part of what i have in mind is for the Fed (or designated regulator) to set-up and use such a master netting system to offset the toxic financial instruments that these banks and financial institutions owe each other. The other part of what i have in mind involves actions such as a declaration by the regulator that Credit Default Swaps (CDS) will no longer be honored and any premiums paid on this financial instrument will be returned (and any income recognized on these instruments reversed). The objective of such type of regulatory actions would be to untangle the complex web of derivatives that are currently undermining confidence in and paralyzing the global financial system.

Update Oct-7-2008: Economist-blogger Tyler Cowen reports that the proposed clearinghouse for Over the Counter (OTC) derivatives is moving closer to reality. As Cowen explained:
"In essence homogenization and trading through a clearinghouse limits the leverage issue to a single, easily-regulated institution and therefore it limits the problem of counterparty risk"
Update Oct-8-2008: Physicist-blogger Sabine Hossenfelder makes a good point in highlighting the virtual character of much of money (and credit)...
"Now keep in mind that only a negligible amount of the money traded is actually used for consume. The vast amount of it is a pushing back and forth of promises, people trying to be smart, people panicking, people losing faith, people trying to save what they think is left. There are records of all these trades."
...and recommends, among other things, to "Reset the distribution to an earlier state ".

Update Oct-11-2008 10:40am: I just tuned in to CNBC and found the talking heads criticizing the underlying concept behind Credit Default Swaps (CDS). My question is, why only now? Where was such criticism during the good times when CNBC (among others) was cheerleading the bubble? In any case, i sense that the underlying zeitgeist is starting to move toward my suggestion above to declare these instruments null and void.

*As per the referenced Wikipedia entry, among the non-Catholic countries, the Gregorian calendar was adopted much later.
**range of values from 2003 to 2007.