Monday, August 7, 2017

STUFF that I talk about: Freedom of religion, Julian's WikiLeaks licks, Superpower band aids, “Low Intensity Conflict,” the Japanese, Gasoline talk, and other stuff (from my Facebook Page).

FREEDOM of Religion? Many years before Donald Trump came to power and "travel ban" got into the heartland like the plague, I have read and heard about a lot of slurs--and namecalling and dissing--of the Christian faith. I myself has been told many times that Merry Christmas! is politically incorrect and culturally insensitive. A friend's child came home once weeping and wouldn't want to go back to school because she said she was bullied by schoomates for handing a Christmas card to another pupil, and was told by the teacher that it is not "correct" to greet Merry Christmas at all. Then these days, I hear of many Muslim people being stopped or questioned for their faith. Recently, children of Muhammad Ali were detained in a Florida airport and asked, "What is your religion?" Is it unconstitutional to make a Catholic or Baptist or Mormon or Seventh Day Adventist etc uncomfortable or awkward or is it unlawful for a police officer or airport staff to stop someone who may be Muslim? Is the word "unconstitutional" or "constitutional" the key? Let's see.
         The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.


         More than that, America tells the world that this country is where utmost tolerance of Faith happens. I came from a country that is 80.5 percent Catholic Christian yet I see an active co-existence of religions. Almost all summer feasts are a melding of Christian and tribal/indigenous peoples rites. Non-Catholic or non-Christian students are allowed non-adherence to flag ceremony or wearing of ROTC/military uniform, some girls are okay not to wear pants or sports shorts on Physical Education drills etc. No problem. Not even up for discussion. Muslim traders freely and peaceably engage Christians in commerce in open markets. A vocalist for my band years ago who is half-Muslim sings rock `n roll on a usual rocker outfit and then wears burqa when she worships in a Muslim mosque. It is common disrespect to even ask her why. My family and clan have been dealing business with upland tribes (who are not necessarily Christian) for many many years; some ended in intermarriages as well. Muslim Mindanao island has been granted autonomy as a people. (You may google ARMM for more info.) There may have been some pronounced insensitivities leveled at other religions (beyond Catholicism) but those are kept within one's private enclave. In other words, those are not tolerated by community and society and government.
          America is 70.6 percent Christian. In a 2013 survey, 56 percent of Americans said that religion played a "very important role in their lives," a far higher figure than that of any other wealthy nation. Yet recent surveys say the US is becoming less religious. Irreligion is growing rapidly among Americans under 30, says a 2012 study. This is another aspect of people sentiment that, I believe, played a huge part in current election behavior in America. While half of the citizenry profess religion (and/or Christianity) the other half, doesn't. And since only 50 percent of Americans vote, that'd mean the 70.6 percent Christian fraction do matter in terms of voter-groundworking. That'd mean, election advocacy should focus on that cultural data. America cringes over economic woes, irrelevant of adherence or non-adherence to a church. That is a fact. Hence people could come together as one community for common benefits, beyond religion or irreligion. Mutual goodness.


         What's going on these days with Muslim nationals in America should be a wake-up call for the entire nation. We are guilty. As a cop stops a motorist who looks like Arab (hence Muslim?) then lets him go--a neighbor complains about Christmas decors in a family's own backyard then goes back to work. It is not really a question whether it is constitutional or unconstitutional, lawful or unlawful. I believe, making someone feel like an outcast or outsider due to his/her religion is downright inhuman.

SPYING ACCORDING to MR JULIAN. First, I am not saying that Julian Assange's WikiLeaks leaks are untrue. Of course those are SO TRUE. It is as clear as daylight, as clear as a zombie walker's bite off a Walking Dead cast's butt on Sunday AMC. But don't we know all these already? Especially in this era of "internetting”? I am not even talking about Homeland Security's "warrantless" cellphone searches or Mr Snowden's supposed bombshell years ago--and how about going back to McCarthyism and/or the Red Scare from 1947 to 1956, characterized by heightened political repression as well as a campaign spreading fear of influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet Union's agents. In fact, surveillances and spying on citizens is a global thingy since way back when. But let's time-machine our app to the year 1947, when president Harry S. Truman took steps to counter the Soviets' influence in Europe via a program called "Containment."


         Even during the Chinese Civil War in 1949 when the United States backed Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang against Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army, spying was a strategic weapon. US involvement was a focal issue. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) sliced down Truman's defense budget, yet he continued fighting the Cold War (against the Reds) albeit effectively. Spying were all over in ensuing years as the US and allies battled Communism's growing influence: Cuban Revolution of 1959, Berlin Crisis of 1961, conflicts in the Third World (1953 Iranian coup d'état, 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état, Congo Crisis, Vietnam War, coup d'etats in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Operation Condor, Six-Day War, Task Force 74, War of Attrition, Yom Kippur War, Ogaden War, Angolan Civil War, Indonesian invasion of East Timor etc etcetera). I can go on and on and on and cite Washington involvement/s which Mr Assange supposedly leaked as well, right? Damn, don't we know all these already?
         Then there was the so-called "Second Cold War" from 1979– 1985. Then the supposed end of the "War" when Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty at the White House in 1987. Those were the years when the Soviet economy was stagnant and faced a sharp fall in foreign currency earnings as a result of the downward slide in oil prices in the 1980s. What is the common denominator in those spying years? USSR/Russia and the United States. Julian Assange? Tell me what is the connection. And then he threw another diversionary bone. And damn some of us just bit it. And how Kremlin loves this! Expect some oil treaty singing soon.


         BTW Russia isn't as "poor" anymore as the time of Perestroika and Glasnost. Yet still Vladimir Putin and his cohorts don't know how to diversify. The Chinese helped them out but hey they want to up their game some more. Maybe he needs the art of the deal? I digress. Back to my NBA game. Warning: You ain't going to distract me starting March 14. March Madness, ha! Spying on my ceviche and Blue Moon is fine though. Whatsoever. Whatsover.

IT saddens me to think that some (or a lot of) people aren't aware that when a superpower aids a smaller nation—it is not one-way dole-out system. Such a thing never happened in the history of humankind. The aid comes with certain conditions that are forged via bilateral agreements, summit conferences, and treaties. Nothing is free or “I will rescue you like I am Super Mother Teresa!” in this world. Hence, no nation should exert power over the other just because the former is perceived as “super” against the latter which is seen as “weaker.” 
          There are always negotiations, compromises, then agreements for mutual benefits. Some people need to put more attention to historical data and current events more than the crisscrossing strobe lights of Facebook walls and billboards. Read and find out. Ask and listen. Life isn't a set program. It is a continuum. Years ago, the silent smiley dude from Guangzhou was just handing out Lo Meins somewhere in Haight-Ashbury. Now he's the big boss at Bank of China that just bought out your favorite 5-star hotel. The tiny nation that used to beg money from the IMF recently loaned millions of moolah to the same lending organization. There's no more Cold War, only WikiLeaks. Times change. Powers tilt. And now there are gluten-free ramens.

I WANNA say this again. If I criticize your candidate, that doesn't automatically mean I am for the other candidate. And if I say something good about another candidate, that doesn't follow that I am about to say a bad thing about your bet. I could reverse the equation next. The world doesn't always involve polar extremes. That just happens in election time--because the social order calls for votation of leadership/governance or pertinent issues. But humans are not black and white. We compromise. We negotiate. Then we agree, 4 or 7 out of 10. Then we live our life on our side of the fence—and come out on fiesta time or Super Bowl and enjoy. Enjoy!



LOW intensity conflict or LIC is the use of military forces applied selectively and with restraint to enforce compliance with the policies or objectives of the political body controlling the military force. The term can be used to describe conflicts where at least one or both of the opposing parties operate along such lines. As those who are informed would certainly concur, the 1 Percent is the “political body” that excises compliance. Such subliminal trick in the shadows (sic) is more accentuated by “divide et impera” or Divide and Rule—or gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures, and especially prevents smaller power groups from linking up, causing rivalries and fomenting discord among the people. Then zoom in on Social Media and how it worked toward that end before election day. Remember The Matrix? The plug at the back of our neck has taken over smart-sense.

I HAVE been receiving press feeds from the office of Narendra Modi, prime minister of India. He is an interesting leader. His policy initiative for "inclusive development" is praised by many financial analysts. "The Indian stock market's greatest hope!" says one. He is also adept at using social media. The second-most-followed leader in the world (with over 17.9 million followers on Twitter as of February 2016), behind only Barack Obama. And ranked #2 behind Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a list of 30 top-performing world leaders by a Japanese market research firm.
         Meantime, look out for India. The long-term growth prospective of the Indian economy is positive due to its young population, corresponding low dependency ratio, healthy savings and investment rates, and increasing integration into the global economy. The Indian economy has the potential to become the world's 3rd-largest economy by the next decade, and one of the two largest economies by mid-century.


         BTW, India is the 3rd largest producer of crude steel. It also has one of the fastest growing service sectors in the world with annual growth rate of above 9 percent since 2001, which contributed to 57 percent of GDP in 2012-13. The IT industry continues to be the largest private sector employer in India. India is also the third largest start-up hub in the world with over 3,100 technology start-ups in 2014-15. India ranks second worldwide in farm output. The Indian auto mobile industry is one of the largest in the world with an annual production of 21.48 million vehicles (mostly two and three wheelers) in FY 2013-14.

FACTS. Or facts to ponder. In re recent Berlin market attack. A record-setting 1.2 million first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the 28 member states of the European Union in 2015. That's more than double the previous year. Three main countries of origin for asylum-seekers in 2016: Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Compared with the previous year, the number of Syrians seeking protection doubled to 362,800, the number of Afghans nearly quadrupled to 178,200 and the number of Iraqis multiplied by seven to 121,500.

         According to Pew Research, Germany has been the primary destination for asylum-seekers since 2012 — a position it previously held in the late 1980s and 1990s when it received nearly half of Europe’s asylum applications. Over the past 30 years, at least 3.6 million applications were filed in Germany. That’s nearly one-third of applications in Europe for that time frame.
        In 2015, the highest number of first-time applications for asylum was registered at 441,800 in Germany. After Germany, the other top nations for accepting refugees were Hungary (174,400, or 14 percent), Sweden (156,100 or 12 percent), Austria (85,500 or 7 percent), Italy (83,200 or 7 percent) and France (70,600 or 6 percent).



OIL/GASOLINE TALK. America will not run out of gasoline. Never. Just a little bit of “Hey, easy up on driving to here and there, okay?” Even if Saudi Arabia dries up—Texas, California, Alaska and North Dakota etc still have so much reserves, most of them inactive due to environmental lobbying. The United States is the world's third-largest producer of crude oil—behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the US was the largest oil producing country in the world, following oil discovery at Oil Creek Pennsylvania in 1859. America rose to power due to oil that kicked up industrialization many years ago. Oil is power. It's just that we consume oil so much! Americans rank #1 globally in oil consumption. We consume approximately 19 million barrels on a daily basis, or 6.9 billion barrels per year. President Obama mobilized some oil fields in the West Coast on his first term to slow down a bit importation but faced massive protest from people who love to drive that vehicle but are against diggings. From being a major exporter, the US turned into importer of large-scale products (from oil). That, I believe, is one major reason why Washington let China at WTO (2001) and Russia (2012)--making globalization the name of the 1 Percenter game. China is 4th behind the US in oil production. Canada is 5th—remember the Keystone pipeline issue?


THE JAPANESE. Yes, the Japanese. Their work ethic and fun madness. When I say Work, I am talking about the #3 economy of the world—for a country that is smaller than California. And for a people that are planet earth's top 3 in life longevity. Facts. Do I know Japan that much? I don't pretend I do know a lot beyond fillet'ing a tuna for sushi or “Watashi wa, anata o aishiteimasu!” But I spent some time in Japan in the `90s and I have quite a number of relatives there who intermarried with the Japanese--like my Aunt Connie, sister of my dad. “Kon'nichiwa, oba?” Japan also occupied us in World War II—but that's the past. We forgave and forgot. In fact, Japan is on top 3 of aid givers to the Philippines these days, especially at a time of typhoon calamities. And well, Japan is near where my islands are—we shop, we frolic, we work out there.


         Yes, the Japanese are earnest at work and chill at leisure! Do you know that the fun TV shows “Wipe Out” and “Iron Chef America” were all original Japanese? “Takeshi Castle” and “Iron Chef.” Hello Kitty is Japanese. “Haro, Kiti?” Many favorite Hollywood movies are remakes of mostly Akira Kurosawa gems like “Seven Samurai” and “Yojimbo.” His Kagemusha” and “Ran” also influenced a lot of those gigantic CGI battle scenes. Horrors like “The Ring” (Ringu) as well. My daughter Donna loves Japanese movies. My son Duane's many creative madnesses is shibari contemporary art. Etc etcetera. Do you know that elderly porn is a bestselling UG business out there as well? Who says the Japanese are all work and ninja? An 87-year active fisherman that I met in Shukunegi revealed to me the Secret of Life: “Sake in the morning. Sushi in the afternoon. Sex in the evening.” Anata wa watashi o rikai shite imasu ka? Hontoni? Shinken ni? Dig? Dig.
EVIL HAS NO COLOR. G7 or Third World. Left or Right. Evil Has No Nametag. Evil is Evil. News. The Republican Party's office in Hillsborough NC has been firebombed. As expected, Social Media blared with vitriol, accusations, analysis, theories and stuff. Public opinion is always good in the long run albeit annoying at times. But what irks me, and I say this with due respect to some good friends of mine, who probably said words out of disgust and sadness—is when we categorically single out or liken such darkness to certain groups of people or ideology or even economic standing. I just read some people post that such an evil act (GOP bombing) is synonymous to a Third World mindset. That a poor country is automatically connected to a gruesome display of political (if it is) mindlessness and violence. Which is of course historically inaccurate.


         While election-related chaos and killings do happen in impoverished nations, it doesn't mean they have monopoly of this evil. America has its own share of internal mayhem perpetrated by groups like Weather Underground and Symbionese Liberation Army, Japan has the Red Army and Germany, Baader-Meinhof etc etcetera. If we want to stretch that further, small underdeveloped countries don't or never invaded another country to excise pain and misery upon the vanquished—as the case with superpowers. Makes me expound deeper why at the recent Asean summit, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte presented a visual recitation of the Bud Dajo massacre during the American colonization of the islands in late 1890s/early 1900s when US media went to town criticizing him for killings in his Drug War campaign. It's a simple case of look at yourself in the mirror first before you look at me. Bilateral (friendly) agreements don't bear mutual gains if we start things off with accusations—more than we discuss how to jointly solve problems. Evil is evil. It has no skin color or social standing et al. Yet it lurks in the shadows of humanity's smiley-faced front office. We can minimize or slow its onslaught down by at least being sensitive enough not to point fingers at others who happen to be different from us. Peace!

[Religious art by  Sanjay Patel and Frederic Clay Bartlett]

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

ME, AMERICA, and The World

I AM sometimes told, when I join in Facebook discussions, that I don't know anything about America. I think it's one of those “uninformed” retorts that need to be corrected. Truth is, many countries—from East Timor to Trinidad and Tobago, Chad to the Philippines—have baseline knowledge of America more than America is aware of what's going on actually in say sub-Saharan Desert nation (unless one goes to the university and be an “expert in Kenya” or gain “doctorate in a subject called Myanmar”). I was once or twice asked in my talks before students if the Philippines is a province of India or if we speak English back home. That's understandable. They honestly don't know. They weren't told. Meantime, America—by way of its foreign policy, economic protectionism, media giants' octopus grip on “global culture,” and Hollywood—peddles or informs the universe what's going on in here, 24/7.


          Let's zoom in on me as a Filipino who talks about America a lot. First, technically the Philippines is a colony of the United States of America for 46 years—beginning with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1898 following the defeat of the Spanish Armada in Spanish–American War to the “recognition” of the independence of the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946. My hardline Leftist comrades will argue that, of course—they believe we haven't been outside the cloak of Uncle Sam. Anyhow, the education of what America was didn't just commence with the introduction of English via “benevolent assimilation” carried out by a group of schoolteachers called Thomasites dispatched by President William McKinley in 1901. We taught the kind of textbook English that prevails to date. Nope, not the kind that Moon Zappa and the Valley girls taught via Universal Studios. We still accentuate the “g” in the verbal action “ing,” for example. Our Constitution was patterned after the US Constitution although it has been considerably modified or some entries amended through the years to fit our sociocultural truths. Still, when Filipinos chide each other of “colonial mentality,” that means adherence to anything Stateside. Major survey firms like Pew Research lists Filipinos as #1 in terms of people who love America.


          History-wise and literature-wise, our early education got lots of America so that I could memorize all the US presidents, recite famous poems by Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman, and sing Stephen Foster songs at age 7. There was even a time when I could rattle off all US states and their capital cities and identify quotes by Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson. We are “so America” that our Asian neighbors ridicule us as “mere brown Americans.”
         Meantime, as a journalist (since age 14), the country's media doesn't run of supply of news and opinion of Washington's foreign policy and “invasions” (because we willingly send troops to fight with America in ALL her wars) etc etcetera. We are a super-obedient ally. If there's some that weren't shared us, it's the details of the Civil War and the Indian Wars. Obvious, I guess. So I took it upon myself to read and research those—not just via books and google/wikipedia but by actually traveling and talking with people in the heartland. As a journalist, editor and publisher in America, I also covered internal politics, Wall Street economics and so on and so forth. Everyday I get news dispatches from dozens of establishments and organizations, White House Press Office and activist nonprofits etc.
         Do I know enough of America? Nope. I still read and read and read—I even read showbiz magazines like People and US Weekly. And I watch and watch and watch. It's like a grand stage, America—especially these days of Trumpism and a Left spectrum that never fails to bite his distractions. I reckon, it's interesting to watch America these days. Even Hollywood joins in like they haven't really taken part in all these political pasodoble and rhumba. And with Social Media and Facebook and all, not to know anything about America is close to dumbness. And I don't think the rest of the world is dumb either. They just don't talk as much as we do in the U S of A.