Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Is Peace Possible?

IS global peace possible? A UCLA student emailed me with this question yesterday morning: "Sir, do you think the US, Russia, and China could work things out and peace is possible?" Of course, peace is possible. Life is not perfect. This is not John Lennon's "Imagine." There is no absolute peace though since humanity is anchored on perpetual change/s but there will always be attempts to arrive to a certain degree of peace. It has been tried. And it can be pursued on mutual grounds or negotiated intents. 

          The recent G20 Summit in Germany where 19 members, including China but excluding the US and Russia, signed a Climate Change accord is a positive indication. Some 195 countries also signed the Paris Agreement also this year. China has committed billions of dollars to spearhead alternative energy projects in Europe. East shaking hands with West or Europe also manifested as Japan, globe's 3rd biggest economy, and European Union inked new trade partnership. 
          Meantime, the US gained some odd anti Climate Change buddies in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Indonesia--all oil producing nations. A bit of no brainer since oil diggings are always been blamed for the unabated increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels (hence climate change). Russia is #1 producer of crude oil; Saudi Arabia, second; and US, third. 
          But then these recent intramurals surrounding Trump and Vladimir Putin about Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 US Presidential election at least went eyeball level in Hamburg. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters: "I was delighted that it was on the margins of G20 that the first meeting between Trump and Putin took place. It’s always better to talk one to the other, not one about the other." Let's see. 

          In regard nuclear arms in North Korea, the US has called on China's help to mediate or do something. Pyongyang and Moscow used to be friends. But Russia supported United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 condemning North Korea's nuclear test in 2006 and last year. Uh huh. Kim Jong-Un continues to defy the international community in relation to its nuclear and rocket programme but maybe China could work things out. But Washington (or Trump) needs to mellow down the bully stance and negotiate. Well, I think the Chinese are good at that. Beijing isn't willing to "punish" Pyongyang, which they've been helping a lot since NK's relations with Moscow soured. There must be a way. I'd like to discuss nukes longer but later. 
          The US and Russia, despite historical animosity that reared its ugly head during the Cold War, gained some peace in the past. The relationship was generally warm under Russia's President Boris Yeltsin (1991–1999) until the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999, and has since deteriorated significantly under Vladimir Putin. In 2014, relations greatly strained due to the crisis in Ukraine, Russia's annexation of Crimea, and, in 2015, by sharp differences regarding Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War. Mutual sanctions imposed in 2014 remain in place.
          But then Trump and Putin talked so let's see. A 2017 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed 41 percent of Russians had a positive view of the US, only one of two countries surveyed where positive perception for the US increased, 52 percent however expressed a negative view. The same study also showed 53 percent of Russians had confidence in the current American leader, President Donald Trump compared to just 11 percent for former President Barack Obama. But Obama people, please don't get worked up. I am just stating facts. That is not a barometer who is better Donald or Barack. 

         However, Americans just don't like Russia. A recent survey of 7,150 American adults asked "Do you consider Russia a friend or enemy of the United States?" A majority wavered between enemy and unfriendly, with 55 percent saying so. Within the five options given, 33 percent said Russia was unfriendly to the United States and 22% said Russia was our enemy. Some 25 percent said they were unsure and only 19 percent said Russia was a friend.
         About US and China, need I say more? Relations between the two countries have generally been stable with some periods of open conflict, most notably during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Currently, China and the United States have mutual political, economic, and security interests, including, but not limited to, the prevention of terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, although there are unresolved concerns relating to the role of democracy in government in China and human rights in both respective countries. China is the second largest foreign creditor of the United States behind Japan. The two countries remain in dispute though over territorial issues in the South China Sea. That can be resolved if Asean, notably the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan sit and compromise and agree. Again, I reiterate that Washington has to modify its protectionist foreign policy, via military bombast, in the region to usher peace pipes. 

          Meanwhile, in recent history, there have been peaceful strides. Like the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty in 1979 signed by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, and witnessed and hosted by United States president Jimmy Carter. Alas, it cost Sadat's life and Carter, despite his peacekeeping efforts, was considered one of the weakest US presidents. He served only one term. ISIS blowback do shake peace efforts I know but the Arab Spring also gave us hints why the anger in the Muslim world? Maybe they don't really need the oil diggings that much than we do. More than 95 percent of workers in Saudi Arabian oil fields are foreigners, not locals. They don't care. They just don't want that kind of job.
          The US, Russia and China's relations do matter a lot in pursuit of global peace since they apparently command allegiance or support from smaller nations. They have their own share of abiding allies. They dictate global trade and military clout, two gargantuan tools of power. But a people that is divided won't do it even if governments make initiatives. The people and governments must work hand in hand. These days, it's the 1 Percent that "works" governments, capitalizing on a divided world, but then there are signs of agreements for mutual benefits. I remain hopeful.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Pasckie Notebook

          For so many occasions, before and after the Nov elections, Donald Trump and some people kept on pointing at China or Saudi Arabia as major culprits in America “losing” its greatness. We chide Saudi Arabia, currently #2 exporter of oil to the US, for earning billions of moolah with “unfair” pricing of crude/petroleum. And China, oh well. China. When the US was the boss of the allied world, I don't remember many leaders complaining about steady stream of oil and oil products and “stateside” stuff and things to their shores. In fact, those baubles in a way were status symbols. Colonial mentality, we call it back home. Caltex was the major source of gasoline. Hershey's was like sweets of the gods. It's okay. No whining. I don't think it is the fault of China or Saudi Arabia or Mexico or whatever country why America's balance of trade sucks at this point. We choose to import than to export; our 1 Percent opted to ferret those plants to Guangzhou and elsewhere overseas than here. These countries or their governments didn't invade or colonize America and forced us to abide.

          When activists were massing at WTO to block globalization's “regulation” of free market trades, not enough people were lobbying. But people love Occupy's party than significant moves like the Battle of Seattle. America's bipartisan Congress let China and Russia in at WTO, and now non-OPEC countries like Russia want in the US/allies market. Is it their fault? Was it the fault of Japan and Germany why there were competition to Ford and Chrysler for car manufacturing (and imports to US) years ago? Look at these—trinkets on retail stores, gasoline at Exxon, or heating in your house. The American mass gobble them up. Where do all these come from because we don't want factories to ruin our environment, had to be spot clean? China. Saudi Arabia. Canada. Mexico. Venezuela. Even coca and cocaine come from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia; poppy seeds from Afghanistan and Myanmar. Need I go on? Nope. I gotta vacuum the bathroom floor for now...

WHAT has happened to those who vowed to leave America in case Donald Trump won?
They say America is doomed so they thought of moving to countries where people are happier. Or countries with better delivery of basic services. Like Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden. They have better health insurance, food subsidies, free education, affordable housing etc etcetera. True. But those amenities don't come easy. Those countries also impose the highest taxes globally, around 50 to 55 percent. Sweden has the second highest income tax rate in the world, and the highest in Europe, with a 56.6 percent deducted from annual income. Though Swedes may be taxed heavily, sales on residential properties are exempted from taxation there. That is, if you still got enough money left to purchase a house. In Norwegian jail, it's like taking a vacation in a resort--cells are equipped with TV sets, there are awesome sports facilities and gym, and a prison inmate bakes you birthday cake as well. The high tax rate is justified for increased social program accessibility. It's like mom gets your salary and pays all your basic necessity bills and whatever's left is handed to you. Maybe no more money for iPhone 7, sweet smoky herbs, and beers--unless mom says so based on her accounting of your money. Want that? No? So maybe you wanna try North Korea instead? Food and housing are extensively subsidized by the state out there. Education and healthcare are free, and the payment of taxes was officially abolished in 1974. Wanna go? Are you already there?


          Doug Stamper (played by Michael Kelly), Frank Underwood's unwaveringly loyal chief of staff and confidant in “House of Cards” TV series reminds me of George Stephanopoulos. Before Mr Stephanopoulos joined ABC News, he was a top Democratic Party political advisor or Communications Director for the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton, subsequently becoming White House Communications Director, then Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy. He was just in his 30s that time. He was actually the one running Press Relations matters on Clinton's first term although Dee Dee Myers was officially the White House Press Secretary.
          The World Trade Organization (WTO), an intergovernmental organization which regulates international trade, officially commenced in 1995. The US acted as a dominant power in international economy and strongly supported an open system—with great interest in China because it was one of the fastest growing markets for US goods and services. Yet tables turned--export to import. US imports from China almost doubled within five years from $51.5 billion in 1996 to $102 billion in 2001. China was admitted to WTO that year, 2001, thus celebrating globalization as a slick way to regulate free market in favor of the Greater Powers. The US imposed additional conditions on China and so there were, from a Chinese perspective, both positive and negative aspects linked with admission. George Stephanopoulos left Clinton's administration in December 1996—as Chinese imports start to pile up in US retails. (BTW Russia got in WTO in 2012.)

          In politics, there is always an unwaveringly loyal and brilliant shadow who helps brainstorm and execute significant policies for their boss. A Doug Stamper. A George Stephanopoulos. Should they stay or should they go? One is fiction, the other is not. The non-fiction chose to go.

          We are not on the same page although we seem to be enjoying all possible modes of communication. Tactical alliance. Tactical alliance between (non)like-minded groups but aligned against a common foe won revolutions and/or real changes in society (in the absence of a revolution). One basic flaw of activism in America these days, I observe, is the absence of such an "alliance." Take the case of the Occupy movement in its nerve center in Manhattan. Very basic flaw. Groundwork--groundworking for a very basic and simple need. Bathroom access. Each Occupy/er could've easily been thrown to a paddywagon and Zuccotti Park shut down on Week 1--for health/sanitation reason. No significant support from residents and local business to let activists in. And who let them in 24/7? McDonald's across the street. The 1 Percent--the same "foe" that the Occupy Movement targeted. That is a very basic flaw.

          Cliques. Sub-groups. There are so many little cliques. Equality won't happen if it doesn't translate in wages, housing, social security benefits, single parenthood subsidies etc etcetera. Meantime other groups fight for local growers against the big guys. Others fight for immigration rights. For LGBT rights. Environmental issues. Until activists come gather as one and devise a way how to maximize advocacy, lobbying, and grassroots empowerment, we will all be howling on our respective corners in a small plaza called Freedom of Speech. Until we all get tired or snow come falling down again. Next season of "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead" up next.
          Who wins with all these distractions? Of course we know. You know. Bills remain. But Canada's borders aren't as accessible as it's hot prime minister's smile is. We only have to google it. That is, if we still got internet access.

THE DUDE Western Media Love to Hate: Vladimir Putin.
          A UPI news or analysis sort of explains, “Why Russian President Vladimir Putin will fail.” Really? Currently, Putin enjoys an 85.9 percent approval rating among his people. Fueled by the 2000s commodities boom including record high oil prices, under the Putin administration from 2001 to 2007, the economy made real gains. In 2007, Russia's GDP exceeded that of Russian SFSR in 1990, having recovered from the 1998 financial crisis and the preceding recession in the 1990s. During Putin's first eight years in office, industry grew substantially, as did production, construction, real incomes, credit, and the middle class. To illustrate that economic gain, a WNBA player who earns a max salary of $125k in the US takes home $5 million when playing in the Russian league. Russia entered WTO in 2012 as it overtakes Saudi Arabia as the world's #1 producer of crude oil. Oil. Russia isn't going anywhere down. Putin may retire but the Russians have arrived—stronger than before. Why can't these so-called economic pundits focus on how superpowers could benefit from each other for their people than continue to fuel quarrels and “Cold War” level intrigue? And I'm not even talking about China.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


MAKE America Great Again!” was an effective campaign slogan amidst an economic tempest that hasn't really subsided. Will it work though after the fact? Election is over and the copy already served its purpose. Done. Globalization, the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale. Seems cool especially at a time when “share the wealth” or “harmony in diversity” were working its way into the gamut and grace of the West's romance with political correctness. Then World Trade Organization (WTO) was born, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an intergovernmental organization which regulates international trade. That was 1995, six years after Tiananmen Square Revolt where the Chinese working class got impatient with the (economic) mobility of Deng Xiaoping's Open Door Policy.

          There are 164 WTO member-countries. Seemed cool to start the globalization blueprint to work. But they didn't know (or maybe the bigger powers knew?) that China's once-sleeping dragon is no dumbass. As the organization finetunes, China applied for membership and with Washington's clout all over the mahogany table, Beijing got in. That was 2001, Bill Clinton's term. The PR went this way: “The admission of China to the WTO was preceded by a lengthy process of negotiations and required significant changes to the Chinese economy. It signified China's deeper integration into the world economy.” The US of course supported an open system. Let `em in! “Huanying! Huanying!” An enormous multilateral achievement! Uh huh. The Clinton administration reasoned that China was one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. goods and services. The 1 Percent concurred. U.S. imports from China almost doubled within five years from $51.5 billion in 1996 to $102 billion in 2001.
          Quite naturally, China negotiated back. What about us? Are we just going to buy your Nikes and Twizzlers? The huge Chinese humanity needed jobs—that is why there was a revolt in Tiananmen anyways. Sure! So WTO imposed conditions, actually harsher than those handed to other developing countries. China's service sector had to be liberalized and foreign investment allowed; restrictions on retail, wholesale and distribution had to end. Banking, financial services, insurance and telecommunications were also opened up to foreign investment. Cool!

           Then Beijing went to work. Tax was lowered, workforce was cheap (yet still within the realm of the traditional Chinese lifestyle). Etc etcetera. How could America's 1 percent turn its back on that investment/partnership jackpot? So as environmentalists lobbied to padlock plants and factories in the heartland, these giant corporations made a massive exodus to the Great Wall of Better Profit. Simultaneously, the National People's Congress and State Council spread out subsidies to entrepreneurs and “little moguls” in the provinces so they could match up with those gargantuan job orders from America (and other WTO countries). Old and young, including children, were making stuff and things for Walmart, AC Moore, Target et al. Boom! Like a dragon's fire—the flamethrow was unstoppable to date. America's once vaunted trade surplus went south and trade deficit sucked. Exports gone, imports galore! Jobs? Oh well.
          Globalization, yes. Probably good in some degree for smaller countries—yet really bad for America. All in all, it is a win-win for the 1 Percent. A regulated free market. Regulated for the 1 Percent profit monster. How do we bring back the jobs, Mr Trump? Convince China and its American/Western partners to ship factories back to the US? Well, partly. China has been buying huge corporations here before these companies—well, all go to China or Mexico or somewhere else, right? And the factories? As China's environmental index plummets due to those factories, they moved some out or created new factories and businesses in smaller countries where it's “friendly.” Easy environmental laws, lower wages, obedient workforce, sweet tax rates. These workers of the world can compete with Chinese workers anyhow. Equation: $8 dollars an hour in Wyoming is equivalent to two weeks in Nicaragua or Morocco. Explains why my own (Philippines-based) siblings' business partners are young Chinese. And do you know that New York City's tourism income relies heavily on Chinese spending? These people can spend!

          Meantime, I'd like to watch or observe how Trump's economic czars work things out. Remember, Russia also got in WTO in 2012. The D cut taxes on the rich or huge corporations to entice them to re-invest or expand here and so they could generate jobs. Right? Of course. But these MIBs will still have to do the math. Low tax rates against such a hard to refuse conditions somewhere? Take note as well, South American giants Brazil and Argentina owe China lotsa moolah. Many people need jobs out there. So that's what it is. The picture doesn't change though irrelevant Obama is still here or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders won instead. That fact stays.
          Make America great again? Maybe that line is in itself flawed. It's self-righteous and egoistic. Why not say let's make America be part of a “globalized” community and let's us all treat each other as equals? No great or greatest. Just equal humans with feet planted on reality ground and hands waving on the same air. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

WHAT's UP, 2017?

WHAT's UP, 2017? (I wrote this on new year's day last year.) I don't think there'll be major changes in me. But the thing is, I will try again to review and revisit stuff and things that I willingly and unwillingly funneled in my system in the last five decades of my life. Then filter, distill, reflect, ruminate. And hope that I am able to find a workable synergetic composite of my many acquired selves in one cool Pasckie. Hopefully. The same progression, the same struggle, the same attempts. After all, 365 days aren't so much time to recover or restart or regroup. It's a lifetime gig. Yet the kick of new year, January 1, somehow gets us going. So one more time—let's try again, superhomeys!

NEW YEAR's DAY MEMORY. I was told to jump high and mighty as 12 m idnight's siren wails. That'd mean I'd grow tall faster and then be the tallest boy in the `hood. Well, I am 5'3” five decades hence so figure that one out. My grandma made me eat “pansit” noodles on Jan 1 so my life will be longer (like a long string of rice noodle). Hmmm, that makes sense. I am relatively healthier than my contemporaries and I tell ya, I can dunk that basketball over Kristaps Porzingis anytime! Ha! I mean, at the rate how my health is flowing, I feel I can age up to 155—by virtue of my love for noodles, on new year's day or everyday. But superstition or whatever, I miss new year's eve revelry back home. It's loud, magnificent, colorful, boisterous. And dangerous—with national ban on weird cornucopia of fireworks and firecrackers on effect yet people continually ignore it. 
          Meantime, a Filipino New Year's Eve bombast is similar to a Chinese New Year or Nian Festival. Belief's fountainhead says the din and “mayhem” drive bad spirits away, especially those that messed you up the previous year. A Media Noche or midnight dinner is also served—a feast of food that ushers, hopefully consistent blessings all year round. Last night, I cooked and dined on “pansit” because I haven't really outgrown my children wonder that more ramens and noodles in my system means I will age up to 155! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

WHAT are my New Year's Resolutions? Be this and be that. Be super, be awesome? Close to saying be immaculate and be unblemished and be the sweetest and be the most loving—thus forgetting that I am as flawed and faulty and imperfect as you are. You see, all I want to do is to keep on working to be a tad better than what I was last year or yesterday. Being cool wins me more loving than being uncool, so the logic is as simple as breathing. I behave, I misbehave. It really depends on who am I behaving or misbehaving with. The same life truths—only, I am 55 now. Hopefully, I'll excise more patience with eHumanity and then churn out continuous output despite my aching backside. I don't need to change much, I reckon—I just have to be better. Better is it.

NEW year's resolutions? Less "intelligent" debates about stuff. More "frivolous" laughter about things. Engage less on "adult" arguments, gravitate more to "childish" frolics. Less inspiration, more motivation. Wondering less, working more. Less grumpy but happier. Less whining, more writing. The same do-it again 12-month life's gig as the past. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

EAST and WEST. What's the matter here?

HISTORICAL facts. There seems to be a prevailing dislike of China in the West due to obvious reasons. The Chinese are all over the world, not just in US retail stores but also in factories, shipyards, oil drillings, banking institutions, and all imaginable business/trade pursuits there are. Yet as I always say China did not force itself in, or invaded or colonized, a country in the West the way the East was subjugated by Western imperialism and mercantilism for centuries. China implemented the good old Lo Mein styled marketing and merchandising. They worked, they delivered, they got paid—they talked less.

          There are internal-Asian conquests of course yet the closest that I can think of in terms of beyond-Asia invasions was at the time of Genghis Khan in 1200s—when the Mongol Empire rode through Eurasia (or Western Asia) and took power over parts of modern Iran, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Genghis' grandson Kublai took over these conquests when grandpa died in 1227. Mongolia also annexed China when the giant country was consisted of three separate states: Xi Xia, Jin, and Sung. The Mongol Empire is the largest contiguous empire in history after the Great Khan's death—yet their power didn't extend to mainland Europe.
          On the other hand, Western European entry into what was first called the East Indies (or Asia) started as early 15th century as the search for trade routes to China led directly to the Age of Discovery. Early modern warfare was funneled into what was then called the Far East. By the early 16th century the Age of Sail greatly expanded Western European influence and development of the Spice Trade under colonialism. Enter Marco Polo and his historic navigation of the Silk Road. There has been a presence of Western European colonial empires and imperialism in Asia throughout six centuries of colonialism, formally ending with the independence of the Portuguese Empire's last colony East Timor in 2002.

          During the 1500s and 1600s the Europeans were able to take control of the international trade of Asia, thereby diverting the profits from this trade to Europe. As a result, the Europeans grew stronger while Asian empires and kingdoms became weaker. By the 1800s the Europeans were in a position to establish their authority over much of Asia, particularly the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Six European countries had colonies in the region. Portugal (Malacca, Timor, southeast of Bali in Indonesia, and Japan as early as 1500s), Spain (Philippines), Netherlands (parts of India first, then Indonesia), Great Britain (India, Burma/Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia), France (Vietnam and the five Indochina territories: Cochin China, Annam, Tongking, Laos, and Cambodia), and the United States (Philippines). Thailand was the only Southeast Asian state to remain independent during the colonial period.
          In fact, even mainland China was sort of invaded by the West. The 16th century brought many Jesuit missionaries to China, such as Matteo Ricci, who established missions where Western science was introduced, and where Europeans gathered knowledge of Chinese society, history, culture, and science. During the 18th century, merchants from Western Europe came to China (and Japan) in increasing numbers. However, merchants were confined to Guangzhou and the Portuguese colony of Macau, as they had been since the 16th century. European traders were increasingly irritated by what they saw as the relatively high customs duties they had to pay and by the attempts to curb the growing import trade in opium. By 1800, its importation was forbidden by the imperial government. However, the opium trade continued to boom.

           In 1839, China found itself fighting the First Opium War with Britain. China was defeated, and in 1842, signed the provisions of the Treaty of Nanjing which were first of the unequal treaties signed during the Qing Dynasty. Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain, and certain ports, including Shanghai and Guangzhou, were opened to British trade and residence. In 1856, the Second Opium War broke out. The Chinese were again defeated, and now forced to the terms of the 1858 Treaty of Tientsin. The treaty opened new ports to trade and allowed foreigners to travel in the interior. In addition, Christians gained the right to propagate their religion. The United States Treaty of Wanghia and Russia later obtained the same prerogatives in separate treaties.
          Other European powers also maintaned enclaves in China through the years. Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Belgium in Tianjin; France in Zhanjiang, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hankou, and Kunming; Germany in Qingdao, and also in Hankou and Tianjin; Portugal in Macau; Russia in Dalian, and also in Tianjin and Hankou; and apart from their presence in Hongkong, Tianjin and Hankou, United Kingdom also had power in Weihai, Liugong Island, Jiujiang, Zhenjiang, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Shanghai, and Yunnan. Meantime, the United States had concession in Shanghai (1848) and Tianjin (1902) as well.

          Let me explore more the Philippine episode. In the Philippines, the U.S. remained committed to its previous pledges to grant the islands their independence, and the Philippines became the first of the Western-controlled Asian colonies to be granted independence post-World War II. However, the Philippines remained under pressure to adopt a political and economic system similar to their old imperial master. This still holds true to date. During the Pacific War, Filipino guerrillas known as the Hukbalahap (People's Army) fought with American soldiers against the Japanese occupation of the islands. After the war, the dusgruntled Huks, who felt betrayed by their colonial masters who promised them stuff but failed to deliver, evolved into the Communist Party of the Philippines (PKP). Filipino WW2 veterans are still, to date, lobbying for fulfillment of those promises. 
          The PKP participated in elections as part of the Democratic Alliance. However, with the onset of the Cold War, its growing political strength drew a reaction from the ruling government and the United States, resulting in the repression of the PKP and its associated organisations. In 1948, the PKP began organizing an armed struggle against the government and continued U.S. military presence. In 1950, the PKP created the People's Liberation Army (Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan), which mobilised thousands of troops throughout the islands. The insurgency lasted until 1956, when the PKP gave up armed struggle. And in 1968, the PKP underwent a split, and in 1969 the Maoist faction of the PKP created the New People's Army. Maoist rebels re-launched an armed struggle against the government and the U.S. military presence in the Philippines, which continues to this day.

          The Philippines and China always sustained a relationship even before Spain set foot in the islands, mainly in trade. Although China never invaded the Philippines, their presence could be seen and felt in the culture. So this “new” Philippines-China friendship isn't really new. It is a sort of reconnecting with friends in the same way that the Asian Tiger and Asian Cub economies started relying on each other for progress and prosperity apart from relations with the West. I don't think that is wrong. Asians may have been fighting internally in the past—but they stay as friendly neighbors eventually. Meantime, they never did set sail to the West and engaged them in war to get what they wanted.
          If the world sees international relations this way, through trade based agreements on mutual benefits, and not a one-sided talk that when it fails, an invasion ensues—then we can attain peace.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


AFTER all these years, I still hear or read the crackpot theory or allegation that the US government somehow has knowledge or actually perpetrated the 9/11 tragedy. Despite criticisms, I don't believe American leaders will knowingly harm their own people right at home, especially in the magnitude of the 2001 horror. I am sorry, for me, such a thinking is almost parallel to saying extra-terrestrials manipulated the last election results. I believe such wild rumination is a reflection of some people's refusal to read writings on the wall and/or simply a look at themselves (ourselves) in the mirror.

          Let's look back.

          Islamic extremism was virtually unknown fifty years ago. And yet today it seems that we are confronted with the fear that some suicide bombings or Al-Qaeda guided shootings will happen just about any given day. Too much anger and hatred. Why? Western intervention in the Middle East over the past century to secure access to the region’s oil reserves established a perfect environment in which Islamic fundamentalists could exploit growing anti-Western sentiment throughout the Islamic world. The most recent manifestation of this rage is the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) which emerged out of the chaos caused by the US invasion of Iraq.
          Let's look at current situation/s.
          Saudi Arabia or Saudi-led OPEC's recent threat to reduce its oil production by 1.2 million barrels a day should not always be seen as gesture to wrest back control of the global oil market (depressed by persistent oversupply) from threat from Russia and several non-OPEC countries. Or maybe Iran is power-muscling its way to grab OPEC leadership, hence iron grip-handle of pricing? Maybe. Let's look at the Arab Spring, a series of antigovernment uprisings affecting Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East beginning in 2010.

          Many theories emanated why such tempest broke out. It is widely believed to have been instigated by dissatisfaction, particularly of youth and unions, with the rule of local governments, though some have speculated that wide gaps in income levels and pressures caused by the Great Recession may have had a hand as well. Other sources confirm the US government's support of the uprisings, funded largely by the National Endowment for Democracy. NED is a U.S. non-profit soft power organization that was founded in 1983 with the stated goal of promoting democracy abroad. It was introduced as a bill in 1967 by Dante Fascell (D-Fla) to create an institute of International Affairs. And although the bill did not pass it led to discussions on Capitol Hill to establish an institution in which democracy efforts abroad would benefit the U.S. as well as countries struggling for freedom and self- government. Rest is history.
          Other analysts pointed to an Al Qaeda strategy for world domination. More issues: Dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, political corruption (demonstrated by Wikileaks diplomatic cables), economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors, such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the entire population. Etc etcetera. All said, I can see a parallel with China's Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. People want reform—not to really close their door (from the West) some more but they want to deal with the world their way and not via Western machinations. Check China out these days. Makes sense, right?
       Arabs are enraged by the fact that their major resource is being exploited yet they don't control its marketing on one side. On the other side, some are angered that oil has become their life which wasn't in the first place. You can still see Arabs on camels sharing parking lots with limos in Dubai and Qatar. Meanwhile, the more we criticize their “backwardness” the more that they get angrier and angrier. A survey in 2014 says that more than half of Americans don't like Saudi Arabia or the Muslim world—which is almost the same percentage of Arabs who hate America. It is sad that extremists resort to wholesale mayhem to deliver that point.

          On a parallel vein but with a contrary evolution is the case in the Philippines. The Filipino people first violently resisted the Spanish and then rose up again when the United States became the new colonial ruler of the Philippines in 1898. President William McKinley declared, “Filipinos are unfit for self-government... There was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them." Meanwhile, in South Africa, the Zulu people were resorting to violence in an effort to resist British attempts to “civilize” them in the late 1800s. We can of course look back at other transformations in just about any small country in the globe where Western imperialism and mercantilism chose to land.
          Back to what's going on now. Russia is apparently very present in America's current affairs. Amidst SA's threat to lower production (which means, higher gasoline price/s), Russia and other non-OPEC oil-exporting countries like Mexico, Norway and Azerbaijan also say they will lower drillings—but not as much as Saudi Arabia's 1.2 million barrels a day. This is power play of course. Given all these, the fact remains: The US was/is very dependent to Saudi oil. The kingdom is the #2 source of US oil imports at 1.06 million barrels a day or 11 percent. (Canada exports more to the US than any country, some 40 percent; Venezuela ranks 3rd.) Russia is #1 crude oil producer to date.
          Unplanned supply disruptions in the global crude oil market have grown in recent years, peaking at 3.8 million barrels a day in May and September 2015. That is the highest level of supply disruptions since the Iraq-Kuwait War (1990-91) when prices spiked to new high. US production growth has largely offset the loss from unplanned production outages around the world and put downward pressure on prices to the benefit of all consumers. But would America up its output? President Obama did in his first term but he faced a huge battle from pro-environmental lobbyists, which only made more pipelining from Canada logical.

         Meantime, the Senate recently blocked a measure by a wide 71-27 margin that would have prohibited a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, in a vote that was nonetheless embarrassing to the kingdom. Steady US supply of arms to Saudi Arabia has always be a major entry in the two countries bilateral agreements. By now, Congress may have already overrode a looming presidential veto of a Sept. 11 lawsuit bill the kingdom strongly opposes. Meantime, as political instability in the Middle East persists, the popular view is that increased tensions in the region will reduce oil production.

          It is important that we look at the giant global white board to understand what's going on. The U.S. consumes 20 percent of the world's total oil consumption; second is China at “only” 6 percent. Last year, we consumed a total of 7.08 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of about 19.4 million barrels per day. And America isn't even the largest or most populous country in the world. Oil is important to us—but oil is located somewhere else. Although the mainland also has its own oil (the US is 3rd globally in oil production). Yet we need more and more. Sad that Muslim-dominated OPEC countries own those lands. With the entry of Russia and non-OPEC countries into our oil-hungry diet, will the rage stop? I don't know. But things have got to change than simply duplicating the mistakes of past administrations. Diplomacy should be two-sided with the welfare of the people as utmost than the 1 Percent's.
          Anger brought forth 9/11. I don't believe in the other crackpot theory, sorry. Uncle Sam didn't see it coming. Like Deng Xiao Ping didn't see it coming in 1989's Tiananmen Uprising. But China did quench the anger their way and then made itself Great. America will be great again if it changes its foreign policy strategies. No more antiquated protectionism. It's time to negotiate and compromise for common good. Peace is not far-fetched.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

GLOBAL POLITICS: Villains and “Heroes”

WHAT the media gives us, more often than not, we indulge in them like ice cream on a hot August night. It's always been like that—that is why we need to know further and deeper. For example, why is it North Korea's Kim Jong-un or Hugo Chavez (Venezuela's prez from 1999-2013) and Vladimir Putin are often pictured as villainous and mean and weird political leaders by media? Are they really THAT bad? Here are some angles.

          First, the United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations. Sweden acts as the protecting power of US interests in North Korea for consular matters. Since the Korean War, the US has maintained a strong military presence in South Korea (Washington's formidable economic/security ally in the region). What makes Kim a bad leader? Are North Koreans impoverished? NK possesses the structural profile of a relatively industrialized country. The economy is heavily nationalized. Food and housing are extensively subsidized by the state; education and healthcare are free; and the payment of taxes was officially abolished in 1974. Industry and services employ 65 percent of North Korea's 12.6 million labor force. Major industries include machine building, military equipment, chemicals, mining, metallurgy, textiles, food processing and tourism. Iron ore and coal production are among the few sectors where North Korea performs significantly better than its southern neighbor—it produces about 10 times larger amounts of each resource. So there you go. If Kim and Pyongyang ally with the US, more resources to reap profits from.         
          Throughout most of the 20th century, Venezuela maintained friendly relations with most Latin American and Western nations—until the 2000s. Washington tried to unseat power (Chavez time) via a 2002 coup d'├ętat attempt during which Uncle Sam recognized the short-lived interim presidency of Pedro Carmona. Last year, Venezuela was declared a national security threat by President Obama—which proved to be a tactical flaw. The US ties to various Latin American and Middle Eastern countries not allied to the US have strengthened as a result. Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki declared in 2015 that Venezuela was his country's "most important ally.”
          Now is Venezuela's people poor? Let's see. Venezuela has a market-based mixed economy dominated by the petroleum sector, which accounts for roughly a third of GDP, around 80 percen of exports, and more than half of government revenues. Venezuela has the least expensive petrol in the world because the consumer price of petrol is heavily subsidized. Your Citgo heating, by the way, is Venezuelan-owned. Yup, Venezuela is a strong OPEC member. More than that, 60 percent of Venezuela's international reserves is in gold, eight times more than the average for the region. Not a poor country but not very friendly with the US.

          Now, need I talk about Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte and Dilma Roussef etc etcetera? Until these leaders—and their country's resources accede to Washington—they will stay as villains and bad guys. Take the case of Myanmar. Historically, this Southeast Asian country doesn't like the West. In return, the US and European countries imposed sanctions that resulted in the withdrawal from the country of most US and many European companies. Until 2012 when a West-backed pro-democracy party headed by Aung San Suu Kyi gained 43 seats out of a possible 45 in the elections. What does Myanmar got? Among others, Myanmar is the world's largest producer of opium poppies, pharma giants' minefields. Philippines? Brazil? I digress.
          I do believe that the world's superpowers, not just the US, need to redo or regroup their foreign policy and compromise/negotiate for common good. It can happen.