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.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

HOLIDAYS. Reliving Hate and Living Peace

WHY do people celebrate holidays? Let's take for example St Patrick's Day and Thanksgiving. Saint Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. He is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland, converting a society practising a form of Celtic polytheism (or paganism). He has been generally so regarded ever since, despite evidence of some earlier Christian presence in Ireland. Critics see that as a way of religious subjugation of a people's inherent form of worship or community fervor. I can translate that as well with how Christianity's cross sat foot in my islands-country and transformed natives as a way of exerting domination over them and their resources.

           Meantime, much like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving is considered by some to be a "national day of mourning,” as a celebration of the cultural genocide and conquest of Native Americans by colonists. Thanksgiving has long carried a distinct resonance for Native Americans, who see the holiday as an embellished story of "Pilgrims and Natives looking past their differences" to break bread. I can relate with that too as a Filipino.
           It is our basic human right to or not to participate in celebrations or observance of holidays in honor of this and that religion or people or culture or political history. Many of those who hold aloft their Pagan beliefs cling on to practices and traditions that amplify or accentuate their faith or culture. Native Americans stay in the reservation and live the way they were. Many peoples in the world do the same. However, I don't see the rationale in people protesting holiday observances like St Patrick's Day and Thanksgiving and Christmas yet still live the lifestyle or culture of a people that they believe committed wrongdoings in long ago past.
Genocides and massacres and subjugation are evil. But those who gather as family and community to enjoy togetherness and collective peace in these “holidays” should not be criticized as though they were exactly the ones who committed those genocides and massacres. Otherwise, I will simply look back in history and relive the wounds of centuries of Spanish and American colonization back home. That invasion brought English and Christianity and Hershey's and bejewelled crucifixes and a whole consumerist flood back home, almost totally wiping away a people's innate cultural truths. And so I will continue to hate the White Man?

          Yet I don't see life that way. I'd rather look at "Pilgrims and Natives looking past their differences" to break bread than the blood spilled on the land. I'd rather see St Patrick's legacy of goodness in converging a people for common good than what could have happened in those times. Meantime, I am not a fan of the endless drinking on that day anyway. And you know, if I really want to drive it back to history, the wearing of leprechaun outfits is considered derogatory in 19th century Ireland, it's like caricaturing or ridiculing them. But then, chill. Right? Good things. You see, Japan is the number #1 aid giver to the Philippines yet the country occupied us in the Pacific War and did really bad things then.              

          Why don't we instead see the good things in people's way of gathering as one than see the wounds of the past? We lambaste those who hate but isn't this attitude a form of reliving hate in people's heart? Other people, tribes and Catholics sit down and plan fiestas and revelry for common benefits and enjoyment. Natives exalt harvest, Catholics glorify their God—for the new sun after nonstop rains. I don't think they sat down (to plan the feasts) by pointing fingers who killed who 101 years ago. 
          I believe we just have to focus on what's here and now and choose our battles and protests where and when they are really needed. Peace is possible if we know how to gather us as one than divide us into tiny little hating gremlins.