Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ALL about writing, activism, and where do we go from here

I AM a writer. And writers write based on their personal experiences and those that they encounter. Novelists and film writers, for example, most often write composites of people to "accentuate" message or they break down a specific reference subject's persona to several characters to augment conflict or structure. 


          On Facebook, we straddle that imaginary line between "personal drama" and objective "opinionating," literary outburst and harmless quip, straight news or info sharing and stupid trolling. Hence, social media becomes a crisscrossing interplay of a literary device, subjective/private rumination and random banter. I get in and out of such door, as you do. Like, I may write a strongly-worded rant about failed relationships but it could be my own failed valentine. I could write a beautiful love poem but maybe I write it for a beloved cat or someone else's need or bliss that I read on my Homepage. Many times I write about my views and takes on parenting and family, but it could be a pooled observation of 15 families plus mine.


          So if anyone sees themselves in what I write and feel good about it, I feel good as well. Thank you. That is one of the major pleasures or objectives of a writer. Pursuit of mutual fulfillment (in writing/reading), albeit a moment's sweet shudder. Many times though, some people see themselves in those words or prose and feel somehow offended. I apologize--although my past mentors (as a writing student many years ago) always reminded me never to justify or rationalize my work. I am sorry, anyhow. My work isn't meant to hit at any individual person unless I mention a specific name. Or my rants and ramblings aren't meant to glorify a person unless I mention Mother Teresa etc. All the love poems that I wrote could be written for someone I love/d or someone that was loved by someone else, or those words were inspired/motivated by something that I read or saw--and I said above, it could be about a pet animal. But a writer is not writing for just one person or 15 or 500. He is writing for 5,000 Facebook friends and 5 or 50 million out there in internet universe, or anyone of the 7 million walking on the street and may enter a bookstore and see my book and buy it. I don't believe a writer targets one specific individual as his/her audience, although it may seem that way in some instances.
          Meantime, a writer writes to breathe life in and out--in the form of love and joy. It may not sound like that for some, but I believe writers write to heal their wounds as well as humanity's pain, infect an optimistic vibe to the universe, or just simply try to contribute to a day's pursuit of happiness.

I REMEMBER the days. During my most virulent political activism. Me and my bandmates didn't even talk about politics that much unless it is a funny conjecture. Except me perhaps, my band friends were basically apolitical or Born Again. In between practice, we talked and shared corny jokes. Lots of laughter. I wrote all the words in all our songs and most hint political undertones--some even ideological. Yet we never argued about those songs--they all came out good, I am sure. I never had a problem with people or friends who got different or even clashing political and religious (or non-religious) beliefs. 
          But I have a huge problem with people who dismiss those who disagree with them as dumb or idiots. Political discussion is good--I grew up listening to them and I spent my college years bantering political theory and politics of the day. I learned a lot in group soirees and weekly workshops. What changed through the years? It isn't the subject/s of discussion. It's all the same--new characters. What changed is how people discuss these days. It lacks respect and understanding of the other opinion. We don't have to accept a thinking other than ours. We just have to realize that truth isn't an absolute shape based on our own personal design. It is molded as per individual reality and choice. A very basic human right.

COME TOGETHER. As editor of Filipino/Asian-American newspapers in New York City and San Francisco, I was asked in a TV show in Los Angeles why is it the Filipino community seems fragmented or divided. Tough one. I only had a few minutes to respond to an obviously huge subject that requires a panel discussion so I simply cited a fact that exists as traditional truth among my people in America.


          First, the Philippines is an archipelago of 7,641 islands—inhabited by a people with multi-ethnic backgrounds (apart from Chinese, Spanish and American lineage) with dozens of languages and dialects. In the US or in other countries where we move and work, Filipinos gather as per provincial/regional roots. Ilocanos and others from the north, Visayans from the south etc etcetera. So it is logical that they form get-togethers like Ilocano Association of New Jersey or Cebuano Association of New Orleans. Sadly though when some disagreements surface in those groupings, they create splinter groups like La Union Ilocano Association of or Cebuano Protestants Association of. Do the math. So instead of coming out as one to, for example, support Congress lobbying in regards a law that benefits the community as a collective whole, nothing is actually resolved beyond committee hearings. Bloat that equation to national (American society) level. Humanity hasn't been fragmented and divided as today's schism or polarity is. It is not just a traditional political party philosophy that unites a certain sector of American society—although all of us confront the same socioeconomic ills or realities out there. The current election accentuates such a blurring of lines. Donald Trump apparently shakes the Republican hierarchy and the primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders screamed out the fact that the Democratic Party supporters are two intensely warring groups.
          But let me leave politics for a bit—and zoom in on society at large, beyond politics. Obviously we are not just divided by our party allegiances or religious/non-religious leanings--but even on daily-life preferences. Food choices. Sexual orientation. Man/woman politics. Political correctness. The correctness of language. Fashion sense. Religious and “new-religious.” There are also old hippies and neo hippies and new ager hippies. Yuppies and yippies. Freegans and Vegans. Etc etcetera. There are so many ways to say no than to say yes—to hang out and discuss stuff and things. More reasons to dislike people than reasons to like them. Meantime, Social Media easily and conveniently exhibit our pieces of mind in here and in here, we are sweepingly judged as this and that—so a few hours of meeting a person is simply a device to validate or confim what we suspect about a certain individual. We got us all figured out via Facebook. When long time ago people take time to know people. We don't create and build and sustain friendships in one day of chats or one-week of dancing in a drum circle or prayer rally.



          The question is—where do we go from here? No, we are not going anywhere. We just have to hope that we will overcome the cracks and then come together again. Like, when I say—I can cook Paella for anyone? That'd mean, seafood or meat/seashells or organic vegetables or gluten free or whatever you want. I can compromise and we can negotiate. And when I say, I'd like to meet you in person after I wrote you a poem—but that don't mean I'd like to have a girlfriend tomorrow. I just want to share some corny jokes and hey I can perhaps help you write your memoir.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

TALKIN' and TALKIN' and TALKIN'. Millionaires and Celebs. Racist Gestures and Racist Slurs. Social Media's inyourface tact, and whoever and whatever

Millionaires and Celebs
MANY Times I think what if 25 percent of the world's millionaire sports stars and Hollywood elite donate a "mere" $10,000 each a month from their bloated bank account for hungry people in Africa, breast cancer (treatment) research, refugee rehab, housing for the elderly etc etcetera. It'd be so cool, isn't it? Yet many are so tied up with their lucrative contracts and product endorsements to even care. They sell shoes and burgers and stuff. Busy so busy life. Some even choose to embrace another country's color and flag, in sports competitions, in exchange for money.


          I am not saying though that these millionaire celebrities are bad. They are as human as you and me. Comfort from wealth is what most or all of us desire. But it also doesn't mean that there are no superstars who have "forgotten." Probably while perched up in their penthouse playing their X Arcade Machine PS3 or chillin' by the bay on their yacht sipping bottles of Vieille Bon Secours on the off-season or shooting breaks, they also read the news about those who don't have enough--or news about poor people in their old `hood. And they are saddened by what's going on. They'd like to say something about it--yet their publicists and agents say nope. Whatever comes out of their mouth must be filtered and reviewed--as per contract stipulations. Hence it is much better to just shut their mouth and just do the usual photo-ops while they hand a check to charity in front of ESPN or Fox.

          Yet some are not contended by those sweet gestures. They still want to talk. Because like you and me, they have something to say about what's going on. So they spoke--while knowing that a political backlash of their statements may ensue, media firestorm may be instigated, and their contracts adversely affected. So they spoke. And in so doing, they lost their money and subsequently pushed to the wall and into the darkness of oblivion. Yet they spoke just like you and me--while their millionaire colleagues go on selling shoes that only the moneyed could buy, as they dance with klieglights and handycams, and toast Dom Perignons with powerful politicos and corporate moguls. These crazy people, once millionaires and rock stars, are now forgotten as new kids in town hug the limelight and inhabit Times Square's marquee. But then let us ask ourselves this. Did we read the wisdom behind the message more than we were so consumed by the messenger's lunacy?

Racist Gestures, Racist Slurs
MANY racist gestures or racial slurs come out innocently or spewed out on random. Not premeditated or intended. But it doesn't mean we'd tolerate it. Most that we can do is let that person know that those words shouldn't have been said. I may be taking things lightly as a person, or I shrug it off--but I am very touchy when other people/ethnicity/diversity is maligned or "corrected" by others who feel theirs is the correct one. Those who know me as publisher/editor and concert producer/organizer, and just a mere pasckie--know how intense I could be when it comes to how we treat each other's diversity. In the tiny papers that I edited, I had columnists from different spectrum of faith or ideology--from a Communist based in Italy to a Wiccan high priestess in Asheville, from a devout Catholic social worker to an Atheist musician etc etcetera. 
         Same goes with Traveling Bonfires shows. People judge them whatever--but I produced events for Christians and Muslims, Pagans and Buddhists, rightists and leftists, punk rockers and classical pianists. We can co-exist. We just have to be sensitive and respectful and accepting that others' truths are theirs, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are wrong or incorrect just because they are not us.


          I am always asked, online offline, if I experience racism. I think it's a stupid question although I appreciate the concern. Of course, I do. But mostly subtle almost innocent (ignorant?) racism. That's how the world rhumbas and jigs, you know. It's okay. Many times just my mere accent moves someone to give me a kindergarten lesson on English, definition of English words, elaboration of English terms, and how these words are pronounced. 
         Place: Las Vegas Strip. While seated in a casino bar, trying to order wine. A blonde lady with bling-blings the size of an egg yolk on a skillet goes, "Chardonnay is wine, it is a kind of wine." "Chardonnay, do you have enough money for that?" "Chardonnay. You may want to have beer. It's only $7." "Chardonnay. Shaärdəˈnā. Nay." So I just said meekly like a behaved sharpei, "But I was asking for Dom Perignon. Just washing away a heavy dinner of Monk Fish Pate `Ankimo' with Caviar. It's pronounced An-kee-moh. I had it at Nobu. Noh-boo. Damn, I just lost 5 grand on blackjack." Racism? That's how I deal with it. Lightly. Smart-ass but still lightly.

Social Media's inyourface tact
I OBSERVE that some of people's frustrations and complaints these days--these days of social media's inyourface nakedness (sharing each and everyone details of nasty breakups and what they had for dinner afterwards)--is we demand our governments to reveal everything that we so desire to know that's in their mind or white boards. Of course. But that is not realistic or even common sense reflex (sic). No government on this earth will tell us what agenda they just tackled in their Oval Office or Malacanang Palace study. 
          That's just the way how the world spins, you know. That is why there is media and journalism. It's their professional calling to share info within and around their sworn duties and responsibilities—as per lawful/ethical parameters. That is why there are press conferences and press releases. Read `em, ponder `em—then follow through. Find out more. Research. Then write. I got a lot of feeds from White Press press office and other media liaisons from a number of government entities, as well as those from non-governmental groups. I read them and ponder over them. It's natural for me to think things over.


          Societies are bound by law/s whether we like it or not. Hacking. Breach. Contempt. Libel. Treason. Etc etcetera. If we suspect that the government itself is guilty of such unlawful shenanigans? Then we work things out to help correct those or amend ills of governance--again, within and around sworn duties and responsibilities. If we delve beyond those bounderies—that'd be the time our passion for change, no matter how sublime that'd be, is cut or delayed or trashed. We get arrested, demobilized, paralyzed, delayed. Because we did it unlawfully.
          Simplified. Do our parents share us 101 percent of what they talk about in their bedroom? I don't think so. We give them the benefit of the doubt and then we wait. Otherwise, if we don't believe in them at all--the logic is, we'd be out of the house pronto. Conversely, those who lose trust and belief in their government--leave their country. 
          But we know we can't fly all the way to Planet Whatever--and even if we can, we will still be under some kinda governance or system of leadership/adherence. So what I'm saying is, chill. Don't just believe in what you just got on your inbox or Facebook page or whatever your choir just howled--just because these cater to your personal fire. Find out. Explore. Navigate. (Re)discover. And then we do the "change" gig.


          The “change” gig. Protest but protest via proper channels so you'd be heard—and do it consistently, multipronged. Lobby—in your City Council, county community centers, Congress, summits etc. Advocate—multi media, concerts, public forum. Or launch a revolution—which I don't suggest. Now, if you feel can't do any of these in an orchestrated, consistent manner—because you got kids to feed, work to attend to, cats and dogs to care for, a boy/girlfriend who may break up with you, you may miss an episode of “Game of Thrones,” you are allergic to sunlight etc etcetera? Then just enjoy funny stuff on Facebook—like cat videos, relationship jokes, and silly love songs. Or shut up.

More Rants on Racism
RACISM and Stereotyping/Profiling—or the subtlety and blatantness of our collective guilt. I always write about this. Do I get discriminated upon due to my skin color? Or do I get stereotyped a lot? Of course, I do. You too, I guess. I always say that I get ruffled or angered not by choice of words pointed my way or a nature of a joke shared me. I get hurt by how I am treated, in general—irrelevant a word was said or not. It's how we treat people and not how we “call” them that are offensive. 
         It's how we feel or think about a certain person (or culture) that matters in a basic crowd dynamics or person to person interaction. Just a certain look of the eye could be racist, or by simply ignoring someone because of an accent as accentuated by his/her skin color could be subtle racism. 
       I get those a lot. 
       When I talk and it so happened that my accent gets in the way, I get looks that almost say, “Shut up! Learn English. You are in America.” Believe me, even nice gestures like, “I can clean your barn...” or “Want me to cook you dinner?” would be misconstrued like I need a job or I may not have food for dinner or uhh, am I hitting on you? I just want to be nice, you know. Sorry. Or, if I seem to exude some assholeness (I got attitude, I'm warning you), immediately I get this. “Is that how Filipino (or Asian) men treat women?” One of the most classic ignorant retort that I ever heard.

          We should teach humanity how to be human first before we teach them how to speak a particular language, master it, and then be "human" next. You see, and believe it or not, I get more racial slurs from or gets profiled a lot by supposedly educated people from big cities than small-town folks or what we call “rednecks.” Why? I don't know. Maybe they imbue the good old American values (that I could easily connect with) more than the politically-correct “I know shit! Don't mansplain that to me!” arrogance of today's life. Now, that'd be a huge discussion, right? I guess, some of you will box me again as a rightwinger dumbass. Narcissist, self-righteous, misogynistic jerk. 
       Good, I wasn't stereotyped as White Anglo Saxon Conservative Moron (as how The Enlightened consign Caucasian GOPs), uh huh. Because my skin is nowhere white. It is as brown as volcanic mud earthy. BTW, I am not Republican or gadDem. Not rightist or Leftist, either. I am Pasckie. And I am Straight as a Curveball.

Whoever. Whatever
WHATEVER political/ideological or political partyline some may think I lean on, it doesn't bother me much. No big deal. I can rock with you. Those who know me longer are aware of what side of the fence I tend to gravitate to--which is the Left side of the ballroom. Yet I currently live with Republicans and have fun with their Republican friends and family for many years now. My second family. My own family is kind of divided--left of center to moderate right. Yet we party as one. I know who they voted without asking them. I don't have any difficulty discussing stuff with Republican Right or Democrats, liberals or radicals. I worked with all these people, actual work with concrete results, for years. Years before Steven Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg gave us these awesome toys.


          For me, whether you are Right or Left, Catholic or Pagan, Baptist or Atheist--you got something good to say and share on the table that would benefit a diverse world other than you. But if one declares I am this and you are that and so you are a moron just like your leader! on the get go--then there will be no room for compromise and negotiation. You see, if you march only with your Right or with your Left like a zealot or fanatic--you will trip eventually.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Dog's Life

ALMOST anything that turns a profit is industrialized. Like pet dogs. Beginning in the 1950s, struggling pig and poultry farmers began breeding puppies for extra income. "It was a cheap and easy fix: You just converted your coops into indoor-outdoor kennels," says Bob Baker, the executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation in a Rolling Stone article. "Pups cost nothing to raise, you'd sell them for $50 a head in town, and every five months you had a whole new litter – then dozens, as the puppies began breeding," Bob adds. What followed was a 40-year explosion of puppy mills or commercial kennels where profit counts more than the dogs' well-being.


          I read three investigative articles plus data from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) that zoomed in on puppy mills and dog kennels all over the country that breed dogs for sale. Horrible! If some people treat dogs like this, we might as well set them free to fend for themselves because they will. Those dogs are treated worse than convicts in jails. In fact, worse than prisoners of war in concetration camps. We love dogs so much, extremes, to the point that it is so ridiculous--yet after what I read, and maybe I am naive, we need a thorough reexamination of ourselves when it comes to our relationship with animals. Being a vegan, animal rescuer, or PETA activist aren't enough.
         The number of pet dogs in America boomed between 1970 and today, tripling to almost 80 million. Pet-shop commerce boomed in tandem, from practically nothing in the Fifties to nearly $65 billion in 2015. Where once you adopted your pup from the neighbors, now there is a Furry Paws down the block with dozens of designer puppies in the window. When profit come in, it is so easy to let our humanity go out the door.



SINCE dogs first crossed the Siberian land bridge and set foot in human encampments in America, they have been much more than pets and companions to us. They made life tenable in this primal place. They chased off wolves and bears while first inhabitants of this land slept, caught and retrieved the game they ate, and dined on the garbage left behind. Over the course of 10 millennia, a bond was forged between species that hunkered together for survival. And then business evolved. Then boom! A small bag of ZiwiPeak Venison air-dried babedawg food is $108.11 or about $1.25 per ounce.
          Trivia. A UK woman named Katy Harris made headlines recently for spending £27,000 a year (that’s over $39,000) on her three pampered Boston terriers. In addition to custom leashes, clothing, and furniture, she provides her pampered pups with “the finest organic food” served in porcelain bowls emblazoned with their names. We don’t know exactly what goes in those fancy bowls, but perhaps it’s one of the dog foods on this list.

PET business is a multi-billion industry. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) publishes a chart that breaks down average annual expenses for different types and sizes of pet. According to the ASPCA, a small dog will cost you $1,314 in the first year, a medium dog $1,580. Want a large dog? Be prepared to spend $1,843 in your first year as a dog owner.
         Meantime, by just walking down the pet aisle at a big supermarket you may have gotten a sense of the industry's profit. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), total pet industry expenditures reached $60.59 billion in 2015. That’s up from $58.04 billion in 2014. Americans spent a total of $23.04 billion on pet food, $14.39 billion on supplies/OTC medicine, $15.73 billion on vet care, $2.19 billion on live animal purchases and $5.24 billion on pet services like grooming and boarding.



IT is kind of unbelievable how puppies survive the gantlet to pet stores. Birthed by sick and stressed-out moms; snatched from their litters at eight weeks of age and loaded onto trucks for the hours-long drive to the next stop in the supply chain, puppy brokers; kept in a warehouse with hundreds of other pups, many of them sick with respiratory problems or infections of the eyes and ears; then again trucked with dozens of those dogs for the one- or two-day drive to distant states. Puppy brokers are wholesalers who buy from breeders, keep a running stock of dozens of breeds, then sell and ship the pups for a hefty markup.
          The biggest of those brokers, the now-defunct Hunte Corporation, professionalized the trade in the Nineties. They bought up other brokers, made large investments in equipment, trucks and drivers, and moved thousands of dogs a month from their facility in Goodman, Missouri. Says an animal protection detective: "Of the 2,000 pups they'd have on-site, hundreds were in their 'hospital' getting antibiotics. A day or two later, they'd load 'em on 18-wheelers and send them, still sick, to the stores."




THE USDA oversees thousands of dog breeder licensees nationwide with a yearly budget of about $28 million. Roughly 10,000 unannounced inspections are conducted annually to enforce the law. And what has that enforcement produced by way of penalties? Less than $4 million in fines over the past two years, a dozen or so breeders forced to turn in their licenses – and exactly none handed over for prosecution. In fact, just a handful of breeders on the Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) Horrible Hundred list – compiled every year from public records of chronic offenders – have been put out of business. And none of them have been made to answer in court for their proven mistreatment of dogs.

[Individual dogs in photos are Georgia and Chloe, our dogs. The two by the window are c/o The Internet.]

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 You.gov 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

THE BLAMING GAME.
          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?


FICTION. NON-FICTION.

          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.

NOT ON THE SAME PAGE.
          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

TRUMP vs GLOBALIZATION?

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.